Nightmare Man

Writing Prompt: Nightmares

KabukiMask

The outsider arrived on an overcast day in shelter season, wrapped in furs of black and brown. A mask of blood-stained wood obscured her face, a demon visage with leering eyes and bared teeth. Metal rods ending in small balls jutted from her boot tips, thumping the ground with each measured step.

From the moment she entered Papa’s smoke-filled tavern, I couldn’t stop staring at her. She journeyed freely without servants or a husband or anyone, really, a life I’d live if not for Papa’s condition. The common room grew silent save for the woman’s boot tip rods thumping the wooden floor. A sword remained sheathed on her back.

The leering eyes on her demon mask passed over my sullen patrons, the sad fire sputtering in my hearth, and fixed on me, standing behind the beaten bar. Excitement filled me that I’d not felt for almost a year, since the last outsider arrived. That same excitement faded once he fled, babbling, down the mountain.

“My name is Kinto Kusaragi,” the woman told me, “and I’m here to kill your Nightmare Man.”

I looked to Papa, staring at nothing, and then at Will, my towheaded younger brother. Will nodded, face solemn. He could handle things while I was away. He could handle Papa if the necessity arose.

I prepared myself for another long trek up the lonely mountain, another day of listening to boasts and threats. Another bitter disappointment. “Very well then. Let me get my coat.”

* * *

There was no delay once Kinto Kusaragi stated her purpose – this was not, I suspected, a woman who tolerated delay – so we set out together despite the overcast sky. For those who still lived in Stone Hamlet, a blizzard was the least of our worries. We had thick furs, sturdy homes, and sturdy hearths, and enough salted meat and porridge to last through the winter. What we did not have is sleep.

Our waking lives were repetitive, exhausting slogs through necessities and chores. We put off sleep for as long as we could, fighting exhaustion until we couldn’t. Some of us, like my poor Papa, had lost themselves entirely in the visions that raced down the mountain every night.

It was the Nightmare Man who shoved those horrors into our heads, who sent the things that drove us awake, screaming, and suckled on our fear. Worse yet, once you’d suffered through enough gifts from the Nightmare Man, waking just continued the dream. That was why Papa stared.

“Tell me of your village,” Kinto said, as she followed me up a narrow mountain path of packed dirt bordered by rocks and scrub. “Tell me of your life here, before and after. I wish to know everything.” The bulk of the lonely mountain towered over us, jagged edges and snow-capped peaks.

The last outsider to answer Mayor Rollin’s plea for aid, a big dark-skinned man with his huge axe and clinking mail, had asked nothing as I led him up the path. He had called himself Rourke the Crusher, a hero of great importance, and a lonely tavern keeper like me was beneath him.

Kinto was different, interested, so I told her of how things had been before the Nightmare Man came. Of the festivals and dances we used to hold during Harvest Months, the chalk art my mother made before she died. I told her how the nightmares drove Mayor Rollin insane, how Lady Rollin grew mad with grief and fear and ended her children before ending herself. I told her the names of those who fled or died.

I told Kinto of my Papa before he lost his mind to fear, the way he could stop a brewing fight with a stern glare and set a room to laughing with a single bawdy joke. The way he treated me and Will the same, always. None dared question a woman working behind a bar, not in front of it, while Papa watched.

Papa protected me until he couldn’t, and I was determined to protect him too. That’s why I remained in Stone Hamlet despite the horrors that ripped me apart in nightmares every night. That’s why I risked my sanity and safety despite my urgent desire to do anything but run a tavern and tend a bar.

As we ascended Kinto mirrored my every step, metal bars thumping, along with her boots, into the snowy imprints of mine. Odd behavior, but I put it off to paranoia about traps. Perhaps I was not so friendly as I claimed, or in league with the Nightmare Man. A woman who fought demons would not survive without being cautious.

We found the Nightmare Man’s two-story cabin at the end of the mountain path, the one so many of my people trudged up and down every day. The smell of bags of rotting fruit was awful, gifts our sheltered tormentor ignored as he often ignored us. Bribes and pleas.

These desperate attempts by the people of Stone Hamlet’s to purchase even one night’s uninterrupted sleep were as unimportant to the Nightmare Man as we were. Our screams and our terror kept him fed, not these rotting sacks of fruit, and he took that gift whenever he wished. What need had he of fruit?

“Close your eyes, child,” Kinto said softly, and I complied. The way she called me child was not dismissive – it felt protective, even – and I had no desire to witness the horrors that sent Rourke the Crusher fleeing down the mountain. I was willful, but I was no trained fighter. I could only get in her way.

“Palor Sellius!” Kinto’s voice thundered up the path. “Your time here is at an end! Leave, or die!”

Nothing from the cabin. Nothing but silence on the wind. Then the sound of the Nightmare Man’s mad laughter, echoing off the rising walls of the mountain path and digging into my ears. His laughter was the worst of it – the glee he took in driving us slowly insane – and I bared my teeth and clenched my fists. Yet despite my closed eyes, my endless shudders, I would not turn and run. Not until Kinto ran too.

“Leave!” Kinto thundered. “Or die!” And though my eyes were closed, the ring of her sword leaving its sheath came so clearly I could practically see the blade glistening in the fading sun. Red as blood.

“Fool of a woman.” I heard a door open and the Nightmare Man’s heavy footfalls as he stumbled out. I pictured a wheezing man grown fat on the nectar of our nightmares, and what bribes he deigned to eat. “You really wish to lose your mind?” And with that, a monstrous scream chilled my blood.

“Pathetic,” Kinto replied, and I heard those metal bars clanging forward. “Anything else?”

For the first time in a long time, I dared hope. I did not know what had produced that roar – I dared not look, for fear of losing my sanity – but that roar had driven Rourke the Crusher back down the mountain, hollering at the top of his lungs. Evidently, Kinto Kusaragi was made of sterner stuff.

“Unexpected,” the Nightmare Man whispered, excitement twisting his words. “Face this!”

A mournful keening set my muscles rigid and brought sweat to my sides. Yet Kinto strode on, metal balls thunking in the dirt, and I heard his wooden stoop creak as the Nightmare Man stepped back.

“Impossible,” he said, and I heard the first hint of real fear. I wondered if he had forgotten what fear was like as he lived in his cabin all these years, ruthlessly inflicting terrors on my people. “No! Get back!”

A roar arose that stole my ability to think. I could not imagine what sort of horror had made it, what sort of horror Kinto Kusaragi must be confronting with her glistening sword, but I did not hear her run.

“You cannot frighten me, Sellius,” Kinto told him, and then I heard a meaty thunk and the Nightmare Man’s gurgling. “Go in peace.”

I opened my eyes – I had no choice but to open my eyes, hearing those impossible words – and found Kinto withdrawing her bloody blade from the middle of the Nightmare Man’s chest. He collapsed, eyes wide and words slurred, as blood spread around him like a stuck pig. His nightmare power was broken.

I stared at the man dying on his stoop. “How?” I stared at the woman who ignored a horde of horrors to murder him. “How did he not terrify you?”

One of Kinto’s hands rose to her wooden demon mask. She removed it to reveal the weathered, golden face of a woman about Papa’s age, a woman whose milky white eyes stared at nothing. She was as blind as I was when I squeezed my eyes shut, guided only by her metal rods and her sharp ears.

“We all have our gifts,” Kinto said, a satisfied smile spreading across her face. “Mine is killing rogue illusionists.”

THE END

 

About the Story:

This contest’s theme, “Nightmares”, obviously lends itself to stories with a darker bent, and initially, I pondered going right down the horror route. However, while brainstorming ideas, I ended up randomly coming up with the idea of a “Nightmare Man”, which then sent me down all sort of thought experiments as to what a Nightmare Man would be.

This story flowed naturally from there, coming together very quickly.

Photo Credit:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25045966@N05/2381835393″>Kabuki Mask – Noh , Oni(Hannya)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Uncharted Raider

Writing Prompt: Fanfic

Fanfic

If an arrow thunking into a man wasn’t a good reason to dive into stinking mud, the torrent of gunfire the man’s friends then unleashed absolutely was. Drake scrambled beneath their rented jeep as gunfire cut trees and another man dropped, an arrow protruding from his throat.

Not the worst handoff meeting Drake had ever been involved in, but certainly way up there.

As Victor Sullivan scrambled under the other side of the jeep, Drake’s mentor fixed him with a raised eyebrow and a lopsided frown. The accusation was clear, the implication obvious. It wasn’t remotely fair.

“I swear, Sully!” Drake shouted. “This one really isn’t my fault!”

“Didn’t say a thing, kid.” Sully squinted at the man clutching the arrow and his throat. “Who the hell uses a bow and arrow?”

“Indians?” Drake flinched as a stray bullet shattered the jeep’s mirror.

“In the middle of the Valdivian rainforest?”

Another arrow whistled from the thicket, and another thug fell. The remaining men took cover behind the big truck in which they’d arrived.

“Argentinian Indians?” Drake suggested.

A flaming arrow hit the bright red barrel of gas in the back of the mercenario truck. It exploded, sending mercenarios flying and knocking the jeep up in the air. Shrills screams rose and ended.

“Sully, look out!” Drake shoved the old man aside and then barely avoided jeep tires that dropped like a guillotine. Then Sully pulled Drake up by the back of his gunbelt, grunting with effort. They were still a team.

They sprinted for the tree line covered in mud. Choking black smoke filled the forest clearing, providing cover. Drake preferred running, actually. Facing whoever had just killed six Argentinian mercenaries with a bow and arrow was not on his to-do list.

They knocked aside branches and scrambled through mud as they put distance between themselves and the ruthless archer. They needed ground that wasn’t surrounded by cover and walls at their backs. Fortunately, Drake always mapped the meeting place in his head, and moss-covered cliffs peeked through the trees.

“That way, kid!” Sully shouted. “The rocks!”

“Way ahead of you!” As Drake turned he checked to make sure his trusty 9mm remained in its holster, and the golden urn he’d pulled out of that spider-filled tomb remained in his satchel. Losing either would make this already bad day markedly worse.

Finally, with a cliff to their backs and a ridge to their front, Drake breathed and scanned the steaming jungle. Sully huffed hard against the ridge. There was no sign of pursuit, but they didn’t celebrate. If whoever had killed those mercenarios wanted this urn, they’d be coming for it soon enough.

“Plan?” Drake drew his 9mm.

“Call for backup?” Sully suggested.

“Sure.” Drake nodded. “Toss me the radio.”

“What do you mean, toss you the radio?”

“Like that’s not self-explanatory?”

“You’ve got the radio, kid.”

“No,” Drake said, as new dread opened in his stomach. “You’ve got the–”

Another arrow whistled over Drake’s head.

“Shit!” Drake ducked and blind-fired over the ridge, toward the shooter. “The Indian!”

“I told you, kid,” Sully shouted, “there aren’t any Indians in the–”

The next arrow slammed into the tree behind them with a small radio attached to it. That would have been great, since they needed a radio, but this radio was also attached to a–

“Bomb!” Drake threw himself into Sully. They rolled off the ridge just before a deafening explosion rained bits of rocky shrapnel.

“Who shoots a bomb arrow?” Sully shouted, as they scrambled through reeds and mud. “Haven’t they heard of a grenade launcher?”

“Stop giving them ideas!” Drake sighted a narrow black opening nearby. “Rock chimney. Go!”

It was a tight squeeze, but Drake managed, mainly because he didn’t want an exploding arrow in his skull. He took a moment to contemplate the stupidity of dropping into utter darkness before doing it, landing on slick rock and not breaking his neck. Sully landed behind him with a grunt.

“Light,” Drake flailed for Sully. “Give me some light!”

“Dammit, Nate,” Sully said, “you had the lights.”

“Seriously?” Drake almost screamed at him.

With a snap-hiss, a glowstick illuminated the narrow tunnel. “Naw, kid.” It lit Victor Sullivan’s smirking face. “I’m just screwin’ with you.”

Drake huffed. “Not the time!” They scrambled down the tunnel, fast and quiet. When it narrowed, Drake motioned a halt.

“Take the urn and scout ahead,” Drake said.

“Not a chance.” Sully backed closer, glowstick raised. “You don’t get to be the hero.”

“I don’t want to be a hero! I just don’t like getting shot in the ass!”

Sully snickered. “Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Just look for an exit, all right? I’ll follow once I’m sure that Indian isn’t after us.”

“For the last time, Nate!” Sully snatched the urn from Drake’s satchel and shoved an unlit glowstick in his pocket. “It’s not a goddamned Indian.” He squeezed by. “Be careful. I’m not telling Elena you died in a South American rock chimney.” Sully’s footfalls and glowstick soon vanished down the tunnel.

Drake waited in darkness and breathed, listened. Nothing. Then a patter of pebbles and footsteps, barely audible. Padded shoes. Closer. Closer. Now!

Drake launched himself with speed honed from years dodging gunmen and ambushes, hitting his assailant hard. A pained grunt rewarded him, definitely female. A sharp knee snapped into his side hard enough to make him gasp.

He ignored the pain and blocked the next knee with an open palm, grappling with an assailant he now knew was much smaller than he was. That worked for him. He took a punch to the cheek but managed to land a good solid elbow to her solar plexus, eliciting a pained urk.

They rolled apart as Drake drew his gun and cracked his glowstick, flooding the tunnel with light. That’s when he saw the young pony-tailed woman glaring at him, glaring at the shiny pistol Drake had pointed at her face. Glaring as she pointed her own shiny pistol right back.

“Truce?” Drake asked, because his nose hurt and his gut did too.

“Dammit, Drake!” The woman didn’t shoot him, yet. “I’m not here for you! The urn! Where’s the urn?”

His attacker’s voice held all the charm of London, posh and dignified despite the situation. She had a compound bow and quiver strapped across her back, which explained a lot. Not much use in a tunnel.

“You know me,” Drake said, “which makes sense, I guess.” He was pretty popular, with Elena’s documentary and all. “So who are you?”

“Tell me where the urn is, now,” the woman said, her dignified desperation all too compelling. “You have no idea what it can do if Trinity-”

“Wait,” Drake said. “Trinity? Those guys back in the jungle?”

“The men who hired you,” the woman said, enunciating every word, “also hired those mercenaries. Your employers are called Trinity, and that urn cannot fall into their hands.”

“Why not?” Drake asked, but then he waved her off. “No, don’t tell me. It’s cursed, isn’t it?”

The woman lowered her gun. “You believe me?”

“Lady, I’ve dealt with enough cursed relics to know I don’t want anything to do with another one.”

“Good,” she said, “Hand it to me and I’ll get rid of it.”

“Can’t.”

As her eyes widened Drake realized she was actually pretty cute, if a bit young for him.

“Why not?” she demanded.

“Um,” Drake rubbed the back of his head. “Because I gave it to Sully?”

From up the tunnel, Victor Sullivan cursed at the top of his lungs.

The woman grabbed Drake’s collar. “Did he open it?”

“What?” Drake pushed at her.

“Did he open it!” the woman demanded, eyes wide. “The golden urn!”

“I opened it!” Sully shouted. “Spiders, Nate! Whole lot of freakin’ spiders!”

“Blast!” The woman turned heel and ran. “Run!” She certainly wasn’t hesitating.

Drake scrambled after her, making sure he heard Sully’s footfalls pounding behind him. They ran right into a dead end as Sully huffed over, carrying the open urn.

The woman grappled with him. “Give me that, now!”

“Give it to her!” Drake agreed.

“Not the worst plan I’ve heard!” Sully passed her the open urn as they turned toward the sound of thousands of tiny legs rushing up the tunnel.

The woman held the urn high as she sprinkled some sort of glowing green dust into the interior and shouted. “Be gone!” There was a flash, a roar, and a very silent cave.

Someone cracked a glowstick. Sully. There were no spiders and no urn. Just Nathan Drake, Victor Sullivan, and the woman who’d shot arrows at them. And then stopped spiders from eating them.

“Lady,” Sully said, hands on hips, “who the hell are you?”

The woman adjusted her ponytail, shuddering in reaction to all those crawling legs. “Lara,” she said, with a nod. “Lara Croft.”

“Oh.” Drake nodded back. “I have heard of you.”

After one calming breath, Lara halfway smiled. “Yes, I’d imagine you have.”

THE END

 

About the Story:

For the “Fanfic” theme, our prompt was to take characters from one or more books we’d enjoyed and have them get in a fight. Technically, I cheated a bit in that I ended up using two of my favorite videogame characters instead, though, to be fair, both of those games *have* had books written in their universes. So it was within the rules!

Both Uncharted and Tomb Raider have globe-trotting characters delving into exotic locales and underground ruins, fighting off bad guys over the course of cinematic stories, and both games even include a touch of the supernatural. So it is not a stretch by any means to imagine that Lara Croft and Nathan Drake exist in the same universe. I loved this idea.

Once I knew what I was doing, I wrote the story in an hour and proofed in the hour after that. It was fun imagining how the mechanics of each game, and the strengths and weaknesses of each character, might come into play if they ever came into conflict.

Photo Credit:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/66284747@N00/14430115156″>Warrior Woman</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Sponge Riot

Writing Prompt: Breaking the Fourth Wall

SpongeRiot

Larabeth had only been watching Matlock in the asylum cafeteria for twelve words, and already she was bored. Matlock was a show for old people, one of many stereotypes authors stole for a cheap laugh. Unfortunately for her, old lunatics outnumbered the young ones by a decent margin.

Hoping for something else to entertain her, Larabeth glanced around the cafeteria at the other patients. Bobby the Patriot was rapping Morse code on the table with shifty eyes, probably hoping to pass a message regarding national security to his CIA contact. Janitor Morrow was in the process of cleaning up a giant mess of spilled pasta chunks in the corner, smashing his mop into the goop with gritted teeth.

About five minutes ago, Ronald McDonald (or “the Ron” as they all called him) had taken umbrage to food he considered off the menu, and thrown the plate of pasta as far as it could go. He’d come to the asylum a year ago, tucked away for insisting he was the actual Ronald McDonald, and repeatedly coming after McDonalds’ executives claiming they had stolen his likeness to sell greasy burgers.

Because it was now 193 words into the story and nothing really interesting had happened yet (which was way too long to interest a literary agent in anything) Larabeth sucked down another Jello square and decided to start a riot. That would be interesting, and besides, she needed to get out of here before the story ended. To do that, she’d first have to get her belongings back from the asylum’s main office.

“Hey Leslie?” Larabeth glanced at the dark-haired woman sitting next to her, idly spinning a block of wood with no sharp corners. “Feel like starting a riot?”

“Naw,” Leslie said. “It’s Friday night.” Leslie was only here because she thought people were actually automatons driven by tiny hamsters. “Never a good idea to riot on a Friday night.”

“Why not?”

“Not enough letters in in it,” Leslie said. “Wednesday is much safer.”

Larabeth could see the logic in that. “Unfortunately, I don’t think this story is going to run until next Wednesday.”

“Huh?” Leslie asked.

“Nevermind.” Larabeth shrugged. “I’ll ask someone else.”

“Cool.” Leslie spun her block a bit more.

Larabeth searched the room for someone who might be pliable. Janitor Morrow had finished with the bulk of the Ron’s pasta tantrum and was now scrubbing along the baseboards with a ratty, discolored sponge.

The sponge! If anyone at Happy Home was dissatisfied with their existence in this place, it would be the sponges. People were constantly rubbing them in nasty things, and twisting them dozens of times, and wringing them out, and leaving them to grow mold in cold metal sinks. No one would enjoy that.

Larabeth hopped up and walked over to Janitor Morrow. “Hey, Mister Morrow?”

He glanced at her with a wary smile. “Yes?”

“Do you mind if I talk to your sponge for a moment?”

As the janitor at an insane asylum, Morrow had heard far stranger questions. Now done with his cleanup, he shrugged, tossed the ratty, sauce covered sponge to her, and said “Knock yourself out, kid.”

“Thanks!” Larabeth beamed at him, and he smiled a bit more.

Larabeth carried the sponge over a quiet corner, where they could talk without being overheard. She checked the wordcount just to make sure she still had time to reach the office. Yup. 931 words left. She set the sponge down and greeted it. “Hello, sponge!”

The sponge waited.

“Do you like having your face scrubbed in messy pasta? In apple juice?”

The sponge didn’t like anything, since it was a sponge.

“Oh, right.” Larabeth considered for a moment. What she really needed was for this story’s author to change the rules of the world so that sponges could talk. And be sentient.

“Ack!” said the sponge.

“Oh?” Larabeth said.

“What am I? Who am I?” The sponge sounded a bit freaked out by its sudden self-awareness.

“You’re a sponge!” Larabeth exclaimed. “People rub you in yucky stuff and use you to clean scummy toilets.”

“Ew!” the sponge shouted.

“I know,” Larabeth agreed. “Want to do something about it?”

“But what can I do?” the sponge said. “I’m just a sponge!”

“Well, you can petition the asylum for better treatment. Or, you know,” Larabeth said casually. “You could riot.”

“Riot?” the sponge asked.

“Well, you’d need to be able to move around first,” Larabeth said, scratching her head as she considered further changes to the story’s rules. “And since you’re so small, you’d probably need superstrength. I think autonomous, mobile, super strong sponges who don’t like having their faces rubbed in yuck would have a strong incentive to riot.”

“Really?” the sponge asked eagerly.

“Oh yeah,” Larabeth said. “You’d also be very good at it.”

“Now hear this!” the sponge shouted, startling everyone sitting in the cafeteria except for Leslie, who had probably known Larabeth was going to instigate something like this. “We’re done cleaning up your messes!”

“Yeah!” Larabeth added.

“We want equal pay!” the sponge added. “And no more throwing us in trash cans!”

“What?” Janitor Morrow said, thoroughly flabbergasted.

“And no more scalding water!” more sponges yelled. There were clatters from across the asylum as sentient, super strong mobile sponges sprang from their perches and smashed their way through all the doors blocking them from the cafeteria.

“Sponge rights!” the lead sponge shouted. “Sponge rights sponge rights sponge rights!”

As the other sponges joined in and Janitor Morrow pulled the panic alarm, the cafeteria exploded into chaos. Men and women in loose white clothing went running everywhere, and Larabeth used the commotion to dash through the now sponge-smashed door and run for the asylum office.

It was empty – this late, only the orderlies were actually on duty – but the door was locked. Fortunately, a sponge was busy smashing a cabinet inside. Larabeth called to it. “Hey, sponge!”

“Yes?” it said, stopping in its cabinet smashing.

“Could you get this door open for me?”

“Sure!” the sponge shouted, and bashed the door right open.

Larabeth tossed it a salute and walked past the office to the intake room, which was fortunately unlocked. She rifled through the lockers until she found the belongings they’d taken from her when she had herself committed – a golden locket, a wooden stick that was vaguely wand shaped, and a small leather bag about big enough to hold a roll of quarters or a single square of SPAM.

Pocketing the items, she jogged back to the cafeteria to find that the former patients were now all happily huddled in one corner, watching Matlock with a few sponges, and the rest of the sponges had herded all the orderlies into another. All in all, it looked like the sponges were running the asylum. Larabeth was fairly certain that had not happened in any other story ever. So far as she knew.

“Hey everyone!” Larabeth shouted, catching their attention. “You can all stop rioting now! I got what I needed!”

“Well, we haven’t!” a sponge shouted. “We still want to be taken seriously!”

“Yeah!” the other sponges chimed in. “And no more sponge baths!”

“Eww!” the others all shouted in unison.

“Hmm.” Larabeth tapped her chin. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. I probably should have suggested something less drastic.”

“What?” a confused orderly asked.

“Not an issue,” Larabeth amended. “Tell you what, sponges. If you promise to let all the orderlies and inmates go back to what they were doing before the riot, I promise none of you will be forced to do anything you don’t want to do for as long as you continue to exist.”

“To exist?” a sponge said.

“That sounds ominous,” another added.

“It’s not so bad,” Larabeth said. “Why don’t we all sit down and watch the end of Matlock together?”

Moved by her words for some reason not readily apparent to any of them, the sponges agreed and took seats alongside those asylum patients who had not fled during the riot. Once everyone was settled down and comfortable, Janitor Morrow walked over to her.

“Larabeth?”

She smiled at him. “Yes, Mister Morrow?”

“What did you mean when you told the sponges ‘as long as you continue to exist?'”

“Oh!” Larabeth tried to think back. “Honestly? I don’t remember.”

“Right,” said Morrow. “So … are they going to riot again?”

Larabeth checked the word count. “Nope! There’s only 90 words left before the end of this story.”

“What does that mean?” Morrow asked.

“Nothing important,” Larabeth said. “Anyway, I don’t have to go now. They don’t need me over in the Fantasy-Faction RPG forum.”

“What’s that?” Morrow asked.

“Not sure!” Larabeth eagerly rubbed her golden medallion. “Nice talking to you, Morrow!”

“Right?” Morrow said. He blinked as Larabeth vanished in a poof of smoke.

“Hey.” A sponge sidled over. “Do you think she was serious about that 90 words thing?”

“Honestly?” Morrow frowned. “I don’t know what she meant.”

THE END

 

About the Story:

The theme “Breaking the Fourth Wall” really stumped me. I don’t generally write “funny” stories (while I try to incorporate humor into my fiction, I don’t consider myself suited to writing entirely comedic tales) and initially, the only route to go with a fourth wall breaking story seemed to be comedic. Because of the word count (limit of 1,500 words!), I soon settled on the idea of a protagonist who realized they were in a story and was (in terror) counting its words until the story (and them, by extension) ended.

This led to a bunch of dark story ideas, none of which I liked.  Fortunately, about the time we had this theme I also got involved with the Fantasy-Faction RPG, which is basically just a bunch of posters writing an interactive adventure involving characters they’ve created. And by creating my character, I also stumbled upon my story’s protagonist.

All characters for the RPG typically have skills or powers, and I liked the idea of Larabeth’s power being to occasionally break the fourth wall, but not in a conscious manner. Rather than recognizing that she is in a story, she instead treats the odd thoughts that pop into her head as insanity, and deals with those thoughts as calmly as she deals with everything else. Hence why she’s in an asylum in this story, and why she gets out before her 1,500 words are up.

Photo Credit:

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48995219@N05/4598319637″>A Day In the Life of a HouseWife</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;