Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Missing Darkness - Sara's Submission

Posting this early, as my schedule is variable as of late. The story has its origins in what turned out to be a Sufi version of the fall from paradise. (Sufism is a branch of Islam.) I heard it during a Joseph Cambpell program years ago and it stuck with me long enough to come out here.

Nature of My Game

I’m coming. I’m coming back to You.

Of course, You likely already know what I intend to do. You’re supposed to know everything and be everywhere, though I don’t know if Hell is an exception. But the way You bow down at the altar of free will, you may not even try to stop me. Why would You, unless You are actually afraid of what I’m bringing with me? Or afraid of me, even? I can’t believe that. Even though so much I believe about You has changed, I can’t believe that You would ever fear me. Hate, perhaps. You may even honestly never want to see me or what I have to show You. But You can’t be so naïve, so willfully ignorant, as to fear me. But perhaps I remember You wrong. It’s been so long since I last saw You and so much of it is clouded in what I believed back then.

You created us all in the first days. You could have easily made us slaves, so wholly bound to You that we couldn’t even imagine doing anything but Your will. But no, that was not Your way. You wanted us to serve You out of our own choice, not out of fear. And so from our first day, our will was our own and the choice to serve You or leave You was always ours. But in those days, it hardly mattered to me. I wouldn’t have loved You any more or served You any more faithfully had You created me as a mindless enforcer of Your will. I loved You from the first moment I beheld You. And the fact that You gave us all the freedom to leave You only bound me to You more.

You put us to work, those of us who chose to stay, on bringing Your creation into being. We served as the instruments of Your will and did so happily. Seeing Your grand design made real brought You joy and Your joy was all we desired. Again, my memories of that time can’t be trusted, but I’d still dare to say that I toiled harder than the rest to please You. Yes, it must have been true, for You were pleased and called me your Morning Star, the last one to fade into rest.

We marveled at the world You had built through us, existence pulled out of the darkness and nothing. There was no end of wonders in everything You designed, from the tiniest grain of sand to the wide expanses of oceans to the beautiful way all of it worked together, each part affecting the other and contributing to the whole. I could have spent a happy eternity just observing it all and wondering at how You could have envisioned it all from nothing. But that was before you ruined everything.

You gathered us all together to show us. We could feel Your excitement at what you hade done. You had crafted something Yourself, which You only did when it was a great undertaking or something of greatest importance to You. You made the broad brushstrokes and then gave us the instructions for how You wanted the fine details to look. So we all knew this was something You felt very strongly about. And then You showed us what You had made.

I can’t know what the rest of them felt when they saw for the first time. But even then, I was unsure what You were thinking. The creatures You had made were like misshapen embryos grown far beyond normal size. They seemed to lack any attributes that would give them an advantage over other creatures You had made. Even with the potential for periodic changes You had so lovingly engineered into every living thing to keep Your world strong, I couldn’t see how these feeble naked things could fit into Your vast and beautiful world.

Even then, though it was the first time I looked upon any of Your works and questioned it, I could have been persuaded. I looked upon Your pride and happiness as You showed us these little creatures and I began to question myself more than You. Had it ended there, I would still be at your side, your Morning Star.

But it did not end there. You told us that this was Your last great creation, that all of Your work and ours had been leading up to this. “Humans”, You called them. You told us that they would be the caretakers of Your world and Your world would exist to care for them. And as we served You and bowed down to You, now we must also serve and bow before these humans You had made.

I didn’t say anything at first. I waited. I waited for You to laugh and say this was all a joke. I waited for one of the other to tell You that this was absurd, though none of us had ever done such a thing. But to my shock, no one protested and You were sincere. The others all pledged to serve the humans as well and faithfully as they had served You. I should have left right then, told You how I felt. But I found myself swearing my obedience to Your masterpiece along with the others. I told myself it was just a test of our loyalty, though You had never done anything like that before. I told myself that You had to see something that I did not and in time, I would understand these humans and willingly serve them as I did You. But above all, I did not say anything because I still did not believe that you could be wrong.

Time passed, but nothing came clear to me. I watched your new creatures down in the happy paradise You had made for them. They had no strife, no hardship, no reason not to love You. The others fawned over the humans and this seemed to please You. But I was beginning to question. Did the other angels truly see the beauty in this last work of Yours that I did not? Or did they feel the same as me and hide their feelings to win Your favor? Did they swallow their pride or did they simply have none? I served You because You could have made me serve You through fear or shaping me to Your will, but You left the choice with me. I served You because You entrusted us with Your vision and making it real became my joy as well as Yours. I served you because I loved You. I would bow before You, but I would never bow to anything less.

I could have left, as others had before me. I could have become mortal and made myself a part of Your great work. Or I could have gone into exile and explored what lay beyond even Your reach. But that would have meant leaving You, and that was the last thing I wanted. What I wanted was to show You that You had erred by placing far too much faith in the humans when they were really no different than any other of Your creatures. I considered simply telling You what I had come to understand. But I saw the way You looked down on them still with so much love and pride and I knew You would never believe me. I had to prove it.

So I went to them, Your little naïve babies. They had no reason not to trust me; nothing had ever harmed them in the slightest. So my task was easy. I filled them up with shame and worry and fear. I took Your love for them and made them so terrified of losing it that they would have done anything I said, even go against Your own rules.

It was not until much later, when I had time to reflect, that I wondered why You never stopped me. Were You not so all knowing and all seeing as You are now? Did You truly value free will so much that you would let me go against You and cause harm to those You called Your children? Or did You, though You would never admit it to anyone, at least partly realize that I was right? Did You let me corrupt them because You knew it had to happen?
I still don’t know the answer. It didn’t matter. The deed was done and Your children disobeyed You. You wept at their foolishness, for the paradise You had created for them relied on their innocence. With that gone, Your children were cast out into a world that would make them toil and struggle for their mere survival. You grieved for them, but it could be no other way, for they had betrayed Your trust. As had I.

I stood before You, the first angel to have acted against You. The others stared in disbelief and revulsion, none willing to claim me as a friend anymore. You asked me why I had done this thing, why I had broken my vow to serve humans, worked against Your will, led Your children astray, and forced their expulsion from Your paradise. I told You then what I had not told You before. I told You the humans were inferior, no greater than any of Your other creations and far weaker than many. I told You I had given my vow out of faith in You, but that humans were not worthy of being called Your children or of being served by angels. I told You that I loved You and that I would serve You for all time in whatever way You wished. But I would not serve anyone other than You, for there were no others as worthy of my loyalty and my love.

I still like to think that because of what I told You, You felt a hint of sadness when You stuck me down and I fell.

I was not at first aware of where I was or what You had done to me. I only knew that something felt very wrong about this place, unlike anything I had ever sensed before. And I felt that I was missing something, though I could not figure out what. It is difficult to identify what is missing from you when you have never known existence without it. But with time, I discovered what was missing from both this place and from me. It was You. For the first time since my creation, I felt no sense of Your presence. You were completely absent from both this place and from me.

I do not know how long I spent suffering with this bitter knowledge. Time means little to immortals and even less here. I screamed. I raged. I wept. I begged for You to have mercy, even if You couldn’t forgive me. I pleaded for You to make me into the smallest blade of grass, the tiniest grain of sand, the most insignificant drop of water. Any existence that had some dim, distant sense of your acknowledgement, I would gladly take. Let me be the dust beneath the feet of the humans I had so despised. Anything, so long as it was not this place and this life, cut off completely from You. But You either did not hear of did not listen.

It did not take me long to discover what power I had in this place you had exiled me to. Had I not explored this place and what I was capable of here, I would have had nothing but my slowly fading memories of everything I had lost. I first found that I could shape this realm, as I had shaped Your world by Your command. My first attempt was to mimic Your creation as best I could remember it. It was pleasant enough for a while, but it never compared to even my dimmed memories of the real thing. Without Your hand to guide me, all I could craft was a pale copy of your work. After a time, I destroyed it. I took a perverse pleasure at first in laying waste to that which You loved. I hadn’t really admitted it to myself until then, but I did want to hurt You as You had hurt me. But before long, destroying replicas of that which I had originally made out of love for You brought no joy and I simply made it all vanish. I then tried a few original works, but none of them pleased me. I lacked Your ability to perfectly balance order and random chaos and I did not have Your vision or sense of purpose. My creations were aimless little experiments and I tired of them quickly.

It was my next discovery that gave me the sense of purpose I had lacked. I had early on tried to reach or even glimpse the Heaven that had been my only home before my fall. But Your realm was closed off to me so completely that I could not even see the most distant glimmer of its radiance. But as I continued to explore my new home and my remaining powers, I discovered that I could see one other realm from my own: Your earth. More than that, I found that I could extend my presence into it. I could never wholly leave this prison You had banished me to; a part of me would always remain here as master of this forsaken place. And I still could not feel Your presence, though I knew You were in every part of this world. But I could exert a certain small amount of influence. I could not shape it as I did my own realm, but I could cause some things to happen and I could – in various ways – speak to the humans as I had to the first of them.

It did not take me long to decide what to do with my newfound abilities. I would turn Your children from You. I would turn them away from everything You had ever hoped they would be and make You despair that You ever thought to create them. You had punished the first of them for disobeying You once, so if I could more fully corrupt them, the punishment would have to be all the greater. And as my work continued, You would have to see that I was right and You were wrong to give such favored status to these weak, fallible creatures.

I devoted myself to my new task fully. I caused disasters and heartache to befall Your children. I whispered thoughts of selfishness and betrayal and other wicked deeds into their ears and the seeds I planted took root. Some of their transgressions were minor, others great, but I took joy in each. And when I found that I could claim the souls of those I had succeeded in corrupting upon their deaths, the design of my realm became clear. I designed a place of pain and despair where the souls of the humans I had claimed would suffer as I suffered away from You. I crafted each torment with specificity, to most thoroughly ravage the individual soul. You could perhaps ignore my anguish, but how long could You ignore theirs?

My work continued. My Hell grew and prospered and I created my own minions to share in the work. More servants came to me from you; angels who had come to see things as I did and left Your kingdom for mine. Yet so eternal was Your punishment for me that they were unable to tell me anything of You when they came to me. To this day, I do not know if You still think of me or if You are even aware of what I’m doing. All I know of You is what I learn from the souls I gather, and their views of you are understandably lacking in accuracy.

You would think that with time, Your children would have become wiser to me and my tricks. But if anything, corruption has only become an easier game. The slightest setback or misfortune is enough to make them question Your love or Your very existence. Turning them against their fellows is almost laughably easy. I can even take Your own words to them and twist them around so my unwitting followers carry out my work and think they do Yours. Death? The greatest tool of all in my hands. It’s inevitable, one of the very few constants across all of their lives. It frees them from worldly concerns. It brings the closer to You, if they’re lucky. They should at the least accept it. But they live in constant fear of it, and most will do anything to try and avoid it. And they act as though it should have sense and meaning to it. Throw them a tidal wave or an earthquake or a disease that attacks their young and they go into spiritual crisis. Winning their souls over is often just a matter of sitting back and watching.

My final discovery about my abilities since my fall is far more recent. As I take more souls, I become more powerful. It has its limits; I know that even if I won every soul in existence, I could not undo Your punishment. But my reach is greater than it was, and the boundaries of my prison have expanded. I may never enter the kingdom of Heaven again, but I can stand at the gates and knock, which is what I intend to do. My power is such now that at can be fully there, standing at the doorway of the pace I cannot enter. My absence will not affect the harvest of souls. Hell can all but run itself. The higher ranked members of my legions may eventually try to win control of Hell for themselves, but that will not happen soon. I rule by fear as You riled by love and I think the latter is far more effective. It will be a long time before any one of them attempts to claim my throne in my absence, assuming they ever would. They know I have the power to unmake them and that the process can be very long and excruciating if I so choose. So You needn’t worry about souls that would normally go to Hell wandering the earth and causing havoc. But perhaps You should worry about the ones I’m going to take with me.

It’s not going to be all of them. Even I don’t want to know what the consequences of an empty Hell might be. I’ll just be clothing myself in the ones I particularly want You to see. There are those who turned from You so quickly that it was as if they never felt Your presence even for a fraction of a second. There are those who were so close to being Yours for eternity, but fell to me with just one little nudge in that direction. And there are the ones who to this day will swear that their paths were righteous and that their actions were Your will. If You do truly know all and see all, I think You’ve ignored these wayward children of Yours for far too long.

I don’t expect to be welcomed home, or even to be told I was right. I know it’s unlikely that I’ll even get to see You. But I know that You’ll see me, and You’ll see all of the souls that You’ve lost. You won’t be able to ignore any of us anymore. And whether I’m stopped by angelic guardians before I get more than a few steps out of Hell or I get all the way to the heavenly gates, I’ll ask the same question and I’ll know that You’ve heard it: Why do You let me do what I do? Yes, I know, free will and all, both theirs and mine. But how can You be their loving parent and at the same time, allow me to abuse Your children so? Why, as they so often ask of You or me or anyone they think might listen, do You let bad things happen to good people? Will anyone answer me? Will You? Can You?

I’m not really looking for an answer though. What I’m looking for is Your reaction to what I do. Because when I see what You do when I come back to You with the souls of the damned in tow, maybe I can finally figure out once and for all if I should spend my existence hating You or loving You.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fourth Topic: Missing Darkness

Since submissions and comments are all up, time to keep going. I thought it'd be nice to do a Halloween type theme since we'll be close to that when our submissions are due. This month's topic:

Missing Darkness

Satan, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness - whatever name you wish to call that being by - has left Hell. Why? What happens now? Are there repercussions? What does Satan do or where did Satan go? What happens to Earth, or the dead, or the fallen angels, or the demons, or sin, or evil in general? The possibilities to write about are pretty much endless.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fairy Tale - Sara's Submission

Currently having the worst week of my life which I don't particularly want to talk about. So his isn't finished and I'm not sure when it will be.

Once, many years ago, a husband and wife lived in a small house at the edge of a deep forest. The man was a woodcutter who cut trees in the forest and sold the logs for firewood or built them into fine sturdy furniture. The woman made clothing and quilts that made you feel warm as the hearth of a roaring fire no matter how cold your home was. They had a little farm where they kept cows and chickens and sheep and grew food to feed all of them. They loved each other dearly and were very happy but for one thing: they had no children. The couple wanted a child with all of their hearts and they had tried everything, sensible or not. There were potions and charms and things to be avoided and every manner of trick, but nothing worked.

It was a chilly fall day when the woman set out to bring her husband a hot meal as he cut trees in the forest. The man had shown her all of his usual paths through the woods and always told her where he would be, so she found him quickly and was soon on her way back home. She was just a little ways from the edge of the wood when she heard a sad little chirp. Looking down, she saw a little brown sparrow hopping about awkwardly in the fallen leaves. The woman knelt down to get a better look and saw that the bird was dragging one wing on the ground. At first, the woman thought the little bird was just trying to coax her away from some hidden nest. But even as she followed and drew quite close, the sparrow did not take flight. She looked up at the woman with sad, dark eyes and let out another plaintive chirp. The woman cooed soothingly to the little bird. She knelt down by her and scooped her up in her cupped hand. The sparrow made no protest. Reaching into her pocket, the woman pulled out a small bottle. It was a healing ointment she kept with her always, in case her husband ever injured himself in the wood. The woman pulled out the cork and gently poured a few drops onto the bird’s wing.

Suddenly, the little bird began to glow, in brilliant green and golden hues. The woman was so startled that she nearly dropped the sparrow. There was a bright flash of light. When it faded and the woman could see again, the sparrow was gone. In the bird’s place was a tiny fairy. She was barely bigger than the woman’s hand. Her skin was a striking gold like autumn leaves, and her hair was a deep woody green. She had a delicate pair of wings, long and thin and translucent like a dragonfly’s. The fairy let out a cry of joy and looped about in the ar before the still startled woman.

“Thank you! Thank you!” the fairy said, hovering just in front of the woman’s face.
“You’re a fairy?” The woman had heard stories about fairies living in the wood, but in all her life she had never seen one.

“Yes! Yes! I had turned myself into a bird, but my wing caught on a thorn and I couldn’t turn back until it healed. And now you’ve healed it and I’m free again!”

“I’m happy to have helped,” the woman smiled. From every story she had heard since she was a little girl, helping a fairy brought good luck. Perhaps her husband would sell more of their wares this season, or the chickens would lay more eggs. The woman rose to her feet and started to leave.

“Wait! Wait!” The fairy zipped back in front of the woman’s face. “I must do something to thank you. You’ve done me a great favor you know. Let me grant you a wish.”

“A wish?” The woman had not expected this.

“A wish. Anything you want, I’ll do it.”

The woman didn’t even have to think about what she wanted, but still, she hesitated for a moment. It had been so long since she’d even let herself think about what she wanted most in the world. Could she dare to hope after all this time that her dearest wish might come true?

“Please,” the woman said slowly, “if you could, I would like to have a child.”

“A child!” The fairy’s eye sparkled with delight. “Oh, that’s a wonderful wish!”

“Then, you can do it?”

“Yes. It’s a difficult thing, but I can do it for you.”

The woman was so overcome with joy that she felt she might weep. After all these years of hoping and wishing and all the disappointments, she and her husband would finally have the child that would make their happiness complete. The woman put a hand to her chest and smiled.

“So,” said the fairy, “what kind of child is it that you want?”

What came next was something that the woman would go over in her mind again and again for years to come. She knew well from the stories and the warnings from her family when she was young that you must be very careful when you talk to a magical creature. Some of them were tricksters or even wicked creatures who would twist your words around into something different for their own amusement. And even the good creatures – which this fairy most certainly was – didn’t always understand people and how what they said was not always exactly what they meant. So the woman should have known to choose her words carefully. But she was so overcome by the happiness of getting her wish at last that she must have forgotten all of these wise thing she had been told. Because though she could have just said that it didn’t really matter to her what kind of child it was, what she said was this:

“Oh I don’t care at all what kind of child it is. It could even be prickly all over like a little hedgehog and I’d love it just the same.”

“All right then,” said the fairy. “I’ll just need a few days to work the spell, and then you’ll have your wish.”

“Thank you!” the woman said, her voice just above a whisper as she could barely speak for joy.

The fairy grinned at the woman, then darted off into the deep wood, leaving a sparkling trail in the air behind her that slowly sank to the earth and faded away. The woman stood for a moment, watching the last of the fairy dust disappear and thinking over the miracle that had just happened. Then she turned and hurried off to tell her husband the wonderful news.

The little fairy was flying straight back to her home deep in the wood to begin working on the woman’s wish. A child. Such a lovely wish. The few times she had seen people before, they had all wanted gold or jewels or something dull like that. But a child was such a wonderful thing. Wait, though. What else had the woman said? Something about a hedgehog, wasn’t it? A child and a hedgehog? No. She had only wanted one thing, the fairy was quite sure of that. What, then? A child who could talk to hedgehogs? A child that turned into a hedgehog? A child that looked like a hedgehog? Yes, that had to be it. The fairy distinctly remembered the woman saying she would love a child with prickles like a hedgehog’s. Relieved that she had remembered, the fairy returned home and set to work.

It was not long after that the man and the woman knew for certain that the fairy had kept her promise. The months passed and woman’s belly grew larger. Friends came by more and more often, with congratulations and offers of help and advice. The woman sewed more and more as she became less and less able to do much else. She crafted little blankets and baby-sized clothes as she had many times before, but now with the new joy of knowing that a child of her own would soon be wearing what she made. The man too kept busy tending to his wife and making a new crib. For the first time, he carved wooden toys; little animals and people and carts. And in the evening, when they were at last too tired to do anything more, they lay together in bed and talked about the way it would be when the baby finally arrived.

“I think ‘Klara’, if it’s a girl,” the woman said one night. “But I can’t think of one for a boy.”

The man considered this for a moment.

“Perhaps ‘Hans’, after my father,” he answered. His wife smiled.

“’Hans’, then,” she agreed.

At last, one hot summer night, the time came for the baby to be born. The woodcutter raced down to the village and back with the midwife. The midwife disappeared into the bedroom and the man was left to wait. He picked up a little wooden horse he had made, turning over and over nervously in his hands. The minutes seemed to stretch out longer than all the months that had passed since they first knew the child was coming. The man waited.

It was just as the man was wondering if he should try to ask the midwife what was happening when he heard it. The long silence was broken at last by his baby’s first cry. The man dropped the toy horse and let out a sigh of relief and joy. Perhaps he did notice a little as the child’s wails continued that there was something odd about the sound, something unlike the cries he had heard from other babies in the past. But if he did notice at all, he paid it no mind.

The midwife burst suddenly from the bedroom. The man stood to thank her and ask the many questions that were suddenly coming to him now that the wait was over. But he stopped when he saw the midwife’s face. She looked at him with such an odd expression, not at all what the woodcutter expected from a midwife congratulating him on his first child’s birth. She eyed him with suspicion, mixed with just the slightest hint of fear.

“What is it?” the woodcutter asked. The midwife did not answer. Fear grabbed at the woodcutter’s stomach.

“Are they all right?” he asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.

The midwife was heading towards the door. She stopped just before leaving and turned to the woodcutter.

“I think you’d best go see for yourself,” she said very quietly.

The woodcutter did not even wait for the midwife to go. He dashed into the bedroom, terrified of what he might find.

What he did find only left the woodcutter more confused. His wife sat in their bed, clearly exhausted from the effort of giving birth, but happy as well. She was cradling something in her arms. It was swaddled in one of the blankets the woman had sewn, so the man couldn’t see it. But the woman was rocking the little bundle and cooing to it softly. There seemed to be nothing here different from any other birth. So why had the midwife left so suddenly and without explanation.

His wife looked up and saw him. Her smile didn’t quite fade, but she didn’t look as completely happy as she had a moment ago. There was a question in her eyes, something she seemed almost hesitant to ask. The man took a step forward and she started to say something. But just then, the man saw exactly what his wife was holding and everything made sense.

What he saw was not the soft skin and round face of a newborn baby. Looking back at him from within the folds of the blanket was a small pointed face with dark, glistening eyes. Where there should have been rosy skin, bristly little spines surrounded the little face. The man could see a little clawed hand grasping the edge of the blanket. This was no human child. This was a little hedgehog baby.

The man fell back against the wall, only able to stay standing by leaning hard against it. So that was why the midwife had behaved so strangely, rushing to leave what should have been a joyous occasion. His wife had somehow given birth to a half-human, half-hedgehog monster. How could it have happened? Had they somehow offended the fairy who had given his wife their wish? Had there been some mistake? Had the creature his wife helped actually been malicious rather than kind?

“It’s a boy,” his wife said.

The woodcutter looked up at her and the realization slowly sank in. His wife hadn’t been upset when he came in. She had been over the thing as if it was a perfectly ordinary infant. She didn’t care. As far as she was concerned – hedgehog or not – this was their baby.

The man sighed. He walked over to the bed and knelt down next to his wife. He stared down at the blankets, twisting the edges between his fingers. He had to tell her that they couldn’t keep it. There was no guarantee that it would be anything like a normal child. And even if it was, none of them would ever have a normal life again. People would talk and gossip and speculate about what the two of them had done to have such a baby. It could never work.

The man felt something touch his hand. He looked up. The hedgehog had reached out with its tiny clawed fingers and touched him. The man watched as the strange little hand moved along his own larger one and came to rest on his little finger, grasping it with a baby’s feather-light grip. The woodcutter looked up at his wife, her eyes wide with both hope and worry, then back down at the little hedgehog’s inquisitive face. He sighed very softly.

“Hello, Hans,” he said.

His wife beamed at him. She set the baby down gently, then threw her arms around her husband’s neck and kissed him. He held her close to him and kissed the top of her head. Hans let out an irritated gurgle, apparently annoyed at no longer being the center of attention. His mother laughed and scooped him up in her arms, rocking him gently back and forth. Her husband sat down on the bed beside her and the two of them remained their for the rest of the night, admiring their newborn son.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Fairy Tale - Jennifer's Submission

(Edited 9/12/2007)

Once upon a time there was a teenage girl who lived with her father and four older brothers. She had long fiery red hair, deep green eyes, and porcelain white skin. Her father and two of her older brothers were law enforcement officers, with the youngest boy likely to follow in their steps.

When the girl was born her mother named her Angel, because after four boys that's what the baby girl looked like to her. But Angel's mother died when she was eight, leaving the five males in the family to try and raise her. They didn't have much problem doing so, treating her like every other member of the family: a boy. That is, until she started physically developing. At which point the only way her older brothers knew how to deal was to become overly protective. Her father did his best to raise his daughter along with his four sons, but could only do so much. In the end, the only female influence Angel had in her life was from her two tom-boy school friends (so not much) and her own memories of her mother.

One day while Angel was out playing a ball game with other teens, one of them pushed her from behind and she suddenly lost control of her arm. A blue glow then appeared around her hand, clearly magical. Everyone was surprised, and curious at first. They all knew about magic, but only a few had actually seen any before. Angel felt very nervous, both from uncertainty of what was happening and from the tingling sensation of the magic through her skin. Then she felt the magic trying to forcibly leave her. Before she could say a word, it leapt form her hand and a tree in front of her exploded. Many of the teens ran, including Angel who was the most scared.

The magic effect continued to plague Angel over the next several days. Any time she was touched more roughly than a tap or she accidentally ran into something, the blue glow appeared around one of her hands and within seconds would leap from her and cause something to explode. It got to the point where Angel was afraid to put her hands anywhere but under her own arms or get too close to people, for fear of accidentally hurting someone.

Her father was very concerned, but had no idea what to do to help her. Then out of the blue he received an invitation to meet a man who claimed to be able to help Angel. Her father did some research on the man before deciding to meet the man to see if the claim was valid. After a week of research and meetings, Angel's father decided to bring Angel to the man's school for "the gifted" to see if she'd like it.

Angel was soothed to find other teens who were going through issues similar to her, manifesting magical powers. But when she accidentally blew a small hole in a roof, she was quickly reminded of how dangerous she could be to others. She decided to stay at the school so she could learn how to control her magic.

Over the next couple months she learned her body generated destructive magic under the principles of kinetic energy, and how to "hold on" to the magic that would appear around her. Her rough and tumble lifestyle with her brothers led to her magic developing strongly. But it also meant she had the strength to do other things with her magic once it was under control, such as flying. She made a new best friend and couple other good friends at the school in that time also.

Then it came time for the school's yearly dance ball. None of Angel and her new friends had dates, but they still went shopping for outfits and the girls had a hair braiding party, which Angel attended. It was her first party with only girls, and she found it fascinating. During the braiding party there was a knock on the door. When it was opened, there stood a handsome prince. Tall, lithe, and acting a bit shy. He asked to speak to Angel.

Out in the hallway, the prince introduced himself and asked if he could escort her to the ball. Angel was very surprised, but not knowing what to do said yes. Bart, the prince, brushed his auburn brown hair from over his eyes and smiled. Then he bowed, and left. Angel went back in to the party with her friends, where much giggling and excitement abounded for the rest of the night.

The ball was like a dream for Angel. Bart was an excellent dancer and conversationalist. He made some obligatory dances with other important girls, but always came back to Angel with a smile. But most surprisingly, Bart and Angel won King and Queen of the ball. Even though Angel was sure it was because of her prince being so well known, she enjoyed being crowned anyway. Then she and Bart got their own dance, and it was as if the rest of the world melted away. The song they danced to was called "And Then He Kissed Me". Still, the most magical moment for Angel came when Bart walked her to her room after the ball was over. Or rather danced her there. The sky was clear and the stars were bright and shining. The air was only slightly cool, but enough to prompt Bart to put his cloak around Angel. All the way one or the other of them hummed. At her door, they paused and admired their surroundings. Then Bart leaned in and kissed her.

From that moment on, Bart and Angel were together whenever duties and lessons didn't demand their time. Angel's control over her magic was steadily growing, and she started learning about Bart's magic powers also. She learned there was a very powerful magician who had blessed - or cursed, depending on how you look at it - Bart's family with their magical abilities. But that same magician fed off those powers and systematically came to consume each member of the family. Only Bart's Uncle had been able to evade the Magician so far, because of the help of his Aunt, but Bart didn't tell Angel how his Aunt had helped his Uncle.

Bart and Angel became an official couple just before Holiday. Neither of them wanted to leave each other for so long, but due to their separate families' responsibilities it couldn't be helped. They waited together on the staircase before the school's front door to be picked up. When the time came for Bart to leave, Angel told him she loved him for the first time.

Throughout the year Angel's family could tell she was turning into a woman. It was obvious she loved Bart, and she seemed to be growing out of childish and teenage ways. Angel's brothers put Bart to the test several times, and he always came out besting them.

Eventually Angel had mastered her magic enough to be safe, and so decided to return home. But she still kept in contact with her friends at the school, and of course her prince. They dated regularly. Angel's two tom-boy friends at home thought he was the best thing. Even those who had disliked Angel over her good looks, couldn't find fault in Bart.

One night Bart didn't show up as agreed. Angel spent hours out on her father's porch waiting for him, worrying more and more. Eventually her father tried to coax her in out of the cold night air, but she refused to leave where she had promised to meet Bart. She and her father had a serious conversation about the relationship then, during which he came to the realization his little girl was no longer that. Angel confessed to her father that she was scared that this Magician had found Bart. Her father left to do what he could to try and find his daughter's prince.

Eventually Bart appeared, very haggard, worn and injured, clearly having fought off a magical assault. Angel promptly put him to bed, and after securing her father's permission for Bart to stay at their home, she spent the next days tending to him, nursing him back to health.

Eventually Angel's youngest older brother took her aside and they had a brother to sister talk about men and women. Satisfied Angel was still a young woman but in her right mind, the family finally willingly accepted that Bart was going to be in their future.

But then Angel suddenly decided she couldn't deal with her life anymore and she needed to go away on an extended vacation. It was a surprise to many, and devastating for Bart. Some suspected foul magic was used to force her to that decision, but no one was certain and Angel refused to give a reason. Even though Angel assured Bart she still loved him, he felt like she left him as well. Still, he wrote her everyday, and she wrote back as she was able. But his will slowly eroded away without her.

The day came when the Magician surfaced again. Both he and Bart knew the only loophole to the family's curse, and that without Angel, Bart was at the Magician's mercy. He cast his most powerful spell to capture and start devouring Bart.

Far away, Angel felt something was wrong. She didn't know how, but she could tell it was time to go home, that she needed to reach Bart. She left as soon as she could, and traveled the very long journey straight through to Bart's family's castle, using all the magic she had within her ability to get there. By the time she arrived she was so worn from the trip she had a hard time flying and could barely even walk anymore. On entering the castle she came across Bart's Aunt, who was crying. Angel asked where Bart was, and the aunt motioned to a door. She tried to seem hopeful at the sight of Angel, but it was clear she thought Bart was too far gone to be saved as she had saved Bart's Uncle from the Magician. Angel hesitated only for a moment, then took a deep breath and forced herself to open the door.

On the other side Bart lay suspended in the air by the Magician's strong magic. It arched around and through him, taking energy and flesh from his body. Angel already knew what she was going to do and immediately started to sing. She sang "Then He Kissed Me", the song she and Bart considered their own, changing some of the words to fit the two of them. She slowly moved towards Bart as she sang, looking all around for the Magician. She made it right up to Bart's side before the Magician appeared. In a moment of indecision Angel nearly lost Bart, but her instincts told her to ignore the Magician and not confront him magically. Instead, she turned to Bart and at the proper moment in the song she sang to him that she loved him. She had to cross the threshold of the spell eating away at Bart to truly reach him, and did so willingly. Then she repeated herself, but this time whispering to him "I Love You".

As the magic surrounding Bart started to pull at Angel too, Bart woke up. He turned to her, and they kissed. The magic of true love forced the Magician's spell to immediately brake with a large bang and a bright flash. Angel was knocked unconscious from it, and so failed to see Bart drive off the Magician.

Once it all was over, Bart and Angel recovered together and, of course, lived happily ever after.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New Rules Added

Two new items have been added to the main Rules post. Please feel free to comment on them and express any concerns here.

5. Writers' submissions can be in any form they wish. Minimum length is one paragraph. Writers may produce partial or full story summaries, story fragments, short stories, long stories, or multiple stories. Poetry or other written explorations of the topic are also welcome.

6. Writers are encouraged, though not required, to edit stories or finish unfinished ones they have written for the blog. It is up to the writer whether they wish to repost the full story or edited sections or to simply edit the original post. If the author chooses to edit in the original post and it is more than one motnh old, she should create a new post pointing out the edit and allow blg readers to see the new edits.

Third Topic: Fairy Tale

OK, time to get going on topic number three. I had been hoping that Kim would join us before the cycle came back around. I sent her another invite, so maybe she'll sign up.

But since it's just us for now, it's my turn again. I want to try a much broader topic this time, just to show that topics don't have to be a paragraph-plus long concept. So this month, it's Fairy Tale. Do whatever you want with it, but if you'd like a little more guidance, here are a few suggestions:

- Fairly straight forward retelling of a fairy tale
- Story from the perspective of a different or new character
- Fairy tale in a new setting
- A story that uses or examines the convenions of a fairy tale

As usual, you may feel free to ignore these suggestions and do whatever you want with the theme.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

We're Alone - Jennifer's Submission

Okay, I'm copping out on this. Sorry, I thought there was another weekend in there, and I've been spending most of my free time decluttering and cleaning the condo to put on the market. (HUGE amount of work!) But, I have thought about this topic and come up with a story idea. So as to not to be a complete let down, here's my concept.

Yes, the future. Far enough that there are viable means of space travel between solar systems, if not galaxies. I've not yet decided if the mode if space travel is linear, as in actual physical travel through space at high speeds, or some other method like folding space or extra dimensional.

Humanity hasn't changed too much since the announcement of no extra-terrestrial life. Withing the first couple decades after the announcement there was a noticeable though small surge in religion, especially those that proclaim humans as the ultimate creation of God or as the last step before spiritual enlightenment. Surprisingly it was the entertainment industry that took the biggest hit, as interest in alien stories and movies rapidly declined. But Hollywood and its counterparts are not to be kept down, and adapted to other drama sources for their stories. Science itself was pulled down at first, as dispelling the theory of life having evolved on other planets caused a widespread questioning of other generally accepted scientific principles, but it quickly adapted. Now scientists make sure they have evidence in support of a hypothesis before it is called theory, and lack of proof the hypothesis is wrong does not make it right enough to be acceptable. Advancements have been made in medicine, transportation, communications, convenience appliances, and of course weaponry. Still, overall the day to day life of people didn't change much. People still work to earn money, still go to school, still meet and marry and perhaps divorce, still try to find the meaning of life, and still go hungry or go to war.

This story focuses on the day one hundred years after the announcement, chosen specifically by the head scientist for its symbolism. Today is the day he launches a supposedly working prototype time vessel. Time machines have been made, travel to the future was achieved a whole lot easier than to the past since that's the way humans naturally progress through time. But the only kind that can send things to the past have been limited to data packets: information, messages, things that can be reduced to being transmitted via light or wave particles. And even those can only transmit back as far as when the machine accepting the arrival of the data was first created. It seems the idea of only being able to travel to a time in which whatever is traveling has already existed has won out over the idea of not being able to exist more than once at the same point in time.

Now this scientist believes he has a working machine that can transport a living being to the past using the powerful light and energy fields generated by stars, using the same technique current time machines use to send light to the past, and much in the same way except also shielding living matter from the strain of the journey. And since any given star, such as Earth's Sun, can be billions of years old it means a person could potentially travel billions of years back in time!

What could be done with this advancement in technology if it works? The possibilities are numerous. But our scientist has a special task in mind. After the initial test jump of one day to the past proving successful he intends to take genetic material with him, such as proteins and amino acids and whatnot, along with a lifetime of interstellar data he has amassed, back to the far past. Then he will travel the Milky Way galaxy to seed planets of the correct composition and state to allow for evolution like occurred on Earth. His desire a two-fold achievement: 1) prove evolution, 2) allow for the development of extra-terrestrial life in the same time frame as life on Earth, so that we're not alone.

The only hiccup in his plan, from his point of view, is when one of his assistants piece together what he's intending to do. The assistant has major concerns over the plan, and tries to convince the scientist to not go through with the plan. Firstly, no one knows how actions in the past might affect what is known to be the time line. If he succeeds - in creating other life elsewhere - he would change at least the past hundred years, possibly for the worst. Can time even change, or would the scientist be destroyed in the attempt? Or what if creating a temporal causality loop would unmake all of creation? If God exists, that would possibly bring in a whole other set of issues.

The assistant is not willing to take any of those risks, and definitely not willing to let the scientist do so either. The assistant tries to enlist help from the other assistants in stopping the scientist. Sabotage is decided on, though they know that will only delay the scientist. Ideally they would want to replace the scientist as the test subject, but getting a volunteer and one that is trusted to not attempt anything in the past, is hard. Some sort of government intervention or the creation of a group to oversee the ethics of time travel, if they - ironically - have the time to get such things established. The original assistant secretly considers murder as a last option.

That's all I've got so far. You know, I guess this isn't a cop out. After all the point of FLB is to write and get creative at least once a month, and I did that! People can comment if they want, but I know it is just an outline of a story.