Short Story: Insistent Leaking

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #23: Leak.

~Insistent Leaking~

If I can own only one thing in the world, I’ll choose a noise cancelling headset.

On a good day, I can hear the whisper of my neighbour’s cat padding over their soft carpet.

On a bad day, I can hear the rapid tapping of a centipede’s many feet as it crawls over the bark of a tree further than my eye can see.

Today’s an annoying day. The soundproofing I’ve invested into my house blocks out most of the noise around the vicinity, but my ears still pick out an insistent dripping.

It’s soft enough that it’s not a leak in my home. Unfortunate, because it’s not something I can easily fix. And after an hour of trying to put up with it, it appears that I can’t ignore it either. With a sigh, I put on my headset and head out.

The first step out is always the hardest. No matter how much prep I do beforehand, the burst of sound that hit me the moment the door opens feel like a full body punch. I grit my teeth and push through.

Following the annoying sound leads me to a row of shops a few streets away. I’m not a plumber, but I can recognise patterns, and what I hear isn’t great. The leak is in the homeware shop, but the actual source is a tiny hairline crack in a pipe from the toy store next door. So if I want the dripping to stop, I’ll need to convince not one, but two businesses to do something about it.

I rub a tired hand over my face.

Well, better start with the one who’s experiencing a visible problem.

I step into the homeware shop.

~End~

Genre: slice of life

Related story: Morning Sizzle, Crispy Review

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Open Invitation

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #22: Open.

Their door is always unlocked.

Not the upstairs living area, because they may be hopelessly optimistic, but they still have some survival instincts. The ground floor of their house, however, is completely open to everyone in the community. The food in the pantry, the toiletries in the bathroom, the TV in the living room, if anyone needs it, they’re free to help themselves.

Their worried friends and family always advise them to lock up their premises, saying that if they want to be altruistic, there are safer ways to do so. And they’re right to worry. In this dangerous suburb, everyone has or know someone who’s been stabbed or murdered.

They knew that when they moved in, held a naïve dream that they could transform the grim area, but even they didn’t plan to take such extreme steps. No, the challenge came from their neighbour, a leader of one of the local gangs.

“If you want us trust you, you have to trust us first.”

It’s not easy, especially when their neighbour decides to bring trouble into their house to test their resolve. At night, the gang’s rumbustious antics keep them awake; during the day, the displays of aggression make their more timid visitors scramble out of the way. But every encounter shows them an area they can improve. They partition the lower ground for added privacy for those who need them, build extra rooms in the backyard that people can nap in, strengthen the walls and doors so that they don’t tear easily when a fight breaks out.

They also become more familiar with the faces who pass by. Most still regard them with suspicion, like a wild stray unwilling to come close to free food until the humans have left, but there are those who’ll linger long enough for a wave or a smile. Even their neighbour, while he pretends to be a scary killer, have protected their house a few times from those with harmful intentions.

It’s still scary to live with their front door wide open, but they can see the seeds of their kindness in the community. They look forward to the day they can reap the fruits of their efforts.

~End~

Genre: slice of life

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: The Cat Hairball Mat

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #21: Fuzzy.

~The Cat Hairball Mat~

The mat looks like it’s made out of cat hairballs. Just the sight of it makes her gag. She really, definitely, positively, 100%-y, doesn’t want to touch it.

Her brother has other plans.

“Trust me. You’ll like it,” he says as he drags her over.

When she fights tooth and nail to wriggle free, he throws her over his shoulder like she’s their neighbour’s Golden Retriever. With no leverage, her limbs wave uselessly in the air. Her brother, taking advantage of his unfairly strong body, holds her in place with one arm and uses the other to peel off her slippers before he drops her on the fuzzy mat.

It’s… soft. Thick and textured in all the ways that matter. Her toes curl as she digs them into the curly material.

She ends up taking the mat home with them.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, family

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Basket of Life

Related to Basket of Hope.

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #20: Sprout.

~Basket of Life~

He’s having a normal day, in normal weather, in his normal garden, feeling unusually lonely.

If his wife was home, she’d be laughing her butt off.

“You spent the past decade pushing our kids out to live their own lives, and now you want them back?”

He’ll always want his kids, but he also believes his adult children need their own space to really grow into their own. And if he has the occasional bout of empty nest syndrome, isn’t that normal considering he and his wife have spent a good half of their lives revolving around their children?

The momentary nostalgia is the reason why, when a mysterious plant sprouts in his garden to spit out a boy in a basket, his first reaction isn’t to kill it with fire, but to scoop the little boy into his arms.

Maybe he can get his kids to help this time. Let them get a little practice before they have children of their own.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Basket of Hope

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #19: Loop.

~Basket of Hope~

With numb fingers, she loops the twine around her son’s sleeping body. Her blue lips murmur prayers of safety, health, protection, as she creates a basket.

It’s too late for her. She’s so cold her body can’t feel it anymore, but she still has a little magic left in her. She weaves the final knots into place. Her tired head rests against the sturdy shell she has made.

“Wherever you go, may you find favour,” she says her final blessing.

The basket glows green and vanishes. Her head falls to the snow-soft ground and keeps falling.

~End~

Genre: fantasy, angst

Check out the related story Basket of Life.

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Moonlit Harvest

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #18: Moon.

~Moonlit Harvest~

The forest was a dangerous place at night. Unlike the city, there were no street lights to illuminate the uneven ground that could easily twist the ankles of unsuspecting travellers.

Yet here he was, making his way carefully through the tree while stars blinked above him.

Two weeks ago, a loose experimental spell swept through their town, stealing the strength from their limbs. Even the butcher, who normally carried a pig under each arm like they were just loaves of bread, could barely walk from his bed to the toilet.

The magical council was still working on a counter spell, but herbalists managed to create a tincture that could counteract some of the effects, though its effectiveness varied from person to person. Although they didn’t need to worry about the cost, since the mages were footing the bill, one of the ingredients had such a short shelf life that it had to be harvested daily.

That ingredient was moon needles. The magical plant had a tendency to mimic the flora around them, making them impossible to identify during the day. But at night, they glowed silver under the moonlight, shining like stars among the dark forest floor. Even a complete newbie at foraging like himself couldn’t go wrong. Which was a good thing, because he was one of the rare few who was almost back to his usual energy levels after taking the tincture.

He didn’t know how long more he’ll need to make this nightly trips, but after the crisis was over, he wanted to come back again, this time with a levitation spell. With the stars in the sky and the moon needles in the ground, he imagined it would be a trippy experience, perfect for releasing the stress of his usual life.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Their Solution

Takes place after Follows after Room to Room, Her Room, and Their Home. Read these first for context.

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #17: Collide.

~Their Solution~

Beatrice jumped as a bicycle collided with the red posting box right in front of her. Before either of them had a chance to say a word, the broken tip of a skateboard hurtled through the air, narrowly missing the cyclist’s sprawled legs. Someone yelled as they lost their hold on their leash and a large dog dashed past them with the force of a train, claws almost brushing the cyclist’s nose as the beast leapt over him.

A year ago, she would be panicking just as much as the fear-frozen cyclist on the ground. After Elyssia’s revelation that her bad luck, while scary, didn’t actually cause harm, Beatrice knew exactly what she needed to do.

She turned and ran as a pair of birds in the middle of a noisy fight fell off the traffic light into the cyclist’s lap. By the time she was two streets away, she couldn’t hear the commotion any more. Hopefully, that meant she’d successfully taken her bad luck with her and the cyclist could finally resume his normal day.

She spared a moment to send a silent apology to the poor guy who crossed her path, then continued on her errand.

~End~

Genre: general

Inktober attempt:

A/N: Most of my story characters aren’t named, stemming from my self-imposed challenge in the past to write nameless characters (and it saves me the trouble of coming up with names). I have no idea why these two characters are.

Short Story: A Compass with Two Needles

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #16: Compass.

~A Compass with Two Needles~

The compass has two needles. The blue one points in front of him, the red one points to his right.

“The red arrow shows you where you want to go, the blue arrow shows you where you want to return to,” his mother says as she tucks the gadget into his hand.

His desire to travel doesn’t change, but for the first time, he’s reminded of what he’s leaving behind. He makes sure to give everyone at the farewell party a back-breaking hug, as if he can imprint himself into his memory so they don’t forget him while he’s gone.

Finally, he turns his back on the home he grew up in and follows the red needle to his adventure.

The blue needle points steadfastly behind him.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Safety Gear Check

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #15: Helmet.

~Safety Gear Check~

His daughter wants her own skateboard. She already spent a few weeks playing around with the ones the neighbour’s kids have, enough to know that she genuinely likes it. He’s perfectly fine with her participating in the sport, on one condition.

Safety gear.

He knows his daughter enough to know that she’s going to try all the tricks she can learn and more. In the process, injuries are unavoidable, but he’s going to make sure he prevents what he can.

His daughter grumbles that she isn’t a kid, but he is unmoved by her adorable pout, so she obediently grabs the wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads off the shelves. She tries to ‘forget’ the helmet, but when he ‘helpfully’ grabs a bright red one featuring her least favourite character, she remembers very quickly.

Now comes the part that his daughter has been looking forward to the most: choosing the perfect skateboard.

Arms full of protective gear, he sits back and watches his daughter wander with sparkling eyes among the colourful decks mounted on the walls.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, family

Inktober attempt:

Short Story: Checklists Curling Around their Feet

Written in response to the Inktober prompt #14: Tick.

~Checklists Curling Around their Feet~

When he unrolls the checklist, he finds it longer than he is tall. He looks around the room and finds the other student council members holding equally long lists, the edges curling around their feet like thick pasta. The scariest part is that when they compare the wordy handwritten tasks, everyone has their own unique set.

One by one, their attention turns to their president. The smile she sends them doesn’t reach her eyes.

“The fundraiser is in one month. If we want everything ready in time, everyone needs to pitch in. And I mean everyone. When we say we’re a team, it’s not just to have fun together.”

He looks away, knowing he’s been avoiding the student council room the past two weeks because he can’t handle the frantic energy as the deadline looms. It looks like he wasn’t the only one.

“Any objections?”

Silence.

“Good. You have one week to tick off everything on your list. See you next Friday.”

~End~

Genre: slice of life

Inktober attempt: