The party boiled around Quentin, filling his ears with white noise. He had dived deep into a book and only surfaced to chat, and smile at someone else rather than himself, when someone addressed him directly. That person usually was Fay, but as the evening went on even she left him alone in favour of talking to friends she met rarely.
So late in the evening it was turning into early morning, her approaching laughter, much louder than usual, had him look up. Fay hung on the arm of a taller woman, face flushed and movements just a little erratic.
"Here, Quen, this is Eve. I told you about her, right?"
Nothing good, actually, but since Fay seemed to be having fun, he smiled, shook hands, and did smalltalk that quickly grew into goodbyes.
Fay snuggled into the passenger seat, seeming to nod off, but when they turned onto their street she said, "Sometimes I wish you'd enjoy these things more. But since you don't, thanks for tagging along."
"Oh, but I enjoyed myself." Quentin stopped the car and leaned over with a twinkle in his eye to kiss Fay. "I finished another book."
Now that’s a weird way to wilt, Henry thought. One of the dozen cheap roses whose petals were yellow with red edges had turned grey. It looked a little squished, but not wrinkly at all, felt still cool to the touch, and even had the same fragrance as the still bright ones.
With a shrug, Henry threw out the ruined flower.
The next day brought two more discolored roses, and no success in the internet search about the phenomenon. Henry snapped a few photos and posted them online.
He checked for comments first thing in the morning, but found “looks photoshopped” as unhelpful as a crazy story that seemed to belong in a fantasy book.
When he checked on the flowers in the sitting room, they had their colour, though meanwhile they started drooping a little. The canvas print of poppy on the wall, however, had had the colour leeched out of it in a quarter circle. The lower right was entirely grey, with a narrow gradient between the changed section and the part remaining bright. When he looked closely, in the very corner Henry could spot a tiny hole.
On the way home from work he picked up supplies, and set a trap as had been suggested. Considering the bowl of neon green glue, he put down some old sheets in addition.
It turned out he needn’t have worried.
The bat-like little creature got stuck in the glue, and wasn’t strong enough to tip the bowl over. Its wings drooped miserably in the grey gloop, at odds with the cheerfully-bright yellow-red-gren striations of its skin.
What does one do with a colour vampire?, Henry wondered.
Jessica had built up some tolerance to odd events, so when a splash of spilled ink started to move she did not doubt her senses, but just watched it coalesce into a humanoid figure smaller than a fingernail.
The shining black golem briefly turned its featureless head towards the lamp, then trudged in the opposite direction, shrinking as it left an uneven trail on the tabletop.
Jessica mopped it up with a paper towel before it reached the taped-down image she was working on. Staring at the now immobile blot, she wondered if she should have had ethical concerns.
Inspired by the prompt "spilled ink takes on its own life" by Becky Allen
Metal rattled gently as Freya rooted through the content of the tin. Wardrobes, suitcases, savings boxes long destroyed had left their keys in the collection, probably to be forgotten, or maybe to be reused. What the girl was looking for was - ah! A small slip of brass-plated tin, a triangular head.
Diary locks had been always the same, or nearly so, for decades, or if there was a slight difference, the locks were so badly made the key worked, anyway.
Freya stayed sitting in the storeroom dust and tried the key. She smiled and relaxed happily when her hoard of secrets opened.
Her breath caught as she caught sight of the writing. Blue ink instead of green gel pen. That's mother's handwriting! In my diary! A look on the cover confirmed it; even the signs of wear matched.
Freya locked and unlocked the book again, still seeing the cursive writing instead of her own rounded block letters.
She bit her lip and looked towards the door. It would be a while before her mother came home, so Freya might as well have a closer look.
The parlour was familiar, but Brice's position in it wasn't. He had seen it on a handful of occasions when he had assisted Madame Nesca while she negotiated business with particularly valued partners here. Finding himself in the overstuffed chair and offered excellent wine left him wondering what in the world was going on.
Standing pointedly inside his door, the suspect grinned. “No, you can not come in, warrant or no!”
Jenna took a breath, meaning to answer that. The door slammed shut in her face, so she sighed instead. From his criminal record including activity in an anti-supernaturals group a decade ago, neither his recognising her as a vampire nor his reaction came as a surprise. Still, it was annoying in its pettiness and shortsightedness.
Usually she would be partnered with someone who did not require invitation, but there had been some roster-shuffling tonight, leaving the pair of vampires the option to watch the house to keep him from running and call for reinforcements. To arrest one unarmed little loser with a habit of blogging rants against supernaturals while drunk. Embarrassing.
While she walked back to the squad car, a grin spread across her face. She had foreseen trouble like that, and both brought the right equipment and made sure with the chief that she could use it.
She hefted the sledgehammer and stalked back to the house. Invitations were required to cross a threshold, true. But it had turned out that if you removed the entire wall, the problem disappeared.
Inspired by the prompt "How does a vampire cop serve a warrant, if he has to be invited into a home?" by Royce Day
Marie had taken the tour through the historic town centre several times a year ever since the muncipality had declared it tech-light - only technology that had not been available in the 20th century or before allowed. Watching the other tourists was part of the charm. Some, like her, welcomed the break enforced by leaving behind all their gadgets for a few hours, others became twitchy. She suspected the ones from the latter group who looked excited with it might see the visit as sort of a dare - “can you go that long without checking your mail and not go nuts?”
Sometimes the same young folks would gasp at and compliment the tour guide’s ability to remember all these details about the town’s history.
Marie, however, had a different suspicion, so when one young guide stumbled over his script, led them to the marketplace and called for a shopping break, she watched him rather than scattering with the others.
He looked around, raised his hand but dropped it before it cleared shoulder-height when he noticed her.
She approached him, and asked in an undertone, “Something wrong with your augmented reality glasses?”
“Ma’am, modern tech is banned here.” He looked pained.
“Sure it is. And companies follow rules.” The young man might have taken her sarcasm as less good-humoured than it was. “And how long does it take you folks to memorise exactly the same script?”
He coughed and looked away. “Longer than I’ve been reading out the tour. They’ll fire me.”
“I could take over. Heard it often enough. Maybe you’re lucky and no-one complains.”
“You can? You would?” He checked his hopefulness and asked, “Why?”
“I’m afraid if it was a copy of The Good Book, chances of getting the matter resolved are close to zero.”
Basil covered his mouth with a hand and gnashed his teeth. The alternative was yelling at a cop, which seemed unwise if you wanted her help. After a calming breath he said, “Look, it was theft, and it was right at the train entrance, so RepRail must have security footage. The on-board security said I should check with the station police, the station police referred me to border guard… Feels like I’m getting further away from a resolution. Who do I have to talk to to get things going before the footage gets deleted?”
The officer did look sympathetic, but that didn’t bring back that brand-new limited edition with illustrations by C. Cidrain. She sighed. “Since the theft was on Republic soil, you’d have to report it to their authorities. But you said you aren’t initiated, and they have exceptions to property law there regarding unbelievers owning items such as holy scripture.”
“Wait, wait, wasn’t that got rid of in the free trade agreement last year?”
“Officially. But I’ve seen some similar cases, and they were all wrapped up in red tape like a mountain mummy until the victim gave up, or until Republic authorities found some technicality or other loophole to throw them out.”
Basil vented some curses. “And the seller never asked about my religion.”
“They like money. Sometimes I wonder if some of them work together with thieves and buy back and resell.
“I’ll give you contact information, and you can try to get it pursued. If you know which number of that collector’s edition you had, maybe that gives you a bit more leverage than usual. I wish you good luck, but don’t get your hopes up too much. Sorry.”
Shortly he stomped off, carrying home a slim leaflet instead of the precious book he’d paid for.