Day 106 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a character making a home in an unexpected place.
Shannon: “Doug, Doug, wake up,” I gradually got louder as I continued to call his name. I wasn’t complete sure it was actually him and not a homeless person, but he would be easier to deal with.
“Oh no,” he turned over and I was happy to see the familiar face looking up at me. “What time is it? Am I late,” he questioned in a panic, quickly hiding his sleeping bag and backpack under a tarp. He breathed a sigh of relief when he looked at his phone. “Are you always here this early?”
“When they need me, and since I’m intern and it’s cheap labor, they tend to need me a lot. What are you doing sleeping in the old bear enclosure? After all the years you’ve worked here, you think somebody could have given you a nicer place to stay for the night,” I felt for him.
He shook his head, “They don’t know I’m living here.”
“Living here,” my jaw dropped, “How long?”
He looked embarrassed, “A month,” he eventually answered to fill the silence.
“No one has caught you yet?”
He smiled, clearly happy to hear that was first reaction. “I had my eye on this place for a while. Nobody has touched it for years, and the den is secluded enough to get away with it, but I’m guessing you’re here for a reason,” he gave a sad smirk, waiting for the bad news.
“They’re getting a new black bear,” I confirmed his suspicion. “But you don’t need this place, do you,” I pried, worried about him.
He shrugged, “My daughter is sick,” he admitted. “I’ve been trying to save money and send it to her, but I don’t want to be bother to anyone,” he shook his head, “Still, I would do anything for her,” he explained. “Please don’t tell anyone I was living here. I don’t think they’d be very happy with me. I’ll clear my stuff out right away.”
“I promise I won’t tell anyone,” I agreed to keep his secret, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t tell them about his daughter. “Do you need a place to stay?”
“No, no. I’ll figure it out,” he smiled.
Erin: “How come we never hang out at your house,” was the scariest words that I ever heard.
Truth was we did hang out at my house, a lot. My mother not only worked at the children’s museum. We lived there. My room was the life-sized doll house and my mother’s was the house-boat exhibit. Our personal bathroom was the “out of order” handicap stall.
We got the leftovers from the cafeteria, and their was never a shortage of fun. We just couldn’t tell people about our wonderland, because if they knew we might lose it.
Where does your character call home?
The castle was a sprawling, crumbling mess of towers and stone walls that had faded and cracked over the years; it was a constant, looming reminder to us all of the destructive powers of times and divisiveness of iron-fisted rule. Growing through the rubble, brilliant vines of deepest emerald and sharpest scarlet brought some colour to an otherwise drab landscape. Here and there, glints of untouched metal gleamed in the faltering sunshine as proof of the citadel’s grandeur of old.
In Paradise, the town we’d grown up in and whose view I described, we’d heard the legends telling the fate the kings of old suffered at the blood-soaked hands of their subjects. The stories were full of peace and joy a first, but quickly devolved into the kind of tragedies that tore at your heart and brought a glint to your eye. Whether or not the tales were true, they had kept the peace in Paradise for nearly a century. From where we stand now, shrouded in the mountain’s shadow, we still don’t have an answer for the carnage that was going to happen.
It had been an average autumn day when the townspeople changed; every man, woman and child was affected by some unknown force. Though the ancient stone buildings that had grown to lean on the others for support were steady in the first slivers of dawn, the people were not. When the early-risers set out on their daily routines, something was obviously wrong. There were clashes between best friends in the town square over pittances none could recall after a few moments, and tight-knit families began to tear at the seams like a thread-bare sweater. Snow drifts were no longer the coldest thing in the town.
As everyone else began their days going to school and work, more commotions spilled out of houses and irrupted into fisticuffs on several occasions. Where, on any other day, the other folks would have broken up these tussles, everyone just watched in awe. But, as the day wore on and the sun peaked, these dust-ups were becoming more like boxing matches with cheering and much blood spilled. Somewhere along the way, we realized we weren’t just angry at everyone; we were angry at the traditionalists and they were angry at us, the progressives. Further down the road, we became divided to a fault.
The traditionalists congregated at the town’s church; mostly elders, those with long family lines and the hard-working folks who made the journey every day to nearby towns. For us, we were left with the schoolhouse, but held the younger generations, along with the romantics and optimists, cozily. Mere irritation had, at that point, shifted into something far more malicious and we armed ourselves with whatever we could lest the traditionalists make a move.
Those were tense days where both sides lost many men in raids and conflicts in the streets. The dead may still lay there, deep red blood seeping into the cobblestones like rust. After three days of rigidity between us, our side made the decision to abandon our less-strategic position for an easily-defendable location; the crumbling castle on the hill. It took us half a day to make our way stealthily from the town site, down the steep and dangerous path, back up the other side where the decades had worn away sure footing in several places and into the actual ruins of the building.
So, here we stood, upon the massive turrets of a once-great empire that had faced a horrible collapse for reasons no one could hope to understand, preparing to fight our friends and neighbours.
When we first entered through the rusted gates and crossed through an enormous courtyard, we were in complete awe at the architectural masterpiece it must have been in its time. A circular fountain stood at the center, fissions forming in the thick stone slabs, any water that had filled it having run off long ago. Standing like charred corpses, were once-elegant trees that were now drooping and blackened with the life gone from their empty husks. For a while we all wandered into different rooms and hallways in the disused space, before there came a great commotion from a far wing.
A few of the younger kids were squealing with glee before a solid metal door that appeared to be sealed shut; one legend told of a genius ruler who created a space where not even time could touch. After a few hours of attempting to open the door without any helpful tools, we resigned ourselves to setting up a safe camp and scrounging up food for our small army.
On the second floor, just past a blown-out wall, was what we figured was a sleeping chamber complete with a rotted bedframe and working fireplace; this room became our sleeping area. Downstairs was a food preparation area that housed anything we’d brought from town, as well as anything we found on the premises. Though there wasn’t much to eat, we survived the night.
Weeks later, after having broken through to the metal room and found, to our great surprise, some food still edible, we were settled into the abandoned castle nicely. The armoury had been inventoried and everyone was training up with the meager weapons still in one piece. Fires glowed from parapets and rooms all night and day, for both warmth and to keep any scouts away. Though the anger hadn’t waned for our so-called friends, we weren’t eager for a real clash. I suppose that was why, when the intruders came in the middle of the night, it was so surprising; we had lost the bloodlust, but our fellow humans had not.
That night, I was speaking with the outspoken leader of our clan to go over potential battle strategy and a plan for food cultivation. An alarm bell sounded from the front tower to signal interlopers were approaching and that everyone should prepare to defend our group. We’d shared a tense look before the hallway was alive with the cries of our enemies, and our leader was shoving me under a pile of broken chairs he used for kindling. When I attempted to resist, I could feel the hot rage that had him enthralled and hid quickly.
I was behind a silky curtain when one of their men thrust a sword through his chest, but I could hear their laughter as they fell back. Tentatively, I crept out from the firewood, and broke down at the body of our leader.
When I finally made my way to the guard towers, they were quaking in their boots and stuttered that the traditionalist army would be back in a fortnight to finish the job they started; that, if they could get to our leader, they could get to any one of us. Though that night was one of the worst of my life because I had to explain to a bunch of kids what was happening, it gave us time. We trained for the next few days and made the castle as comfortable a home as we could, no matter how long we would actually get to enjoy it.
I’m speaking to you from the left guard tower with a longsword in my right hand and a rather unwieldy shield in the other. Down the hill I can see a line of horses interspersed with more soldiers that we’d left behind carrying torches and holding gleaming metal. The army is coming and none of us, on either side, is going to make it to dawn.
Created to Write:
The boy sits down, holding his hands together, “Thank you,” he says shakily.
Night Ghost stares at him, then asks, “What’s your name?”
“…Finn. Friends call me Starry.”
“Do you have a home, Finn?” Tiger asks.
“Need us to help you get there?” Tiger asks.
Finn looks up, shaking his head, “I’ll be okay, I promise.”
Night Ghost sighs, “Are you sure?”
Finn sighs, “I can’t argue with you, can I?”
“…We won’t force you to do something you don’t want, Finn,” Tiger assures.
“I have one more question, though,” Night Ghost asks.
“How did you get your powers?”
Finn stares at him, thinking of the possible escape routes.
“How did you know?” Finn asks, putting his hands behind his back.
“You animated a drawing,” Night Ghost states, “it isn’t that hard- hey!”
Finn throws something at them, then runs. Night Ghost barely blinks, seeing through the animated dust. He follows Finn to a man hole, and slips through before Finn can close it on him.
Finn yelps, almost tripping up. He then he sprinted down the sewer tunnel. Tiger is right behind Ghost as they follow. Finn ducks through a hole and Night Ghost doesn’t hesitate to do the same. “Finn stop!” Ghost yells.
Finn backs up into the room. The walls and floor are cleaned, with various art designs on them. There’s a bed and a box of art supplies. There’s food in the corner, non perishables. There’s a light hanging from the pipes in the ceiling.
“We aren’t going to hurt you,” Tiger says, unable to go through the hole. Finn stares at them and accidentally touches one of the drawings. The cluster of birds fly out of the wall. The three duck as they fly passed and out the man hole.
Finn sits on the mattress. “Not again,” he whimpers, his hands going to his head.
Tiger looks at the room again, then gently asks, “Finn, this is your home, isn’t it?”
Finn looks up at him and nods solemnly.
“Where are your parents?” Ghost asks.
“…Dad’s abroad, military work,” Finn answers, “and Mom… probably at home… worried sick about me.”
“Why don’t you go home?” Tiger asks.
“With this?” Finn asks, holding out his hands, “with this curse? No! I don’t want to animate on accident! What if I hurt somebody?”
“…We’ll help you,” Night Ghost says, “we… we have a group. If you come with us, we can help teach you to use your powers properly. Then you can go home.”
Finn’s face scrunches up, and he looks away at the wall. “I don’t know…”
He looks at Night Ghost. He’s kneeling in front of him.
“Do you want your mother to worry?”
Finn shakes his head.
Ghost offers a hand, “Then let us help.”