Chapter 2 of my novel is posted on my Wattpad. Check it out if you have time, and comment and vote if you like it!
Chapter 2 of my novel is posted on my Wattpad. Check it out if you have time, and comment and vote if you like it!
As some of you know, I write fiction in my spare time. It’s been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid (seriously, I write all the time. Probably too much. I love making up stories.)
Anyways, I’ve always had the idea that I’d like to publish something someday, but it’s easier said than done. Not many publishers are looking to publish first time writers, and agents don’t want to take on inexperienced authors.
Most first time authors self publish, so I began looking into it, and came across Wattpad. It’s basically YouTube for books. Authors publish anything and everything there. You can follow authors, vote for their stories, comment. So I decided to write something new specifically for the purpose of posting it on Wattpad. It’s totally free. I’m just posting to get feedback, and start building a writing platform. It’s a young adult mystery novel, that’s been vetted by my friends and family.
Anyway, if anyone has the time, I’d love it if you’d take a look at my first chapter. I’ll be posting a new chapter every week.
If you like it, please follow, comment and vote!
Parker – Chapter 1: Parker #wattpad https://my.w.tt/wpICGW8G1M
Disclaimer: I’ve been given this product for free to review, but all opinions are my own.
I was pretty excited to try this product because to be totally honest, my hair is SERIOUSLY damaged. If you are anything like me (and you’re probably not because you’re more responsible), you like dye your hair on a whim and almost never trim it.
I don’t really have a legit hair care routine. The only rule I really have is that I steer clear of animal products, or anything that tests on animals. 16 years of vegetarianism will do that to you.
But recently, I’ve been trying to grown my hair long. My vision is to have super long mermaid hair. Because of this, I’ve been making an effort to look into products that help strengthen and grow your hair.
So when i was asked to review this product, I decided to give it a try out of curiosity. What drew me to it was that it’s all pretty natural. It’s just made up of organic oils (avocado, moroccan and macadamia), and is supposed to be good for dry and damaged hair.
It comes in a bottle with all these cute capsules.
You cut off the top, and spread the oil on your hair directly after it’s been washed. I actually use 2 because I have so much hair. Then you work it into your damp, clean hair. I let it dry, and was impressed at the texture of it. My hair felt smoother and softer than usual, even the usually dry ends.
When I straightened it, my hair felt more malleable, and not at all oily.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result, and plan to keep using the whole bottle. I’ve been using it for about a month now and am noticing the texture change of my hair. Its softer and less dry.
I’ll be honest, this product doesn’t really help you to grow your hair any faster (i could be wrong, but i don’t really believe that many products on the market do). But I do think it’s beneficial if you are trying to grow your hair long, like me, because your hair won’t break off, and you won’t have to trim it as much.
It’s also much cheaper than many of the hair products out there, so that’s a plus! Linked it below if any of you want to try i out!
Shop it here
I’ve created a Wattpad account, which is an online storytelling platform. I’m planning on posting short stories, and soon a new novel I’ve been working on. I thought I’d share it here in case anyone is interested of reading, or in case any of you have an account yourself so that I can follow you!
If so, feel free to leave your username in the comments!
link to Wattpad Account: here
I figured I’d go ahead and post the second chapter of my novel. Chapter 1 is here, in case anyone missed it.
This second chapter introduces another one of the main characters: Mel (probably my favorite character actually). Hope you like it! As before, feedback is welcomed.
Chapter 2: Mel
The girl’s not clever”, Madame Eshra said as she crumbled a dry scone between her impressively long fingernails, “And she’s not pretty”. Her beady grey eyes darted to the young girl seated next to her. The girl was skinny and miserable looking, her blonde stringy hair covering her face like a veil. She didn’t even appear to know that they were speaking about her.
The girl’s uncle cleared his throat awkwardly and began twirling a silver ring around his finger. “And?” he asked.
“And so I want you to take her”, She replied matter-of-factly.
He stared at his sister, stunned, and placed his tea down carefully. “Take her…where?” he asked.
“Travelling with you”, she replied, “Just for a while, just until she’s out of this phase”.
“And what phase would that be?” he asked. He glanced at his niece once again, wondering if she was sickly.
Madame Eshra sighed and delicately pulled the girl’s hair aside as one would a curtain. Her head was tilted downward and in her lap was a thick book with a red binding. She did not look up, but even so, he could tell that she was a bit older than he had thought originally. Fifteen? Maybe sixteen? He tried in vain to remember what year she had been born.
He glanced at his sister, trying to understand what it was she wanted to show him. She nodded at the book in the girl’s lap. “Reading?” he asked finally, “The phase you want her to get over, is reading?”
“Nasty habit”, she replied. “And you know what they say about people who read, don’t you?”
“That they are literate?” he asked with a laugh. Why, if his sister only saw the amount of books he has in his caravan this very moment.
But she frowned, and placed her cane sternly on the floor as if she was about to stand up. “It’s not enough that we are descended from those people”, she hissed, “That we have to live isolated away from everyone in this old house with only a skeleton crew of servants to keep us alive”-Her brother almost laughed at that statement. If forty servants weren’t enough for two people, he didn’t know what number was- “Now my daughter is showing signs of one of them”.
She was quite disheveled; her hand shook as she raised her tea to her lips. He looked her over carefully. It had been at least ten years since he had seen his sister, but the two exchanged letters at least once a month. The years had not been kind to her. The wrinkles beneath her eyes were made more prominent by their deep purple color. Her mouth seemed to be caught in a permanent frown, and despite the pink powder she put on her cheeks, he could tell her skin was pasty. He wondered if she left the house at all.
“One of them?” he asked. He wasn’t entirely sure what she was getting at. He couldn’t see a whole lot else to do in this huge desolate mansion aside from read.
“You know”, she said, her voice lowering considerably, “like her father”.
He laughed again. “Magic? You can’t actually think she’s got magic? Magicians are obsolete. They disappeared even before the creatures themselves did.” He glanced at the girl. He could not deny that she certainly looked unhealthy, far too skinny and pale.
“She is just lonely”, he said, “She’s stuck all the way out here with you in this wasteland, and you won’t let any of your maids speak to her. If you would just consider moving to a town. Somewhere where there are people to-”
“You know why I can’t leave”, His sister snapped. “You know why I’m out here”.
He sighed and nodded in submission, because unfortunately he did know. And there was no talking to her when she was like this.
“But what about you?” he asked, “I don’t feel right leaving you here all alone”.
“Tell me where you plan to go for the next year”, she said, “Make a schedule. If I need you, I’ll send a messenger”.
He nodded halfheartedly. He didn’t know how to tell her that his business wasn’t predictable enough to have his entire year planned out. “All right then”, he said, “I suppose it may do her some good, after all”. His sister’s face transformed into a very slight smile, but it was still the first one he had seen since he arrived, so he welcomed it.
“How do you feel about that Kathryn?” he said to the girl in soft voice, “That might be nice, don’t you think?”
His sister’s smile faltered. “That’s the other thing”, she said, “She doesn’t speak anymore”.
At first, he thought he had misheard her. “What do you mean?”, he asked.
“No words, not for a few years now”, she waved her hand as if it was nothing. “Like I said: a phase”.
But as they sped away in his caravan, the girl’s eerie stare on him as steered his horses, he couldn’t help thinking that it was not, in fact, ‘nothing’. And he quite wished he had been told that bit of information before he had agreed to take her.
‘Perhaps she’s a fool’, he thought to himself, as he remembered a certain boy who’d lived in his town growing up. The boy was dim, and every time he spoke, his words came out jumbled and peculiar sounding. After a while, the boy stopped speaking altogether.
But then, after an hour or so, the girl opened her satchel and pulled out that same book she had been reading before, and he began to think otherwise. It couldn’t have been less than five hundred pages, and the writing seemed quite dense. Not many knew how to read anymore, and even less enjoyed it.
‘She’s just odd’, he thought to himself, ‘And how could she not be? After all, she grew up in that house without another person her age for miles and miles. Interacting with only her strange mother, and all those servants who refuse to speak to her.’
“Kathryn”, he said to her. At first she gave no sign of acknowledgment, but then slowly, she lifted her head and her dark blue eyes reached his. “Should you ever choose to speak, you can just call me Mel. Your mother used to call me that growing up because she couldn’t pronounce Melvin”, he said. She made no movement but he had a feeling that she was listening. “Should you never choose to speak again, then that is perfectly fine. However it will be a year of seeing new places and meeting new people. And I have to say, you’ll only be getting about half the experience should you decide not to speak to a single one of them.”
Her mouth didn’t move, but she looked thoughtful. Eventually, she gave a slight nod, and turned back to her book.
Though it was a small step, Mel was quite sure he had just accomplished something.
It was two weeks before they passed anything other than a ghost town. “You mother doesn’t do anything halfheartedly, does she?” Mel said to Kathryn, “She decides to move away from people, and so she moves two hundred miles from a single soul”.
Kathryn smiled slightly. This was how communicating with her had become. Not a sound escaped her lips, but when he said something funny or clever, he got some small response.
The town they had come to was called, “Murder’s Brook”, even though a brook hadn’t run through it in at least a hundred years. There was a sole inn, and his horses trotted directly to it. He had stayed there a number of times, and they knew the sign of it meant fresh hay and water.
“Take them to the stables and see that they are well fed”, he said to a boy who came to meet them. “Come along Katheryn”. Slowly, she stepped down from the caravan. Her eyes were wide, and she took in the boy, then the inn, then the street as people walked along it going about their day. She was still for some time, looking like a deer frozen at the sound of danger.
“Is…she all right sir?” the boy asked.
“She’s just fine. Come along”, Mel lead her inside.
Kathryn seemed even more stunned at the interior of the inn. A few men crowded around dirty tables eating and drinking, while women in aprons hurried about collecting used plates and bowls. Everything seemed to be covered in a thin layer of grease and dirt. ‘She’s probably never seen anything like this before in her life’, he realized as he studied her expression. He couldn’t entirely comprehend whether it was intrigue or disgust.
He purchased two rooms from the surly innkeeper, and handed Katheryn her key.
“Are you hungry?” he asked. She shook her head.
Her eating habits had quickly become one of his main concerns. He offered her food about five times a day, all in large portions. Usually, she would shake her head and turn back to her book. Occasionally, she would pick at a few pieces of dried fruit or nuts. He wouldn’t have been so adamant about it if she wasn’t so skinny; he didn’t know what was holding her together. He was terrified at the idea of returning to his sister and explaining that her daughter had starved herself to death.
An idea occurred to him, however, and he turned to the innkeeper and said, “Two cinnamon cakes please”. She nodded and disappeared for a moment.
“They are very good here, the best I’ve ever had”, he explained to Kathryn, who was still wide-eyed and staring at the men eating a few feet away.
The innkeeper returned and led them to a table. She placed two small cakes covered in thick yellow icing in front of them. Kathryn looked at them skeptically, and wrinkled her nose. Mel took a bite of his, as she watched him with a strange curiosity. “Go on”, he insisted.
She took one tentative bite of it. The moment it touched her tongue, he could see her eyes light up a little. She chewed it delicately and then took a much larger bite.
All the food served in his sister’s house seemed to be bland, and he had to admit, the food he brought travelling wasn’t much better. Perhaps he just had to present her with things that were too good to turn down.
He was pleased when she finished the whole cake. “We’ll get a good amount of those to take with us when we leave”, he assured her, and she smiled slightly in return.
They spent the rest of the day wandering in and out of the town’s few shops. He bought all kinds of snacks, the best, most flavorful ones he could find. They looked through toy shops, and marveled at painted dolls. He bought her a blue dress that he caught her eyeing in a window, and she smiled brightly when he handed it to her, boxed up with a ribbon. By far her favorite part was the chickens, which seemed to wander the road freely. She tore up bits of bread and fed it to them, not even minding when they pecked her hand. She even gave out a shrill laugh when one climbed atop her shoulder
He’d never had a daughter, but he couldn’t help wondering if this was what it felt like.
At the end of the day, before she went to her room for the night, he presented her with something: a small leather-bound book, sealed shut with wax.
She gave him a gracious nod and tore open the seal. Her expression turned very quickly to confusion when she saw that the pages were empty.
“You see, no one prints books anymore”, he explained, “Not for about a hundred years or so, when the magicians disappeared and the Dark Years passed. Of course, most books were about the magicians. Once magic was marked illegal, there wasn’t too much to write about, was there? So I thought maybe you could write your own story. You’ve read enough books after all; perhaps you can be the one to bring them back into this world.”
She stared at it as if it was an entirely new object than she had been holding one moment before. And then, something truly miraculous happened. She parted her lips and said, “Thank you”. Her voice was strong, and clear as a bell. He almost thought he had imagined it.
Then she smiled and walked into her room. He couldn’t help but wonder if she just chose to save her voice for special occasions, or if this was the first time in a number of years she actually had something to say.
This is a short story that I wrote in college, which I’ve been coming back to recently. It has no connection to the first chapter posted of my first book, just a separate piece that I recently revised.
I’ve been considering expanding on it, perhaps basing my second novel on it, or re-writing it into a longer short story. I figured I’d post it here for feedback/ideas. Hope you like it!
By: Paula Gallagher
“You don’t have to-” I stopped as Sira moved her massive head along the long gash that ran down my forearm. She purred, which sounded more like a low growl coming from her, as her saliva began to heal the skin. It hurt, but for only a moment. And then new flesh grew over the wound and it was gone.
Sira stared up at me with her unbelievably brilliant green eyes, as if waiting for approval, but at the same time exuding enough wisdom so that I knew she didn’t need it.
Being in the academy for so many years and particularly being assigned as paige to the stables, I had gotten used to my share of scrapes and bruises. And accidents do happen. Even today, when the hunters brought back a frightened live Minotaur and it slashed my arm open with its cracked horn, I wasn’t too surprised, and I didn’t complain. But I’m sure if Sira was capable of speech, she would have.
“Erm…thank you”, I said. She shook her head, trying to get her fur straight. Then she stood up and lumbered across my room to the large mound of pillows that she had apparently declared as her bed, and flopped over on top of it, her eyes closed, paws outstretched in front of her.
From this angle she looked like a gigantic kitten laying down for its afternoon nap, rather than an ancient beast that I had inherited and been bonded with after twenty years of wishing for something else.
When I was a child, I remember being terrified of her. When she yawned her huge teeth looked like daggers shooting out of her gums. But then my Grandfather instructed me to touch her face. I stretched out my tiny hands, and she placed her massive nose in them, and stared at me with an expression of calm curiosity. She looks at me the same way, even now.
“You know you get tired every time after you do that thing-after you heal me”, I said. The giant tiger didn’t stir. “Maybe you shouldn’t do it”. She opened her eyes and stared at me. And somehow I had an idea of what she meant.
We were together now. We were partners, bonded for life. Just as she had protected my grandfather, and I assume his grandfather before him, she would protect me at any cost. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t wanted her, and was a horrible bitch about it. Now it was me and her, and nothing could change that.
I remember when I had been called into my master’s office, and he had explained that because of my Grandfather’s death, Sira needed an owner. Without a bond of someone with his direct bloodline, she would die. I couldn’t believe it. After all of this, after all of the preparation, after all of the hard grueling work, I would be stuck with her. Ceremonies were coming up, the Dragon eggs were hatching, and the Griffons were being given away. Even a Pegasus would have been more useful. At least it could fly into battle. And I wanted to fly. More than I had wanted anything in my short impatient life. Ever since I saw my father fly on his harpy for the first time. Ascending until he was nothing more than a tiny dot in the stretching blue sky. Ever since he told me that our family was meant to fly-to be warriors fierce and unyielding, the ones who flew eagerly into battle.
But no, I would be given a Healing Tiger; and the oldest one in existence at that. She was massive, about the size of a mule, and fierce looking; but she was slow, and thoughtful, and careful. All the things I most certainly am not. My master had winked at me before I left his office, “You may be able to teach that old tiger some new tricks”. I sincerely doubted it.
Perhaps if my Grandfather had lived out the remainder of his life in peaceful solitude like he was supposed to in his retirement, he would still be alive. He’d be holed away in his little secluded log cabin, Sira at his side, sleeping peacefully, watching the days roll by lazily. She would have loved that. Everything would have worked out for the both of us. But no, my Grandfather had to go volunteer in the war. As if people actually did that. And then he got himself crushed by a giant. One step and he was only a splatter of skin, blood and guts on the bottom of a foot of a creature with less than half of his intelligence.
And then I imagine Sira sitting there, looking at what remained of him, distraught, and trying in vain to figure out how to go about healing him. She was too loyal for her own good.
But then, I liked how she always stayed close to me. She did not stray when we went into the forest, or chase fireflies like the newly hatched dragon babies tended to do; their people rushing after them aimlessly. Sira never left my side, and her ears were always perked forward, always on the lookout for danger. She would always be looking out for me.
She opened her eyes once again, saw me staring at her, and blinked a few times before turning her gaze to the brush that sat on my little night stand.
I sighed. “Yes. Sure”. As I began combing through her already immaculate fur, she placed the entire weight of her massive head in my lap. It was at least twenty pounds. Then she closed her eyes, breathing slowly.
After a long day of work, this was what she always wanted; and it was the only thing she ever asked for. She never even asked to be fed. I typically remembered; if only because I ate frequently enough to be reminded of it. And I suppose she could always go out to the pasture and eat a goat if she got hungry enough.
It was shockingly simple, and low-maintenance. I recall my master saying, when he first told me of my inheritance, “You may be able to teach that old tiger some new tricks”. And I wondered, as her tail began to whip in the air, if it might be the other way around.
As some of you know, I’ve been working on a novel the past few months. It’s a (semi) young adult dystopian fiction/fantasy story.
I finished the novel up this past Sunday, and thought I’d post the first chapter for feedback. This is the first time I’m posting any of it somewhere public, so any sort of feedback would be helpful (ie poor phrasing, grammatical errors, or if it just sucks as a whole.) This first chapter introduces you to the world as well as one of the main characters. Hope you like it.
Chapter 1: Skyler
Skyler often wondered if the sound of the wind howling ever haunted anyone else’s dreams the way they did his. Until he was older than he would have liked to admit, he would lie awake in his bed every time he heard the sounds, waiting for something that had neither a face nor a name to appear.
It wasn’t just the way it crept up on him like it was getting closer and closer each night, or the chills he would get on the back of his neck, or even the stories, repeated over and over again to children like a daunting nursery rhyme. It began in the days when monsters had first crawled from the depths of the Abyss. When the Goblins and War-Wolves had snuck into houses like shadows and stolen babies from their cradles and sucked their bones dry. It began during the time when humanity learned that magic could no longer protect them from the evil that prowled in the darkest depths of their world.
Then, when monsters and demons walked the earth for the first time, was when the wind began to cry in screams of protest.
That was how you knew they were coming. That was how you could save yourselves and your young. Except in a town like Sheepsgate, Skyler assumed. Because there was nowhere close enough to their old town to run to.
Nowadays, things had changed. As quickly as they had come, the creatures had retreated into their bottomless crack in the earth, or died and crumbled to dust in the desert. Soon after that, the creatures who possessed good magic became scarce too. For a while you would hear that someone saw a pixie in the woods, or a unicorn trotting on the opposite side of a lake. But soon these creatures became myth too, and people carved them into wood and stone and prayed to them along with their Gods. The few human magicians who survived the monsters attacks followed closely after, becoming uncommon and eventually disappearing altogether.
Skyler’s grandmother had said to him: “The air was once so thick with magic that you breathed it into your lungs. Our Earth was special, and so were we. But now our blood is dry and normal. Now our world is dying and our fate will follow”.
His mother told him that this was absolute nonsense. “You’re lucky to have been born when you were”, she said, “The age of magic was not for us. Human’s never had a knack for it the way those creatures did. Now is the time for man. Now is the time for invention. This is your world now, and it is safe.” And he tried to believe her.
But on cold desert nights when the wind howled, he felt anything but safe. He felt as if there were something in his bones that ached for him to run, but his head was too sensible to comprehend why.
He rarely felt safer than when he was on the back of a galloping animal. His family owned a small horse ranch: just less than three acres wide. Out of their ten mares, most were old and tired, and their one stallion hadn’t been able to carry a rider in a number of years. But his fifteen year old pony ran with all the vigor and boundless determination of a colt, and because of this, they made an unspoken agreement to be best friends for as long as they both shared this love.
His neighbors would often see them rushing out of the stables, kicking up dust as they galloped away. They always headed in the direction of the distant purple mountains, a destination they would never reach, but could always run towards.
“That boy ought to marry a nice girl”, they would say to each other, as they stopped working on their fields for a moment to watch, “that’s bound to slow him down”.
But Skyler doubted it, and so did his mother.
She attempted to push him towards a few girls his age, but their town was small, and it didn’t take any sensible girl long to realize that there was something simply off about him.
“He’s rather jumpy”, one had said to her, after sharing a dinner with their family, and watching him nervously pull his bread apart. “He always seems frightened”.
“So he does”, his mother said with a sigh. But that was the worst she would say about him. His father on the other hand, spared no one’s feelings when it came to his youngest son.
“There’s something not right in that boy’s head”, he would mutter as he watched him build small castles from dirt and twigs in their front yard. When Skyler was six years old, his father took him hunting and saw that he was not eager to make his first kill the way most boys were. He screamed when his father shot a possum and sobbed when he carved out the meat and cooked it for their dinner. Skyler couldn’t plow fields with the raw strength that his oldest brother could. And he couldn’t build sturdy houses the way his second eldest brother could, either. By the time he was ten, his father never talked about him, and a hard scowl would appear on his face whenever anyone mentioned Skyler’s name in passing.
“Your father’s just thick”, his mother once said to him, hugging him close. He was ten years old, and crying because his father had brought his two brothers to the next town over on business, and left him behind. “Thinking and feeling aren’t things he’s good at”, she murmured into his hair, “You are normal. You’re normal, and perfect”. He would later wonder if she was trying to convince herself.
But he was not normal. And he doubted there was ever a moment in his life that fooled anyone into thinking he was. Skyler liked staring into the open plane of the desert. He liked the vast nothingness that it was, and what it represented. He liked the idea of possibilities; of his life unfolding in many different directions, each one leading him somewhere fantastic. He wanted something that he had neither heard about nor seen: a faint whisper in the back of his subconscious, telling him that his life was coming to a very abrupt halt, and he would soon need to change course.
He was sixteen when he rode his pony to a watering hole about five miles away from his town. They had stopped for a rest, and she had lain down on a patch of grass. He leaned his back against her for warmth, as the wind picked up and rubbed his hands together, but they only got colder. He thought of the flame that burned in the tiny stove in his house, and suddenly felt a strange energy coming from within them. When he parted them, a tiny flame erupted from his palms and quickly extinguished itself into a puff of smoke.
That was when it began. Not significant, not an epiphany, just a simple flame.
Skyler stared at his hands for quite some time before muttering, “What was that?”
“Fire”. It was a very prominent voice; deep but feminine. He looked every which way. There was no one, only his pony staring back at him. Somehow her eyes looked more intelligent than they had five minutes ago.
He was quiet for a good while, as they stared at each other. Finally he shook his head and turned away, “Horses don’t talk”, he said to himself.
“Well, I’m not a horse, I’m a pony, and that’s an entirely different matter”, came the voice again.
He turned around quickly. The words had come from her lips, and she was looking at him again in that strange manner. “How so?”, He asked. He heard of a strange plant out in the desert that could make you hallucinate things if you ate enough of it. Perhaps he had inhaled a small leaf of it.
“We’re smarter for one”, she said, without missing a beat “And we’re not quite so elegant, so we don’t waste time or intellect being vain. But I suppose the reason for this would be: you are clearly a magician. And seeing as you have no one else to talk to, you’ve given me the ability to speak.”
“Magicians don’t exist”, Skyler said shaking his head, wondering if he was even stranger than everyone thought.
“Well of course they do”, his pony replied, “You remember those stories Grandmother told? Her second husband was a magician.”
Skyler stared at her in disbelief. “She’s not your grandmother. She’s mine.”
“It doesn’t quite feel that way”.
“Well it should. You are a horse.”
“A pony. We’ve been through this.”
Skyler sighed. “yes”.
“Then you agree with me now?”
“Well…” Skyler thought through the stories he had heard about magicians. “I haven’t got any markings. Magicians have markings”.
“Not when they first get their magic”.
“Yes they do”, he retorted. “For every spell they can cast, they get a marking. If I had conjured fire out of thin air, that would require a spell. But I’ve got no marking to prove it.”
But it wasn’t long till Skyler saw a little symbol appear on his skin. It emerged on the inside of his left ankle; orange, tiny, and written in a language he could not read.
‘So I’m a magician’, Skyler thought to himself, and tried to stop worrying about it from then on.
This plan, however, turned out to be quite difficult. Because one fire spell was more trouble than he had expected.
It seemed to go off any time he was upset or angry, and this happened frequently. He’d burn clothes and bed sheets while folding them, when his father walked by and called him lazy or peculiar. Smoke would trail after his footsteps when he saw anyone pointing and whispering at him in town.
He tried to spend most of his free time a couple miles away with his pony, where it did not matter if his magic was seen. But he knew this tactic would not last forever.
About a month after he had gotten his marking, his mother stopped him on his way to the stables.
“I’ve barely seen you at all recently”, she said. Her forehead was wrinkled with anxiety, and her dark brown eyes looked larger than normal. “You do remember what tomorrow is?”
“Erm…no?”, he replied, trying to remember if they were having neighbors over for supper.
“It’s the yearly ceremony”, she said in a quiet voice, “It will be your seventeenth”.
Skyler’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
Each year, their town had a ceremony to celebrate everyone growing one year older. It would be his mother’s forty-second, his father’s forty-third, his eldest brother, Tobias’s, twentieth, and his other brother, Kearnin’s, eighteenth, and his seventeenth. Traditionally, on a boy’s seventeenth, they would announce to the town what they planned to do for their lifework. Last year had been Kearnin’s seventeenth, and he had announced that he planned to work as a carpenter. His father had never been more proud.
“Have you thought about it at all?” she asked, her voice timid, but hopeful.
“Well…”. He hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t even realized the ceremony was so near. But she was looking at him so nervously, and with such anticipation, he answered without thinking. “Yes, I have”
A look of instant relief came over her. “Oh wonderful! What is it?”
“No, never mind. I want to be surprised”, she said, “It’s a sensible work, isn’t it?”
“Good. Your father will be pleased”. She smiled and put her hand on his cheek affectionately before rushing off to do laundry.
Skyler wandered to the stables looking dumbfounded and confused. He tried to think of something clever to say. A lifework that he could do, or that at least the town would believe he could do.
He pictured himself standing up in front of the entire town and saying, “I’ve decided to practice fire magic”, as they hurled rocks at him.
He consulted with his pony, who had very little to say about the matter.
“Can you give me another carrot?”, she asked when he explained the predicament to her.
He reached over her stall and held out a small dry carrot-the ones his mother had deemed unfit to eat. “But, what do you think I should say?”
“Say you’ll be a magician. Say that this town now belongs to you, and that everyone must do what your pony says.”
“You know I can’t tell them”.
“Make something up”.
“I don’t know what to say”
“Just say something”.
“You’re no help at all”.
She crunched loudly on the multiple carrots in her mouth and said, “Should have thought of that before you decided not to make any human friends. Shouldn’t you? These problems seem trivial to me.”
Skyler ran his hands through his thick black hair and closed his eyes. “I’ll think of something”, he murmured to himself, “I have to”.
By the following evening, his mother had worked herself into frenzy. She ran between the kitchen and her sewing machine about twelve times every hour, and had cooked almost enough food for nearly thirty people.
Skyler had scrubbed himself clean, and put on his least shabby articles of clothing, which included a grey pair of slacks that had belonged to his brother, a deep green tunic with his riding boots. He combed his shoulder length black hair and pushed it away from his eyes. He found the world strangely more intrusive without his shaggy bangs to hide behind. But when his mother saw his appearance, she smiled so widely that it almost made the whole thing worth it.
“Look how nice Skyler looks when he’s not covered in dirt. Doesn’t he look nice Toby?”
His eldest brother, Tobias, looked up from the saddle he was sewing, and shrugged with an indifferent look on his face.
“He looks far less peculiar than he usually does”, said Kearnin as he continued to polish his shoes.
Skyler ignored both of them and began helping his mother in the kitchen. About two minutes later, his parent’s bedroom door opened, and his father stepped out. His long white hair was neatly tied back, and his beard was trimmed. He wore his shirt tucked in and dress shoes in place of his usual work boots.
Skyler placed his hand on Kearnin’s shoulder as he passed by, “Father’s coming?”
“Surprised?” Kearnin replied with an arrogant smirk. “Mother convinced him when she said you’d actually chosen a lifework”.
His father met his gaze and gave him a small but definite nod before sitting down in his usual chair.
Skyler managed a small smile in response, and then returned to peeling carrots for his mother’s stew.
By the time they left the house, Skyler was covered in a cold sweat. He could see smoke rising from the bonfire that was built annually in the middle of the town. Soon the sun would dip below the horizon and the town square would glow in a dim orange light.
“Son”, he heard his father’s voice behind him. Skyler ignored it, assuming he was addressing Kearnin or Toby. But then, he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, “Son”, his father said again. Skyler looked to his left; his father was beside him, his small grey eyes fixated on him with a much less menacing look than they usually did. “Well, I must confess, we were all a little bit worried about you. You’re a bit of a strange one. It’s been far past time for you to grow up, I hope you’ll make me proud.”
Skyler nodded and gave his father another weak smile. But his stomach was beginning to churn, and his heart was beating loudly. He tried to picture himself living in Sheepsgate fifty years from now. Waking up, doing his lifework diligently, asking his neighbors how their children were doing, living a modest life. Not only was he sure he would never want it; he didn’t even think he was capable of it.
When they arrived at their town’s square, everyone was drinking, eating and dancing. Skyler recognized one of their neighbors, drunkenly trying to flirt with a girl half his age, and a few of his parent’s friends gossiping in a corner with drinks in their hands.
He tried to stay close to his brothers, but they soon hurried off to meet their own friends, and so he was stuck awkwardly wandering around by himself. He chatted with Mr. Abney, the man who owned the town’s only shop, which sold furs, hard candy, and tacky jewelry. He attempted to talk to Molly, a girl whom he had been friends with when he was younger, but she only laughed loudly and whispered something to her friend.
And so he decided to drink. He had never tried wine before, and he had to admit, he didn’t much like it. But he found that with each cup he drank, he became more comfortable with the situation, and his nervousness seemed to shrink away. He would stand in a circle with people his own age and laugh when they laughed, even though he didn’t understand the joke. Suddenly everything was funny and lighthearted. He didn’t know why he had been so nervous.
But before long the ceremony began, and in a matter of seconds, everyone became quiet and serious. They sat in a large circle around the bonfire, and the Mayor, a short fat man with a sweaty forehead and bad teeth, stood and said a few words about the youth growing into adults, and accepting a responsible, meaningful life. Skyler didn’t listen to very much of it. Everything seemed hazy, and he kept glancing behind him at his mother who would then squeeze his shoulder and smile encouragingly.
And then it began. On the opposite side of the circle, a boy whom his father had taught to horseback ride stood and said he planned to take over his family’s beet farm. A girl who he had played hide and seek with once as a child stood and said she was engaged to Peter Craw, her next door neighbor, and would soon bear a son. Ron Barker, his parent’s best friend’s son announced that he planned on being a baker, something he had always been talented at. And they continued like that for some time. Before he knew it, the boy next to him stood and started talking about his love for boiling leather. It was Skyler’s turn next. What was he going to say again? He’d had a plan, he’d had a speech, but somehow all of it seemed hazy now. Suddenly, his mother was tapping him on the shoulder. He looked up to see about five hundred eyes on him. It was his turn, he realized. He stood, and wiped his palms on his slacks, nervously.
“Erm I’m…I’m…”, he stuttered. He knew people looked at him when he was in town, or whispered as he rode his pony into the desert, but he had never in his life felt this many eyes on him. “I’m proud to be here”, he mumbled, “I’m proud to be a part of my family, they are all…diligent…” His palms were sweaty again, even though he had cleaned them a moment ago. The fire seemed to be getting hotter and hotter; he could almost feel it burning his face. “My whole life, I’ve always loved horses, especially riding…”, a girl to his right turned around and whispered to someone behind her, they both giggled. Skyler felt even more heat rush to his face. “I…I wanted to find something to do with my life that is reasonable, but that I also love…” He could have sworn the fire was getting bigger and brighter. “Erm…I-I…”. But he wasn’t imagining it, because suddenly everyone else was looking at the fire too. It was growing larger and larger and began crackling loudly. “Stop!” he yelled, but it didn’t obey him, it sparked and suddenly, a flame shot at him. Suddenly, the town erupted into screams, and began to scatter.
“What did he do!?” he heard a woman shriek.
“Freak! He’s cursed us!”, someone else yelled.
“N-no”, he stuttered. His heart was racing, he had forgotten how to breathe; the fire raged higher into the sky. “It-it’s okay”, he shouted into the audience of screaming running people, “Please-”
A fist seemed to appear out of nowhere, and in a moment, he was lying on the ground, his mouth full of dirt and blood.
He sat up quickly and instantly regretted it. Everything was mayhem. Houses were on fire, women ran carrying children. He saw Harry Bram, a boy a few years older than himself screeching with his right sleeve engulfed in flames.
Skyler pushed himself to his feet and immediately felt sick. Everything around him was a blur of black and red. Suddenly, he thought of his mother, and took off at a dead run towards his house. He hadn’t seen her since before he started his speech, why would she have left without him? He’d never forgive himself if something had happened to her.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he reached his house and saw that it was not up in flames. But he could hear the horses whinnying in fear, and shouting coming from inside. He hesitated for a moment. What would happen if he went inside?
Suddenly he felt a hand grab his arm and pull him behind the tool shed. The same hand then promptly slapped him in the face, swift and hard.
He then laid eyes on the bearer of the hand, and his heart felt as though it was dropping. His mother stared back at him, her brown eyes wide, angry and fearful.
“Mom I…” He didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. He was frightened and still drunk.
“I knew it”, she said simply. In the midst of chaos and flames, her voice was as level as ever. “I knew there was something about you”. Her voice sounded almost dreamlike. “I knew there was something. But this…”, her eyes welled up, suddenly he felt horrible.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do this. It just happened-“, but she held up her hand and he immediately stopped.
“I know Skyler. I know”, she said. Her voice felt hollow, and sad.
“What will father do? Should I go in and explain?”
Her eyes darted to his in panic. “No”, she hissed. “No, Skyler. You need to leave.”
“What? No I can’t-”, but she grabbed his head tightly, her fingernails digging into his scalp. It hurt, but it also steadied him.
“Your father will kill you”. She said it very clearly, but he still felt as though he heard her wrong. His father was stubborn and blunt, but Skyler had never thought he was truly cruel. “Take your pony”, she said, pulling a small bag from behind her, “Ride to the purple mountains. Do not stop until you reach them”.
“Why would I go there?” He asked, “The next village is closer. I could hide-”
“That’s not the place for you”, she said, “That’s not a place for magicians. The purple mountains are”. She shoved the bag into his hands, and pulled him to a stand. “No matter what”, she said, “You will always be my son. Go.”
So he went. His pony was panicking when he reached her, and needed absolutely no persuasion to gallop as far away from this town as possible.
“What did you do?” she asked, as he climbed onto her back from the fence.
“I-I just…”, he thought of the flame spitting at the circle of people as they screamed and ran. “I made a mistake”.
“That sounds like an understatement”, she replied. And then they were off.
Skyler was still hazy from the wine, and barely felt the cold nip at his face. He kept waiting for shouting, and the sounds of horse’s hoofs in pursuit of them, but there was nothing.
His pony ran faster and with more persistence than she ever had before, and after a few hours, Sheepsgate was nothing but a speck in the distance. As the mountains got closer, they only looked more monstrous. He couldn’t understand why his mother had told him to go there. Even if magicians used to come here, what did it matter? No one had seen one in decades.
Perhaps she had only meant for him to hide there, until she could come looking for him. His heart sank quickly when he remembered their conversation and realized that she had never said she would find him. She had only said that he would always be her son. He glanced up at the mountains towering in the distance, thinking that those words did not leave him much reassurance.
Fun fact: I created this blog years ago when applying for a writing internship with the idea of using it to post my short stories. I forgot about it for a few years, and eventually came back to it and began making fashion and art posts.
Although I write very frequently, my stories are a bit more personal to me than my artwork or my outfits (perhaps because both of those are visual.) Either way, I’ve decided to post more of my stories and fiction work on this blog. After all, I’ll never improve if i never let anyone read my writing. If you follow me for my fashion posts: not to worry, there will still be plenty of those.
This story is actually something I began in college. I came back to it recently, and felt inspired to revise and finish it.
Hope you like it!
“Catharine the Poised”
by Paula Gallagher
Her exceedingly calm temperament in the face of chaos had been praised by most of the other ladies at Versailles. “Catharine the poised”, some of them would call her as she stared out the window waiting, wishing for the thunder to sound while other woman sat huddled in their beds. Her disposition had given her trouble as well; like when she was a young girl and her mother had died after a long sickness that only she had been able to recognize, but her reaction to the entire thing had caused the court to become suspicious enough to question her.
And as she sat in court once again, her back perfectly straight, her hands delicately folded into her lap, and her gaze set directly in front of her, she knew she was at that stage once again in which her nature would benefit her. Some of the less refined ladies would glance around, wide eyed with confusion, but she knew how she would appear if she did so.
To her left, came a raspy breathing that she had stopped trying to ignore years ago. That had been when she still tried to pretend. As a small child would have looked at a hallowed out tree and seen a castle, she had looked at her husband and seen a man. But the façade had ended now, because her eyes were too old to try any longer. And even though she couldn’t name a single occasion in which he had wronged her, she despised him and his loud breathing most of all.
The entire room was somewhat bleak. The walls were a dull red stone, and two blue flags, so faded the almost looked grey, and hung opposite each other. Each had a single white centaur, clutching a bow and arrow.
The clothing was bleak, including her own, which consisted of a cream colored corset, over a pure white blouse and a deep green skirt. Her favorite color was red, but seeing as it was the color of commoners and harlots, she wouldn’t dream of wearing it in public, especially to the court. But she owned a single red ribbon, and she wore it tied around her waist, underneath her corset to remind herself that sometimes, she could have things she wanted.
But these occasions were few and far between, and they seemed to dwindle as she grew older. The last she could remember was a week and a half ago, the first of December, and the first day it snowed that year. Her husband’s stallions-he only ever used stallions when hunting, never mares-had been shut away inside the stables, a short building, the color of rust red, and lacking the grandeur most of their household bared proudly. He had never been one to put much thought into animals, even the ones he was supposedly fonder of than the livestock.
That day, no one had been paying attention to her. Her husband was by the fire in the study, a book on his lap though she doubted he actually read any of it. The maids were in the kitchen, and the gardener had been sent to his quarters. Feeling the odd unsettling knowledge that no one’s watch was on her for the first time in possibly months as she settled by the window, needlepoint in hand, she got the sudden urge to do something. She wasn’t sure what, just something, for the reason that when it all came down to fact, she never did anything. And so she walked quietly to her room and put on a dress that she hadn’t worn since before she got married, and pulled over it a brown suede coat that she had bought for her husband long ago that he had never touched. And then on her feet she had laced a pair of riding boots that she had worn all of two times, both of these during which she had been sitting sidesaddle, her horse led by a man and her hands gripped on the main with more strength than she knew she had.
She slipped out of the house delicately and expertly, feeling that all her life had been training for this exact moment. All the etiquette, all the waiting, all the precise minimalistic, seemingly inconspicuous acts she had been taught had prepared her for one thing and one thing only: to be perfectly ignored.
As she stepped outside, the snow was falling in light small clumps, and the ground was littered with smooth whiteness enveloping every tree and bush in sight. Quickly, she made her way to the barn, unlatched the lock, and stepped inside, shutting the door swiftly but quietly behind her. Inside was warm from the body heat of their animals. It smelled like hay and manure, though she didn’t mind it as much because of the heat.
She reached into her pocket and produced a small green apple that she had taken from the pantry before exiting the house. She had only one, and because of this, she knew she had a verdict to make. One by one, faces with long snouts, big eyes and prominent ears leaned over their wooden doors and sniffed, reaching out as far as they could. She cast her gaze over each one, counting as she went along. Twenty-three. Her husband owned twenty-three horses. She was considering each one when she got to the third one on the left. It was black, but was beginning to grey at the base of its nose and traveling up towards its ears giving it a wise and ancient look that the others seemed to aspire to, but could not quite reach.
She held her hand out flat, offering the apple to it. Its nose sniffed up her arm first, the fuzz rubbing against her skin almost making her laugh until it finally put its mouth over the apple and took it in its teeth.
She thought for a moment that she had just made a friend. Maybe the truest, most untainted friendship she would ever have in her life. She would bring the horse apples and carrots and weeds, and whatever else it sought after and it would love her in a more real way than anything ever had before.
She learned the following day that her husband had the horse shot. “Not twelve years, and the old boy was already going blind in its right eye” She had overheard him saying to the groomsman, “Before next summer he would have lost his sight in his left one as well, and then what would I have done with him?”
And now, as she sat in her chair without a hint of her thoughts playing on the mask that was her expression, she almost startled as the same voice sounded from the seat next to her. Suddenly she was back in the bleak courtroom, seated in the same old wooden chair, and staring ahead of her at the tired but wily looking representative of the king.
“These instillations will directly influence our amount of income, has your King considered this in the least?” he said. His voice always reminded her of the sound of a rusted hinge creaking open. Something no one wanted to hear, but could not avoid to get to what they needed.
“Your King” the representative said, taking a step forward as he spoke, “Has considered you in his decision significantly more than he should have. He asks not for your coin but for a small percentage of your crop. Something you can manage.”
“Much of the fief is already promised to men. A percentage of our crop is already owed to our vassals. And on a land such as my own, there are far too many to spare even a bit of wheat.”
Catharine internally scoffed at this. She could smell the stench of rotting wheat from one of their storage sheds almost every day of the summer. And she saw the vassals staring enviously at their piles of crops as they grinded their share in their kitchen and went about the rest of their preparation to make the dark, hard bread that they lived almost completely on.
Her husband narrowed his already tiny eyes as he continued to make more statements about their “difficult lives” that were not true.
And when they finally returned home, and she had sat in their carriage pulled by horses that were not her friend, and passed a barn full of creatures she did not know, and walked into her own house full of servers that did not call her “Catharine the Poised” like the ladies she once knew had done, she went to her room and sat in front of her mirror.
Her face had once been beautiful, and although only four years had passed since she had been called this, she somehow couldn’t name a single similarity between herself then and now. No lines had begun to show on her skin because she never smiled and her hair never grayed because she never worried. And somehow it seemed that everything about her had been dulled. Sanded down until there were no more sharp points, only smooth rounded edges. And it was then that she thought about breaking the mirror. She could have picked it up and thrown it across the room so that it shattered into a million expensive little pieces glittering on the floor like diamonds.
This was in her power. This was plausible. But this was not what she would do. And somehow without reason, without mercy, guilt, fatigue, endearment, or any other aspect of humanity that she knew must reside somewhere within her, she knew one thing only to be true: her dissatisfaction, her anticlimactic life, her misery could all boil down to the results of the man she married; and without question, she knew he had to die.
Walking down the hallway of her manor was like listening to echoes of her younger self, rebounding things she had once said off the walls and into her ears. With every painting she passed she could see herself, directing someone to hang it at the exact angle she wanted, thinking that surely beautiful things made one’s life beautiful.
One in particular stood out to her. It was a painting of Le Lac Fin, a lake she had gone to with her sisters when she was young. It was small and hidden, an easy place for children to slip away to and make all the noise they possibly could without anyone knowing. There was a large rock protruding from the ground, and arching over the deep part of the water. Her younger sisters had jumped off of it, and into the water, screaming and laughing as the dark blue liquid swallowed their bodies as easily as a cat swallowed a mouse. But Catharine stood over the lake, looking down at the transition from the pale blue of the shores to the deep, almost violet part of the lake that her sisters were so fond of. She had been able to lean forward, and put one foot out while the other stayed stiffly on the rock, but she had never been able to go any further than that.
But now, now she knew if she were standing in front of that rock she would have leaped off of it with a running start. She would have welcomed the unknown, begged for it, because even what was only pretend had to be better than practicality.
As she walked down the hallway, her feet were bare and the floor was slick, recently cleaned. Since it was nearly midnight the furnace had been shut off, she was shivering. There was something her hand was gripped around, and it wasn’t until she looked down that she recognized the kitchen blade. The same one the cook used to slice up pork. No ridges, just smooth and sharp. So sharp that she could see a bit of redness trickling from her hand, and three single drops staining the white floor. Somehow, she felt no pain from it at all, a strange feeling she contemplated all the way to the bedroom, and for a few moments as she stared down at the pile of blankets and listened to the sound of shallow breathing beneath her.
In the darkness, it did not look human. Not a trace of blood, bones, sinew, muscle, or even skin, but just a clump of mystery with a heartbeat. All she could see of his face was a closed eyelid, half covered with hair, and the rest of him looked blue in the small bit of light that the moon cast. It was dark, like a shadow. So dark, that it too reminded her of violet.