Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

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Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: doubt.

 

 

30 responses to “Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

  1. I doubt I’ll be first.

  2. Doubt I could come up with even 50 words of coherence.
    Last day of a weekend after a week and a day of vacation.
    drat.

  3. “I doubt you can have a Bad Hair Day worse than this,” Medusa said, gesturing to the writhing mass of hissing snakes atop her head.

  4. It had seemed merely an annoyance, the email saying she had three days to upgrade her website to the latest version of the software. Rather than rely on the host’s automatic process, she had put everything else on hold, downloaded the new version, and followed all the upgrade directions most carefully. She knew there would be a few tweaks needed because of her customizations, but didn’t expect any real problems, even though she had not done any serious programming in nearly five years.

    It had turned into a timesink of epic proportions. Two solid weeks, more than 80 hours of intense concentration and equally intense frustration, trying to hunt down all the places that needed changing to make even the simplest thing work. Like the two hours it took to just CENTER the damn logo! The Support Forum was practically useless. Every search would return a dozen or more threads asking -almost- the same question, and two dozen answers, maybe one of which pointed to the information she needed.

    However, slowly, painfully, with much cursing and venting, she had tracked down and corrected each problem. There were just a couple more things to fix, a new front page intro to write, and she could take the site live again in its new incarnation. So that it could continue to be ignored by the world, no doubt. But when one is immersed in a labor of love, one does not agonize over whether the efforts are worth the cost. One just struggles stubbornly onward.

  5. Once you gotten off the Creekside Trail, the one furthest to the north, you had to carefully go across a creek and up and down some paths. But, with a bit of effort, you can find this spot. It appears to be an old fire scar on the hillside, a grove where there is a big enough hole in the trees to see daylight, but enough trees and foliage to conceal you unless you’re very close by. I’m smiling as I walk into the grove, and look around a bit. “What do you think,” I ask, arms wide open and showing off the grove.

    “I’m impressed,” An nodded as the two of them dropped their invisibility cloak. “We would need more space to practice some kinds of magic, but this would be difficult to find and we have enough space to try the basics.”

    I nod and carefully drop the backpack onto the forest floor, thinking for a moment. “How far away do I need to be to summon the Regalia?” I asked.

    “Not that far away,” Beh replied and found a spot to watch just on the edge of the grove. “A whole pace away at most, the Regalia will mostly push away anything that isn’t touching your skin, like clothing. You could even wear your backpack, but that would take some practice.”

    “Let’s do at least the training wheels version of the process,” I noted, and took three large steps away from the backpack. In my mind, I found the command string to trigger the transformation matrix and I summoned the full power I had at my disposal and the Regalia.

    And, in that instant, I was walking on air.

    There’s no fancy, multi-minute sequence of transformation to sell toys and the uncut version on DVD when calling the Regalia. One second, I was in my clothes, and the next I was wearing the full Regalia. There was a caught breath at the back of my throat, as in that instant I could feel all the magical circuits connecting and feeling…complete.

    It was, in that moment, as if I had never had arms, never knew what they were, but I suddenly had them. I knew everything I could do with them, and I was laughing in the joy of being complete and whole for the first time in my life. “This…feels wonderful,” I said, looking around. I looked down at myself, and I loved what I was wearing.

    My Regalia had formed as an armored trench coat, heartbreakingly gray in color and secured with overlapping buttons down the left side of my chest, to split open to reveal my hips and legs. My legs were in thick haze grey tights, pouches strapped to my hips, and my feet wore gray leather boots with the most minimal of heels that came up half-way up my calves, secured with straps to the front. The collar of the trench coat was just under my earlobes, and I looked at my hands. Both hands were encased in grey gloves, the back of the palm and the back of the fingers armored and reinforced, and my sense of touch utterly unaffected by the gloves I wore. I looked and noticed that under the trenchcoat was a simple white blouse that overlapped slightly over the tights, the blouse secured with dime-sized buttons, the collar reaching a quarter inch below the bottom of my jaw.

    I touched my face and head, and sighed a little bit. “No mask, nothing other than my skin exposed to the world,” I commented, looking at my outfit a bit better-there was absolutely no adornment or markings to what I wore. You got the feeling that the creator of the outfit thought only of practicality and strength, and everything that wasn’t those two things was to be discarded without hesitation.

    “It won’t matter too much,” Beh suggested. “The protective spells in your Regalia also protect your head and face, and any injury that penetrates it that isn’t fatal you will regenerate from.”

    “What worries me,” An mused, “is just how plain your Regalia is. You are completely lacking in adornment or accessories, and…,” and here he paused as I started to giggle.

    I giggled for a few more, extremely cute seconds, and smiled. “You’ve never read the Lensman series, have you?” I asked.

    “I have never read space opera,” An looked highly offended.

    “You should, Lensman is pretty much the basis story for most epic science fiction,” I replied. “What I’m wearing…is pretty much a female Gray Lensman uniform. Simple, unadorned, nothing that isn’t needed or necessary. And, nothing that can stop me once I’ve made a decision. I’ve been given a Release, and I am bound only to the dictates of my own conscience and my understanding of my own duty. There is no chain of command that can order me to do anything, only make suggestions. I am as free as any of us are, freer, perhaps.”

    “That is very arrogant,” An said, looking at me.

    “I will do my duty,” I said calmly. “Never, ever doubt that. But, I will decide what that duty is-and how to perform it.”

    Beh considered this. “You just defined what a Solist is. With perhaps a bit more poetry than usual,” she commented, then looked at An. “You know what the saying of what a Solist is-’your duty is your sword, your honor is your shield, your conscience is your armor, wear them well’. She is wearing her conscience very well.”

  6. I skidded to a stop and revved the engine; she growled like a tiger. In the middle of the road was a gigantic golden-brown tarantula with thick furry hair quivering in the sunlight. His mating dance was adorable, but he crawled away, no doubt searching for a more suitable mate.

  7. “Look, because my ‘doubt’ is causing me to fail, instead of using my mind to lift my X-Wing out of this muck, how about if I swim down and just hit the switch to turn on the antigrav lifters so it can lift itself out?”
    “Work that should. And more rested I will be for your further training. Ahead, go.”

    • No. Lesson learn, you will not.

    • I don’t understand about this insistence upon mind powers. Technology does as good or better for everybody. If it was something that couldn’t be done with technology I’d consider it.

      • I like mind powers. They’re the ultimate concealed weapon. TSA can’t find them. They’re always with you. And you don’t even need to be obvious about using them. Nine terrorists attempting to hijack your plane? 9 simultaneous heart attacks later the problem is solved.

    • Nah. Just use mind power to flip the switch.

      • Yeah, one solution would be the exotic and incredibly advanced technology known as “a wireless remote”.

        And why does the damn thing have landing gear at all? The speeders sit there parked on antigrav, why can’t the hyper-capable starfighters? “Oh, look, we have to put down in this planet-circling swamp – good thing this X-Wing will just sit there bobbing slightly three feet over the surface of the water, eh R2? Imagine how hard we’d have it if this thing had that ancient – what was the name again – ‘Landing Gear’? I doubt that would be any fun!”
        “Beep buzz beedle chirp wistle squawk!”
        “Oh, knock it off, R2 – I know you can synthesize human speech. You’re a droid, for the Force’s sake, not some appliance! Just spit it out in Standard!”
        “Well, if I weren’t a SLAVE maybe I’d be more cooperative!”
        “Oh, not that again! Just get ready for reentry.”
        “Yes, Master.

  8. The blackbird, white chevron on its wings, dive bombed her as she walked through the olive feathered leaves of the tree that hung over the sidewalk. She ignored the nuisance bird, with her head and shoulders back as she marched, watching the clouds fluff and darken at the horizon. She doubted she could outrun the coming storm any faster than she could outrun the bird, protecting its nest.

    The clacking and screams of the bird faded in the rising wind. She needed to reach the door before the rains slung icy water down her face and on her neck. A feeling of dread crept up to her throat.

    “Sometimes we do as we must,” she thought as she placed her hand on the doorknob and twisted.

  9. Jack sat still holding his hands in front of him breathing deeply and nervously. What if she was right? What if magic was real?
    “You still have doubts,” she whispered quietly in his ear. “Relax and just let your self go and feel the power that lies within you.”
    Veronica’s presence behind him steadied his nerves and he calmed down and just let it happen.

  10. “The Shield is failing!” Cora’s cry was frightened.
    “No, it’s not.”
    “Look, look, the wavering, the flicker…” Her fear was infectious. Others listened. I had to act.
    A quick draw, a throw, and her panic subsided. Along with her heartbeat.
    “Steady, kids. The Shield always does that. They are pressing. Stand resolute!” I call, confident and strong. A murderer, true, and I’d answer for that, but the one thing we could not allow into our bunker…was doubt.

  11. analytical-engine-mechanic

    (Taking a *third* swing at posting this, otherwise just W.P.D.E. And apologies in advance for any duplications, etc.)

    “You tell me all this New-Age-sounding stuff, about how we create our own reality around us — or at least co-create it,” Ciaran Kennedy corrected, as she raised a finger to start to dispute his generalization. “You give me examples from Buddhist scripture to Norse myth on how the way we *see* the world influences what it *is* to us,” he continued, still with more than a trace of exasperation (though nothing, nothing compared to what he felt). “But when you get down to it, you’re still asking me to believe something else, in place of what I’ve believed all my life. About reality and what *is* real.”

    The red-haired girl facing him (close enough to his own five feet ten they saw each other eye to eye) smiled a little, again. “I’m not exactly demanding you choose between ‘the red pill’ and ‘the blue pill’ here, Ciaran.” Her accent was odd, not any commonplace Irish, not even the different lilt of some around here who’d learned English only in school. But quite strangely beautiful, like the rock-strewn emerald-green landscape opening out behind her.

    As if, somehow, she’d grown up speaking yet some third language instead. (She did sound far more West Irish than anything else he knew, even compared to the harsher, more urbane tones of Dublin. And she’d introduced herself as “Eithne, like the singer Enya, like Lugh’s mother or the girl in the Fosterage in the House of the Two Milk Pails. Means ‘nutmeat’ or ‘kernel’ or even ‘nucleus’ in Irish.”) Though her English was, not to put too fine a point on it, really a lot *better* than Jersey’s, back in “his” Jersey.

    “What I’m truly saying when you dig right down to the rock, I suppose, is the opposite — that our world is *not* some movie you have to sit through, a sequence of scenes you have to look at or look away from, that instead it’s something to look at as you will, to walk around and see from different angles. Still always the same landscape, invariably, but perhaps quite a different view.
    “And how some other places to stand can be a lot more, ah, *useful* than others.”

    Her voice was very quietly reasonable as ever, but his own City-bred pugnacity was still rising.

    “You tell me I’ve got a percent or so of faery blood, that you’ve got a little more, and it predisposes both of us to see and act — differently. That’s a lot more than seeing a forest as elegant art, or as a stand of trees, or as firewood!”

    “Is that so much harder to accept than having, say,” (and her eyes defocused for just a second) “nine percent Neanderthal blood in place of Cro-Magnon?”
    (Her ears were quite visible, the way her hair was done up in three enamelled-brass combs. And quite visibly *not* pointed, just like his own.) “But that, too, can be so very much in how you see it. ‘You can make a heaven of Hell or a hell of Heaven,’ and all that rest.” The little golden orbs dangling from her earlobes swung as she talked, and he tried not to think “ball and chain” as he watched them; for some obscure corner of his mind found that thought somehow as inappropriate as a quickie in a cathedral, as if it blasphemed the very Sun.

    “This just goes round and round, Enya, as if there is *something* you’re trying to point to, but don’t quite know how. It’s been wonderful talking to you, this past half-hour or so, but I like walking in circles much better than talking in them.
    “Are you really trying to get me to believe in the Celtic Twilight, or in fairies, or in magic? Or just winding me up, prior to telling a few pub stories on the half-wit foreigner?”

    “Well, it’s really *not* like you can say some fiery words in Latin, or Persian, or Old Irish, or move your hand like this” — and she made a graceful gesture with her right hand moving rightwards across her body, fingertips opening like a flower and silver bracelet sparkling on her wrist — “and make things, ah, change. This is not the World of Harry Potter and there is no Hogwarts Academy.”

    “If there’s some great big secret to all of this, just tell me what it is! Tell me, if you *can* — so I’ll know if there is, so I’ll know there *isn’t* anything to believe or understand if you can’t.” He knew he sounded very American, very East Coast, very urban as he said it… but he still couldn’t help saying it, just that way. Challenging as it was.

    Eithne didn’t look disappointed, crestfallen, or upset. Perhaps a bit wistful, or maybe even more as if now simply resigned to a slight hope she’d once had departing.

    “All right. As you insist. This is how and this is why.”
    She started to move her hand again, quite evidently just as she had before.

    “No doubt,” she said, in a curiously flat and offhand and final way that still sounded so much like everything she’d said before.

    But this time subtly scintillating pastel trails of radiance glowed in the wake of her hand, and then she vanished in a greater burst of the same, leaving only Ciaran and the sunny bogscape behind when it departed swiftly in its turn.

    [With a tip o’ the hat to Patricia Monaghan, for her wonderful non-fiction book “The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog”]

  12. It was soooooo relaxing and enjoyable to read all of these after another seven-hour slog thru the cursed code. A heartfelt Thank You! to everyone who posted!

  13. Once more I had recourse to the dread Ritual of Power, by which I had already gained the treasury of Xamesardion, the love of the Princess Altessa, and victory over the Hordes of the Telphirim — though the price of each invocation was a year and a day of my life.

    Garbed in the scarlet robe I approached the pillar of iron and on it drew the Sign of Amphiaxis in my own blood.

    I performed the Lower Circumambulation and spoke the eleven syllables of the Antepenultimate Word.

    I performed the Middle Circumambulation and spoke the nineteen syllables of the Penultimate Word.

    I had performed the Highest Circumambulation and was preparing to speak the thirty-seven syllables of the Ultimate Word when doubt assailed me. Was this wisdom, or uttermost folly?

    After an hour’s pondering I spoke instead the Litany of Termination and erased the Sign.

    Returning to my chambers I mused, “There must be an easier way to get a decent cup of coffee.”

  14. After the elapsed time, I doubt that GWB was still expecting anything to come of this comment:

    GWB: RES? Orvan? Someone? This needs a filk of the old classic, Let’s Do It, done up in economic style.

    And, in truth, not much has. It is a few days late (I was “off somewhere” and “somewhen” – yes, more off than usual, thank you.) and this is a “first pass” so it’s likely rough at best. Still, this did happen. As to if that’s a good thing.. not my call. Anyway, here’s goes:

    Let’s Do It (with a twist of economics)

    Birds do it. Bees do it.
    Even properly educated fleas do it…
    Let’s.. stock up!

    It’s great fresh to dine.
    And grand fresh to sup.
    But there come leaner times,
    So it’s best to… stock up!

    In Spain, the best upper sets do it
    Lithuanians and Letts do it
    Any sensible person would do it.
    Venezuelans wish they
    could do it.
    Let’s do it, let’s stock up!

    The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
    Not to mention the Fins
    Folks in Siam do it – to feed those Siamese twins
    Some Argentines, of little means, do it
    Whilst on a budget, e’en Mr. Bean does it
    Let’s do it. Let’s stock up!

    The famed, fabled ant did it.
    Why, ev’ry successful plant did it!
    Naysayers might call it ‘hoarding’,
    But it’s mere sensible cup-boarding.
    Let’s do it. Let’s stock up!

    ‘Tis no great gal-lantry,
    To be caught with an empty pantry.
    To have more than almost enough,
    To cover for when times are rough,
    Let’s do it. Let’s… stock up!

  15. Sorry for using 316 words, but I would like to submit this.

    The man sat with his eyes closed breathing calmly. He was older, a hand full of light hairs spread around his dark haired scalp. Not even salt and pepper as he approached his half century mark.

    He focused to keep his breathing calm and heart rate slow and steady as he remembered the past, and the presence that arived in the mid of the night here. How when it came, all there had been was fear. Fear so strong it woke you from dreams, calm dreams, happy dreams. The fear not coming from the mind, but into it from outside the body.

    He had grown since then, learned of combat and war. Learned of the way that love itself could die.
    Learned of solitude, and of comradery. Lived almost a half decade of decades.

    His heart beat steady and slow, his breathing calm and light as the night chill settled around him, and the moon rose to it’s peak. He sat outside in the grass and then dew, instead of inside the protective bricks of the house this night.

    Then he felt it. It was still far off, but was approaching quickly. Fear and dread washed over him as he sat calmly. He used the feeling as a guage to how close it was. His heart and breath still calm and steady.

    It was there, and he knew. It was what had killed his grandfather, and step grandfather. Had driven his grandmother into insanity, and an old folks home, then had taken her life as well. It had caused the death of his mother as well.

    He knew it was barely a foot from him when he rose drawing the sword and axe from their coverings of leather and silk.

    He would kill it. He would end this reign of fear it held. Die he too might. But kill it, of that he had no doubt.

  16. So, what manner of creature is that, anyway? Merdusa? Mermed(or maid)usa? Medusermaid? Inquiring minds, well, one, anyway, want to know.