Writing

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Seventeen

I watched the children run and play on the playground, thankful for the break.  It was hard to find time to play during war and most days were spent inside listening for the air raid sirens.  This morning’s advisement had said it was safe to venture out, so the children were allowed to have recess outside.

It was the first time many of them had been in the sun for nearly a month, as most took the subway tunnels to get to class.  The subway trains were long since lost, but the tunnels had turned into pedestrian thoroughfares.  The tunnel had been extended to reach the school basement once it became clear the war would not be ending anytime soon.

The school was severely understaffed, as most people, teachers included, fled the cities.  I was the only first grade teacher that remained.  It would normally be difficult for one teacher to teach an entire grade by herself, but there were only fifteen kids in my class.  Some were the children of military officials and the diplomats who were required to stay in the city; others were the children of poor families that couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.

I stayed because I could.  I didn’t have extended family that needed me and my parents were lost in the first years of the air raids.  I could’ve moved to the country, but I was needed here and so I stayed.  The few teachers that were left were allowed to stay at the school, safely hidden away in the basement.  I had abandoned my apartment after the raids became so frequent that I would have to get up almost every night to seek shelter.

As if called by my thoughts, the shrill shriek of the air raid sirens pierced the air.  We all froze momentarily in disbelief; today was supposed to be safe.

“Come on children, everyone inside!”  I shouted as I moved to make sure no one was left behind.  The distant boom of bombs hitting hastened my steps.  I looked to the other teacher who was counting the children as they entered.  All were accounted for.

I ran for the door as the bombs neared.  I flew inside and barred the door behind me as feeble protection.  The children knew the drill well and moved obediently towards the basement.  The teachers brought up the rear and checked the upstairs rooms as we passed.  All were locked as they should be since class was no longer held where the children would be at risk.

The rumble of bombs shook the building as we finally herded the children into the shelter below.  The children were allowed to play to keep their minds off of what was happening above.  If the raid didn’t end soon, classes would resume as much as we were able, though leaving the shelter for the classrooms would not be possible.

So far the school had been lucky and had not been directly hit.  All of the teachers prayed our luck would hold as the bombs neared.  We found the emergency flashlights and rations that we always stored here.  We also had an emergency beacon and radio that could be used if we were hit.

We had power from the main lines running through the subway tunnels and a backup generator hidden deep in the basement, but if both failed, the flashlights would be our only light until we were found.  Each child also carried two glow sticks at all times.

The first stick was a traditional glow stick that needed to be snapped to start the reaction.  These would glow brightly and would provide enough light to see by.  These were checked daily but some children just couldn’t resist the urge to snap them as soon as possible.  That is why the second stick was used.  It always emitted a dim glow and didn’t need to be snapped for the reaction to occur.  This allowed us to find the children even if their first glow stick failed or had already been used.

The building shook enough to make me stumble and I looked up at the dust drifting down on us.  I met the other teachers’ eyes.  Too close.

“Class, why don’t you play over here?” I asked, keeping my voice calm.  I was trying to get them to move closer to the wall and the other teachers were doing the same.

Writing prompts:  play, teach, war

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Sixteen

He was exhausted.  The latest crime spree had been going strong since well before Thanksgiving and it was nearly Christmas.  ‘No rest for the weary,’ he thought.  Tonight was his first night off in over a week and he planned to spend it by going home and crashing.

He opened the door to his apartment and blinked.  His living room was much cleaner than he remembered leaving it but that was not what had caught his attention.  No, instead it was the pair of impossibly long legs leading to the impossibly tiny shorts that had halted his thought process.  He blinked a few more times and the woman, for it must be a woman, straightened up, surprised.

“Oh!  I didn’t expect you to be home yet!  I was just trying to help you out since I know you’ve not gotten any peace for a while.  I was planning to be gone by the time you got back.  I cleaned up a bit and was going to hang some decorations and leave you dinner.  You’re doing so much for the city, I thought I could maybe help you out some,” she stuttered, embarrassed.

He finally broke out of his stupor long enough to recognize his neighbor from across the hall.  He had given her a key so she could feed his cat.  Apparently she was taking advantage of that fact, but she was trying to be nice, so he let it go.  He was just too tired to argue.

She pulled her shorts down self-consciously.  She really had meant to be gone by the time he returned.  She came up with the idea while she was cleaning her apartment.  What she was wearing, while appropriate for cleaning in her own house, was not something she would ever wear out in public.  The quick dash across the hall didn’t count as going out, but now that she had company, she was completely mortified.  ‘He probably thinks I’m trying to proposition him,’ she thought to herself.

“Well, now that you’re home, I’m going to head out.  You dinner is on the stove but it’ll need to be warmed up before you eat it.”   She edged toward the door, a difficult task since he had yet to leave the foyer.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner?” he asked reflexively.
“Ah…thanks for the invite, but I’ve already eaten.  You enjoy.  I’ll talk to you later!” she said as she escaped into the safety of the hall.  ‘Hopefully much, much later after you’ve forgotten these horrible shorts.’

He stared at the door, bemused.  He tried to match his mental image of his shy, quiet neighbor and his very vivid image of her legs in those shorts and found his brain was just too tired to process it.

Writing prompts:  crime, peace, decoration

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Fifteen

I tied the belt of my robe around my waist and contemplated the evening.  I had never once regretted moving to take over my grandfather’s ranch in rural Montana–until tonight.  I was channel surfing earlier and while I went right past the lovely volcano documentary and the nice family comedy, I stopped on the horror movie.

Not just any horror movie would suffice.  No, of course not.  I had to pick the one where the hapless female character, all alone in the middle of nowhere, was stalked and murdered by the crazy psycho.  Now every light in the house–yes, even the one in the closet–was blazing brightly, the doors and windows had been checked at least twice and I was carrying around a baseball bat.

My adrenaline was cranked so high that I wouldn’t be sleeping for a week.  I had picked up the phone no less than a dozen times, but I knew if I called my nearest neighbor I would never live it down.  He would certainly come over even though it was past midnight because he was a gentleman and I was a lady in distress.  His gallant demeanor would only last until he was certain there was no threat.  Then the ribbing would begin.  I shuddered to imagine it which is why the phone remained off.

I jumped, screamed, ducked, and generally flailed about as said device emitted a shrill shriek.  My TV narrowly avoided a disastrous collision with my bat.  I dove for the phone, wondering who was calling at such a late hour.

“Hello?”

“Grace, is everything okay over there?  Your place is lit up like Christmas,” my neighbor’s voice came through the line.

Speak of the devil.  Though his house was a couple miles by road, it was really only a mile or so as the crow flies, across a shallow valley.  With both houses being on high ground with nothing between them, he would be able to see the lights easily if he looked out his living room windows.  I tried to see his house but instead saw my pale face reflected back at me in the light bouncing off the window.

“Grace?” he questioned again.

“Sorry, Rob, I’m a little out of it.  Yeah, everything is fine.  I’m just…err…cleaning?”  It came out more as a question than a statement and I winced.

“You’re cleaning…after midnight…with all the lights on?”  He sounded skeptical at best.

I picked up a stray soda can from the coffee table and walked into the kitchen to throw it away.  There, now I wasn’t even lying.

“Yep, cleaning.  Couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d be productive.  What about you, why are you up so late?  Spying on me?” I asked with a smirk.

Writing prompts:  rural, volcano, belt

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Fourteen

The asphalt baked in the late July heat, sending heat waves skyward.  The drought was the worst in years and even the once green fields had withered and died.  I remember racing through the corn fields as a child, coming out covered in scratches and filled with joy.

However, like all things, my childhood was short-lived.  I grew up and longed for the excitement of a city life.  I became a lawyer, top of my class, and moved away from my small town home.  My visits home became less and less frequent as my life became busier and busier.  It had been three years since my last visit.  I was only here now because of my grandmother’s unexpected death.

It caught me by surprise when my mother called to deliver the news.  My grandma, the joy of my childhood, was dead and I did not have a chance to say goodbye.  I cried that day, a river of tears I feared would not end.  I cried for my grandpa and my mom.  I cried for my brothers.  And finally, I cried for myself–all the lost opportunities and poor decisions.

So here I was, standing in the heat, watching the asphalt bake just because I couldn’t force myself into the funeral home.  My brother came up to stand beside me, shoulder to shoulder.  He looked uncomfortable, whether from the emotions or the heat I wasn’t sure.

“It’s time,” he said quietly.

I nodded.  I still wasn’t sure I could turn around and walk inside. He made the decision for me when he wrapped a comforting arm around my shoulders and urged me around.

“She knew, you know?  She was so proud of you.  She missed you, hell, we all do, but she was just so proud that you managed to follow your dream.  She would talk and talk about her grandson, the big city lawyer with the college degree.  She knew how hard the decision was for you and she never begrudged you for it.  She knew you loved her,” he said.

Tears dripped down my face.  “I know she did, I just wish I was here,” I choked out.

Writing prompts:  child, death, asphalt

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Thirteen

Away, I had to get away.  The cayenne and garlic would not throw them off for long and I needed to cover a lot of ground.  I looked longingly at the lantern clutched tightly in my left hand but I dared not use it.  I was still too close; it would be a beacon in the night, leading them straight to me.

I had purposefully chosen the night of the new moon, for though their eyes were sharp in the darkness, even they would have trouble seeing tonight.  It was little comfort that they would be as blind as me.  I ran onward, using my other senses to guide me safely through the forest.  This was my home, here with nature, and the trees sang at my passing.

My steps were light but the run was taking its toll.  I could tap into my magic to aid me, but that too would lead them straight to me.  No, tonight I had to do it the hard way–all sweat and determination.  The wolves would not give up until I was well out of their territory, and even then I would not be completely safe.  Though I had carefully covered my scent it would be obvious who had broken into their compound.  Only one item was missing from their vaults–my mother’s necklace.

Technically I was not stealing it so much as returning it to its rightful owner but the Weres wouldn’t see it that way.  They were highly possessive of anything they thought of as theirs, myself included.  I’ve been dodging their pack leader for the last few years.  The man was sexy as hell and twice as irritating.  I swear he loved to rile me up just because he could.

The fall caught me by surprise.  The sensation of falling momentarily stunned my brain and I cursed myself for not paying better attention.  That damn man had distracted me again and he wasn’t even here.  I whispered a spell under my breath.  The falling stopped as I hovered in midair, an unknown distance from the ground.

My cover was blown anyway, so I whispered another spell, deeming speed more important than stealth.  I felt the magic course through my body and suddenly the world exploded into my vision.  My senses heightened and I could hear my pursuers far in the distance.  The ground was only a few feet away; a couple more seconds and I would’ve been seriously injured.

I let the first spell go and fell gently to the ground.  Energy zinged through my blood, causing my heart to race.  Now it was really time to run.  I would show up like a beacon to anyone with even a slight amount of spellcraft talent, but I didn’t care.  I could sense the pack leader getting closer.  Let’s see if he could keep up with me now.

I laughed as I sprang away.  The magic coursing through me made me giddy and I had to focus on getting away and not just racing him through the night.  He had gained quite a bit of distance in the time I had wasted and he was closing in.  However, with my new magic-fueled sight, strength, and speed I was able to pull ahead, putting more distance between us.

His pack stopped pursuit at the edge of their territory but he continued on, determined to catch me.  The magic made me playful and I slowed until I could just discern him behind me.  He had not Wered and was running breakneck through the dark forest with a surety that I envied.  It must be the instincts.  Either that or he was drawing power through the pack to help him see.

He saw me and shouted.  I grinned at him and leapt back into the race, my magic making me careless.  It was a good way to end up caught, but if push came to shove, I could always teleport myself out.  I would be laid out for two days afterward, which is why I only did it as a very last resort, but I had a safe house hidden just for that reason.

I concentrated on running and tried to decide where I would spend the night.  I couldn’t return to my apartment tonight, especially after I’d been spotted.  What had been speculation was now fact and the Weres knew where I lived.  Though my wards should protect me, I wouldn’t leave it to them alone.  No, I needed somewhere safe to spend a few days and I needed it fairly soon.  Though my magic could sustain me all night, the more I used, the longer it would take for me to recover.

Writing prompts:  lantern, sensation, fall