Wednesday, July 11, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Fairest Freebie Story

On June 20, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a prompt about a magical plant, a song, and summer.

All of a sudden, I was back in the setting of Fairest. I could faintly hear Briar, who was once Blanche, singing in the distant. Garnet was sitting next to Quartz in from of their cottage. The two of them listened to her song.

Garnet's sad memories of trying to get their girl back, once she was cursed and lying in a coffin inspired the rest of this freebie story, along with the rage he once felt toward Oriana...

Every once in a while, I think I can hear her singing in the Forest of Tears. 

My hearing isn’t as good as yours was. You’d stop in the middle of your whittling to grumble. 

“It’s hot. We’re sweating. The air is too dry. What’s she got to sing about in the middle of the summer any way?” 

The corners of your lips would creep up into a smile. Don’t think your beard hid it, Quartz. 

“If I were to sing, I’d voice a protest against that blasted sun, making us all sweat. Convince it to hide its face under a cloud, I would. Instead that girl is singing her thanks for light and warmth.”

You’d shake your head, but I saw the moisture at the corner of your eye. I pretended I didn’t. Who’d believe you? All that grumbling, yet that human girl you brought in never failed to make you smile. Not even you could keep complaining. Once you said your piece, you’d stop. 

The two of us would sit there, listening to her song. Something about her voice, distant and it was, made my ears and whiskers tingle with the presence of an etheral world, born of sound and air. 

Creatures of rock and stone like us weren’t supposed to intrude on that world. It rippled in waves around us, brought by her song. 

For a moment, I wondered what it would be like to be a creature of wind and air. 

Did you ever wonder, Quartz? It was so easy for you to be one with the rocks in the mines where we worked, to commune with them in an almost intimate way. Your face would grow slack when you touched your name stone, becoming still as death. 

It would be so like you to be in that state now. Not stone dead in a coffin. 

That cursed apple. If only she hadn’t accepted it from that witch Oriana. 

Greedy cow. She couldn’t handle our girl finding even a little happiness away from her. You’d think it would have been enough to steal her throne and her heart. No, that Oriana had to take our princess’s life as well. 

“There are magical plants growing in the Forest of Tears.” Contrite, lowering her head, she wrung her hands, not meeting our eyes. “If we gather enough of them, I could make a special salve to apply to my lips, turning my kiss into something even more magical.”

“How nice for you.” You looked her up and down. “You’re a queen, aren’t you? I imagine you’ve got countless servants who could obtain the plant for you. Why do you need us?”

“My servants are too afraid to come into the Forest of Tears. Besides, none of them love Blanche the way we do.” She raised her tear stained face. “Please, Quartz. This is a task I can only ask of you and your brothers.”

“What about you?” I demanded, unable to keep silent. “She was devoted to you. Shouldn’t you take part in gathering this plant?”

“Blanche won’t awaken for me.” Oriana fixed her liquid blue eyes upon you. “She might awaken for you.” She tightened her slender hands into fists. Calluses roughened each digit, an unexpected sign of hard labor. “Do you think it’s easy to me to admit this? My love, which drove me to do dark deeds, including curse her, can’t even undo what I inflicted!”

“Maybe that’s why!” Once again, I was unable to keep silent. “You betrayed her, put her in a state of sleeping death with no idea of how to release her! Maybe your love was never true!”

“Garnet.” There was no real reproach in the way you said my name. Just a silent anguish which all seven of us brothers shared. 

You in particular. 

“I’m only too well aware of that.” For the first time, Oriana looked at me. 

How piteous her hollow eyes looked in her pale face. Poor Oriana. If she stir the sympathy of those who detested her, what effect would her beseeching gaze have upon one who loved her?

I could almost hear what this witch had said to our girl. 

“Please. Take this apple. I want you to have it. In memory of the love which once lay between us, take a bite and forgive me.”

Rage curdled into our pity. Our girl wouldn’t have had a chance against her pleas. Not with her kind, broken heart. 

“Is this how you get people to do what you want?” My mouth had a will of its own. It couldn’t stay closed. “The king, your subjects, her, and now us, trying to move us to your will. You’re a witch! Can’t you do anything yourself?”

“Garnet.” You laid a hand upon my shoulder. “We’ll look for the plant. Not for this witch. For our Fairest.”

“Fairest?” Oriana recoiled a little from both of us. “Are you speaking of Princess Blanche?”

“She detested the name Blanche.” You offered the witch one of your stern, measuring looks. Not exactly accusing, just reflecting back everything you saw like a mirror caught within your namestone. “We gave her another. Fairest is our name for her. Not yours.”

“I suppose I deserved that.” Oriana lowered her head, tears running down her cheeks. “If only I’d never…how could I have done that to her?” She started to sob. 

I refused to pity her. Not while our girl lay in that coffin, trapped under her spell. 

In the end, we did as you said. We went out and searched for the ridiculous magical plant with its purple leaves and speckled petals. It bloomed only in the summer, so we toiled in the hot sun, gathering enough flowers for the witch’s potion. 

At times I thought I heard her, singing on the wind, like she had in a summer past. I wondered if I was imagining things. 

You raised your head, stopped where you stood. For a moment, our eyes met. 

Only she didn’t come out of the forest, smiling with flushed cheeks as she had long ago. All we had was the faint hint of song which might have been the wind. 

Oriana took the petals, crushing them in a pestle, which she added a sticky sap to. The mess turned into a purple paste. 

First she applied it ot her own lips. The witch went to the coffin and kissed our princess’s unresponsive lips over and over. 

Nothing happened. 

No, it wasn’t until you applied the paste to your own lips, getting your beard all sticky that the magic happened. You went to our sleeping Fairest and deposited a chaste peck on her cheek. 

This was when her eyes opened. 

Wind stirred, blowing through her dark hair and your beard. You backed away, clutching your chest. I’m not sure if you were looking at her or something else. 

All of the rest of us watched her rise into the air. Darkness swam in her eyes, a terrifying night which none of us dared look at for long. 

When she floated in the air, arms spread wide, while you staggered and fell to the ground, everything changed. 

None of us had the courage to face what our Fairest had become. None of us know what to do with ourselves without her…or you. 

Now you lay in the coffin, only there’s no chance of awakening you. 

It’s not right. You shouldn’t be there. The only thing you did wrong was get attached to a human girl. Every one of us brothers is guilty of that. Why should you alone be struck down for this?

If only there was someone to awaken you. If only someone could bring you back to us. 


We miss you, brother. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Domestic Lack of Bliss

On June 13, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a moonless night, a mysterious package, and a lightning bolt.

This Tale of the Navel involving Juno, regular customer to the Navel was the result.

Jupitre gazed up at the moonless sky, a heavy layer of darkness covering everything and everyone below. 

There should have been a lightning bolt, illuminating the heavens. It should have been in his hand, ready to cast upon the mortals shivering beneath him. 

Only now he was one of the ones who shivered. 

Lightning had once been part of him, racing through his brains, his loins, overflowing his  body, shaping him into being one with it. How easy it had been to let go of flesh and sinew, delighting in the electricity throbbing through him, pulsing in his biceps and fists. Quickening with anticipated release upon whatever target he might fancy. 

Only the lightning had abandoned him along with the power of the storm. It played in the sky, hiding beneath the clouds, free of him. 

It had left Jupitre nothing more than a broken, twisted man. 

“Look what I have, dear!” His wife chirruped at him, brandishing a package in his face. “Just what you need.” 

He nodded, watching Juno waddle across their cottage floor to open the package, emptying some of its contents into a pretty little china pot, painted with flowers and blades of grass. 
The kettle sang a mocking tune on the hearth. Juno went to collect it. She carried it the pot, only to pour the contents from the kettle inside. Fumes rose in the air from his tea, quieting some of his rage, the emptiness. This collection of dried leaves from the Navel was the only thing which could fill it. 

A tea his wife made. How pathetic Jupitre had become. 

“It’s so nice to see you all quiet and contented these days, dear, oh yes!” she chattered, lifting the kettle up. “You used to be so discontented, unable to sit still, eyes constantly roving.” She tittered. 

Ah, yes, his eye had been in constant motion, in search of a pretty face. Once he’d spotted her (or him), he’d don a number of forms to seduce or ravage his prize. 

Thus he’d once claimed his wife. What had he been, a bird with a broken wing? Juno had always had a passion for the fragile. 

No wonder she prefered her husband in this weakened state. 

“It’s so much better to stay in one place, appreciating what you have.” Juno bustled around the teapot, putting together a plate of cookies. “That’s the key to a contented existence.” 

Be content with what you’ve got? Jupitre sneered at the dumpy figure, waddling about. Look at you woman. Once you were a goddess, a contender for the title of the loveliest of immortals. Now you’re a fat, middle-aged woman, chattering, making tea. 

“How can you be happy?” He forced his slack, numb lips to form the words. “We’ve lost so much.”

“Ah, but did you really enjoy any of your former glory, dear?” Juno carried the tray over to him. “You possessed all that power, but you had to guard it constantly. Never knew when one of your countless offspring might snatch it away from you the way you snatched our father’s, hmm?” 

She settled the tray on the table in front of him, lifted the pot, and poured a cup of tea. “Really, you were lucky to escape to this quiet life after all the things you’d done, all the people we’d hurt, don’t you think?”

“I don’t,” he muttered through clenched teeth. 

“Shh, dear.” She offered him a steaming cup. “Drink your tea and you’ll no longer be discontented.”

Jupitre took the cup, glanced down at the tea tray. “Three cups,” he said, noting the additional cup and saucer. “Who is it for?”
“Oh, dear, you haven’t forgotten our daughter again, have you?” Juno clucked her tongue in disapproval. “She poured your wine for you once, until you took a fancy to that boy and replaced her with him.”

His daughter. The one who’d once poured his wine before he found his cupbearer. Ah, he remembered that boy with his luminous eyes, glossy hair, and supple limbs, but he couldn’t recall the girl. He’d had many magnificent daughters, goddesses within their own right, battling with weapons, wit, or beauty, but he couldn’t recall one who’d poured the wine for him.

“Hebe.” Juno narrowed her gray eyes, which glistened with a cold, malevolent light. “She was at your side during every banquet until you turned her out for that catamite.” Juno lowered her head to gaze at the third cup. “I always set a place for her at teatime, but she refuses to sit with you.”

Refuses. A child of Jupitre’s refused to spend time with him. Once he would have made her suffer for such insolence. He could no longer remember such malice. The fumes coming from the teacup in his hand soothed his wounded ego, his rage, his discontent. 

He took a sip. It burned, going down his throat, scorching his restless emptiness. Ah, yes, it was so much better when he drank the tea. 

“This makes me so calm,” Jupitre said, gazing down at the murky contents within his drinking vessel. 

“Ah, yes, it does seem to appease you like nothing else.” Juno heaved a sigh and picked up the pot to pour herself a cup. “If only it could do the same for me, my dear.” She glanced up at her husband with moist gray eyes. “If only.” 


Friday, June 29, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Garnet

It's time for my not so dead dwarf to have his monthly interview...

Quartz: About time! How long did you intend to make me wait, scribbler?

Me: Well...

Quartz: Enough of this. Forget it. Forget the characters in other universes, other books. Time to get back to my world and my family.

Garnet: Sounds good-

Quartz: After all, Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins keeps getting pushed to the side for Aissa and Polyxena, A Symposium in Space, Wind Me Up, One More Time, not to mention the bloody, freaking Shadow Forest!

Garnet: Well-

Quartz: I ought to plant duck universes in whatever universe Damian Freaking Ashelocke is prancing around in. Serves him right for acting like the Spider Goddess’s gift to beardless boys-

Garnet: QUARTZ! I’m here, remember? Bewildered younger brother, still wondering if you’re a ghost or what-

Quartz: Eh? No, I’m not really dead. (nose turns red) Er, there’s a story behind it all. The way it looks like, err, my whole falling down dead may have been my fault.

Garnet: What?!

Quartz: The crystal coffin we put our girl in? The one I fused together, using my resonance with the stones? Ah, there might have been a few, er, complications with it. Complications which, ahem, may have, well, rebounded on me. 

Garnet: What?!

Quartz: Never mind that! (fingers his beard, looking highly embarrassed) I’ve already given you too many spoilers…I can’t go revealing too much. 

Garnet: (mutters) As if that wasn’t too much-

Quartz: Never you mind! I’m interviewing you, remember? Not the other way around!
Garnet: Hah, right!

Quartz: So garden gnomes-

Garnet: What?!  (leaps out of his seat, remaining whiskers standing on end) Where?!

Quartz: Heh, heh, no need to fret. Just wondered where you get this fear of garden gnomes from. 

Garnet: (returns to his seat, not smiling) Have you ever seen them move? 

Quartz: They’re garden gnomes. They don’t move. Hasn’t Opal told you that?

Garnet: That’s what they want you and Opal to think! They move when no one is looking. (shudders)

Quartz: Is that so?

Garnet: When they move, they show their true faces. Their sharp teeth hidden behind their jolly, red cheeked smiles. The bat wing ears hidden under their side whiskers and silly caps. The slitted pupils within their eyes no one ever notices under their thick eyelids and laugh lines. 

Quartz: Huh…

Garnet: Think they’re the representatives of the earth element. I say they’re the creations of some mad alchemist, trying to subvert the unwary and overthrow the kobolds with creatures even worse. At least kobolds are more honest in their deceitful behavior.

Quartz: Kobolds are not honest! They’re tricksters who slide up to you, tell you’re important, you’ve got a special place in their magic book, oh, here’s a cottage for your whole family, only to stalk you with marriage proposals and cuckoo clocks! 

Garnet: Huh?

Quartz: Never mind. Your older brother has a lot on his mind, so you pay it no mind. 

Garnet: Just what’s going on, Quartz? You always seemed so worried…I thought it was about our girl, how to undo her sleeping curse. Just what else was happening when you ‘died’? 

Quartz: Don’t trouble yourself about it. And don’t be so timid around garden gnomes. Remember, you’re bigger. 

Garnet: Not much bigger, but I’ll try to be brave. (tugs at his beard)

Quartz: And quit pulling at that! You’ve made a right mess of what were once fine ginger whiskers. Just look at you! I go away and you start developing all these bad habits!

Garnet: It’s because you went away I started developing bad habits! When I lost you and her!

Quartz: Well, she’s happy, now, isn’t she? Married a princess and invited you to the castle where you got to dress up and dance. Maybe it’s time you found some happiness of your own, hmm?

Garnet: Not with a garden gnome, please not with a garden gnome-

Quartz: Of course not with a garden gnome! Fool, don’t give the scribbler ideas! You know what a sadist she can be. (shudders) Ask her for a story and she creates that blasted Nimmie Not to torment me…

Nimmie Not: (from off stage) Hmmph! Some dwarves don’t know how lucky they are! 

Garnet: Yes, she had to come up with those terrifying images of garden gnomes-

Me: You can blame Critical Roll for that. They gave me the idea-

Quartz: Fire and brimstone, scribbler! Don’t go blaming others for your twisted imagination!

Me:…

Quartz: And don’t forget your homework! Keep reading that book on stones!

Me: (sighs) Never a moment’s peace, even in my own head…





Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Pride

On June 6, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving yarn, pride, and a book.

This domestic little tale about Map, Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel from my Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest series was the result.


“Read me a story, Danyel.” Leiwell lay upon the floor at Map’s feets, not moving any part of his body other than his lips.

“You should eat something to recover your strength,” Map scolded, letting a ball of yarn fall from her lap to unroll across the floor. She continued to work her needles, never pausing. “None of you boys eat enough. It’s not healthy.”

“Nor do we need to use the privy,” Danyel pointed out. He walked over to the book shelf. “I thought you’d be pleased that we make less of a stinky mess to clean up than regular people.”

“Being tidy is well and good, but there’s being neat and there’s being a ghost of a human.” Map clacked her needles in an ominous rattle. “You’ve got to eat what grows in the soil to truly ground yourselves in this world.”

“Otherwise a Door might open and we’ll be sucked in by shadows on the wind.” Leiwell opened one green eye and offered his little brothers a sly grin.

“Or you’ll slip through a crack when you’re not watchful,” Tayel muttered. He sat up a cushion, close to Leiwell, yet keeping a certain amount of space between himself and his eldest brother. 

“Don’t talk nonsense!” Map barked, pausing in her knitting to scowl at Tayel. 

“Still there is something to be said for being light on your feet, like Ashleigh when she’s opening Doors.” Danyel took Beyond the Door from its prized place on the shelf. “Imagine drifting between worlds, able to visit as many you wish.”

“Ashleigh is able to do it because she opens Doors, not because she gets drawn through them.” Tayel wrinkled his nose. “Choosing to step into a realm of shadow to reach a new world isn’t the same as being swept off your feet.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Leiwell closed both of his eyes. “Being swept off my feet might be romantic if it’s by the right breeze.”

“It’s not romantic!” Map turned her scowl on her eldest. “Letting yourself be swept off your feet is passive and indecisive!”

“It might be romantic for you, Leiwell.” Tayel rested his chin against his knees. “For Danyel and myself, it would be a nightmarish folly.”

“Why’s that?” Danyel demanded, hugging the book to his chest. “Why must it be folly to let the forces beyond the Door dictate your direction for a change?” He dug his fingers into the cover. “Dreamers use Doors to take them to their heart’s desire. Why not go where the Door wants instead?”

“Anywhere a Door takes you is bound to perilous.” Leiwell opened his eye again to fix it upon his younger brother. “If you let yourself be overwhelmed by forces beyond the Door, you could lose yourself.”

“Only we’re speaking of the Door itself, not the forces beyond it,” Danyel argued. “What exactly is a Door other than a portal to the Shadow Forest or another world?”

“A creation of someone’s desire strong enough to breach a hole between realities.” Tayel hunched forward, hiding his face in his knees. “Only that desire has been touched and painted over by others, every wish that ever opened it.”

“A Door becomes an entity in its own right over time.” Leiwell’s gaze shifted inward to places unknown, focusing on something only he could see. “Who knows what such an entity might want or take pride in? Where would it take you if you offered it that much power?”

“Or choice.” Danyel sat down at Tayel’s side and opened the book. “I’d like to ask a Door if I could. It sounds similar to us in some ways.”

“What do you mean?” Map knotted her thick eyebrows together in concern. 

“Well, we sort of just appeared, didn’t we? Perhaps we, too, were created by people’s desires, Leiwell, Tayel, and I.” Danyel studied the leaflet of the book. “We’d be kin in Doors…huh?” 

Writing he’d never seen before gleamed along the inside of the cover. 

“What is it?” Leiwell opened his other eye. 

“Script materializing across the surface.” Tayel leaned over the book to frown at it. “Once invisible, now revealed.”

“Old writers like Ashleigh Beyond the Door had lots of tricks like that.” Map let out an uneasy chuckle. “Always hiding secret messages within a book’s pages to be revealed at a specific time. What does she have to say?”

Danyel began to read, hearing his own voice drop to a lower, more melodic timber.

“Take pride in who you are
For only you can choose
What form you’ll ultimately take
And what that being will do

Other may try to color you form
Forcing your shape according to their love or hate
To accept their feelings or not is up to you
Your choice will always be your fate.”

“Trust Ashleigh to have that bad bit of poetical wisdom reveal itself at this exact moment.” Map let out a low laugh, which came out a bit choked. 

If it had been Ashleigh. For a moment, Danyel visualized a boy’s heart shaped face with eyes shimmering with different colors. 
“Pride,” he said, tasting the word on his lips. “We’re to take pride in who we are, hmm? If only I knew who I was.”

“It’s every person’s quest to find out.” Tayel lifted his head from his knees. “Search and you will find yourself.”

“Right.” Danyel smiled at his twin and turned the page. “Now which story shall I read?”

“The one about the lost children,” Leiwell murmured, barely moving his lips. 

“Again?” Map groaned. “How about the one where Ashleigh meets the dragon?”

“Happily it’s the same story.” Leiwell grinned at his mother from the floor. 

“All right.” Danyel shook his head and began to read. “‘Once there were children unlike any others…’”


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Laurel and Palm

On May 30, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com, featuring the phrase "Gawd, I hate this weather!"

I don't have a lot of characters who talk like that. This brought back memories of my old, forgotten pair of ill-matched dryads, Laurel and Palm. I'd started a story back in the 1990s featuring the two of them. It was put aside, unfinished, and forgotten.

The sentence brought Palm back in all of her brash, loudmouthed glory, along with ability to drive Laurel crazy...:)

“Gawd, I hate this weather!” Palm bared her yellow teeth in the direction of the wind whipping through the trees. Real trees with leaves and foilages, not the monstrous shrubs Palm preferred. 

I breathed in their scent, delighted to hear the murmur of my lost sisters in the wind. Even if they were just ghosts, echoes of a long, forgotten past. 

“It’s gods, not gawd, Palm,” I said, disliking the prim note of disapproval which entered my voice. It was a habitual occurrance whenever I spoke to this unconventional nymph. “We are dryads, remember? Tree nymphs. Lesser deities of nature.”

“Yeah, like I can wrap my head around that fossilized myth crap.” Palm scratched the top of her spiky head. “Live for the now and keep up with the times, I say.”

“We are part of that ‘fossilized myth crap’, you idiot!” I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself at Palm’s brazen challenge to our existence. 

Lack of faith was nothing for a goddess or a demigoddess to laugh about. It brings us as close as we can ever come to death. 

I softened my tone, trying to make it something more reasonable. “If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect others to believe in us?”

“Oh, Laurel, you’re such a scaredy cat! Or maybe I should say scaredly scrub?” Palm dropped a spindly around my shoulders. “Maybe too much weight is, like weighing you down? I’d say you’re way too fat, only we’re not supposed to say fat any more.”

“I happen to have the ideal classical figure, thank you very much!” I slipped around from under her arm. “It’s you who’s too skinny.”

“Ooo, you’re not supposed to say that! Am I, though?” Palm cast a critical look down at her tank top which exposed a flat stomach and cut off jeans. “Has the ideal body type changed? Again?” She chewed on her bright red lower lip. “It’s about time I updated my look. Got to keep up with the times.”

Palm pulled a device out of her pocket, one mortals everywhere were carrying. “Got to keep up with the latest fashions, too.”

“It’s not like dryads even need to wear clothing.” I eyed the small, metallic rectangle. It lit up, flashing tiny icons in her hand. “What’s that? It looks like a cross between a tiny computer and a cell phone.”

“Laurel, Laurel, how many times do I have to tell you to get with the times?” Palm brandished the flashing object in my face. “This happens to be a smart phone! It does the work of a computer and a phone alike, because, like, it’s smart!”

“A smart phone?” I eyed the small device with a sinking sense of unease. Once more, mortals had come up with something which could challenge the gods. Gods took exception to that sort of thing. They always did. 

Only I hadn’t heard from the gods in a long time. Too long. 

Once Artemis had roamed the woods beneath our trees with her band of nymphs. Her brother often lurked behind her, hoping to catch the unwary straggler in an embrace. I used to see muses and graces resting beneath our leaves, inspiring mortal artists who wandered into nature, seeking that creative touch. 

Goddess and god, nymph and grace, muse and their chosen, they’d stopped coming. At first it had been a blessing, to be left in peace. Too much time had passed. I was starting to worry. 

“Don’t worry about it!” Palm grinned in brash ignorance of serious matters to concern herself with, other than what was trendy. “As long as I have this, we’ll never be alone.” She stroked her smart phone. “This connects us to people and faith, all we need to survive.”

“What makes you think that?” Tiny images of women in loose clothing once favored by goddesses danced across the tiny screen. “Wait, how did all of that get there?”

“Awesome, isn’t it? I can see what models are wearing in Paris and Milan with this!” Palm squinted at the screen. “Best keep an eye on Shanghai, too. I get the feeling a lot of fashion will be up and coming from there.”

“Palm, what are you talking about?” I gazed at the proud, self declared modern dryad, bent over her ‘smart phone’. 

“The future, of course! A future without gods.” Palm shook her head, short fonds of hair flying across her face. “Better be ready for it, Laurel. Trends are the new gods.” She leaned closer to the girls on the tiny screen. “They dominate the world, chasing out all that opposes them. Mortals may cry about them, yet they’re at the mercy of them.” She winked at me. “Just as we were once at the mercy of the gods.”

“I don’t believe you.” I shut my eyes, pressed my hands against the sides of my head. “Something so frivolous wouldn’t replace the gods. They couldn’t.” My fingers might splinter if I wasn’t careful. “The gods were too powerful!”

“Well, where, like, did you think they got their power from? Mortals! Faith and worship, girlfriend.” Palm waved her smart phone at me. “Don’t see too many humans offering sacrifices to the gods these days, do you?” She ran her thin fingers across the tiny screen, making the women vanish. “This is the sort of thing they worship now.”

She held up an image of a scowling, orange-haired man. 

“No.” I backed away. “Mortals aren’t that foolish. I refuse to believe they are!” 

I turned my back and fled from Palm and her ‘smart phone’ with its substitute gods. 

“It doesn’t matter what you or I believe in, Laurel!” Palm called after me. “What matters is what humans believe in. They shape our world, like it or not. You’d better find a way to exist in it if you want to survive.” 

I retreated into my tree, losing my human shape, not wanting to listen to any more. 

The world was changing whether I liked it or not. Palm tree nymphs. Smart phones. Trends and orange haired men where the gods had once been. 

Palm was right. I had to find a way to exist in their world if I wanted to survive. 

May the lost gods curse her for forcing me to acknowledge this.