October 11

Fictober, Prompt 11 – “It’s not always like this.”

Warnings: horror, blood, blood-drinking, implied violent death(s)


The light beneath the trees darkened, and I wandered on carefully. I knew I was heading in generally the right direction, and eventually I’d be close enough to find the path, or to hear my car beep if I unlocked it.

I’d lingered too long, deep in the woods near an old scouting camp where my grandfather had come frequently to hunt. It was lonely out here, but peaceful, and I’d accidentally fallen asleep when I sat down to rest earlier under the autumn trees. It was night now, but a large, orange harvest moon was rising over the hill to the east, and with so many leaves already down it provided enough light for me to walk without stumbling.

I crested a small rise, and dropped down into the small hollow beneath, a clear area in the trees, filled with boulders left over from the last Ice Age; common in the foothills here in western Pennsylvania.

The deer standing in the clearing were common too.

What was not common was the fact that they did not bolt when I appeared so suddenly nearby, and most of them did not even glance at me. One, the farthest away, was backed up against the largest rock outcropping, eyes wide and rolling with terror, though it seemed frozen in place. The other deer stood around it in a loose semi-circle, silent and still in a way that made me uneasy.

This was very strange.

Keeping quiet myself, I started to back up…only to realize that there was now a short drop, slippery with leaves, and a rock at my back. No easy way out that direction.

The slope continued down from here, though, and that was the direction that I needed to go. If I could just edge around the deer carefully, I could leave them to whatever it was they were doing and get back to my car.

I froze only half a dozen steps later when one of the circling deer finally turned its head and looked at me.

It had fangs.

Cold fear uncurled in my stomach. There was some weird, small kind of deer that had long teeth, somewhere in Asia…but these were the usual white-tailed deer that were native to this area. They should not have teeth, or tusks, or whatever these were.

The rest of the watching deer turned to look at me.

They all had fangs too.

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October 10

Fictober, Prompt 10 – “Listen, I can’t explain it, you’ll have to trust me.”

Warnings: none? Brief space-related danger.


My breath echoed hollowly inside my helmet, and I kept it as slow and even as I could. Panicking now would do nothing to help retain the dwindling oxygen supply strapped to my back.

“Any luck?” I called over the comm. The systems I was looking at gave me hope, but the ship had been floating dead in space for…well, a long time. The wiring was intact, which was a good start.

A grunt was all I got back, and I rolled my eyes. “Arun.”

“There’s an SFOG,” he said, “seems to be intact.”

I let out a breath of relief and felt the worst of the incipient panic lift from my chest. “Let’s stay on our tanks for now,” I suggested.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’ve got at least three hours left, maybe more.”

“I think I’m about the same. That should be enough time to get us moving, and we can fire the SFOG at that point.”

“Which you’re going to do how, exactly? The reactor’s dead-cold. Suit’s not picking up any radiation from that direction, must have run out.” I could hear the frown in his voice; the ship had been drifting for a long time, but probably not long enough that all of the reactor’s fuel would have been consumed.

I pursed my lips, decided I wasn’t quite ready to explain yet, and certainly not over the comm. Arun was going to have a hard enough time accepting what I could do when he could see it for himself. “For now, we just need to get pointed in the right direction and get moving, so a burst should be enough. We can worry about steadier power and steering after that.”

“We’re only so far out of the debris field,” he warned, “but you’re right.”

“Check about the reactor?” I asked, buying a little more time. “I’ll come down to see the engines once I’m finished up here.”

“Yeah.” He clicked off, and I turned my attention back to the panel in front of me. I was going to have to give the engines a pretty good kick, but I did need a little bit of steering and diagnostic information first.

It was harder to do with gloves on, but I always made sure mine didn’t have the wrong kind of insulation in them, so the magic flowed out slowly but steadily into the discreet, five-finger port built into the control panel.

After ten, heart-stopping seconds of nothing, the screens around me winked into life.

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October 9

Fictober, Prompt 9 – “There is a certain taste to it.”

This is a follow-up to my Prompt 2 piece, and will make more sense in context.

Warnings: none. Fantasy.


We left the shrine and took a different path into the woods. Several hours’ rest and some food had restored my energy, so I felt up to the hike back over the hills toward the river.

A conversation with the kami had brought me up to speed on the situation, and I agreed with her assessment that it needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later. The corruption that had weakened the high river path along the steep, rocky faces of the hills had begun to the north and was slowly spreading south.

The main path up to the shrine would be cut off soon, and I sensed that that fact, along with her dislike of whatever was causing the corruption, played a role in the kami’s urgency.

“Kamisama?” I asked as we wound through the trees on a trail almost too narrow to even be a deer trail. She had given me no name with which to address her, so I stuck to the respectful generic.

She must have found that acceptable, for she did not provide any name now either. “Yes?”

“How do you know that it is not another kami, or a demon?”

She was quiet for many paces, but said at last, thoughtfully, “There is a certain taste to it.”

“The power of it?”

“Yes.” She considered her words again. “Those like myself, I know. The youkai are distinctive in their power, and those that live here do not challenge me. The older earth spirits here have quite a different feeling, a different sense to them, and they are too…too vast for this, too old.”

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October 6

Fictober, Prompt 6 – “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

Warnings: horror, monster, implied violent death, midwest/north woods gothic.


A loon call echoed over the lake, a single wailing note that might be either loneliness or a warning.

I heard my companion’s stride pause briefly at the sound, then her footsteps hurried across the gravel of the lake shore as she caught up to me. She walked closer than she had before.

“You said you knew that people have been going missing up here, right?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“And that it’s been recommended people stay away from this area?”

“Yes.”

“And we didn’t tell anyone we were coming.”

I took a breath, making sure that none of my frustration showed in my voice. “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

“Just that for someone who claims to be woods-smart, you aren’t really taking any basic, sensible precautions!”

“You’re the one who wanted to follow me out here,” I pointed out. “You didn’t have to come.”

“I did if I want to get this article written,” she muttered, a bit sullenly, but fell quiet.

It was a gray afternoon, the otherwise vibrant leaves muted by the lack of light, the trees themselves standing dark and tall beneath their autumn foliage. A mild, steady wind blew off the lake, rippling the otherwise calm surface and pushing the already cold temperatures a little bit lower.

I was always careful to dress in what would be sensible clothes for this time of year: thick socks, sturdy shoes, warm pants, a hooded jacket with a scarf, and gloves to cover my hands, which was an additional convenience. A backpack with some supplies in it. My companion (she had given me her name back in town, but I couldn’t remember it) was wearing something similar.

The loon called again, and I sensed the fear in her shiver.

The stories didn’t worry me. There were always stories, and nothing had come of them yet.

I kept walking, keeping to the narrow strip of stony shoreline between the water and the woods. We would have to go into the trees eventually, but my companion was already nervous, and there was no reason not to stay in the open for now.

She stayed quiet for some time. At last she ventured, “Do you really know what’s causing people to disappear up here?”

“I have an idea,” I replied carefully.

“But you know of a safe place to stay while we search?”

“I do. We’ll be there before dark.”

“Oh good. It’s cold out here, and I’m getting a little hungry.” She did not say that she was going to be too scared to be outside after the sun went down, although I knew that was the case. “Could we go a little faster?”

“That might be a good idea,” I agreed, and increased my pace. She matched her steps to mine, and kept a little closer, eyeing the darkening trees with misgiving.

I tilted my head down so that my mouth was covered by the scarf I wore before allowing myself to grin. It wouldn’t do to let her catch a glimpse of my teeth at this point.

After all, I was hungry too.

October 4

Fictober, Prompt 4 – “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Warnings: horror/body horror, parasite, parasite removal, blood.


I sat in the little stand of woods, huddled beneath the biggest tree, knees drawn up to my chin, arms wrapped around my legs, fingers digging into my arms hard. Too hard. I was almost certainly going to bruise myself.

Since the alternative was to start clawing my own skin off, I thought bruises were probably a better option.

I couldn’t feel it. You never could. That was the awful part.

If it hadn’t been for Lydia, I wouldn’t even have known one had attached itself to me, would still be walking around in hideous ignorance.

And they would probably already have come for me.

Rustling from the field next to this stand of trees, and I looked up quickly, watching with wary eyes until the corn and then undergrowth parted to reveal that it was just Lydia, back with (hopefully) everything she would need to get it off me.

If it wasn’t already too deep.

I shuddered even as she came over and quietly dropped the backpack she carried into the leaf litter and crouched down in front of me.

“How are you doing?”

I made myself relax one hand from its death grip on my arm and waggled my fingers in a so-so motion, not wanting to move enough to shrug.

“Well, best not wait any longer,” she said, accepting that with a nod. “Can you get your shirt off yourself?”

Taking a deep breath, I nodded tightly and forced myself to move. It felt uncomfortable, being so undressed out here in the open; it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, but the thing was on my back and I wanted this to be as easy as possible for Lydia.

“Are you sure?” I forced myself to whisper. “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Lydia regarded me steadily for a long moment, then said, “No, I didn’t. But you asked for help, and I accepted, and I meant it. I’m not going to let them take anyone else…and least of all you.”

Oh. There was an intensity in her eyes that I hadn’t recognized before, and it made me flush. We had known each other for a long time, but not well, not until recently. But now…

Lydia didn’t seem inclined to make anything further of it just now, pulling on a headlamp with business-like motions and digging through the backpack for whatever else she needed.

Okay, I thought. Something else to deal with later. If we got a later.

Please, let us get a later.

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October 2

Fictober19, Prompt 2 – “Just follow me, I know the area.”

Warnings: None really this time. Fantasy, minor spookiness.


“Whoa!”

I backpedaled quickly as the path started to crumble beneath my foot. Well. That was a problem. Eyeing the ledge ahead, it didn’t look too stable either. I chanced a quick glance down at the river roaring a long drop below me, high and white with the early autumn rains.

Definitely didn’t want to go that way.

To my left, up the slope, was a safer bet, though I didn’t really fancy the idea of climbing the steep slope, thick with dirt and damp leaves underneath the clustering trees. I had thought the path I was on was a good one to keep following the river, no signs saying it was unsafe, but obviously that was no longer the case.

“Are you lost?”

My jerk of surprise pulled me left, fortunately, plastering my back to a damp tree trunk as I turned just enough to see who had spoken. There wasn’t supposed to be anyone else out here, not this far up from the falls.

The young woman standing on the path several feet back seemed normal enough: brown skin, straight black hair cut in a neat bob, and dark eyes, she was obviously from what had originally been a Nihon family. Her lack of accent told me she had probably grown up around here, though, or at least had been here for some time. Her clothes were unremarkable as well: jeans, sensible hiking boots, and a plain, tough-looking canvas jacket in dark green.

None of which explained why goosebumps had suddenly broken out across my skin.

“Um, a little,” I replied carefully. “I thought this path continued up the river, but it doesn’t seem safe now.”

Where had she come from so suddenly? How had she managed to avoid slipping in all the mud that I had on the way up? And was it coincidence that had brought her here just as I couldn’t go any further…or something more deliberate, and sinister?

A chill down my spine reinforced the goosebumps, and I did not take my back from the tree. I hadn’t paid any heed to the stories, people were always saying they’d seen something weird up in the woods, but now…

“In that case, follow me,” she offered with a small smile, “I know the area.”

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Fighting words

I am, by both choice and inclination, primarily a writer of prose. However, from time to time my brain decides to throw a poem at me, which of course I must then actually work on until it is (eventually) finished, or it stays in the back of my mind bugging me.

Poetry does not come nearly as easily to me as prose does (probable in no small part because I practice poetry so much less), but I always make the effort anyway, if it really wants to be written. The current one has come up a couple times before, but was being more insistent tonight, so I have a very rough, awful draft down just to get some of it out of my head. This one is going to fight me for every line, though, since it wants to change rhyming scheme and rhythm in practically every verse.

You’d think, if it wants to be written so badly, that it would cooperate.

If I ever actually manage to finish it, I’ll probably post it. -_-

Progress Update

While my last batch of applesauce for the season cooks, here is a writing progress update! I promised myself a writing day over the four day weekend, and I got more than 4,000 words written on Saturday! Definitely my best day in a while.

All Land of Winds things, I worked on:

  • Land of Winds Book 2 – title probably decided but to-be-announced later
  • The Swordsman – A novella set before Book 1 that explores Alexei Vidari’s background
  • Untitled Short Story – set between Books 1 and 2, tells more of Elof and Maimu’s story
  • Untitled Short Story – also set between Books 1 and 2, tells more of Alexei and Ilari’s story

I’ll post some snippets of these at some point! (Anyone interested in any of them in particular?) The Swordsman will hopefully be out in ebook form sometime in the first half of 2019, and after that the publication order would tentatively be Elof and Maimu’s story, Alexei and Ilari’s story, and then Book 2. I have no real idea of a timeline on any of that just now, depends on how quickly writing and editing go.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend!

~Ethelinda