Image Prompt 045 Response – I’ve Already Trained One

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I chose the picture of the two cats on the piles of boxes for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  A quick copy edit later, this is the result. I hope you enjoy.

I’ve Already Trained One:

Angelica peered over the edge of the box she sat in, waiting to see when the door would open.  The large hairless cat would be back soon. She and Jonathan preferred to have eyes on the door when he did return.  It was good to know when the bumbling creature was around.

“Did we leave everything prepared?” Jonathan asked.

“We rearranged the items in the tiered beds room,” Angelica replied.

“And the large bed room?” Jonathan asked.

“Of course,” Angelica replied.  “I always do that first thing in the morning.

“Our dishes were properly filled today,” Jonathan mused.  “Yesterday was reasonably successful then.”

“He made more of the interesting noises than usual as he rearranged things,” Angelica reminded him.

“Yes, it is always a successful day when he verbalizes more,” Jonathan agreed.

“Do you think we need to particulate something?” Angelica asked.  “He’s especially verbal when we do that.”

“Not today.  We did one last week.”

“Best not to overdo that technique,” Angelica agreed.  “I was sure to lay on his pants today.”

“We must give him whatever added warmth we can manage,” Jonathan said.  “I don’t understand how he survives without his fur.”

“The fur on his head probably needs grooming as well,” Angelica said.  “Provided it doesn’t taste too awful. I don’t know what he does to end up with all that gunk in it.”

“It seems to be voluntary,” Jonathan said.  “He was in the water room the other day and I saw him putting something in his fur that smelled like what we usually find in it when we try to groom him properly.”

“It’s getting late,” Angelica said, glancing out the window.  “He’s usually returned before dark.”

“It’s not so late that it’s concerning yet,” Jonathan replied.  He was older, so Angelica trusted him to know what he was talking about.

They both perked up when they heard the sound from the door.  There was always a specific grating noise before the door itself opened.  They jumped down from their boxes and hurried to jump onto the counter beside the door.

“Say hi to the welcoming committee,” their furless cat said as he walked in.

There was a second furless cat behind him.

“Oh, how cute,” she said.  “They’re waiting for you.”

“Yeah,” theirs said.  “They always greet me at the door.  I think maybe they miss me when I’m not around.”

“They’re lovely,” the other one said, stepping closer and reaching out to touch Jonathan.

Jonathan ducked his head as she reached for him.  He didn’t let just anyone touch him.

“Hey, sweet girl,” their furless cat said as he stroked between Angelica’s ears and down her back.

Angelica purred and pushed into the touch, but kept her eyes on Jonathan and the new furless cat.  She thought this one was female.

Jonathan had evaded her touch and jumped down to the floor.

“He doesn’t seem especially friendly,” the furless cat said, crouching down beside Jonathan.

“He can be slow to warm up,” their furless cat said.  “Just give him time to get used to you.”

The female furless cat stood up again and stepped closer to their furless cat.  “Is she friendly?”

“Usually,” their furless cat replied, still stroking Angelica.  “She loves attention.”

The new furless cat reached out and rand her fingers along Angelica’s back.  It wasn’t a rough touch, so Angelica remained still. She watched the newcomer.

“You’re beautiful,” the female said.  “And so soft,” she added, as she continued to stroke Angelica.

Their furless cat continued stroking her as well, and the female seemed to be learning from him how to do so, her strokes becoming more and more like his as they continued.

“Alright up there?” Jonathan asked.

“So far,” Angelica replied.

“Do you want some attention too?” the female asked, crouching down again.

Jonathan retreated to the other side of their furless cat.  This newcomer wasn’t very well versed in their language apparently.

“She’s alright,” their furless cat said, crouching down to stroke Jonathan.

Jonathan purred for him.  Perhaps they would reward him for his good behavior later.  He was giving them proper attention, and he hadn’t tried to pick Jonathan up like he had the last time a strange furless cat was in their space.

The female stood again and returned to stroking Angelica.

Angelica purred since the furless cat was doing a reasonably good job in her ministrations.  She even scratched under Angelica’s chin without any prompting.

“This one seems trainable,” Angelica said.

“If she responds to your training she might be worth the effort,” Jonathan replied.  “I’ve already trained one.”

Jonathan didn’t see the point in training anything that didn’t show promise in advance.

Angelica went back to purring, wanting to encourage this new furless cat to treat her properly while their furless cat ministered to Jonathan.

“Alright,” their furless cat said after a while.  “Be nice to Victoria while I get everyone’s dinner together.

Jonathan followed their furless cat into the food room, leaving Angelica alone with the newcomer.  Since she continued to be stroked and petted, Angelica saw no issues with the other two leaving. This one had a good touch already.

“You’re much happier to see me than your fellow,” the female furless at said.  “Maybe you can put in a good word for me later. I’d love to see if he’s as soft as you are.

Angelica laughed at that.  She was far softer than Jonathan.  All the furless cats said so.

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Image Prompt 045 – Cats and Ireland

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 045-001 2018-10-12 Locke and Lilly 10-07-16 002

Image Prompt 045-002 2018-10-12 Shamrocker Tour05-04-23 043

Image Prompt 044 Response – Shelter in Place

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I chose the picture of the fountain at the McKimmon Center.  I wrote this at my weekly write-in and the prompt from the room was to crash a spaceship into it, so I hope you enjoy a little random scifi.  As usual, this is the product of a timed sprint and a quick copy edit. I went a bit over my usual twenty minutes so I could get to the actual crash, so this is a bit closer to a thirty-minute sprint.

Shelter in Place:

Sarah was on duty at the front desk in the McKimmon Center doing her statistics homework.  It was a work-study position, so they had to let her work on stuff when there was no one around that needed help or directions.  It was the only reason she had both rent and all her homework done.

She heard the rumbling and thought it was thunder at first, but when the noise just kept up, she got up and checked outside.  It was bright and sunny. The only clouds were the fluffy white ones that never caused rain. The rumbling noise was still there, and it was getting louder.  She didn’t see anything, so she went back to the desk. If it was worth worrying about, she’d get an alert soon. It could just be related to one of the ever-present construction projects in and around campus.  She’d started ignoring a lot of noises after they began reconstructing Hillsborough Street. You could hear it in any building within a block of that edge of campus.

Sarah was just getting back to her statistics homework when her phone went off.  It was a campus alert telling everyone that there was a national warning asking everyone to get indoors as quickly as possible and shelter in place.  All campus personnel were to stop what they were doing, go to the nearest building, and follow the shelter in place procedures.

Frowning, Sarah left her homework on the desk, but grabbed her backpack with her computer and did a quick sweep of the main area on her way to the bathrooms designated for shelter in place.  She was only half way across the main entryway when someone came on the building’s speakers announcing the shelter in place call and asking everyone to follow staff to the designated location.  She clicked on the link in the alert, hoping the main page would have additional information, but there wasn’t much. Just that the warning and shelter in place directive had come from the US government.

“Do you know where to go?” Someone asked as they walked into the main hall from one of the side rooms.  There was a line of people behind them.

“If you’ll all follow me,” Sarah said, putting her phone back in her pocket.  “Shelter in place locations are in the center of the building in the bathrooms there.”  It was a pretty typical shelter in place location. Sarah had been doing what she thought of as hide-in-the-bathroom drills since she was in kindergarten.  Back then they’d been called tornado drills. They were better than the code red drills.

When they reached the bathroom, Sarah held the door open to the women’s restroom and let everyone else file in past her.

“Should we go to the men’s room?” a guy asked her, pausing before entering.

“For shelter in place purposes, it doesn’t matter,” Sarah replied.  “This one is closer, so we’ll all shelter here.”

There were about a dozen people in the bathroom when Sarah stepped in and let the door close behind her.  Her supervisor, Greg, was in the back corner with a few other people Sarah didn’t know, plus the eight people that had come out of the meeting room to ask her for directions.

“Everyone make yourselves as comfortable as you can,” Greg said.  “We could be here a while. It’s Monday morning and the bathrooms are always fully cleaned over the weekend, so feel free to sit if you need to.”

Sarah leaned against the wall near the door and watched everyone.  A few people looked at the floor, but no one sat down. She understood.  Bathroom floors were a weird place to sit down, even if you knew it was freshly cleaned.

The rumbling noise was still audible, even from where they were in the center of the building on the first floor.  It must have been really loud outside. It sounded a bit like being inside an airplane during takeoff or landing. Just a huge rushing air noise.

Another alert went out, urging anyone not already inside to get there as fast as possible and anyone driving to pull over and shelter in place in their vehicles.  Sarah knew she should probably be scared. It wasn’t a weather emergency, and the US government was telling them to hide. Did that mean the government had finally pissed someone off enough to attack the US?  But why would they go after anything in the Raleigh area? She’d think they’d target something like the military bases near the coast before anything else in North Carolina.

The rushing air noise got louder, and Sarah thought she heard a couple loud banging noises.  That’s when the wall started to shake. Sarah stood up and had time to take one step away.

There was a horrible crunching and crashing noise, accompanied by the walls shaking and drywall cracking, and dust raining down on them.

Sarah dropped to her knees and threw her hands over her head.  Years of public schooling had ingrained the need to protect her head.

The next sound was so loud it left Sarah’s ears ringing.  The ground shook and the wall beside her pushed inward, drywall falling on her.

There was silence after that.  Sarah coughed, and pushed up, hoping there wasn’t anything heavier than drywall on top of her.

The drywall cracked and fell on either side of her.

Sarah looked up for find everyone covered in gray and brown debris.  There was dust everywhere, and she could see blood on some people.

“Is everyone alright?” Greg asked, right before the fire alarm went off and the sprinkler system activated.

The sprinklers only stayed on for a few seconds.  Long enough to soak everyone, but not long enough to do anything if there was a fire.

Sarah got to her feet carefully, thankful for her backpack, which took the brunt of the hit from the bits of wall that had accompanied the drywall.  She turned to look behind her.

The main lobby was gone.  So was most of that half of the building.  She was looking at the courtyard where the fountain should have been.  She could even see a few cars in the lot on the other side, though none of them were right side up.

Where the fountain should have been, was a pile of metal.  It looked like it had been rectangular originally. Maybe slightly rounded on one end, but it also looked broken.  There was a crater around it, and it had dug itself partially into the ground of the courtyard. There were broken bricks scattered everywhere.

Sarah’s phone chimed, and she checked it automatically.  An unidentified object had fallen from orbit and landed near the McKimmon Center.  Those in the affected area were to remain sheltering in place where possible, or follow emergency evacuation procedures if their building warning systems indicated.  Everyone else was to remain sheltered in place.

Sarah looked back at the weird object.  It didn’t look like a satellite. What else might have been in orbit?  She didn’t think anyone made spaceships that looked like that.

Image Prompt 044 – Raleigh and Dublin

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 044-001 2018-09-14 McKimmon Center Spring 2012 (1)

Image Prompt 044-002 2018-09-14 Dublin05-04-21 015-Guiness Theatre

Image Prompt 043 Response – Half Moon

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I selected the image of the moon through the trees for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  It makes me think of the witches in my Swords & Shields series, so I decided to do a little piece from when Sinikka was seventeen.

Half Moon:

Sinikka stood in the grass behind the house alone.  Her parents were in France this week, and Jordan was at a meeting at the Topoischús.  She was entirely alone on the estate.  She couldn’t remember a time in her entire seventeen years when she was completely alone like this.  Her parents, Jordan, or some other responsible adult had always been nearby before.

Slipping out of her shoes, Sinikka padded barefoot across the grass, moving away from the house.  On the estate she could be certain of her privacy and safety.  No one could cross the wards that wasn’t trusted implicitly by her mother.  She watched the trees, waiting for the moon to rise through their silhouettes in the quickly darkening sky.  It was only the half moon tonight, but she felt like celebrating nonetheless.

As the moon rose, a pale half circle peaking between branches, Sinikka began to dance.  It wasn’t formal, like the ballet or modern dance classes she’d taken when she was younger.  She just let herself move to the rhythm of the music she heard in her soul.  The night was alive with the sounds of nature around her.  The wind in the trees mingled with the soft hum of insects and the occasional mournful call of the owl the lived in their woods.

Sinikka’s magic slowly expanded around her as she danced and her usual tight shielding eased.  She was alone and safe and her magic would do no harm to the natural world around her, so she let it breath free of its usual constraints.

It was exhilarating, to feel the life around her and know that it was stronger for the touch of her magic.  She breathed life into the very air and everything her magic touched gained a little magic.  She had so much more than she needed, so she let it out into the night, letting it rise up toward the moon and stars.

She never stopped dancing as her magic soaked into the ground beneath her feet and spread out to touch the house, the bushes, and further afield, the trees among whose branches the moon shone brightly.

The moon had traveled half way between the estate wall and the tree tops when Sinikka felt her magic touch the wards of the estate.  She’d let it completely lose from its bonds, but the wards kept her safely inside, secure and contained where she could do no harm to others and none could do harm to her.  She faced the moon, her arms held high in exultation, then made one slow turn, to acknowledge the whole of the world and the blessings of the gods before facing the moon once more.

She lay down in the grass, staring up at the star-filled sky.  She breathed deep as she began to gather her magic to herself once more.  Each breath brought her magic closer, pulling it tighter to her.  She didn’t rush, enjoying the feel of her magic moving over the grass and animals as it came back to her.

The moon was rising above the treetops when she drew the last of her magic inside herself once more.  She felt full to bursting, as if there were more magic to contain than there had been when she began the night.  She’d never felt so alive before, so connected to the world around her.

The grass was soft beneath her, and the wind cool against her face as she continued to gaze into the sky.  She could still feel the wards at the edge of the estate.  They were ancient and powerful.  Built and strengthened by generations of her mother’s family.  When her mother inherited the estate, she’d added her own strength to the wards, renewing and strengthening them.  When Sinikka turned eighteen next month she would add her magic to the wards as well.  One more witch in a long line protecting the place they called home.

Image Prompt 043 – Moon and Forest

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 043-001 2018-08-10 Campus07-11-19 001

Image Prompt 043-002 2018-08-10 Welsh Dragon05-05-06 048

Image Prompt 042 Response – This Is Not Our Basement

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I selected the image of Scotland cityscape for my twenty-minute sprint this month.  I hope you enjoy the beginning of this idea.

This Is Not Our Basement:

Michael made his way down the stairs into the basement to investigate the weird noises.  His roommate must have left one of her weird experiments running, because the combination of bubbling noises and sharp knocking sounds made no sense and wasn’t rhythmic enough to be music.

The light was still on, but she’d put up a red filter so it didn’t do more than make sure he didn’t trip on the stairs.  He didn’t see her as he reached the bottom, but that didn’t always mean anything.

“Claire?” he called out, hoping she was there and would answer him.

No response.

Michael walked further into the room, checking to make sure there wasn’t anything strewn across the floor.  All he saw were faint markings, like she’d been drawing on the floor with chalk.

“Claire?” he called again.  “If you’re down here, let me know.”

Michael kept walking toward the back of the room.  There were two rooms, so she might have been in the other one with the door closed and not hear him.

When he reached the center of the room, right under the red light, his foot hit something less than solid.

“What the…” he started.  Before he could even finish the sentence, he was pulled forward and the light went out as wind rushed up around him.  He couldn’t tell if he was falling, or if a wind was coming up from the floor.

His foot hit solid ground again and he stumbled as the sudden light nearly blinded him.

Michael took two steps and then finished his sentence.

He as standing on a path leading down a hill toward a city.  A European city by the look of it.  He looked behind himself to find more hill, and beyond that more city.

“Claire?” he said softly.

“Michael?” she asked, popping up from the grass beside the path.

“This is not our basement,” Michael said.

“I told you not to come down without asking,” Claire said, hurrying to his side.  “You aren’t hurt are you?”  She actually grabbed his hand so she could take his pulse.

“Confused, but not hurt,” Michael said.  “Where are we?”

“Dundee, Scotland,” Clair said.  “I was testing out a portal.  You at least answered the question of whether it stays open after someone goes through it.”

“How do we get home?” he asked.

“Same way we got here,” Clair said.  “It’s a two-way portal.  You just have to back into it.”

“So I just walk backward?” Michael asked.

“That should do it,” Claire said.  “Let me get clear first,” she added before hurrying off the path.

Michael took two steps backward, then another two.  “You sure about this?” he asked as he took two more steps backward.

“That’s not good,” Claire said.  “It should have worked.  Let me try.”

Michael stepped off the path and Clair started in front of him and walked backward several steps.

“It’s not there,” Claire said.  “That is not good.”

“So you’ve said,” Michael replied dryly.

“It means we have to find another way home,” Claire said.  “It was supposed to be a one use portal, which I thought meant in one way, out the other and it closes until that person goes back the other way.  Apparently that means open, go through once, go back through once, and it closes.  And it doesn’t distinguish direction, so when you came through, it closed.”

“This is what I get for trying to pay the rent on time,” Michael said, sitting down in the grass.

“I thought I gave you the rent,” Claire said.

“You gave me June rent,” Michael said.  “It’s the first of July.  July rent is due in four days.”

“Oh, damn, sorry,” Claire said, biting her lip.  “I’ll figure out how to get us home by then.  Or at least get a check cut.”

“Why are you not freaking out?” Michael asked.

“I specialize in magic, this isn’t that big a deal,” Claire replied.

“And we’re in another country without any papers or permissions,” Michael pointed out.

“At least they speak English,” Claire countered.  “Much easier not to get noticed this way.”

If I realized you were this much of an optimist I might not have let you move in,” Michael groused.  “So what’s the plan, and how can I help?”

“The plan is to find some supplies and open a portal home,” Claire said.  “If you have any cash, or your cell phone on you that would be helpful.  I have my phone but no cash.”

Michael started pulling things out of his pockets.  He had his phone, three receipts from yesterday, eighty-five cents in change, and his wallet which revealed four dollars and one emergency check.

“That is not going to get us home, but we can at least write the check and get that home,” Claire said.  “I can transport it directly into the rent box, so they won’t hit us with late fees.”

“But it will overdraft my account and charge me a ton of money.”

“I swear to pay you back for all of that, plus interest, and an apology gift for you ending up here with me.”