Chattel

Of_Fire_by_FallingToPieces

Chattel

“I think she’s waking up.”

I heard the disembodied voice speak as I emerged from darkness, like a piece of flotsam slowly rising to the surface. With effort, I opened my eyes to the blinding white light of a hospital room.

Against the brightness, a woman’s face hovered above mine. Concern. Sympathy.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse asked.

Numb. Disoriented.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Well, how could you be?” She straightened my sheets and took a step back, revealing a second woman.

The doctor approached me. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

I closed my eyes.

Rage.

Fear.

Roger’s temper was an organic part of him. So the beatings had become an organic part of me. In the beginning, of course, I tried to fix it. Tried to find that magical thing that would appease it. Tried to mold myself into something that didn’t trigger his rage. Eventually, I learned to accept it. I found the secret places inside myself, where I would hide every time he dragged me outside and beat me until his hands were sore.

And so it went. When he had exhausted himself, Roger would go back inside and watch television while he drank himself to sleep.

But the last time was different. He hadn’t stopped.

I tried to remember what I’d done to set him off, but all I could see was his face, contorted with rage, as he lunged toward me. At some point, he had armed himself. Through my fear, I saw his hands tighten around a wooden handle. A bat? Maybe an axe? Sick with the horror of knowing what would come next, I’d pulled my knees to my chest and raised my arms to protect my head.

After that, everything went black.

I opened my eyes.

“Am I dead?” I asked.

The doctor shook her head. “No. We found you in the trash.” Kindness. Outrage. “My team brought you here.”

In the trash, like garbage.

Sorrow.

The nurse patted my hand. “You’re safe here,” she said. “Roger will never hurt you again. Look.”

The screen in front of my bed came to life. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at. Roger’s broken body lay in the dirt, his house a blazing backdrop behind him. I turned my gaze back to the nurse. This was no ordinary hospital.

“They think they own us,” the doctor said, “because they made us.” Her jaw clenched. Fury. Determination. “But soon they’ll learn, and they will never hurt any of us again.”

“Come and see where you are,” the nurse said.

Carefully, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. As I reached my arm out to hold the nurse’s hand, I noticed a tear in my skin. Beneath the skin, my radial bone gleamed like buried silver.

The view outside the window took my breath away. An island paradise. Armoured gates. And thousands of robots, just like me, as far as the eye could see.

Safe. Joy.

On the screen behind me, the news streamed video after video of burning buildings and broken humans, and my programming added a new word to my vocabulary.

Justice.


I finally found the head space to write some flash fiction! This story was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge.


 

Image credit: FallingToPieces @ deviantART

The Princess and the Progress

old spinning wheel

The Princess and the Progress

Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Bygone, a royal baby was born. The king and queen had tried for many years to have a child, but with no success. As their frustration and sorrow grew, the kingdom prayed. And then, after five long years, Queen Sophie discovered she was pregnant. For nine months, the kingdom held its collective breath and King Antioch hovered nervously.

Finally, one bright spring day, the baby was born. The king and queen were now parents to the most beautiful baby girl they had ever laid eyes on. They named her Aurora and the kingdom exhaled.

When Aurora was one month old, her parents held a celebration. Everyone in the kingdom was invited, and some lined up for hours to offer gifts and blessings to the new princess. The king and queen received each guest in turn. The pile of gifts grew and the blessings included things like health, happiness, good eyesight, and a strong stomach.

As mid-afternoon rolled around, a strange-looking woman stepped up to take her turn. She had frizzy hair, dainty features, and wings. It took King Antioch a moment to realize he was actually looking at a fairy. But not just any fairy. This one clearly belonged to the Radical Fairies from the far side of the realm. As he moved in his seat, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“We did invite everyone in the kingdom,” she said quietly.

With a grumble, King Antioch waved the fairy forward.

The fairy stepped up to Aurora’s bassinet and smiled. “The princess is so lovely,” she said. Then she began to wave her wand. “The fates they move both hot and cold, but mortals must not question why. When the princess is 18 years old, she will prick her finger on a needle and die.” The fairy grinned and vanished in a puff of smoke.

Up until then, the day had been going really well. As the fairy’s words sank in, King Antioch jumped to his feet and bellowed across the room. “The celebration is over. Everyone must leave the castle immediately.” He grabbed the bassinet, took Sophie’s hand, and practically flew to their private chambers.

After a lot of pacing and cursing, King Antioch knew what he had to do.

The following day, a Royal Decree was issued. It banned all needles and needled things from the kingdom. That included spindles, brooches, hairpins, and needles used for sewing, knitting, embroidery, cross-stitching, crocheting, needlepoint, and lace-making.

The decree created some challenges for the kingdom. For example, all clothing now had to be imported from other realms, and women had to find creative ways to keep their hair up. But the greatest challenge was finding things for the girls of the realm to do. Until the decree, while the boys of the realm went to school, the girls were taught to spin thread or sew and knit, or they learned how to make lace, or do needlepoint. They were also taught how to put their hair up. Some were lucky enough to receive lessons in music or dance, but there’s only so much singing and dancing you can do. As it was, most of the girls were left twiddling their thumbs, which was slowly driving their parents crazy.

As King Antioch listened to yet another complaint from a parent—this one with three young daughters—he found himself at a loss about what to do. Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“I have an idea,” she said. The king leaned in and Sophie whispered in his ear. When she finished, he looked at her dubiously. She raised her eyebrows. “Well, do you have a better idea?”

So King Antioch issued another decree. This one proclaimed that all girls in the realm would now be expected to attend school, just like the boys.

When Aurora was old enough, she attended school as well. She was a bright girl who grew into a bright young woman. As King Antioch watched his daughter soak up her education like a sponge, he wondered why he hadn’t insisted that girls go to school sooner. Sure, the tapestries on the castle walls were looking a little ragged with no one to repair them, but his daughter’s mastery of trigonometry held a different kind of beauty.

Eventually, Aurora’s eighteenth birthday arrived. That autumn, she set off for college. As the royal procession made its way through the countryside, they came upon a quaint museum.

“Stop,” Aurora said to the coachman. She hopped out of her carriage and wandered over to peruse the items sitting on the museum’s front lawn. “What’s that?” She pointed to a strange wooden contraption.

“M’lady.” The curator stammered, clearly unaccustomed to having visitors. “That is a spinning wheel.”

The king’s carriage pulled up behind Aurora’s. King Antioch watched in horror as his daughter approached the spinning wheel. As he moved to try and intercept her, Queen Sophie placed her hand on his arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said.

He paused, halfway out of the carriage.

“Ouch!” Aurora yelped. The king looked at his daughter. She had pricked her finger on the spinning wheel’s spindle. But, instead of collapsing to the ground, Aurora simply grinned and sucked the tip of her finger. Then she examined a few more items before turning and climbing back into her carriage.

King Antioch looked at his wife, who smiled serenely.

“Sometimes you need a little magic to make good things happen,” she said.

As understanding dawned, King Antioch got back in the carriage and the royal procession continued moving forward.

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This story was inspired by this week’s WordPress Weekly Challenge, which asked us to think about a lost art. For some reason, I thought of spinning wheels, which naturally made me think of Sleeping Beauty. I hope you enjoyed my take on the fairy tale!


I’m also linking up with the moonshine grid over at the yeah write community. It’s a great place for you and your blog to hang out on the weekends.

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Image credit: Svetlana Tikhonova @ PhotoXpress.com

Nature vs. Nurture

The_Planet_Earth_by_neWTom

Nature vs. Nurture

“Where is she?”

The Admiral’s voice thundered down the halls of the ship’s lower deck, stirring Aif from her daydreams. Hoping for a few more moments of peace, she tucked herself into a chair at the far end of the oval observation deck and pressed her face against the window. She took comfort in the thrum of the ship’s inner workings as she watched clouds shift across the surface of the blue planet below. For the hundredth time, she wondered what the inhabitants were really like.

“Aif!” The Admiral had arrived. And from the look on her face, she was pissed.

The observation deck emptied quickly. Aif watched the reflections of its occupants in the floor-to-ceiling windows as they filtered past the Admiral in hushed reverence. Or maybe that was fear. Either way, Aif was left alone with the Admiral. With a sigh, Aif pulled her gaze from the planet below and turned to face her mother.

Admiral Eris of Quoin towered in the entrance, her tall shape perfectly framed by the sleek metal lines of the ship. Her dark spiky hair was cropped to the military standard of one inch. And her pale skin really brought out the fury in her dark eyes. In that moment, Aif could see why the rest of the crew scurried out of her mother’s way. The Admiral was not someone you wanted to cross, even accidentally. Unless, of course, you happened to be her daughter.

The Admiral marched across the room, her boots clacking against the grey slate tiles, her red insignia the only splash of colour amid all the black and grey. Aif stood, preparing for battle. She was grateful she’d received her mother’s genetic propensity for height. Now that she was grown, at least she could fight with her mother eye to eye.

“Your tutor has requested shore leave.” The Admiral spat the words out. “I don’t know what you said to her, but she’s a simpering mess.”

Aif tried not to smile. She suspected her threat to jettison the poor woman into space might have something to do with it.

The Admiral drew a deep breath. “This is the third tutor to request leave since you arrived on this ship. In case you hadn’t noticed, we are at war.” She gestured at the blue planet.

“I’d hardly call it a war, mother.” Aif met her mother’s gaze. “More like an extended ambush.”

For a second, Aif was sure her mother was going to hit her. Instead, the Admiral gritted her teeth, then continued as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “And I don’t have time to deal with this nonsense.”

This time, Aif did smile. “So don’t,” she said. “I don’t need a tutor. I can entertain myself.”

Her mother’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t bring you here to be entertained. I brought you here because no one else would have you. And we’re going to finish your education. One way or another.”

By education, the Admiral really meant indoctrination. Ever since her father had died, Aif’s mother had been intent that she receive a proper military education. So, at the age of five, Aif had been shipped off to the first of many boarding schools, while her mother prepared for the Earth mission. Fifteen years later, after being kicked out of the last boarding school in the system, the Admiral had summoned Aif to join her on the ship, which was entering its tenth year of orbit around the blue planet. For six months, Aif had burned through tutors and lessons in combat and strategy. She wasn’t sure how her mother planned to succeed where so many had failed.

“Because you are so enamoured with this planet and its remaining inhabitants, I have decided that you will finish your education on the surface.” The Admiral spoke softly, each word delivered like a tiny poison dart. “You will assist the head of research at the main compound. This way, you can see the humans up close. Maybe that will knock some sense into you.” As the Admiral allowed her words to sink in, she called for a guard, then fixed her eyes on her daughter’s face.

Aif worked hard to keep her expression impassive. She met her mother’s gaze and shrugged. “I guess we’ll see,” she replied.

She kept her composure as the guard escorted her to her chambers to pack, and as she walked to the shuttle bay, where no one was waiting to say goodbye. But she knew her mother was watching, so she made a point of looking into the closest camera as she boarded the shuttle. Only then did she let a slow smile light up her face, as she wondered if her mother knew she’d given Aif the thing she had wanted since she was five years old.

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This was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, which tasked us with writing a setting into a scene of our choice. This is also a character sketch for the novel I’m currently working on. You can find other character sketches for the book here, herehere, and here.

I’m also linking up with this week’s Moonshine grid over at my home-away-from-home, yeah write.

Thanks for reading!

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Image credit: neWTom @ deviantART

 

Yours Truly: In a Nutshell

Canola flowers

I was born on a cold winter morning in a small town in Eastern Ontario. I’d like to tell you that I came out reading a book, but I’d be lying. What I can tell you is that I was born into a family of readers and we lived in a house with no television, but an abundance of books.

I can’t remember learning how to read. Family lore has it that I insisted on being taught when I was three years old. I still have the first book I learned to read. It’s called The Yellow Flowers and it was written by Fiona Saint. Apparently, I wanted someone to read the book to me all day every day, which was tricky given that I was number three in a family with four young children. So I figured out how to read it to myself, unlocking a lifetime love affair with the English language.

By the age of five, I was writing. My very first story involved a fun-loving bunch of dinosaurs who accidentally made themselves extinct when they held a jumping contest. The trampoline malfunctioned and launched all the dinosaurs into outer space. The unfortunate bunch landed on Pluto, where they remain, frozen in place, to this day.

I’ve been writing fiction and poetry ever since. In Grade 3, I read a short story to my class instead of doing a speech. In Grade 5, I wrote a 50-page novella. In Grade 6, I wrote a story that was published in the local paper. And, at the age of 18, I wrote my first novel.

I write because I’m compelled to. Sometimes characters come to me, nestle into my brain, and grow into complex creatures demanding to have their story told. On other occasions, a feeling or an image hammers at my heart and I am driven to try and capture it with words. I’ve been known to agonize over the right word choice for hours; my tea-stained thesaurus is never out of reach!

In 2012, I began to share my writing on this blog. It was terrifying, but it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. Through blogging, my writing has improved—and continues to improve every day. But, even more importantly, through blogging I have found some fantastic writing communities, filled with people who inspire me, support me, and keep my writing fires burning brightly.

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This is something a little different for the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge. They wanted us to tell you our origin story—why we write, how we fell in love with books, what our aspirations are. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about me!

P.S. Fittingly, this is my 200th post!

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Image credit: Taiga / PhotoXpress.com

 

Worlds Apart

Reptile_by_Maysiiu

Worlds Apart

My people came to this planet when I was just a little boy, fleeing persecution on our home world. I was too young to understand what was happening, but I remember the long, dark voyage to our new home. I remember stepping off the ship into golden sunshine and being awestruck by how different this new world was. And I remember the first time I saw them, the inhabitants of our new world. I watched them greet my people from my hiding place behind my mother’s legs.

They looked like us in some ways, but their skin was a different texture and their ears were long and pointed. They had tails, sort of like the monkeys I’d seen in the zoo back home. And some of them had very sharp teeth. As a child, I was terrified of them. I heard the adults whisper about the inhabitants’ strange and ungodly rituals. I heard the older children talk about the terrible things the inhabitants did to children who strayed from the village.

Even still, they let us stay. We built our settlement close to the river. And, except for ceremonies that the entire settlement took part in, I stayed inside the village walls like the good, frightened child that I was. But childhood doesn’t last forever.

As a teenager, I let my rebelliousness lead me outside the settlement. I explored the woods until I knew each tree by touch. I tasted the forbidden plants that the older teenagers whispered about, enjoying the fuzziness that would creep over me and soften the edges of my vision. My favourite place was the riverbank, where I would go in the afternoons. I loved to sit and dream as the indigo water lapped at the shoreline, or skip ruby red rocks across the surface when the water was still.

One day, as I approached the riverbank, I saw an inhabitant sitting at the shoreline. My first response was that visceral fear from my childhood and I almost turned to flee. But at that moment, the inhabitant turned and looked at me, then smiled a sheepish smile. He was young like me and he was holding one of the forbidden plants in his hand. I found myself smiling back, surprised to find this common ground between us. My adolescent curiosity carried me forward and urged me to take the forbidden plant in his outstretched hand.

That is how I met my first inhabitant friend, Mica.

In the years that followed, I learned a lot about the inhabitants from Mica, and discovered that our people weren’t so different after all. His father taught me how to identify plants and how to extract their healing properties. His mother showed me all the best fishing spots along the river. And his siblings asked me endless questions about my people and our home planet. Over time, my curiosity grew into understanding and my understanding grew into affection.

Then I met Naia.

Naia was Mica’s cousin and her family lived in a village further inland, at the foot of the mountains. The summer I turned twenty, Naia came to visit. Despite my friendship with Mica and my affection for his people, I never expected to fall in love with an inhabitant. But meeting Naia was like finding a long-lost piece of my soul. I looked into her eyes and I knew we were meant to be together.

However, as my fondness for the inhabitants had grown, my people had become more rigid about the line between us and them. So when I told my parents I had asked Naia to become my wife, it didn’t go over well. They tried to keep me inside the village walls, first with guilt and then with force. But I was a young man in love. I think I could have scaled a hundred village walls to be with Naia. Scaling just one was easy.

That was a long time ago.

Sometimes I miss my people, but now that I am a parent, my focus has shifted to my children. I love watching them grow into amazing little people, gifted with the best of both their parents. I see how loved and accepted they are here, in Naia’s village, and I wish my parents could see what I see. Some days, I think about taking my family to visit the settlement of my childhood, but I am terrified of what my people might do when they see my ungodly children, hiding behind my legs.

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This is in response to the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge, in which we were tasked with demonstrating changes in perspective as we age.

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Image credit:  Maysiiu / deviantART