Monday, July 29, 2013


Hello, everyone! Guess what? I finished Camp NaNoWriMo! (I also stayed up until eleven o'clock last night doing it, which was probably a really bad idea.) Hopefully this means I'll get around to posting more now. We'll see. For now, enjoy another short story, once again courtesy of my summer creative writing class.


            It had been a long journey, but Charra had finally reached the place she once called home. She stood atop one of the hills overlooking the little village where she’d grown up. From up here, it appeared peaceful, untouched by the war that had ravaged nearly half the country. Nothing like her. She reached up to touch the long, jagged scar that ran down the left side of her face, marking the wound that had taken her eye. The faint feel of it through her thin leather gloves seemed to confirm her feelings: she’d seen too much to belong here any longer. And even if she hadn’t, she had other reasons she could no longer stay. Nonetheless, she started down the hill into the village. She might not be staying, but she had questions that could only be answered here.

            It felt strange to enter a village with no wall around it. Elsewhere, even the smallest towns had some kind of wall to protect against enemy attacks. She walked slowly down the streets, looking around at all the places she remembered. The village seemed as unchanged down here as it had from above. The only real differences seemed to be new faces among the children playing in the streets and yards and the pine-and-poppy mourning wreathes on many of the doors, reminding her that even this place was not completely untouched by the war.

            Charra’s steps slowed as she neared the spot where her house had been before the fire. She’d been the only one to survive that fire. By all rights, no one should’ve. Some nights, most nights, she called it a miracle and thanked the One God for saving her life then and so many nights since. Other nights, when she burned almost too hot to control, when the pain bordered on too much to bear and the memories wouldn’t stop storming through her mind, she wondered just how much of a blessing it had been.

            Five years later, all that remained of the house was a few charred ruins. Charra was slightly amazed that the remains of the structure hadn’t been cleared away to make room for a new house, but then again, the war had meant that few people were settling and building new houses. Reverently, she approached the place where the doorstep had been. She knelt there, bowing her head and remembering. She tried her best to remember only the good: evenings around the hearth listening to her parents tell stories of Long Ago, hide and seek with her little brother and sister, picnics on summer afternoons, harvest celebration feasts. But as hard as she tried, she couldn’t forget the smell of smoke, the cries, the flames. 

            She wished for tears. She wished she could cry for what she’d lost. But ever since the burning began, she’d found she had no tears anymore.

            A young boy’s voice broke through her thoughts. “What are you doin’ in there? Don’t you know you aren’t s’pposed to go where dead people used to live?”

            “I know.” Charra stood slowly and glanced over her shoulder at the boy. He was no more than five or six, too young to have known her. Slowly, she turned away from the ruin. “I used to live there.”

            The boy stared at her for a long moment, his eyes growing slowly wider and wider. Then he turned and took off running away from her. Charra bit back a groan. What had she been thinking? He probably thought she was a wraith or something else of that sort now. With her scar and black uniform, she certainly looked the part.

            With one last glance back, she walked away from the site of her old home and continued down the street. She pretended she didn’t feel the stares or hear the whispers of those she passed. Did any of them recognize her? She wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. She was certainly a far cry from the almost-sixteen-year-old who was always getting caught with her head in the clouds, who often preferred the company of younger children to people her own age, who still wore her hair in pigtail braids even though she was old enough to start putting it up.

            It took about five minutes’ walking for Charra to reach her second destination. She circled around to the back of the familiar little cottage and knocked. A few moments later, the door was opened by a woman in her late fifties. She and Charra stared at each other for several long moments. Confusion clouded the woman’s face at first, and then suddenly recognition shone out. “Charra? Is that you?”

            Charra nodded. 

            The woman pulled Charra into a tight hug. “Charra! My, but how I’ve missed you! And how you’ve grown! I didn’t recognize you at first! What happened to you? That scar . . .”

            Charra gently returned the woman’s embrace. “The scar is a long story. I’ve missed you too, Tatia Ama.”

            Ama released Charra and stepped back. “I was wondering when I’d be seeing you again. I hoped that you’d come home now that the war’s been won, but I wasn’t certain, especially as I’ve been hearing that you’re something of a hero now. You should’ve let me know that you were coming; we would’ve had a grand celebration.”

            Charra shook her head. “I didn’t want a celebration. Being a hero isn’t all it’s made out to be anyway.” She took a deep breath. “Besides, the reason I came back is that I need to talk to you about . . . certain things.”

            “Ah,” Ama sighed. “That’s what I feared. Come in, then.” She stepped aside, allowing Charra to walk into the cozy kitchen, and then she shut the door. “Are you thirsty? Hungry?”

            Once more, Charra shook her head. She sat down at the worn kitchen table. “No, thank you.” She waited until Ama had taken the seat across from her. Then, quietly, she asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

            Ama regarded her, a hint of sadness in her hazel eyes. “Tell you what?”

            Instead of answering, Charra pulled off her gloves and pushed her sleeves up to her elbows. From her fingertips, past her elbow, and into her sleeves, a pattern of red and orange flames covered her skin. “You know me, Tatia. I’m not the sort for tattoos or other skin marks like that. And these aren’t anything like that. I just woke up one morning and they were there, and I felt like I was burning up inside. The next thing I knew, I’d been moved to Gifted training and had to struggle not to set things on fire whenever I was upset.” She paused. “You knew all along that I had the FireGift. I put the pieces together. That’s why you let me join the war, even though I was just barely old enough to be a soldier. That’s why I overheard you telling the recruiters to keep an eye on me for any unusual behaviors or any odd fires around me. That’s why you gave me that strange advice when I left about not burning too hot, no matter what. That’s why you were the only one in the village who wasn’t surprised when I survived the fire.” She looked up from her arms and met Ama’s eyes. “You knew. Why didn’t you tell me?”

            Ama remained still and silent for a long moment. Finally, she took Charra’s flame-marked hands in her worn ones. “I knew? That would be a bit strong of a word. I didn’t know until the fire. But I suspected. I saw the clues. You always had a sort of spark under your sweetness. You seemed perkier around fires, never feared them, and they seemed to burn hotter when you were around. You never seemed to mind the heat, even in summertime. And you never seemed to get burned. It wasn’t enough to prove anything. But it was enough to make me guess.

            “Why didn’t I tell you? As I said, I didn’t know for sure. And even if I had, I wanted to protect you, to give you normal life for as long as possible. I wanted to make sure you didn’t have to grow up too fast. I was just trying to do what’s best for you. Can you understand that?” 

            Charra looked down at her hands. Trying to protect me? What about trying to prepare me? What about giving me some warning that this might happen so it didn’t take me completely by surprise? What about warning me that having a gift like that has its downside? Ama trying to protect her, she could understand. That was the sort of thing Ama had always done for her. But surely there would’ve been a better way to do that! The burning inside her started to rise with her anger. She should’ve told me.

            Charra took a deep breath and shut her eyes, trying to force herself to calm back down before the burning became remotely dangerous. She focused on wrestling her fire back down to a manageable level, knowing that calmness would come easier if she wasn’t focused on her problems. When she’d forced the burning back into submission, she considered the problem again. Would I have understood before the fire? Before the war and my training as a soldier? Maybe before the war, but not before the fire. Childlike, she would’ve grown excited over the thought of having a gift and stuffed the warning in the back of her mind to be forgotten until it was too late. And even after the fire, she would’ve been too hurt to understand. It had taken both the fire and her training to make her mature enough to handle the truth of her gift.

            Charra opened her eyes once more and looked up at Ama. Slowly she said, “I think I understand. It still hurts, but I understand. And thank you.” 

            Ama gave Charra’s hands a squeeze. “You’re welcome, Charra.” She tilted her head. “So. What will you do now? Will you stay here, now that the war’s over?”

            Charra shook her head. “I can’t, Tatia. I have duties. My company’s been assigned to help track down any groups of enemy soldiers still in the country and make sure they return to their own country without making trouble. And once that’s done, I’ve been asked to help with training others with the FireGift.”

            Ama looked steadily at Charra for a long moment. “That’s not the only reason, is it?”

            Charra shook her head sadly. “No. It’s not. When you have the FireGift, you have to have something to put all your passion into, to burn for. And if you don’t, you just burn up inside. That’s why I have to keep moving, keep doing things.” She pulled one hand free and touched her scar. “Besides, I doubt anyone would want me around. I scare people now.”

            “I’m sorry, Charra.” Ama rose to her feet and walked around the table to embrace the young woman once more. “Surely, though, you can stop here, just for a few days? Surely you can rest for a bit? More people want you here than you think. You’re our hero. They want to see you. Even if they didn’t, you’d always be welcome here at my home, scar or no scar.”

            Charra sat for a moment, still and quiet, contemplating Ama’s words. “You’re sure they’d want me to stay? That you want me to stay?”

            “Without a doubt.”

            For the first time in a long time, Charra smiled. “Then I think I will. Just for a few days. Just to rest a bit.” And maybe, just maybe, while she was here, she wouldn’t burn quite so much.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Poison Lies

Hello, everyone. Sorry for the wait on this post. I kept forgetting to put it up. (Bad Sarah!) Anyway, here's another story I wrote for the summer creative writing class I took. Be warned: it's sad. Thanks for reading!

Poison Lies

            Essa sat on the ground beneath the oak tree by the bend in the path, waiting. Her legs were pulled up against her chest with her arms wrapped around them as if she were trying to curl into as small a ball as possible. Her long, black bangs had been brushed into her face so they hid her right eye and cheek. As she waited, her sensitive ears caught the sound of heavy footsteps approaching. On any other day, those footsteps would’ve been cause for her to jump to her feet and run to great the approaching person. But today she just curled up a little tighter and buried her face in her knees.

            A few minutes later, a concerned male voice echoed through the woods. “Essa? Essa, are you there?” 

            She didn’t respond.

            The call came again a few minutes later and a third time after that. Then a tall young man came around the bend in the path. He grinned at Essa, his bright smile contrasting with his dark skin. “There you are, Essa. I was wondering when you didn’t answer. Sorry for missing our meeting last night. You’ll never guess who’s visiting the village!”

            She didn’t answer. She didn’t even acknowledge he was there.

            The young man didn’t seem to notice. “You know Father’s friend, Narion? The wandering bard? He arrived yesterday afternoon; apparently he’s staying here in our village for a while. He said that maybe I can apprentice for him after I turn sixteen. Think of that, Essa! Me, Aedon the swordsmith’s son, a bard’s apprentice!”

            At this, Essa did look up for just a moment. Her lips twisted in an attempted smile, but sorrow and bitterness lingered in her eyes. “Congratulations,” she murmured, her tone strained.

            “Thank you.” Aedon didn’t seem to notice her lack of enthusiasm. “His daughter’s traveling with him too this year, since her mother died and she still has a year before she can apprentice. Her name’s Iris. You should meet her; you’d like her. She outshot me when I challenged her to an archery match; I think she may even be better than you! She- Essa? What’s wrong? You’re crying.”

            “I’m not.” Essa swiped angrily at her eyes, pulling the sleeve of her overlarge tunic over her hand. “What were you saying about that girl who’s visiting you?”

            “Iris. Bard Narion’s daughter.” The grin reappeared on Aedon’s face. “You really would like her. She says she’s going to train as a huntress when she’s old enough to apprentice. I can believe it- I told you how good she is with a bow. She’s got a tame wolf instead of a dog. She says that she found it when it a pup and raised it. Having it around drives Father crazy- you know how he is about wolves- but since she’s a guest, he can’t do anything about it.” His grin widened. “We’re planning to go out to the lake tomorrow; you should come with us.”

            “Why?” Essa muttered. “Why would you want me around when you’ve got her instead?”

            Aedon frowned. “Why would I- What are you talking about, Essa?”

            A hint of bitterness flavored Essa’s voice. “You’ve got Iris now. Iris the future huntress. Iris the amazing archer. Iris the wolf tamer. I’ll bet she’s pretty too. Incredibly beautiful, even. Isn’t she?”

            Aedon shrugged. “She’s pretty enough, I guess. But what are you getting at, Essa? Iris can’t replace you. You’re my best friend.” A hint of anger appeared on his face. “If this is about me not being here last night, just say so and stop this . . . this . . . this jealous nonsense!”

            Essa’s voice dropped to an almost-whisper tinged with both anger and hurt. “It is about last night. If I’m your best friend, why weren’t you here when I needed you?”

            Aedon crossed his arms. “I had guests, Essa. It would’ve been rude to leave.”

            “That’s never stopped you before.” Essa glanced up, a hint of cold anger in her eyes. “Every evening, unless one of us is sick, injured, or away from the village. That’s how often we meet here. We agreed to it. You’ve slipped away from guests plenty of times to be here for me, and I’ve done the same for you. I trusted you to be here for me when I needed you. But you weren’t. You were off with some oh-so-amazing bard’s daughter. Did you even bother to think about me? Or did I never so much as cross your mind?” She swiped at her eye once more, wiping away tears before they could fall. “I needed you. But you’ve obviously found someone else to care for.”

            Aedon stared at her for a long moment. Then he reached out to brush her bangs away from her face. She slapped his hand away, but not before he caught a glimpse of black-and-blue bruises on her pale, scarred face. The anger in his face grew. “What happened last night, Essa?”

            She looked down again. “Father. He came back. Caught me outside. Told me I belonged with him, not Uncle Tyr, and to come with him or else. I said no. He told me again, and when I tried to go inside, he grabbed me and started saying things. And then he started hitting.”

            Aedon looked her over. “How badly are you hurt?”

            She shrugged. “Not too badly this time. Lots of bruises, and he gave me a nasty black eye. But he didn’t have his knives with him, and Uncle Tyr came out and stopped him before he could break any bones.” She paused for a moment. “The hitting didn’t hurt as much as the things he said. Or as much as when I thought you’d be here, but you never came. It made me wonder if . . . if some of the things Father said were true. And now I can’t help wondering even more.”

            Aedon scowled deeply. “And what did he say?”

            Again Essa shrugged. “At first it was just the usual: I’m worthless; I never should’ve been born; I deserve everything he’s ever tried to do to me. I told him what you and Uncle Tyr have said about caring about me, and me not being worthless and all that. He just laughed and said that you both were lying, you especially, Aedon. He said you really didn’t care for me at all, and you’d desert me the moment someone smarter and stronger and prettier and not so broken came along. That you were just pretending you cared so you could earn my trust and take advantage of me later.”

            A hint of angry fire glinted in Aedon’s eyes. “Essa, he’s lying. You know he is. When has he ever told you the truth? I would never desert you for another girl, and I’d definitely never take advantage of you. I can’t believe you think I would.”

            “But you did, Aedon.” Essa shook her head. “You did desert me for another girl. You picked that bard’s daughter over me. If you’d had any other guest, if it had been Bard Narion and not his daughter too, would you have missed our meeting?”

            “Well . . . I . . .” Aedon’s scowl grew. “I can’t believe you’d believe your father over me. When has he done anything but hurt you?”

            Essa looked at Aedon with a mixture of sorrow, hurt, and anger. “I believe the people who tell me the truth. You can’t even deny that you chose her over me. That you saw she was better than me and decided I wasn’t worth bothering with anymore.”

            Aedon shook his head, seeming to recover somewhat. “That’s not what happened, Essa. I was enjoying myself, and I just forgot-”

            “You forgot?” All the sorrow suddenly disappeared from Essa’s voice, leaving only hurt, bitterness, and ice-cold fury. “You forgot your “best friend”? If that doesn’t prove you don’t really care, I don’t know what else would.” She looked away. “But it doesn’t matter anymore. I know the truth now, and I won’t let you hurt me any longer. This is goodbye, Aedon. As of now, you’re free to forget me all you like. You’re free to do anything, really. Just don’t expect me to be friends with you any longer.”

            Aedon stared at her for a long moment, his expression going from shock to hurt to, finally, anger. “Fine. I don’t care. I can’t believe you’d take the word of your lying skunk of a father over me, or that you’d overreact this much to a simple mistake. But if this is how you’re going to act, you can believe me that I won’t ever make the mistake of caring about you ever again.” He paused, waiting for a response. She gave him none. So, he turned and stalked off into the forest.

            And Essa, alone once more, curled up and began to weep.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Hello! This is a short story I wrote for the same assignment as "Worth It". Though I decided to submit "Worth It" instead of this story, I still liked this story. It was inspired by the Owl City song "Alligator Sky", which happens to be one of my favorite Owl City songs. I'll post the song at the end of the story, in case anyone wants to listen to it.


            The stars fell in a silver rain, leaving sparkling trails that quickly faded from the night sky. Brooke sighed happily as she lay on a picnic blanket in her backyard, watching the meteor shower. All around her, peaceful silence reigned, undisturbed by the rustle of a breeze or the rumble of a car engine.

            “Perfect ending to an amazing day, huh?” Alex asked as the last of the meteors faded away. 

            Brooke glanced at her best friend and grinned. “Definitely. Though . . .” She looked back up at the sky. “Maybe I’m crazy, but I feel like something even more special’s going to happen before tomorrow gets here.”

            Alex peered at his watch. “Well, if it’s going to happen, it better happen soon. We’ve only got about fifteen minutes left in the day.” He paused. “We didn’t forget to do something today, did we?”

            Brooke shook her head. “Nope. It was the best sixteenth birthday I could want, especially since you came over.”

            Alex grinned. “Good.” He reached for the soda can sitting by the blanket and frowned when he picked it up. “Empty. I’m going to go get another drink. You want anything, Brooke?”

            Brooke nodded. “If you can find any more cream sodas, I’d like one of those. If not, just my water bottle from the fridge, please.”

            “I’m on it.” Alex stood and walked over towards the house. He pulled open the door and stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.

            Once he was gone, Brooke turned her gaze back up to the star-filled sky. A bit of movement caught the corner of her eye, and she looked to see one last shooting star arcing across the sky. This one appeared bigger and lower than the others, and it almost seemed to be coming towards her. Then it faded from sight, just as the others had.

            Suddenly, there came a noise from behind her that was both musical and mechanical at once, followed by the sound of something heavy settling onto the ground. Brooke sat up and turned to see what had made the sound. She gasped.  At the edge of the yard, a large, torpedo-shaped capsule had appeared. Its surface looked as smooth and polished as silver, and seemed to glow with the same light as the stars. There was a single porthole-style window set into it at about head height, but all she could see through it was a warm, comfortable golden glow.

            She stood and approached the thing curiously, but cautiously. When she was less than a foot away and nothing jumped out at her, she reached out a hand to feel its surface. Just before her fingers touched it, however, a line appeared in its side and extended to trace out the shape of a door. Brooke stepped back as the door swung open and revealed a golden-haired man standing in the doorway.

            The man looked her over and smiled. “Hello, Brooke. I’ve been waiting for you.”

            Brooke’s eyes widened. “You have?” She felt as if she should be frightened, but she wasn’t. Just curious and cautious. “Why?”

            The man’s eyes sparkled. They were honest, ancient eyes, though the man himself looked quite young, and gave Brooke the feeling that this man could not lie at all, even if he wanted to. “Because I have chosen to Call you, but you have not been ready until tonight.” He held out a hand. “Will you answer?”

            Brooke hesitated, looking from the man’s face to his outstretched hand. “Calling me for what?”

            “To come with me, of course.” The man seemed genuinely surprised by the question. “To travel with me in my ship. There are hundreds of adventures to be had, Brooke, hundreds of wrongs to be righted, and I can’t do it alone.”

            Is this it? Is this the special something I thought would happen? Brooke felt it had to be, but she didn’t say yes. “But who are you?”

            “I am a Guardian,” he replied, simply, “a protector of Good and a wanderer of the worlds. Surely your mother has told you something of my kind; she knew us well enough at one time.”

            A Guardian. Brooke remembered her mother mentioning them once or twice, though never in any great detail. All she’d ever said when Brooke asked for more information was that “saying yes to one will break your heart eventually, but it’ll be worth it. It’s always worth it. And if you say yes and break your heart, it’ll be healed again before long.”

            Brooke had never known her mother to steer her wrong. Still, she didn’t say yes. “What about my parents? What about Alex?” What about everything here?
            “Your parents will understand,” the Guardian replied. “I have spoken with them, asked their permission to Call you, and they gave it. As for your friend, you will have to say goodbye to him for now, but if all goes well, you will see him again.” He paused. “Brooke, understand this. If you come with me, I cannot promise you that you will not face danger and hardship. Just the opposite, in fact; I am certain you will. But I can promise you that I will do my very best to protect you through it all, and that whatever happens, it will not be without a reason.”

            Brooke bit her lip. Is it worth it? She didn’t want to leave Alex. She didn’t want to leave her safe, comfortable home. But at the same time, she wanted to say yes to the Guardian. She wanted to go with him, have adventures, find out how her mother knew about the Guardians and why she said that saying yes to one would always be worth it. What do people say? Nothing good is easy? And I guess you can’t really have adventures without facing danger too. Only Alex remained to hold her back now. “Couldn’t Alex come too?”

            The Guardian shook his head. “No. Not yet, at least. Perhaps one day he will be ready to be Called, but not today.” He looked steadily into her eyes. “You are ready, Brooke, and I have Called you. Will you answer?”

            Brooke took a deep breath. She looked back at her house, back to Alex and her family and all she’d ever known. Then she looked at the Guardian and his ship, into his kind, honest, ancient eyes. She looked back at the house once more. Then she made her choice and took a step.
            It took Alex longer than he’d hoped, but he’d finally managed to find a cream soda for Brooke. Carrying her soda and a Coke for himself, he pushed the back door open and started to step out into the backyard, but stopped short. In the far corner of the yard, he could see Brooke being helped into a silver torpedo-like thing by a strange, golden-haired man. He dashed out, dropping the sodas in his panic. “Brooke, no!”

            He was too late. She glanced back for a minute from the doorway and gave him a smile and a wave before stepping all the way inside. Then the strange man nodded to Alex, walked in after her, and shut the door behind them both. There was a hint of a rumble and a musical sound, and the silvery glow around the craft intensified near the ground. The thing began to lift into the sky, leaving a trail of light like stardust and moonshine. Alex could do nothing but watch as it rose above the trees and up into the sky until finally it looked like nothing more than another shooting star. 

            Only when it was lost to view did Alex lower his head and notice a faintly glowing sheet of paper on the ground. He walked over and picked it up, and for a moment, he thought he heard Brooke’s laugh; saw her eager face staring out an immense window at the stars. Then laugh and image both faded and all he saw was the letter, written in Brooke’s familiar, curly handwriting.

Dear Alex,
            I’m sorry I couldn’t stay. I’ve been Called. I could’ve said no, but I think I would’ve regretted it if I had. I’ll miss you so much, and I hope that you’ll be Called too so we can have adventures together. If you aren’t, I’ll see when I get back. Until then, keep me in your heart and I’ll keep you in mine. Your best friend,

            Alex stared at the letter for a moment, despair slowly crushing the faint hope that had risen in his heart. Then the paper began to slowly disappear from his hand. He watched sadly as it faded away until it was all gone, just like Brooke.