Happy New Year!
A little early, but I figure most people will read this tomorrow, so it works.
We did a bit of clearing out today – going through our downstairs bookcases and weeding out the things we’re never going to read again (or for the first time, in the case of several books that looked interesting but didn’t grab us enough to make it past the first few pages.)
Here’s a picture, prior to taking them all over to Good Will. (Oh, and a tea-maker, too!)
Keep in mind, though – that’s only from the downstairs bookcases!
So, on another note, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, long and short term, and I’ve got assorted plans, but as we’re going over to a friend’s house soon, I think I’ll post the details tomorrow.
In the meantime, Happy New Year, and may 2012 be a wonderful and bountiful year for all of us!
“Look, Voan! It’s a gap! I wonder where it goes.”
Iffith peered intently at a patch of air, but it looked just like any other to Voan.
“It’s not the season for gaps,” he said. “You’re imagining things.”
Iffith shot him a disbelieving glance before looking back at the same spot. “You can’t see this?” he asked.
Voan rolled his eyes. “No, and neither can you. Now come on, or we’ll be late for Ferr Nolan’s lesson.”
“Grandfather did say that some people couldn’t see them.” Iffith smirked. “Force-blind.”
Voan bristled at the insult, especially since Ferr Nolan had just confirmed the diagnosis two nights ago. Not that Iffith should know about that. “Fine,” he snapped. “If you’re so talented, then show me it’s there. Stick your hand through. Maybe something will do me a favor and bite it off.”
Iffith grinned. “I’ll do you one better. I’ll stick all of me through!” He reached out a hand and slid it down through the air as if parting a curtain. Then, eyes locked on Voan’s, he took a step and disappeared.
“Dung…” Voan winced at the thought of how insufferable Iffith was going to be from now on. He put on a bored look, so that Iffith at least wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing him surprised or impressed once he came back.
A minute passed, and then another, and the careful look of boredom shifted into a more honest expression of annoyance.
“Hurry it up, Iffith!” He had no idea if one could hear voices across a gap, but they really were going to be late if he didn’t come back soon. “Iffith!”
He gulped, and took a few steps until he stood in the scuffmarks left by Iffith’s feet. Then he felt around in the air, trying to feel the edge of the gap, even if he couldn’t see it.
It was no use though. The gap, and Iffith, were gone.
“Look, Voan! It’s a gap! I wonder where it goes.” Iffith peered intently at the strange twist of energy hanging in the air just off the path.
“It’s not the season for gaps,” Voan said, walking past. “You’re imagining things.”
Iffith shot him a disbelieving glance before looking back at the same spot. “You can’t see this?” he asked.
Voan stopped and rolled his eyes in that superior way Iffith hated. “No, and neither can you. Now come on, or we’ll be late for Ferr Nolan’s lesson.”
Iffith stared at him a moment, then realized what that had to mean. No more superior attitude for Voan. “Grandfather did say that some people couldn’t see them,” he said, smirking. “Force-blind.”
The other youngling bristled at the insult, and Iffith knew he had struck a nerve. “Fine,” Voan snapped. “If you’re so talented, then show me it’s there. Stick your hand through. Maybe something will do me a favor and bite it off.”
Iffith grinned. “I’ll do you one better. I’ll stick all of me through!” He reached out a hand and slid it down through the air as if parting a curtain. Then, eyes locked on Voan’s, he stepped sideways into another world.
Depending on whose point of view I choose, and whose part of the story I follow, I can wind up with two very different stories!
Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s “Christmas in a strange place” challenge, although I’m too late to enter. I first read it as “Christmas is a strange place,” and it got me to thinking that even home can be strange, given the wrong circumstances.
Happy Holidays to all of you, whichever ones you celebrate!
Home for the Holidays
Sylphie woke with a gasp, flinging the covers aside and jumping to her feet before pausing to wonder what had woken her. A quick glance around the room showed her nothing out of place, though, no immediate danger.
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through her nose, trying to calm her racing heart and make sure that her brain was fully awake and functioning.
“Two teetotalers tiredly toddling to Tewksbury,” she muttered under her breath. “Mother pheasant plucker, mother pheasant plucker. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.” The tongue twisters came out ungarbled, and the familiar routine helped to calm her further.
She sat down on her bed, wondering if she would be able to go back to sleep, or if she should do a circuit of the house to make sure all was well. Don’t assume. Never assume.
She sighed at the answer. It was going to be a long night if she couldn’t get her paranoia under control.
I don’t know that I’m insane, she thought. The others saw something too. Of course, I’m pretty sure the others were high, so they’re not the best reality check I could wish for.
She pulled on yesterday’s socks one-handed, unable to bring herself to put down the bookmark she held in her right hand for even a second. It looked like a normal piece of cardstock, doodled on in black ballpoint ink. According to her logical mind, that was all it could be.
According to experience, however, it might be something more. Mystical weapon or sign of a mental breakdown, she wasn’t yet sure. Not sure enough to risk being committed anyway.
She skipped the slippers and bathrobe. Socks would keep her feet warm enough, and putting on the bulky robe would make her feel more vulnerable rather than less.
She stepped lightly over to the door, listening carefully. Was that the sound of rustling paper?
She flicked her bedroom light off, and kicked away the towel that had blocked the bottom of the door. Her parents didn’t need to know that she was sleeping with the light on, but she couldn’t open the door without giving herself every possible clue of what waited beyond. Faint light flickered along the crack, illuminating individual fibers standing up from the worn carpet.
She watched for a long moment before deciding that her parents had probably left the Christmas tree on intentionally.
A quick glance at the clock told her it was 12:45, Christmas morning already. It was too late for her parents to still be awake, though, and far too early for her sister to be up. There shouldn’t be anyone moving around the house but her.
She gripped her bookmark tightly, and eased the door open, peering out and wondering whether turning the light on would wake her parents.
A large shape moved in front of the Christmas tree, and her hand flicked out to the switch without a second thought.
She froze in place once the light was on, though, gaping at the red-garbed figure by the tree.
He didn’t look like a department store Santa, or even a movie Santa. He looked like he could have stepped right off a Coke can, or out of a child’s best daydream. His suit looked well-made and warm, his hair and beard looked natural, and there really was a twinkle in his eye as he straightened and smiled at her.
“Ho, ho, ho!” he said. “Good little girls should be snug in their beds, or else they’ll get nothing but coal in their stockings.”
She closed her mouth, suddenly feeling angry. Bad enough she was seeing monsters at school, but now this? “Seriously?” she snapped. “You’re seriously trying to pretend that you’re Santa Claus? What am I, six?”
“Ho, ho, ho!” He reached out a hand. “Come here, child, and you’ll see just how real I am.”
A creak jerked her eyes over to the stairs, and she saw her sister Dryad crouching on the middle stair, just low enough to peer down into the room.
Sylphie could have kicked herself for speaking so carelessly. She didn’t honestly believe the figure by the tree was really there, but she couldn’t just ignore it either. That meant either more talking, waving her bookmark through the air like a maniac, or both. Dryad was sure to tell their parents, and then she was in for it.
“Two little girls!” The false Santa turned and held his hand out to Dryad, revealing a small object wrapped in blue and yellow paper. “Would you like a present, my dear?”
Sylphie was in motion before the last word was out of his mouth. Institutions and insanity didn’t matter in that moment. Figment or not, there was no way she was letting him get near her sister.
She sprinted across the room, envisioning energy flowing from her arm into the patterns on her bookmark.
She could feel the instant when it changed, when the edge started slicing through space itself and leaving an invisible gash hanging in the air. She pushed aside that awareness and focused on directing her swing at the false Santa.
The bookmark hit his red suit at the shoulder and passed through his shoulder and back and out his side without the slightest resistance. She hopped back, panting and keeping her weapon active while she watched.
He looked back over his shoulder at her, his face twisting into a snarl. Then black flame shot out of the slash down his back. It looked unspeakably violent, but it burned silently and without heat, eating away at the stranger’s body until there was nothing left but the small present that fell to the floor with a thud.
Sylphie took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to believe that they were safe now.
The word at her elbow made her jump to the side, although she managed not to strike out at her sister. “Dryad!” she scolded. Then she made a show of looking around the room. With a little luck, she could still make a convincing claim of sleepwalking.
“Did you… just kill Santa?”
Sylphie froze where she stood, then looked seriously at the younger girl. “You saw him too?” she asked.
“Sure,” Dryad said. “And I saw you blow him up with black fire. But… nothing’s burned, so maybe I was dreaming?”
Sylphie closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief, then caught her sister in a tight hug. “No,” she said. “No, I saw him too. I saw the same thing you did.”
I’m not insane! she thought, resisting the urge to pick Dryad up and dance around the room for joy. She saw him too! He was real! All of it was real!
A chill ran down her spine at that realization, and she opened her eyes again to peer around nervously.
“So what do we do with the presents?” Dryad asked, pulling out of her hug and reaching for the package that the false Santa had dropped.
Sylphie grabbed her wrist, stopping her before she could touch it. “We’ll have to destroy it,” she said. “There’s no telling what sort of damage it’s meant to do.”
“What, all of them?”
She looked past Dryad, and finally noticed the big sack by the fireplace. It had tipped a little, spilling a handful of identical presents onto the floor, and it looked full to the brim of more of the same.
“All of them,” she confirmed, trying to suppress the feeling of dread growing in the pit of her stomach. “It looks like it’s going to be a long night.”