Short Stories

Wild Magic

Another entry into FuriousFiction run by the incredible Australian Writers Centre. I really had fun with this month’s (unlike our narrator) and hope you enjoy it as well! The specifications for this month are as follows:

  • Your story must take place in a SCHOOL.
  • Your story’s first word must be THREE.
  • Your story must include the following four adjectives:

I also want to wish FuriousFiction a happy third birthday! I’m sad I missed out on all those previous prompts and wacky antics, but I’m so thrilled to have found them now. They won’t get rid of me so easy! 

Please enjoy.

Three classes in and I am over this day. It was bad enough slogging through a lecture on tinctures. And that demonstration of scrying bones? No thank you.

The third lesson is set up in the ancient amphitheatre on the outskirts of the grounds. The stone is cracked and worn, vivid green moss flourishing on the ever-damp surface. The sky overhead is dark purple; stormy clouds crowding close. There is no roof, and all of us keep shooting suspicious little glances upwards. Any umbrella will be nothing more than a lightning rod out here and if the sky opens up then we will all be drenched.

The lecturer is Headmistress Amelia Jones. She is a short, round woman with a tendency for uncouth jokes and an infectious, bubbly laugh. As she walks to the centre of the stone, her long hair brushes the ground behind her.

“Welcome, kids,” she says. Though her voice is soft, she immediately commands the attention of all of us. “Today I’m going to show you how to tame wild magic.”

A ripple passes through the students. It goes over me and I don’t join in the whispering.

Amelia raises her hands. The air hums, and, as though on command, the clouds overhead break. Rain falls in sheets, but when the drops hit the humming air the water dissipates, filling the amphitheatre with mist. A snap of her fingers, and Amelia condenses the mist into jets of flame that dance overhead. Her mouth is forming words, but what they are exactly is lost under the frantic murmuring of the students around me. Bringing her hands together in a sharp, quick clap, the flames drop to the stone between us and sink into the moss, the surface charring black. It only takes a second for the flame to vanish and the moss to swell, burst, grow into thick, twisting, flowery vines.

The other students, some who have never seen magic before today, are astonished. One reaches out and touches the vine, fingertip brushing a pale pink flower.

Lightning splits the sky overhead. Thunder crashes immediately afterwards, making all of us jump. Except Amelia. She seems to have expected it, because she throws her hands up.

Almost as though her hands are magnetic, the electricity is drawn to her. Dancing in sparking, crackling arcs above her head, hopping between her fingertips. Her long hair lifts and stands on end, fizzing and snapping as it surrounds her like a halo. With a wide grin, she spreads her arms and starts the lecture proper, now that the demonstration has fully engrossed all of us.

Except for me. I lean my chin on my hand and roll my eyes. This was super cool when I was like, five, but after a decade of watching Mum—sorry, Amelia—pull the same old moves, it’s gotten a little boring. The fun of the lightning is over, the talk is very dull in comparison. It’s a shame I’m getting graded on it this time.

Short Stories

#VSS365 January 2021

#VSS365 is a daily prompt based on Twitter. VSS stands for Very Short Story and the challenge is to get the story to fit into a single tweet. 

I am currently publishing the daily stories on twitter, but am also working through the backlog! Here is January 2021, for your enjoyment.

My therapist gives me a new word. Verklempt. To be overcome, overwhelmed, drowned in emotion. Crushed beneath a tsunami of feeling. Trapped and lost and trying to remember to breath.

Repeat the word, he says. Verklempt. Verk, in, lempt, out.

Reminding me I exist.

A velociraptor’s claw, delicate and wickedly sharp. Brittle now, ancient. A curious choice for a weapon, and yet here it is buried deep in the man’s eye.

They called me in to investigate, to solve this awful crime.

Smiling, I bend to admire my handiwork.

I’m a perfect dinner guest. I’m polite, I’m punctual, I’ll always bring a gift. Being a vampire shouldn’t be an issue: we’re well known for our hospitality!

All you need to do is open your door when I knock. Ask me to come in, welcome me into your home.

I won’t bite.

They circle like vultures. Waiting for me to fall. I stumble and quickly rise, but not fast enough. A claw sinks into my calf and I shake it free with a cry. The blood running into my shoes is unbearably hot.

I kick out uselessly, and the coconut crabs circle closer.

As a junior witch, she had accidentally hexed herself. A misspoken word, and she was cursed.

Even now, as the elder in her coven, she cannot remove the vex hex. Little annoyances, piling up day after day. She bears them with a smile, revelling in her early magic.

Perhaps this is a foolish vendetta to pursue. I fear that I have chosen a pointless war to wage, and that I will fall in battle over this insignificant point.

But, goddamn it, raspberry jam is superior to strawberry jam and I will die on this hill.

The creatures didn’t know the site they were entering was sacred. When they passed through, touching ever surface with their strange, gloved hands, they didn’t know they were violating our temples.

Still, we cowered beneath the coral as the humans swam over our reef.

There are many different kinds of magic. Academics have tried to map them all out, in flow charts or time lines. I’ve found the best way is to use a Venn diagram.

In the centre, where the circles overlap, is untamed wild magic, beyond the ability of any mortal witch.

I have a terrible and completely irrational phobia. I know it’s ridiculous, but I can’t stop myself from obsessing.

I dream that my voice has been stolen: snatched away and used against me.

Needless to say, I stay home when the ventriloquist comes to town.

Perhaps it is an act of vandalism. I don’t care. I have rearranged the stars to spell your name, I have burnt your face into the sun so everyone can see your beauty.

Unrelated, can you bail me out? It’s definitely a crime and I hate jail. Thanks, love.

Her story was written on the finest vellum that money could buy. The ink sparkled with gold, catching the light to glimmer even in dim rooms. Each word transcribed in exquisite calligraphy, every letter lavishly curliqued.

And all to mask the blandness of the tale.

I’ve cross-stitched you your own medal of valour. Your favourite colours intertwined, because silver and gold are boring.

It’s a birthday present. I give it to you proudly. When you understand I hug you tight.

Depression is a battle, and I will fight by your side.

I always get vouchers. A mass of experiences, piling up in red envelopes. From base jumping to gin flights. I work my way through them and tell you in intricate detail what I felt, tasted, enjoyed.

Since the accident, I understand you living vicariously through me.

I mine other languages, searching for words to describe my feelings. Zweisamkeit and mamihlapinatapai, even going so far as tuqburni. They fit so well, and yet don’t come close.

I curse the limited vocabulary I have available to describe how much I love you.

It’s time to vacate. I drift around the old house, touching the marks I’ve made on the walls, the stains and scratches accumulated over my tenancy. Heart aching over a thousand moments that go half-remembered.

Ready now, I open the front door and step into the light.

I preen in front of my reflection, enjoying the glittering rainbow refractions off my enormous diamond jewellery. I place a fascinator in my hair and watching the shining peacock feather flutter above the empty space of my face.

Who says vampires can’t enjoy mirrors?

The moon is full and low overhead. I dance beneath her silver face, naked, vulnerable, untouchable. The song of my coven echoes through the forest and I feel the power of my ancestors trill to life in my veins.

I am a young witch, and the night is open to me now.

I catch the movement in the corner of my eye: a brief flickering shadow passing the open window. When I turn, there’s nothing there. I ignore the twist in my gut and turn back to my work, pretending the hairs on my neck don’t rise.

The sense of being watched pervades.

It’s dangerous to feed my ego. The compliments and awards only serve to swell my head, larger and larger.

Please stop! I can’t fit out of my front door any more, and the roof is pressing closer by the day.

Her new glasses come with a state of the art filter, designed to mask blood and gore. She wears them to a horror movie and laughs as the screen pixelates.

The algorithm isn’t perfect, but she’s managing dinner without seeing the steaks.

The stigma is everywhere. As soon as I mention it, I’m inundated with disbelief and pressure to reconsider. I keep my lips sealed, my thoughts inside, my secret shame to myself.

Apparently it is a cardinal sin to dislike Nutella.

I paint my nails, a glimmering holographic blue that catches the light. My skirt is knee-length and pleated. It fans when I spin.

For the first time, I look in the mirror and feel euphoria.

To guard against telepathy, I line my hats in aluminium foil and direct mean thoughts to anyone who makes eye contact with me. It may seem like overkill, but I know my mind is mine alone and also I always get to sit alone on the bus.

You treated me like a queen, worshipped the ground I walked on, provided for my every whim. Any imperfection, you ironed out until I was flat and lifeless. A paper idol propped up by your words.

When I left, you didn’t understand.

I just wanted to be seen as a person.

Standing on the edge, staring down into the abyss, the darkness that seems to rise up to meet her. Feeling her stomach twist and churn with anxiety. She forces herself to take shallow breaths, then steadies herself an jumps into the darkness. Sinking into the water.

Klazon blaring, lights flashing, an alarm screaming out. Danger! Danger! Danger! I freeze, overcome, synapses overwhelmed, joints locking.

You see my anxiety and, by simply taking my hand, soothe my fight or flight response.

I know I am safe with you.

I make us cocktails with obscene amounts of rum and a splash of pineapple juice, served in carefully cleaned coconut halves. Together, we lie in front of swaying palm trees on TV in our sunglasses and swimsuits.

Our own little paradise in our 34th floor apartment.

To protect ourselves from disease, we anoint ourselves with sacred oils and dress in the garb of our ancestors. It shielded them from plague, and so we walk in their footsteps.

When we meet, we use hand sanitizer and make sure our masks are covering our goddamn noses.

I never thought I was made for politics. For much of my life, I was priviledged enough that most politics didn’t impact me. When I became aware enough to realise how I could help, I was inspired to start.

All that said, please support my run for mayor. I’ll do my best.

Kisses so delicate they feel like butterfly wings brushing against my skin. I close my eyes and lean in, captivated and flushed. You hold me gith and murmur sweet nothings, and I am lost in the feeling of you.

We are entwined together.

I force more slang into my lexicon, stuffing sentences full of words I barely grasp the meaning of. I know I use them wrong, that it highlights my unfamiliarity, but the grimace on my teenage son’s face makes it all worthwhile.

I’m a totes dope mum.

Short Stories


FuriousFiction for January 2021, ringing in a new year! This was a strange one, but I had fun writing it. Please enjoy!

The prompt and specifics are as follows:

  • Your story must begin at sunrise.
  • You must use the following words somewhere in your story: SIGNATURE, PATIENT, BICYCLE.
  • Your story must include a character who has to make a CHOICE.

We begin with a sunrise. The class gathers around the small window and stares in silent rapture as the darkness is slowly leeched away into brilliant reds and oranges and pinks. The ocean is still, only slight waves oscillating and sending winks of colour towards us. As the sun crests over the horizon, I instruct the children to put on the tinted lenses they’d been given. They watch, breathless, frozen in wonder as the sky lightens and crystalises into a clear blue.

Knowing that the show is over, I put on my widest smile and say, “Okay, kids, time to come away from the window.”

“Just a bit longer,” pleads Tom, the most outspoken of the gathered children. The others nod in agreement, all eyes fixed on the black shadows of birds that are now flapping serenely past the scene. Unlike us, they are leisurely, with nowhere they need to be.

My smile becomes strained at the corners. “Tell you what, if you still want to see later then we can come back, okay?”

This compromise seems to satisfy them, because they trail off to the next window with their eyes still lingering on the morning sky they’re leaving behind.

I press a button and the window shutter rises, revealing a different scene. The ocean here is rough: tall waves cresting and crashing onto golden sand. Dangling palm fronds sway and clatter together. The children, thankfully, are just as mesmerised by this scene, flinching back and gasping when each wave breaks upon the beach.

“Where do they go?” asks Paula, my favourite student.

“Back to the ocean,” I say. “The water was always part of the sea, it just wanted to visit land for a bit.”

Suddenly, surprisingly, something glides along the scene. It’s an alien silhouette, all angles and curves in all the wrong places. Like the birds, its pace is slow and sedate, unhurried.

The children are horrified. Most let out some sort of gasping scream, recoiling. Tom, in direct contrast, leans forward, eyes wide and fascinated. I am not surprised when he turns to me and asks, “What’s that?”

Knowing what I’ve been instructed to say, I choose to be honest instead. “A person on a bicycle,” I say patiently. Leaning forward I point out the various forms. “That’s their leg, their arm, their head. These are wheels in a frame, see? In olden times it was a way to get around quickly.”

“Can I have one?” Tom asks.

“No, sorry.” I push the button again and the screen flickers out before the shutter swings closed again. “There’s no room here.”

Tom lets out his signature disappointed sigh. The rest of the children exchange relieved glances. Paula offers, “Can we go back to the sun please?”

I agree. As the kids crowd around the first screen, watching the sun rise again, I look out of the window. Staring into the empty blackness of space that surrounds the ship that our forefathers sent off into the unknown depths.