Dienstag, 30. März 2010

Human

On the day that I turned eight, my father took me aside and said, "You have to understand, you can't be human."

"But I want to!"

"Sorry, hon."

I clutched my teddy bear and decided father was wrong I would be human. All I had to do was try harder.

It was the perfect birthday for a little girl. I got the teddy bear - looked just like new, except for the missing eye - and a big maggot cake. I loved the wriggling and the squishiness, and they glistened beautifully with all the candles lit. My grandmother had prepared a little scene for the whole family, showing off her abilities in scaring the intestines out of all living beings. I enjoyed every moment of it. But in the back of my head, my father's voice kept saying, "You can't be human."

I went to bed happy that day, kissed and hugged by my whole family. In the living-room, I could hear them talking quietly, and I couldn't understand what they were saying, but it was a soothing background to my dreams.

I dreamed of being human.

Montag, 29. März 2010

Happily ever after

... and lived happily ever after.

Two weeks after the wedding, one beautiful Saturday morning, the princess fumed. It was early, the sun was only just coming up, and the guy whom she was married to - the prince formerly known as frog - had been out for a night with the guys. He had come home and seized all the blankets. She had woken up because she was shivering so violently her teeth were shattering, and the sound invaded her own dreams.

She tripped over a pile of cloth and almost fell. Her morning gown got trapped on the corner of the bed and ripped with the dry sound of exquisite rose-colored silk. She cursed under her breath, then began cleaning a safe path from the bed to the door. His clothes were spread all over the castle. Oh my goodness, how long had he been wearing these socks? They stank like dead fish! That's what you get for marrying a frog!

Yawning, she stumbled into the kitchen. Today, the pink pots and pans couldn't cheer her up, and the milk had gone sour. No cornflakes today. For a moment, she considered making pancakes - only for herself, of course - but she was hungry, and cooking simply took too long. Grumpy, she took a low-fat yogurt out of the fridge - pink, of course - and moved on to the living-room.

More clothes. Dirty guy clothes. And who had puked on the carpet? Certainly Frog-Face had fed her chihuahua with bananas again. Spike loved bananas, but they made him sick every time. And Mister Long Tongue thought this was soooo funny!

The princess grabbed a towel and began to clean the mess away. She wondered how long "ever after" was supposed to be.

Donnerstag, 25. März 2010

Well-trained.

You think you can see me, but you're wrong. I am not really here anymore. That body? I don't know. I don't care. No matter how hard you try to make me stay, remain, BE HERE, you will fail. All your stories, your "this is how it should be"s, your expectations - you know what? Shove them. Yes, exactly. That dark place.

For years, I thought that my situation was not so bad. I don't have any scars, am not disfigured, so I must be fine, no? I believed so myself. Really. I completely ignored the way I hunch in on myself... the way I wince at unexpected sounds... the way I try to be nice and smile and do everything it is supposed to be done.

There's a word for this - well-trained. Yes, be a good dog. Earn your cookie.

As I said, shove it. It's spring time, and the flowers are appearing everywhere as if by magic, and it's time for me to leave.

Towards the sun.

Towards something beautiful.

Montag, 22. März 2010

Frozen peas

When Terry came home after school, the sun was shining and an army of birds had gathered in the trees to welcome summer. It was a perfect day, school was over for what felt like ages, and a huge span of freedom and swimming and simply enjoying herself lay ahead of her. Her backpack carelessly in her left hand, she slowed down, unwilling to go inside at once.

Then she heard the shouting, and rushed inside immediately. The sound came from the basement, as always, and she was pretty sure she knew what was happening. Rob, her stepbrother, was in trouble.

Rob had come to live with them back when her mother brought home a new husband. Terry liked him, and she was glad that her mother finally seemed happy again. However, she would have given her soul if the source of that happiness and the reason for Rob to live with them had been someone - something else.

The man never so much as touched Terry, tried his best to be friendly towards her. the others, however... let's say, it had become more and more difficult to explain all the bruises and the limping, and sometimes Terry was ashamed to be seen outside with her mother. Everybody knew what was happening, didn't they. It was too obvious. And for Rob it was even worse. With his eight years, he showed not the least interest in sports, he was small and easily scared. And he paid the price for this over and over again. Usually in the basement, where there were no windows.

These thoughts drifting through her head, Terry stood on the highest step of the stairs leading down, unable to decide what to do. It might sound selfish, but she was glad that the man never made her the target of his anger, and she preferred to keep it this way. If she went downstairs to interfere...

A door banged against a wall, and Rob appeared in her field of vision. He tried his best to race up the stairs, stumbled, reached the top and flung his arms around Terry's waist. He had a black eye, and his face was disproportional and swollen.

A huge shadow appeared downstairs after what felt like an eternity, but could only have been two or three seconds. Then the man became visible, face twisted with hate and disgust. "You come down here this moment, boy!" His face was glowing red, and he breathed heavily.

"Shh, it's okay", Terry whispered against her brother's head and hugged him tight. "Stay with me."

The man began to climb towards them, and Terry felt her legs shake.

But then something strange happened. The man stopped, looked at them with surprise. His right hand moved up as if to clutch his heart, the right kept a dead grip on the handrail. The sound of his breathing changed, grew more desperate. "Terry, darling - call the hospital." He fought for another gulp of air. "I think I'm - having a heart attack."

Terry looked at him for a moment. Then she turned around with her brother and shoved him in direction of the living room. "Go and watch TV, I'll be there in a minute with some ice for your face." She made sure he was gone, then she used the switch at the top of the stairs to turn off the light in the basement. Softly, she closed the door and took a deep breath. Through the open kitchen door, she could see soft sunlight caressing the drapes. They had plenty of time left until Mum came home. Briefly, she wondered how she would explain everything.

Then she went to fetch some frozen peas.

Freitag, 19. März 2010

Coffee and Fate

I sit at a tiny table in an African shop and enjoy my coffee. The best coffee in town, I love it. Last night was exhausting, and another long and busy day is lying ahead of me. I am waiting for the caffeine to kick in, but my blood is kind of sluggish today. No need to hurry, though. I cradle my favorite mug between my bony hands and take another sipp. I have come to this story ever since it opened, and from the first day the owner gave me this mug. He knows how I like my coffee best, and although the years have almost folded him in on himself since we first met, he still has a sweet smile for me every time I push the door open.

Early spring sun is drawing strange signs on the worn table. For a brief moment I wonder what kind of wood it is made from, and they are idle thoughts. I am not a handywoman, don't know shripp about wood and trees and figure. Trees' lives are boring, I guess, and since they never go anywhere and experience the same things day after day (until someone comes along and chops them down), I don't bother.

Another sip of delicious coffee, and by now the sun is high enough in the sky that I have to squint. There are more people on the streets than when I came here. Most of them are on their way to work, serious expressions on their faces, posture heavy with important decisions. They are wearing suits or overalls of fancy dresses, and at the bakery on the other side of the street I see an old woman putting a hair net on her head. With a deep breath, I empty my chipped coffee mug. Leave money on the table and walk out into the streets to do my job.

The coffee has lightened up my spirit. I weave through the crowd, unnoticed by the other people, and touch them lightly. I pick my targets randomly, following my intuition. My mind is whispering directly to theirs, as their future enfolds in my head. 'You will be fired and find a new job on another continent.' - 'Your wife is pregnant with twins.' - 'Don't let your dog out in the garden tonight, someone will throw poisoned meat over the fence.'

I look at a young man with a smile on his fresh face. It is obvious he hasn't had much experience so far, and his life probably resembles a modern day happy story. I know exactly what will happen to him next. His girlfriend is unhappy because he is working so much, she will get wasted tonight at a club, cheat on him, get pregnant and infect the baby as well as him with the disease. What a sad twist in life. I remember the taste of my coffee - warm and smooth and comforting - and touch the guy's back. 'You are going to take your girlfriend out to dinner tonight. Don't leave her alone. You should go on a trip to the beach this weekend.' I look at him closely, trying to push at his thoughts. Sometimes it doesn't work to change what is in store for them. But it doesn't hurt to try.

Luckily, my contract left me some personal freedom of choice in bestowing fate upon them.

Mittwoch, 17. März 2010

[You Are a Beautiful Blogger Because You Have Sunshine Award Combo]





Magaly over at Pagan Culture nominated me for a combination of blogger awards (which usually tend to confuse me, but for which I am thankful nevertheless). Go there and read, you'll learn lots of interesting, intriguing and funny stuff!

I decided to follow Magaly's rules and share one "lucky fact" and three things that brighten up my days.

Lucky Fact:
I have a "lucky stone" in my purse. Don't know what kind of mineral it is, but it is pretty and has many nice colors and it feels good. And as long as it feels good, it will accompany me.

Three Things to Brighten Up my Day:
1. Coffee. Lots of coffee. Made with cinnamon, cardamom and some cocoa, add real cream and a spoonful of homemade vanilla sugar. Enjoy.
2. Cooking. Nurturing the body is the same as nurturing the soul. On really down days, I bake bread.
3. Writing. Letters, short stories, blog entries, no matter what.

And since my lucky number is 7, I will pass this award combination on to...
1. "Pumpkins and Toadstools" for beautiful insights presented in interesting ways.
2. "Naked in the Closet" for honest, personal writing.
3. "Flying off the broom handle" because it always is a fun read that gets you to think (sometimes I have a strange idea of fun, I know).
4. "Cookpot stories" because it combines two of my passions.
5. "Aux demilunes" which I only found recently but which seems to be a wonderful and interesting blog.
6. "At the farm" with its inspiring, funny and interesting stories and photos.
7. "Fraeulein von und zu Amok" because she is honest and writes about what she thinks is right.

To honor these awards, pass them on to your lucky number of bloggers. Tell the world one "lucky fact" and share three things to brighten up your day. Then lay back and enjoy. (^v^)

The well

She first saw the well in her dreams. The house, although old, was new to them, and there had not been enough time to truly explore the surroundings. That day, on waking, Marla took her teddy bear and went to the back of her garden. Her favorite violet pajamas collected the water from the young green grass.

It seemed like a long journey. The day was surprisingly warm for early spring, and birds were singing in the trees. As a city child, Marla could not tell them apart, but she had already seen an array of beauty beyond her wildest dreams. Her sparkly blue eyes wandered from tree to bush to twig to leave, in search of birds and colorful insects. However, for insects it still was too early and too cold.

There truly was a well. Or rather a simple whole in the ground, surrounded by worn gray stones. Its shape was something between an oval, a circle and a real whole, Marla thought and clutched her teddy. Teddy looked at the well. He was not impressed.

In her dream, there had been frogs. Hundreds of frogs - or at least a dozen. Green and yellow and brown, with huge amber eyes and voices like rusty door hinges. Marla looked around, one hand playing with her long sleep-tousled hair. There, movement! As soon as she knew what she was looking for, she spotted them easily. More than she could count. How fascinating! She crouched down in the grass, her trousers soaked with dew, ready to grab a frog and bring it closer to her face for examination. Teddy dangled from her arm.

"Marla! Are you outside?" Her mother's voice carried far. Immediately, Marla jumped up, ran back to the house and told her mother of her marvelous discovery.

"You mustn't go there on your own. What if you had fallen into the well?" Marla's mother seemed rather worried than excited. She took her daughter inside and made some pancakes for breakfast, shimmering with maple syrup.

Later that day, a man came over and put heavy wooden boards over the well. There were no frogs to be seen. Marla played in the garden and in time forgot the well.

However, not completely. Sometimes she would dream of it, of things coming from the well, and in the morning would walk across the garden to examine reality. Once she dreamed of a river coming from the well, and the next day most of the garden was under water. Another time she found a swarm of lovely dragon flies hovering over the well, mirroring her dream. She was old enough not to mistake them for fairies, but it was a beautiful moment anyway.

There was no pattern to her dreams coming and going, and she never told her mother about them. The pendant she found lying next to it, one early morning when she was thirteen, remained a secret. Marla simply pushed the wooden boards - now looking almost as old and worn as the stones surrounding the well - back over the hole in the ground, took a deep breath and returned to the house. She hid the pendant in the back of her wardrobe and sometimes took it out to look at it. It's surface was uneven and looked ancient, part silver and part black, and at times she thought she could see the original picture, but she was never sure, and sometimes the lines seemed to move and change. Most times, she imagined seeing a lady and a cat and the moon, but it might also be a dragon, or a Celtic knot, or simply an accident during manufacturing.

Marla never wore the pendant, but she kept it close, her secret treasure, until it was too late.

Dienstag, 16. März 2010

Reconciliation Dinner

Henry and Sally sat in their car, wrapped in summer darkness. The cooling engine made ticking sounds. Across the street, the trees were swaying gently in the velvet breeze.

Carefully, Henry turned around to face his wife. He still half expected to find her in her "more natural" form, as she insisted on calling it, which was looking like a fairy tale troll. (Sally insisted real trolls looked totally different, but till now he hadn't seen any of them. Knock on wood.)

It had been a tough month. Once Sally put her mind to something, she stuck to it. Including being mad at her spouse. No being nice, no looking good, no sex. Especially no sex. Well, even if he had wanted to bed her "more natural" form. Which he didn't. Henry didn't even remember what all the fuss had been about, but after more than four weeks under siege, he had readily admitted to having been wrong and asked her to forgive him.

Surprisingly, she had forgiven him. To celebrate, he had taken her to a new, expensive French restaurant. All dressed up - she looked gorgeous in her long anthracite dress, hair carefully piled on top of her head. All other women at the restaurant had been jealous, and the men hadn't been able to take their eyes off her. Henry was a lucky guy, and he knew it. The fact that Sally could alter her appearance at the blink of an eye, being a succubus and everything, didn't change that.

It had been such a nice evening. Candlelight, expensive silverware and porcelain, prime dishes served by model waiters. Soft classic music had played in the background, and the restaurant had offered the perfect balance between public experience and intimate date. Henry had done his best not to show how uncomfortable his wedding smoking made him feel. (There's no way men's fashion can be comfortable. Ever.)

Nevertheless, Sally seemed somewhat disappointed. And if she didn't tell him about it, he would get agitated and they would start fighting all over and...

Not an option. He decided to try this talking thing everyone seemed so obsessed with these days.

"Honey, is everything okay? You're so quiet."

Sally stared out the window, lost, her slender white hands folded neatly in her lap. "It was a wonderful evening. Thank you, darling." Her voice was barely audible above the rustling summer leaves.

"But - but you seem upset." He pulled the key from the ignition, just to have something to occupy his hands. This silent Sally made him nervous.

She turned to him, slowly, a weak smile on her ruby red lips. Her sapphire eyes were huge and glistening. "It's nothing, darling. I'm being stupid."

He put an arm around her. Her shoulders were cold to the touch. "Come on, tell me."

"Okay." She inhaled deeply. "It was a wonderful restaurant, really nice and everything. Only - I was a bit disappointed with the food."

Henry was puzzled. "Was anything wrong with the escargots?"

"I guess not. You know... you said that it was snails."

His frown deepened. "Yes, and you said that you liked snails."

"I really do, darling. But..."

"Yes?" He was starting to get impatient.

"The snails..." She gestured vaguely with her handy, trying to pin down the problem. "You never said they were dead!"

Donnerstag, 11. März 2010

Scrambled eggs

Shopping time. The same as every Friday. Larissa clung close to her mother. All these people made her nervous. She was afraid she might do something stupid.

"Now, be a big girl and get me some eggs, will you?" Her mother was busy studying the backside of a packet of some healthy stuff. She almost stressed how important healthy stuff was for you. Fortunately, most healthy stuff tasted really good, once you got to know it.

Larissa's mother was beautiful - tall, slender, with long blond hair and eyes the blue of summer sky. She was beautiful in this "I don't really care how I look" way, even today, wearing a long, unadorned black skirt and an off-white T-shirt. She wore no makeup, and makeup really was not necessary with skin like that.

Of course Larissa did not yet understand all the details concerning female beauty. All she knew was that her mother was beautiful. Even more beautiful than the puppet she always admired when they went into town and wish she had put on every letter to Santa for the last three years. At the age of six, that was half a lifetime of longing for something she somehow knew she couldn't have.

Carefully, the girl put the eggs into the shopping cart and continued to follow her mother around the supermarket. It did not take them long to find everything they were looking for. With huge eyes Larissa admired the chocolate cookies, but she knew they would not buy any. Cookies were for special occasions. Instead, her mother had bought her some raspberries. Raspberries were Larissa's favorite fruit.

The queue was not too long, the cashier was friendly, and when Larissa proceded to put all the things in their shopping basket, it happened. One moment she had the eggs in her tiny hands, and the next thing she knew was that they were lying on the ground.

She had made a mess. Oh no!

Her lower lip started to tremble. She fought back the tears as best as she could, looking at her mother out of the corner of her eyes.

The woman smiled and looked at the cashier. Then she turned around and squatted down until her eyes were at the same level as Larissa's. "See? I told you we would be making scrambled eggs tonight."

Montag, 8. März 2010

Behind the barn

This piece is difficult, and heavy with dialogue. Dialogues are my main weak point, so please give me some constructive criticism - how could I improve this scene?

***********************************************************************************

Slowly, Paul pushes his mother's wheelchair over the uneven ground. He feels uneasy. No matter what his mother thinks she might gain from seeing their former home one last time before it is torn down - he could gladly have done without this visit.

"It's still beautiful", she sighs. "Too bad your father lost your job and we had to move away."

"I know you loved this place." There is a lump in his throat. His family had been living here for almost ten years. Years, in which there were many good things, but also...

"I can still see Rosie and Sybilla running over the meadow, one Easter morning I think it was. They were looking for chocolate eggs, and you had found them earlier that morning and eaten them all, and then you were terribly sick."

He shakes his head, smiling a sad smile. "Yes, I guess for the grown-ups it was funny." His mind is clouded with a different kind of memory. They are silent for a while.

"Mom, now... do you still remember Uncle Steve?" He has to swallow and try twice before he can say that name out loud.

"Of course I do!" She looks at him, her eyes sparkling. "Wasn't he the Miller's son? Or was it the Roberts'? Such a nice young man. He used to take care of you, play with you outside so I had time to clean the house. I'm surprised you still remember him. I always thought you had forgotten how happy we were around here, you never spoke of it."

Happy. Now that's a different word for it. For a moment, he tries to imagine what his therapist would have to say to this choice of words. If he backs down now, she won'T be disappointed. She has made it clear this is his decision, his alone, and he can do it one way or another. However, suddenly the urge to speak it out loud is overwhelming, almost choking him. "Mom, have... uhm, have you ever wondered what we did outside? Why Steve insisted on going behind the barn to play?"

She looks at him, frowning. "I don't understand. What are you talking about? It was such a lovely time." And another image lightens up her face once more. Nothing can disturb her in this mood.

"Mom, I'm telling to tell you..." He's becoming desperate. He needs the words out of his system, now.

"I still remember when you hit puberty." She continues to smile, forgiving. "You wouldn't go out with the others anymore, stay in your room instead to sulk."

"And you never felt the need to ask why this was so." His voice is flat, void of emotion. It is very difficult to keep it this way. He needs to remain in control. "What do you think happened behind the barn, especially on the days when the girls weren't around?"

She has turned her gaze away from his face, an old and confused woman trying to hold on to her happy memories. God knows there are not many of them. "We had such a lovely time. I wish I could once more see these meadows in springtime..."

Sleeping Serena

He met her at a bar and she said she had no place to stay and no job and no one wondering where she might end up, and so he took her home. At first, he was intrigued by her long, straight black hair, her curves and her cocoa skin. She looked at him with a strange expression in her eyes, sipped her drink and smiled.

Her name was Serena, and she stayed with him. It was easy to fall in love with her - the way she smiled, or frowned, the way she could lose herself in a movie, up to the point of mourning dying chaacters who, in reality, often had been paid fortunes to pretend losing their lives on screen. Sometimes he would try to talk her out of her obsession, but it was so sweet he simply let her live her movie life most of the time.

Serena never read. She spent her days cleaning his house, preparing wonderful meals and making sure everything was immaculate on his arrival. His friends would joke about how she simply had to sit waiting behind the curtain, waiting desperately for the moment he entered the driveway, to greet him in the old-fashioned way all men secretely desired.

They also joked about how good he must be in bed to deserve a woman like Serena.

Making love, it always seemed as if Serena wasn't there at all. She surely knew how to please a man and in many cases initiated their erotic encounters, but he could never completely rid himself of the impression that she would withdraw, hide... lock herself out of their happiness. When he tried talking to her, she looked at him, obviously not understanding what he was talking about, and after several tries he gave it up and just took her generous lovemaking as a special present.

And sometimes, later at night, when he was on the brink of sleep, his body heavy with warmth and affection, he would lie on his side and watch Serena. Her curvacious body with the spine protrudring from her cocoa back, almost about to burst from that delicate skin. Her long hair, coiling around her like black sea serpents, sleeping in the depths of the ocean. Her fragile body, curled up on itself, shaking slightly, careful not to touch the tiniest bit of her man.

He never quite knew how to talk to her.

Donnerstag, 4. März 2010

Wish you all the best

It's one of the first, weak days of spring, and she is busy planning her weekend at the Calliope Gathering. A bag with several last-minute purchases dangles from her left hand.

Her first appearance as "tourist attraction"! She still can't believe it. And all the things that have to be prepared, pondered, packed, ...

... and that is exactly why she does not see him coming towards her until it is too late.

They are standing right in front of each other. A little bit embarassed. She feels herself blush. He does not know where to look.

"Hey there."

"Hey." She smiles.

Silence. He does not look her in the eyes.

"So, how have you been doing?"

He shrugs. "Rather well, I assume. My father finally handed me the keys to his office last month, and it's my name on all the contracts now. Of course, all the responsibility is mine as well."

She nods. "Sounds great." The lack of enthusiasm hardly shows in her voice. It's easier now to be interested, since she is not involved anymore. From his suit you can see he is doing well. A successful lawyer, just as his mother always wanted it.

"And we had a child last October."

"I heard. Congratulations."

They fall silent. She remembers a time when this information would have hurt her. A time when she would have done everything to be the woman he wanted, the woman his family would have chosen for him.

Silence is getting uncomfortable, and trying to get out of it, he asks, "And what about you? What have you been busy with?"

"Oh, I'm making delicious bread these days. And I sold a couple of poems. The asked me to read at - at a convention, you might say." He wouldn't know anything about Calliope anyway.

He tries to smile. "That is - wonderful. And what do you do? I mean, er, for a living?"

Now she remembers why it does not hurt anymore. "Whatever comes up. Last summer I picked strawberries. And I helped at the library when Mrs. Miller broke her hip. Maybe they'll offer me her position, she considers retiring."

"It would be good for you to finally have a chance to - settle down. You could - you know, evolve."

Grow up, is that what you mean?

"I'm fine just the way I am, thanks. Give Zelda my best wishes!" She straightens her shoulders, smiles at him once more and moves on, down the street.

The sun is shining, the first birds are singing. After a few steps, she starts to run.

Mittwoch, 3. März 2010

The key

Sultana awoke late that morning, her eyes dry and scratchy from the lack of sleep. From the sunshine coming through her tiny window, she guessed it was almost noon already. She hadn’t slept this long in ages. But then, she hadn’t had this much fun in ages.

The life of a high priestess was not as boring as most people imagined, and the rules were far less strict. Somehow, however, it seemed that Sultana had not been in contact with many people on a personal level. Atlantis was not a big island, so everyone knew who she was. Of course they did. They had seen her perform the rituals for the last thirty years, starting as a young woman with blond hair, growing into her body and her profession. And now they still recognized her, although her hair had become a lovely shade of grey and most of her official duties were fulfilled by other, younger women who lived here to serve her and be trained by her in return.

Carefully, she gathered her clothes from the ground, put on the comfortable light blue robe she wore in most days and called for Cylanthia to bring her a late breakfast. The most important meal of the day, for her it consisted of fruit and honey and some young cheese. The women knew her preferences and hurried to obey. Silently, Cylanthia put the wooden tray in front of Sultana on the table and disappeared, quiet as a mouse.

Sultana knew she wasn’t thinking nice things most of the time. But being nice was overrated anyway. During her life she had heard the sorrows and secrets of so many people – without ever being able to tell her own stories – that she was almost able to read their minds. And Cylanthia, nice girl that she was with her seventeen winters shining on that golden face, actually moved like a mouse, always in the corners and always on guard.

Sultana took her time. Slowly, she cut the fruit in half, dipped them in honey and savored the sun and the land that had produced such an exquisite treat. Unsupervised, her thoughts crept back to last night. The tavern down at the harbor – possibly not the safest place in the world, especially not for a woman. Well, she wasn’t a normal woman, she was safe. And that tavern surely had the best beer on the whole island.

Most people had bowed out of her way quickly, although she hadn’t had her guards with her. The night had been dark and warm, fires flickering in the darker corners of the streets and places. Most houses were unlocked, doors and windows wide open. Of course they were. Atlantis was a wealthy island, no one suffered from hunger or poverty. Consequently, there was no need for jealousy, greed or any kind of emotion leading to unrightful behavior. No one had to work excessively hard to make a living, and people were grateful for this most of the time. This was a place where you could feel safe, appreciated and bored at the same time.

She hadn’t been in a hurry. The stranger would wait for her. He knew the reward was worth it. A handsome, dark stranger, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist… perfect for a night in the town. Or the stables. But Sultana wasn’t after the captain for his good looks. She needed transportation.

“I’ll give you 300 gold pieces if you promise to take me away with you tomorrow night.”

He had looked at her surprised. He, too, knew who she was. “If Mylady wishes… May I ask where our journey will end?”

“It doesn’t matter. Just make sure we’re gone before midnight.”

After looking at the gold she had brought to persuade him, he had nodded and emptied his glass. Then he had walked out of the tavern and back to his ship.

Sultana had been sure no one had heard their conversation, for it was a merry night. She had watched the people around her, drinking her beer in slow sips. From her place at the back of the room, she could watch almost everything and still didn’t see any faces that were not relaxed. Empty lives. Emptied by happiness and safety.

She had been home at the temple in the early morning hours, a little bit tipsy and satisfied. Just one more day…

Cylanthia came back into the room to take the breakfast tray with her. Sultana rewarded her with a warm smile. “You’re a good girl. Make sure to take the afternoon off, will you.”

Most people believed the reason why Sultana had started taking young women into the temple was that she had lost her divine vision. She had stopped talking to them as a messenger from the Gods several moons ago. But this was not due to her aging and becoming useless. Instead, she had not liked what the Gods used to show her. For nights after nights, she had been on her knees in front of the sacred flame, praying for a different solution. The Gods had led her through her hometown, shown her all the things that were going wrong. And persuaded her that there was no way out. So she couldn’t be bothered to pass the message on. Why not give these people a few more happy days, instead of making them run around like headless chickens.

She spent the day sorting through her possessions. This didn’t take long. After fiving it much thought, she decided to leave all her books behind. Her heart bled at the idea, but the knowledge her predecessors had gathered had led to her people’s undoing. She spent a long time in front of the flame, just once more, but she didn’t pray. Praying didn’t do any good. She watched the flames uncurl and fall back in on themselves, dancing around and devouring each other.

Then, for the first time since she had taken on this profession, she removed her white belt which she wore on her bare skin and carefully placed it on her cushion. There was one single, ancient-looking key dangling from it. She knew that it had especially been designed to look this old, less than fifty years ago, after some young men had demolished the temple’s door in a state of drunkenness. The officials had had the door replaced that very night and provided it with a new, stronger lock. This was the way things worked around here.

Almost reluctantly, Sultana picked up her belongings and walked out the room. She resisted the urge to look back. Nothing good ever came from looking back. Her bare feet carried her all the way to the harbor as if they had a mind of their own. People looked at her curiously, but didn’t stop her to ask questions or talk to her. Almost a shame. She had sworn a solemn oath never to lie to her people, so if they had but asked her, she would have been forced to tell the truth. Should she talk to them now? Give at least some of them the chance to escape? Her heart beat faster at the thought, hope raising its tiny crystal head. Sultana smashed it with her decision. She was unable to save any of them. What a pity.

The captain was waiting for her and helped her climb on board. The gold pieces had made sure she had her own cabin, her own bed, and no window. She didn’t want to see what was about to happen. Putting her things down on the simple bed, she turned around to the captain. “Are you ready to leave?”

“As you requested, Mylady, everything is prepared. We have been waiting for you and will leave now, any moment.” With these words, which only held the slightest hint of derision, he turned around and closed the door behind him.

Sultana knew she was in trouble. From now on, her life would be difficult. No one knew who she was, no one knew she had been chosen to be special. These men were sailors, rough and untamed creatures, and most of them didn’t like the thought of a woman living on their ship. She would have to be prepared to fight if she wanted to survive.

But survival was all about fighting anyway. Atlantis had taught her this. No fight, no needs, no life. She could hear the people in the streets talking and being happy and realized they were all dead, they only didn’t know it yet.

She wondered if Cylanthia had found the key already.

Dienstag, 2. März 2010

[Announcement: Flash Fiction Challenge #3]

When you follow THIS LINK, you can see that I did not only dream it, but that one of my short stories actually made it into an anthology!

*crazyladydance*

This is the 2nd story that was ever accepted anywhere, and the first to be shown in a real book. So I'm going to enjoy this for a little while, before I return to my everyday stuff, and, most of all, spread the word for a bit. I feel like we all should celebrate together, but I am not sure what to do exactly... maybe I will make some cake and put a picture of it on the blog. (^v^) Or get wasted. At the weekend, of course, we're all responsible adults.

Do you remember your first personal (writing or other) victories? How did you celebrate?

(I promise, tonight I'll give you another story, but I'm plain happy at the moment.)