Fictober End

It feels really weird not to be writing a story tonight, after a successful month of doing Fictober. It’s a relief, in a few ways, but also weird.

It’s a relief because I’m pretty wiped out tonight, and it’s good to not need to thing about writing just now. I’m taking tonight off, but hoping to keep up the general momentum of writing something every day.

It’s a relief because I felt like I was on the verge of running out of good ideas.

(But it’s also a relief because I kept not running out of ideas and now I have…too many new stories to write. So. There’s that.)

I’m really glad that I did it, and I feel good about having managed to do at least a little something every day! Some were definitely better than others, but that’s okay. I’m leaning towards doing it again next year, especially if I’m able to flesh some of these new things out in the meantime.

Congratulations to everyone else who participated! There were some great stories, and I’m going to go back and get caught up on some things because some nights I ran out of energy to read much once I had my bit done.

Thank you to fictober-event on Tumblr​ for running it! It was a lot of fun.

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 11

Fictober, Prompt 11 – “It’s not always like this.”

Warnings: horror, blood, blood-drinking, implied violent death(s)


The light beneath the trees darkened, and I wandered on carefully. I knew I was heading in generally the right direction, and eventually I’d be close enough to find the path, or to hear my car beep if I unlocked it.

I’d lingered too long, deep in the woods near an old scouting camp where my grandfather had come frequently to hunt. It was lonely out here, but peaceful, and I’d accidentally fallen asleep when I sat down to rest earlier under the autumn trees. It was night now, but a large, orange harvest moon was rising over the hill to the east, and with so many leaves already down it provided enough light for me to walk without stumbling.

I crested a small rise, and dropped down into the small hollow beneath, a clear area in the trees, filled with boulders left over from the last Ice Age; common in the foothills here in western Pennsylvania.

The deer standing in the clearing were common too.

What was not common was the fact that they did not bolt when I appeared so suddenly nearby, and most of them did not even glance at me. One, the farthest away, was backed up against the largest rock outcropping, eyes wide and rolling with terror, though it seemed frozen in place. The other deer stood around it in a loose semi-circle, silent and still in a way that made me uneasy.

This was very strange.

Keeping quiet myself, I started to back up…only to realize that there was now a short drop, slippery with leaves, and a rock at my back. No easy way out that direction.

The slope continued down from here, though, and that was the direction that I needed to go. If I could just edge around the deer carefully, I could leave them to whatever it was they were doing and get back to my car.

I froze only half a dozen steps later when one of the circling deer finally turned its head and looked at me.

It had fangs.

Cold fear uncurled in my stomach. There was some weird, small kind of deer that had long teeth, somewhere in Asia…but these were the usual white-tailed deer that were native to this area. They should not have teeth, or tusks, or whatever these were.

The rest of the watching deer turned to look at me.

They all had fangs too.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading