Day 116 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Incorporate a weird belief someone has.
Shannon: There were a lot of rumors about Mr. Withers, and any time we were in the vicinity of his house they would come back up. It left a lot of room for my imagination to get carried away. My mind wasn’t as vicious as some of the other kids. I wasn’t accusing him of hoarding dead bodies, or anything evil. I guess I always kind of figured his anger and loner-behavior just seemed a little misunderstood.
Sure I didn’t completely rule out the possibility he had some creepy possessions, but I only pictured things like ventriloquist dolls or other unfamiliar antiques. Since it was an unpopular belief, I never told anyone that I believed he was normal and that we wouldn’t find anything too out of the ordinary. That’s why I wanted to see his house. One, so nobody could lie about what they found. Two, so I could see each of their faces when they found out they were wrong him.
Erin: Despite having convinced myself otherwise however, I was convinced that I could do it. For one reason and one alone: horoscopes.
Mine had said I would be taking a step to change the course of my life. It also said there was success in my future. Who was me, myself, and I to question the stars?
If I knew how to interpret my fate at all, this was going to work. This was my future and inevitably I was going to succeed. I knew being a Virgo would pay off some day. Things were finally looking up.
Make your character believe something most others do not.
When I awoke, entombed in a pile of the softest down comforters one could ask for with candlelight shining through from somewhere off in the fuzzy distance that I couldn’t quite make out with my dewy eyes, I found the cabin warm as midday in the summer. About me, my hair had dried in spiky, frozen strands like a starfish spayed across the silky pillowcases. Everything about the room and through the open doorway shone with a faint brilliance that I associated with the lack of socialization in the past while, but I could hear a voice cooing softly, “It isn’t your mind playing tricks. I, no, you, hmmm,” she considered aloud, allowing her voice to break off as she mulled the idea of being one half of a mind and how to address the other half, me. “Alright, at any rate, we believe this whole thing is because we’re not alone; why in heaven would anyone rent this spectacularly cozy and attractive home for a pittance without some sort of extra remuneration?” she puzzled, allowing the two weeks I (or we, or whatever) spent staunchly driven toward the profession of practicing law to show through like the long-absent sun.
Blinking at the warm light, I peeked out the window at the frozen tundra, under the same sparkling stars as last night, and shivered recalling the ghastly cold trek. The writer appeared to have come up with a better plan to convince me that everything was not as kosher as it first appeared, as she brought up thoughts of waterfalls and running water. Even as I laughed out loud at the pure childishness of her new tactic, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom and threw off the covers. I expected for my bare skin to be greeted by a cold front, having let the boiling blankets fall off, but instead my skin just prickled lightly with the slight change in temperature.
After a quick trip to the marbled bathroom and a stern argument with the writer, I found myself dressed in flannel with an icy cup of whiskey that had little more than a few drops left clinging to the smooth glass. She’d poured herself a glass, drained most of it and left me idly before the floor-length windows without any memory of having gotten there. Dropping the glass gently, yet firmly to remind the writer I was the real boss, I padded softly across the area rug and put the kettle on the stove to boil. There was already a cute mug in the shape of a grizzly bear sitting on the quartz countertop just begging for tea; I obliged when I’d finally sussed out the tea and found one with a sufficient level of caffeine to defeat my alter ego.
When the writer finally came back I’d already added cane sugar and the milk I found in the fridge to an otherwise unassuming cup of chai that tasted more like someone had just mixed half black tea and half cinnamon. I knew she’d hate that I’d tossed the adult drink and traded in for something with less bite and more subtle comfort that spread like a wildfire through my veins. In silence, the two of us eyed the undulating waves of emeralds and amethyst shards as they traced their way across the deep sea. “There, in the snow,” she hissed in my ear, her hot breath steaming up the frosty glass and fogging my vision.
I shook my head violently, rage surging suddenly, and moved to the side to search for what she’d seen. From the living room, all I could really see was the picturesque northern lights glittering above the stark ice field with a cliff of deep green trees in the distance; this entire scene was framed with the sweet-smelling pine windows and the cluster of pines that grew in a mass around the cabin itself. Touching the pane, I expected to feel the icy shivers shooting from my fingers, but felt only a spreading numbness that ruined the experience of extremely cold skin being pressed against a boiling mug of tea.
“The footprints, you imbecile! There are silvery footprints in the snow leading away from this cabin! That means, in the plainest of language, that we are not alone,” she huffed, expending every ounce of energy she could glean from me to get her point across before settling back down. I glanced out at the pristine snow and, to my immense surprise, spotted an unsteady set of footprints leading off into the empty field of snow. As I leaned forward to press my hot forehead against the glass, I traced the prints right back to the cabin and felt my pulse begin to patter faster than I thought healthy.
Leaning against one of the faux leather armchairs for support, the mug slipped from my numb fingers and smashed in a soggy mess on the hardwood floors, tea streaming into the intricately-woven floor rug. Perhaps the writer was correct in her weird belief that we weren’t alone in the secluded cabin after all. But, as soon as the thought began to echo dangerously in my mind, a second, even more horrifying thought, accompanied it on the rounds. Speaking aloud like the writer always did, I braced for her retort, “What if we’re no longer alone? What if that set of footprints, leading away from the cabin and not returning, was someone who didn’t make it back?” Though I didn’t want to think about that possibility, I could feel the writer stirring in my mind.
As I waited with baited breath for her response, I carefully cleaned up the broken porcelain and mopped the floor in utter silence, save the cheerful flames sputtering as they devoured a defenceless log in the fireplace. When all was back to its original spotlessness, I wandered over to the liquor cart and poured myself, or the writer, a stiff drink before settling into the chair to wait; she was taking her sweet time to reply. But, as soon as I took the first tiny sip, she spoke up in the silky voice I knew too well, “You’re right, my dear. Someone could be here with us, but they could just as easily be stranded out there in the frozen tundra being buried alive in snow.” That was all she cared to say on the subject, even with the liquid courage I enticed her with.
August looks at the entrance to the building. He had to travel to a few towns over, which was a hassle. But the map was correct and he can see the insignia of the Charbrows outside the hotel and restaurant down the road.
He waited until night, because that’s how he works best. He ducks down an alley and climbs up to the rooftops. He takes the cloth he had around his neck and changes it so it is over his mouth and nose. He pulls the brim of his hat down, then travels to the roof of the Charbrow’s building. He finds an open window and crawls in, looking around with a hand on his knife.
No one is around him, so he goes to the door, listening. No one is outside his door, so he travels out into the hall. He hears someone coming, so he ducks into a room. He tenses as he hears giggling. He looks at the young women, with veils over their faces and scantly dressed in sashes and drapes of loose fabric.
The men outside the door talk to themselves in a foreign language. August picks up on enough to know they are talking about the weapons area, in the back rooms. One of the women starts to move but August motions for her to stop. He touches the knife at his belt and she freezes. The men walk away.
August breathes a sigh of relief. He walks forward and the girls back up. He takes his hand off the weapon and holds both hands in front of him. “[I am not a killer. You need to leave. This place is not safe.]”
“[Why are you here?]” one asks, “[Who are you?]”
“[Someone trying to do some good in the world,]” August answers, “[when I leave, you need to leave this building and go down the street. Take anyone else you can with you.]”
“[We can’t. We have to stay here,]” one girl says.
August sighs, “[Your job or your lives, pick one.]”
He then checks for any guards and leaves for the back room. He looks at the crowd below him and figures he has to blend through them. He stands up straight and maneuvers in the shadows until he’s on the main floor. He walks through the crowd, blending in and smoothly moving passed others. He finds the correct room, which is guarded. He passes the guards and goes into one of the rooms next to it; a toilet.
August looks at the wall next to him. He knocks on the wall, which gives a little. ‘Who puts the bathroom next to the weapons room?’ He moves back, then throws his weight on the wall. It cracks, a few splinters sticking to his sleeve. He throws himself forward again and crashes through. ‘Someone’s going to hear that.’
He takes the sack of charges out and ignites one. It will set off the others. He then hides it behind a few barrels of guns, only to feel one press to his back. “[Not another step,]” a voice says.
August is thrown on the ground with his hands behind his back and a few bruises on his face. He looks up at the person standing in front of him. “Who is this?”
‘Thanks for using English,’ August groans to himself.
“I don’t know sir. He snuck into the back room,” one of the men states.
“I say he’s from [Poison Profane]!” The group jeers. August sits up slowly, groaning at a few injuries.
“He has witch’s garb,” the leader states. He crouches down, inspecting August, “but you do not look like them.”
August doesn’t answer, staring back into the dark brown eyes.
August looks away, refusing.
“…The witch’s people do not have the skills you possess,” the leader says, standing up again, “you may be here because of her, but you are not one of her people.”
“Only the [Poison Profane] know about those weapons,” one of the people say.
“Stand him up.” Two men come forward and lift August to his feet. “Look me in the eye, stranger.”
August looks up.
“This is the first attack the witch has tried.”
“Compared to the countless times you attacked them?” August asks.
The leader sighs, “Come here, boy.” August walks forward. Mr. Charbrow undoes the ropes around August’s wrists. “The witch didn’t tell you everything. There is a history between the groups. They call themselves ‘the Broken Ebon’, but they are regarded by everyone else as the [Poison Profane]. These people believe the witch to be eternal, all-wise and future telling. And she enacts a heavy price to keep her ‘powers’. I believe she has shown you her plants?”
“…I haven’t seen the herbs, but she used them to heal me,” August answers.
“A testament to her power, no doubt. But those plants do not work with normal fertilization. The price for such power, is in those that wish to use it.”
August lets that sink in; human sacrifice?
“They take people, have been for centuries, and sacrifice blood and bone to the herbs, and their witch. With that, she keeps her powers and the herbs that heal, and destroy.” Someone spits at the floor. “We, the Charbrow, rose up against them, to stop their killing. And as their activity grows, we must add ferocity to our efforts. …Do you understand this, stranger?”
August doesn’t know what to believe. But then he remembers the charges he set. The charge was set for twenty minutes, enough time for him to get away. Now… there must be almost five minutes left… if even. He throws a star at the light in the ceiling, which causes the lights to go out. He presses his wrist and he goes invisible. People shout, looking for him. He moves to the edge of the room and finds the door. He jumps out, just as the charges go off. He lands against a shop on the far side, groaning.
‘There goes the chance of sparing lives,’ he scolds to himself. He tries not to think about it, and takes off down the street, checking for anyone that’s following him.