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  1. Cia

    Chapter 49

    There wasn’t a sound or movement to indicate how upset Garjah was at Lenveval’s statement, but just like he always knew when I needed him, I knew he needed me. Sloval shouted when Bouncer leapt on the table and then off on to our side. We both pressed against Garjah from either side. Bouncer put his head on Garjah’s lap, and I put one hand on his head, then used another to squeeze the rigid muscles holding Garjah’s frozen body in place. Gently, I turned cupped his cheek on the far side. He resisted for a moment, then reluctantly turned his head to meet my gaze. Fear dominated those eyes, flaring nostrils, and nearly invisible lips pressed so hard together they were colorless. I hated seeing it on him just as much as he hated seeing it on me. I’d had thoughts of going back, to the what ifs of working for the Institute like I’d always planned, to… stars swallow it. That life was gone, and I didn’t really regret it. Not if it got me this being by my side. I stroked Bouncer. Both of them. “You know that’s not what I want.” If it was, I wouldn’t have been such a mess worrying about them breaking our bond. “Before you thought they might kill you or not let you leave. He just said you could go back to your life.” “Did you forget I study biology? Advanced as you are, I don’t think this is something that can be fixed.” I waggled my fourth hand I’d had resting on my thigh. I wasn’t quite sure how I could make all four hands do independent tasks. Huh. I’d never thought about that before. Humans struggled with that, but since I’d woken up with four arms, I didn’t seem to have the same limitation. Something to take notes on would really be handy. I sighed. “If you guys trust me now, can I get a device I can access data on and use for notes? I keep thinking of new things I want to research.” “That’s it?” Mereval asked. “A simple no thank you to changing you back and going home, and can you have access to ways to research?” She exchanged a look with her fellow Kardoval. “What about your family? Humans live in close groups.” “I didn’t say no thank you. I just don’t see how it’s possible. And I don’t want that, even if it was.” I shrugged one shoulder. “My parents are busy people. They expected me to go out and live my life. That’s what I’m doing.” I smiled at Garjah. Sloval, his upper arms crossed over his chest and lower arms gripping the table, was staring at Bouncer. “You’re not mad at Garjah?” “No, why?” “He could have judged you safe before you were injured. He did not.” Sloval didn’t blink often enough, and the twist to his lips made his stare antagonistic. Bouncer looked up and lifted his own lip, showing off sharp fangs. Sloval paled. “What’s he doing?” “Right now he’s comforting Garjah because he felt how upset he was, just like I did. But when you stare at him like that, it upsets him. Maybe knock it off.” I broke off when Garjah placed one hand on my thigh, pressing down. Yeah, yeah, leaders of their people, should be respectful. They hadn’t seemed very leader-like since we’d come in and Sloval could benefit from a lesson in manners himself. “I believed my exosuit was unbreachable as well. I’d have died if I’d touched that plant while I was on my own.” Besides…. “Could have is not what is. We face what is. We move on.” A lesson I’d learned early from my parents. Maybe they had taught me more than I knew. I’d always planned to be a biologist, and I’d thought that first contact didn’t interest me, but between them and Bouncer, I had all sorts of research to do. “One day, I hope to help introduce Four Arms to the rest of the galactic, anyway. I’ll be famous.” “Four Arms?” Lenveval’s face was doing unbecoming things. All the Kardoval stared at me. Garjah sighed. He knew what was coming. “It’s pretty descriptive, don’t you think?” I waved all four arms, wiggling my fingers around. “And handy, too.” He slumped in his chair. “What?” I said. “I’ve told you before, we call ourselves—” “Meh, that’s boring. Mine is better.” Okay, I totally knew their racial name was Neejah’al… and interesting. Neechay’al, Kardoval, Mereval… al, all? And what place did jah have in there? Or did it mean anything since it wasn’t at the end? These guys had racial memories, locking them into a role. I turned to Garjah. “You said they needed to be sure I was safe and test our bond.” It was sounding more and more like that had been the barest hint of the truth. “They can see the bond, just as they can see how all Neejah’al connect to the whole. They can understand the path a youth will take, if they do not know it. That is how they guide our society.” “But I’m a break in the system. A divergent path in the normal connections.” I cocked my head. “Has no one really ever experienced what Garjah and I have before?” “No one,” Mereval said. “But we think it may have something to do with the planet where you met. It was new to us, just as it was to you since you were the first in your sector to approach it. We have never encountered an alien race there before.” “But what could it be? Timok ran tests.” “He did?” “I might have sneezed on Garjah. In his face.” My face heated at the memory.
  2. I always found it interesting that he was trying to destroy Harry, yet he held a piece of Voldemort's own soul. If he recognized the other horcruxes, don't you think it would make sense he'd recognize that when he saw Harry? That was a huge hole, IMO.
  3. Well, this month was a little different with an anthology of sorts by a single author, giving you the chance to pick and choose among the stories if you weren't up to reading all of them. Make sure you share your thoughts in the comments below, but first, enjoy this interview where Drew spills all (including what story he cameos in... can you guess which one before you read it?) Do you eat your fruits and vegetables? Yes, I try to get my five portions a day. What’s a good meal without vegetables? What’s one location you’d love to go to research for a story? Paris or Berlin, because both are amazing cities with so much in them that inspires my imagination. They are cities that have such varied neighbourhoods. But with all the travel restrictions, I’ll choose the British Library because I can research whatever I want there, and their café is nice. What’s something personal about you people might be surprised to know? I have a model railway. What’s the best part of being an author? I can explore the themes and issues that are important to me, but emotionally nothing compares to when something I write touches/moves a reader What’s the greatest challenge of being an author? Not enough time. I have so many ideas and not enough time to write them. After that is the challenge of promoting my own writing. GA has given me a great platform to find readers but I’ve recently self-published a collection of stories and promoting it, so I can find readers for it, is such hard work. If you could give advice to yourself when you first started writing, what would it be? Recently I have been re-reading stories I wrote back in my twenties. Some are good, some are okay and some are plain awful. I would tell my younger self to write about the things that were happening around me (They were certainly interesting times), the things that were happening to you, rather than my wish fulfilment over what I wanted to happen. I would tell myself to stop over-writing and learn to type. I would also tell myself to have confidence in my writing and to send it out to publishers and magazines (I didn’t start doing that until well into my thirties). And lastly, I’d say to join a writing group because honest feedback can really benefit my writing, and meeting with other writers is so helpful. What’s your favorite story in Stories Written on Lined Paper? Out of the Valley. This story is based (Though very loosely based) on the breakup with my first boyfriend. I took a painful experience and worked through it by writing about it. It was one of the first stories I wrote about being gay. I came back to it twenties years after writing it and did a big rewrite to it, especially changing the ending. But I kept the central character and the structure of it. It showed me that I could understand these situations and people, even back then. Is there a particular character you most identify with, and how so? Davie, the nurse, in The Longest Day Must Have an End (Found in Stories Written on Lined Paper). He is a minor character but he is the first time I put myself fully into a story, he is a cameo appearance by me (Like Alfred Hitchcock did in his films). His job, on that ward, was my first job after qualifying, he has my hairstyle from then, he has my attitude and manner from then, and he is shagging a senior colleague which I did in that job. I don’t make cameos in my writing much, if at all, and this was the first time I did it. I liked making my own experience a minor story line. Over how many years have you written these stories? Have you found your craft has changed in that time? I started writing prose when I was twenty and started writing about being gay when I was twenty-two. I’m fifty-five next week. I have been writing all that time and practice has improved my writing, but also so has reading. Learning from the best authors and learning what not to do from the bad ones. I have also learnt from honest/good feedback. The feedback that has helped me to improve my writing, though I’ve had to learn what is good feedback and what is bad, and should be just ignored. I’ve learnt not to over-write, to keep my style readable, using three words when one could do can easily put off readers. I’ve learnt to use my experience of people and my knowledge in my writing, if I make my writing more real then readers can relate to it, even when writing fantasy. I have also learnt to trust my instincts and knowledge on where a story should go. Can you share something about your current or future work with readers? I am writing a story about a young man just released from prison. The story looks at what led him to prison and what happened to him while he was there. I hope to start posting it, chapter by chapter, soon. Then I really need to finish the other two stories in the series I started with A Walk Along the Promenade. I am looking at self-publishing more. I am working on a collection of stories about people facing life-changing experiences.
  4. Cia

    Chapter 48

    “You said they wouldn’t…. That they couldn’t….” Each time I trailed off, unable to finish my sentence. How could he have sat there so calmly and asked if I knew what would happen if they broke our bond? Garjah griped my sides, pulling me into his body. I ducked my head against his chest, pressing my forehead into the hard muscle. He locked one arm around my back and the other he used to stroke my hair. “Breathe,” Garjah rumbled. His muscles were tight, but as I relaxed and started to breathe with him, he calmed too. His chin rested on my head, and I felt every word as he spoke to the Kardoval seated at the table behind us. “Maybe you should consider your words carefully before you ask him any more questions.” The words were mild, couched in a suggestion even. The tone made it an order. My anxiety spiked again, and Garjah stroked a hand up my back. “Shh, we’re fine.” “You… They’re in charge. You’re going to get in trouble.” I could only imagine giving the Council orders like that. I’d find myself sanctioned so fast I’d be a social pariah, unable to find work, a place to live, an outcast. Those in charge did not like underlings who spoke above their rank. “When it comes to your wellbeing, I am in charge.” “That may be true,” Mereval stated, “but you have left him woefully ignorant of bonds. And yourself.” My heart started to race, and I stiffened in his hold. What didn’t I know? I’d done research. “Timok gave me things.” I thought I knew about this. “Garjah.” Bouncer rumbled and pushed between us. I dropped a lower arm onto his head, cupping behind his erect ears and rubbing. The rough texture softened just behind his ears, and stroking the skin there soothed both of us. I didn’t want to do this in front of them, in front of anyone. In the weeks since I’d left the Rinta to explore Ardra, I’d made impulsive decision after impulsive decision. I’d let emotions and panic rule me. Relied on those around me to care and calm me. I was doing it now. Gulping in a few more deep breaths, I firmed my resolve. I’d graduated head of my class at the Institute. I’d explored countless worlds and stations my parents dragged me along to. Met hundreds of alien species. Knew smatterings of dozens of languages, cultural practices. My body might be different now, but my brain was still in control. Taking in one final deep breath, I lifted my chin and moved back from Garjah’s chest to look up at him. “Let me go,” I said quietly. He looked down at me, his thin nostrils flaring. “I’m okay.” Not on the inside, but no one but him and Bouncer had to know that. “Let’s sit down. I think it’s time I ask some questions.” I dearly wished for a recording device, but I could remember what was important. It was all important. The Kardoval, this group of four aliens who resembled my Garjah but were somehow also more, stared at us. They’d stopped eating. Good. They could answer my questions. We took our spots back at the table. “First. Who is Garjah?” I knew if I asked him, I would not get the answer I sought. “He is the head of security,” Lenveval said. “For his ship, I know.” “No.” Mereval shook her head, placing a hand out on the table. “He is the head of all security. He was on the ship to scout our borders. The planet you stopped on, that you humans call Ardra, is just one place along the way.” That… Stunned, I sank back in my chair. Swallowing hard. He was like… the general of generals. Commander of all. Whatever they called it. I wasn’t familiar with military for us or them. No wonder everyone gave him wide berth and looked at us with wide eyes. I gasped, turning to him. “It wasn’t just that you were with me and I’m human, was it?” “What?” Garjah asked. “The stares and whispers.” He scowled. “No.” I’d thought it was me. Turns out, it was about him. Well, maybe him and me. “So,” I said slowly, “if you’re in charge of security, you were always the one who could decide if I was a danger or not.” Now it was his turn to answer reluctantly. “Yes.” “Why didn’t you tell me?” “I know you would never harm a living creature or being.” Garjah looked down at his clasped hands, the lower pair scrubbing over his tight uniform pants. “Once I knew that, how could I justify keeping you?” “And then this happened?” I waved a hand to indicate both the changes to my body and our bond. He shrugged one shoulder. “I wanted you before. Something drew me to where you were hiding on the planet.” Mereval made a noise, but I ignored her. Well, I tried to. “What?” I turned to her. She was practically vibrating in her chair, leaning over the table. “What did you feel when you first met Garjah?” she asked. “Scared as fuck,” I replied drily. “He’s huge.” Quixoval giggled and even Sloval snorted. “He’s funny,” Quixoval said. Bouncer left my side and began to slink around the table toward him. The youngest of the Kardoval watched him with big eyes and a motionless body. “Is it safe?” Bouncer wasn’t hunting. “Yes.” Focusing on the Kardoval, watching Bouncer sniff first one and then the other, I considered what to ask them next. “Why did you ask me about broken bonds?” I asked Lenveval. “If we could reverse the physical changes, and you could go back to your sector, back to your life, that would break your bond with Garjah.”
  5. Need an icy shiver across your spine to cool you off? Or just want something a little different? Try this month's Classic Author Feature! Want to read more? Click here
  6. Years ago I did a short story called Orphic Revelations. Never thought to see the word pop up.
  7. I've featured long reads, stories to take you to other times or places.... so how about we do another snippet of a week in the snow in the sunny heat of July in this bite-sized feature "Almost Home" by Shadowgod. Length: 2,782 Description: There was nothing Bryson and James wanted more than to get away from the stress of college, and once Bryson had convinced him, James was sure that this ski trip was the perfect way to do just that. Their week together in the snow would turn out to be something James would never forget, or the test that interrupted it, and the phone call he gets that night when Bryson was almost home. A reader said: A well thought out and written story with a surprise ending. Excellent read. ~ Brayon If you want to spread the word about Shadowgod's story, download the graphic below and add it to your signature! Make sure you come back on Wednesday to see the excerpt I chose to share!
  8. All authors start somewhere! I like that you aren't letting yourself get discouraged; you have a great attitude toward your writing. I'd recommend you join the Writer's Circle. There is technical information in there on writing to help with plotting, character crafting, and even a recent topic on sex in stories. And always, read, read, read. The more you read, the more you will get an idea of what good, even great, writing looks like. Check out the Stories sidebar in the Browse box under "Advanced Options" for the Most Read & Most Reviewed stories. Check out Recommended stories. If you read a story you like, check out the comments and reviews to see why other readers liked it or what they had to say about it that you could apply to your own writing skills.
  9. Cia

    Chapter 47

    I ate, but my brain was whirring so fast from thought to thought that I was surprised they couldn’t hear it. Or smell the neurons firing. I swear, it was all flowing through my brain so fast that it was a surprise static wasn’t sparking from my fingers every time I touched my metal fork. Swallowing a bite of something I didn’t even taste, I glanced at Garjah yet again. He frowned at me. “What? Are you not hungry?” “They’re staring at me.” The Kardoval were watching us both, though they were attempting to be discreet. Not exactly possible in such a small room and with them sitting directly across from us. “Can you blame us?” Sloval asked abruptly. “You are just as unknown to us as we are to you.” Maybe. “I am an unknown, yes. But you know about humans, the universe at large. I know you have databases on us; Timok used them when he treated me. I’ve never meet your kind before, your planets are hidden from the rest of the universe, and culture is a complete unknown.” I put my hand on Bouncer’s head, stroking him with my fingertips. “I’d say you have me at a disadvantage.” “You’re not exactly human anymore,” Sloval rebutted. “Stop that,” Mereval hissed. That was not the kindest way to approach the changes that had happened to me, one of the main reasons we were here. That, and the fact that I’d somehow bonded with Garjah in the first place. “Essell, we appreciate that you are here to speak with us, and we wish to know more about you personally and find out more about humans. Things are… changing. This is a sign.” Mereval indicated him and Garjah. “We are not a sign.” Garjah’s voice was a harsh rebuke, and I turned to him, astonished. I’d never heard him speak that way, not even to Seedrah when he’d screwed up. Maybe I should feed Bouncer. He was getting restless, starting to shift his weight on his front feet, and eyeing the plate on the table. I took a breath, turning away from Garjah’s tightened features to look at Quixoval. “You wanted to see Bouncer eat, didn’t you?” Quixoval’s shoulders dropped and he let go of the table. A smile spread across his face, but then he hesitated. “Oh yes. Is it safe here? Will he stay under control when he gets a taste of meat, or should we leave?” “He’s never hurt anyone before.” He could get a little… bouncy. There was a reason I’d named him the way I did, but I’d fed him with others in the dining hall before and it’d been fine. “Just stay over there.” I grabbed the plate. “You hungry, buddy?” Bouncer’s ears perked up. His nostrils flared, and I chuckled. “Oh yeah, you smell it, don’t you?” I turned my chair and scooted a few paces backward. He’d gone deathly still, and he was staring directly at the plate in my hand. I picked up a strip of meat. “Ready?” He crouched, his thick muscles bunching around his shoulders. As soon as I threw the meat into the air, he was moving. Bouncer jumped, catching the meat in his jaws in mid-air with a sharp snap. The light scattered on his pebbled red skin as it darkened. Bouncer shifted from foot to foot, whining for more. I threw one more piece into the air and then two more left and right. Bouncer caught the one in the air, then pounced on the one to the right. He tore into the piece on the left, shredding it with his claws. “Bouncer, stop that!” I scolded him. He was going to scratch up the floor. I got up and pushed him away from the strips of meat. Picking them up, I dangled them over his head. “Come on, take them.” There were gasps, but I ignored them as he did a little hop and delicately took the strips out of my hand. “What if there was poison on that meat?” Quixoval asked. “You just picked it up.” He turned to Garjah who was sitting relaxed in his chair. “You let him.” I shrugged. “There’s never been any before.” I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips. “And Garjah doesn’t tell me what to do.” “The cerops would never hurt Essell. He doesn’t release his poison.” “Maybe he’s incapable,” Sloval suggested. “Bouncer is perfect.” I resented them suggesting otherwise. “He loves me so he doesn’t want to hurt me.” To prove my point, I fed him the next few strips from my hand. He always took them gently. “I only throw it because he likes to move. It’s fun for him.” I threw two pieces up right next to each other and he did a rapid snap, snap and got them both. Bouncer settled down at my feet with the last piece I tossed him as I tucked the plate under my half-full one. “It’s almost like he knows what you’re going to do.” Lenveval stated his observation just as quietly as he’d done everything else since we entered the room. He seemed to take in everything and miss very little. “He does mirror Essell’s emotions,” Garjah confirmed. “You do as well,” Mereval said. She looked disturbed, tapping the table. “What?” I frowned. “You get upset, he gets upset. You relax, he relaxes. It’s a complication.” “Isn’t that the nature of the bond?” I asked. “No, not like this. Timok warned us to keep our distance, but we thought that was the result of an incomplete bond. You have bonded, but this mirroring between you two is unknown.” Great, more things unique to me. I’d already changed my arms and eyes. Now the bond? “You’re not going to try to break it, are you?” Would they separate us? My heart started to pound. “Has anyone told you what a broken bond entails, Essell?” Lenveval asked.
  10. It was sent out on Monday, July 5th. It may have filtered into your Junk/Spam/Clutter boxes? The deadline will be July 31st.
  11. Cia

    Chapter 46

    I didn’t want to have a moment in front of the Kardoval, but stars… never mind. I wasn’t going to ignore this need to touch Garjah for them or anyone. I slid one hand across his far cheek, turning his head toward me, then pulled him down for a brief kiss. As hard as it was to resist, I didn’t part my lips and drink in his scent to taste him further. This was enough. A flurry of movement and murmurs broke through my distraction. I leaned away from Garjah. He blinked at me several times, and I waited for him to get upset. He didn’t; I should have known better. Garjah picked up my fork from where I’d set it on the table and held it out to me. “Food?” “Please.” I speared the noodles and twirled them around my fork, then brought them to my mouth. I was chewing energetically, enjoying the firm pasta and thick, tangy sauce when the attention on us grew sharper. The Kardoval had stopped muttering among themselves. “Is that what you do with those?” Mereval asked. “You made the food but have no idea how to eat it?” Then again, none of them had plates. “It was made for us. We do not eat it; the intention was to help you feel more comfortable.” She nodded toward my plate where I had twirled up another small nest of pasta on my fork. “That device is fascinating.” “It is very useful for the way he eats.” Garjah had pulled out his knife and was flicking off pieces of meat, placing a few on my side of the plate. The others he swallowed whole. “Yes, of course.” One of the males came back to the table, plates in both of his upper hands. He pulled out a chair, then offered one plate to Mereval. She thanked him. They all had gotten food after Garjah filled out plate, and they sat together on the other side of the table facing us. Like judges facing off against supplicants. My stomach started to churn, and I swallowed hard. Garjah’s nostrils flared, and he glanced down at me. “What’s wrong?” Leaning in close, I pressed my shoulder against his chest and rested my face near his ear. “They’re over there, we’re here. Feels… judgey.” His chest bounced, a chuckle. “Sometimes I forget.” His voice carried, deep against my neck but also loud. “Shh.” I glanced at them, and of course they were watching us. “It’s okay, Essell. They are giving us space because we are newly bonded. Mereval is no threat to us, but another male could be. My instincts are known, but yours are not.” Garjah picked up my fork and speared a small piece of the purple meat he’d cut for me. He held it out, not giving me the fork handle but offering me the bite. I took it, pulling the meat off the tines carefully as I thought. “They’re giving me space because they’re not sure if I freak out on them because they are interested in you?” Which one was interested in Garjah? I swept a glance across the table. Was it the one who gave him the armbands? The ones he never took off? Mereval laughed, that odd sound I’d heard a few times from Timok even higher from her. “No, no. The pheromones coming off you are outrageous, dear one. Fear, caution, possession, anger, it’s all a riot against our senses. They are keeping their distance out of respect, both for Garjah’s service and for your bond.” Cranking my head to one side, I considered that. “Is that why they haven’t introduced themselves by name?” The three males all lightened, and Mereval laughed again. “Oh no, that’s just them being males.” “We forgot,” the one who’d always been sitting said. The other male who sat on his far side had brought him a plate. “Please accept our apologies. We’re so used to everyone knowing who we are.” He rubbed at his creased forehead. “It is strange.” “You hide from the entire universe. It can’t be that strange.” “But among our people, we are unique. Known from nearly birth.” The confrontational one gestured with his knife. “I am Sloval.” Maybe he had a good reason for being so cranky. Still, he quickly bit into a piece of fruit and couldn’t speak anywyal “My name is Lenveval.” Bowing from the waist, the next to introduce himself was the one who had stayed seated. I nodded back at him, not sure of the protocol. That left the youngest Kardoval. The one who’d seemed awed by Bouncer. “My name is Quixoval.” He leaned forward, dipping his head quickly. “Is your cerops hungry?” I snorted. “He is always hungry.” “Could I prepare a plate for him?” Hesitating, I glanced at Garjah. Would he take food from them? “There are tongs. He can touch the food without getting his scent on it.” His reassurance helped. I nodded my agreement to Quixoval, and he jumped up immediately. “I didn’t mean right now. You could eat first.” “Nonsense. This will also give us a chance to study this phenomena.” Quixoval was up and over at the table before I could protest again. “You won’t be able to stop him,” Sloval warned. “So don’t try.” Was that supposed to be an order or a commiseration. His glare was certainly pointed at Quixoval instead of me. “How do you want to do this?” Quixoval asked as he handed over the plate of meat. “Essell finishes eating before anything else,” Garjah said firmly. “Then he can show you.” He slid the plate aside, then nudged my fork back toward me. The most confusing aspect of the whole meeting so far was the way they actually listened to him. Quixoval returned to his seat, and everyone started eating quietly, like they wouldn’t even ask me questions. Just who was in charge here?
  12. How is July treating you? Sweltering in a swimsuit or swimming in wool to stay warm depending on your hemisphere? We've passed the midway mark for the year but we're still in the thick of 2021. How about slowing down when you need a break and enjoying something a little different... An anthology of sorts. You can pick any of Drew Payne's "Stories Written on Lined Paper" to read (or all of them on different days) and share your thoughts on the discussion day! Stories Written on Lined Paper by @Drew Payne Length: 61,060 Description: When I first started writing I wrote in long-hand, and wrote my stories on pads of lined white paper. I now mostly write straight onto my computer or laptop, but I still have found memories of filling up those empty white pages with my sprawling handwriting and tales of other people’s lives. So happy reading, I hope. A Reader said: I've enjoyed all of your stories in this collection. Your writing keeps me entertained and thoughtful. I notice that this is number twenty and the last of this series so that means I must have missed one 'cause the last I remember is "Boxing Day." I'll have to catch up by reading "Another One of Those Family Photographs" now but I couldn't get to that before sending you my accolades for a series well written. Thank you! ~ James Baxter Don't forget to come back to share your thoughts on Monday, July 26th!
  13. Ficlet Fun! (and maybe win a prize!) 😲👑 Challenge: Write a 25 word ficlet or poem using 2 of the 5 words Pick 2 of the 5 words below: Dance Pest Bubble Splinter Ancient Post your ficlet in this topic (you can also post in Stories if you have a collection of flash fiction or poetry). Comment on each other's ficlets. Talk about the challenge and how you went about writing your ficlet. Readers can post, authors can post, everyone can have fun with this extreme challenge! You could be a Random.org will help us select 1 player to receive an ad feature GA! That's right, we'll help design an ad to feature either your story listing, a single story you want to feature, or you can feature a favorite author or story on the site (if a reader gets bold and wants to play the game!) The deadline is July 31st and the winner will be announced in August's newsletter.
  14. Cia

    Chapter 45

    “Well of course I did. He’s a human.” Mereval narrowed her eyes at Bouncer. “We know all about cerops.” “Really? Including why one would docilely follow a human? And stand in a room with a predator who stunned him once before and has caged him several times without attacking?” The male who was circling them as he spoke paused when he was standing to my right and stared at Bouncer. “Did you do something to him?” he asked. I blinked. “Like what?” “Chemicals? A mechanical control device of some sort?” he guessed. “No.” I bit the word off. “That would be cruel. Not to mention unethical considering I was on the planet to study the natural flora and fauna. He was hungry, I fed him, he followed me.” “Ahh, imprinting.” The male nodded. “No. Anyone who knows anything about animals knows they imprint up on their mother almost instantly; I am not his mother. He is a juvenile but nearing adult status, that’s way too old to imprint. It’s why he was driven off, but he wasn’t quite able to take care of himself.” “So not his mother. It’s something else about you that caused the bond.” He crossed his lower arms while he tapped his chin with one of his fingers of an upper hand. “Perhaps the same thing that forced a bond with Garjah.” My mouth dropped open and then I snapped it shut. I took a breath and started to protest, my teeth clenched while I tried to stay calm. “I didn’t for—” “He did not force anything on me. I followed him for some time before I approached him. He did not approach me, in fact, he was trying to hide.” Garjah stood ramrod straight but he kept ahold of me. “He didn’t initiate touch, breathe on me, hit me with anything… and I could not have let him go even if he didn’t pose a threat to reveal us to his academy.” I blinked, my anger at the other guy gone in a second. “You never told me that.” He shrugged one shoulder. “It didn’t come up.” Elbowing him, I hissed, “It should have.” Now was not the time or place to have this conversation though. I rolled my eyes, huffing out a breath. “See, Garjah says I didn’t do anything to him. So clearly I didn’t do anything to Bouncer either.” “Bouncer? Is that his name?” Mereval asked. “What does it mean, exactly?” “Um, to bounce?” I raised and lowered my hand a few times, mimicking bouncing a ball or a hop. “He is not very bouncer.” I eyed the contrary male. One he didn’t say it right. Two, who was he to judge? Maybe it was time to turn this around. “He’s protective. I was nervous because I am being brought before the rulers of an alien species who are hiding from the rest of the universe, who could do anything they want with me, to me.” “We’d never do anything harmful!” Mereval’s markings lightened. The black ridges curving outward from her forehead like a crown stood out in contrast to her now pale green skin and gold robe. “How would I know what you do?” “You wouldn’t.” The calm voice was deep, reminding me of Garjah’s. It came from one of the two males sitting at the table. “I expect you’re feeling very vulnerable.” That word resonated inside me. I would have staggered if Garjah didn’t have such a tight grip on me. No one had put it that way before, but it was exactly how I felt. “I need to sit,” I whispered. Bouncer was pressing so hard against my leg, I was going to go down if I didn’t find a chair soon anyway. “Please, take any seat.” The table had identical chairs all around the elongated oval. Garjah pulled out one in the middle of one long side and urged me into it. Bouncer lay his head across my thighs. I ran my hand between his ears, scrubbing the skin with my nails, and he rumbled in pleasure. “Want something?” Garjah nodded toward the trays of food and drinks. “Anything.” “You’re really not afraid of Bouncer? They are venomous, you know.” This came from the last male at the table, the youngest of the group. His face was lean, eyes bright, and he had distinctive drops and stripes across his forehead and down his nose. I shrugged. “Many beautiful things are deadly,” I said absently. I was lost in my thoughts, not really paying attention to everyone’s movements. My gaze strayed to Garjah. He was piling food high on a single plate. It looked like a mash of human food and their dishes; I hoped they’d made me a fork to go with the noodles. “Indeed. You seem young to have much experience with this, Essell.” Mereval frowned at the confrontational male. She’d taken a seat next to the others, but he was still standing, watching me and Garjah. “I do. My parents are scientists; I often experienced new cultures on worlds and stations. Many more than most children.” I kept my voice neutral. “Four Arms do not travel far beyond this quadrant, though, do they…?” They’d rocked my world, exposing my emotions so casually with one word, but I was used to feeling out of sorts. Conversational targeting was a norm in the academic world, and his verbal jabs were keeping me from sinking too deep into my nerves. It also hadn’t escaped my notice that Mereval was the only one to offer to greet me physically or offer her name. As open and welcoming as they were pretending to be, it was glaring that there was more to what met the eye here. Garjah offered me my fork and set the plate down. “You brought it?” I asked, surprised. “I will always take care of you,” he said. The words had more impact every time he said them.
  15. Cia

    Chapter 44

    There were other females, but they were not highlighted other than describing that they looked different. FYI, you've honestly only 'met' Garjah, Timok, and Seedrah. I know, bad ME! I'm really bad at adding a lot of secondary characters to my flash fiction pieces. Wednesday tomorrow.
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