A roar, a crackling burst of flame, and a yelp brought Dana abruptly out of her book. She looked up to see Yasmin scowling at Wildflash, who flicked her tail and turned her back pointedly on her trainer.
“Fine, I give up,” Yasmin grumbled, stomping away and hurling to the ground the gently smoking bridle she’d spent the last three days trying (unsuccessfully) to slip over Wildflash’s head.
“I’m not saying I told you so…” Dana murmured, shutting her book.
Yasmin shot her a venomous look and threw herself down upon the grass beside her friend. “Dragons are meant to be ridden,” she snarled. “Wildflash is just…stubborn.”
Said dragon ruffled her wings languidly before settling down on her forelegs, stretching out her neck, and to all appearances sinking into a nap in the sun, which made her dark green skin glitter like starlight was captured in their ridges.
“Not unlike her owner,” Dana wryly remarked.
Yasmin sighed and buried her face in her hands. “No one ever said bridle-training dragons would be this hard,” she moaned.
Dana snorted. “Actually, you’ll find that I did. Several times.”
Yasmin kicked her in the shin, which Dana conceded she rightfully deserved and didn’t bother trying to dodge. “Give it some time,” she told her friend, patting her arm comfortingly. “Wildflash is...well. Wild. She’s not like your dad’s stock, born and bred to be trained. You need to give her time to lose some of her feral-ness.”
“I know,” Yasmin sighed, letting her hands drop. “It’s just—nobody thinks I can do this. I don’t want to prove them right.”
“Well I think you can do this,” Dana said. Yasmin raised an eyebrow in disbelief, and then it was Dana’s turn to scowl. “I do. I just didn’t think you’d get her rider-ready as fast as you wanted, that’s all!”
I’ve waited for this for so long: my own apartment.
It took so many months of carefully saving up, of working crazy hours at both my jobs, of sacrificing opportunities that would’ve cost money to have or partake in, opportunities that would’ve delayed this moment...when I walk into my new apartment and see the enormous windows, east and west facing so I get sunlight all day long, the bare walls, the expanse of uncarpeted floor, the doors leading to a small bedroom and a full bathroom, the arch leading to the kitchen.
I set the last of my boxes down and let myself grin wide and manic.
Finally, finally, I have my own home! A place just for me, that I can decorate how I like, that I can fill with music at whatever volume and of whatever genre I want, where I can stack all my many books on shelves I have yet to put up, where I can cook whenever I want no matter how smelly and leave the dishes for as long as I can stand.
Maybe even get a cat. Maybe even get two.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to own anything in my life, not even my car, which got me everywhere I needed to go, which gave me freedom and mobility I hadn’t had before and sometimes wondered if I ever would.
Look at me now though: I own this place. It’s mine. And nobody can take it away from me. It's the beginning of a whole new life, and my future is wide open and full of possibility!
That same night, I settle onto my couch, tired but pleased and most of the way unpacked, turn on the news...and find out that the worldwide pandemic we’ve been suffering under for the past three years has evolved its worst strain yet.
And now we’ve got a zombie outbreak on our hands.
Just my luck. Guess it's a good thing I love this place then; I won't be able to risk leaving it for a long, long time.
“You have no proof that he ever existed. It was just a dream, Phillipa.”
But Phillipa had known it to be true, known him to be real. She didn’t need to offer anybody proof. She didn’t even need it to reassure herself; her memories were enough. She trusted herself enough.
And at long last--at long last—she’d found her proof, even if it had taken her a hundred and twelve years, terrible magic, and the sacrifice of her mortality to get it.
She cut down the last layer of enchanted, thorned ivy with her charmed sword to reveal the door on the other side. A word of command had it swinging open, and then she was through to the castle. And inside, they all slept. Servants and dogs and lords and ladies, in the courtyard and in the halls and along the staircases, untouched by time, preserved as they had been in the moment when the spindle had done its evil work.
Phillipa passed them all. She knew where to go. Knew where she'd find him. All she had to to was climb the stairs of the tallest tower and step through the open doorway.
And there he lay upon the bed, as beautiful as she remembered him. His hair golden as the sun at dawn. His cheeks flushed as twin roses. And that mouth—sweet and familiar and lax in his sleep.
Breathless, exultant, she crossed over to him, sank down upon the bed to hold his limp, warm hand in her own.
“Briar,” she whispered though he couldn’t hear her except, perhaps, in his dreams. “I’ve found you. I’ve come back to you.” Leaning forward, she swept a stray curl from his brow, smiled tremulously, though she'd almost forgotten how to after so, so long. “You’ll be free now,” she promised him. “You’ll be mine.”
And so saying, she bent forward, pressed her lips to his--
And fell asleep with a gentle sigh, curled against her beloved.
James wakes up on a Tuesday morning like any other and goes about his usual routine: blearily quieting his alarm, stretching with a groan and gently dislodging the purring weight of his cat from his chest, stumbling out of his room and to the bathroom. It’s only after he’s finished washing his hands and grabbed his toothbrush that everything goes careening into--not normal.
I need you, is written on his mirror in what appears to be blood.
Behind it, his reflection, all wide eyes and messy hair standing every which way. James blinks, makes to rub at his face with a fist as though it'll make the words disappear and only succeeds in nearly gouging his eye out with the toothbrush he’s still holding.
Muttering a curse, he sets it down on the corner and glares at the writing on his mirror.
“No,” he says aloud. “Go away. I’m retired.”
So saying, he marches out of the bathroom to get the glass cleaner from under the kitchen sink and a paper towel, returning to spray the mirror liberally and scrub the message away. It comes off easily. It might be blood, it might not be; either way, it’s gone. He tosses the paper towel in the garbage bin and goes about cleaning his teeth and his face and his hair, all the while glaring at the mirror (and thus, his reflection).
The rest of the day goes on as it was meant to. He makes breakfast for himself and feeds the cat. He gathers his laptop and wallet and keys and bag, and leaves for work. At around seven in the evening, he returns, greets his meowing cat with a scritch of her head, dumps his things on the couch, and sets about reheating leftovers for dinner.
He eats, he watches the latest episode of his favourite cooking show, he messages his mom, he yawns. He changes into pyjamas, and finally gives in, and goes to the bathroom. With mounting trepidation, he turns on the light and—bracing himself—checks the mirror.
And there the message is again. I need you.
“You need someone else,” he says firmly. “I don’t deal with the dead anymore! I made that very clear three years ago! Stop defacing my mirror.”
He sprays it with the cleaner. He wipes at the message.
It doesn’t budge.
James sighs explosively, glares at it, and throws his hands in the air. “You can’t make me,” he says, conscious that he sounds like a sulky toddler and not caring one wit.
After all, the last time he tried to help a ghost, he ended up killing a living, breathing human being.
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Featuring prompt fills, excerpts from my wips, posts about my writing process, and more.