Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Story We Created

(I apologize for the formatting kerfuffle here. I have been trying to get it to look like it's supposed to for half an hour now, and it's just not working. I'm certain Karin or Kim will be able to fix it! For now, you'll have to suffer with my lame-ass tech skills.)

As promised, here is the story created this week in Heroines of Fantasy. I needed a few more than five lines to close it out, but I think it turned out really faboo. That old saying about too many cooks ruining the soup?? Not in this case! I give you--Our Story...
Light, the final ingredient, and the most elusive. Maia gathered up the ribbons she found in the crusty trunk her grandfather kept under his bed. "From older days, when I was young and full of spice," he told her, and winked, and tucked the ribbons back into the trunk. Maia knew better; these were no bobbies passed by poxy-doxy-girls to favor young men just in from the sea. They were light, trapped and coveted; and her grandfather was nothing of the kind.
She twisted the ribbons around her wrist, watched the play of light and shadow, delighted in the slip of silk and satin against the warmth of her skin. What she could do with these tools! She could work the magic of these little slips of light in ways her grandfather only dreamed. What he had never understood, she knew: it took a woman's touch to unlock the secrets of light and shadow, to find the gray areas trapped within.
If only her grandfather could see the complex tangle of ribbons now. But would he understand? That was something she'd never know, but his perspective on the world was quite different and rigid. But Grandmother, she would have understood. And she would appreciate the new way.
Maia ran a strand of green silk between her thumb and forefinger. Green, the light of life. Could she use it to give temporary life and a temporary voice to Grandmother? She knew she couldn't bring back the dead, but what if she could allow Grandmother to speak for a short time? What secrets, what magics would she reveal?
She knew fire would be necessary. She searched for matches and the tiny brass burner her mother used for incense. She set the burner on the windowsill, coiled the green ribbon in its cup. The first match fizzled, but the second caught. She touched its bright orange flame to the frayed tip of the ribbon. A tendril of smoke spiraled up.
A soft knock at the door caught her attention for a moment. Then faded away again. The words tripped off her tongue, slipped from her teeth and into the shadows like bats into the haze of dusk.
“Maia,” the voice said. “Your dinner's getting cold.”
Then the door opened, revealing in the glow of lamplight, the terror on her grandfather's face.
“What are you doing?” he hissed.
Maia paled. "I was just—I thought—"
Grandfather spied the tiny wisp of smoke and shoved past her, intent on snuffing it out.
Maia hesitated, the words of the spell pregnant on her tongue. Now was her moment, if she would speak, and reverse the damage Grandfather had done, so long ago.
“No!” she cried and snatched the cup from grandfather’s hand. Off her tongue fell words bright and fierce. They strengthened the orange spark. Green light wound its way through the strand of silk and exploded into joyously into the air.
“Oh, child, you don't know what you've done,” said grandfather, a look of incredible sadness on his face.
Light danced in shades of jade, mandarin, vermilion, cerulean; flames twisting around each other in an ever more frenzied rhythm. The center of the vortex rumbled and writhed, then expanded outward, forcing the walls to bend and groan. Without warning, the magic imploded. All color, all light was sucked into darkness. In the black silence that ensued, Maia drew a frightened breath and reached for her grandfather's hand.
“Maia, is that you?”
“Grandmama? I can't see you.”
“No!” shouted grandfather, squeezing her hand tight. “You don't know what you've done.”
“You said that already, Grandfather,” said Maia, “and you're hurting my hand!”
A tendril of smoke curled up from the bowl and stroked Maia's cheek. She shivered, for the smoke wasn't warm, it was cold and slick as a newly-caught fish.
“Edmar always did have an exaggerated sense of drama, didn't you, Edmar?” said Grandmother's voice, as cold as the smoke. Grandfather squeaked and dropped Maia's hand, backing away from the smoke.
“Ediris, forgive me!”
Maia felt a cold chill as the draft wafting around her legs and arms subsided. Grandfather? Grandmama? All was still. And black.
“I forgave you long ago.” Grandmama curled around her husband, like the cold, like the smoke. “It is forgetting I will not do.” Light burst from grandfather's eye sockets, his ears, his nostrils. Grandmama sucked him in, sucked in his life, his light; and when grandfather was a husk drifting soundlessly to the ground, Grandmama turned to Maia.
“How do you follow that up?” asked the Narrator. “I mean, really. That's pretty exciting stuff.”
“Shut up,” snapped the reader. “Tell the story.”
Grandmama looked at Maia, the dribble of grandfather's light wet around her mouth. A long, black tongue snaked out licking the room to darkness again. “Come here, my pretty,” the fish-belly voice said.
Maia slipped shaking hands under her apron and pulled the rest of the ribbons, still in their complicated knots, from the waistband of her skirt. Did she have enough time?
“You are not my grandmama,” Maia said, bunching the ribbons in her fist. “She was wise and brave and kind.”
“And tasty.” The thing-not-grandmama moved closer. “Edmar did not believe his playthings would bite back, but he learned," she licked her lips, “and so did his beloved Ediris.”
“Grandma, what big teeth you have!” said Maia.
“Oh no, no, NO!” said the reader. “That has been soooo done already!”
The Narrator cleared her throat in embarrassment. “Sorry. Let me try again...”
The thing took another step, and Maia could see that it drifted, rather than walked, as though it was woven together from smoke and fog. The scent of burned hair and sulfur hung heavy in the air.
“It won't hurt very long, unfortunately,” the summoning said.
In the hall, the grandfather clock tolled the hour, its song filling the room with dulcet tones. The creature turned towards the sound, its head cocked, transfixed by the melody it played.
Maia felt the ribbons in her fist. If only she could see their colors in the dark. Wait, what was that? A little flash of red sailed up her fingertip. Which ribbon had it come from?
“Red for fire,” whispered a voice close beside her ear. “To burn away the darkness and dark creatures.”
Not-grandmama didn’t appear to hear the voice, but could Maia trust it? She'd already stumbled into one curse calling-forth and feared another. But the-thing-not-her-grandmother was already turning back towards her, and she had no choice. She played her fingers rapidly against the ribbons until red sparked again and spit out the words.
“Red is not for fire,” Maia thought. “Red is for blood. For life!”
The ribbon twisted, slowly smoldering down to ash. The chimes of the clock continued to ring: twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen; eventually she stopped counting.
She ran.
The thing not her grandmother gave chase, cold flicking at Maia's heels. Its fishy breath chilled the back of her neck.
“Yes, yes, run. The light tastes better when young and heated.”
“Follow me to your doom,” Maia whispered between panted breaths, ribbons clutched tightly in her hand.
Down the hill, over the tops of the trees, Maia saw the pennant flying from the top of the town's abattoir, a place she usually avoided at all costs, but today the place she most needed. The twists and turns of the forest trail swallowed her up, but didn't throw Not-Grandmama off her trail.

Maia burst through the last stand of trees into the clearing which held the abattoir, into a wall of sound composed of lowering and panicked beasts. Red ash rose from her fingers, spreading and transforming the blood this place was soaked in into a glowing web of red light, scintillating drops of red as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach, fascinating Not-Grandmama as Maia hoped they would.

That which was not Grandmother ground to a halt, mouth opening and closing with desire. "Beautiful! I must count them all."
Greed twisted its features into a parody of happiness. Sobs of mind-numbing fear shuddered Maia's little body, and she curled up on the ground, her fingers still open, the red ribbon continued to turn to red ash, the blood into red light.
The creature sucked eagerly at the red light, and grew. Maia, past the hope of her life continuing, watched through her salty tears as the not-grandmama blew up like a pig bladder in its greed.
“Red for blood, green for life, gold for light, blue for courage, and pink for love…” Again that voice whispered, so far away and trembling. The thing-not-grandmama towered over her now, sucking and still not sated. Maia tugged the blue ribbon from the clutch in her fist. She stuffed it in her mouth and swallowed.
“What is this?” shrieked the creature. “You dare take what is mine? What I was tricked into giving that old man and his wife? I will have it back. Right. Now!”
Not-grandmama grabbed Maia around the waist, hauled her into the air. Eyes wide open, the blue ribbon burning warm in her belly and snaking its courage through her blood and bones, Maia faced the black-tongued maw.  Breath like monsoon wind hit her face, fishy as the cold and twice as rank. Maia held her breath. As her head dipped between the creature’s lips, she thrust her fist in and let the pink ribbon fall onto its tongue.
Not-grandmama gagged. It swallowed. And then it burped.
The question never came. Not-grandmama dropped Maia to clutch at its throat. Maia rolled to the ground, coming up in a crouch. She watched the thing shrink as she had watched it grow, a silent scream splitting its lips like a gash. From that gash, light. It shot past Maia.
“I am sorry, child,” a voice like the rush of wind whispered. “I was a fool. My trunk is yours, and all inside.”
Not-grandmama jerked and twisted on the ground, its now-nubby hands twitching, and then still. Light drooled out of the corner of its mouth, its eyes, its nostrils, swirling colors like syrup in cream. Maia heard, “The green summoned it, the red fed it, the pink destroyed it. You carry the blue inside of you now. What you do with the gold is your choice. Peace, dear child. Forgive us both.”
Maia struggled to her feet. Her fingers, cramped into an aching fist, held a gold ribbon. She loosened her grip, one digit at a time, watching the play of light and shadow; knowing it for what it was. Maia wrapped it tenderly around her wrist and kissed the knot she made to hold it. Stepping gingerly over the husk once not-grandmama, she headed for home and the trunk that once belonged to her grandfather who had been no such thing, and the magic never his.


Julia said...

Right on! Good story, especially for having been told collectively. :)

Terri-Lynne said...

Thanks, Julia!

Terri-Lynne said...

My sincere apologies to PJ who's last bit inadvertently got missed in the cut and pasting I did to put the story all in one file. It's there now! In the pretty blue it's supposed to be in. I'd like to say I did that to highlight it. Truth is, I just can't seem to get the formatting right on this thing.

Sorry PJ!

pjthompson said...

No worries, luv. You did heroic work putting this together (and the lion's share of the work). "We" didn't do half bad. ;-)

Terri-Lynne said...

PJ--it did turn out fabulous, huh? So pleased.