(Writer’s notes: Most of you have seen that my output has been low lately. I’ll make it easy and simple: My work is mentally exhausting. I generally like to write, but when I get home from tough days of figuring out problems, I sometimes don’t have the capability to write. I am working on it for 2020, however, and hope to have more. I definitely have ideas. Here’s today’s fictioneers…)
(Author’s Note: I am currently working on some new story-work to add to the blog, outside of the Fictioneers realm, but complications with real life have decided to take over and cause issues. So I am not sure when I’ll be putting up more original longer-form work. But, give it time, and I’ll be able to have more for my audience to peruse. In the meantime, here’s a work that I hope gives you some peace over this holiday season.)
“Mom! Come here!”
“What is it?” Mom asked her son, as he looked out the kitchen window.
“Look at the sky!”
“It’s beautiful, honey, but we see the sky all the time.”
“But Mom, look at the color! Don’t you remember what Brian told us?”
She thought back to when her eldest son was still at home.
“When the sky looks like brimstone, you know I’m on my way.”
She smiled, as she heard a familiar sound roll into the driveway, the exhaust of an old 1975 Harley.
“He kept his promise.”
She smiled, as she walked into the living room, awaiting her eldest son’s first hug in 8 years.
I had a long recovery after being beaten up and subsequently healed. Morgan, our leader, had taken the time to look at my sword and the armor that was carried off of me after I arrived back at the camp. He relayed a message to Brian, a message that would inspire a lot of worry and challenge. This was all in the space of a few days before the big Gathering that we were going to be attending.
“Hey!” Brian said to me, as I slowly started jogging around the camp, “We just got done with your assessment of your equipment.”
“What did you find?” I asked back, not looking at anything but the path in front of me.
“I don’t know what happened, but your equipment hasn’t been maintained very well. Has it not been given the proper upkeep?”
I just shrugged as I continued to jog. Brian put a hand on my shoulder, giving me the indication to stop.
“You don’t have to worry if you say yes.”
I stopped, and turned to face him at underneath a large oak tree. He continued to speak, as I looked at him.
“We get people in our camps all the time with equipment that’s falling apart. They try to take in battle, and they get thoroughly knocked around because of this. You, my brother, are not the only one who has to deal with severely corroded gear.”
I looked up at Brian and just couldn’t take it much more. I sat down at the base of the tree and the tears started flowing from my eyes.
“I’ve had that equipment for 18 years,” I cried out, “I’ve not had to use it much except in the last few months, when I joined with your crew.”
“That’s okay, brother. We’re not here to condemn you. As I said, everyone’s got corrosion on their armor. The difference is, are you going to work to repair your equipment, or will you be working to get new equipment. If you’re needing new equipment, do not be surprised that you will be able to get it. We walk by faith, and not by sight.”
After I told him that I would talk to him a little bit later, I just sat at the bottom of that tree and cried my eyes out. All of that frustration from being knocked around, and all of the pain of knowing I could not battle because I was exposed without armor, it flowed out like a raging river.
As I had dinner at the camp, Morgan sat down next to me. He looked out over the camp, over his army of warriors, then looked at me.
“You know, what’s happened to you is going to make you a stronger man. To fight heartily, it takes strong leadership,” he said, with a stern yet comforting edge to his voice, “With leadership and the coverage of our camp, you’ll be able to do a lot more. But you gotta listen, and you need to get in with our Father.”
I started in on the training the following morning. I spent all day trying to swing my dirty and pitted long sword, to spend time developing the skill. It kept slipping out of my hand after a while. I was so rusty, I couldn’t even understand how I could have withstood all of those Legion those weeks back.
I felt frustrated with each day of practice, each day where I kept losing my sword and losing all of my focus. The week was just incredibly hard, with attack after attack on my own confidence. I could feel many parts of it falling like a crumbling brick wall.
After one of my day long practice sessions, I sat in my tent silently. How could I get myself ready for the upcoming Gathering when I was so lost about everything. I heard a scratch at my tent, and looked up to see Brian poke his head in.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Come on in. I’m really having a tough time today, to be honest. I just can’t seem to do my work, well or otherwise. I’m just concerned about a few things.”
He took a seat next to me, folded his legs, and put his hands under his bearded chin..
“So, tell me about it.”
“I feel like all this stuff with my equipment has just eroded me down. I mean, how am I to do the fighting against the enemies like I’m supposed to do if I still have all this corrosion on my work?”
“Well, soldier, you need to just remember that our assessment of your equipment just gives us an idea of what needs to be repaired. And we have a session of repair for you to experience coming soon.”
“Session of repair?”
“Yeah. See, we have an attachment with what we use for offense and defense. It’s a part of us, and just because it gets tarnished or corroded, it doesn’t mean it’s unfixable. In fact, if things get done right, it could be made as good as new.”
“Will this happen before the Gathering?”
“I’m not totally sure, but I have a feeling it will be done soon. In the meantime, I think you need to get some sleep. You need to rest as much as you can.”
I looked over at him, and gave a small sigh.
“Do you think the corrosion was affecting some of my other skills, as well?”
“I think lately, no. You were pretty good at the river battle. You just need to be mindful of where it starts, and how to take care of it before it gets too bad.”
I nodded, and I prepared my face for bed.
“Brian, thank you for being a great friend.”
“Don’t sweat it. I’m also your sergeant, so I have to make sure my people are well taken care of.”
The gathering of people would happen in two days. I needed to get my heart ready.
The Witch of Winter. Snow fairy. The Winter Wife. Yuki-Onna.
She was called many different names from the time of her youth, referred to in legends. She was one of many, but not as many as others. She wasn’t a monster,though, like what many people thought.
Her skin was a beautiful alabaster, her hair nearly crystalline in appearance. Out of the sun, it looked a beautiful strawberry blonde color. She was dressed in a shorter yukata that came down to the knees, colored white, with broad and wide sleeves, along with a salmon-colored sash across her waist. To the uninitiated eye, she would have been described as a young, teenaged beauty.
However, to quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.” With the internet, more people found out and knew about the legend of the Yuki-Onna. As a result, more people were scared, or were fascinated but didn’t do anything about it as human instinct is to avoid things that mean death.
She remembered hearing about the stories from her mother. While there were many who took to the traditional way of freezing their mates to death, and joining them in whatever afterlife there was, she wasn’t one who would do that. She was different, and to her kind, an outcast. She wanted what the humans had.
She sat on a cliff, overlooking a lake that was thawing. She sighed as she kept thinking about her love, whoever he was. She looked at the melting snow, a sign of the springtime that was to come and the summer that would be tough. She thought about leaving her native land, going to a new land where she may be more accepted. She heard about the Australian snow fairies, who make their homes in the highlands of the east coast; and even the Rocky Mountain Yuki-Onna, the rare and yet most striking of the snow fairies in the mountains of America and Canada.
She didn’t have the income to move, however. Because of this realization, she slid further into her reflections. She sighed as a slight chilly air flowed from her mouth into the air.
She heard a slight crunching behind her, and she immediately shifted around to see who was coming. She waited, patiently, hearing the slow movement of rock and the groaning of someone who sounded quite masculine. Waiting patiently, she sat placidly as the form of the newcomer came into view.
The man was brown-haired, young, and a slight bit overweight. He didn’t look unhealthy, but he could easily shed a few pounds if he so chose. He reached the overlook where she was and sat down.
“Hello there, love. Looks like…WHOA-!”
He looked over the lake, the beauty of it all flowing into his eyes and piercing his brain. The deep blue of the lake, contrasted with the grayish white of the melting sheets of ice, and the deep, dark green evergreen trees that blanketed the landscape. The sun shone in rays and peaks from around the needles of the trees, creating a near-kaleidoscope effect to a person’s eye.
In the young man’s eyes, this was intense beauty. He smiled broadly, as he pulled out his expensive camera and started taking shots. The young beauty sitting close to his feet was in awe at how engrossed he was in the scenery, many thoughts and questions running through her mind.
“You…like nature?” she asked him.
He looked down and grinned.
“Absolutely! I have never seen or experienced such beauty since I look out from Cape Blanco in Oregon, in the USA. This is the essence of Japan, and I now have a piece of it for my memories. Now, since I’m done gushing over nature’s beauty, how about you?”
She looked down, demurely, trying to hide the embarrassment of having this foreigner’s attention on her.
“The name’s Tom. Tom Bishop. Cairns, Australia.”
Her eyes lit up and she smiled, broadly.
“Australia?! Is Cairns anywhere close to snow?”
Tom looked at the young lady and smiled.
“Nah. Snow is farther south. Down in the hills around by Melbourne and Canberra. Cairns is tropical. Which is okay, because I don’t really like tropical places. What’s your name?”
The young yuki-onna bit her lip as she looked at him.
“My name would translate to Yukiri in this language. It’s hard to pronounce my actual name in your language.”
“Well, Yukiri, I am very glad to meet you. It’s not everyday you see someone who is beautiful surrounded by beautiful nature.”
She sighed, and a wan smile towards the compliment.
“If you know more about me, you may not think I’m so beautiful. Many times, people even think I’m a real monster.”
Tom looked at her, squinted for a few seconds, and gave a little chuckle.
“Everyone has a little bit of monster inside. The most pious of people have that, or there wouldn’t be something called “the human condition”,” he said, while looking out at the placid lake, “There are men and women out there who appear to be normal, but who are murderers and thieves deep down. They show kindness to the world and hatred reigns in their hearts. If you think you are a monster, then obviously you haven’t seen how some humans can be.”
Yukiri looked at him with wide eyes, not realizing that for even a moment that someone would state that some humans are worse than her. She quietly looked out at the lake, serenity perceived, and a tear started to fall down her face.
“Tom, what if someone told you that they were a real monster. Like a monster from legend, or someone who was unbelievably different that it would make you question everything you know?”
Tom looked down at her, and gave her a sideways smile. He crouched down and his smile broadened.
“Everyday, I question what I know. It’s not because I think God’s wrong, or that I’m wrong, but it helps me to realize that there are things I can’t explain out there. If you told me you were a real legendary monster, it’s likely I wouldn’t believe it. But, after a while, when I think about it and pray over the idea, I might change my mind.”
He sat down, dangling his legs over the edge of the cliff, and he reached over to touch her shoulder. Yukiri started to pull away, but then relaxed as the warm hand lightly gripped her shoulder.
“God has shown me many things in my life. He’s shown me the greatest highs and the greatest lows. He has shown me beauty unimaginable in nature, and he has shown me true ugliness. If you’re asking me whether real life monsters exist, then I could say yes. But again, the question we should be asking is, ‘What is the true definition of a monster?'”
Yukiri eyes started to tear up heavily as Tom continued to speak to her.
“Yukiri, beauty and monstrosity are in the eye of the beholder. I know of women back in Oz that are beautiful as can be in their looks, but their personality is absolutely horrific to the point of revolting. I also know of women who are not 10s in their looks, but have some of the warmest and most beautiful hearts imaginable. When you find a balance, that’s where perfection comes in.”
She launched herself at Tom and buried her head in his shoulder, cold tears soaking into the microfiber jacket that he wore. He looked down at her, and he didn’t know what to do.
Do I hug her? Do I ask her what’s wrong? What’s…does she really think she’s a monster?
After a minute of sobbing, the icy tears soaking through Tom’s jacket, she pulled away slowly and sniffled.
“You made me feel…like a human, Tom.”
Tom put up his hands and laughed nervously.
“Hey hey…I’m no saint here. I’m guilty of being a monster myself at times.”
Yukiri smiled at him as he attempted to deflect the compliment with self-deprecation. She put a finger on his lips and smiled.
“What I mean is this, that your words make me think that there is hope for someone like me.”
“What do you mean?”
She looked him in the eye, and took a deep breath.
“Well, what I’m going to say may be hard to believe. You’re talking to a real live legendary monster.”
Tom cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrows, as if he was saying, “Go on…”
She stood and revealed her true face, which was a little bit wider, with what looked to be sharp saw-like teeth. She raised her hands, which were now a deep ice blue, the fingers looking like sharp, razor claws.
“My family are snow fairies. We are Yuki-Onna. In legend, we are accused of leading men to their death.”
Tom’s eyes widened, but as Yukiri looked into his eyes, she didn’t see fear. She saw what she only could describe as amazement.
Tom blinked, and reached for her icy claws. She started to recoil from the touch, as if to cry out “Don’t touch me!”, but he was quick enough to put his hand into her claw.
“Your hands are ice cold. It’s like dipping my hand in a blast freezer. But…I can still feel a bit of your skin. It’s like grooved ice.”
Yukiri smiled, showing the razor teeth in her mouth. She wasn’t showing malice at all, and she felt like Tom was receiving that message in his mind.
“Yukiri, I want to know more. You’re a new being that I never knew existed, but a testament to the greatness of the God I serve.”
She morphed back to her human form and smiled, knowing that this was something she hoped for.
“I’d like to know more about you, Tom. And the God you talk so highly about…”
Hey there, everyone. Last week was a killer for me, on many fronts. I couldn’t do half of what I wanted to do. The good news is that I will have time this week to do some major writing, so keep up on it. Here’s today’s fiction:
copyright Melanie Greenwood
Hedging Your Bets
by Miles Rost
“I just put in my notice.”
Mark Jackson had a look on his face that was bliss. His cube-mate, Jesse Blaylock, wasn’t so sure.
“So, you’re going to quit without an exit plan?”
“Absolutely not. I have that plan. I’m going to take the first job that I get, and while I work at that one, I’ll work on my passion.”
Jesse’s eye went up at that.
“And what if you don’t find a job?”
“That’s the beauty of it. They’re always looking for someone. I will do any job, just as long as I don’t have to work at this place.”
“You, sir, have faith. If I don’t get to see you go today, here’s to hoping the maze don’t get ya.”
The hut in the middle of the flat expanse of “wilderness” was a tough place for a missionary to live. For Rene, however, it was the place that he called home. It was the place where he was able to meditate and to craft his work for sale. It was the place where he could study, and when he wasn’t working, he could leave and go teach the Word among those who were lost.
It was a hard road for him. Originally from France, he grew up in the tough lands of Algeria and in the palatial estates of Nice. Sand in his skin, and grit in his mind, it took the saving grace of Christ and a couple of good friends to get him where he was able to be of some good. And his place as a missionary took him to the lands of Patagonia. He lived in his hut for many years, and did his work as a maker of threads and cloth. If one asked him how many people he saved, he would say “I have saved none, and gave the Word to everyone I met in Patagonia. That’s all.”
However, it was time to go back to his old home. He had to go back to Algeria, then to France. He had to bury his parents, who had passed on one after each other. With no other siblings, he was the last of his family’s line. And at age 35, if he was going to continue with the family line, he would need to get married.
He landed in Paris, and took a train from Paris to Nice, where his parents lived. Many of the people in the neighborhood where his parents lived, they remembered young Rene. A spitfire of a boy, they would call him. Today, they looked at him as a stranger, and upon recognizing him, he would be looked on with a slight bit of disgust at what he had done in the many years away from there. He did not mesh well there, and people would keep asking him why he was there.
After a few days of getting re-acclaimated, the time came to bury his mom and dad. Everyone in the church, staid and stoic people who weren’t necessarily believers, but were there out of respect, waited for Rene to give the eulogy. And as he stood and walked up to the pulpit, he seemed tired. He unrolled his paper, and cleared his throat to speak.
“As most of you probably know, I’ve been living in a hut for many years. I have lived among the people of Patagonia, away from my mother and my father. I had a spark of life to light my way, put there by both of my parents, of whose light has gone from this Earth. They raised me to be a loving son, and while some here may not think so much because of what has happened in the last few years, I can state that my parents did not leave this Earth regretting what their son has done.”
He took in a breath, and proceeded to let the hounds loose.
He wipe a tear from his face, and continued to speak.
“My mother and father, they cared for The Lord. They didn’t say much, but their lives said everything! Their faith was evidenced in how they took care of their friends, and how the people of Nice paid them back with scorn! While I was away, my mother and father did what the Lord would want them to do, and in the days I have been here, I have seen with how much regard they have been given by everyone. There has been very little!”
He wound himself up in his mind, and let go with passion and fervor.
He took in a breath, and made his final statement.
“My parents will be laid to rest on the hills outside of this city. Their bodies will decay and rot, and will feed the earth once more. Their souls, their true being, are with Christ my Lord right now. If any of you were actually touched by my parents and what they had done in Christ’s name, you will do as they did: Believe in the Lord with their heart, minister to those who need it, and for all that is holy and righteous, shut your mouth and stop being a bunch of gossiping busybodies! That is all.”
He took his paper, walked down the aisle, and sat back in the pew. For a good long while he sat, and waited. He waited for them to come at him screaming about being insulted.
All he received from them was indifference, which reminded him of the last thing he saw as he boarded the plane at Charles de Gaulle, bound for Buenos Aires, then to Asuncion.
He saw an old man turn his back from his son, who was crying as he was carried aboard another plane at a neighboring gate.
She didn’t know what exactly prompted her to go to the roof of her apartment building. All that she knew was that she had to get out of that apartment. She was too closed in, too shut in when sitting in that place. She wanted to break free and not have to worry about that situation.
As she looked out onto the city, all of the pain and the stress in her life simply melted away. The view of a darkening sky, the lights of the tall buildings near her own, all of it was simple. It made sense to her. She loved the simple things in her life, though today she had another that was invading her life.
She thought of a man that she had never met. She felt his presence in his mind when she was in trouble, when she was stressed. She felt him in her mind at that moment, as she was looking over the city.
It was a long time since she had been held by someone, since she had been able to allow her entire being to melt into the heart of another. She wanted to catch that feeling again, especially with all of that stress and hardship she had to endure. She wanted that comfort, that warm blanket feeling of care and love that would be there. The simple things in her life would help her to continue doing her work, as stressful and sometimes as thankless as it was. Being a teacher was not a bad job by any stretch of the imagination, but she did not know how to deal with the young hellions that were running all over her during the day. She got used to it a bit, but halfway into the new semester, she was being run ragged. She was not ready to teach young ones.
The thought brought her back to the roof, to the beauty of the city skyline. She was brought back to the comfort of her space, and it calmed her. She loved all of it, all of the space outside of where she was. It reminded her that there was more to life than just the work she did and the toughness of her job.
Her mind drifted back again to the unknown man of her visions. The man standing on a hill in a faraway city, doing nothing but making her weak all over without even being there. She wanted to have that feeling, that weak-in-the-knees feeling again. As she stood there, leaning and looking at the rapidly darkening sky and the increasing number of lights turning on, she knew that one day she would be meeting that mysterious man. She would have her dream career as a professor, and she would be able to be wrapped up in the arms of her mysterious man.