October 15

Fictober, Prompt 15 – “That’s what I’m talking about!”

Warnings: none. Fantasy of sorts.


“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Nadia called to me as we ducked low over our mounts to avoid the vegetation hanging low over our heads. Our mounts continued to pace forward steadily in spite of the thick foliage. “We can’t just ride up like this and assume we’re going to receive a warm welcome!”

I waved off her concerns, careful not to grin. We probably weren’t going to receive a warm welcome…that was half the point. The other half was to make a statement.

No one was going to ignore two riders who had managed to tame mounts like these.

Of course, “tame” might not be quite the right word. The pair stopped, necks stretching out as their heads swiveled, looking and smelling for something that had caught their attention.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Nadia whispered fiercely, careful not to disturb whatever potential prey had been spotted.

I did grin this time but leaned forward and touched the back of my mount, the bigger female. “Maybe later?” I asked, cajoling. “We did eat just a couple of hours ago.”

Her head turned slightly so that one large eye could stare at me. The look seemed more reproachful than irritated, which was a good sign.

“I promise we’ll find you some good hunting grounds when we get there,” I promised, raising my voice so that the male could hear too. It wasn’t clear exactly how well they understood me, but they weren’t unintelligent creatures, and talking to them seemed to be working well so far. “It’s good land, and we are coming to help.”

The female blew out a breath, relaxed out of her alert stance, and paced onward. I smoothed a hand along her thick scales next to my saddle in thanks and reassurance. Her mate followed without question.

I was hoping, if we could get settled outside the city according to plan, that there might be some little ones too, at some point. It wasn’t mating or nesting season now, fortunately, but it wasn’t too many weeks away. I was glad that mated pairs stayed together year-round, though, as it made this much easier.

“Well, at least they listen to you,” Nadia grumbled, but I saw her giving the male a surreptitious pat as well. Secretly, she loved them as much as I did, but felt that one of us needed to be “sensible” about it.

“It will be fine,” I told her, grinning again, and it would be. The city might not be excited to see us immediately, but once I explained and we four proved ourselves as a team, they would let us stay.

After all, who was going to turn down a pair of tyrannosaurs as gate guardians?


(RIP, Victor Mílan)

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October 14

Fictober, Prompt 14 – “I can’t come back.”

Warnings: none. Sci-fi.


“You have to come back,” he pleaded.

“I can’t come back.”

“You can! The Head Instructor said she’ll let you in again, and you haven’t missed too many lessons—”

“Let me rephrase: I won’t come back.”

“You’re way ahead on flight time, of course, and she said— Wait, what?” He stuttered to a halt, staring.

I looked back calmly, not caring to repeat myself again.

“But you— You have to! If you don’t graduate from the Academy no one will ever hire you!”

“That seems unlikely,” I pointed out. “Just because many space pilots train here doesn’t mean they all do.” I turned back to my packing. The cadet rooms in the Academy were tiny, streamlined and industrial. I hadn’t bothered to accumulate many personal items beyond the necessities; only a few small presents from my twin, always a tiny balm for our continued separation.

Xue continued to gape at me from the doorway. “But— Well, even if that’s true, it’s going to make it a lot harder for you to get work!”

“I know.”

“All you have to do is promise to be more respectful to the Instructors from now on!”

“More obedient, you mean.”

“Well…” he hedged. I wasn’t sure why he was still trying to convince me; he knew me well enough after two years to know that I wasn’t going to accept such an argument.

“But, your family,” he tried next, hesitantly.

“I’m sure my brother will be upset, but he will understand.” He was the only family I was speaking to, these days, and he certainly would understand. He’d be joining me, if he were here.

Xue was silent for several moments then, while I finished packing my bag and my one small trunk. I stripped the sheets off the bed and sent them down the laundry chute, and made sure that the computer terminal was wiped clean of my data. My handheld was in my bag, and then all that was left to do was to shut down the lighting, step out into the hall, and close the door behind me.

He followed me out, then asked quietly, “What will you do?”

“Work, first,” I responded. “Until I have enough for a small ship of my own. After that?” I mused over the question as we headed down the dim hallway. “I think there’s probably a faster way to make the run between Chi’dong and Binyun.”

“But no one’s ever done that run in less than five days!”

“This certainty that we know everything there is to know about known space is most of why I’m leaving,” I told him sternly. “The run that is used now can’t be done in less than five days. I think there’s a faster run along a different route.”

“But that’s dangerous—”

I stopped dead in the corridor, turning to face him and cutting this latest protest short.

“Good-bye, Xue,” I told him. “Thank you for your concern, and for keeping me company. But dangerous or not, it’s my flight to make.”

He opened his mouth on what was probably going to be another automatic protest, then closed it. He frowned, but when he spoke again it was to say, “You’re welcome. Good luck.”

I nodded in thanks and continued alone.

Luck wasn’t going to have much to do with it.

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 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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