It happens the same way every time. I’m dragged through the door and into my room. The door locks and I turn to hang my jacket on the rack. I turn back and there she is, sat happily upright in my bed, quilt pulled up around her newly exposed figure. This is when I flick the light off, and make my way toward the bed. Depending on how messy I’ve been throughout the week, I tend to trip and stagger past and over various objects as I approach the blankets, before tumbling onto them and rolling onto my back. It’s the point of no return now, I always suppose. Should I really do this anymore, I suppose some more. I do though. If I’m wearing a tie this is where I’m pulled up by it, generally into the lips but I’ve found myself in other places too. The blankets don’t often last long, and I find myself inspired by the dazzling moonlit skin. Soft — always — and generally a peachy white. What was once a question of various answers is now a hard and simple yes. The sun is rising soon, though it probably already was when we arrived.
The neighbourhood stood silently in the night, and a warning had been issued to those who could not evacuate informing them that for their own safety they must remain indoors. This had happened before, and in fact most families had plans for this sort of thing; however, something was different this time. The standard dispatch team had been mobilized, and would be on-site at any moment. The moon hovered sombrely above the rooftops, its light glistening about them like a cold ocean. The only sign of movement in the area was the Goliath hulking about in the darkness. It stood huge, and hunched over like a willowy man. It was easily a hundred feet tall, and had blackened skin across its entire, uncovered body. It was not a man though, and this was easily distinguished by not only its long, skeletal forearms and claws, but its horrific facial structure. The face of the beast was stretched and much longer than that of a human, and had no features, but simply deep, recessed pits where the eyes and nose would normally be. Its jaw was like a snake’s, hanging below the skull and periodically seeming to dislocate with each heaving, raspy breathe. The horrific sound was loud enough that it could be heard in the homes of everybody for several rooms — a sound nobody ever dared mention when it began to rhythmically echo throughout their hiding places. The beast was looking for victims, and it would have them, reaching down to pick up stragglers left on the street before dangling them above its head and relinquishing them into its outstretched, wretchedly fanged mouth.
The Orbs of Asarlaiocht — Act I
Basil trembled down the embankment of the rushing river, eager to complete the quest set for him by the Guardians of his village. This was his first real quest, in which he was actually required to slay a monster. His father and older brother had been in charge of such quests until recently, when they had failed to return from a particularly dangerous hunt involving a coven of witches. Basil was agile, but there were few in the village less clumsy, and he nearly slipped down the muddy edges of the water into the ripples more than once. Still, he continued on chirpily and with fleet of foot, knowing that he could finally find recognition as a Cosantóir, the fateful knights tasked with the protection of the village in its entirety. There were only five Cosantóir at any given time, and with the disappearances two spaces had opened. Although Basil had been greatly upset by the loss of his two closest male relatives, he knew that the best way to honour them was to continue and heartily quest for the sake of the village just as they did. His emerald green cloak dragged in the mud behind him as he dashed about over rocks and through the rushing stream, the hood he wore down as the peaceful rays of the sun happily danced about his mischievous brown hair. The once stunning silver greaves he wore to his knees, above tight, brown leggings, had also been dirtied by the raging water, and liquid was beginning to seep into them. The green tunic he wore had thankfully not yet been sullied terribly, and likewise his silver gauntlets remained clean. A good warrior knew to be protective of his armour, and was thankful in prayers that it did the loyal duty of preventing harm to his body.
A wisp of unintelligible sounds carried themselves throughout the night, stirring Salt in his murky sheets. He tossed and turned; every howl, siren, and lurch drawing him further from the boundaries of sleep. Paprika slept soundlessly next to him, pinning the already tightened sheets underneath her body as her graceful, blonde hair rested on the pillow next to Salt’s head, tendrils of her hair enveloping his face. Light from the old, flickering lamps of the unused train station across the street bled through cracks in their blinds, providing a soft, grey glow to the otherwise dark room. Shadows cast against the walls, creating an eerie set of silhouettes like a quivering shadow puppet performance. The wind alone howled through the tree branches and leaves that rustled and scratched against the window pane. The neighbourhood their house stood in was not a quiet one, things stirred about in the darkness with an unwavering ruckus almost every night, and while most people could seemingly sleep through it, Salt spent most nights restless. Nothing had ever happened to disrupt his sleep particularly, but the almost ethereal sounds could vary from reckless teenagers tagging on the train station platforms, to any manner of wild animal creaking in the night. Sirens from various emergency vehicles would blare past in the distance, and sometimes he might even hear an unexplained chatter from outside his window. He oftentimes wondered if maybe he stayed awake because he simply wanted the simple, mundane sounds to for once be something more interesting. Eventually, his stirring woke Paprika, and she rolled to face him.
Runaways — Chapter One
Taco scampered along wooden shelves, knocking bottles to the floor as she went. Desperately searching, she continued to scurry along the wall. None of the brightly coloured bottles contained what she was looking for, and she quickly grew frustrated, before hearing a sharp call from outside, ‘Taco!’
The march was unmistakable, they approached the buildings with a cold, careful pace, dressed in formal, grey tunics, adorned with golden epaulettes and always accompanied by a strange ticking and a terrifying cloud of black smog – they were The Engine. A faction which in a brutal war not long prior had trampled the longstanding Empire, and taken control of the entire country and its countless islands by force. They were relentless and unforgiving, each soldier was a formidable war-machine. They were manufactured from cogs and robotics, a strange amalgam of the traditional human soldier and a cold, uncaring machine. Dressed like people, the most apparent disparity was their infamous transparent head. A clear, glass-like plastic, window to the thousands of tiny, ticking cogs that gave the creatures life. There were no eyes, nor mouth or nose on this face, simply blank and expressionless besides the golden machinery of its innards. They were the calling card of The Engine – used to patrol cities and quell potential uprisings. One particular rebellion, though, had managed to slip through the cracks and garner enough support to be a threat. They called themselves The Resistance, and they were made up of some of the few surviving adults that existed. Most people of age to fight had perished in the war – it was why The Engine used machines, and it was why there was nobody left to fight them. The Resistance fought for peace, and wanted to take back their country and return rights to its citizens. They were hugely outnumbered, but human wit and tactility gave them enough of an advantage to hold out against the powerful steam-driven army of The Engine.
A Fantasy Tail
Blues and purples swirled together in the sky, rolling and flowing amongst each other like a wet, freshly crafted oil painting. Against this backdrop, brightly lit orange embers floated gracefully upwards from a fire where a party of brave adventurers warmed themselves.
Rays of sunlight leaked across the sky, dampening over the surface of a brilliant, sapphire-blue ocean. The warmth blurred the sandy palm-trees on the beach, and every single ripple seemed to sparkle with the intensity of a thousand diamonds. The waves caressed the edge of a huge island, spanning across its borders, the perfect silhouette — interrupted only by a single, dark-wood jetty reaching out into the water.
The sky fades from pink upwards to a vivid, empty blue; the emptiness only interrupted by a single aeroplane and its trail of feathery, white smoke. I sit alone on the cold, dark paving of the balcony, scrawling meaninglessly on pen and paper, perpetually reliving in my mind everything that had happened in the past year. Katherine, in particular – no, I told myself I wouldn’t do this. Yet no matter how much I try it haunts me. Harkens at me and attacks me with its vicious claws, sharp with vivid memories. And I suppose it should; it was my fault after all. Wait. That’s the kind of thing I tell myself not to say. That it’s my fault. That I should have stopped it when I had a chance. Yet stumble on I do and continuously repeat the sentences in my mind as if rehearsing some god-forsaken stage play. That’s why I’m here though. That’s why I sit alone and dreary at this table during what would otherwise be a mesmerizingly beautiful sunrise. No warm coffee to kindly ease my aching body into the day. No playful swallows darting around trees with such wondrous precision. As if the world itself has agreed with me and lulled into a painful, sombre silence.
There was an abandoned fairground in the distance, dark purples and greys meshed together in the hazy mist of twilight. The tents eerily swayed with the wind as the moon began to rise and what was left of the sunlight’s orange brilliance faded to pink and then purple and then black. The stars failed to appear that night, they left the moon to stand alone in the darkness of the midnight ocean that was an empty sky. Waves of grey clouds slowly ambled past, often detracting from what little light there was in the first place. And yet there stood the empty, purple cloth tent, swaying in the cold wind and begging for somebody to enter its open doors.