Friday May 29th, 2015

The exercise:

Yeah, I'm not even bothering to tag this one as Four Line Prose day. Mine was not going to be contained within that limit. If yours does, go for it! Good for you! Not happening for me.

Spent most of today picking strawberries. Had a break after lunch while a thunderstorm passed through, which I spent with Max. Otherwise? Picking berries.

Grand total was 51 pints of strawberries (I did 37, Kat's dad helped me finish them off after dinner with an additional 14) and 1 pint of raspberries. Also collected a little bit of rhubarb, to go along with the tomato plants we'll be bringing to market tomorrow morning.

Shortly after I went back out this evening I got a call from Kat. I always worry that something has happened with Max every time she calls... and this time I was right. Hurray?

I guess he tripped and fell while he was out on our deck, giving his head a good knock. A rather large goose egg (I am unable to describe it even remotely accurately without going into hyperbole because he is my 2.5 year old son, so I'm leaving it at as 'rather large', okay?) showed up on his forehead, above his left eye. Going the better safe than sorry route, Kat and her mom took him up to the emergency room in Oliver to get him checked out.

The doctor saw nothing to worry about, said it was unlikely to be a concussion, and back home they came. We'll keep a close(r) eye on him for the next half a day or so, but the swelling has gone down a lot already and he seems to be doing fine.

Bullet dodged. Time for bed.

But first: The Crossing, Part Three.


The four horsemen saw the thick, black smoke rising above the ruins of Kingstown long before they passed through what remained of its main gate. Nothing had been said, for they were not surprised. They had seen far too much to be surprised.

"It would appear that those who sought to delay us succeeded in their goal," Famine observed as they entered the rubble-strewn town square.

"We cannot return to Master without first settling this matter." Death looked at each of his compatriots in turn, not looking away until he received a nod of agreement. "Good. We shall bring Him their heads."

"Let us have another look at the letter," War said with an eagerness he had no interest in hiding. The bloodlust was upon him already.

Pestilence reached into his cloak and extracted their sole piece of evidence. It was still clutched in the ferryman's withered hand - the fool had attempted to drop the bag of gold coins that accompanied it into the river without any of the riders noticing.

Pestilence had put an arrow through the man's hand - plague, he thought - and, after they had extracted all the information the man had to give them, Death had severed it just below the wrist, before the infection could spread to the rest of his body. They had left him that way, a plain warning to others who might think to stand in their way.

"The letter is unsigned," Pestilence said, "but that matters little. It is handwritten."

"And the paper itself can be traced," War said happily. "By me, at least."

"You and your stupid bloodhound nose," Famine hissed.

"What was that, Fame?"

"I said let loose your hounds of war, mongrel." Famine paused, the spectre of a smile appearing on his face. "Yes, Mongrel. Let loose your hounds and let us find these men."

"Women, actually." War said, some of his previous enthusiasm draining from his voice as he contemplated his new nickname - as well as the possibility of having to hear it for the rest of eternity. Famine's smile grew all the wider, revealing yellowed and broken teeth. That was the first time in ages his compatriot had spoken to him without use of his hated moniker.

"It matters not," Death declared. "Point us in the direction we got next and let us be gone from this place."

"Fine, Dee." War turned his red horse in a slow circle as the others watched without comment. Then he did a second full circle, which caused the others to exchange puzzled glances. When he began a third rotation Pestilence opened his mouth to speak but War cut him off. "This way."

"You're certain?" Pestilence asked.

"Doubt me now if you wish, Pest," War said, some of his earlier good humour returning. "You will not in two days' time."

With that he urged his mount in the direction he had indicated. And, after a brief (but not unnoticed) pause, the others followed.


Greg said...

It sounds like Max will be fine, which I know is what you're worrying about :) Kids are a lot tougher than you think they are... if they weren't, there'd be a lot fewer humans (and animals for that matter!) around.
That's a lot of harvest for the market tomorrow, that should see you happy and tired by the end of the day!
Hmm, so Kingtown is burned already and the our horsemen weren't there to do it themselves. That's an interesting twist, as is that someone has sent the Four Horsemen out as their errand boys... your world here is getting ever more interesting! I think you need a bit longer than three days to finish this tale though :)
[Typo for you: your have "hour hounds of war" in the first sentence of para 11]

The Crossing (part III)
Arthur lifted his foot to step out of the mushroom ring, but as he did so a new voice spoke behind him. He turned to look again, starting to feel a little dizzy from all the turning around, and there was a teacher, the only one apart from his own that he recognised.
"You're breaking the treaty, Abhorath," said Miss Snippet. There was iron in her voice and the unicorn started, shying backwards as though her words were horseflies.
"This is not your labour!" The tattooed supermodel creature on the back of the unicorn hissed the words out while it tried to calm the beast. Sweat sprang out on the unicorn's long, brown nose, and its eyes rolled desperately from side to side. "Our treaty applies only to your labour!" There was a smell like freshly mown grass in the air now, and Arthur thought he could hear rain even though the sky was still blue and cloudless.
"He will be my labour," said Miss Snippet. She was standing with her arms crossed and her feet planted solidly in the ground. There was something in each hand, but Arthur couldn't make out what she was holding. She looked very slightly damp, as though she'd come in from heavy rain. "He joins my class in three months time."
"Then the treaty does not come into effect for three months!" Abhorath finally calmed the unicorn and pressed its legs into her flanks to edge her closer to Arthur.
"If you make me argue semantics with you I'm going to build a multi-storey car-park here," said Miss Snippet. Arthur could see her eyes, and they were ablaze with an inhuman light. "I'll drive concrete piles reinforced with iron deep enough into this ground to kill it for three hundred years, and I'll bury you in the bloody foundations!"
"The child is mine!" Nijinsky came closer still to Arthur, almost within arm's reach for Abhorath. Miss Snippet unfolded her arms, and Arthur saw that she was holding a hammer and several nails in one hand, and a horse shoe in the other.
"Class!" she said, and suddenly eighteen children seemed to fade into the foreground as though they'd been there all along but Arthur had somehow overlooked them. They swarmed the unicorn, climbing up on to her and around her, and she shuddered, her eyes rolling until only the white could be seen. Abhorath swore, but couldn't get her to move, and had to watch, helplessly, as Miss Snippet nailed the iron horseshoe on.
Arthur heard the crack of thunder and the sudden redoubling of rain, and looking around him could see the other world hazily seeming to be drowned in a cloudburst. He looked back, and he saw that Nijinsky had been released and was racing away, Abhorath clinging desperately to her neck.
"Come along, Arthur," said Miss Snippet, holding out her hand. "I think you should probably come and visit the class you'll be joining in September today."

ivybennet said...

Poor Max! It doesn't sound like anything bad will happen to him, but man those goose eggs sure hurt afterwards.
I like the hand bit. Also Famine's jokes on War's hounds. I really want to see these characters again.
Greg, I am so intrigued about what kind of "labour" this is. And how Miss Snippet's class can cross the barrier. I thought she would appear again based off of your description of her from part I. I kind of hoped she was behind Arthur's disappearance, but I'll settle for her being some sort of fairy world police sheriff.

I really enjoyed this three part prompt idea. I definitely think we should do it again.

The Crossing, part III

The man walked up to me, his eyes drawing me in. I was a straight guy, no questions asked. But there was something so…appealing to him. He placed his finger up to my trembling lips.
“I know, Shane. Only sheer desperation could drive someone to come knocking at my door.”
And I was desperate. If the demon before me didn’t grant me my wish, there was no conceivable future for me. All the hopes and dreams that had one dwelt within my heart were gone, replaced with darkness and a deep, constant ache that nearly brought me to my knees all throughout the day. I was so tired fighting, too tired to stay on my feet.
His red eyes bore into me, seeing my pain. “You are aware of the price, then?”
I slowly nodded. “My soul.”
The demon clasped his hands behind his back, whistling a tune far too happy for the occasion. I could have sworn it was Hail the Conquering Hero. Like a vulture, he walked around me in a circle just barely enough to fit one more person between us. The entire time, his eyes were focused on the gravel.
“Well?” Tensed as I was, the words barely escaped my chapped lips.
He walked a quarter of the circle. “Tell me about her death, if you will?”
The ache increased to actual, stabbing pain. “She died in a car accident a month ago.”
I saw the entire scene flash before my eyes. We were in my old silver Subaru, laughing. Carly’s dirty blonde hair had been tied back in a messy bud, her sweeping bangs in slight disarray from the night’s adventures. She had been wearing that ivory, beaded cami with the cute green cardigan thrown over to keep her warm at the beach. She had been laughing so hard that I was just waiting in eager anticipation to hear that cute little snort of hers. Then there was a blinding light from the left: a large truck barreling down old highway ten. The world was spinning and shattering all around me. When I awoke, it was to the horrible news.
The ache within me turned to fire in an instant. “I thought you said you knew everything you needed to. Why make me relive that?”
He tsked at me. “Now Shane, is that anyway to treat your savior? No matter.” He held out his hand. There was a gold ring on his pink; it shined in the sun. “You have proposed a deal, a deal in which I accept. Shall we shake?”
Even with the anger and hatred still bubbling inside me, I managed to take his outstretched hand and shake it once. Soon, I told myself. I would be able to see Carly.
“When will I see her again?”

ivybennet said...

[Sorry but it wouldn't let me post everything at once.]

The demon laughed, a deep cackle that sent me into shivers. “Not so fast, Shane. I told you I would bring Carly back, never that you would see her.”
“You didn’t tell me the whole story. Even such a creature as myself, I can’t find it within me to return a poor, innocent girl back to her killer.”
I felt as though the hole containing my shoebox had reopened and was swallowing me whole. The truck had hit the left side, Carly’s side. The truck had done nothing wrong, barreling through an intersection as the light remained green. If only I hadn’t been drinking at the beach that night. If only I had seen the light turn red. If only—
The demon was growing taller every second.
“You lied to me!” I shouted. “You said my soul in exchange for Carly!”
The demon only laughed, his shadow remaining the same even as he grew to be well over eight feet tall. That’s when I realized that the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was real; the hole I made to plant my summoning had indeed opened and was pulling me down with it.
“The only issue with that, Shane, is that you don’t have a soul to give. You lost that the moment you started your car. In exchange for Carly to live again, I claim all of you to serve me as I see fit for all of eternity.”
I tried to scream but my mouth was full of red hot gravel. It burned its way down my throat and into my stomach, the fire spreading quickly to every fiber of my being. Everything faded away except for that burning fire, the blistering pain the only thing I’ve ever known.
Everything turned to black except those piercing deep red eyes.

Marc said...

Greg - I figured I'd need more time with this tale. I'll have to come back to it at some point.

Besides, these four are a lot of fun to work with. War surprised me with how enjoyable I found his part in the story - I've written with Death before and assumed he'd come out as a clear favorite. Not the case.

That is a fantastic ending to your tale. I hope that Arthur drops by for a visit with us every now and again, as I'm eager to see how he fairs under Miss Snippet's tutelage :D

Ivy - I'm glad you enjoyed the prompt, and I'm pretty sure it will be making a few return appearances.

That's a powerful ending, with the unexpected twist of your narrator being at fault for the accident. I fully expected the demon to cheat on the deal but you managed to do it in such a way as to make it seem quite reasonable! I'm impressed.

And already looking forward to seeing what you two produce next time I bring this prompt around!