Thursday, August 18, 2011

Friday FIction for August 19, 2011

The superbly talented (and one year older this week) Sara is hosting Friday Fiction this week over at Fiction Fusion. Even though we’re back to playing with our own characters, you won’t want to miss the great reading being offered up for your enjoyment.

My Mom has been sick the past couple of weeks, seriously enough to require a hospital stay. Many of the positive aspects of my characters I’ve derived from the good examples I’ve been blessed with in my life, and that includes the wonderful mother that God graciously entrusted me to. While Marta is not based on Mom, she does have attributes tracing back to a number of the wonderful mothers I’ve known in life, including my own. This scene, from early in “Marta’s Pod,” plays a bit with her own image as both a mother, and in a new-found role as a daughter.

A Typical Human Mother

From “Marta’s Pod”

Josh lay on his back, looking upwards towards a ceiling he couldn’t see for the darkness in the room. Marta was beside him, lying on her side with her arm draped across his chest. They were alone in the room, since Marcel had chosen to sleep in the room with his aunts and new-found uncle.

“You’re still awake,” Marta said. Her head rested on his left shoulder and she gently played the fingers of her left hand through the fine hairs on his chest.

“Yep,” he said, rubbing his hand along her back in response.

“So, what do you think?” she asked. “About my parents, I mean.”

“Well, it’s a little early to tell, but I think I certainly could have found worse mother-in-laws out there. Once the initial shock was over, they seemed to warm up to the Pod just fine. How about you? What do you think?”

“It’s almost like a dream that I’m afraid I’ll wake up from,” she replied. “I have a mother and a father, and Marcel has grandparents. I’m scared that I’ll close my eyes, and when I open them again in the morning I’ll find out this really didn’t happen.” She shifted position, extending her arm across to his other side and pulling him closer. “Yet, I feel like I just found out that I belong with a whole different Pod, and that somehow I have to choose between them.”

“Oh? Are you thinking of moving to Texas?”

“No,” she said. “I know that this is our home, and that wherever you and Marcel are is where I’m happiest. It’s just a bit confusing after all this time to consider that what we feel for our son, they might feel for me. Could you bear to leave Marcel behind and live somewhere else?”

“It’s a little different with an adult child. Parents have to understand that their children are going to grow up and live their own lives. Could I bear to leave Marcel behind now? No; he’s not old enough for that. Will I be able to when he’s a young man and ready for a University somewhere? My parents had to be ready to do that for me, and we’ll have to be ready to do that for Marcel someday.”

“No, you’ll have to leave him behind at a University. He’ll have to leave me behind here. I don’t think I’ll get to go along for the ride when he goes. It’s difficult for me to relate to something like that; all of us in the Pod are stuck here. The only time any of us will leave the others behind is when we die.”

He brought his right arm up and held her in a gentle embrace, kissing the top of her head. “Like every mother, you’re going to wonder if he’s going to be all right, and if he’s going to visit often, and if he’s happy, and so on. I don’t know if it really helps that much being able to go along for the ride. I don’t think it helped my Mom that much.”

“Are you saying that I’m being a typical human mother?”

He laughed. “Yes, you’re being a typical human mother.”

She kissed his chest. “Am I a good mother to our son?”

“You’re an incredible mother to our son.” He tightened his embrace for emphasis. “Is it just your parents being here that has you feeling so unsure of yourself, or is something else wrong?”

“How do you feel about more children, Josh?”

“Well, I would think that the fact we haven’t done anything in particular to prevent more children would say something about that. I’d be delighted if we had more kids, but I’m also not going to be bitter and disappointed if we don’t. I’m alive; that’s a miracle. I have you, and you’re a miracle. We have Marcel, and he’s a miracle. It seems to me I’d have to be extremely ungrateful to lament not getting any more miracles in my life than those.” He moved his right hand to caress her cheek, adding softly, “Though anytime you want to try for more, you know I’m more than happy to do my part.”

“You’ve already done your part,” she whispered.

“Does that mean what I think it does?” he asked, excitement threatening to raise his voice above the quiet level they’d been speaking in.

“I need to test to be sure, but I’m fairly certain I’m pregnant again. I feel so much like I did when I was pregnant with Marcel.” She shifted position so she could turn her face towards his, even though they could barely see each other in the darkness. “I’ve wanted another baby for so long, but I’ve been afraid that maybe you wouldn’t be happy with it; you’ve never said much about wanting any more children.”

It was all Josh could do to keep from yelling and disturbing the whole Pod. “Of course I’m happy about it,” he said. “The only reason I never said anything about wanting more children is that the doctor warned us that Marcel may have been that one-in-a-million chance, and we might never have any more. I didn’t want you feeling that you’d disappointed me if we never had any others.”

Over the years, an odd phenomenon had been observed and documented, occurring to many men who learned they were going to be a father. For some reason their desire for the mother of their child, whether wife or girlfriend, increased dramatically upon learning of the pregnancy. Despite wanting to share the good news with the entire Pod, Josh felt an even more immediate desire to let the Pod continue sleeping.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friday Fiction for August 12, 2011

It’s done! I received Sara in our Character Swap, and decided to play around a bit with her character, The Dark Phoenix. Since her story opens with the character already being well-known for his power, I thought it would work well to create a scene from before the time that Eira meets up with the Dark Phoenix. If you have not read any of Sara’s "Hunt for the Dark Phoenix," visit her Fiction Fusion blog and check it out. It really is a good story. Be sure to also visit the other Character Swap stories this week, for some fun takes on the different characters.

A Healthy Measure of Fear

The tall man entered the inn, pausing at the door only a moment before strutting towards his favorite table. The patrons of the business moved aside, giving the man a wide berth and doing their best to avoid his notice. Before he had even taken his seat, he bellowed for a bottle of the finest wine in the inn. Despite the proprietor hurrying the vintage and a glass to the table, the man loudly berated the time it had taken to receive his order. Once he had thoroughly cowed the harried businessman, he issued his dismissal with a disdainful smirk.

The display continued, as the man singled out different people in the room and made demands of each. Some managed to settle their tab quietly, and slip out the door unnoticed, while others were specifically delayed in their attempts to leave. He finally ordered the door locked, trapping the remaining customers within.

“There should be entertainment,” he said, and gestured as though he were the Head of State throwing a party. His eyes landed on a young woman, pressed into the back corner of a dark booth and draped in a heavy shawl. “Yes, a dancer,” he announced, and with a flick of his hand, the shawl flew from the woman’s shoulders. “Dance for me, trollop, and I might favor you tonight.”

She shook her head, wrapping her arms tightly across her chest to each shoulder.

“Oh, don’t pretend to be shy,” the man said. “Let’s have a look at you.”

She was yanked from the booth, as if by an invisible rope, and threw her hands out to keep from falling face-first to the floor. Her blouse gaped slightly, revealing just a bit of skin between dangling locks of long red hair. The fabric and style of her clothing indicated she was one of the common agricultural workers of the region, rather than any form of professional entertainer or courtesan, but that seemed to only encourage the tall man all the more.

“Now, dance,” he commanded. “Or I’ll give you a reason to really be afraid.”

“What will you do,” a voice asked from the back of the room, “when someone decides to not be afraid any longer?”

The tall man turned. “Are you foolish enough to find out?”

The woman wasted no time in scrambling back into a corner.

“I imagine,” the voice responded, ignoring the question, “you were a bully as a child as well. You were large, and used your bulk to intimidate other children. Then, you discovered you had a little talent with the powers, and used them for nothing more than extending the number of people you could intimidate.”

All trace of amusement vanished from the tall man’s face. “Show yourself! ‘A little talent’? You have no idea what I’m capable of!”

“Neither does anyone else in this town, since all you’ve done since you arrived has been to perform a few kenesis demonstrations and make vague threats. If that was all you showed to a Master, they wouldn’t even consider you for an apprenticeship, let alone take any threats you might make seriously.”

“I am a Master,” he said, stretching himself to his full height. “Only a fool would not take me seriously.”

“You have it backwards – only those who are fooled think they have a reason to take you seriously. Anyone who sees through your act will know you are only bluffing.” The speaker stepped forward from the shadows, shrouded in a long, hooded cloak. “Fear is a good thing, in the right context,” he said. “A healthy measure of fear keeps us from getting bitten by the viper, for we know better than to extend our hand into his hiding place. A healthy fear of fire protects us from getting burned. A healthy measure of fear for the Master protects us from becoming lazy and too dependent on the powers, lest we beg for help just because our child resists toilet training or we wish our fields weeded without having to do the actual work. You, however, neither possess nor encourage a healthy measure of fear.”

“Show me your face,” the tall man ordered, and swept his hand as though slapping the hood away.

The cloak remained in place, until the speaker casually reached up and flipped the hood off his head.

“Rocks and brambles,” an old woman muttered off to one side. “That’s the Dark Phoenix.”

All around the room, people ducked behind tables and benches. The proprietor side-stepped along one wall, and locked himself into the kitchen.

The tall man studied him for a few tense moments, and then released an amused laugh. “Clever,” he said. “Hire some grifter to pose as the Phoenix, in the hopes that I can be scared away. Getting everyone to hide from the supposed duel is a nice touch – I’ll grant you that. Let’s not disappoint them, shall we? Come on, ‘Dark Phoenix,’ we’ll see who ends up with a healthy measure of fear.”

There was no hand motion, nor powerful invocation. There was nothing to indicate that the Dark Phoenix had done anything, save for the sudden shocked expression on the tall man’s face, just before he collapsed like a rag doll onto the floor.

People began to cautiously peek from their hiding places, and when they realized the feared violent confrontation wasn’t going to happen, they ventured towards the unconscious man.

“Summon the local constable,” the Dark Phoenix said. “He’ll have no further trouble subduing this man.”

“Are his powers gone?” the old woman asked.

“No, not gone, but locked away where he cannot use them. If he matures in his attitude some day, and seeks out a wise master to teach him, that master will be able to unlock the powers so that he can access them again. Until then, he will have to learn to live without them.”

“What should we do with him?”

“He is a strong enough man, and I daresay he owes enough people in this town for the goods he has extorted from them. You have fields to work, and it will do him good to put some honest calluses on those hands.” He dropped a few coins on the bar for his meal, and then headed towards the door. “Maybe,” he added, before stepping outside, “he might even learn a little healthy measure of fear for the law.”