Day 219 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about finding an unknown substance.
Shannon: The smell inside the cave was so strong, I didn’t know if I could bear to go any farther, but I had to find the source. Though the smell was awful, it was original. I couldn’t pinpoint any item even remotely close to what it could be, and I was sure I could never replicate it.
After a long stretch I saw a glow ahead of me, and figured someone had already beat me to the discovery. Though I was disappoint, I wanted see what this person found. Maybe I could help them analyze it. When I got the room my plans changed.
The rock-like substances were glowing. The light wasn’t coming from a person. The cave ground looked as if it had collected a swarm of fallen stars. When I want to pick one up it, the rock repelled away as if my skin was magnet.
Erin: I walked into my last hotel room of the day. To say I was shocked would be a drastic understatement. The purple was everywhere. It was some sort of goo. The slim was not staining or soaking into the fabric though. I scanned my cart to make sure I had the proper tools for such a massive job. I scooped a little on my fingertip. When I put it to my nose there was no scent. I started to speculate but then recited the moto of the cleaning staff, “I’d rather not know.”
What is that, or what does your character think it is?
There was something wonderfully uplifting about being back home after a long time abroad, but there was no such enthusiasm for being home after living with your sister for a week. The sense of foreboding is, in fact, exacerbated when the reason you were away is because you had fire ants infesting every inch of your apartment, and you could already still feel the itchy phantom touch of deceased bugs. Of course, I was looking forward to getting away from Tracy and her over-zealous zest for acting which had permeated every moment of the last six days of my existence, but I sorely wished it was under more amiable circumstances. I was also very much relishing having my painting corner back, and seeing my roommates again; when you’re crammed so close together for so long you get separation anxiety when you’re apart.
I was the first to arrive home, or so I thought, since I walked through the front door not a minute sooner than the exterminator required. Taking the first few steps, I could already tell we’d need to burn more scented candles and incense than we collectively owned, but that could definitely be fixed in the coming months. Gently shutting the door behind me, I wandered over to the half-baked idea of a kitchen and tried the oven; it was off, which wasn’t that uncommon, so I made a mental note to check the circuit breaker. As I turned around the massive, paint-stained island, though, I stepped into something gooey that stuck immediately to the bottom of my converse.
Leaping back in surprise, I held onto the countertop as I squinting at the strange, gelatinous blob that was now stretching between my unfortunate shoe and the cement floor. It was a deep purple hue with a glistening sheen, and I could have sworn it moved as I stared at it irately, though that could have been the slight residue of fumes in the air. As I stood there examining my shoe, a thought occurred to me, which was mildly concerning, and very annoying, so I shouted into the empty apartment, “Hello?”
When a friendly, unmanly voice hollered back, “Hello!” I knew I wasn’t alone after all.
After a minute, I huffed and replied, “Jonas!?” This time, after a minute or two, a tall and lanky young man in baggy sweats and dreadlocks wandered out from the short hallway to the bedroom. Grinning stupidly at me, he ambled immediately to the purple goop and picked it up in his paint-stained fingers. “That stuff is yours? What the hell is it?” I asked, handing my shoe over sadly.
“Oh, yeah, totally, I don’t know what it is, but it likes to hang out here,” he answered vaguely as he cooed at the sticky stuff and took my shoe back to the bedroom.
Sighing deeply, I resisted the urge to retrieve my sneaker, having already said my mental goodbyes to it, and chose to busy myself with unpacking my clothes in the spare dresser. Though the apartment had only one bedroom, it was spacious, so the three guys I lived with shared it and I slept on the fold-out in the living room, which wasn’t so bad. I paid slightly less in rent and didn’t have to sleep in a dorm room, though I was now privy to any night visitors or snacking; it was a small price to pay to be away from my sister, as it turned out. If I’d had to spend a single second longer with her, I swear I’d be in jail right about now, and my current sleeping arrangement would seem like a distant dream.
By the time Two and V, whose real name no one knew even though he had to sign a lease at some point, arrived, Jonas had put away his goo, without telling me what it was or why he had it, and I’d gotten resettled in my place of refuge. The tiny, tinny speaker in the corner was blaring some kind of music that would have sounded fine if only we had some bass as I started on the next day’s lunches. Though it seemed a bit sexist, I was the only one who could cook anything more than a plain cheese sandwich, so meals generally fell on me or one of the numerous takeout establishments within the city.
“I swear, man, your sister is totally into me,” Two bellowed as they crossed the threshold and were stunned by the awful, leftover stench of dead bugs. “Whew, that is rank,” he breathed, his bulking figure almost touching the top of the doorframe. Working part-time at the mill had almost nullified his sense of smell, so you knew something was horrible when he noticed it.
With a high laugh that cut off in a small coughing fit, V read my mind, “Well, we can just burn some stuff and spray some paint to cover it up.” V had a lung problem, but he refused to give up his spectacular spray paint art, which had earned him city-wide infamy at the age of fourteen. Now, though, he mostly did pieces for a high-end art gallery on the north end, and wouldn’t be caught dead painting something for free on a building where just any old folks could see it; he was the only one who had a head for finances, which was what he did as a day job, so no one could fault his logic. Out of the four of us, he was the only one with friends outside the arts community, and his bank account had more than a month’s rent, so he was pretty well-off by our standards.
“Yeah, El, you wanna burn som’a that smelly junk you always got goin’ so we can start livin’ here again?” asked the gentle giant, resting a heavy hand on my shoulder.
Rolling my eyes, I sighed with fake exasperation, “Uh, I don’t know, you guys, I kinda like the horrible stench; it ain’t that bad.” I quickly cut up some veggies to make pasta sauce and threw them into a pot with some canned tomatoes before heading to my dresser on a search for the sweetest smelling incense I had. Behind me, the guys were chatting idly about how their time away from the apartment had been and bemoaned not being able to do much art without supplies or ample space. They’d both been staying with V’s sister in her luxurious penthouse apartment in the ritziest building in town, so they weren’t permitted to do any form of “messy art stuff,” as she put it, while they were staying with her. Surprisingly, they both agreed to that term, and instead continually texted me about how empty their lives were without art; I chose not to bore them by recounting my sister’s acting failures.
With three different incense sticks lit in different corners of the relatively open apartment, I continued with the pasta as I listened to the guys complaining. After a little while, all I could smell was bubbling tomatoes, lilac, roses, patchouli and sage; any one of those scents would likely have covered it, but it was better safe than sorry. V got up as I was timing the pasta and headed into the bedroom to put his stuff away, leaving me alone with Two.
“So, you were with yer big sis, Tracy, huh?” he asked slyly, pretending he didn’t know about our history while wanting to hear the dirt.
Smiling at him, I walked around the island and plucked a well-loved drawing book and a couple of pencils from the shelf, forcing Two to swivel around in the ultra-modern barstool. “Well,” I started, planting myself firmly in the comfortable corner of the couch, “Tracy was perfectly horrible as usual when I got there; she was having a pool party for the neighbours and I, of course, didn’t have a bathing suit.”
“Oooo, ouch,” he commented, attempting to snap his fingers.
With a chuckle, I started to freehand a cluster of random, curved lines on the fire blank page I came to and continued, “So she bought this hideous emerald, leafy number that would have just made me look so ridiculous, so I decided to outdo her.” On the other side of the room, Two was sitting on the edge of his seat with baited breath as I started to intertwine the lines on the page, drawing on some subconscious memory of an unknown moment. “And I really couldn’t think of what would be more humiliating than wearing this bathing suit, so, uh, I, uh,” I stuttered, finding it difficult to clear my throat enough to speak and sniggering echoed from the kitchen, “I, uh, decided to wear nothing at all.”
Bursting into raucous laughter that had him welling up, Two nearly fell off the chair at my expense, which earned him a well-timed lewd gesture. “But, you know, after that she realized that the only reason any of those people at her party were gonna remember her at all was because her little sister came to her party naked, “I continued when I figured Two might be listening, but he was just silently laughing now.
V and Jonas wandered out into the great room with matching puzzled looks on their faces just as the timer went off and I sprang off the couch in such a hurry my drawing utensils went flying. As I passed Two, I whispered in his ear, “I’ll do anything if you won’t tell them about the party,” and checked that the pasta was cooked before straining it.
“What was all the racket out here? Jonas was showing me his, er, his goo so I’m certainly glad of the excuse to come back out here,” spoke V in an irritated voice that mirrored my discontent with the purple goop on my shoe.
Two had regained his composure enough to speak, winking at me, and replied, “Oh, El was just tellin’ me ‘bout her uneventful week with her sis. It wasn’t tha’ interestin’, eh, El?” Again, Two winked, which I nodded at before scooping some of the meal into different containers.
“Really, nothing at all interesting happened?” V asked incredulously, putting the lids on the lunch containers and throwing them into the fridge, all the while glaring at the worst secret-keeper in the world, Two.
“I was down in the basement room and I found that goo,” added Jonas, who was staring hypnotically at a fractured shard of light resting on the countertop.
Everyone ignored Jonas’s explanation of where his goop came from and focused, instead, on my apparently uneventful week, so I cut the conversation short, “I don’t really wanna talk about my sister or about staying in our late mother’s house, thanks, guys.” Silence followed my harsh statement as I knew it would, and I headed back to my drawing, through the statues, quite content with myself. I picked up where I left off joining ribbons together to create the petals of some kind of flower in full bloom; I imagined it smelled sweet like orange, but with a slightly nutty undertone.
“El went to a pool party in the nude,” spewed a red-faced Two, promptly dissolving into another fit of laughter.
But by then the cat was out of the bag and two pairs of wide eyes were glued to my blushing cheeks. “Yes, fine, I went to her pool party with nothing on because she bought me a horrendous bathing suit that would have made me look like a bush. It meant nothing, and nothing happened other than she got really pissed, and then we kinda had a breakthrough in our relationship,” I explained shortly, muttering curses under my breath and wishing I’d done something to the tomato sauce. “Then we spent the remainder of the week finding all the acting classes she could possibly take and forging reviews of the plays she was in before so she can start her life as a struggling actress.”
No one was even paying attention to me because they were all still laughing their dumb asses off; I suppose that was a strange thing to do, but it made sense when I did it.
“Okay, Jacey,” Josh says slowly. The three are sitting in the basement with some snacks and a lot of awkwardness. “Before we can help you…”
“…Yeah?” She asks.
August decides to pick up, “Do you know how you got your powers?”
Jacey nods, “It was…” she thinks back as far as she can, “Umm… A year ago, I think? Maybe a little less.”
‘She’s had these powers for a year and still doesn’t have a handle on it?’ August wonders.
“Can you explain it?”
Jacey sighs, then reaches into her pocket. She brings out a lump of silver ore with glowing purple veins in the indents. It fits in her hand, with her fingers curling over the side. “I, uhh… found this in the park one day. There was a crater around it and I fell into the center. My hand touched it on impact and…” She sighs, “It stuck to my palm. I couldn’t separate from it. I went home like that, because I knew my uncle could help. But when I got there, it started to tingle, and the purple appeared.”
“And after that, you could shapeshift?” Josh asks.
“Yes. And the rock could be taken off,” Jacey states, “My veins glow purple on my hands when I change, too.”
“…Can other people hold the rock?” August asks.
“Yeah, go ahead,” Jacey states, handing the rock to him, “it hasn’t changed since then. It’s stuck with the purple. I had met people that found similar rocks. They call themselves the Kaplite Bonders…”
The boys look at her, “What?”
“Apparently, they had bonded to their rocks, gaining different abilities,” Jacey shrugs, “They said they would help me, but they only wanted to use me. Rick and Uncle Chris helped me run away, and only recently we arrived back in the city.”
August gives her the ore again, “So why do you still need help with your… skills?”