Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals Finale Part 3– Soul and Saviors

Screams. Deep, throaty, bellowing groans in discord with the silence of the graves. That was what the goddess wished to hear as she approached the crypt. This spark in her deadened soul, this wisp of something…an emotion? An impulse? 

A fire in the eyes of the devil.

  A bitterness on the tongue of a critic.

A harsh word on the ears of the deaf.

What would someone call that? Not a feeling, the goddess decided. She was not wistful for the sound of screams, not hopeful. She was inconvenienced. Inconvenienced by an impulse–the hard metal heart rotting in her chest was incapable of the experience “hope.” So, perhaps, Artemis was experiencing distraction. Irritation. 

Niggling at her gut, the annoyance disguised as hope for her Huntsman collected her soul together again. As a goddess, it was simple to fracture herself into various forms and disperse them throughout the Earth and heavens at the drop of a hat. But it required the lack of emotion–no, distractions, she reminded herself–that she could not currently obtain. 

It was a cosmic lift from her mind: the weight of all the monitored realities condensing into one form, a merging rather like mixing the ingredients of a pastry; after all, it is easier to carry a single cake than all the flour, eggs, and milk that went into it.

Whole again, the goddess moved with renewed vigor, cautious to monitor her speed lest she overshoot the crypt by a mile at sonic pace. It felt awkward to run again; she hadn’t truly run at a human speed since she ruled the Hunters of Artemis, back when tracking down boar and overconfident cougars was the task of all tasks. 

Finally at the cusp of the leering concrete structure, she took a moment to examine it with cold, calculating eyes leering in the anxious light. It was a beautiful tomb: carved with the intricacies and care of craftsmen from a time before. A time of refined workmanship and gentle, deliberate chiselings and chips. 

Not like today. Cheap plastic. Mass produced goods. Hasty assembly lines–the festering mortal laxity disgusted her. She was born from the cosmos into a world of art. Beauty. Grace. And–consequently–meticulous hours of work behind each vase and script.

But craftsmanship passed with the years and without note, of little matter to an immortal and even less to a human. The true reason why she trudged through this graveyard was infinitely greater than the tomb.

What lay within. Who lay within: the cause of this annoying distraction of hope. Because despite herself, a shrapnel shred of her iron heart held fondness for him.

Orion. Orion, who once upon a millenia she had loved against her will and against her better judgement. Orion, who was destined to be a mortal, who’s scorpion sting should have seeped toxicity through his arteries and stolen his breath. Orion–for which the goddess had rewritten the stars themself.

She allowed this annoyance to broil in the silence, regarding the stone with daggers in her eyes and shoulders defiantly broadened, despising the silence. Her name did not reverberate from within. No prayers echoed dimly through the crack in the door. This wasn’t good…not at all. There should be screams; that fact, and that fact alone, decided it.

The goddess charged violently at the door, lashing a bolt of crisp white light crackling towards the cement. From the silence the burst of power rattled the air into a frenzied hum. Her gossamer hair lifted and spiked from its sheen, frazzled by the static and the door exploded at once. 

Shards of stone and rock thrashed violently against her skin, assaulting the paleness and careening off like a pebble on a bulletproof window. The atmosphere thrummed with the blast as a cloud of suffocating dust billowed from the decimated crypt.

Unmarked, clothes artfully disheveled and hair frizzed, Artemis stumbled forward through the clouds of soot and sucked in a breath. Panic overtook her glass eyes: the rubble was immense. Cradling her thin hands close to her chest, an unexpected regret fizzled through her fingertips in the place of the power she had come to know. Tightness seized her chest. Too much. Too much, I used too much, what if…? 

“No,” she breathed, eyes roving the debris, the annoyance of hope rearing strong in her gut. Shiny, platinum hair. Strong hands. Cloth. An arrowhead. Something, anything, to show her she hadn’t…but what if… 

What if I killed him? What if he was suffering? What if my flicker of effort crushed him, what if? What if Orion is dead? It shouldn’t matter to her. Another feeble-minded mercenary, blindly following orders on the chance that Artemis will show them love…wasn’t that all he was?

The goddess, clutching her arms against her heart, scrambled to comb the rubble. She flung aside rocks with the frenzy of a starving hyena stumbling upon a fresh kill. Minutes screamed by and thousands of shards spiked the earth where she had thrust them from the debris. No sign of him. Drawing back in fright, the goddess examined her work in terror. 

“What am I doing?!” she sobbed to the hazy clouds of ash, to the sky, to the unhearing wind. Dread pooled in her gut.The sky was darkening.  Pressure squeezed her brain. Shivers trembled down her spine: what is happening to me?

Artemis had no time to ponder the question when her vision scattered in a crack of light. Lightning burst from the sky, forking a fiery tongue down directly into her aching chest and bursting her conscious thought into shrapnel. Thunder rumbled in the sky, a crescendo like a bowling ball hurtling down the lane. They stepped forward, emerging from the haze like phantoms floating on the fog.

Four girls wrapped in glittering light, angels gliding through the dim cemetery with elegant strides like a young queen at her coronation. Another burst of lighting struck the goddess. She fell back, back arching with the electricity, fighting to condense her being back into this moment. A girl rose her hand and flame emerged, climbing the silk strands of Artemis’ hair and licking down her simple, threadbare clothes. Rain came pounding in then, icy cold and blistering heat ravaging her skin in a torrent, the charge still buzzing along her body.

The Elements overpowered her one by one, pummeling her figure with bolts of energy and wind and gasps of fire so sweltering her skin burned red. Moon dust choking her lungs, stuffing the delicate trachea full of toxicity and smoke. Lightning sizzling her arms. Fire drowning her eyes. Sea spray whipping down on her head like gravel lashed from a truck tire. 

Artemis clawed at the earth, reaching for a stone to throw, something to cease this pain, a pain like she’d never felt in all her existence.

Instead, her groping hand found skin. Skin. 

The world came back into focus. All the fragmented particles of her essence raced back together in a surge, solidifying in a burst of raw emotion so intense she rocked on her side and screamed. The barrage stopped at once. The four girls were thrown back like rag dolls in the path of a tormenting toddler, thrust on stone mausoleums, bones cracking against graves. 

All the millennia of her life suddenly focused, each minuscule moment notable or worthless jamming themselves into her mind, and suddenly Artemis felt like a human. Frazzled, lying in a pile of rubble and soot, desperately clinging to the hand of her long lost love.

Orion. 

Orion. A romantic love, perhaps, or a friendly one, or maybe not love at all so much as a mutual liking…but whatever they had, she suddenly could think of no happier moment in all her life as when she felt her fingers on his.

Paying no attention to the moaning Elementals behind her, she sat up and drew the warm skin of his hand against her face, gently cradling it against her cheek. A pulse fluttered weakly through the veins there, throbbing in time with her flooded head. All the memories, all the years flurried through her brain, a great burst of humanity ravaging her soul. And there was a soul. She felt it now, festering inside her, thrumming and glowing as bright as Selene’s moon.

Dusting the debris from his body, Artemis pulled him close, golden hair splayed across her lap like a sunburst. Willing a morsel of her mind to focus, the power burst eagerly to her fingers and streamed into his broken body, knitting tissues and mending bones. The years of hunting experience coalesced into a healing energy, one she wasn’t sure she had ever used–not on the dying leper during the plagues or the wounded huntress she had taught since youth. Never would she have thought to try. Never, except for him.

When she was certain Orion had healed, she delicately lowered his head onto the stone, brushing the ash from his lids. Turning her head to face the four powerful girls, she was met with a pair of beseeching midnight eyes.

“Selene,” she whispered. The teen girl stood not far from the goddess, legs twisted at disturbing angles and fingers trembling. 

“Artemis.” The words were cold, doubtlessly intended to ring with strength but quaking with weakness instead. Kenna the fire girl, Daria of water, and Talia of storm gathered themselves and stood, each bloody with the impact of the cosmic blast. 

Stumbling forward, each flashed each other meaningful looks, striding to Selene’s sides and linking arms with her. A row of four girls, meant to be five, full of enough power to rock the universe from its foundation.

There they stood, eyes trained on one lone goddess, the huntress, the eternal maiden. A sense of cumulation permeated the scene, a sense that every instant in their lives, as unique and different as they may be, had been building to this moment. This hour. This minute. This very instant in time.

 The final fight was about to begin.


Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals– Finale Part 2

Thank you to Jennifer Brutyn for commenting on my last post! (: This is part 2 of the Elementals finale. Find the rest in the archives!

🌧️ Talia Thorn

“No, no, you don’t understand, I think she can…” I trailed off, eyes tightening at the corners, my old distress over interacting with strangers creeping in. There in front of me was a smart, assertive woman with degrees in so many areas of medicine that it made my head spin just thinking about all the years of college it took. And I was…what?

A shy girl with rain  powers? A frail little London teen who could make some thunder rumble if she tried hard enough? A pathetic human sprinkler?
The IV was hooked up. Nurses began to scramble for A-negative, and I just stood there, stomach rumbling and roiling at the presence of needles and blood. I had to stop it before I risked damaging Selene’s power with human fluids. But how?

What did I have to say about her? 

That she could heal herself if they got her off these pain killers? 

That she didn’t need any human blood? 

That it might take away the potency of her powers if she received normal fluids?

I slumped into a rigid seat, holding my head in my hands. What was there to say? The doctors insisted that Selene was rapidly losing blood; I couldn’t use my powers to heal her; Daria was somewhere in a different wing of the hospital. Zara was dead. I had seen her body myself, crumpled in the street, with an aura of absence emanating from her so unlike Daria’s that I didn’t need to feed myself false hope. 

I felt a hand fall on my shoulder. I looked up, expecting the doctor or the matronly nurse with the full, dimpled cheeks. No. The eyes that met mine were a strange, otherworldly gold. 

Jolting out of my seat, I wrapped my arms around Daria, the friend I’d barely known or talked to at all. I hadn’t been on the ship with her and Kenna and Selene. She’d been shot before I could talk to her on the rescue boat. We’d been fleeing from the mercenaries on land, she’d been presumed dead in the alley, and yet, her inviting embrace felt like heaven: a warm hug from a long-lost friend.

“Did they clear you?” I asked, stepping back. The wounds in her gut and her back seemed to have disappeared into thin air, the tattered swimsuit traded out for a fresh white hospital gown. Kenna stepped forward and gave me a hug too, answering for Daria,

“Yes, they cleared her. I had to do a little bit of persuading for that–you know, it isn’t everyday that a girl with suspiciously-healed mortal wounds gets let off easy.” 

I laughed, taking them both in at arm’s length, for a moment wondering how in the world my life had come to this. Not so long ago was I back at my London estate, avoiding my father at all costs, toying with my mother’s earrings before school.

 Now I had a strange set of friends: two of which were mortally wounded by arrows, one who had burned alive a school shooter, and one more–Zara. I couldn’t think about her too much, not then, not for a long time after. 

“We have a plan, Talia. We know what needs to be done to stop all this.” Daria gestured vaguely to the world with a sweeping arc of her hands. Kenna nodded, gripping my hands in hers so tight I could feel the heat burning along her palms, scratching at her skin to be released. I was glad my power was more docile.

“What is it? What’s the plan?” I glanced at Selene, prone on the bed, deep in sleep. “I’ll do anything.”

 Anything at all, I thought, staring at Kenna’s constantly shifting eyes and Daria’s calm, centered ones. These were my friends now. I would never cease to fight for them, I knew, and I was alright with that.

“Zara granted us one final gift,” Kenna said.

“We know where the gods and goddesses will congregate in their Earth-dwelling forms. Artemis and all the others. We can take them down with our combined powers.

“We need to find the crypt of Inara Nightlock. And we need to find it before midnight. It’s the only shot we have.” I nodded, sorting through the information silently, pushing away all the unanswerable questions cropping up in my head. Finally, lifting my chin, I responded.

“Let’s do it. Let’s set this world right.”


Part 3 of the finale is coming soon!

Writer's Wednesday!

WW Elementals–Finale Part 1

This is a continuation of the “Elementals” series. Comment which power you would like to have below for a shout-out in the next post!


“Her color is too pale. She needs a blood transfusion immediately.” 

Color, I thought, I remember color. My lips curled into a droopy smile. The sedatives were acting fast, rolling me gently into sleep, sliding me deeper and deeper into the calm, dark sea. The sea, the gentle sea, the sea that reminded me of Daria, who reminded me of gold, then of yellow by comparison.

Yellow. The dopey smile dripped off my face. I’d never liked yellow like others. Never liked how it felt, so…fake. Like it was trying too hard to be cheery. An artificiality, a toxic positivity that growled at you “everything is alright,” when everything was far from it. Yellow was sickness, negative thoughts masked by a bright facade. 

Toxic, jaundiced, and yet, a memory drifted to me then, a very mixed memory of my time as a human. A memory that I wasn’t sure was even real or a figment of my drowsy imagination.

“No, please, we can wait, just give her five more minutes!” A frantic voice. What were they doing there in my memory? I let the echoes drift into the oblivion, settling deeper into the recollection, welcoming the fragments of speech as they lazily wheedled their way into my mind.

A school day. My lashes grazed my cheeks again, ever so gently, feeling so downy and soft as clouds, so soft that I let my eyes rest with them. The white, beeping world was gone, giving way to the replaying of a moment in my mind. A moment the world would not long remember; a single flicker in any other person’s life, and yet, a precious instance all the same, one I would find pivotal to my life even lying there in that blank place. 

That place–wherever or whenever that was, that place. Somewhere with a bed. And a blanket. And white walls. And Talia, and Kenna, and Daria, all my friends, and a nice lady with sky-blue uniform and soft brown eyes. 

Yes, I would let myself rest my eyes, let my feathery lashes trail kisses on my cheeks. So I did. I rested there, then–whenever and wherever that was–and remembered an instance about color.

A school day, in autumn, when the Ohio breeze swirled and eddied and the leaves patterned a carpet on the earth, dancing in a breeze I could see but not feel. Inside, the cool wind could not tickle my nose, could only gust outside the window as I wistfully watched.

English class. My favorite class. I was Mira Casse, a student, a relatively normal girl with strange features and an even stranger set of parents. Parents no one mentioned, or was quiet about if they did. An unspoken agreement: the Casse family was not to be discussed; there was something wrong about them and their ‘daughter.’

“Okay, for this assignment, we are taking a break from our text analysis for a while,” the teacher announced, eyes wandering to the window, just like mine. I had the thought that she and I were very similar. We were both far away in our minds, both in a place beyond here, somewhere in that wide open expanse of sky and field and forest. 

A few students exchanged satisfied looks. Others outright cheered, chucking their books below their desks and tittering excitedly with their friends. Wide eyed, pleased to move on from endless compare and contrast, baby birds preening and squawking for a chance to leap from the nest.

The elation faded into a softer buzz as the teacher explained we were doing some free association and connotation work with colors. She would call on a few people with the first things that come to her mind when they named the color: emotions, objects, abstract ideas like freedom and wealth. 

“Blue.” The room shot up with hands, arms waving and protruding like blades of grass shooting from the dirt. Sky. Ocean. Water. Calm. Peaceful. Sad. Happy. And the responses bubbled, and tumbled, and crashed in with superficialities. The typical answers. 

The entirely unsatisfying answers that everyone else seemed to accept as their own personal truth–as though thinking that blue meant happiness was a personality trait. Something that made them special.

I returned my gaze to the window, thinking, wondering what blue really meant. Yearning, I decided. It was yearning, a soft yonder blue in the distance, painting the sky with hope. The promise of something greater beyond the horizon. 

As I thought this, a girl poked her fingers up and said, matter-of-fact, 

“Blue is bubbles!” 

 I sunk lower into my seat, frowning.

“Green.” Earth, eco-friendly, gentle, leaves, nature, envy, and I sunk even lower, frown deepening. Analyzing the yellowing grass beyond the glass, a great discomfort gripped my stomach as I felt something new grappling inside my body, twisting me all up inside, yanking at my core and tearing my being. 

Because I knew what green meant. 

Green was wistfulness, nostalgia, a warm, inviting tug that leads you to the meadow or the pasture or the forest. A reminder of a simpler time, an instinctual time when your heart knew the way through the winding path of life and guided you onward without hesitation. Purity. Instinct. Life. Nostalgia.

Yellow was even worse–happiness, sun, beach, I tightened my fists–red about the same, purple made my eyes squeeze shut and when it came to brown I finally raised my hand. Maybe I couldn’t explain the other colors, but I could explain brown, black, deep, dark shades. They seemed to me to be the most simple: pure and natural as tilled earth underfoot.

“Yes, Mira?” The teacher called. I drew in a deep breath, rethinking if I should answer at all, when I finally decided I had to. No one else could do this shade justice; no one in the school or the class or the world.

“Brown is humanity. Brown is the rich, dark earth that coddled our crops, the pools of honey that gifted us sweetness, the decadent truffles we extracted from our simple ingredients and harnessed into a unique experience of texture and flavor. 

Brown was when Prometheus granted us fire and lit the sepia kindling with flame, brown was when we smeared umber mud across our brows to protect us from mosquitos, brown were the feathers and fur of our game, brown was the mahogany that we built into thrones and homes and settlements. Brown is the reason we survived and the ways we thrived. It isn’t just a color. Not to me.”

The room was silent. Every set of eyes was staring at me in awe or disgust or confusion. But the teacher removed her gaze from the world outside the window and beamed at me, eyes sparkling with approval that loosened the knot in my core. 

“Brown is humanity,” she echoed. And with the kindness of her voice brimming over into the silent room, I recognized the twisting that had yanked my gut into knots. It was difference. Difference from the rest of my class, my grade, all of humanity.  

I realized, for the first time in my life, that perhaps I was not a normal school girl, couldn’t be a normal school girl. I was something more. And my gut knew it, my brain knew it, my heart knew it. I was something more. Something…other.

“We have to start the supplementation immediately, ma’am, we can’t wait any longer!” I startled from my memory, the fragments falling away but the tone of the reflection remaining. A mixed tone. Prideful. Bitter. Uncomfortable. Freeing. Overwhelming, and I…supplementation? Curiosity stirred within me, a feeling I wasn’t sure I could act upon. I was so, so tired, bone-tired, Atlas-with-the-sky-on-his-shoulders tired.

“Please, she can heal herself, just don’t give her any blood! It might hurt her!” Talia. I knew that voice. I had to come back, had to know what they were doing to me. A dull ache re-formed in my chest and I remembered the arrow, where I had ripped it from my skin. What were they trying to do to me? What was happening?
I tried to force my eyes open, but they were weighed down like a branch bending under snowfall. A prickle in my forearm–an IV. What was Talia fighting? What were the doctors trying…

“I can assure you, this will not hurt her…” 

The weight of sleep washed over me like a tidal wave, and I struggled for a moment, hearing Talia groan with exasperation. For a moment, I hung, suspended between the waking world and the unconscious one. 

Sleep overcame me at once and I drifted away into the deep, dark sea.


    Part 2 of the Elementals series finale is coming soon!

    Writer's Wednesday!

    WW-Elementals–Silver and Screams

    Ambulance image from Parkway East hospital

    Shock registered in his eyes. A smirk threatened my lips, even in the face of torture in a blood-soaked alley. Mouth twitching, I began to sneer…then I stopped. My speech had been impressive: beckoning on my gruesome fate, stating that I would never leave this alley alive, the alley where an innocent young girl named Daria died for the Artemisian agenda. A girl with the power to manipulate the sea: it was a power wasted, barely used before she was brutally kidnapped and mortally wounded. 

    My name is Selene, goddess of the moon and starlight. I was one of five Elementals: myself (starlight), Talia Thorn (storm), Zara Nightlock (earth), Daria (sea), and Kenna King, embers and fire. 

    We were humans with godly powers, a new race of hybrids with the combined powers to overthrow the Olympian gods and goddesses: the ones out of myth, the ones that shook the Earth, blazed through forests, and crushed ships in fits of rage and petty quarrels. We were united, if only for a few minutes. But just as soon as we’d been united, we’d been torn apart: Daria shot, Zara chasing after an illusion of her late sister, Talia and Kenna fleeing from Artemis’ mercenaries. 

    It was foolish of me to smile, to take satisfaction in the fact that I was a sitting duck, waiting to die, staring down the shaft of an arrow. The man–boy?–standing above me was in no way menacing, too fragile a gaze to even seem dangerous at all, though his nocked bow said otherwise. Large green eyes and a smatter of freckles all scrunched up, nose twitching with nerves, arrow jittering left and right with his severely shaking arms. 

    Something about the glint in his eyes screamed surprise, perhaps even downright terror. At me? Holding a dead body in my arms, face streaked with tears, starburst necklace torn from my throat? Arrogant of me to think that, but my lips began to quirk. I thought, for a split second, that his unwillingness to release the arrow was because of what I’d said, how he would have to defy Artemis’s orders and kill me if I were to leave Daria alone in that alley.

    A second later, when I followed his gaze, all satisfaction plummeted from my chest.
    Daria was alive.

    Inexplicably, her eyelids snapped open and shut, blinking in the darkness of the alcove. A shuddered breath rose and fell on my lap, her bloodsoaked chest expanding with a breath of air. Daria was alive. And her eyes were the brightest gold I’d ever seen.

    I’m ashamed of what I did next. But I did it anyway. Instead of feeling relief…I felt horror. I reeled back, slamming my head against the wall. I slid her off my lap frantically, with half the sense to gently place her head so it didn’t crack on the concrete. 

    She sat up. Fresh and dried blood had intermingled in an artful pattern on her back, like an abstract painting that would fetch millions in a modern art museum–a painting with random splashes of grotesque brown and dripping crimson, a splattered canvas that looked like nothing that ever existed and everything in the world all at once. Her gaze fell briefly on me, golden eyes disturbingly bright, hair falling limply around her large shoulders, the shoulders of a swimmer. 

    Less than a second passed, enough for me to feel uncomfortable at the fact that somewhere under that bloodsoaked suit, Daria’s heart was pulsing and thrumming with life when moments before it had been irrevocably stalled.

    Wavering on her feet, Daria stood, movements wobbly and uncertain, joints audibly groaning like a reanimated corpse from a horror movie. I saw her stare flicker to the mercenary, eyes glittering, the unnatural gold so unlike her original irises that it was as though they had been touched by the angels themselves. For the red-headed boy, that one glance was enough. 

    He shot.

    But he didn’t shoot Daria. 

    He shot me.

    Daria leapt forward, careening towards me to block the arrow. Colors blurred: I barely registered the gleaming silver tip until it embedded itself in my chest, a devastating slice as flesh was torn by metal. 

    All at once, events cascaded, transcending time in a fuzz of action. Daria grabbed my hand, a blur of motion. I willed my feet to move. Held my chest with one hand and her fingers in the other. My arm grasped, a thin, sticklike hand; the boy! His grip was strong but Daria tore me free, viciously dragging me from the alley. My legs felt numb. My chest throbbed. I knew what to do. I had done the same with Daria. I grasped the shaft of the arrow tight. Fletchings tickling my tensed wrist, I yanked as hard as I could.

    Pain shot through me, a train hurtling off the tracks. A morbid sound: of flesh tearing open, of capillaries bursting under impact. Daria gasped as I let the arrow fall, faltering to rip cloth from my shirt. Footsteps behind us. Running steps. Boots. 

    “Where are we going?” 

    “Busy road, the busiest we can find. I won’t let you die because of me!” Her voice was hoarse, emotions unexpectedly raw and heartfelt. What’s wrong with her eyes? Why is she here? Where am I? My heart pounded through my ribcage. The questions all blurred together. I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight: my throat was itchy with the urge to scream. All I could manage was a gasp of agreement…we needed to find help. 

    The next street we turned down was the one. Daria knew it. She glanced over her shoulder, a split second move that would only cost us time. He was right on top of us. I pressed the cloth harder to my chest, blood seeping through the fabric, sticky on my fingers. 

    “No, Selene, don’t go–”

    He was right behind us. No time. I pulled Daria through to the street, through to the busy thoroughfare crowded with people, when it struck me why she had paused. The people weren’t congregated on the sidewalk. They were all clustered, bees to their native hive, in the road. 

    This was bad. Daria had wanted to find a small group of people, or even an individual that would quietly drive us to the nearest hospital. What we had gotten was a mob. My thoughts faded in and out, dizziness sent my mind toppling back and forth between answerless questions and impossible scenarios. The boy reached out to grab my arm, a million possible actions rolled through my head: block his grip, kick his shins, lash out with my fists, throw myself into the street and beg for help. Anyone of those would do. I prepared myself, tensing my wrists for a strike…

    I screamed. Motionless, I didn’t have the sensibility to attack the mercenary, defend myself, tend to my own wounds or Daria’s mysteriously healing ones. Do I wish I wouldn’t have defaulted to the damsel-in-distress wail? Maybe, maybe not. But the reality is that I didn’t spring into action. I planted my feet. Tensed my wrists. And screamed. 

    Immediately all eyes snapped to us, the droves of people prying their eyes from whatever was in the road. Looking back, I can see that I probably made the right choice; in the eyes of those people Daria and I were two helpless girls, mortally wounded, obviously aggressed by the wide-eyed boy with a bizarre hunting bow. A moment passed. I wondered what they would do, how long the hunter would wait before he struck us down under the suspicious eyes of the public, how Daria had dragged herself from the grip of death and how I could do the same. 

    The people charged. Flocks of faces rushed toward me, a blur of diverse eyes and faces and freckles and not. Hands gripped my arm. I was led into the crowd. Daria disappeared in the buzz. A man’s yelp. A head of fiery red hair dropped to the ground, swarmed by fists. Shop. Blazed through the door, items crashing to the floor, a table newly cleared. Hoisted up. Beads of sweat. 

    “Daria!” I thrashed against the hands. I was held firm, pinned on the table. Red first aid kit. Bandaids spilled. Aspirin clashed to the tile. Gauze pressed to my chest, pain like glass shards ripping my heart. I couldn’t see. The world started to blur. Eyes wouldn’t focus. Hair tickled my clavicle, a worker bending to examine the wound.

    “Bloedgroep? Bloedgroep?” I blinked, squeezing my eyes tight. It sounded like  “blood group,” should I respond? Would human medical treatment even work on me? It was hard to tell what memories were real and what memories were shown to me in a slideshow by my mother to give the illusion that I’d always lived in Ohio. Had I ever truly been injured before my life plunged into this insanity?

    The mass of people pressed gauze to my wound, dialed numbers furiously on their phones, asked me questions in Afrikaans that I had no clue how to answer. Through the cacophony of noise I heard a voice,

    “Selene, what’s your blood type?” I froze. My arms fell from where they were thrashing. I knew that voice. It was a voice that had been embarrassed in the desert, torn with emotion, a voice that now sounded pleasant, with a soft British accent and a steady rhythm. Talia? 

    “A-negative?” I could just barely recall my mother…well, not my mother…Melissa? Telling me that I had a rare blood type, one that didn’t really match up with my mother and father’s. No wonder. They weren’t my family at all, just some greedy farmers with a freaky desire to control something beyond themselves. How could I never have asked them about it? My blood type, my affinity for the night where they were morning people, my obviously different appearance, resembling neither one of my “parents” in any way. 

    “Selene? Come back to me! Come on!” I snapped open my eyes again. They felt like they had immense weights pressing down on them, trying to drag me into unconsciousness. Above me, through a curtain of loose-hanging blond hair, Talia wriggled her fingers. 

    Little droplets of water splashed on my nose. I blinked harder, the shock of cold water stinging my skin. I felt her other hand on my wrist, then I convulsed. A sharp pain stung my skin! Throwing my hips off the table, I yelped. A bolt of electricity! Did she just…shock me? A fizzling warmth climbed through my body, activating every nerve, buzzing and thrumming with power.

    The fog hanging over my thoughts began to recede, alternating shocks of cold water dribbling down my nose and electricity fizzing in my veins. Alertness began to return as the jolts of energy spiked in my blood. 

    “Where’s Daria?” I felt another shock, Talia’s eyes intently focused on the crowds of people unrolling gauze and conversing with authorities. I felt myself lifted off the table. Canvas under my dress. A stretcher. “Talia! Talia!!!” My throat ripped with the words.
    “Shhhh…” Talia ducked close to my ear, waddling alongside the stretcher. The world swayed, a jangle of bells as we passed through the door frame, chest stubbornly throbbing from the wound. 

    “Kenna’s with her, she’ll go to the same hospital as you. Try to use your power if you can…I think it helps heal you,” she paused, climbing in alongside me as I was lifted into the ambulance. After the doors shut, she hastily added, “I don’t know for sure though.” Like if my power didn’t do anything to help, she would feel guilty. As though I would feel betrayed if her advice didn’t work. 

    I would’ve smirked at that. But my head pounded. My eyes stung from the harsh fluorescents. Blasts of noise seemed to blare from every orifice it could: sirens, heart monitors, voices, wheels, even the buzz of the filaments in the overhead lights. I barely grasped what Talia was talking about when she continued, 

     “But you have to try. Keep it contained, close, maybe restrict it to your fist. You already stand out enough with…” she gestured vaguely to my silver dress, wet with blood, sea spray, and vomit from rough days on the ship. “Lord knows you don’t need any of the suspicion that inevitably comes with the usual…you know, harnessing starlight, summoning beams, drawing an aura of pure silver or gold around you like an angel, the like.” I registered the words, dimly. Her shocks were wearing off, the raindrops had become calming rather than startling.

    My head lolled to the side; even her soft whispers had begun to grate my ears. I wanted so badly to fall asleep, drift through the yawning doorway and into the darkness. They must be feeding me a sedative through the IV…so that was what the prick was from? But I let the light flow to my limp palm. Visualizing the stars through the ceiling, beyond the clouds and daylight, beyond the atmosphere, beyond our Earth. Blazing somewhere high in the heavens, glittering, burning, yearning for my call. I was ready to receive it. But there was one thing I had to do first. One question looming in my mind.

    “Talia?” She was at my side immediately.

    “Yes?”

    “What were all those people gathered around?” I saw something flash in her eyes. Her arms tensed, she stepped back slightly, knitting her brows. With a sigh, she gripped my hand and said,

    “It was Zara. She was struck and…” she took in a deep breath, a shuddering breath, a sad breath. “She let go and I, I–Zara’s gone, Selene.” I stared at her, blankly, unable to register her words. Daria had been gone too, but the way she said it, “she let go…”

    Sensing my hesitancy, Talia sighed.

    “The doctors will do everything they can for you and Daria. But Zara didn’t have a chance. She’s dead, Selene. And she’s not coming back.”


    Writer's Wednesday!

    Writer’s Wednesday! Elementals–Afterlife

    On a day like that, it was impossible to feel like everything is okay. Some people have an unfaltering belief in the positive outlook: rainbows always come after the rain–as long as you let the sun shine through.

     I used to think that way too, when I was Mira Casse, a starry-eyed teen with a passion for the sky. But there was no silver lining for the cloud that had eclipsed my life. I had been as normal as I ever could have been, a month ago. Now I was huddled in an alley, clutching the limp form of a girl I’d barely known. 

    I shuddered, letting the tears spring to my eyes. I hadn’t cried in a long time, it seemed, and with every petty little heartbreak I’d endured in my high school years, the cries had felt freeing–as though the warm torrent of tears that slid down my cheeks carried all my sorrow with it, lightening the swirling storm in my heart.

    This cry was different. It was a cruel, empty, shameful act of cowardice in the face of death. It was trying to hide from my grief, wake up from this enduring nightmare of the last few weeks. I cradled in my arms a lifeless prodigy that I had barely known, a sweet Italian girl without the slightest inkling of how vast her powers truly were. A heavenly embodiment of the sea with endless possibilities. Killed within the course of a few days. A wound from a ship. An arrow to the back. Daria was dead.

    Zara had taken off with determination in her gaze, chasing after a young woman, screaming after her insistently and leaving us in the dust. Talia said the name was that of her long-lost sister: the one who had disappeared years ago after running away to Kommetjie… the one that had never come back. Zara was gone, too. A poor girl with a missing sister and a tortured past, condemned by her whole village for trying to help them. Knowing Artemis’s games, the “sister” Zara was chasing was nothing but an illusion to lure her away. If that was true, as I suspected it was? Zara was dead.

    Curled in a dank, fetid alley, I willed death to come take away my suffering. Kenna and Talia sat on either side of me, leaning their heads on my shoulders. Kenna conjured sparks and swirling ashes in the air, tinkering with the curling threads of fire that hung suspended in her control. 

    Her left knee jittered, body wrought with tension and unasked questions that I could sense on her tongue. How much longer will we rest? The mercenaries were without a doubt nearby, canvassing the area. But I was thankful she didn’t ask the question. I couldn’t imagine moving right now, taking a step forward and running away again. Running away was what had brought me here, to the stench of death congealing on the humid air, to the darkest shame of my heart: I wished I was human. 

    Somewhere in me I felt Mira Casse, striding boldly down the dark hall, smelling the scent of cherry blossoms and fresh grass wafting in from the open window. A beautiful high school girl dreaming under a blanket of stars, gazing up at the brilliant Ohio sky and yearning to be a part of the vast unknown of the heavens. Human. Loving and living, heart cracking and mending, carefree and vivacious under the blazing starlight. I wanted more than this twisted, power-filled life that I was trapped in. I wanted more for all of us.

    I was going to be an astronomer. Kenna could have been a firefighter or a military officer, Daria a marine biologist. Talia might have become a lead meteorologist, growing out of her shyness and lighting up the screen. Zara could’ve been an environmental biologist, studying the natural world and the Earth. Now two were dead. Three quivering in an alley, waiting on a command from some unknown force, longing for an apparition to show us the way, to drink some honeycomb elixir and let myself fade away into the stars. 

    Footsteps sounded, not far away. The drum of sound grew with each passing moment, a heavy tread like a large man in boots. I could feel myself floating away, detaching from reality. Kenna’s hands grabbed me roughly, pulling on me. I cried out, blind with pain, batting away her hand. 

    “Leave me! Run! I can’t leave her alone.” Clutching Daria to my chest, I stroked her hair, tears spilling over the girl that I had barely known. Kenna shook me with increased fervor, urging me with words that I couldn’t hear. The world was a haze of tears, a meaningless blur of voices and dead eyes. 

    “Selene, she’s dead! We have to go!” Talia insisted, her clear, frantic voice cutting through my hysteria. More than anything, I yearned for Mira Casse. I wanted to be a human; I never wanted to run again. Let Artemis kill me. Let me drown in my sorrow and join Daria. Perhaps I’d meet my mother again, face framed with blonde locks. Braiding my hair, gazing at me with pure, human pride. My beautiful angel. One day you will be among the stars, where you belong. But we need your light on Earth, Mira. Let it glow. 

    I had failed her, the mother who had never truly been my mother at all. Kenna squeezed my hand, as though in a silent goodbye. She knew better than anyone that I wouldn’t move unless she physically dragged me away. That wasn’t what I wanted, they knew. Embers and Storm, bright-eyed, able to change the world. My time was up.

    As the pounding footsteps grew ever louder, the two girls slipped out of the alley, disappearing from sight. On cue, a man thundered into the dank sliver of space. Stark red hair, ghostly pale skin sprayed with freckles, a silver knife clutched threateningly in his palm. Hugging Daria close, I closed her eyes with a butterfly-soft touch and waited to die.

    🌊Daria

    Daria had always imagined life after death a certain way, the way that had been ingrained in her head since the moment she was born. Good souls go to heaven. Sinners go to hell. 

    Heaven, a billowing landscape of pillowy white clouds, beams of golden sun streaming through the puffy wisps. Everything you’d ever loved and lost, your family you’d never gotten to meet, or the ones that had gone too soon. A childhood dog trotting energetically with a bone, youthful as a small puppy and as soft as the cotton-candy clouds themselves. The chiming of the Saint Maria Assunta church bells filling the air with warm, joyful chords. 

    Hell, a fiery chasm of endless tortures. Sinners on every level uniquely punished by twisted demons. The flap of leathery winds. A stench of brimstone and diseased breath.

    Instead, Daria found herself in midnight’s blank grasp. Nothingness. Empty black as far as the eye could see, neither hot nor cold, but an uncomfortable sensation of…no sensation at all. There was no tether to the outside world, nothing but the faint sound of lapping water somewhere in the blackness.

    “Mom? Are you out there?” she asked the dark in her native language, hopeful phrases rolling off her tongue. Daria expected at least an echo of her words, to hear the sweet Italian syllables cascade into the air. It was as though her sound was immediately quenched, a towel thrown down onto a bass drum.

     Disappointment swelled in her unembodied conscience. Water. Just water, a soothing lap like the waves on the shore outside her Positano home. She should have known better than to hope: for a spirit-filled heaven with soaring white clouds, for her late mother’s warm touch and sweet bakery smell, for anything more out of death but an infinite oblivion. 

    Out of the dark, a great sob came to her, nothing like the church bells from her seaside home. Selene, she’s dead! We have to go! 

    A voice! Was it her own thought? Surely not; it was a voice like raindrops on the roof, rapid, frantic. Was that what the angels sounded like?

    Daria wished she could feel something: the blissful warmth she imagined of heaven…or even the fiery cold of hell. Instead, she felt no sensation at all: no underlying feel of being. It was a sensory-deprivation chamber, a distant sound of lapping water and screams and pounding feet. Of ragged breath now, a distant voice coming from all sides then not at all.

    Was she being held in the arms of her mother, awoken from a nightmare that had lasted years and years? A nightmare where she set off to work one day, still smelling like pastries from the day before? A nightmare where Daria’s mother never returned except for a motionless body in a casket, a dismal funeral on a rainy day? Or was she laying on a coroners’ table, being examined for her strange powers, poked and prodded and shocked with electrons?

    All she knew was that this was the end of the line, and…somehow, she knew that she was being held. There was no sensation. No contact. Just a gut feeling. As though from an echo in a deep, dark cave, Daria could hear the sounds of sobs, gasping breath. 

    Someone out in the other world was crying for her, someone she knew if only in a dream. She wished she could tell the voice that she wasn’t in pain. Memories of an arrow rose and fell, crumbling in the oblivion. Barely an inkling anymore…but the person sounded as though their heart was breaking, as though watching whatever was left of Daria hurt her soul. She wished she could tell the voice she wasn’t in pain there.

    There was no suffering, no joy either: she supposed that was all she could ask of Death. Greedy of her to think that her failure to live would be rewarded by clouds and a smiling face. 

    Suddenly, something called to her. She felt a tugging at her thoughts, a power, a strength–water? An invisible tether snapped into creation, an olive branch extended from her to the other side. 

    They weren’t by the sea anymore; the water that called her had to be tears. Selfish. Selfish! But Daria grabbed onto them, pulling the droplets through into the nothingness. A drop of water splatted on her nose.

    Wait! She was dead. Yes. Certainly. Embroiled in darkness, she was dead–so why did she feel the splat of water hitting her skin? 

    A feeling! 

    A sensation!

    A state of being was forming in the dark. More water called. She received it, pulling it closer, hearing a vacuum suction as she dragged each tear through. Another splat, another…baffling. Baffling! But unmistakable water…

    “Mamma? Mamma, mi senti?” Mom? Mom, can you hear me? The words echoed this time, the darkness accepting them rather than suffocating them. Still no response–her heart dropped with realization: the tears I am summoning are not the tears of an angel, of my mother bringing me closer to Heaven. They are the tears of a human. I’m being pulled back! 

    Abruptly she stopped seeking out the water. It hovered somewhere out of reach, itching for her call. She could feel her nose now, wrinkling as the droplet slid down her cheek and slithered down her throat. 

    Was this what she wanted? Each tear Daria pulled through to that side–death’s side–was strengthening her tether to the living world. Was she prepared to go back to pain, to the prick of the arrow throbbing in her back, to the metallic gush of blood through her tattered black swimsuit? 

    This should be easy, she thought, wrinkling her nose, still trying to spread the state of being down to her legs, her toes, her fingertips. 

    It should be an easy choice: seize the connection her power brought, spring forward into life to help that suffering voice. But–in a way–the nothingness was comfort. It was uniquely sweet in its blankness. 

    She was mortally wounded in the living world–flesh torn by a wooden hull, skin pierced by an arrow. But there, floating in the black…she was nothing. No pain, but at the hefty price of no pleasure. Daria was willing to pay that price.

    Just as she began to let go of the sensations of face and nose and teardrops, just as she was ready to hope for a heaven beyond this black, she heard a voice. 

    Take me. Kill me if you want to, I won’t fight! I’m done running from Artemis for my choice…I’ll never be ready to live forever. But if Daria…Her face contorted, startled to hear her name in the disembodied words…if Daria, an innocent, had to die for the Huntress’ agenda, it seems right that I die too before she can torture me for her own gain. I will take every opportunity to steal her pleasure. I will relish the fact that I will die here, with Daria. So do it. Do it! Kill me. Because I will not leave this alley alive.

    Daria didn’t even have to make the choice. She didn’t have to know who it was, the voice on the other side of the void. She called every single drop of water from the girl’s tears, every ounce of humidity from the living world, every essence of being from the place where she lay dead.

    In a rush of light, life sprang forward to her body. She felt the thud of her heart in my chest. Her eyes snapped open, tears splashing across her skin, tangling themselves in her hair. An odor foul and bloody as death itself washed through her nostrils. 

    Selene was above her, midnight hair tickling her chin, face gaunt yet strikingly gorgeous in its moondust pallor. Daria’s side throbbed, her back throbbed, her head throbbed, and yet when she sucked in a breath, hope flooded her now-beating heart. She was alive. And she wasn’t going to let Selene die.


    Writer's Wednesday!

    Writer’s Wednesday! Into the Crypt

    *This is a continuation of a series. Find the rest in the archives under the Elemental series.

    Crisp daylight fell in choked slivers through the cracks in the crypt door. Dust danced in the bright white light, falling and settling restlessly down onto the hard concrete slab of the tomb.  The cloying stench of death and decay stifled the air as he hastily sucked in a breath, prying the door open with a resounding creak. The thick layer of dust stirred on the concrete coffin as a cold wind howled into the damp chamber for the first time in years.

    His calloused fingers hesitated on the lid of the tomb. A deep chill permeated the air as though a faint whisper of the tortured soul imprisoned within the crypt still lingered, seething at the injustice of her death long ago. 

    The huntsman had slaughtered innocents in the name of his mistress Artemis, tracked prey around the world, stared into the wide eyes of a poor man and slit his throat because of a simple accident when he had stumbled upon Artemis in the bath.

     All of it in her name; just to see satisfaction light the goddess’s cold yellow-hazel eyes that he loved so much, just so he could hear the barely perceptible hint of admiration in her voice, sinning endlessly to earn a love he knew she would never give. 

    But at least those innocents had been sacrificed at the request of his lady, for some greater heavenly purpose. This task was his least sinful on paper, but as he stood still in the light-flooded secret crypt, he felt chilled to his bones. Every fiber of his being tingled and shivered with a cold as deep as the ninth circle of hell. Please forgive me.

    Orion lifted the cover of the stone tomb and immediately recoiled. Pungent aromas of blood and decay exploded into the crypt. A body lay crumpled in the confined stone case, barely recognizable with the rotting skin and glassy eyes: Inara Nightlock. Dried brown blood stained her forehead in a nasty wound, her fingernails caked with grime from fighting back against her kidnappers, ebony hair matted and tangled. 

    Orion thought of the Earth girl, of the brief moments he’d seen her jetting across the waves with his captives, hope still tangled in her heartstrings that her long-lost sister was out there somewhere when all the while she’d been here. An innocent murdered and dumped in a dusty crypt, her name engraved into the cement lid by the sick, twisted killer that had left her here. A man Artemis killed years ago! She has already been avenged, and my lady Artemis using her to weaken the rebel goddesses is nothing more than a way to honor Inara. I have already failed my lady, and now she has sent me here to do a simple job. I can’t fail her again.

    Even as he thought it, he knew what he was about to do was vile in his culture. In any culture. The very marrow in his bones shuddered with cold now, the harsh daylight doing nothing to warm his shivering frame. With Artemis’s cruel, ethereal face hovering in his mind, he resealed the lid. Dragging the chisel out of his pocket with a quaking hand, he brought down a mighty slash straight across her name. In a spray of grit the meticulously etched letters were scarred beyond recognition. 

    Orion was still for a second, his uneven breath rasping in the death-like silence. It felt as though his heart suffocated in his stomach as the realization of what he’d done set in: he’d just desecrated the tomb of an innocent, even if that tomb had been sealed by a murderer. 

    Out of the blue everything went dark along with the screech of the crypt door being shut. He heard a muffled heartbeat faster and faster, reminiscent of the Tell Tale Heart. Artemis’s tinkling laugh bounced off the walls, becoming more and more demonic each second and all the while the tick of the heart raged on. A young woman’s scream sounded from the dark, echoing around the huntsman from every side. 

    “Please! Let me out!” Orion groped blindly for the door. Sobs tore his throat, darkness swallowing the room whole like he was in the damp maw of a beast. He found no knob, no handle. Each limb of his fine-tuned body shook uncontrollably from a bone-rattling fear that sent him spiraling into hysteria. 

    “Your sins have caught up to you, huntsman. Did you think I would not judge you because you have some convoluted love for a maiden goddess? You will perish as you have made others perish: slowly and without a shred of dignity.”

    A sharp sting pricked his throat, fire spreading through his muscled neck. His eyes bulged as the memory came back to him in flashes as though it was trickling slowly through a leaky faucet. Beady black eyes of the scorpion. Artemis, an avenging angel above him. The crunch of the scorpion under her boot. Sic itur ad astra. But before that, something that the world was sure Orion had long forgotten under a haze of ambrosia and ebbing pain. 

    “I love you too.” Artemis. His one true love. On some level, he knew that memory was Death’s last gift to him before the pain of all his sins caught up to him all at once. Yet he still extended one final reach for life.

    “Artemis! Please, have mercy!” The deep cold dragged him into the darkness with the force of the undertow pulling a sailor into the depths. With his back plastered to the cold crypt wall, Orion screamed, his head splitting, and prayed for the sliver of light to reappear. It was time. After years and years, he knew it was time. But he couldn’t let go. Could she?

    🌍Zara

    Inara ducked down another side street, her shadow flitting out of view. The pound of her boots pummeled her legs with each thumping step. Time was an amorphous deity, dragging on at seconds where each bounding stride was a shot of pain and then racing ahead like a bullet train; one moment she was on the street, Inara just a spot on the skyline, and in the blink of an eye Zara found herself in an alley with her long-lost sister directly ahead of her.


    It’s not her… her brain hissed. Instinct was riding high– her whole body itched with the wrongness of the figure she chased. It’s not her… They always said you can’t trust your eyes. You have to trust your gut. And her gut? It felt like a hurricane was ripping through it, flurries of fears and false hope funneling into a roiling vat of searing frustration. Frustration… frustration that Inara was just beyond her reach around every turn, that her whole village, destitute and droughted, wanted to burn her at the stake for bringing prosperity to the land, at the reality that she had been traveling with a mysterious stranger for the past day and would probably never see her family again.

    The girl paused for a fraction of a second in the middle of the intersection, looking back. Zara’s breath hitched at her sister’s pale jade eyes staring back at her. Inara. Ebony skin dashed with off-white flour, long hair loose and flowing as though it had been hastily tied back and then had fallen out again. 

    “Zara? Is that… is that you?” Her musical voice carried on the rustling breeze. Zara’s knees were weak, legs shaking like the jello her family never could afford from the “big-city” markets of Kommetjie. The words that left her lips next were a blubbering string of emotion-choked sounds.

    “Yes–I–can’t believe you’re alive! Where have you–do you own a bakery now, like you dreamed? Why haven’t you contacted us? Inara, it’s been…” 

    “Years?” She offered with a strained laugh. A funny look crossed her face, an unbecoming blankness, emotionless as shards of ice: lips set in a hard line, glazed eyes, perfectly smooth brow. It melted away as quickly as it arrived. Zara took a careful step closer, just feet from her sister. The traffic light above them flickered uselessly… the street was eerily quiet for a few long seconds. 

    “Are you okay, Inara? The police searched years for you! You ran away, I could have sworn you were dead–” 

    “Where are your friends?” Inara blurted. 

    “What? How could you–” Her sister’s shoulders tensed, the delicate gold flecks in her jade eyes brightening wildly. They had always been a light tone but with each passing second, it seemed to Zara that the gold was taking over Inara’s soft eyes. 

    “Answer the question,” Inara hissed, ripping away her flour-dusted jacket to reveal a tank-top. Crimson bloodstains darkened the white fabric. Scars marred her arms in poorly-healed-over pink gashes. A cloud passed over the sun abruptly, throwing shadows over the intersection. 

    “Talia is with the others, helping Daria. She’d been shot with an arrow… please, Inara. Stop. You need to see a doctor right away. This,” she gestured vaguely to the sky, the air, the world itself, “can’t be real. I’m mixed up in something bad, Inara. And it looks like you are too.” 

    Inara’s eyes were solid gold marbles in their sockets, not a trace of the pale jade. The perfect skin of her forehead was peeling away in grotesque layers to reveal a bloody gash, the smooth ebony facade on her wrists falling away to reveal rope burns. She didn’t look like Inara, the aspiring baker that loved the city. She was a blunt-force trauma and kidnapping victim reanimated. She was a demon.

    “Little sister, you’re wrong about one thing. This is real. Even if I’m not.”

    Zara stepped back, tripping in a pothole and plummeting, black hair flying. Panic mounted in her heart. Nausea barraged her stomach in hot waves like her gut saying a huge “I told you so!”, bile searing her throat.

    “Who are you?” She gasped. “Where is my sister? Why are you doing this?” The bleeding girl cocked her head, an uncanny portrait of Inara painted with blazing gold eyes. 

    “Lots of questions, little goddess girl, all with easy answers. My name is Artemis, huntress and eternal maiden. Your sister is dead.” Before Zara had time to gasp, Artemis laughed, flakes of the facade falling and taking to the breeze. “And why am I doing this? Well, two reasons. One: I wanted to crush your heart. Like mine has been for thousands of years. You’ll find eventually that you prefer it that way… it hurts more at first but you will never feel another pain. For who can break what is already shattered?” 

    Those last words hung on her lips as though they were meant to be a rhetorical question, but she had discovered an answer. Eyes flitting to the sky, Artemis tensed, suddenly on high-alert. It reminded Zara exactly of the feral look on a wolf’s face when they catch a whiff of a rival pack. Artemis had undoubtedly heard some kind of signal, one that answered her own question. Whatever it was, it was from something or someone that could break her heart for good. With a decisive motion, she slammed her shoe down onto Zara’s shin. A sickening crack sounded.

    “Second reason? To lead you away from your friends. The plan is simple, really. Break all of you pathetic goddesses down one-by-one, luring each one away until all that is left is my target. Selene, my best friend.” A cat-like grin spread over her face, one that didn’t linger. 

    “There’s nothing you can do to find them. I led you miles away, and you followed as willingly as a gullible puppy dog. Goodbye, Zara. It’s a shame I won’t get to see you die.” 

    Artemis disappeared, taking with her the only trace of Zara’s long-lost sister. Crumpled on the ground, her shin wasn’t the only thing shattered. For her sister was dead… and Zara would never visit her grave. Just as she summoned the strength to cry out, a bus hurtled through the intersection. The wheels screeched like a banshee, in perfect harmony with her screams. The world. Went. Dark. 


    Writer's Wednesday!

    Writer’s Wednesday! Star Crossed

    Orion Constellation

    Beady black eyes stared into his soul with a fiery calm that could only come from murder. It stared at me, unblinking, and within seconds he felt the lethal pinch of its pincers piercing the paper-thin skin of his cheek. Fire itched along his nerves determinedly as a rapid-spreading virus. This is the end. 

    Pain ricocheted through his nerves, pounding his body with heat flashes that shook him to his core: one moment a burning flush that slicked his body with sweat and the next a bone-chilling cold wracking his body with shivers.

    Another pinch on his neck, biting and quick as a hastily delivered injection. No…. He groaned, hacking at the viscous blood that welled in the back of his throat. No… Artemis… Prayers brushed past his lips like poison-laced feathers, begging some higher god or goddess (as though his whole life hadn’t revolved around loving one). Sand swirled in flurries, falling into his slightly parted lips, making his throat gritty with dried, sandy blood. Beady black eyes reappeared in his peripherals. The scorpion is back. Its eyes were glinting murderously in the setting sun as it raised its stinger high. Orion simply tensed his throat, waiting for the inevitable, lethal pinch that would put an end to his pathetic human life forever.

    But it never came. As if in some faraway dream, Orion heard the slosh of desert sand. Like an angel wreathed in the heavenly sunlight, she appeared in his vision, towering over his body. Coughing and spluttering up blood, his lips mouthed her name but all that came out was a gurgling croak. Shadows flickered across his face as the flowing white silk of her toga billowed in the breeze. She raised her boot-clad foot ominously, yellow-hazel eyes glinting with an emotion he couldn’t quite place. He tensed, squeezing his eyes shut and waiting for the final blow, the imminent pain…

    Crunch. It was a sickeningly slow sound. Orion’s eyes snapped open to see Artemis’s boot splattered with an oozy black goop, the crumbled shell of the scorpion scattered across the sand in broken pieces like a smashed bottle; Artemis’s lips quirked into a tiny grin, tossing her shining auburn curls over her shoulder. He could have sworn that she had a glowing silver aura pulsating around her, painting her moonbeam pale skin in glittering light. An avenging angel. After all I had done, she saved me.

    Kicking away the scorpion remains, the goddess crouched beside him in the sand, placing a silver cup to his lips. The liquid was cool and sweet like vanilla soda, the deep golden hue of the liquid seeming to hide glimmering secrets. Ambrosia. The drink of the gods. 

    Night was rapidly creeping over the rolling dunes, the crimson-gold painted sky receding into black. A brilliant crescent moon hung lonely in the starless oblivion above. Orion’s eyelids drooped, a drowsy smile playing across his lips as he stared out into the dusk, Artemis warm beside him; she smelled faintly of jasmine and pine, tinged with the beachy scent of sand. 

    “I love you,” he whispered into the dark. They were words he wouldn’t remember saying for the remainder of his immortal life. Orion thought he could hear a sad sigh over the perpetual noise of wind whistling in the sand.

    “I love you too,” Artemis paused, seeming lost in thought. Pursing her lips, she looked tenderly down at the pale huntsman, the red sting marks dotting his right cheek like… a constellation. Eyes drooping lower, he saw her hold a hand to the sky, bright pinpricks of stars appearing where she dragged her fingers. He would awake tomorrow morning with hardly a memory of the scorpion that almost killed him, forever sealed into the fate of being Artemis’s mercenary.

    The beautiful maiden goddess let her hand fall, surveying her creation, written across the sky in stars. A new constellation, one that would be marveled at for millenia to come. Orion: The Hunter. Running a reverent hand over his forehead, she closed his eyes. As he was drifting off into a warm, vanilla-sugar sleep, he heard her whisper,

    “Sic itur ad astra.”

    Thus you shall go to the stars. 

    *************************

    Drawing his bow, he let an arrow fly skyward, watching it disappear into the clouds. Sic itur ad astra. The thought leapt across his mind randomly, as it always seemed to when he thought of her. Throwing a hand up to his cheek, he felt the raised skin of the faded white scar as though on some level he could feel her touch there if he concentrated hard enough. 

    “Why did you do that? We have to find them now or she’ll- she’ll…” The young mercenary trailed away, voice quavering. Orion narrowed his eyes at his pathetic quaking, bounding ahead once again. The young man came up beside him, panting.

    “We’re going the wrong way! They went that way!”

    “Yes, they did.” The words were icy and emotionless on his tongue with an edge of superiority that came from millenia of murder and doing what he did best: hunting. I have no need to explain myself. I answer only to Artemis. My one and only love. The last thought was quiet, nervous, as though even in his own mind Orion was afraid she would hear it.

    “The Mistress will- she’ll-” The Huntsman shouldered the scrawny man hard, breaking stride to slam him against the alley wall. He recoiled back. Red hair mussed. Fresh blood dripping in satisfying streaks from the new scrapes. Emerald eyes frenzied and fearful; Orion looked like a golden god of war reflected in his panicked stare.

    “Kill us? Toss you away like street scum? Yes. She will.” Frustration bubbled in his throat, searing hot and threatening to boil over in a torrent of white-hot words. “Stop your incessant sputtering. Artemis,” he saw the mercenary’s eyes widen at her name (no man was ever to speak her heavenly name, not even her own assassins), “has no mercy. No love to give your pathetic, yearning heart.” Orion cringed, eyes squinting with the pain of that venomous word. Driving a boot into the young man’s gut, he laughed at the groan echoing off the bricks.

    “Artemis will kill you without hesitation if you fail. There was ever only one exception, a long time ago…” his thoughts drifted to a lethal sting, stars painted across the sky, the waves of her auburn hair gleaming under the lonely moon. No. No. No. Snapping back to the crumpled mercenary, his throat raw with emotion,

    “That was a lifetime ago. It will never happen again. The arrow to the sky was a message of distress, directly to Artemis. Alerting her to watch over us, track our progress and dole out punishments for those whose services are lacking. As for going the wrong way? We aren’t.” He pointed to the opening of the alley just in time for the staggering gaggle of girls to slink past. Eyes burning with passion, Orion yanked the young mercenary to his feet and took off without missing a beat. 

    🌱Zara

    Watching someone die is a lot different than what I had imagined. And trust me, I’d imagined it a million different times, a million different ways ever since Inara had taken off that night. 

    You always think it will be dramatic. Gasping breaths, whispered last words, reverent hands reaching for the sky only to fall down halfway. In reality, death is a more of a creeping phantom than a grand grim reaper. 

    I winced as the viscous blood gushed between my fingers, repeating to myself over and over, It’s not her. It’s not her. It’s not her. The glassy blue eyes staring up into space were not the sparkling emerald of my sister’s. Yet the setting was the same, the bumpy roads of Kommetjie that haunted my dreams, the roads where I envisioned her dying every night. It had been years since she had taken off into the night, headed for the bustling little town she had fallen in love with, heart soaring and head filled with dreams of a bakery of her own and a townhouse on Main Street. I never heard from her again.

    “Zara!” Kenna hissed, yanking my arm. I fumbled with Daria’s limp body as we took a hard right into the alley. At the end of the musty little corridor, silhouetted against the bricks was a figure that made my heart skip a beat. Cascading black hair, ebony skin, lean, muscled arms. Inara. It’s her. Every ounce of logic disproved this: the police had launched a full-scale search combing every inch of the area. But hope bloomed with the deadly strength of a poisonous flower… sweet and with dangerous potential. Hastily handing off Daria’s body to Kenna, I sprinted down the alley, watching as the figure slunk around the corner. 

    “Inara!”

    🌙Artemis

    This was painfully easy. Changing forms usually wasn’t my forte, per se, but today the facade was utterly flawless. The Earth girl’s voice yelled her sister’s name after me as I ducked around the corner, loping down the street and drawing her further and further away from the pack. 

    “Inara! Come back! It’s me!” My lips quirked up. Poor girl. She has no idea… her sister has been dead for a long time. I almost felt bad… well, no, I didn’t. The chase was on. Zara Nightlock had no idea that the trophy she was chasing was not solid gold. Just a cheap plastic fake laced with deadly intentions.