Warning, Lost

The gigantic signpost, brilliantly yellow with that typical black triangle locking in the message, was the first sign of civilization in this forsaken place. Someone had scraped off the last word, though, so it simply read, “Warning, Lost.”

“Well,” ARC muttered dryly. “That certainly does reflect the current situation.”

For, you see, ARC had been wandering the woods for quite a while, now, searching for that hint of civilization he had thought he had seen a while back; having been raised in a contained world beyond civilized society, he had, quite unfortunately, not recognized the ship for what it was. Accidentally boarding it while running from the scientists meant that now that the ship has crashed, he had no idea where he was, and, to make matters worse, when he walked off to follow the faint outline of skyscrapers, he no longer has any idea where the others were anymore.

At least things does appear to be looking up. Signposts such as this was a sure sign of civilization; humans were the only creatures with a tendency to erect them wherever they go. The lamppost next to it illuminating the words in the darkness was likely the little spot of light he had seen earlier on, too.

As he observed the lamppost, ARC frowned. The carvings on it were thick and elaborate, beautiful vines crawling up from the ground and devouring the post, blooming into a flower that carries the light gently. Unlike the signpost, however, there was no sign of rust or wear and tear, no actual vines creeping all over it, nothing to show the mark nature tends to leave on even the most resilient items humans could create.

In fact, it was so well-maintained that…

Was that vine shifting?

No, no it was not. That was just a trick of the eye, caused by the uncertain light. A little more unsettled now, ARC took a step back, glancing up at the signpost once more. Briefly, he wondered what the last word actually was, before deciding that he better head back to the little shelter he had built earlier on in anticipation of nightfall.

Turning around, he halted.

Where there once was a beaten path, there was now only a thick undergrowth. The tree canopies were lower than he remembered them being, the branches almost brushing the ground. The foliage all around him were denser, darker – there was no longer any hints of light seeping through them, no uncertainty regarding how packed everything was.

Uncertainly frightened, now, ARC stepped back; his back bumped into the lamppost. He froze there, too – through the thin fabric of what was left of his shirt, he felt something move. Minutely, carefully, but something was – it was creeping over his back. And there, there – somewhere in the peripheral of his vision, there was something, someone walking along the edge of the minute clearing.

Something brushed his arm, and it broke him from the strange trance. He stumbled forward, away and turned around, morbid curiosity spurring him on. Molten silver branches reached out, spreading into a web-like net, beautiful and –

The world disappeared, then, a flood of dizzying scenes and scents and feelings replacing it, blue and yellow and crowded, coloured with warm maple and faint jasmine and biting citrus and tinted with contentment and resentment and love and hatred and distress and joy and sorrow and fear, until –

It stopped.

It all stopped, and he found himself sitting on the floor. The soft, muddy grass patch was mushy under his hand, the signpost solid besides his patch, and everything was as he remembers it, just darker – and he looked up.

The lamppost was gone; only the giant yellow sign remained.

And oh, look, it said –

“Welcome, Last”

~~~A~~~

Hakyo trekked down the familiar path, carrying the loot from the crashed container. It was sunrise, now, and, for some inexplicable reason, there was a set of footprints half-immortalized in the path, there to stay till the next storm washes it all out.

At the fork, he was tempted, for a minute, to take the longer route to avoid the clearings, but laziness won out and he stepped onto the shortcut. Almost immediately, he could feel the air closing in on him, denser and colder and altogether almost-choking. Knowing that there can be no looking back from here on, he focused on taking one step at a time. At times, there would be a shrill chirping from behind, and sometimes he would feel something brush against his shoulders, but anyone raised in this parts can tell you that the woods were dangerous – they always, always try to swallow you.

That’s why, when walking through it, you never look anywhere but ahead, because looking back means that when you turn back around, you would find so many tracks you would be lost until eventually you set foot off the path, and that’s the point where the lost souls of the woods would claim you, making you one of their numbers for all of eternity.

Hakyo did quite well, if he could say so himself, and he was almost at the edge of the woods where he saw, straight ahead, sprawled out just a bit off the path, to the left, a boy – not quite older than him, younger, in fact.

As he neared, he noticed the doll hanging from the tree sheltering him, one button and one marble staring dully unfocused at nothing, limbs hanging limply.

It rose slightly as he closed, though, and he picked up his pace. It followed, he knew – he could sense its presence, always hovering right there behind his left shoulder, but he did not look at it. He would not become its companion, because, well.

“Hakyo!” Mariangela greeted excitedly as he crossed the boarders marking the boundaries of their village. Her glance flickered briefly over his left shoulder, and she took hold of his hand as she led him home, where mother was waiting for his findings.

Entering his room, he noticed that the little statuette he had on his desk had started blooming.

The petals opened, revealing a luminous little bulb.

Let the world go by

Sometimes, Rovina would lean against his headstone and watch the world go by.

Sure, she’s trying to let go, and she’s succeeding. Somewhat.

It’s just… hard, sometimes.

Her blood brother, her father, they were easy. They were gone too early, too fast for her to feel anything but regret and a ‘what if’, every now and then. That was inevitable. It was also easy to ignore.

Cladis, though.

Ashton to her, because that lying little critter never gave her his real name while he was alive. In the end, even the name she thought was his was just a pseudonym.

Say Goodbye

Learn to say goodbye.

It’s hard, but it’s inevitable. Someday, you’d have to say goodbye to everything you hold dear. Don’t let that catch you off guard. You cannot refuse to let go, either, son, because it isn’t always up to you.

That’s the first thing his father taught him.

It’s a lesson he never forgot, but it didn’t prepare him for the day he had to say goodbye to them. He wasn’t ready to be responsible for Mira, he wasn’t ready to say goodbye, to let go, but the doors closed and the tube retreated and –

They were gone.

Hide-and-Seek

He knew he can’t win.

After all, the game tested your competency at handling a phaser and those things absolutely despised him.

But he can’t lose.

It’s his sister’s future at stake. Winning this won’t change anything for him – he’d still be the Council’s property, but if he made it, then, at sixteen, he can get her out of Redirection. She’d have a proper life as an Elite.

Thinking it through for a moment, he realised that it wasn’t just about shooting your target – it was also about hiding from your hunter.

And he’s always been the best at hide-and-seek.

Between A Rock and Two Hard Places

When taking the quest, he had acknowledged the possible dangers. The full impact, however, was only hitting him now.

Quite literally.

Sliding down the wall he had just been tossed into, he tried his best not to cower as the Minotaur joined the Yeti, crowding him in. About then, a third shadow joined them alongside a fireball.

‘Oh dear’ he thought faintly, looking up. It took him precious little time to figure out that the ‘sky’ was the underbelly of a dragon.

A dragon about to sit on him.

And that, my darlings, was the start of a wonderful friendship.

(100 Words)


Prompt: Between A Rock and Two Hard Places

Prequel to: Hang-10Ghoulish Treasure

Who You Gonna Call?

When he blearily opened his eyes, he saw the grey ceiling. It registered a few seconds later that the bed felt like concrete. He bolted upright.

And winced.

He was distracted from the throbbing, though, when he noticed the bars. And the guard standing behind it.

A rat scuttled across the floor.

He frowned at it for a moment before…

A prison?

But…

What had he done? And, what about his call? Wasn’t it a right?

“Hello?” he asked tentatively.

There was no reply.

“Guard!” He reached for the bars, ready to make a rackus.

His hand passed right through.

(100 Words)


Prompt: Who You Gonna Call? 

Follow-Up/Companion to: Lost , Hang-10Ghoulish Treasure

Tingle

The queue wound around the block. I glanced back, glad to have avoided the rush hour. The thing was, I wasn’t not entirely sure why this vendor was so popular. Sure, even the stingiest critics gave this stall an extremely high ranting, however, I can’t see what’s so special. It’s just hot dogs. John insisted, though.

As I walked away, I took a bite.

That… was unexpected. I paused, lifting it up, studying it carefully. It strongly resembled a normal hot dog. I sniffed it. It smelt… normal? There wasn’t any chili or pickles.

But it made my tongue tingle.

(100 Words)


Prompt: “…but it made my tongue tingle…”

Lights

The lights flickered.

Irritated, she glanced up. Before long, though, her attention returned to the life flourishing in her hands, the little tendrils thickening and lengthening, strengthening, slithering up her arms, winding itself around and around – tight enough to have a presence, yet slack enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable.

She looked on, wide eyed, enchanted by the rate at which this precious thing – no, life, that she had created, was blossoming.

Except, it wasn’t stopping. As it continued extending, it strangled her, silenced her, suffocated her and it didn’t, doesn’t – wouldn’t stop.

Not until it was lights out once more.

Hang-10

Settling into his car, he fought the urge to return and retrieve the keys to the castle, to reclaim his post as the sole guardian. That the sorcerer, the replacement the voice had chosen, had the audacity to arrive with the Minotaur and that other creature, had not helped.

He did succeed eventually by reminding himself, repeatedly, that this was just an overdue holiday. To the beach, as suggested helpfully by it.

When the amnesiac duo washed ashore, though, mindful of the voice’s presence, he had to bite back the curse.

A vacation.

Hah.

He really should have known better.

(100 Words)


Prompt: Hang 10?

Follow-Up/Companion to: Lost 

Truthfully

Huddled behind the counter miserably, she mourned for her perfect day.

Sure, the milk’s expired, she’s running out of cheerios, the cupboard’s almost empty and the rent’s due the next day, but all in all, it was actually the best day she had had in a month. She wouldn’t have bothered leaving the house, if not for her friend’s helpful reminder that “You could stay here, but you need cash, don’t you?”

It truly wasn’t her fault, though.

All she did was walk into a bank.

The bank robbers just happened to do the same thing at the same time.

(100 Words)


Prompt: “…but you need cash…”