The Price of Immortality – A Short Story Based on a Prompt #amwriting #asmsg

Happy Hump Day! For today’s post, I have decided to play with a story prompt. I have chosen the first one from an article on the blog Hobby Lark, in a post contributed by Moe Wood.

My little story is quick and rough but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on it so please share! Who knows, perhaps with your suggestions, I could turn it into a longer story?

**Doug stuck his hand in the box and immediately pulled it out. “Ow,” he said. He licked the side of his index finger as if it had honey on it…**

After nearly a decade of searching, he never expected his treasure would be quite like this. The box was smaller than he’d hoped but didn’t Cora always say the best gifts come in small packages? His frown deepened at the memory. She had said it just before he disappointed her with a box of chocolates for Christmas when she’d been hinting at an engagement ring.

He shrugged off the memory, rubbed his finger against his thigh, and carefully replaced the lid on the box. He’d made so many sacrifices to reach this goal. He knew it would be part of the price he’d pay so there was no sense in getting all sentimental over lost love. Besides, once he returned to Cora with the good news of his victory, she would surely forgive him. She, of all people, understood what was at stake which was precisely why he’d been so baffled by her reaction.

A single drop of water dripped from the roof of the cave. Doug watched it splash next to the ground, transfixed by its delicate beauty in the candlelight. He felt as if in his haste, he’d missed some important piece of the puzzle but he couldn’t imagine what? Perhaps it was the hollowness he felt at knowing Cora should be at his side sharing this moment?

With trembling arms, he picked up the box and began carrying it down the dimly lit corridor. Fatigue filled his body but he wasn’t in any hurry. Not any longer.

Now, in his hands, he possessed the secret ingredient to grant him eternal life. He’d slain dragons to obtain it. The only thing that remained was to deliver his prize intact to the witch in order to convert its energy to his gift.

Suddenly, a foul stench filled his nostrils and his belly threatened to empty. He sensed the presence of the demon before he saw it and he knew it was too late to shrink into the shadows unseen. The figure emerged from the darkness, its glowing red eyes the only hint at its inhumanity.

“What do you have in the box?” the demon said in a deep voice which bounced off the cave walls. Doug took a careful step back.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?” He raised an eyebrow. “Such careful attention for nothing.”

“My… girlfriend requested this token, a symbol of my devotion…” Doug choked. Cora had always teased him for being a terrible liar so why did he believe he had any hope of fooling a demon? His chances were better of defeating the vile thing by more physical means except he couldn’t seem to muster the energy.

“Your girlfriend doesn’t seek immortality.”

Doug felt as if his body temperature dropped. His hands trembled so fiercely he could barely hold the box. Was it his imagination or had it become much heavier since his unwelcome companion approached? He considered the path ahead and wondered if he dared such a bold move, could he outrun the demon? Even though the entity appeared passive, almost bored, Doug wasn’t fooled.

The demon moved closer and Doug held his ground as he clutched the treasure close to his racing heart. With a long, lazy finger the demon stroked the edge of the lid in thoughtful contemplation.

“A mortal must work exceedingly hard to uncover the secrets we bury deep in the caves of the Cartid Mountains. The fact that you have managed such a feat gives me a reason to reflect on your worthiness of such a prize.”

“I… believe I am… worthy.”

The demon held up a hand and it was as if Doug’s legs lost the ability to hold him. He fell with a thud to the ground and watched in horror as the box toppled from his grasp, falling end over end until it finally settled at the demon’s feet.

He’d worked too hard and had come too far to give up now. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and attempted to summon the power within him to block the dark magic but it was no use. His hands quivered in exhaustion and dropped in defeat. Instead, he reached out to grab the box but the demon was already one step ahead of him and he planted a large black boot on his hand, mashing it into the floor of the cave. Doug sucked in his breath as the bones crunched under the demon’s weight.

“Writhing, sniveling snake in the mud,” the demon taunted, “Have you no brains in that head of yours? You cannot overpower me.”

“What do you want?” As soon as the weight lifted from his hand, he clutched it to his chest and fought to hold back tears. Immortality would bring the absence of pain. Until then, he must remain strong and resilient.

“What do I want?” The demon considered this as if it hadn’t occurred to him before that he should want anything at all. “What are you prepared to offer?”

“Anything…”

“Even the one thing you hold dearest to your heart?”

Doug didn’t answer. His breath came out in hollow rasps. He was fighting a losing battle. White spots filled his vision and with his good hand, he swiped at beads of sweat on his brow.

His life he’d lived simply with just one goal – uncover the secrets to gain eternal life. Because of this, he prided himself on a detachment to material possessions. Truly anything he owned, even of value, he could do without. This must be some trick. The dark figure loomed over him, waiting for a response.

“Anything in my possession to give you, it is yours. Take all of it,” Doug said. It was a fair trade for this precious gift of life when he’d have a dozen lifetimes to secure whatever he needed. He’d already paid his greatest price.

The demon snickered. “Very well then.” He kicked the box carelessly toward Doug who scooped it delicately into his arms, no longer concerned with his broken hand.

Spreading his arms wide, the demon muttered an incantation and vanished.

For a full five minutes, Doug did not dare to move. When he was finally sure the demon would not return, disappointed that Doug had nothing of value to trade, he mustered the strength to pull himself to his feet and complete his journey.

**

Doug could barely believe his fortune. By the next full moon, he’d secured his goal with the help of the witch and could barely contain his excitement in sharing his prize with his beloved. In haste, he journeyed to the old village he once called home and rapped eagerly at her door, impatient for an answer. In his pocket, he carried a small, velvet box containing the ring he’d carefully selected for this occasion.

No matter how many demons or dragons he’d faced, nothing prepared him for this moment and the agony he would endure in anticipation of Cora’s response. In order not to prolong the suffering, he fell to one knee the moment the door slowly opened. Except, he didn’t realize until he looked up that it wasn’t Cora who had answered. An elderly woman stood staring at him with wide, curious eyes. Sadness darkened her features and Doug wondered if he should remember the old woman from his past.

“Is Cora here?” He got up and brushed off his slacks, feeling a little embarrassed for rushing into his proposal.

“Cora? She no longer lives here.”

“Oh…” He felt it then. The heat surrounding him, the scratching at the back of his mind. If he listened closely, did he hear the demon’s laughter? “Where might I find her?”

“She’s gone,” the old woman said sadly.

Doug felt his throat begin to close, his heart racing. This couldn’t be true.

“Gone where?”

The old woman shrugged. “Simply vanished one day into thin air.”

He had so many questions but the old woman wasn’t interested in answering them. She closed the door and left him standing, broken and beaten.

Gone.

To his left, he caught a glimpse of movement. A dark figure disappeared from view just as he turned to face it.

The demon had taken her, he was certain of it. Anger raged inside him. Cora wasn’t a possession. He wasn’t free to trade her life for the box. The deal was unfair and Doug refused to accept it.

“Damn you,” he said raising a fist to the air, “I will find you and you will pay!”

Again, he heard the faintest of laughter in the distance. Taking to his horse in a hurry, he set off in the direction of its sound determined to free his beloved.

**

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Waking Fire Third Week Update

Even slow progress is still progress which is what I keep reminding myself this week. I’ve still not quite pushed past the midpoint of my story but I’m teetering on that edge with 28,326 words. I anticipated I would need to put aside the writing for at least a day or two because of family issues I anticipated this week but I underestimated how big an emotional toll those issues would take on me. Once I hit Monday, my writing ceased and if I write much at all today, it will be dabbling just keep my forward momentum. The setback was inevitable but I’m not letting it slow me down and by Thursday this week, I expect to be back into regular writing routine.

Aside from that, I’ve also started hitting those middle part ‘blahs’. By the 9th chapter I felt like everything I wrote was the same. Was it because I already mapped out the story ahead of time and therefore had no big surprises? Or did the pacing feel slow because it inevitably takes longer to write than to read? I see a lot of areas where I will need revisions – dull descriptions, overused words, etc. My enthusiasm started waning and some days it felt like I was pushing myself just to get the words on the page and because of that I worry about how much I will end up cutting when it comes time to start revisions.

Then again, my head was not really in the best place because of the family issues looming closer so perhaps those chapters I wrote before all the dust settled are more a reflection of my anxious state of mind? Let’s hope!

I wrote the first draft of my book description but I expect this to go through many more revisions before it’s worthy of sharing. The first draft wreaks of melodrama and made me realize I don’t have a very clear vision of the overarching series antagonist. This is something that may become clearer as I finish writing the book I’m writing or it may be something that requires a little extra work to uncover before the first book is complete.  I’ll worry about that next week.

In the meantime, I will continue to push forward on the first draft because I still feel it’s a worthwhile endeavor and hopefully I will have better progress to report next week!

Back to dabbling… I stalled out on chapter ten where I’m expecting the first love scene so this should certainly prove an interesting place to pick up the pen and start again.

Waking Fire Begins in August

Where did the summer go? August is here and the haze and humidity of late summer brings new writing adventures. I’ve been daydreaming, planning, and outlining the first book in my new series for quite some time now but because of prior commitments, I wasn’t able to devote the time to start writing until now.

I  completed a seven-page outline by the end of July, just in time to roll up my sleeves and get cooking. It’s kind of like Nanowrimo, except a lot lonelier. You know, instead of the comradery of completing lofty word goals as a collective group, I’m standing alone in an empty chamber listening to my voice echo off the walls. “Anyone there?”

Nonetheless, I’ve attempted to create a progress bar which should be on display on the right hand column of my blog. (If it’s not, well, something apparently went wrong with the gobblety gook, as I so affectionately term the computer language, or my ability to update the tracker. Either is just as likely.)

The series is still untitled but I’m hoping the writing will spark ideas. The working title for the first book is Waking Fire. At the time of writing this post, I’m not in love with that title but it’s growing on me.

My goals for the month are ambitious. I have set out to write at least 60,000 words before the 31st. I figure if I average 3,000 words per day (which is totally doable when I follow an outline and a clear path) during a normal five-day work week, I should finish in time. Of course, I say this overlooking the fact that the kids won’t start school until the end of the month. Inevitably, life will throw wrenches at me and my foolish plans. (ha) Whichever way the wind blows, however, look for updates on the story progress once per week, on Wednesdays.

So far, I’m only on day two. Enthusiasm and optimism are still high. I’ve completed the first two chapters with 6,343 total words combined and I’m eager to jump into chapter three but holding myself back because I don’t want to burn myself out in the first week. The fact that I’ve thought so much about the characters helps a lot. It’s almost a relief to finally get it all down on the page.

I’m well known for diving into stories with great gusto only to run out of steam somewhere around the middle, completely lost. There are so many stories I once loved that now sit on my computer abandoned and unfinished.

This time, I’m determined to keep that from happening. Even if the story gets a little muddled or takes longer to write than I hope, I’ll keep pushing forward and shove those perfectionist tendencies back in the closet where they belong, hidden behind the winter coats. They can come back out later when it’s time to crack the knuckles and start rewrites in September.

So, until next Wednesday… Back to Writing!

I’m Shooting Cupid – A Fun Valentine’s Day Excerpt

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“It’s done.” Riley slumped down into the chair across from her boss’s desk without waiting for an invitation. She ignored the look of annoyance on his face. What was he going to do? Fire her? She was the best he had and he knew it. She knew what she could get away with.

“Riley Evans,” he said with a sigh, “Just the girl I needed to see.”

“Rick and Pam are a done deal. I want that promotion you promised me. You owe me, Frank.”

“You’ll get the promotion.”

“I sense a ‘but’ here? I don’t like when there is a ‘but’.”

Frank sat forward in his desk folding his hands as he looked at Riley with his serious expression. She hated the serious expression. It meant there was something on his mind she wouldn’t like.

“I’ll walk out that door right now if you don’t give me what you promised.” Riley indicated the back of the door which was partially opened. On opaque glass was black letting spelling out the letters C.U.P.I.D., the special top secret government agency for which Riley had worked for far too long already. She wasn’t sure what waited for her on the other side of that door but she’d put up with Frank’s B.S. long enough to know she was ready to make good on her threats. “It’s in my god-damned contract.”

Frank might have caved except he also knew how much Riley depended on that paycheck. She watched him suspiciously as he sat back to open his top drawer and pull out the little slip of paper with her name on it. She silently cursed under her breath for not signing up for direct deposit when she’d had the chance. She hated giving anyone power over her, especially one with morals as scrupulous as Frank.

“The thing is Riley. You have skills and we need that. And as I understand it, you need us as much as we need you.”

“Spit it out, Frank. What is it this time? You know I deserve that promotion. You’ve been dangling it in front of me for too long now. If there is a reason you’re holding back then I need to hear it so get on with it already.”

“Victoria has made unexpected progress this month.”

“Victoria,” Riley grumbled. Victoria had been a thorn in her side since the moment she walked through that office door. She was the only agent whose skill and tenacity even came close to Riley’s. “Victoria started a full year after I did and I’m better at what I do. I don’t care if she’s learned how to shoot hearts out her ass. That promotion is mine. You promised me.”

The promotion is yours as soon as you carry out this one last assignment,” Frank said with a sigh.

Riley laid her head back and stared at the ceiling as she tried to keep her frustration in check. Killing Frank, albeit satisfying as it may be, would not get her where she needed to be.

“I’ve heard that before.”

“I mean it this time. Handle this one and the promotion is yours. I will even throw in an extra bonus on top.”

That got her attention. She lifted her head to peer at her boss, trying to determine whether the asshole was telling her the truth this time. Unfortunate for Frank, he was a pretty easy read. He tugged at the neckline of his collared shirt, beads of perspiration on his forehead, both good indications that Frank was involved in something he didn’t like.

“This is important to you,” she said.  cupid

“Yes, and it should be important to you, if you value your career.”

“So what’s the deal Frank? Get into bed with the wrong bimbo again? Her husband threatening to end your existence once and for all unless you set things right in the world, starting with their loveless marriage?”

“No,” he said, clearly annoyed with her accusations. She nodded, noting that he didn’t exactly deny it either. As far as bosses were concerned, there were worse in the world than Frank but she sure as heck wouldn’t want to be married to the scum bag. She often wondered how his wife of thirty years had put up with him for so long. No doubt his profession had a little helping hand in that respect too. “Not this time.”

“Uh-huh,” she said completely unconvinced. “So what is it then?”

Frank got up and went over to a safe he kept hidden behind a picture frame. Riley rolled her eyes. The man was a walking cliche. But her attention was piqued. Most of the files ended up in the filing cabinets outside his office, under the not-so-great watch of his secretary, Betsy. Only the top tier, super important ones found their way into the safe. Someone didn’t want anyone to find out about this particular job. Whatever their reasons, Riley didn’t care. There were so many anti-C.U.P.I.D. protest groups nowadays that she had a feeling secrecy was going to start being the new norm anyway. The important part to her was the fact that top secret usually translated into top pay.

He slapped the file down on the desk in front of her and she reached over to take it. Before she could pick it up, his hand came down over hers. She felt her skin crawl at his touch.

“This is between you and me,” he said, “You breath a word of it to anyone else and there will be consequences. Dire consequences. Am I clear?”

“Crystal,” she said wrinkling her nose. She’d say anything to get her hand back.

His smell filled his nostrils. The man needed a bath and an entire stick of deodorant under each arm pit.

“One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m assigning you a partner to help with this case.”

“No, Frank. You know I only work alone.”

“Yeah, yeah, but this time you’re making an exception. Like I said, you have skills and it’s about time you begin sharing those skills with our less experienced agents. Just last week I handled five end-of-love cases all because new agents are screwing up.”

“That’s not my problem. No exceptions, Frank. Whatever this is, I can handle it. You know that. I don’t need help and I don’t train newbies. They’ll just get in my way.”

“I’m sorry, Riley, but it’s either accept the terms or I’ll have to give it to someone else.”

“Someone else?” she said raising her eyebrows and yanking her hand free from his. As if there was anyone else he could trust to carry out this mission. “Fine. Do that. Give it to Victoria for all I care.”

“Come on Ri. Don’t leave me hanging here. This one pays better than any job you’ve done for me before. You need the money. You need that promotion.”

“That’s not fair, Frank. I’ve earned that promotion. You can’t take it away from me just because I won’t make an exception.”

“Last time I checked, it was my name on that door, which makes me the boss. I can do whatever the hell I want.”

Riley got up to leave. One thing she refused to do was bargain, especially with the likes of Frank.

“Fine,” she said, feeling the weight pull down on her shoulders, “Have it your way then. No deal.”

“You walk out that door and I call Victoria right now with the good news.”

“What?”

She spun around on her heels, ready to leap on the loser and pound some sense into him with her fists if she had to.

“You heard me. The promotion is hers. Victoria is willing to do a hell of a lot more to earn it.”

Riley felt her skin crawl again at the implication. She happened to know for a fact it was true. She’d already caught Victoria and her boss together once. It was an image she’d have forever burned in her mind despite all her attempts to erase it.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve after all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve done for C.U.P.I.D.”

“Don’t go getting all emotional on me now. You and I both know you need the money and I need you to help guide a wayward agent who happens to show great promise. You’ve got to help me out here, Ri, and I’m not playing games.”

Riley turned back to the door but when she went to grasp the handle, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She thought about Charlie. What would happen if she couldn’t keep the money coming? She shuddered and realized like it or not, Frank had her bent over with her pants down. She couldn’t afford to tell him no. If nothing else, her ego wouldn’t let her give slimy Victoria the upper hand.
When she turned back to him, he was smiling. Damn it if he didn’t know he had the upper hand, too.

She snatched the file off the desk and thumbed through it. Nothing about it struck her as particularly remarkable or difficult. She shrugged. There were probably a million and one questions she could ask about why this particular case warranted such extreme measures but she’d already wasted enough of her time in Frank’s presence and she was tired and in need of a hot bath and a bottle of wine.

“I’ll leave you to sign off on the paperwork with Betsy,” he told her, “And she’ll give you the arrangements to meet with Madison, the trainee.”

“Just this once,” Riley said forcing her blood to stop boiling, “because I don’t need no stinking sidekick.” She could almost feel the steam coming out of her ears like the Saturday morning cartoons she’d watched as a kid.

“Just this once,” Frank agreed. He put out his hand to shake which she did reluctantly. “And Ri, you won’t regret this. I’ll make sure of it.”

“Yeah, yeah” she said turning her back on him. “And don’t call me Ri.”

Weekend Writing Warriors #8Sunday – She is Gone

spooky bedroom

Happy Sunday! Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where several authors join together to share 8 to 10 sentences of a current work-in-progress or recently published book.

My snippet today comes from my WIP currently titled Love Spell.

**

A noise in the house caught his attention. He stopped and listened but all he heard was the sound of the wind whistling against the windows. He took a deep breath and tried to concentrate but his only focus was the prickling of his skin. That strange sensation of electricity in the air was back again. Feeling a little spooked, he decided to check on Abigail to make sure she was okay.

The wind seemed unusually loud, howling around him and filling his ears. Something wasn’t right. The sensation overwhelmed him and hurried his footsteps toward Abigail’s bedroom. When he opened the door, his fears were confirmed.

“Abigail?” he whispered into the eerie glow of the night light.

**

For a list of participating authors, be sure to visit http://www.wewriwa.com

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share your thoughts and visit again next week. 🙂