October Prompts

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Each October I write stories from a list of prompts (in 2021 assembled from art prompts, in 2022 my own #EmptyOctober prompts).

Long Forgotten

Rot, beautiful though it is, is merely one extant form of decay. Deep processes continue beneath the earth's crust in the same way as they do within any corpse, differing only in magnitude and result—

"Almost there, just another good hit—"

A pickaxe crashes against stone; the wall crumbles. Light breaks through for the first time in longer than the emptiness within can remember. It's dazzling, overwhelming—a dim lantern's glow magnified and refracted, burning through the countless crystals that line its walls—

"Holy shit! Hey, come look at this!"

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Beneath the Moon

Mouse creeps through the ruins on wary feet, careful of each step. There is so much here that she does not understand; so much that she has always been taught to fear. Etched plastic and fallen glass, the reaching bones of long-dead godlets—

Stillborn, or so she's always been told. Pathetic things reaching up towards the unattainable.

It doesn't matter to Mouse, not really; that was all long ago. All she needs to know is how to slip around whatever ancient hunger might yet linger within them—and that's so easy!

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The Comet

The ground is warm beneath Doll's back as she lies in the fire's ruins, its erstwhile host's half-frozen blood splattered all around her. Her skin is pristine; her witch's wrath was careful when that pitiful storyteller finally turned its teeth on her.

She enjoys the warmth with the same sad hunger as she might regard her last meal before execution, were she a thing which could die. There's precious little of it left in the world, and the false-sun's baleful eye leeches more away with each passing day.

It's finally quiet.

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It's growing cold, little one.

The fratricide-gorged false-sun miserly hoards its warmth, and its cold red light barely offers enough of a spark to light a fire. The sky is dim and grey, winter draping across the land with all of a funeral's finality.

What warmth there is comes from the earth: the swelling blooms of hydrothermal vents and frost-encrusted geysers, the self-destructive pulses of volcanoes popping like angry pimples. The last reserves of coal and oil, those old ghosts conjured up to suffer one last time.

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There's something wrong with the sun. It hangs in the sky like a cell caught mid-mitosis, embarrassed to be seen in such a flagrant state; the nighttime secrets which it has always hid in its lair beneath the sea finally dragged out into the day.

Doll stares up at it through a sheet of smoked glass, a jagged-edged thing salvaged from a wrecked limousine. It's already streaked with blood from the false-flesh that coats her carefully woven fingers, little candy-colored droplets fanning out in painful rivulets.

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Doll has always hated the subway. Each time she descends into those fetid, intestinal depths her skin prickles and her stomach roils; something deep in her unbeating heart recoils from the trains' steady rhythm.

But it's raining today, so she has to.

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"Stop touching that!"

"But missssss, it's so much fun, all nice and smooth with those jagged edges, and it's oozing! Look at it ooze!"

"That's fucking gross."

"You're just jealous that no one wants to break your arm!"

"Why would I—ugh, dolls …"

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"Hey, do you have anything for stomach aches?"

Doll, sitting behind the counter, doesn't glance up from her sketchbook. She's been doodling in it for hours, painting with the blood that still hasn't stopped dripping from her gums. She's having fun!

"Try aisle 3. Uh, the one with the big light-up skull. Don't listen to it, it's lying."

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Doll rinses and spits just like she's always been told to. Not too aggressively, not enough to drain her mouth of the taste of cold mint; just enough for comfort. Comfortingly routine.

But (of course there's a but) the sink growls at her as she spits.

For a long moment she doesn't realize that she's heard it. Her mind is so far away, yet not far enough to catch her eyes and hold them fast; her gaze sinks down as inevitably as any sunset.

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Light A Candle

Doll stumbles as she rushes home, one fine little foot caught in the cracked sidewalk, stone-teeth gnawing at protective leather. Her bag's too heavy today, rattling and clanking against her bruised hip; each step brings a fresh gasp of pain to her tightly sealed lips. Oh, if only she didn't have to hurry, if only she could take her time—!

But the sun's grasping rim is already teasing against the horizon, so far off across the sea that Doll's eyes can barely see the superheated steam which always veils those nightly indulgences; the sea is reaching up towards it and every clock in the city is about to chime out out the 19th hour's song and there's no time held in wait for her belated need.

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