❝My family lives near the siren camp. One day, we will learn how they make their strange blue fires, the Seaflame that burns even underwater.❞
For now, we must respect the boundaries and the danger they pose to us. We go through the world deafened by cotton and soft wax in our ears, so they may sing without ensnaring us. We learn to speak to each other with the hand signs one of my grandfathers, who has long lost his hearing, teaches us, and develop it further, for they are mostly old soldiers’ signs. We go out paired with our hounds, who alert us to what we cannot or do not notice with one of our senses so restrained.
And we never, ever swim in the waters, never even approach the shores without a partner on the watch, ready to pull us out of the clutches of any sirens who become hungry. Bathing is done using the streams that lead into the loch or the rainwater we collect.
For all that they can and will eat us, given the opportunity, they are not bad neighbours. They do not bother us if we do not bother them, their presence keeps us safe from other trouble (for their songs lure and trap the monsters of the woods beyond the plainslands just as well as they do humans), and they trade us fish and kelp and other bounties of the sea for the things we make, like combs and baskets and nets, for they seem to be fascinated by our tools and craftsmanship.
And one day, one day, they will trust us enough to share the secret to, and a spark of, their Seaflame, and we will never suffer the cold and wet of winter again.
Fictober is a challenge where writers respond to a prompt a day for the whole of October.
This year's prompts are from Deep Water Prompts on tumblr.
❝There’s a spirit sparkling just above the barn.
“It’s beautiful,” I say.
“It’s blinding me,” says Mama, pushing me out the door. “Go shoo it elsewhere.”❞
Mama’s always got her priorities straight, unlike me. I get distracted, sticking my nose places just to sniff the different scents out. Which is, she says fondly, only to be expected, and I’ll grow out of it as I grow up—or at least, learn to be wiser about it.
I pad towards the side of the barn, where it’s crooked enough for me to scamper up the walls to the roof with ease. The spirit is still where I left it, and it doesn’t shift as I stalk towards it, squinting my eyes against its brightness and moving carefully, conscious of the long drop on either side, the breeze tugging at me.
“Spirit!” I call up to it.
The spirit flickers and flashes, a conflagration of floating light, like a rainbow that is also a cloud that is also a ball of heatless fire. Like the sun, but far closer and prettier. It doesn’t really move, but I get the sense that it’s looking at me, even though it doesn't have eyes like mine or any other creature’s eyes that I know of.
❝“Are you a Vessel?” I ask, weak and wary, but starving.
He gives me an evil grin.
“Why don’t you find out?”❞
This mortal means to cause me trouble, I can tell. He thinks he can handle me, thinks he can bind me and bend me to his will. He’s not the first to think so, and he won't be the last. And weak as I am right now, he may be right. But as I grow in strength, so will I grow in power. He will subjugate me—but only for a short time.
I study him, trying to gauge how much harm he’ll cause before I’ll be able to wrest control back from him. He’s not my preferred choice of Vessel—I don’t tend to go for murderers; they garner too much attention, and I prefer to remain unnoticed. But then again, I don’t have much choice.
❝Everyone warns me the Bone Beach is not what it sounds like. They say there’s no point in visiting, that no one understands its strange name.❞
It looks like a regular beach—pale water under the persistently cloudy skies lapping at the slightly pebbly sand at a regular rhythm, washing up the occasional piece of driftwood. It’s utterly empty, and remains so the whole time I’m there, even though the town’s just beyond the ridge leading to this beach. My only company is the v-formations of birds heading to warmer climes that pass overhead, calling mournfully to each other.
I set up camp out of reach of high tide, and I only leave to get necessities, like food that I don’t have to cook on my campfire or camping stove, or a hot shower at the community centre. On one such excursion, a few days after I arrived, I asked some of the locals why the beach was empty. Sure it was the tail-end of fall, so I wasn’t expecting swimmers, but I hadn’t even seen anyone out walking their dogs or enjoying a stroll.
Well they do nowadays, anyway, but it’s a trend that first started with me and Seph.
See, I bring the dead back for a fee and for a cost, which are two different things. The fee is my going rate of three gold coins per body—real gold, mind you, though I don’t care about when or how they were minted. The cost though; that’s not about me, that’s about the necromancing.
I bring back someone who’s died, who’s been to the Other Side, and not only that, but I bring them back in their original body, no matter how far along in the decomposition process it is.
(Hey, I’m a necromancer, not a rejuvenator. They charge a hell of a lot more than I do and for good reason.)
❝When I was only small, I forgot how to sleep. The town council said it wasn’t my fault, that they had the perfect job for me.❞
The Exterminator needed an apprentice, they said. He was remembering how to sleep, so it was imperative that he train up a replacement before it was too late.
“You’ll be perfect,” they told me.
My parents didn’t really have a choice but to let me take the job. It was that or have me suffer from sleep deprivation and let our town be overrun.
Now I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, there’s always an Exterminator and it’s always someone who doesn't sleep, either because they can't or because they've forgotten how to.
It's once again my favourite month of the year, October! And as I did in 2019 and in 2021, I'm dedicating this month to writing short responses to various prompts. However, I'm not using the original Fictober prompts; instead I'm going to pull inspiration from the wonderful Deep Water Writing Prompts over on tumblr!
Every day (if all goes to plan), I will write a short post responding to a different prompt from that blog, with source links and any relevant images. The beginning of this month crept up on me, but luckily, I have Day 1 already prepared, so keep an eye out for that!
I hope you're having a wonderful October. Are you doing any writing or reading challenges? Let me know!
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Featuring prompt fills, excerpts from my wips, posts about my writing process, and more.