Day 183 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write a creature experiencing new terrain.
Erin: I thought my eight tentacles on land would make me strong. Many more legs than most land creatures. However, all I could do was crawl, and think about the next time I would encounter water. I was strongest in the water, and that fact made me feel all the weaker.
Shannon: All I knew was this place was too dry. There was too much sand and not enough water and my amphibian skin was drying out. Whoever put me here wanted me dead.
This is not where your character belongs.
After Sally left me with way too much to think about, I was determined to undermine whatever plan I’d almost been an unwilling witness to. The White Rose Society couldn’t win, not after the hell they’d put all of us through; and certainly not after Cari. Whatever ritual they were planning wasn’t going to go as planned, if I had anything to do with it, and they were going to wish they’d never crossed any of us. Of course, Sally hadn’t told me any more about the spell’s components than I’d already deduced, but there were ways to extract information from reliable sources. I definitely needed more info if I was going to spoil their fun.
As dawn crept ever nearer on a gloomy Wednesday, I lie awake after fitful dreams in which I was forever running from Mira and her army of yellow-eyed zombies. Whenever I tried to use my powers on the mob and hit someone, they screamed and cried as though they were real, cursing me for their deaths; suffice it to say, I was up for hours after I woke in a cold sweat. There was something melancholy about the way the sun rose on this island with its rays obscured by rain-laden clouds and moon-hued glow that made you imagine the sun never rose at all. I watched as the clouds gradually lighten until the tower’s clock chimed quietly at six, the lights across the school’s main building automatically turning on in an odd pattern.
Dressing silently in a fuzzy stupor of exhaustion and an ever-present cloud of misery, I managed to get my jeans on the right way, slip my Gaslight Anthem t-shirt over my mass of tangled hair and find an oversized hoody to stave off the frost-bitten cold that was leaking through my window like floodwater. Without even turning my light on, instead relying on the tragically blue-hued lamp outside to see by, I found my tire bag and slipped a fresh notepad with both lined and blank pages. If I was stuck anywhere for any amount of time, I could work idly on the backdrop design for the theatre production or write out my will, if that suited my fancy.
I wished goodbye to my room, as I’d taken to doing lately with a morbid sense of contentedness, and meandered down the hallway. Everyone was still asleep in their beds or too tired to leave their rooms, so I pretty well had the place to myself. Here and there, muted conversations filtered through the cracks in the doors, but for the most part, the silence pressed in. When I made it to the front doors, I stood watching the mist rolling past through the glass and had to will myself to step outside; I knew I needed to go out there, but part of me just wanted to go back to sleep. To dream of zombies and yellow turtles seemed easier than stalking one of the Dryad members.
When I finally stepped out into the damp quasi-morning, I was surprised to find it actually raining; I didn’t have an umbrella and I tended to avoid large bodies of water when I was too tired to keep a close eye on my powers. Sighing loudly into the downpour, I stood under the awning for a few minutes deciding if I would chance an electrical accident or not as I watched a woman running along the path with headphones and less clothing that I imagined anyone would be wearing in this weather. After a deep breath, I hustled out from under cover and was almost immediately soaked through to the bone in the high humidity, clutching my bag to my chest to protect everything inside it. Though I knew my choice in accessories was good for this weather, considering it was made from recycled tires, I wasn’t taking any chances with my most valuable possessions within its folds.
I rushed to walk under the towering trees dotted along the trail, running through damp grass to keep as dry as was possible. But by the time I was standing at the top of the marble steps, I could feel my sneakers squishing with water and my hair was dribbling rain down my back. Shivering at the doors as I wrung out my shirt, hair and hoody, I glanced out across the empty fields as sheets of rain and torrents of wind made their way through.
Just inside the door, I attempted to wipe my rubber-soled shoes off, but decided to chance taking them off for fear of trailing water all over the office. Instead, I tiptoed through the door into the student affairs office, ignoring all the dusty hangings that filled up the otherwise lofty hallway. I stood before the desk, the secretary rolling her eyes at the phone nestled between her shoulder and ear, and glanced around the dark-paneled office space with the same bored expression. With an average beauty to her almond-shaped face and thin lips, she appeared to be only a little older than most of the students here, though she could have passed as a senior any day.
Nodding and humming in agreement with whoever was on the other end of her call, she finally gasped, “Yes, I will. Great. Goodbye.” With an exasperated sigh, she almost slammed the phone down on the received, held up her finger before I could comment and made a quick note on her computer. Fingers flying across the keyboard, she was deep in thought for twenty seconds or so before she turned cheerful and laughed, “I swear, that was a half hour of me listening to the same thing over and over, with about,” as she spoke, she checked the computer for accuracy of barb, “three lines, yeah, three, of actual information. It’s just never easy, is it?” Though it was a rhetorical question, I suppose I could have responded. “Wha’di’ja need, dear?” she asked in an automatic, slurred tone.
I mirrored her subtle smile as best I could before asking in a shaky voice, “Uh, I need to know where Elsa, the student, welcome person is?” Halfway through the sentence I realized that I didn’t actually know what they were called, though they were always there.
After a moment of puzzlement where she was clearly attempting to recall any and all students by name of Elsa, her face suddenly lit up and she replied, “Oh, you mean the ambassador? Sure thing, hon, when did ya’ wanna see her?” Staring at me were dark eyes rimmed with small oval glasses that were perched on the end of her nose to read with.
“Oh, uh, whenever possible, I guess?” I hadn’t been prepared to say what or when or where I wanted to meet with her, lest the secretary were somehow under Mira’s spell, and I felt my blood pressure go up a bit.
“Great,” she spoke breathlessly, her hands typing something into the computer at lightning speed as her eyes scrolled across the page. “She’s in the library helping put books back until seven, so if you hurry you’ll see her there. Otherwise she’s got a pretty full curricular schedule so she’s pretty hard to pin down, I’m afraid.” Her chipper, first-thing-in-the-morning attitude was wearing thin on me and I could already feel the unchecked electricity flitting across my rings, so I bid her goodbye and raced back to my custom footwear. Slipping my soaking socks back into the shoes, I squelched my way back down the stairs and toward the next building.
When I was leaning against the wall just inside the library, eyeing the deathly pale hair of my mark, it was almost seven o’clock and other students were beginning to straggle in searching for knowledge and quiet. Elsa flitted gracefully across the room as though she was a ballerina gliding across a stage to the applause of an entire theatre, even though she was dancing with books older than she was. After a few minutes the tower struck seven and let out a low, thundering chime to mark the hour, releasing Elsa from her duty. As she turned to leave, having pushed the cart back behind the counter, bid goodbye to the librarian and gathered her bag, she noticed me slouching near the entrance.
In an instant she was whispering to follow behind her, but not too close, before she was through the sliding doors and halfway across the courtyard. Though I longed to return to my dorm room and change shoes, I hurried behind her while slogging through a few inches of stagnant rainwater. On occasion it rained so much that the storm drains backed up, even at the top of the island at the university, and flooded lower parts of the town. Growling at the sogginess, I shook out my twice-soaked hair as soon as we were back under the cover of one of the sprawling buildings.
Elsa practically sprinted down corridors, went around the gym twice, lost me for an entire lap of the second floor and finally paused in front of a door that exuded white-hot electric energy. Latching onto a wall just down from where she was working some kind of magick, I took out my phone and pretended to be in a heated argument with someone as a couple small groups of students wandered by. They glanced awkwardly at me as I shrieked into the receiver and tears stung my eyes, but they hurried away in embarrassment as Elsa got the door open. Ushering me toward her, she peered about nervously before shutting the door behind us.
I don’t know what I’d been expecting their headquarters to be, but a dank brick staircase lit only by medieval torches wasn’t what I had in mind. When I came to a standstill for a moment admiring the protective etching on one of the torches, Elsa pushed past me with a huff and went flying down the staircase with her damp raincoat floating out behind her like a lazy ghost. Shaking my head, I followed carefully, as the stairs appeared slick from the water members were trailing with them. It only took a minute before I rounded the corner and the steps let out into a cozy traditional drawing room with a roaring fireplace at the heart. Everyone in the room, in slight groups, was deep in conversation as I entered and didn’t seem to notice an interloper in their midst, though I might not have been the only one.
After a few minutes of awkwardly hanging out around the edge and sidling so I was standing before the warm fire, Elsa returned with a heavy welding jacket on over her school clothing. “Grace, I need you in the next room,” she called over the din, motioning for me to follow her. Leaving my shoes beside the fire to dry out, though I was loath to leave my grounding material that far away, I tailed her as she went through the doorway to the left and into the first door on the right.
Inside, the room turned out to be a solid, metallic-walled space likely sixty feet by sixty, which wouldn’t have worked with all the rooms beside it, and at least twenty feet tall. Elsa stood alone in the center with a frayed, old tome in her pale fingers and a pair of rubber galoshes that went up to her knees as though she were a child. “Shut the door, please,” she shouted in the cavernous room, her voice echoing and splitting and converging to create a terrible symphony of sound.
As I shut the door, several inches of solid metal, I became mildly concerned about my involvement in whatever this was; all I’d really wanted was some information on how to screw with Mira’s plans the best. “So, Elsa, I just wanted to ask how I could help to ruin their plans. I didn’t really mean to be experimenting with, well, with whatever this is.” I called as I slipped and slid across the smooth metal floor in my socks.
There was a pause before Elsa responded in a calm voice, “Yeah, their plan is already ruined for this year, but next year they’ll try again unless we can dissuade them. This,” she gestured around the enormous room, “is how we’re going to do that. You’re going to summon a creature of pure electricity to kill Mira.” I swear the only word that echoed this time was, “kill,” and it was chanted a million times by unseen voices as viciously and angrily as it could be said. Certainly, I wanted to stop them from harming anyone else, but I didn’t want to be the one to take that step, and Elsa clearly read that expression on my face. “You’re not an official member of the Dryad Society; it’s in our code that no member can harm or kill anyone. It’s a binding spell that’s basically just to catch any accidental magick that happens, but it’s also stopping us from doing anything intentional to them. But you can.”
Silence stretched on painfully in the metal room as I considered these words and digested what they meant for me. They wanted to use me as a means to an end, but I suppose I was attempting to use them for their information, so it was a trade, right? Part of me wanted revenge too much to care why I was being given this opportunity, while the other part was standing on the very principle of wanting all the blame to be squarely on my own shoulders. I knew I was going to do it, but there was electricity tingling on my skin from the anticipation.
“Of course I will. I want her to pay for what she’s done. I was here last year; I know everything that has happened because of her, and if she’s gone, they can’t go through with anything. They need her.” I spoke as though I were on autopilot, my brain running through everything I knew the witch had done. Before me, Elsa was holding out the book with a strained expression. When I lifted it from her hands, she immediately fixed a pair of goggles to her eyes and stepped back until she was several yards away from me, giving a tentative thumbs-up.
I read through the spell with sticky notes all over it explaining what each line meant, though that wasn’t entirely necessary, a few times in my head until the words felt natural when my lips formed them. Carefully laying the book at my feet, I closed my eyes to clear my head of anything other than the thought of creating a creature of electricity and breathed in the tangy metallic taste the room gave off. Shouting the Latin words into the very particles in the air, I concentrated on the space between my hands as the electricity I’d been holding in since I woke up burst forth and became a solid mass before me. It hovered, partially-formed before my eyes as I chanted the words over and over, willing it to solidify.
After what felt like an hour of controlling the energy and forcing it to change itself, it fell to the floor with a hollow clang and lay there with its outer layers twitching dangerously. I stared down at the book, squinting at the words and read a sentence that sent a pang of relief through me. With pursed lips, I shouted at it, “Sit up!” and concentrated even harder on the mass. To my immense surprise, it rolled over obediently and slinked into a dog-like form to sit up. Though it didn’t look like an animal, that’s how it seemed to move; as though it were a creature than normally resided within the wiring and was now being recreated out of real matter. “Stand like a spider!” I laughed, shifting my weight as it warped itself into a ball and spread out eight wobbling legs of pure energy that vibrated and crackled loudly.
Elsa was suddenly beside me, placing a delicate hand on my trembling shoulder. “Great job,” she cooed, eyeing the creature with interest and a tinge of concern. “Now you can lead it to Mira and have it destroy her.” When she changed the wording, I could almost wrap my head around it; I was only going to destroy her, not kill her. Nodding silently, I glanced at the creature as Elsa realized I may not be able to control the creature if I was wandering the crowded halls with it. With a sigh, she suggested in a bored tone, “How about you let it turn back into energy and I’ll tell you where Mira will be and when? Sound good?”
I sat at the edge of my bed, soaking shoes sitting in a corner by the door with a dark puddle seeping through the old carpeting around them, in my heavy rubber-soled boots. Tapping nervously on my knee, I stood and checked the clock tower again before heading off through the dorm building and out into the pitch night. Midnight had come and gone without so much as a text from Elsa, which was the plan; I was to go to Mira’s meeting place at two am unless I heard otherwise. Without my bag, the night seemed foreboding and cold, but I crept through the night without meeting a single soul. Along the path and into the woods, I followed Elsa’s instructions to the tee, unwilling to end up at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
When I was just a few feet from their meeting place and could see Mira, Brennan and a couple other students huddled around a small fire pit, I revisited the spell in my mind. I’d already decided what I wanted it to form, and the grimoire stated I’d simply need to think of that shape as I cast the spell; the energy would do the rest. Nervously, I listened in to their benign conversation regarding classes, before relaxing myself to cast.
As the energy left my fingertips I could feel the creature struggling to break free of my control, straining against the dimensions I was giving it in my mind. I couldn’t concentrate on the spell and mind the group I was attacking, so I didn’t know if they saw me at the point or not. My entire mind was devoted to creating a massive, electricity-breathing dragon out of thin air. Calling forth the otherwise dormant electricity, it took on a nearly physical mass and floated high above the group of shouting students, forming its wings as it flew. The dragon’s electric, clawed feet danged below as it roared in a high-pitched, synthetic tone that reverberated through the still night air.
Below her, Mira had noticed me and was concocting an evil plan behind her wickedly deep black hole eyes, whispering to Brennan. Barking at the yellow-eyed students, who were cowering beside a bench, Mira had them stand at a shield before Brennan and her. For one horrible minute I was about to let the dragon unleash a heart-shattering volt of electricity, but I stopped her short when I realized I would only be killing their minions. Dreams of zombies and horrible shrieks came flooding through my mind, forcing my concentration to falter.
As the dragon dipped dangerously above their heads, Mira shouted something at one of the other students and something hit me dead in the chest. I knew a jolt of electricity when I felt it and when the second one came, I couldn’t keep hold of the whispers of consciousness.
Heather insisted on having Sammy in her room instead of the kitchen. Her mother kept the set up downstairs, but helped Heather put a similar arrangement in her bedroom. When Sammy was brought inside, he wanted to wriggle out of Heather’s grip and look at everything. But she walked up the stairs with him and only set him down when her door was closed.
Sammy looked around, yipping playfully. Heather sits on the carpet with him. He’s only next to her for a moment, because then he’s halfway across the room, trying to climb onto her bed. Heather picks him up, and sits on the edge with him in her lap. The puppy licks at her chin. Heather manages a giggle, her mouth tilted upwards in a small smile.
When Heather finally lets him go, she places him in the fenced in area of the corner of the room. Sammy wanders over the newspaper as Heather watches for a moment, before going downstairs for lunch. He finds a bed, water and food bowls, and that there is a tarp under the newspaper. He looks up over the fence at his new home.
Heather can hear him yipping from the kitchen.