Day 169 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Keep a strong focus on confidence.
Erin: I’ve learned so many things over the past month, but in order to do that I had to learn one thing. I don’t know anything until I try. Pretending that I have nothing to lose or nothing to fear means I am given the opportunity to learn and helps me learn quickly.
Shannon: Confidence. They all say that’s what I need. They say it will turn everything around. Anybody can succeed as long as they have confidence in themselves.
I totally believe them, but I…I just…silly me, I keep asking where you find this miraculous trait. So, they give me the obvious answer that it’s within me. Then I go and search everywhere for this inner powerhouse, and it never appears.
I’ve started to think maybe this confidence thing is a gift, like being athletic or being able to sing. Maybe we think everyone has it, because they tell us we should. However, I think maybe…just maybe…it’s a gift, and those who have it are very lucky.
You can write today’s prompt!
A girl stood eyeing me warily from behind the frame, her dusty hair tangled and frizzy in the shadows cast by the streetlight. Keeping perfectly still, I took in the ragged, dull clothing that hung off her thin body and the anxious glint in her grey-green eyes. When I tilted my head slightly, she mirrored me, and when I took a few steps forward to touch the icy glass, her fingertips met mine perfectly. The room was still and silent as I, once again, admired my own reflection in my roommate’s full body mirror; it seemed a shame we couldn’t get along better, but that was the way when it came to consumers.
Just beginning to take out the plaits that ran down my back, there came a severe knock on the door, so I hastily tied my hair back up and swept to the entrance. Pulling the door open with a flourish, I nearly screamed out loud when I realised it was a tall man wrapped in struggling, writhing vines that appeared as delicate as thread but were, in fact, stronger than most trees. He simply stood there in my doorway with his blank face turning red, unable to breathe or move. For a minute I clasped my hands over my mouth and stared around into the otherwise-empty hall in search of someone, anyone, to help this poor man, but no one was there.
Suddenly breaking from the trance, I gently placed my fingers on the thorny plant and concentrated very hard on them unraveling, swirling to the ground and shriveling up. Though they were persistent, I persevered with my will and the spiny green creeper fell away in a pile of dried-up leaves and a substance that looked horribly like blood. With the suffocating plant gone, the student before me heaved an enormous sigh, swayed dangerously and held out a heavy letter with drops and smudges of his own blood. I stared into his unseeing, radioactive-yellow eyes when I touched the page with trembling fingers, but he didn’t flinch or shift his gaze as the letter left his possession. Instead, he turned on the spot as though pulled by some invisible force and marched down the stairs and was gone.
Humming nervously, I clutched the letter tightly and locked the dorm room door securely behind me. While the messenger of this horrible, sealed letter had been creepy enough, the old fashioned means of communication spoke of secrets to be kept and tales to be told. I was already in one secret society in the university and I certainly didn’t want the responsibility being in two would place on me already-weak shoulders.
So I placed the card on the desk and busied myself with watering my growing assemblage of plant species as I ignored the entire event. That didn’t stop my mind from wandering and contemplating, but it focused my concerns on my lovely plants for the moment.
That moment lasted about half an hour, during which time I’d decided I needed to bring both the letter and story of the strange visitor to the Mira, the head of the Dryad Society. After that was out of the way, my mind raced as it chose whether to open the letter before I gave it over, or allow Mira first rights to it. Part of my figured I simply hadn’t memorized the Dryad seal correctly and could chalk up the coloured wax being wrong to a shortage of blue, but the other was terribly concerned about the whole ordeal and figured it must be from another group. Students all over campus had taken ill after a party last week, and were now in all sorts of trances during classes, so perhaps this was just some prank being played on the freshmen.
I stood from the chair and took the bloodstained paper to my plants, looked them severely in the petal, and asked for their advice, “Okay, everyone, I need a second opinion and I can’t ask Anthony. Alright, no messing around. Should I bring this to the Dryad Society?” Glaring at them as though they were my only hope in solving the mystery, I watched the middle sunflower nod her golden head gently on an unseen breeze. When I smiled at them, stroking the stem of the sunflower, I continued, “Okay, great, now, should I open the letter before I bring it?” This time, the plants shivered at each other in the language I couldn’t understand before the flower bowed her head again; the plants had spoken. I gave them each an extra little bit of water before settling back into my sturdy chair to read the letter aloud.
We’re sure you are well aware of the strange goings-on of last week’s party and the effects it has had on a portion of the students. We can assure you that no harm shall come to you or your boyfriend so long as you accompany our group in a meeting on Friday at midnight. It would be ill-advised for you to ignore our request as we are well aware of your abilities, as proven by the not-deceased-corpse who delivered this letter. Please do join us; a letter shall arrive Friday morning, by usual methods, with further instructions.
I ran my trembling fingers over the moniker as I read through the letter over and over, letting the full extent of the words sink in. Whoever these people were, they knew who I was and what I could do; they had real proof. Clearly bringing up the yellow-eyed spell a good number of students were still under was a threat to scare me, and it worked. My breath came in painful bursts as I leaned against the desk for added support. Images flashed through my mind of the man who’d stood perfectly still, unable to breath, in my doorway, and I shivered. If their spell could do that to someone that strong, what could they do to a tiny, wimpy girl like me?
After this realization hit me, I immediately hopped out of my chair and grabbed my patchwork hoody from its hanger, throwing it over my head. But, after a glance at the mirror, I remembered about my messy braid needing to be redone before I could leave the room and started the long process of untangling the knots. In my head I knew this was just because I didn’t have the confidence to bring the letter forward, or ignore it completely, so I subconsciously wanted to hold onto the limbo between the two options for as long as possible. At the same time, though, I was powerless to stop myself from distractions that were at least partially valid.
As strands of stray and split hair fell around my feet, I thought about how the Dryad Society had brought me in and made me feel welcome and loved in a way I never had. Not that my family, or Anthony for that matter, weren’t warm and affectionate; they just couldn’t understand the real, special part of me the way these people did. Students with abilities were able to be themselves within the headquarters, and there were books to learn control and help us understand ourselves. On the other hand, I didn’t think any of those students would be able to fight off an army of people who literally did not care if they died in the fight. Some had abilities far beyond mine, but most of them couldn’t hurt a fly, let alone another human being.
When I was finally able to look the strange, gaunt girl in the eye again now that her hair wasn’t attempting to take over the entire frame, I picked up my backpack and crammed the letter gently between two thick textbooks, where it would be safe from prying eyes. I took an extra minute to think about how I would phrase the question, my face screwed up with effort.
But it was too late, I’d missed my opportunity; the knock came from the solid-panelled door again, thundering through my mind as though it were the only thing in the entire universe. I let out a high-pitched gasp and almost knocked over a lamp with fright. Deciding in the moment that I could have just imagined the horrifying noise, I inched backward so I was sitting on the very edge of the bed with only the comforter to really hold me up. With my breath as shallow as I could make it, watching the still shadows under the door, I waited for a sign that I was going crazy.
“Rosie?” he called, his sweet and rough voice filled my heart with happiness, followed swiftly with pain. “Rose, I can hear you in there. We were gonna go grab a bite after my class, and, well, I’m finished my class.” When he paused, he wrapped his knuckled gently on the door again, leaning in to the faux wood, “Come on, Rosie, what did I do? I know you get worried over nothing, but whatever I did, I’m sorry and can we please go eat; I’m starving.” Another pause and my heart couldn’t take it anymore.
Just as his shadow was shifting away, I cried, “Wait! Anthony, wait!” and swung the door open to his tall frame and worried eyes. “Sorry, I was just, uh, I was doing my hair. You know how it gets.” Beaming up into his ashen face, I turned around, flicked on the light switch, and began rifling through my bag again, throwing my cell and wallet into my purse. Fully intending to leave the letter in the backpack in case something happened while we were out, my fingers moved of their own accord and stuffed it into the side pocket anyway. Not wanting to arouse suspicion with my already-concerned boyfriend, I skipped back to him, linked arms, and slammed the door behind us.
It was the longest, most stressful dinner I’d ever been on with the seconds ticking by like years and Anthony glowering around at the world as though he could scare whatever had me in a mood away. After we’d eaten a hastily-ordered ice cream sundae for two, I had finally revealed my horrible migraine and the need to visit a friend’s dorm to pick up an ointment that worked. Anthony wanted to escort me, what with the crazy party fiasco and no one knowing when they’d strike next, but I waved him off, claiming that my friend was wary of strangers learning her secrets. And, after knowing my obsessions, he finally gave in. Parting ways at the entrance to the last dorm building, I waited until Anthony was out of earshot to head back toward the main building.
At this time in the evening, almost the entire campus was devoid of people out and about, though it was host to the occasional sleep-walker, who, for some inexplicable reason, were more prevalent on this campus than any other. Though I didn’t run into any of those, I kept my wits about me, prepared to explain away any questions that may come at me. Of course, that was just theory; if anyone pressed me for an answer to anything in the world, I’d probably tell them, to the best of my abilities. Silently cursing my father’s lack of a backbone, I finally arrived before the three-hundred-and-eighty-second classroom in the school and it’s rather boring door.
Knocking on the ninth panel and pulling the key from around my neck, I turned the lock four times, glancing over my shoulders for any signs of live. When none appeared, I shoved against the door and stepped across the threshold. Darkness enveloped me the instant I shut the door hurriedly behind me, lasting only a few heart-stopping seconds, before the torches flared to life and wound around the staircase. I set my feet shuffling forward as slowly as was possible, too terrified of what I was about to do to force myself to any great speed.
I could hear distant, quiet murmuring between a few people as I continued down; maybe I wasn’t the only one who received a letter after all and I wouldn’t have to speak up at all.
Nikki stares at the table covered in various piles of elements. She’s tried to use her new gloves, but they aren’t producing the right result. Rick is listening nearby, in case he needs to fix something. “Rick, I think these are broken,” Nikki states, turning to look at him.
Rick stands up from his work bench. He asks her to try again. Nikki does so, but produces sulfur, not zinc like she planned to. They hold their noses and turn on the labs filtration system. When they dare to breathe, Nikki asks, “Well?”
“The gloves aren’t broken, Nikki,” Rick assures.
“Then what am I doing wrong?”
“You need to have confidence, in the gloves, the numbers, and in yourself.”
Nikki puts the gloves back together, a bit of lead between them.
“Be confident in both the result and the reaction to get there,” Rick adds.
Nikki closes her eyes. She removes as much doubt as she can from the process, believing the gloves will work. The reaction goes off inside the gloves and zinc drops from her palm.