October 10

Fictober, Prompt 10 – “Listen, I can’t explain it, you’ll have to trust me.”

Warnings: none? Brief space-related danger.


My breath echoed hollowly inside my helmet, and I kept it as slow and even as I could. Panicking now would do nothing to help retain the dwindling oxygen supply strapped to my back.

“Any luck?” I called over the comm. The systems I was looking at gave me hope, but the ship had been floating dead in space for…well, a long time. The wiring was intact, which was a good start.

A grunt was all I got back, and I rolled my eyes. “Arun.”

“There’s an SFOG,” he said, “seems to be intact.”

I let out a breath of relief and felt the worst of the incipient panic lift from my chest. “Let’s stay on our tanks for now,” I suggested.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I’ve got at least three hours left, maybe more.”

“I think I’m about the same. That should be enough time to get us moving, and we can fire the SFOG at that point.”

“Which you’re going to do how, exactly? The reactor’s dead-cold. Suit’s not picking up any radiation from that direction, must have run out.” I could hear the frown in his voice; the ship had been drifting for a long time, but probably not long enough that all of the reactor’s fuel would have been consumed.

I pursed my lips, decided I wasn’t quite ready to explain yet, and certainly not over the comm. Arun was going to have a hard enough time accepting what I could do when he could see it for himself. “For now, we just need to get pointed in the right direction and get moving, so a burst should be enough. We can worry about steadier power and steering after that.”

“We’re only so far out of the debris field,” he warned, “but you’re right.”

“Check about the reactor?” I asked, buying a little more time. “I’ll come down to see the engines once I’m finished up here.”

“Yeah.” He clicked off, and I turned my attention back to the panel in front of me. I was going to have to give the engines a pretty good kick, but I did need a little bit of steering and diagnostic information first.

It was harder to do with gloves on, but I always made sure mine didn’t have the wrong kind of insulation in them, so the magic flowed out slowly but steadily into the discreet, five-finger port built into the control panel.

After ten, heart-stopping seconds of nothing, the screens around me winked into life.

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October 9

Fictober, Prompt 9 – “There is a certain taste to it.”

This is a follow-up to my Prompt 2 piece, and will make more sense in context.

Warnings: none. Fantasy.


We left the shrine and took a different path into the woods. Several hours’ rest and some food had restored my energy, so I felt up to the hike back over the hills toward the river.

A conversation with the kami had brought me up to speed on the situation, and I agreed with her assessment that it needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later. The corruption that had weakened the high river path along the steep, rocky faces of the hills had begun to the north and was slowly spreading south.

The main path up to the shrine would be cut off soon, and I sensed that that fact, along with her dislike of whatever was causing the corruption, played a role in the kami’s urgency.

“Kamisama?” I asked as we wound through the trees on a trail almost too narrow to even be a deer trail. She had given me no name with which to address her, so I stuck to the respectful generic.

She must have found that acceptable, for she did not provide any name now either. “Yes?”

“How do you know that it is not another kami, or a demon?”

She was quiet for many paces, but said at last, thoughtfully, “There is a certain taste to it.”

“The power of it?”

“Yes.” She considered her words again. “Those like myself, I know. The youkai are distinctive in their power, and those that live here do not challenge me. The older earth spirits here have quite a different feeling, a different sense to them, and they are too…too vast for this, too old.”

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October 8

Fictober, Prompt 8 – “Can’t you stay?”

Warnings: none. Fantasy, with a snake friend.


I felt my tracking spell die as I climbed out of the culvert and scrambled up the dirt embankment that rose just outside the city limits. Cursing, I hauled myself up faster, and darted across the road and through the trees on the other side.

Coming to a halt at the edge of the huge field that suddenly stretched out before me, I quickly pulled the tuft of fur out of the pouch at my belt and crouched down to perform the spell again. It should still work, I had only nabbed the fur a short time ago.

The spell flared to life…and then promptly died again.

I stared at the fur, and then out at the field. Distance shouldn’t have been an issue, not at this range, and even if there were a lot of rats here, it should still have worked.

But, the tracking spells were not perfect, and a large number of rats might be enough to confuse it, especially if there were any that might be related to the one I had tracked.

I stared out at the field again in deepening dismay. How was I to find a single rat in this huge field without my tracking spell? I couldn’t just let it go. More people were falling ill by the day, and my searching had led me to that rat, specifically. I had to get my hands on it, or the illness was going to spread, and that inevitably meant that a lot of people were going to die.

I started running through the list of possible spells that I could use, wondering if there was any way I could modify the tracking spell sufficiently to get it to work—

Something moved, slithering, out of the corner of my eye, and I jerked my gaze down.

Along the edge of the grass came a snake, a large one, patterned light with regular dark patches down the length of its body, shading from nearly black to light brown.

Slowly, I crouched down.

The snake froze, clearly looking at me. It flicked its tongue once, but otherwise remained still.

“Ah, hello,” I told it in a soft voice, carefully reaching out one hand, letting magic spark low at my fingertips. “Would you be willing to help me, perhaps?”

The tongue flicked again, out-up-down-in, but the snake did not move.

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October 7

Fictober, Prompt 7 – “No, and that’s final.”

Warnings: none.


“No, and that’s final.”

This seemed unlikely to me, since he’d said the same thing yesterday, and the day before.

“Then why are you letting me come back to ask again? I know you’re more than capable of keeping me off your property if you wanted to.”

He narrowed dark eyes, glaring at me for pointing out this truth. “I don’t understand why you’re even coming to me in the first place.”

“You’re the only witch I know,” I answered. He had made it clear the first day that he was a witch, thank you very much, none of that ‘warlock’ business around here.

“This town is full of witches!”

“And I don’t know any of them,” I said, keeping myself steady. In spite of his mixed signals, I sensed that something about my problem had intrigued him. I just had to figure out why he didn’t want to get involved.

“You barely know me,” he was quick to point out, and I was forced to nod in acceptance of that truth. Still, he had heard my story, and hadn’t banished me forever from his doorstep, and that was more than I could say of anyone else.

Instinctively, I held my tongue and waited.

“Argh, fine!” he said after another long moment of stewing. “Fine, I’ll help. But you’re paying me half up front, and I’m not doing any driving. It’s not a good week for me to drive.”

“Agreed,” I said immediately, sticking my hand out to accept his bargain. His expression said he was already regretting it, but he shook my hand anyway, and gestured me inside for the second time.

“Curses aren’t my specialty,” he warned me. “I’m more of a potions kind of guy.”

“It’s not exactly a curse,” I reminded him, “and I think it might be a potion that I need.”

“Well, we’ll see,” he grumbled.

But I caught a glimpse of a smile on his face as he turned away, and let myself feel hopeful for the first time in quite awhile.

October 6

Fictober, Prompt 6 – “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

Warnings: horror, monster, implied violent death, midwest/north woods gothic.


A loon call echoed over the lake, a single wailing note that might be either loneliness or a warning.

I heard my companion’s stride pause briefly at the sound, then her footsteps hurried across the gravel of the lake shore as she caught up to me. She walked closer than she had before.

“You said you knew that people have been going missing up here, right?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“And that it’s been recommended people stay away from this area?”

“Yes.”

“And we didn’t tell anyone we were coming.”

I took a breath, making sure that none of my frustration showed in my voice. “Yes, I’m aware. Your point?”

“Just that for someone who claims to be woods-smart, you aren’t really taking any basic, sensible precautions!”

“You’re the one who wanted to follow me out here,” I pointed out. “You didn’t have to come.”

“I did if I want to get this article written,” she muttered, a bit sullenly, but fell quiet.

It was a gray afternoon, the otherwise vibrant leaves muted by the lack of light, the trees themselves standing dark and tall beneath their autumn foliage. A mild, steady wind blew off the lake, rippling the otherwise calm surface and pushing the already cold temperatures a little bit lower.

I was always careful to dress in what would be sensible clothes for this time of year: thick socks, sturdy shoes, warm pants, a hooded jacket with a scarf, and gloves to cover my hands, which was an additional convenience. A backpack with some supplies in it. My companion (she had given me her name back in town, but I couldn’t remember it) was wearing something similar.

The loon called again, and I sensed the fear in her shiver.

The stories didn’t worry me. There were always stories, and nothing had come of them yet.

I kept walking, keeping to the narrow strip of stony shoreline between the water and the woods. We would have to go into the trees eventually, but my companion was already nervous, and there was no reason not to stay in the open for now.

She stayed quiet for some time. At last she ventured, “Do you really know what’s causing people to disappear up here?”

“I have an idea,” I replied carefully.

“But you know of a safe place to stay while we search?”

“I do. We’ll be there before dark.”

“Oh good. It’s cold out here, and I’m getting a little hungry.” She did not say that she was going to be too scared to be outside after the sun went down, although I knew that was the case. “Could we go a little faster?”

“That might be a good idea,” I agreed, and increased my pace. She matched her steps to mine, and kept a little closer, eyeing the darkening trees with misgiving.

I tilted my head down so that my mouth was covered by the scarf I wore before allowing myself to grin. It wouldn’t do to let her catch a glimpse of my teeth at this point.

After all, I was hungry too.

October 5

Fictober, Prompt 5 – “I might just kiss you.”

Warnings: None. Fantasy, smidge of romance.


“No, no, no, you cannot—” I cursed as the thick block of ice began to slip, the ice tongs not gripping it tightly enough.

Jumping back, I saved my foot from being smashed. It was only a small consolation as the ice shattered against the cold stone of the floor, and I contemplated the necessity of going back out into the freezing cold night to cut another piece. I was trying to carry pieces that were too big, but I was only going to have the energy to perform this spell once, and the larger the piece of ice, the longer it would last. My group desperately needed the help; we had several wounded and ill among us, and while this place could give us shelter, it was too cold to remain in for long.

Unless I could get this spell, with its thrice-cursed components, working.

Grimacing, I turned around to trudge back up the corridor, passing a handful of other shattered ice blocks along the way. If only I could carry the ice myself, or with magic, then I would be finished already. The touch of anything but metal would contaminate the ice for this particular spell, though, so it had to be with the tongs.

This time was my farthest distance yet, though, and I was close to the room where I wanted to place it. Maybe this time I could make it—

“Need this?”

Lost in my not-too-hopeful contemplations, I jumped at the voice ahead of me. It was Tamás, one of our fighters and certainly the strongest member of our group, and he was carrying…

He was carrying a block of ice even bigger than those I had managed, supported by the metal blade of a shovel underneath, and steadied by another pair of ice tongs on top.

“It’s okay as long as only metal has touched it, right?” he asked, hesitating. “The saw blade was metal, and I thought the shovel would be okay too.”

I spent half a second realizing what an idiot I had been for not thinking of that before the relief got ahead of my brain and I blurted out, “I might just kiss you!”

Tamás blinked, then raised an eyebrow at me.

I felt my face go red, and cleared my throat quickly. “I mean, thank you. I wouldn’t— I know you’re not— It isn’t—”

“It’s fine,” he cut off my increasingly meaningless attempts to explain myself. I was glad he was taking that very unplanned confession so calmly and got my mind back on track.

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October 4

Fictober, Prompt 4 – “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Warnings: horror/body horror, parasite, parasite removal, blood.


I sat in the little stand of woods, huddled beneath the biggest tree, knees drawn up to my chin, arms wrapped around my legs, fingers digging into my arms hard. Too hard. I was almost certainly going to bruise myself.

Since the alternative was to start clawing my own skin off, I thought bruises were probably a better option.

I couldn’t feel it. You never could. That was the awful part.

If it hadn’t been for Lydia, I wouldn’t even have known one had attached itself to me, would still be walking around in hideous ignorance.

And they would probably already have come for me.

Rustling from the field next to this stand of trees, and I looked up quickly, watching with wary eyes until the corn and then undergrowth parted to reveal that it was just Lydia, back with (hopefully) everything she would need to get it off me.

If it wasn’t already too deep.

I shuddered even as she came over and quietly dropped the backpack she carried into the leaf litter and crouched down in front of me.

“How are you doing?”

I made myself relax one hand from its death grip on my arm and waggled my fingers in a so-so motion, not wanting to move enough to shrug.

“Well, best not wait any longer,” she said, accepting that with a nod. “Can you get your shirt off yourself?”

Taking a deep breath, I nodded tightly and forced myself to move. It felt uncomfortable, being so undressed out here in the open; it wasn’t something I’d ever done before, but the thing was on my back and I wanted this to be as easy as possible for Lydia.

“Are you sure?” I forced myself to whisper. “I know you didn’t ask for this.”

Lydia regarded me steadily for a long moment, then said, “No, I didn’t. But you asked for help, and I accepted, and I meant it. I’m not going to let them take anyone else…and least of all you.”

Oh. There was an intensity in her eyes that I hadn’t recognized before, and it made me flush. We had known each other for a long time, but not well, not until recently. But now…

Lydia didn’t seem inclined to make anything further of it just now, pulling on a headlamp with business-like motions and digging through the backpack for whatever else she needed.

Okay, I thought. Something else to deal with later. If we got a later.

Please, let us get a later.

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