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Short Story: The Tribe Within The Mountain

Genre: fantasy

 

On the mountain in between the roots of two giant trees, sat a pool. By day it shone under the sun, by night it glittered under the stars.

The pool fed streams that flowed into the mountain, down the man-made tunnels of the tribe that dwelled within the mountain. Even in the darkness, the streams glowed, bringing light deep into the mountain.

Throughout the mountain, the tribe settled along the streams. They lived by its light and survived through its water. For many, the stream was the only light they knew, and that was enough.

But not her.

The elders talked about an endless chamber with no walls, of a great light that shone from the ceiling called sun and a glittering river that flowed on the ceiling instead of the ground.

She lived deep in the mountain, far from the surface. To travel all the way to the top would take her days, maybe longer. So she prepared, as much as she could, and when there was nothing else she could prepare, she walked upstream.

To travel was rare, so her unfamiliar face drew attention wherever she went.

“Where are you from?”

“Where are you going?”

In exchange for her story, they offered her food and shelter. For her, who didn’t know how long her journey would take, the offers were a great boon. She shared her story, and in the process learnt theirs.

As she traveled further upstream, she sent news back downstream of how she was, the people she had met, and the things she had learnt.

What should have taken days stretched into months, but finally, she reached the top of the mountain, and she saw with her own eyes the largest chamber she had ever seen. No walls, no ceilings, just endless space as far as the eye could see.

She drank her fill of the vast landscape, committing every sight to memory. This place, which had no end, was where she wanted to be.

She would return to her home chamber, but only to bid her farewells before returning to the surface.

And if anyone wanted to join her, well, the more the merrier.

~End~

 

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Short Story: The Price of Wishes

Genre: fantasy

Inspired by the prompt evanescent.

Features Bitter Medic.

He could realise any wish as long as the price was right, but not every wish was worth the price.

As Bitter Medic, everything and anything was a resource. Physical, emotional, tangible, immaterial, real, imaginary, as long as it had value and the client was willing to pay the price.

Given the choice, however, he would always prefer tangible options. They were like once off patients, give it once and that was it.

Non-material prices, however, could have long reaching consequences that neither he nor his clients could have foreseen.

Such as this case.

“Please, Bitter Medic. Tell me what I need to pay,” the young man said as he held an unconscious girl in his arms.

Bitter Medic had actually seen the girl only two months before. Back then, she had been absolutely radiant, bringing life to this very room with her presence as she paid for her wish. Now, only a dull husk remained, and even that was fading. Literally.

“Two months ago,” Bitter Medic said, “She approached me with a wish. A friend of hers had narcolepsy, and she wished for him to be healed. I assume that friend is you?”

The young man nodded. “I don’t have narcolepsy anymore, but I didn’t know she had anything to do with it. Whatever she paid, please return it. I would rather live with narcolepsy than lose a friend.”

“That, too, requires a price.”

“I’ll pay it.”

Bitter Medic studied the young man. Potential prices crossed his mind. Reversing the transaction would be most straightforward, but costly for the young man with no benefits. He had no physical items that would be equivalent to his wish, not with his friend’s life on the line. The bond between those two… he could work with that.

“The price your friend paid to cure your narcolepsy is her energy. The energy that’s keeping you alert is all from her. It appears, however, that you are consuming more than she can provide, and it is taking a toll on her body.

“So rest. If you don’t exert yourself, she should wake on her own. When she does, come back and we’ll continue the conversation.”

“Thank you. Thank you very much.”

The young man picked up the girl.

“Did you carry her here?”

“… Yes.”

“Take a cab. The more energy you use, the faster she’ll fade.”

“Got it, Bitter Medic.”

Yes, they had both underestimated how active this young man was once freed from the shackles of narcolepsy. For all their sake, he hoped he would see them both again.

~End~

Short Story: Either Way

Genre: fantasy, family

 

The drug had a plethora of side effects. Chronic fatigue, a constant low grade fever, an increased tendency for nosebleeds, reduced reaction time, and the list went on. It was uncomfortable and dangerous with no guarantee of success, but it was the best odds they’d had since the parasite latched on to her brother.

“This drug will kill you,” the parasite said as the feverish boy shifted restlessly on the bed.

“So will you, and between the you and the drug, we’ll take our chances with the drug,” she said with more bravado than she actually had.

“He won’t just be fighting the drug. I’ll fight him the whole way. Will you really risk your bother’s life to get rid of little old me?”

Her fingers tightened around his clammy hands. “He’s stronger than you think. The drug’s just giving him the boost he needs to kick you out for good.”

The rest of their group hovered around the bed, shooting down everything the parasite said to try and save itself while supporting her brother in any way they could. She sat vigil by her brother’s side, hands clasped tightly around her brother’s as if she could give her strength to her little brother if she tried hard enough.

Finally, finally, the parasite succumbed to the drug. While they could only watch before, now they rushed in to save her brother. Half a year later and more than two years after the parasite infected their youngest member, the nightmare was finally over. Her brother recovered his strength, and for the first time in a long time, the two siblings walked side by side along their favourite river.

“So, what did we learn from this?” she asked.

“If a weird parasite tries to take over my big sis again, I should block it.”

“No!”

“Yes.”

“The right answer is to ‘run away’.”

You try running away when you only have one second to react. I should get a reward for fastest reaction of the year. It was this close to you.” Her brother pinched his thumb and forefinger together in emphasis. “Anyway, everything turned out alright so there’s no need to get so worked up.”

She looked at the cane her younger brother still needed, at the tremors that shook the once-steady hands, and the pouch they both wore containing medication to deal with the many lingering side effects of the drug. Her brother shrugged.

“I’ll get better. And if you really love me, you’ll get those rambutans for me because I’m not allowed to climb trees while I recuperate from saving your life.”

She released a huff that was equal parts amused and relieved. That her brother was interested in food again was another good sign on his long road to complete recovery.

“Yes, boss. Fresh rambutans coming right up.”

~End~

 

Short Story: An Employee’s Worth

Genre: fantasy
Related to Different Views and Magic Trick.

 

I was born with one brown eye and one black one. The brown eye sees things as they are, and although the black one does not always see the things in front of me, it can see much more.

It sees the past.

Looking at the past is different from looking at the present. There is only one present, and just like everyone else, my brown eye sees only what is in front of me.

The past, on the other hand, is so much more vast than the present. The same patch of land has been walked by so many people and creatures at different times. How do I know if the dog licking the hot dog off the ground was there two years ago or just two hours past?

I can only see the past. I can’t hear anything, nor does the past come with convenient time stamps. Despite what other people may think, I do need to do a lot of searching and detective work to zoom in on exactly what I’m supposed to look for. If what I do appears to be effortless, it’s because I’ve had a lot of practice.

“Regardless, my pay should not be dependant on the amount of effort it takes me to do the job, but the fruits of my work. In fact, my pay should increase, since I can and often carry out the work of a whole team by myself,” I say as I carefully read the speech Uncle James prepared for me earlier.

“We will take your feedback under consideration,” the HR manager says before dismissing me. Uncle James joins me outside the room soon after.

“How did I do?” I ask. Instead of ruffling my hair as usual, Uncle James pulls me to his side in a one-armed hug.

“You did great. Now it’s up to them to decide if they want to keep you or not, because I know a lot of other branches who will pay double or triple what you’re getting now for what you do. You can go anywhere. Don’t stay just because of me.”

“I’m not staying just for you,” I say.

A smile cracks through his solemn frown. “You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean, but I like it here.”

“Well, you’re still young, so money doesn’t mean the same thing to you as it does to us. And that’s perfectly fine. You’re already way ahead of your peers in terms of finances. Just keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll make sure you don’t get bullied.”

“Thanks, Uncle James.”

Looking at the past isn’t as easy as people think, but it’s still easier than what everyone else needs to do to achieve the same results, so really, whatever decision the HR team makes, I can’t complain.

But if Uncle James thinks otherwise, who am I to stop him? I’m sure I’ll appreciate the extra cash one day.

~End~

 

Short Story: A Change of Pace

Genre: fantasy
Follows after A Pioneer’s Life and A Friend in Need.

 

The land of beyond the wall was the land of monsters, they were brought up to believe. It wasn’t wrong. Monsters did prowl the wasteland outside. What they didn’t teach in school was that there were other cities out there, all fighting against the monsters in their own way.

While he recuperated in the girl’s guestroom, she shared about her own city. Instead of concentrating all their attention on one big city, they expended by planting new, smaller cities nearby, each with their own defence force. The people were different too. Back in his home, only a few had super strength of powers. Here, everyone had their own special power, and were played their part to defend their city.

She also talked about underground cities, of cities built aboveground out of reach, of cities that travelled the wasteland as nomads. Some had special tools that were like poison to the monsters, some had their own tamed monsters that could fight against the wild monsters, all had some unique way to protect themselves.

“Does anyone else know about this?” he asked.

“The nomads would know. They go everywhere,” she said, “We’re actually really, really far from each other. I only know because my power is to travel very far very quickly. I’ll show you around when you get better.”

For a long time, he had been anchored to his house and the immediate area around him. He wouldn’t mind a change of pace.

“That sounds great.”

~End~

Short Story: Just A Hoax

Genre: fantasy
Related to The Bottom of the Lake.

 

A crowd gathered by the lake as the news crew recorded an interview.

“So you’re saying it’s a hoax?” the news anchor said.

“Our team has searched every cubic of this lake and we have not seen any ogres, treasure, or ancient codes. This lake is perfectly mundane,” the interviewee said.

So that’s what the commotion’s about, the ogre thought and continued on his daily routine.

~End~

 

Short Story: A Pioneer’s Life

Genre: fantasy
Features a character from Have You Ever Wondered and This Girl.

 

The land of beyond the wall was the land of monsters, they were brought up to believe. It wasn’t wrong. Monsters did prowl the wasteland outside. What they didn’t teach in school was that the wasteland was also unclaimed land just waiting to be taken.

That was his job as a pioneer.

Pioneers lived out in the wasteland, usually in groups, but there were also oddballs like him who stayed alone.

A pioneer had only two jobs: stay alive and expand their territory. The idea was to make the wasteland safer before sending teams out to build the new city walls, and the city was very willing to make the wasteland safer.

It did get lonely out there, and living constantly on lookout wasn’t the easiest way to live, but the money was good, and he wasn’t completely cut off from human interaction. He touched base with his manager daily, people visited him with supplies fortnightly, and when DD sent teams out on missions they often dropped by as well.

So even if he was hurt now, even as his body started to burn to fight off the infection, someone would come. He had already missed the daily check in. He just needed to survive until help arrive.

This was what all the traps he set was for.

~Continue the story in A Friend in Need~

Short Story: Present Danger

Genre: fantasy
Related to Different View and Magic Trick.

 

I was born with one brown eye and one black one. The brown eye sees things as they are, and although the black one does not always see the things in front of me, it can see much more.

It sees the past.

It’s not as exciting as seeing the future, but it’s not as dangerous as seeing the present. In the past, everything is set in stone. No matter how dangerous it looks, the past cannot hurt me. In the present, danger is everywhere, and I can’t just watch, I have to react. It wouldn’t be a problem, if I don’t have trouble distinguishing the past from the present.

A hand grabs my arm and yanks me back. A car honks as it narrowly misses me.

“Watch where you’re going,” my saviour says.

His hands shook as he read the ransom note for his brother. The phone on the table set the scene as two hours ago.

“Miss?”

In an ordinary house on an ordinary street, a group of people ate while one man sat blindfolded and bound at the corner.

“I know where your brother is.” The words tumble out of my mouth.

The man who saved me from the car pales. His fingers tighten around my arm so hard it hurts.

“Who are you?” he asks.

“Not your enemy.”

The man loosens his death grip on my arm but does not let go. His gaze is fearfully suspicious with a touch of fragile hope.

“Continue what you were doing. I’ll get help,” I say.

After we part ways, I pull out my phone to call a familiar number.

“Uncle James, I found someone.”

“Speak. We’re listening.”

watch the rescue mission as I wander through the mall. I can only see the past, but something that happened just a second ago is already in the past, and if I am quick I can still warm them before they step into any traps.

By late afternoon, the kidnappers have been subdued and the victim returned to his family. My feet are sore from all the walking but there is a bounce in my steps. It always always good when a mission ends without anyone getting hurt.

I bump into a lady I thought was in the past.

“Sorry!”

It’s so much easier to navigate the past than the present.

~End~

Short Story: Magic Trick

Genre: fantasy, family

 

I was born with one brown eye and one black one. The brown eye sees things as they are, and although the black one does not always see the things in front of me, it can see much more.

It sees the past.

It doesn’t sound as awesome as seeing the future, but it’s still cool. Cool enough to do magic cool.

“Red. Black. Red. Red,” I say as my sister reveals one poker card at a time from a deck to our audience.

Our friends ooh and ahh as I call the right colour, one after another, with my eyes blindfolded. My relatives laugh and keep the secret to the magic trick to themselves.

“Anyone else want to try?” My sister offers the deck around.

Some choose a specific card for me to name. Uncle James tries to trick me by changing the card as I name it but my black eye sees all.

After the show, Uncle James pulls me aside.

“Eli, how well can you see with your eye?”

look at him.

He grabbed the keys off the hook and put it in his pocket.

“Hey! That’s our keys!”

Uncle James grins and pulls out the same key I saw.

“Hey, Eli, want to help me with my work? I’ll hire you as my consultant and pay you good money.”

Help my uncle with his cool police work?

“Yes!”

“Did I just hear you hire my eight-year-old daughter?”

If Dad lets me.

~End~

 

Like this? You can also check out the related story Different Views.

 

Short Story: Ambition’s Origin

Genre: fantasy, family
Takes place in the Defenders of the Wall world.
Note: DD is short for Department of Defense

 

When Lavi was eight, he was the class monitor, an older brother, and his house was haunted.

His parents didn’t notice because they were busy with the baby, his sister didn’t notice because she was just a baby, but he did because he was the class monitor and as class monitor he was supposed to notice things.

It started small. A toy on the floor, a fruit rolling off the table, strange smoke in strange places. Then whole couches moved, the crib floated, and a ghost appeared! By then, even their grandparents knew they something weird was going on.

Finally, the mystery was solved. The source of their haunting turned out to be none other than his baby sister.

How lucky. If Liam had powers, he could do anything!

Except… his baby sister only had her powers when she was asleep. Awake, she was just a normal girl. Not that it changed anything. As the older brother, he would have taken care of her anyway, with powers or not.

When his baby sister turned seven, she decided she wanted to be a defender. Liam, who was 15 going on 16, knew what he needed to do.

“What do you want to do after you finish school, Liam?”

“Become the head of DD.”

~End~

 

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