Wednesday, July 29, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On March 4, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a sundial, a hat, and a music box.

This freebie story for On the Other Side of the Mask (my surreal steampunk Work in Progress) was the result...

The sundial sat, taking in light and shadow upon the green. Freestanding, it gave an illusion of time and sanity to the grounds of an estate which knew neither. 

The tinkling sound of a music box interrupted Shelley’s reverie. He turned to face Olympia holding it out, the tiny figure in the center of the gears spinning around and around in a circle, trapped in her dance. 

“A poignant reminder of your situation, isn’t she?” A broad-brimmed hand covered the lady’s eyes, casting shadows over her face. “She cannot escape from her path, for it’s locked into the very environment around her.” 

“Environments change, especially this one.” Shelley gazed at those red lips, forcing themselves into a cruel smile. He was almost sure they were forced. Cruelty was an act, part of a role both Olympia and Nathaniel played as servants of Lord Ruthvyn. It was just another mask the two of them wore. 

Was anything in Lord Ruthvyn’s estate genuine? The paintings, the staircase, the walls, nothing was what it seemed. Everything was a mask for something else. If Shelley lingered here long enough, one would grow over his features, hardening it into something doll-like and inhuman. A frightening thought. 

“Just how many songbirds have you seen caged while you’ve been here?” The question slipped from his lips. “How many of them are still here, only wearing a different shape than they once possessed?”

“Far too many to remember.” Olympia ran a gloved finger down the music box in a slow caress. “They’re still trying to sing, most of them, but our lord lost interest in their voices. They dwindled into nothing at his lack of attention.”

“Did you?” Shelley caught a flash of the deep blue eye lurking under the brim of the lady’s hat. “Were you once a songbird, Olympia?”

“I am what I’ve always been.” Olympia bowed her head. “A doll, a plaything given to Lord Ruthvyn to make him smile again. Neither Nathaniel nor I have had much success in that.”

“Has anyone?” Shelley glanced at the tiny figure rotating in the box, its little features frozen in an anguished smile. Every gesture from her lifted arms, to the pleading tilt of her torso expressed an intense desire to please. “Does Lord Ruthvyn ever smile?”

“He does at you. He might at your song.” Olympia shut the music box with a sharp click, cutting off the tinkling tune. “Songbirds distract him for a time, returning some of our lord’s bittersweet youth, his vitality. Not that any of you sustain him for long.” She tossed her head back. “You’re all weak. Eventually your singing turns into pitiful cries and moans. Eventually you bore him.” 

Shelley bowed his head, suppressing a shudder. Yes, this might well be his fate. He and Byron had dared to raise their voices, to let their song be heard. Now he couldn’t find Byron and he was alone. Alone except for visits from his pale, cold master and his enigmatic servants. 

“Crying isn’t pitiful,” he whispered. “It’s just another attempt to be heard. A desperate attempt.” 

“What’s the point in attempting to show your weakness?” Olympia cocked her head to the side, glossy black curls beneath her hat sliding with the movement. “How could it be anything other than pitiful?”

“When it’s another form of song.” Shelley met that vivid blue eye. “Many a song is nothing more than a cry for something.”

“No wonder all songbirds are weak.” She spun on her heel, turning her back on him. “For all your pretty tunes, you’re all beggars, pleading for someone to give you what you cannot get for yourself.”

Shelley watched her march off, ruffles skirts flouncing with her movement. Perhaps Olympia had a point.

“No,” he whispered. “Songbirds aren’t weak. Byron isn’t weak.” A shiver ran down his spine. “He’s strong. He can face whatever lurks in Lord Ruthvyn’s estate.” 

If he believed in nothing else, he believed in Byron. He had to. 

It was the only thing which kept Shelley strong, which kept his own songs from turning into cries. Only he wasn’t sure if he could stay strong. 

Not when Byron’s fate, his whereabouts remained so uncertain. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and the Orb

Quartz sits facing a floating pink orb, which resembles an eyeball. No, actually he’s cringing from it. 

Quartz: Gah! No floating eyeballs! Too Oriana-witchy by half! Why that fool of a scibbler would use my lovely pink namestone to represent you, I’ll never know!

Orb: What a rude, repulsive little man you are, all stubbly and half-hair! It’s as if the embodement of all we revile from Ancient Earth was squashed down into one person, only you’re not from Ancient Earth, are you? You’re not what you seem, more akin to the crystal used to represent me. Only I am far more complicated than you or that crystal. A work of art, science, and heart, the material representation of a determined life giver’s will. 

Quartz: Sounds witchy to me and way too much like Oriana’s huntsman. Or her apple. Or whatever she sees in that bloody magic mirror of hers. 

Orb: The crude and small-minded are always inclined to label as magic what’s beyond their comprehension. 

Quartz: Right. For an eyeball, you sure like the sound of your own voice. No wonder you visited Christopher. Bet he acted all mysterious, acting questions while you went on and on about yourself and what you see. 

Orb: I am not a mere eyeball any more than I am a mere communication device! I alm the latest in technology, an extension of my creatrix’s sight and power!

Quartz: You sure about that? It’s been a few years since the scribbler wrote A Symposium in Space. You may not be the latest anything any more. 

Orb: What?! (It begins to vibrate in great agitation.) Are you saying I’m not the latest? That I may no longer be fashionable?!

Quartz: Just saying. It’s been a while in real time. Time which could have passed in your universe as well. 

Orb: This is outrageous, unacceptible! If I’m not the latest, than what am I! I must…I must upgrade…return to my creatrix at once!

The orb flies away, disappearing into the mists of the Cauldron.

Quartz: Right. All that fuss over the latest sounds too much like being the fairest. And that thing is supposed to not remind me of Oriana? (snorts) Pebblebrained nonsense, if you ask me.

A red curtain appears behind Quartz.

Nimmie Not: (his voice coming from behind the curtain) The orb will know better than to ask. That was surprisingly cruel, Quartz. Being the latest, being fashionable was important to that poor creature. 

Quartz: (looking a bit uncomfortable) That wasn’t a creature. That was a construction, something made by a witch. Something like that. It was doomed to stop being the latest, the fairest, or of interest at some point. There’s no future in valuing yourself by fleeting things. Sooner or later you’re devalued. 

Nimmie Not: Everyone and everything is fleeting, Quartz. Even immortals cannot truly grasp eternity. It doesn’t make you any less current, or fair, if your state is fleeting. As for being of interest, that’s really up to you, whether or not you stay that way.

Quartz: (his nose reddens and his beard bristles) You trying to say something?

Nimmie Not: Always. It’s up to you whether or not you listen.

The red curtain disappears. Quartz is left, staring at his hands and the mist, the hint of a troubled expression through his silvery-black beard. 

Wish to meet the orb showing up at the Cauldrons and in my reading? It’s a part of A Symposium in Space, available at…

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On February 26, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at  the Wednesday Words prompt 'write something from the point of view of an animal'.

The first animal to come to mind was my four-footed daughter, Cinnamon...:)

Mrrr. Stretching in the sun feels good, only something is dangling, moving. Reaching out to swat it with my paw, it wriggles away. Mrr. I hit it again.

“No!” The loud human bray startles me just when I was moving in for the kill. 

“Mrreow!” I look up at the round, hairless face of my servant, the one who feeds me. How dare they interrupt me, only I spot another dangling thing. It wiggles, sways, taunting me. I bat at it, try to bite it, only arrogant paws and nose come between me and my prey. 

I hiss at my rival, my stupid brother. He lunges at me, attempts to bite me. I hiss and dart away. Who does he think he is? That was my prey, my wiggly thing! He tries to nip my tail, like a coward. 

I let out a howl right before he tackles me again. Fool. Of course the humans come running. Of course they assume rightly that it’s his fault. I’ve got claws of my own, but why bother to use them on the likes of him? The humans will punish him. 

Yes, there’s more yelling. “No! Sage, stop trying to eat your sister!” He hangs his head, whiskers drooping. Of course they pet him, unable to stay mad. Don’t they realize what just happened is his fault?

The humans come and pet me, too hard and fast for my taste. I let out a mrr of protest. You can’t let up on your servants. You’ve got to train them to stroke you properly or they pick up all sorts of bad habits. I walk away, curling up in a corner, keeping an eye on Sage. 

He’s found a high place to curl up on, but he’s watching me. Just waiting until everyone’s backs are turned to pounce. 

Not if I pounce first. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Paula's Prompts: Wednesday Words

On March 25, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving pills, an envelope, and an arrow.

This poem was the result...

Your pills are in the envelope
The arrow is a pointed reminder of who you were
Of what’s coming out of the darkness
It doesn’t matter that age has slowed you down
Nibbled away at your strength, your once deadly reflexes
That flying, fatal message is still coming
A reckoning for all you were
All you’ve tried to hide from
Cowering behind four walls
Never daring to venture out
Any passing stranger could be your death
You slide away, keeping your distance
Scanning every face for signs of danger
Wondering if this is the one who’s come for you
Most are oblivious to your presence
Or they lift an eyebrow at the way you scuttle away
Sharing smirks with their companions at the skittish old woman
The eccentric, anti-social old woman
For that’s all you are
That’s what you’ve fooled people into thinking is you
You’ve been that old woman for so long
You’ve started to believe in her
Layered the leathery face and wrinkled smiles over the shadows of guilt
She’s a mask that you’ve perfected over the years
One that’s growing attached to your face
Someone is waiting in the shadows you fled from
Waiting with that arrow you’re waiting for
Ready to shoot right into the center of your mask
Splitting your wrinkled facade of aging pleasantness in two
Letting the darkness pour out beneath
You’ve kept that darkness contained for so long
You almost forgot it was there
Oozing behind your easy-going smile
The smile you used to keep everyone at a distance
The smile you fooled the world with.
Take the pills if you dare
Perhaps they’re the easier way out
Easier than the arrow about to be released
Driving deep into the illusion you’ve struggled to create. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On March 18, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving the morning after a wild party.

This story about Peter from Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest (Unwilling to Be Yours, Be My Valentine...Snack, Stealing Myself From Shadows) was the result...

Peter groaned, rubbed his head, and wondered where his trousers had gone. Oh, that’s right. He’d been wearing hose and a doublet, not trousers, before both had been stripped from him. After the singing and the dancing and well, everything became a pleasant blur after that.

“You are amazing,” a husky voice breathed in his ear. Warm limbs covered with sweat entangled from his own. Peter gazed into chocolate brown eyes in a sweet face, with rounded cheeks and a hint of down of his chin. Mmm, yummy. 

What was his name again?

“Paul,” the naked young man sliding from beneath him said, pushing a russet curl away from his face. Those glossy locks were darker and looser than Peter’s own. “I’m guessing you forgot my name.” An impish smile of pure sweetness and shared mischief took any sting out of his words. “I certainly forgot yours.”

“Peter.” Peter tossed his hair, quite away of his own impressive head of curls while inspecting Paul’s button nose, pouting lips exposing a hint of white smile. He had even more of a baby face than Peter did and Peter had been compared to cherubs before. “Here I thought I was amazing, too amazing to be forgotten.”

“Too amazing for names, at least last night.” Paul wrinkled his nose. “Did we dance on tabletop, singing folk songs to techno music?”

“Encouraging many others to join us.” Peter glanced at the prone forms of last night’s dance partners, many of which lay unconscious on the floor. “Whatever was in that glog was incredible. I’m not even sure if it was glog.”

“Thank you.” Paul fluttered his eyelashes. They were glossy and dark, darker than his eyes. “I find that particular beverage lowers all sorts of inhibitions.” 

“My, oh, my.” Peter gave Paul’s flank an appreciative glance. It was slim, yet with a rounded suppleness many would dismiss as a love hand. To Peter, it gave this young man a voluptuousness not often associated with young men. He ran his fingers over it, feeling Paul shiver beneath his touch. “You have many talents.”

“And you are far too interesting for just one night.” Paul placed his own hand upon Peter’s fingers, stroking them. “Would I be ruining a perfectly good memory if I asked to see you again?”

“Not at all.” Peter allowed himself a quiver of appreciation at the tingling sensation running down his arms, his chest, heading straight for his groin. “I’m hoping we can surpass ourselves and last night, if it’s just us.” He breathed in the scent of Paul’s hair, his skin, before claiming those pouting lips with his own. 

It had started out as such a good time until it got serious. After which Paul got serious, serious about things Peter didn’t understand. Things Paul never shared with him. 

Leaving Paul had been the right thing to do. At least he kept telling himself that. Peter often wondered if he shouldn’t check on his former lover, see how he was doing. The rest of him told himself to give up and move on. 

Perhaps this was why he’d allowed himself to become so smitten with Christopher, a boy whose heart was already taken. His passion for Christopher would never go anywhere. There was a limit to how unfaithful Peter could be to Paul’s memory with such an unattainable object of desire. 

Not that Paul couldn’t do unattainable, too, once he got serious and secretive. This was the one quality he and Christopher had in common. Physically they couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Christopher was a slight, slender creature to the point of androgyny. Paul had a more fleshy version of a classical torso, hard muscles surrounded by softness. Their dreamy, distant look upon their faces, like they were gazing at a far away landscape only they could see, that was only too similar. It was a quality Peter found both exasperating and alluring. 

What did they see, drifting away in their inner vision, where did they go? How could he catch up with him, or at least catch their eyes? Get them to see him?

It was a riddle he’d never been able to resist. He still couldn’t resist. Perhaps at heart he was a hopeless romantic, pining for what was out of reach. Only Paul had once been very much within his reach. Peter had held him in his arms, whispered secrets in the other boy’s ears. He’d gone deep inside of Paul, only to find himself penetrated in turn, not just in a physical sense. They’d invaded each other with tenderest, most intimate disregard. 

To think they’d met at a party. To think they’d once sung and danced on top of tables, getting others to do the same. 

Origins could be a funny thing. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

#QueerBlogWed: Paula's Prompts

On February 19, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving matches, a gold bag, and a long road.

This Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins freebie story was the result...

I’ve got a box of matches, ooo, the anachronistic delight! Most of little mortals don’t have such toys, no, they don’t, nor do the more interesting folks.  Quartz and his brothers don’t bother with matches, I’m sure, the scowling lumps. Flint and tinder is much more their style. Well, they’ve already got my sweet cuckoo bird springing out of their clock to chirp the hour long before most humans will think of such a thing. My dwarf’s home is nothing if not progressive. We’ll see what Quartz thinks of box of matches. Jasper at least will be interested. I’m also bringing a golden bag to the cottage, filled with golden buttons. Quartz and his brothers will have to make sense of them, plus sew them into their coats, but my seven dwarves will be looking smart when I’m finished with them. 
I can almost hear my favorite dwarf’s grumbling at all these gifts:

“Don’t know why you bother. I know better than to accept presents from you, Nimmie Not. Why would we need a bag of golden buttons when brass ones serve us just as well? All we’re going to do is attract every goblin, troll, and kobold with these fancy airs!”

Ahem, you can see I’ve got a long road ahead before I claim the heart of that stubborn dwarf, even longer before he’d admit it. I can’t believe how hard it is convincing him he’s a Person of Importance. Most folks want to be important, but he seems to believe it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Ah, well, perhaps he’s showing a hint of wisdom in that. People of Importance do often get into trouble. At least he’s not completely uninterested in me, no matter how he scowls. I can tell by the twinkle in his eye. 

Onward I go on this lonely road to winning Quartz’s heart. At least the path ahead is entertaining, if often exasperating.