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Inside the Mushroom Circle
"You don't know how you got here... But the fairies have offered you some daisies and little cakes, so you might as well stick around, right?"
This place is strange. Fairies flit back and forth, none paying attention to you. You hear a child wailing in the distance, and a character cursing out some strange rock god in a language your ears struggle to comprehend. When you first stepped in the circle, some fairies came by and gave you a couple cakes and instructions on how to make a daisy crown. But now, they are gone, and you stand, terrified by the mess of people and strangeties around you. One of the fairies from before flits down and taps you on the nose. "You're here for the unholy writings?" she whispers. You nod, your breath catching in your throat. She smiles and flies a short distance away. There she stays, hovering, waiting for you. You follow her. Why not? There's nothing else to do here.
Credit to Hunterz~Wolf for all the aesthetic formatting! Make sure to check out her work, she is an amazing author. <3
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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The Gift of Hot Chocolate
Life at the Springfield Dorms, Dorm #66
Swords and Flames
The Gift of Hot Chocolate
Life at the Springfield Dorms, Dorm #66
Swords and Flames
Air crystallizes. Water bubbles.
Contradictions. Sensible in a world of madness.
Magma, ice, she marches across the Earth and comes to me.
I watch with trepidation, for I have long awaited this sight.
Her heart freezes
Her soul melts.
I take it all it in. It is the least, and most painful thing that I can do for her.
She comes to me. She is her own presence- she drifts across the world, bringing warmth to some, biting ice to others.
Feather light words.
Explosive bursts of feeling.
My mind cannot comprehend; ice is slippery, and fire cannot be grasped.
Kindness and honesty;
Can the two coexist together?
Not in the delicate heart that flutters in my chest, terrified and elated, crumbling under flame, shrivelling under ice.
The Cryomaniac is a heart in entirety.
I feel her. I grasp her.
And then she leaves.
I know she will not return, for as a person disregards an ant, a Cryomaniac may disregard a person.
But she returns and she brings with her a warmth that does not burn.
She always returns
I try and convince her to keep me.
I temper her ice with the quiet embers in my chest.
I temper her flames with the frost that ridges my heart..
But it can do nothing in face of her;
-the fire and ice still dance before me.
The Cryomaniac has too much soul to be tempered by one person.
I fear it sometimes. What she contains, all that I see when she approaches. Her notice brushes past herself. She believes herself to be like me.
Greenery, unfamiliar, unfolds in me. It’s a hateful feeling.
She can’t see the power she yields.
And then her flames burn it out
Black, familiar, unfolds in me.
Whence the ice melts, she loses herself.
She does not know what she is
She turns her fire in on herself, without her ice to temper her, and she scorches.
It’s all charred
It frightens me.
I leave my ice with her.
She leaves again.
I don’t think she’ll come back.
Yet the magma warms, and the ice cools, and she has returned to me, blazing bright, and flashing cold, and the Cryomaniac is back.
I love her.
I fear her.
But the worst part is;
The Cryomaniac is human.
Final Word Count: 1,153
“So you think I deserve to die.”
Adrik didn’t say anything. We both listened to the crackling of fire and the bubbling of milk on the log cabin’s stove. And I, secretly, heard more loudly than anything, the scratching of my fingernails against the vial in my pocket.
“You think I’ve done too much to be redeemed.”
“Are you angry at me, Isla?”
“You took everything from me,” I said softly. “My hope. My joy.”
“Yes. You took Kaden.”
Adrik had never been beautiful. In the flickering firelight, I could see the shadowed curves around the soft of his cheeks. The slight curve of his jaw, light, yet jutting. The strangled, surging boniness of his shoulders. A gangly childlike awkwardness, reminding me of the child he’d been long ago. Back when we’d attended St. Venti’s School for the Magically Gifted.
“Kaden made his choice. We’re to live with it now.”
“He wouldn’t have made that choice if he’d never met you.”
“I don’t think you-”
“The milk’s boiling.” My fingernails dug into the thick fabric of my armchair. “I’m getting it. You stay here.”
Adrik watched me go. That didn’t concern me. I’d never seen a thought go behind those empty eyes. Nothing Kaden should’ve cared about in there.
The kitchen was silent- the air was tight. My breaths were harsh and shaky. I couldn’t breathe. I collapsed on the counter, and closed my eyes.
I knew what Kaden wanted. I knew more than anyone. Why was I doing this? Why couldn’t I just accept that-?
The pot of milk was boiling over. I grabbed the handle, and yanked it onto the counter with a bang.
Hot milk sprayed over my hand. Searing, hot pain.
“Isla? You okay? Should I come in there?”
“I’m fine,” I sniped. “Sit down.”
I listened intently. He was settling back down again.
Of course Kaden would’ve wanted this.
My hold was solid this time as I stirred the cocoa in. Next, sugar, the powdery kind that Kaden and I had always hated. Adrik would no doubt love it.
I plucked the vial from my pocket.
This was for Kaden and I. Our love.
I returned to the main room.
Adrik was sitting up in his chair, leaning across the rug, staring straight into the fire. Tears glistened in his eyes.
His head snapped around. He stared at me for a long moment, then gave a nod, slumping backwards, and releasing a heavy breath.
I passed him his mug and took my own.
The two of us sat, staring into the fire. I wondered what went through his mind. If guilt still tread its thick heavy paws through there. That was what fire was to me. Did he feel that? Did he recall that day when tears and smoke choked lungs, vine-like tendrils of smoke wrapping around, strangling? Was that what fire was to him? Or did he simply see power? The power that’d coursed Kaden’s veins, enabling him to send a single room aflame in the blink of an eye?
I decided he had forgotten both, because he was easier to hate that way.
My hands were trembling as I brought my mug up to my lips. He followed suit.
How ironic this was. There we both sat, rings around our fingers, thinking of the same man, long dead. Hot chocolate simmering in hand.
Only I knew that one of those hot chocolates had something more.
“Do you feel guilty?” I set my mug down. I had to know first.
Adrik didn’t. His mug hovered by his chest. He didn’t even look at me. “Should I?” His eyes glistened. Watery or full of tears? Would it change things? Would I feel guilt? Was I still capable of feeling it towards the person who’d snuffed out Kaden’s light in favour of his own? Was I overthinking everything?
“He died for you.”
“He died for himself. He made his choice.” Adrik put his mug next to mine. “I couldn’t have changed a thing if I tried. You were both more powerful than me.”
“And yet,” I said quietly. “You were the only one who was there to save him.”
Adrik flinched. “He invited me. I didn’t tell him to take me there alone.” He wrapped his blanket tighter around himself.
Chills. The first symptom.
“We’ll never get over his death, will we?”
“Isn’t that the whole reason we’re together? Because of him?” Adrik reached for his mug again.
“Hold on,” I said quietly. I took the mug myself, and stared into the warm, chocolate surface. My throat felt dry.
That would be his second symptom.
I raised it and poured the rest down into my throat. It crawled down, miniature prickles of heat running through my neck. He raised his eyebrows at me. “I didn’t think you wanted to kiss me so badly.”
I choked on the hot chocolate, and coughed for what must’ve been half a minute. I wiped my mouth and rolled my eyes at him. “You were the one who proposed to me,” I said. “I’d assume romantic feelings on your part. Though I suppose we’d both know better than that.”
“Alas, Kaden’s ability to bring everyone together persists after death. Curse of those purple eyes.” Adrik’s teeth began chattering. Third symptom. “It’s c-cold in here.”
I was feeling cold too. “So, you thought he was beautiful too?”
Adrik started laughing.
“Oh?” I asked.
“No,” he said, smile vanishing in an instant. “I thought he was the ugliest person I ever met. And the worst soul. I didn’t even want him around me in the beginning. I loved Jennifer.”
“You loved Jennifer,” I echoed. “And yet you chose him?”
“He loved me. So I found I could love him.”
What a revelation. The person I had hated for so long- who I had imitated in the mirror, searching for a single thing that could attract Kaden to him- didn’t even bother to return Kaden’s feelings.
Something about the tininess of the person in that soul- the terror in that tall frame- had that attracted Kaden? Someone weak, someone who could follow him?
Was he just as awful as I?
Never wanting a match, just wanting to win?
I started laughing. I was glad I drank Adrik’s hot chocolate.
I would die with him, and neither of us would die, loving Kaden. We were both failures- and we would know that as the light slipped away.
No hope in our eyes. No smile playing on our lips. No thought of purple or this horrible circle of unrequited love that had only ended in more and more death.
Adrik’s hand landed on my own. My laughter cut off.
“Let’s die together, Isla,” he said quietly.
So he knew. I really had become just like him. Thank god we would die, before we were happy together, like that bastard Kaden had wanted.
Final Word Count: 676
“Heyyyy, Luther!” Neil called. He swung around the open door. “Your mom’s outside! She wants to see you.”
“Tell her I’m not home,” Luther said, not looking up from his textbook.
“Hey, Luther’s mom!” Neil yelled. “Luther says he’s not home!”
“Oh, go drown,” Luther grumbled. Neil shot him a grin. Luther got up, dog-earing his page. Thank god he owned it.
Which he owed to his mom. So he better go talk to her.
Okay, so, screw him for taking money from his mom. But student loans were expensive. He could handle a little socialization. Especially if he was to get out of this dorm. He needed her good favour.
This is my only chance. His hand curled into a fist by his side.
She was waiting in the car.
“Your roommate seems nice.” She turned at the intersection.
“Oh, yeah. I guess, if you look at it a certain way.”
He closed his eyes, counting to ten, not letting himself breathe.
“I’m glad. I trust you to choose your friends wisely.” She paused. “Damned fool! Can none of the people here drive? Oh, what was I saying- ah, yes, your roommate. I’m glad that you’ve found a friend you can trust.”
He breathed out. The whole world came into focus. “Yeah. Thanks mom.”
She smiled at him. “How about we go for ice cream?”
“I’ll see you later, Luthie! Have a good night!”
“See you, Mom!”
This was just Luther’s evening. The end of a day, with just a bit too much money on himself. A pocket devoid of that awful coin jangling. And a cone of ice cream, two extra scoops and strawberry sauce slathered all over.
He sighed dreamily. He had been away from his dorm all day. The thought brought something uneasy up.
He was making his way through the dusty square, enjoying the silence that you only got after rush. Everyone was home, now. Not enjoying a night out, nor coming home from work. He was alone, and the setting sun cast an orange glow onto the landscape.
Everything seemed to be bursting with colour at the end of the day. Even himself, though he pained to admit it. He felt happy for the first time in months.
He went into the alley and froze. A still lump was beside the dumpster.
Of course, Springberry Dorms were where things would go wrong.
“Hey!” he chirped. Act friendly. If no one’s here, it’s fine. If they’re dead, it doesn’t-
Oh god oh god oh god-
He stumbled away from the corpse, his pulse thudding in his throat. He had to- The police!
No. His phone was shattered on the ground. It’d fallen from his back pocket. He collapsed to the ground, staring at the dead face of Priya Knight.
He half-reached to her face. Some strange choking sound was coming from his throat-
Then everything was quiet. Everything was still.
That was Neil’s knife. He’d shown Luther the previous day. The same day he’d been swearing about Priya, saying he would cut her smug face to bits.
Neil would be arrested. He wasn’t smart enough. There were fingerprints all over Priya’s body, no doubt.
Everything would be fine. Luther would be safe from him forever. He would never have to try and tell his mom again. He’d never have to hide in his room, praying he wouldn’t be next.
He would’ve been safe. But that night, he moved her body to the Shafer’s graveyard. He buried her by the back. She wouldn’t be found there.
And the next day, when Neil approached him, all smiles, Luther smiled back.
I don’t want anything to change. He thought. Maybe he would be arrested. It was an awful thought. His whole life, fighting to the top. Lost. But that was better than Neil’s future being thrown away.
A life for a life- he’d trade his own however many times it took to repent.
Please, Mom. Come back. I don’t know how much longer I can keep making this decision.
Swords and Flames [DRABBLE]
When Kowai pictures herself and Niwa, that is the visual.
The sword strikes down the flames. Keeps them in place. The flame feels each collision and embraces it, loving it.
You’re here for me, you still stay with me.
And then it starts to drip.
In her mind’s eye, the sword melts to nothing.
The flame climbs higher, and higher.
And burns everything out.
And then Kowai stops.
Since the sword rests in her palms. And she refuses to imagine that ending.
Surely if she just keeps trying, keeps climbing, she can find her happy one?
Just An Empty Memory
Somebody once said “hell was other people”. It got quoted a lot- Kubo wasn’t sure of the context of it all. He was an investigator, not a literary analyist. But somehow, as he sat, staring at the pictures of a dozen dead kids, Kubo heard those words echoing in the back of his head.
“Hey, Kubo…” Miyako’s hand came to rest on his shoulder. He ignored it, continuing to stare ahead- memorizing each and every feature he could collect and hold close to his heart. “The car’s waiting. I think Mei’s about ready to kill you herself. Killing Game or not.”
Kubo nodded. “Tell her to go on ahead. I’ll call a taxi.”
“Dammit, Kubo!” She seized him by the shoulder and spun him around. She pressed him into the chair, glaring deep into his eyes. “Do you think this is what he died for? So you can sit around, staring at pictures of ten dead people?”
“Twelve,” he corrected. “Twelve dead people. Eleven and Lucian.”
“Eleven dead people and the single man you’re destroying yourself for. Come on, Kubo. You can’t just stare at pictures all day. I- I-” Tears came to her eyes. “Don’t you think I miss them? Don’t you think Shi’s death hurt me? What the hell are you doing, Kubo? Why can’t you just… just…”
She released him.
“Just let me know when you’re ready, okay?” she whispered.
Miyako left, and Kubo turned back to stare at the picture of Lucian.
I’ll never be ready. he recognized.
Because, after all, hell was other people.
And his people all sat on a table in front of him, reduced to a pile of pictures that could never cry or have a bad hair day. Just a bunch of random faces in pretty perfect photos. Just a dozen dead kids and a single one sitting in front of them, wishing he were dead too.
Just a dozen dead kids…
And a thousand empty memories.