Day 112 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write the pictures’ story.
Shannon: During college I had a job working for an art studio, and I wasn’t hired to monitor anyone or help them find supplies. I was hired by a student who was on mission to make a name for herself by finding scrappy ways to sell her art. I wasn’t even making minimum wage off of the sales she was bringing in, but it was the best job I ever had.
I’m not sure exactly why she chose me over other students to assist her. We were in a class together, but all she ever saw of my work was a picture I took of a unique outdoor staircase in my hometown and a glass window painting.
My favorite art pieces were the slow shutter light pictures she’d have me capture. They always turned out beautiful, and she always had a concept to convey. I wished they could be seen outside of the frame. They were powerful and I wanted that power to be real.
Erin: “That’s beautiful,” I was in complete amazement of the artwork my sister had made overnight.
“I thought so too. But see I am quite sleep deprived at the moment so I am not in the right mindset to make that call.” She giggled at her masterpiece. For what reason, I am not sure.
“Was there a motive for this sudden night painting,” I asked.
“I dreamed of the fire man chasing me around the never-ending staircase,” her eyes grew as she took in her work.
“Okay crazy,” I walked away, because she was an artist and it wasn’t my place to try and understand her brand of uniqueness.
What’s their story?
“Myra!?” someone shouted my name in a girly pitch through the haze of engine exhaust and glittering, shifting darkness. But that wasn’t my name, I didn’t think; in the back of my mind was the resonating thump of heavy wood falling on a solid surface, the horrifying gurgles of someone in intense pain and the sound of electricity shooting through the air. There was an odd echo in the dimness, as though the crushing gloom was a solid mass, but the verbalization altered as it hit my eardrums from behind. To my fuzzy mind, the girl was calling, “Tara!?” as I heard the ricochet.
Before me, as I stood slightly dazed and deathly still for fear of my unknown surroundings, an orange flame blazed with a hue as brilliant as it was stunning in the absolute pitch. When I blinked in the bright glow, there was an odd sensation similar to weightlessness that gripped me like a fever. Everything began to move in the molasses speed of a daydream or when that horrible, inevitable thing is about to happen. The flame began to move in tentative circles, leaving a trial of bright sparks in the air that hung still in the time-dilation before gradually falling to the soft sand at my feet. For a moment I simply marvelled at the intense heat that the spiraling fire gave off, before it hit me that reality didn’t work like this.
A horrible, near-frozen moment passed as I gathered my thoughts and the scene around me turned cold and dark once more. Where there had been the hot current of life twisting before my very eyes, the nothingness was absolute and all-consuming in way of visual stimulus. Breathing out into the frosty air, I could almost see my breath hanging like a tiny, worried cloud, but it could have just been my imagination. Without much thought, I stretched my hand through the pearly white cloud and it tore right through the carefully-constructed reality.
A foot in front of my face stood a vertical tear in the very fabric of the night; on either side was the deafening silence of midnight in the deepest corner of my mind, but right down the center was a jagged, loud crack that pulsed with life. After a second’s hesitation, I reached for the edges of the fabric and clutched the false reality with an iron grip and heaved it open far enough to allow my entry to the net section of dream world. Stepping over the white-hot gash, I released the darkness and it sealed shut behind me with an ear-splitting screech like nails on a chalkboard. When I turned for one last look, all that was left of the world I’d left behind was a tingling cold spot that hovered there, reminding me that my mind wasn’t all happiness and cherries.
On this side, though, the world was a gorgeously sunny Sunday morning in a bygone day at the sparkling ocean. It stretched out into infinity, dropping off somewhere near the first stars that appeared and was lost out in the excess space of the human brain. As I admired the warmth that came off the pale yellow sky, I felt someone’s eyes staring at me; watching for any tiny emotion to bubble to the pristine surface. When I turned, the ocean’s glittering water began to boil and churn as doubt in the reality of this place fell away like a second skin that I’d been resigned to wear.
She stood about four feet tall with cherry red sneakers and torn-kneed jeans that pulled up at the bottom as though she’d had a sudden growth spurt. Somewhere behind the molten chocolate eyes and carefully plaited hair was a mind as sharp and dangerous as mine, but she chose to keep it hidden to the masses milling around on the pier. “Myra, have fun here. It used to be your happy place,” she spoke in my childish voice, which sent shivers up my virtual spine, before she turned around and melted into the crowd with a giggle echoing from her pale lips. All I could still see was the imprint her pastel peasant shirt had made in the mob; their random clothing went through a colour shift in the empty space left by the little girl.
Though she’d vanished, I knew exactly where she would be. I’d always admired those old films with the bright colours from the past; the ones with carnivals and lazy summer weekends on the pier eating cotton candy and watching performers juggle knives with their eyes shut. But the best part would be standing at the very end of the wharf, leaning against a rickety old railing breathing in the briny ocean spray and watching the sun set at the very edge of the world. That was where, after wading through the lukewarm crowds of strangers, I found the young girl with her eyes trained to the dirty depths of seawater.
When I came up and rested my lead-heavy arms on the rough wood, she glanced up at me with water eyes that splashed and waved as though there was a deep turmoil within myself. But before I could ask her what she meant by having fun or why she was calling me Myra, her bubbly child’s laughter was all around me like an earworm. I could feel the vibrations of her innocent joy bumping into my and jostling me about and she was suddenly gone.
Turning, I spotted her skipping jovially back up the dock with her braids fluttering behind her and I sprinted to catch up, afraid of what would happen if I lost my dream-guide. Even at the break-neck speed I was in pursuit, I just kept falling further and further behind her on a seemingly endless set of faded wooden planks. Something in my mind whispered that I needed to call to the girl; tell her I had a question and assure her she needed to stop and wait for her exhausted older self. But I could barely keep air in my burning lungs as I began to slow my pace, seeing the futility in continuing on.
When I ceased, bent over my knees breathing in gulps of salty air that rubbed against my throat like sandpaper, the girl appeared before me. At first all I could see were the toes of her cherry red sneakers, before she twisted her head to meet my eye; hers were a stormy reflection of mine. Giggling, she skipped away when I reached toward her spectral hand and disappeared in the hazy sightlines. Before me rose a strange twisting and curving staircase that continued high above the crowd, though they seemed oblivious to its existence, and tied itself in knots on the way to the blazing white sun. On the deck a few feet in front of me, was the girl with her hand covering laughing lips and smiling eyes.
Nodding to both my adult and child selves, I skipped to the first step and placed a leather-booted soul on the stained wood to test its stability. After bouncing a bit on my heel and placing a hand firmly on the thin metal railing I gave in to the urge to sprint up the stairs. It held stable like an intricately intertwined stone sculpture that looked fragile enough to melt in the sun, but was strong enough to hold together in the highest and lowest of temperatures. When I was standing on an upward-facing step with a steep downward spiral before me, I realized I was completely upside down, hanging from the wooden stairs with only the gut-wrenching gravity that appeared in dreams to keep my safe.
A few paces ahead was the girl, twirling a stray strand of hair in her ethereal fingers and blowing a hot pink bubble with her soft lips. As I approached, the bubble popped and she was gone for a fraction of a second before reappearing with her blameless face glowing in the sunshine. “You will always be Myra, even if Tara takes you over and forces you into that dark-world mold. I’ll always be in your heart, Myra.” With that, she took a step back, leaned forward as if she was a predator eyeing her dinner, and ran right through my chest.
When I woke up, my loose hair stuck to the back of my neck with sweat and the freezing breeze trickling in through the open window sent a shiver running through me like that kid had. I craned my neck to the side and heard the cracking in my ear as if from a great distance, before mirroring the turn on the other side. Shoulders stiff from having fallen asleep in my armchair, I stood straight and caught the edge of the pendant light on my temple.
Rubbing the sore spot, after a clipped blue streak, I glanced out the cracked and misty windowpane at the nightlife stretching its grotesque legs and screaming down darkened streets. It was a wonder anything so sickeningly Candyland as that dream could still be hiding in the recesses of my mind; I figured the years of forced contentedness for the ice-hard world around me, and cold-blooded murder games I now took part in, would have slashed its pastel throat and buried it ages ago. But, as I watched a woman in a tight scarlet dress flag down a burly man on a bike, I chuckled darkly at the girl’s advice.
I was no longer meek and mild Myra. She died years ago when the Den gave me the new moniker of Tara; I had to blend in with the motley crew here and killer-for-hire wasn’t going to gain any traction as a career choice with the accidental-murderess Myra’s nearly-spotless rap sheet. Instead, I’d whole-heartedly embraced this new persona and learned to enjoy the metallic taste of blood on your lips and the feel of a last heartbeat against your bare hands.
Shaking my head, I pulled myself out of the spiralling reverie and focused back on the task I’d been studiously working at; a very special art project for a very special client. Across the planning table, a car door window was held up with beer cans and spirit bottles so it was stable and relatively flat. I’d carved and enameled an intricate, artistic design with whorls and flowers and dots as requested by the client. Now all I had to do was mix the coloured jars of dye, a signature blend of my own crafted from the ashes of the victim my client had me burn in broad daylight and toxic dyes, and create a mural on the victim’s car window.
While this was certainly one of the strangest specifications I’d ever received for a murder, it seemed to bring old memories and emotions bubbling to the normally-placid waters of my mind. As I set back to work, carefully unscrewing the top of pre-mixed thin yellow paint and began to drip it on a flowery section, letting the weak colour spread out through the area like stained glass. I swirled it with my paintbrush, leaving oily trails in the liquid that continued to churn as I watched it, paintbrush poised above the next petal.
After finishing off that flower, some kind of rose that looked plain to me but had been specifically requested, I dropped ruby colouring into the center and moved on to deep green leaves that traced their way across the whole glass like a vine taking hold. As the whole thing began to slowly take shape with brilliant pops of colour smudging out the chipped surface, I smiled in spite of myself and the grotesqueness of creating such a striking piece of art with, quite literally, “the blood of thine enemy.”
A few days later, I was impatiently waiting in front of a particularly extravagant entryway in the light town, looking like a sitting target in my tattered black denim; I glanced down at the covered art piece with the deepest loathing for being forced to give up something I put such time and effort into. But I was going to just ignore the fact this window, that I had not only killed to produce but had given my blood and sweat to, was about to become an ironic showpiece in one of the most stunningly expensive galleries full of societal mockery in the country. Well, I would bite my tongue about it, anyway.
Created to Write:
August steps into building as the door opens for him. He looks at the paper he has, ‘This is right. …Weird.’
He looks around. It’s all oak and old looking, despite being in perfect condition. Orange sparks appear behind him. He turns to see a man in a blue tunic and a red cloak step through a portal type thing. “August Evert, thank you for coming.” The orange sparks go away.
“Uhh…” August pauses, “…Who are you?”
“I am Dr. Steven Strange, and keep tabs on powerful individuals that could potentially help, or hurt, Earth,” the man states.
“And…” August motions to the empty air behind Dr. Strange, “that was-”
August nods, “Right.”
Dr. Strange claps once, “Well, right to the matter.” The two teleport to a different area of the building.
August bends over, groaning. “Can you not do that again.”
“Hm, delicate stomach?”
“Just, don’t,” August says.
“Fine.” Dr. Strange sits down, motioning to another chair. August sits down. “Tea?”
Dr. Strange makes a cup appear in his hand, “Am I wrong to assume that you are the leader of the… Novelty, isn’t it?”
August tightens his grip on the chair arms, “That’s correct. I’m the leader.”
“Ah. And you are looking for a friend of yours.”
“More than a friend. How do you know about us?”
Dr. Strange motions to the room, “Magic.”
“Want one you won’t understand?” Dr. Strange asks.
“I want one that shows me that you are not an enemy,” August says, “There have been a few times where I’ve been in this situation.”
“In or out of costume?”
August glares at him.
“I am not an enemy. And I am not here to stop what you are doing. For a group of reckless kids, it’s admirable.” Dr. Strange stands up, walking to the stained glass window, “And I think I can be of help, to find your friend.”
He has August’s attention at that, “Why?”
“But I need to know something first,” Dr. Strange says, turning around, “The government and the entirety of the UN say Heather is a danger that has to be watched until she’s deemed safe for the public.”
“It’s the government,” Dr. Strange answers, “and while I cannot change the situation, I can tell you where she is. But I need to certain that she isn’t what they are claiming.”
August looks at the polished floor in front of him. “You don’t know Heather.”
“Then enlighten me.”
August purses his lips before starting, “Heather is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. She loves music, hates it when innocent people are hurt or killed, and all she wants to be with her family, to live a normal life.”
“…So she’s not dangerous. So the United Nations is wrong about her? Being a good person before trauma-”
“You have no idea what trauma Heather has gone through,” August says, “what she’s still overcoming.”
“Try me,” Dr. Strange stresses.
August looks at Dr. Strange. He does an inventory check of anything that could indicate something he’s gone through. ‘His hands.’ August locks eyes with the sorcerer. “You lost the ability to use your hands, didn’t you?”
“…How do you know that?”
“You still have scars. Heather lost the ability to walk.”
“Surgery could have helped her.”
“Not a super soldier. And it doesn’t matter her trauma.” August stands up, “The United Nations is asking the wrong questions. Is Heather dangerous? Yes! Of course she’s dangerous! She has the super soldier serum, she was trained by Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon! She’s been on missions and either critically wounded, or maybe even killed, Hydra agents in her way. Even with a brace on her knee and being overwhelmed by a place she didn’t want to be at, she dragged a guy taller than her out by his ear and gave him a bruise to remember her by.”
August takes a breath.
“Heather is dangerous. But the question is, who is she dangerous to? Not the civilians. Not the government, and not other heroes. Hurt her family and friends and there is nothing that will win her trust back, and you’ll have to look over your shoulder. But she would never endanger a innocent person, let alone the world.” August shrugs, “The government is just scared they can’t control her. They can’t use her because she can’t be tamed.”
Dr. Strange nods, “I see.”
“Now where is she?”
Dr. Strange flicks his wrist and another card appears on the table. August picks it up.
“Latitude and Longitude.”
“I trust you can work a map?” Dr. Strange asks.
August looks up, “Thank you.”