The Cell of Snares

You received a letter from the state explaining you were chosen in a lottery to come and rescue an animal. The shelter is being closed due to the owner’s untimely death and his will instructed for his estate to be divided up randomly. Being the animal lover you are, you decide to follow up on this mystery and pop on down to look at a potential pet or two. The address typed on the back of the letter is unfamiliar to you, but your Saturday is wide open. You fill up your gas tank and head out. Why not?

Once you reach the destination, a prison complex at the literal end of the road, all outside communication is cut off and the ‘animals’ are not quite what they seem

—–

Despite my rising alarm at the lack of guards, cell phone service, working car, existence of a cassette player, gouge marks, shackled creature that shapeshifts –Okay, okay, that’s enough thinking that way. I focus, instead, on the gently swinging ivy above me. I breathe in and out. “All right, Beth,” I whisper to myself. “Think positively. What can you control?” –Not that my therapist ever suggested I’d literally be trapped like this, with potential death a mere inchesBreathe, Beth, breathe! Maybe Dr. Querk should have had me run through a few practical situations, but it’s too late to consider that now.

*Greetings, traveler and welcome to The Prison for Dangerous…* begins playing for the sixth time since I entered the creepy room. Nothing irritates me more than repetition, even a supernatural being that might be able to tear my head off. I turn to the apparition within the first cell and glare daggers at it.

“KNOCK IT OFF!” I bellow.

The being within blinks a thousand rainbow eyes at me, squawks, and disappears. I stand on my toes to see where it’s gone: into a bottom corner, rodent-like, somehow still shackled. The tape has stopped. I give the mouse thing a stern nod, in case it gets any ideas.

I let my breath out and look around again. Now fully within the room, I can see that Freaky’s box isn’t the only one with damage to the interior. Of the ten cells, only one or two seem undamaged. Box Four, near the end on the left side, has scorch marks. Number Six -or One, depending on how one wished to count- to the right is dark and molding. The last cell in the row to the right is not only scraped and dented, but the cause of the damage is clearly visible in the form of a large, glowering minotaur.

“Well, Beth, are any minotaurs not glowering?” I tease. A chittering laugh just beyond the shapeshifter draws me forward. “It’s fine. They can’t get out,” I say as I walk, though I certainly won’t go tap on #10’s glass to test my theory.

As I near the source of the laughing, I note signs attached to the outside of each cell. The first reads:

SHIFTER

Charles is the perfect companion. He not only fits most occasions, he fits any occasion or any species. Ever wanted a rabbit one day, then a pony the next? Charles is right for you!

I laugh a bit; again, echoed by Cell Two. “Are they serious?” I ask the open room. It reads just like the plaques at the animal shelter in town but, surely, I can’t literally walk out with something as incredible as a shapeshifter?

I glance at the affixed plaque of #2:

SPRITE

Honeyblossom is the light of the party or room. Besides a natural effervescent personality, she has a natural effervescence. A bit flighty, Honeyblossom would do well in an open environment without the temptation of mischief.

A tiny pair of eyes peers over the sign through the glass front. They blink and a tiny nose and grinning mouth appear as well. I smile a bit in return but immediately look away. Sprites and mischief are practically synonymous; sorry, Honeyblossom.

Mostly due to the very large, heavily-breathing presence on the end, I examine the other labels from a safe distance. They outline a Mouther, Phoenix, Satori, Boggart, Imp, Baby Dragon, Unicorn, Tokoloshe, Taniwha, and that Minotaur. I catch names like Chatterbox, Imka, and Bob.

I also see that the door of the unicorn’s cell is slightly ajar; her sign askew. Either I am not the first visitor to this strange place, or Rainbow Sparkles, III figured things out on her own… I look around, twitching this way and that. My eyes meet those of a few remaining creatures and no one else, whether that’s a comforting audience or not.

“Oh-kay,” I exhale. Before Charles stopped the recorded message, it’d said all I had to do was activate a cell with my letter. After that, the creature inside was mine. But, do I want to bring one of these home? A Satori was pretty awesome in theory; in practice, not so much. He’d likely run away or hide, knowing precisely when I meant to throw him in the tub or tell him it was time for bed. And no way would I consider bringing home something larger than my car.

Which left at least three animals I’d dreamed about since childhood. Three mythical creatures I’d pored over in storybooks and often said aloud, “Oh, I wish it was real!” Three that would be really awesome to own.

One of those, if J.K. Rowling were correct, that would make the use of an exit vehicle unnecessary.

“What the heck, Beth? The letter and the recording said to choose one.” I pull the crumpled bunch of papers from my back pocket and smooth them out. Before I can change my mind, I walk toward the smoking glass of Cell #4.

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—–

This was in response to Peregrine Arc’s story prompt. You can join in, too! Just click here to read her amazing introduction.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

If You Could Be Any Mythical Creature, What Would You Be?

Once upon a time, I had a boss who thought each employee on his team might benefit from sitting in on an interview. At the time I was working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for coded litigation documents. That fancy title meant I wore the most comfortable clothes possible without their being pajamas, worked in a cubicle corner that looked more and more like a cave every day, and frequently talked to my coworkers so that we didn’t start gnawing the upholstered walls out of boredom.

Quality control is mind-numbingly dull.

I was thus attired and thus mindsetted when said boss (we’ll call him Jim) alerted me to the interview and his expectation that I be there. I had no training in what to say but certainly knew I ought to have put on something fancier than jeans and a sweatshirt. At least I had shoes.

And so I went, attending my suit-clad supervisor. We met an expectant young man in the conference room. His name was(n’t) Mike. He also wore a suit. We shook hands all around and sat and organized papers and I pretended to know what I was doing.

“I see from your résumé that you worked at X…” Jim began. Fortunately, the questions and responses ran just like I’d seen in movies. I nodded at appropriate points, looked stern and interested at others, and added a (hopefully) relevant query when requested.

We were nearly finished, when Jim asked, “If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose?”

Mike thought for a few seconds, then responded, “A ninja tiger.”

Besides the usual gamut of “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” “What experience do you feel you bring to X Company?,” and “Have you ever been in a stressful situation and how did you handle it?;” I knew some quirky interviewers pulled out a random question for fun (or, to my paranoid mind) for psychological assessment. When Mike, by all appearances a QA nerd, answered the way he did, I was surprised.

But Mike was/is a bit of an odd duck. I knew that because we hired him and I worked with him for at least a year. He enjoyed sitting at home and introvertedly watching hours of television, yet also bowled. And was quite good. He was quiet and reserved but walked the halls in a sort of sliding fashion. Yes, like a ninja. I believe he told me he had a black belt in karate despite having the physique of a toothpick.

Yes, this could very well be a post about judging people. Bad, bad Chelsea. Don’t judge.

I’m more interested in answering the same question posed to Mike: If you could be any mythical creature, what would you choose? I’m interested because of how that classifies us. People are complex beings. Sure, we relate to certain groups and often lump ourselves together with similar personalities and interests. Through a simple question about preferences, however, we can reveal a deeper aspect.

We can reveal a ninja tiger.

I’m not that cool. Most days I behave like a Grick, a “darkly colored worm or snake-like creature” that lays around caves and waits to grab things with its tentacles. Since I get to name my own preference, though, I’d love to be a phoenix or an imp or a dragon.

Flying, right? No-brainer.

How about you? What mythical creature would you choose? For bonus interview points, what do you think that might say about your personality?

Draconika

—————-

In the real world, here’s what I wrote last week:
Wednesday, May 15: Wrote “Just Another Day in the Life,” and learned that I need to stop dusting.

Thursday, May 16: “Suddenly Spring,” a poem about …well, suddenly spring.

Friday, May 17: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Deb Whittam!

Saturday, May 18: Announced the 26th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is engineering failures, real or imagined. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, May 19: “Tree Search Exclusive Tours, Ltd.,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, May 20: An inspirational quote by Timothy Leary.

Tuesday, May 21:”Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Four.”

Wednesday, May 22: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself,” “Special Projects Take a Lot of Time and Mess,” and “A Poem, I Think.”

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Three

“‘Bout time, Mina Late,” Jacob said once Wil entered the car. His breath came in puffs; Rob had started the engine as soon as she’d opened the door to the backseat and they must have been sitting without heat until then.

Wil did not see fit to answer such rudeness even if he were cold. She turned away from the scoffing youth, settled her purchases near her, and closed the door.

“Get buckled, Mina,” the driver gruffed. He grunted and engaged their vehicle in a backwards, then forwards motion.

“But, of course,” she replied, securing her person. Who knew what bandits or ruffians they might encounter on their return trip? She sighed and rested her dainty chin upon her dainty fingertips as she gazed out at the passing landscape.

The world had changed.

Centredom hadn’t always been so dangerous. Even Wil could remember bright, sunshine mornings, laughing brooks, singing fairy folk, and trusting villagers. Then, out of nowhere, The Thing came. The Thing was everything and nothing; but, most of all, it was everywhere.

Sunshine turned to windy grey. The laughing water suppressed itself to a muted murkiness. Fairies disappeared. And, as Wil had just witnessed at the market, weary villagers interacted in wary ways.

“Didja remember to get dinner this time?” Jakob interrupted her thoughts to tease.

Wil continued to study her memories and outside view. It wasn’t the young man’s fault, after all. She knew his pointed sarcasm stemmed from The Thing. The Thing touched the hearts of all that lived and felt.

Night and lighted night panned across her pensive, regal face. They moved quickly. She felt fortunate in not meeting with any delays, particularly any influenced by The Thing.

Just as she thought to thank The Goddess for their safe arrival home, she heard a loud *pop!* from quite near. Immediately thereafter, the even gait of the vehicle she sat within altered to a wobbling sashay.

Their destination arose just ahead. Wil glanced at their driver as she attempted to keep her seat. His jaw set. They were going to make it. Another lurch, many bumps, and a sharp turn landed them beneath the shaded corral: their goal.

“Well,” Rob said after a few seconds. “Let’s see about making dinner, huh?”

 

Continued from Ninety-Two.
Keep reading to Ninety-Four.

Glad Tidings of Nymble

Nymble didn’t stand so much as gently flit above the waving grass, the first of the season’s signs of change. Leaning back as much as her grass and sunlight mote companions; she drank the deep, fresh air.

“Spring,” she whispered. She breathed.

A smile tickled her dimples. It pushed at her mouth-corners. As she looked out and over the gathered folk and fae, the smile spread to every feature of her pointed face. She grinned and opened her arms to hold the warm sun from toe to wing tip.

Atop the eminent rise, she addressed the expectant crowd. “SPRING!”

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Announced for Carrot Ranch‘s writing prompt.

March 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by April 2, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by jhx13 from Pixabay

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-One

Blinking away a world of sunsets and wings, Wil snuggled her arms free from their blanket cocoon. She groped into an outside coat pocket, searched, and removed her thin, black gloves. The other outside pocket produced a few wood chips, and a remembering blush. The inside pocket held lint and a rather bent novel. She frowned, hoping her teacher wouldn’t be too upset at the state of her loaned material.

Wil reached into her last pocket. This held a crinkling wad of official paper folded over a handwritten letter: her goal. Wil spread them out as best as she could and read them over again.

“Mom,” she said. Her fingers traced the looping flourish of Guinevere Greene’s signature. The title of Mother belonged to Cynthia; there had never been any thought or chance or wish for Wil to believe otherwise. She’d read stories, of course, of children with awful parents who wanted more than anything to be cared for by someone else. Wonderful, loving Cynthia, however, had always been so sweet. If they hadn’t had limitations like health and money, the mother she and Jakob had known for most of their lives might have spoiled them.

As such, they were only ever spoiled with affection.

Once when Wil was quite young, she remembered, she got into Cynthia’s makeup. Staring at her tiny, painted self in the mirror, Wil had realized that her mother was standing right behind her. Arms crossed, face frowned, Cynthia had not been pleased. “Now Wil,” she’d said. “This is my makeup and you need to ask permission.” She’d come forward and sat right next to poor, apologetic Wil. “Now,” she’d added, “Let me show you how grown-up women put on their lipstick.”

Wil’s lips pursed forward, remembering the way she and her mother -the mother she’d always known- had made kissing faces at the mirror after painting their lips. Anytime she’d wanted to after that, Wil had joined Cynthia at the mirror to get made up for the day.

Wil stared down at the cursive again, trying to picture its author. Was Guinevere the sort of mother who smiled with love when her daughter blurted out whatever came to mind? Did her laugh or smile light up a room? Would she have asked Wil about her day, every day? Would she have shown Wil how to put on makeup from her own supply?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Wil had no experience with how a real mom might be. If anything, her reading had taught her to fear a stepmother, but Cynthia was nothing like the cruel stepmothers that stalked the pages of fantasy stories. Given that, was Guinevere the evil one?

She had left Wil behind. She had insisted on Rob’s never telling Wil about her.

And yet…

—–

“Whazzinit?” Syl the pixie paige asked, ever the nosy sprite.

Wyl Winterling cast him an imperious glance, her coils of dark hair shifting across her featherlight wings with the movement. “I believe that is none of your business.”

Syl drawled a disappointed, “Awwrr.”

“Still,” Wyl interuppted. “I may tell you that I’ve learned I’m also daughter of The Great Lady of the Greene.”

The effect of her statement was instantaneous. Syl drew breath in, and was blessedly speechless. The Great Lady existed in forgotten ballads and old stories, and was whispered amongst the branches of the magical elder boughs.

“So,” Queen Wyl’s paige squeaked out, “Will she be comin’ for a wee visit soon?”

 

Continued from Seventy.
Keep reading to Seventy-Two.

Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy

Wil blushed again. She felt caught, knowing she needed to stay but not yet finding her appetite. “Um. May I be excused?” She saw her father raise his eyebrows and her mother’s smile become more amused. “I promise I’ll come back later to finish!” she added in a rush.

Her mother laughed; Rob glanced at his wife. “Sure, Wil.”

Wil pushed away from the table before either changed his mind. Her foot caught at the chair leg and her hip caught at the table’s edge. She recovered enough to make it to the hallway without further incident. As she got to her bedroom, she heard the low rumble of her father’s voice asking a question.

“I really do have homework,” Wil grumbled. Looking around the jumbled confusion of her bedroom, she added, “Maybe some room work.” Accordingly, she threw herself across the unmade bed, cuddled up in the comforter, and rolled onto her back.

—–

The azure sky of autumn breathed sunset hues amongst the dancing wildflowers and wild weeds. Skylarks sang of evening while bullfrogs took up the chorus. Wyl Winterling sighed with pleasure from her downy dandelion nest at the great oak’s base as she watched the painted sky above.

Times had been peaceful, of late. She’d not heard from the Mosquitoes of Swamp Direling since the weather cooled, the summer dryads were too sleepy to cause much mischief, and the more restless forest creatures had left for warmer climes.

Wyl sighed once more. What wasn’t to love about winter?

“Mistress Wyl!”

Perhaps that.

Even a queen of fae folk might want a few minutes without interruption, Wyl thought with a scowl. She nestled farther down inside the white, tickling seed pods. The reds and golds over her shrouded head appeared more pieced and distinct.

“Mistressss Wy-yl!” Her paige’s nasal voice was closer.

She knew the persistent pixie would find her; regal wings had a way of sticking out and the paige had a way of remembering Wyl’s favorite hiding places. He’d only find her hiding funny and she’d hear no end of the buzz among the court for the duration of an otherwise perfect winter.

As Syl, the paige of Queen Wyl Winterling, came round the shadow of the oak, Wyl pushed atop the soft weed top to sit on the seeds like a throne. “Yes, Syl?” she stressed his name in as regal a tone as a being the height of a toadstool could convey.

The pixie, for his part, tried and failed at a serious expression. “Mistress Wyl,” he giggled, frowned, then smirked. “A moste important epistle requires Your Highness’ attention.”

Wyl nearly fell from her perch, were it not for the balance of her ever-ready wings. “Epistle?”

Syl giggled again. “Oh, aye. Seems ’twere from your mam…”

“Mom,” Wil said, remembering. “Guinevere.”

 

Continued from Sixty-Nine.
Keep reading to Seventy-One.

 

Want to start at the very beginning? It’s a very good place to start.

What do YOU Wish For?

“I wish to be a famous dancer!”

“I wanna be a millionaire!”

“I want to build the world’s first robotic house!”

They all turned to their silent friend.

“What do you wish for, Chelsea?”

“I can’t tell.”

Shrugging, they watched the comet pass, carrying their wishes. It would return in ten years’ time, granting them what they had asked.

Carly would be a dancer.

Tanner would be rich.

Edward would be building robots.

And Chelsea? She didn’t know. How could the comet possibly turn her into a cosmic fairy able to soar through the night sky as it did?

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Carrot Ranch Literary Society Prompt

Moonlit Magic

Astrael held his breath tightly, lightly. From opposite the clearing, his fine-tuned ears made out the slight shhhh of ground foliage against itself.

He heard it over the soft babbling of the small stream. He sensed it amongst nighttime warblings of crickets and insomniac fairy chatter.

Full moon skylight pulled free of the clouds, sending winking water reflections from the circled group of trees. He pulled farther behind the ferns and now-sparkling trunk which concealed him.

Just then, she came. Majestically, silently, carefully into the open space stepped the unicorn.

Just as silently and carefully, Astrael raised his bow.

Unicorn
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge.

Wilhelmina Winters: Twenty-Five

*Beep! Beep! Beep!*

The annoying, repetitive sound surprised Wil moments after she remembered closing her eyes. She stared in confusion at the completely dark ceiling for a few seconds, then memory caught up to consciousness. She rolled over quickly and tried to turn the noise off.

In the darkness of room and stupor of near-sleep, however, Wil succeeded in knocking the alarm clock to the ground. It landed on her clothes from last night, beeping insistently. Wil scrambled out of twisted covers, clunked to her floor, and succeeded in picking up and silencing her clock.

Twists of dark hair obscured most of the strange woodland creature’s face. She stood still and alert, clutching at the angry bird that had shattered the silence, and peering furtively around her. Her tiny, pointed ears pricked delicately as her barely translucent wings flicked slightly in agitation.

She’d been keeping watch over the forest all night from within Evergreen. Now, this thoughtless worm-eater had potentially ruined everything. She looked down, finally, at the struggling, indignant avian face held in her slight embrace.

“Hush!” Wyl whispered, and glared at her captive in return. Once certain the bird had gotten the message enough to keep quiet, she released her grip.

He immediately stepped backward, fluttered his wings, turned a last look at Wyl, then took off to the trees. Wyl’s hair swept away from her features as she lifted her face to watch him find a safe perch. She couldn’t be sure, but she felt her feathered friend was still shooting her spiteful glances.

Wyl sighed a soft sigh only sprites could hear. It was always the young fools who took rumors like, “The Early Bird Catches the Worm” seriously -especially when darkness meant danger to their world.

Night mists wafted randomly over the lush forest floor. The plants swayed and shushed against each other. Wil sensed mystery and darkness. She flitted to a clover stem, wetting her tiny bare feet in dew. Immediately after, she flew to a dandelion head, then a low tree branch. Within seconds, Wyl had soundlessly scouted the stretch below her original perch.

Satisfied but ever wary, she decided all was well. Leaf to leaf to tendril to branch to needles, Wyl flicked her way back to Evergreen. Folding her wings comfortably together, she settled back to watch and rest.

“Mina!” A dark head whispered loudly as it poked suddenly into her vision.

Wil screamed, surprising her father more than he had startled her.

 

Continued from Twenty-Four.
Keep reading to Twenty-Six.