The work on Asylum is making slow but steady progress, albeit in a backwards sort of way. As previously mentioned, I’m looking for beta readers for a small back story piece, taking place a couple thousand years before the events of Asylum. (Random, I know, but some important things happened back then that I simply have to figure out before I can move forward. I’ve been faking it til now, but I can’t anymore. Can’t be helped.) So I thought I’d share the opening, tentatively called “What Dreams May Come”. Let me know what you guys think!
Posted this to Tumblr the other day, thought I’d share here for you guys. It’s short written by Asylum’s co-author, and (as with most of her shorts) it’s super creepy. Enjoy! (Spoiler-free, non-main cast)
Her mother always told her to lock her doors when she drove anywhere at night. Lisa supposed it made sense, at least when she was in the city, but she had to admit, she didn’t always follow the rule when she was out in the country. Who was going to jump in her car when she was at one of the far between stop signs?
Still, she usually locked her doors out of habit.
One night she was on her way back to her parents house, a decent drive through the countryside. She was on a good straight stretch, so she glanced down to make sure her boyfriend Jake hadn’t texted her yet.
Glancing back up, she barely had time to hit her brakes for the dark shadow in the road.
Another blink of an eye, and the shadow was gone.
Heart pounding, she slowly pressed the gas again. This time she kept her eyes glued to the road, trying to see where the shadow had gone.
What had it been? Too big for a raccoon or opossum, but too compact for a deer… Maybe a small deer, or a small bear… did they even have bear around here?
Movement to her right made her glance over, and she screamed, hands jerking the wheel.
The shadow chuckled, one hand grabbing the steering wheel to gently straighten out their path.
She couldn’t breathe. Her heart was in her throat as she tried to figure out what that thing was…
Lisa thought about pulling over, but she’d just be stuck on the side of the road with it –
“Just keep driving. You’re lucky, you know.” The thing said amiably, as if she wasn’t about to pass out, “Of all the things to hitch a ride, I’m a pretty good catch. I just like to hitchhike a bit, chat a little, then I’ll be on my merry little way and you can go on yours.”
Her breath was coming in gasps, the car starting to slow as she’d stopped pressing the gas pedal.
The creature sighed, still casually steering one handed. “Come on, it isn’t that bad. I haven’t done a thing at all to you.”
The gas pedal pressed beneath her foot without her applying any pressure. The car picked up speed, and the creature hummed happily.
The passenger side window rolled down and the creature’s other arm dangled out the window to enjoy the cool night air.
“It’s a beautiful night for a drive. You should enjoy it. After all. You’ll get home just fine. You should probably listen to your mother though – didn’t she tell you to keep your doors locked at night? No telling who you might pick up by accident with an open invitation like that.”
She swallowed hard. There was no way this was what her mother had meant when she’d told her to lock her doors at night. No way.
But her heart was slowly easing it’s way back into her chest. The longer they drove, the more silly it became that she was freaking out so badly when nothing was happening.
“Wh- what are you?” She finally asked.
The creature clucked it’s tongue – not that she knew if it even had one. “That’s a bit of a rude question you know.”
“Sorry.” The apology was out by habit before she realized what she was talking to. “You know, it’s rude to catch a ride without being invited along too.”
“Ah ah. I was invited. An unlocked door is an open invitation. If your mother didn’t tell you that, then consider this a free lesson. You’re welcome.” It sounded so pleased with itself.
“You do this a lot?”
It hummed as it thought. “Not really, no, I just happened to be in the mood tonight.”
She thought about asking what else might have ended up in her car, but decided against it, just in case.
They passed another ten minutes in the car like that – mostly silence, but the occasional question or comment. Until the creature finally sat up. “This is my stop, just tap the brakes if you please and I’ll be on my way. It’s been a lovely ride.”
It turned towards her as she tapped her brakes. “You have a wonderful rest of your night and get home safely – remember, lock your doors this time.”
That last had an undertone of menace and she swallowed hard. “Yes, I will. You have a nice night too.”
“Oh I will.” She could have sworn there was a flash of teeth, then there was nothing. Just her and an empty passenger seat.
Lisa hit the gas as she hit the automatic locks on her doors. She pressed the limits of the road, but didn’t press too hard in case she wrecked. She still got home in record time.
As she sat in her parents’ driveway, she took one deep breath, then two.
A buzz made her jump, but she smiled to see it was her boyfriend. He’d be calling soon as he got off work.
She leaned back in her seat, then unbuckled. She must have been pretty tired – of all the things to imagine, a shadowy hitchhiker was pretty far out there. Maybe she’d been watching too many horror movies lately.
Lisa rolled up her window, then realized the passenger window was still down. She frowned, the bottom of her stomach rolling.
She had imagined it – hadn’t she?
You don’t know him yet, but Ruth is a young witch character from later books in Asylum. I follow a lot of prompt blogs on Tumblr, and I just sort of stumbled into this scene. So enjoy, but don’t hold your breath for sweetie Ruth. He won’t be around for quite a while. Sorry. (Spoiler free, for Asylum at least)
Ruth tapped his pencil against the desk in a rapid staccato. It was stupid to let nerves get the better of him, but he couldn’t help but feel all the curious stares, the judgmental glances, the not-so-hushed whispers. Beast lover, Fur-fucker, freak. That kid from Asylum. The one with the crazy magic. Fey touched. Animal sympathizer.
His mind blurred through the entire lecture, a buzz of nothing sounds he’d come to recognize as aura. His former classmates weren’t as expressive as his current nestmates, but their feelings were so strong and so unanimous–besides, he’d have known what they were thinking even without his newfound ability to read aura. He was an outcast.
But the buzz grew to bland background as the days went on, and though it was still distracting, it wasn’t nearly as bad as his disquiet in grade school had been. Then he’d be fighting overactive magic without knowing it. Now, he was just trying to catch up on a year out of school.
His notes were a mess. Out of practice, unable to focus, chittering gossip scratching at his skull. Thank the gods for the testing center. It was blissfully empty at 7 in the morning.
In the still, in the quiet, his mind emptied. He waited for clarity, but nothing came. No memories of lecture, no professor’s voice, no examples from class. His eyes glazed as he stared at the first question, but he took a deep breath and tried again.
Name three characteristics of a monocot. Parallel leaf veins, scattered vascular bundles, single cotyledon–hence monocot. Easy. He didn’t need any recent memory for this. He’d been studying at this level in high school.
Was he under doing it? The questions were simple, elemental, was he missing something? Yes, it was an entry level class, but wasn’t college supposed to be hard? Kain had told him to go into this with an open mind, but his aura hadn’t quite matched his words. Now, Ruth was wondering if this was what he meant.
This was pointless. No, that was rude– but it was. 30 minutes and he was done, and honestly already wanted to take his final. He could test out of this class in no time, and maybe move on to something more relevant.
Did he really want his certification? Did he really care if was allowed to operate in witch society ever again? He stood to make a lot of money– but did he? Fur-fucker. Animal sympathizer. Why was it the latter bothered him more?
No one would vet him. He knew that, had known that last year when he moved into the nest with Kate. He could do this the hard way, taking years upon years of schooling to become an inspector himself– but did he really care?
He turned in his bubble sheet, utterly unsurprised at the full marks that came up on the screen. He walked out into the blossoming sunrise in a daze, wondering where to go next.
I started this last month with a Tumblr post, just a collection of a few cultural quirks I knew about the various shapeshifter groups. It’s little details like that that make a world real to me.
l’den Jetta and Lemara would argue endlessly about the appropriate use of gems. Peridot or Citrine for openness in the family room. Lapiz or Amythest for the sweetest dreams. Everyone knew river rocks would protect an infant’s spirit, but brown or grey? But everyone knew, from Grandma Tala to baby Emry, that you touched the hematite studding the doorframe before entering anyone’s home. It was rude to bring an overabundant aura into another’s home.
Cera still wore a lump of it around her neck, a worrystone for when things got too intense.
The witches brought escargot to their first meeting with Rachel and the new wolves. Before anyone could even sit down, Seth pulled their leader aside.
“Let me explain to you the ways you are being rude. They are far, far different from the ways you intended.”
A young crow boy fancies a raptor girl. Even without the red shoulder flashes from her “big brothers”, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. Egging his car was just overkill. At least they hadn’t escalated it to anything physical though. He’d hate to embarrass them.
“I swear to god, Fen, no one showers more than you. You think I won’t stay the night if I get a whiff of how bad you stink? You can’t possibly have anything on my hormonal little brothers.”
Fenris watched the tigress sway away from him, sass in that ass even after the pounding she’d just taken. Damn she was fine. Not worth the beating he’d get if anyone caught the musk of cat on his breath, but still fine.
“Aww, damnit–Fen! Put some damned clothes on, would ya?”
Of course his roommate would come home right now. Of fucking course. Didn’t a tie on the door mean anything anymore?
“What does purple mean?”
Ence bounced from aunt to uncle, touching ribbons and knots, tucking flowers and leaves, planting hugs and kisses. Her father would scoop her up now and again, adding a twist and a tie, keeping her still with stories. His own mane was cropped short, as nearly all their clan wore here in the American land, but his tail still told a magnificent story.
He twirled a daisy against his little girl’s nose, enchanted by her giggle. “Purple is true love, my little one. I wear it for your mother, your brother, and you. Purple is our family, and our dearest heart.”
The last ring. Three orders of calamari later, and it came to a stare down over the last ring. Seth didn’t even want it, but Gwen had offered, and now they were at an impasse. To give your eijye food was honor, expected, but did the tigress see him as leader, or non-predator? He had to tread lightly.
“Ooh, poppers! Oh, blech! What the hell was that?”
Leave it to Bird to settle a delicate situation with barbarism.
I think it’s fitting to start the Outtakes with the serpents’ “In the beginning” story. This expounds on the video I did way back when. I’ve always loved world building, so when I found a character trained in the oral traditions of his people, I pounced. Many of these stories will be true across all shapeshifter cultures, but these will be told through the serpent lens, because it’s the group I know best. This little bit is his people’s In the Beginning story, though not quite the origin of serpent-kin. That will come later, I’m sure.
Before the Beginning, there was Nothing. There was Everything. There was Balance. This is the ARE. Everything that ever would be, even BEING, or NOT BEING, tomorrow and yesterday, all was held in perfect Balance. And ARE was still.
In perfect Balance, there is harmony, but there is no growth. There is no change. There would never be bad, because there was no good. The ARE saw all these things in itself, and longed to set them free, so that there might be Dance.
Within itself, the ARE sent a stirring. It found Darkness, and the ARE cast it wide and far, and saw that it was good. Now there was Nothing, and Nothing seeks to be filled.
Without its companion, Light began to know Cold, for without its other half, Light suddenly knew who it was, and what it needed to be whole. But there is no Darkness in Light, there is no Cold, so all Light could find within itself for company was Heat. Just a small spark, but Light fed it until it grew and grew and grew, but still, it could not complete the hole that Darkness had left behind.
Just as Light had, Darkness too became aware of its lack. It recalled Light and and Fullness and it too took a piece of itself, just a spark, and tried to find Heat and comfort. Each fed their sparks, each in their own way, and as they grew, they drew the attention of the other. Light sough out Dark’s sphere, and Dark sough the Light, and thus the dance of Night and Day did come to grace the sky.
And still, the Orbs grew. Light and Dark fed their spheres, and thus began the waxing and waning of the Sun and the Moon. Together, began to dance, each growing or flowing, taking turns ruling the sky and learning how one glorified the other, and slowly they recalled what it was to be complete.
And the ARE saw all this, and smiled. Here was Balance, here was Harmony, but here also was Growth, and Change, and LIFE, and it was good. The ARE touched the Light, and touched the Dark, and from them sprung Fire and Ice, Wind and Water, Earth and Spirit, and suddenly the Universe was bursting with life and all was good.
Look to your parents, the ARE told the world. Look to that from which you came for the secrets of Balance and Harmony. And so the Fire, and Wind and Spirit turned to the Light, and the Ice and Water and Earth looked to the Darkness, and together the Light and the Dark taught the dance of balancing, indeed, the same dance with which we greet the Dawn, in honor of the first dance of Day and Night.
NaNo prompts inspired this little short about Maleo’s first introduction to Asylum. Hopefully, more scenes like it are coming. Stay tuned. 🙂
Maleo couldn’t say what it was exactly about her that drew his attention. The fiery red curls, flying in the stage light, the perfect, creamy skin peeking out here and there with every shimmy– No, it was the innocence, the pure joyous laughter in her eyes as she danced. This angel had no idea she was beautiful, didn’t know what each twist of her hip and shake of her shoulders did to him. Doubtless did to every other hot-blooded male in the place. And a few of the females, if the ebony princess dancing beside her was any indication.She was pretty enough in her own right, and if Mal was reading their signs right, he could well imagine himself in the middle of their fire and coals embrace. But even as the thought riled him, it sickened him. Such a gentle girl, touched by such deviance…