When Nico turned from the market stall with a bundle of carrots, narrowly avoiding buying a live chicken, she came almost face to face with a man so wide-eyed she could see the whites all around his irises. He seemed to have trouble breathing.
“Hey, you need help?”
“Yes?” She drew out the word and leaned back almost imperceptibly, not recognising the man yet.
“But you were in a section of the station that depressurised and exploded. You’re dead!”
That tumbled some old memories into the light. “Martin.” She looked around. “Long story. Let’s talk somewhere more private?”
I'm attempting the April A to Z challenge, with fiction with at most 100 words. "F is for Freaked Out" came from Royce Day.
Drabbles for G and H are written, but if you have prompts for later in the alphabet, please give them to me.
Nico watched the fairies dance in the reeds. "Are they laying eggs?"
"Yes. They stick them to the leaves. Another pest, on top of gnats."
"Can you use the eggs as fishing bait?"
"Not bait as such." Her host looked around furtively. No-one was near. "When I was small we'd drop the eggs in the water for the fish to eat. Made them act like they were drunk. Swim in circles, hit their heads on things... It made catching them with your hands easier. We stopped it after a big pike bit my sister. Don't tell the children, please."
Nico had the vague impression that the impact crater was too small for the body that had caused it. She also had the distinct impression that the molten mass at the bottom, deep iridescent green like beetle wings, was not a meteorite, particularly when it started moving.
It flowed together and rose, like a slime mold attempting to take on a humanoid form.
A psychic message flooded Nico's mind, which put it in words as "Fear not!"
After a moment's pause, she answered, "If you're going to tell me I'm pregnant, there will be trouble."
Some thoughts want to circle in your mind endlessly, stealing time, blurring focus. Doubts and worries are fond of that. They crave attention. They need some of it, rightfully, too, but take as much as they can get.
I've found that some rituals help. I guess it's how confessionals help those that belong to a church that practices it.
I don't, so I had to try and come up with my own way to take those thoughts out of my head so I could have a good look at them, giving them what they wanted, with the effect that I needed.
That's why I spent more time than some people liked carving the names of friends on little wood plackets, and "be safe" on the reverse, and burned them. Carving takes more time than writing. Fingers and eyes work, the mind remembers the person. My worries for my absent friends go up in smoke and crumble to ashes.
Today's problem is harder. The people I killed yesterday... I don't know their names. I hardly know their faces. What I have to focus on to anchor them outside my head is their deaths, my blade cutting their flesh, their blood covering my hands.
There is still the impulse to fight guilt with justifications and apologies, when what is needed is one undiluted prayer: Rest in peace.
Light played on the iridescent feathers of the Kingfisher mask. The huge, dark glass eyes looked strange. An enticing danger, a challenge. Or mockery?
Nico shook her head and looked around her room. It was small, the mask was bulky, and she was foolish for not re-selling it. Though she wasn't so short on either cash or space she couldn't afford a bit of sentimentality. That was all there was to it. Right?
There were people in town she could consult to find out if the mask was enchanted or haunted. But quite apart from the cost, she didn't want to. She was quite sure the feeling of being someone slightly different when wearing it was all in her head. It was the same in other situations where she had to, or wanted to, pretend.
And if she was wrong? Well, it would be rude poking into the mind of anything with a personality, particularly if you liked him. It. Whatever.
That was a better reason than, I like the little thrill of this doubt.
Nico ambled away from the main hubbub of the party, and found Daaren on the veranda, apparently watching the gardens. She propped herself up next to him, and asked conversationally, "So, why'd you leave?"
The view from the shoulder of the Tellanot - that's a mountain, in case you didn't know - is amazing. If you inch right to the edge of the cliff, and lean forward, You get a feeling almost like falling up into the sky.
I guess I was caught up in admiring it a bit too much, for the next thing that happened was that I fell down past the ground; the edge had crumbled. I twisted and tried to grab the new edge, and Daaren successfully grabbed my wrist, and well, the usual you'd expect happened. With me down the cliffside and him flat on the path, he said, "Don't look down."
I looked him in the face while trying to find some purchase with my other hand, and feet, and asked, "Sure, but tell me why."
He didn't answer until we were lying both on sound rock, panting, myself more than him. Sound rock has benefits, too.
Then he answered, "I thought you might get stupid ideas. Like jumping."
Made me laugh until I couldn't breathe at all anymore. Right to the point, that's him.