Hullo, humans! Thus begins the last stretch of October until NaNoWriMo (when we’ll bid our sanity farewell), and with it comes Week #4 of Preptober Prompts. (Otherwise known as my week.) Who’s excited??
(If you didn’t shout “ME!!!” at your screen with the gusto of a tone-deaf rooster, I’m ashamed of you.)
If you missed the first three weeks of Preptober Prompts, you can catch up on Archer’s blog or Julian’s. The focus of this final week is on flash-fiction, but before we get to the actual prompt, I… uh… need to make a disclaimer. When she created the flash-fiction category, I think Archer was envisioning a handful of random, lighthearted drabbles completely disconnected from any sort of cannon storyline.
But darn it all, I’m too much of an overthinker for that sort of thing.
Thus, please approach my stories with several things in mind: 1.) They are fairly dark, 2.) they are all connected, 3.) some of them are WAY too long to be flash-fiction, and 4.) this is, in essence, fanfiction of my own story. My book is fantasy, but I thought it would be fun to write my characters in a modern day setting and see how it turned out. So this has been an interesting experience all around, not least because I now have a 7-part novella of my characters crashing around the real world and creating mayhem wherever they go.
With that in mind, let’s get to the first prompt, shall we?
There’s something bestial in the discordance of this beat that creeps into Emolas’ head and pulses just behind his eyes — a rogue sort of headache, more mental than physical. These people are drunk — on music, on alcohol, on the feelings of the night, he isn’t sure — but the emptiness in their eyes is haunting. Like streaks of charcoal against vibrant watercolor messiness, like black-holes in the Aurora Borealis. This is a place of sadness, he thinks, despite the flashing teeth and loud voices.
The vague outlines of strangers dancing (writhing) onstage sets a strange backdrop to the racket of their song. Emolas wanders, awkward and lonely, amid the crowd. He lost Keros. Or Keros lost him, depending on which way he wants to think about it — they were together until one of the dancing (writhing?) bodies crashed into him and then he was tripping into people and someone was screeching and a hand grabbed his shoulder and then a wall was against his face and—
(Is there blood on his lip?)
The point is, they were together, but now they’re not. Keros dragged him (despite his protests) to this wretched place, assuring him “it will be fun,” and “sometimes you just need music in your soul.” But here’s the thing: when Emolas thinks music, he thinks Bach, Beethoven, maybe “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Not this frenzied keening. Not these tattooed figures and shadowy forms and explosive lights that rattle his sight and electrify his migraine.
(Granted, considering the type of person Keros is, Emolas shouldn’t have expected much from his taste in music — he literally found the kid sleeping in a dumpster, and that was the beginning of the relationship — but deep down inside, he thinks Keros is lonely, and he wants to be there for the poor thing, he does.)
So he wanders through the churning crowd and watches their feral amusement through the telescope of his headache, every noise and movement magnified a thousandfold — a glimpse of teeth, light dancing in hundreds of eyes, a jarring burst of laughter so close his ears ring. The word concussion lurks in the recesses of his mind, but he can’t remember the definition. Bodies are everywhere. Around him. Against him. Shoving into his back and rubbing against his arms and pushing at his chest and always, that wretched, screaming music throbs behind his eyes, savage and animalistic and depraved and—
(Is it really music?)
Light pulses. Crimson and orange, the colors of fireworks. (Or blood.) Emolas stumbles, dizzy. (What are these strange black shadows dappling his vision?) Someone shouts at him. (Or is everyone shouting?) A flailing hand catches him across the side of his face. (Surely it was an accident.) Blood stings in his left ear. (And on his lips.) Light pulses. (Light pulses.) Light pulses.
The voice is close, too close, and strangely tangible in this murky sea of shadows and clamor. Instinct warns him to tuck his head, to raise his fists, to protect his face — but then, instinct warned him not to let Keros bring him here, and see how well he listened? So he lifts his head and turns, despite the inner warnings, and is rewarded with the most enthusiastic smile he’s ever seen on mankind.
Also, blue hair.
“Yo, d’you need a friend?” the stranger (angel) asks.
He manages a shaky smile while wobbling on his feet. “Actually, I think I might need a therapist.”
The stranger laughs. (Why does he laugh? Emolas was being serious.) “Okay, pal. I’ll help you find the exit.”
“That would be nice,” he says, though he can barely hear his own voice, and adds, “thank you,” because the person doesn’t realize how heavenly his presence is at this exact moment.
He beams. “No prob! Call me Aven.”
Guttural voices and vulgar lyrics is an odd backdrop for blooming friendship — but he’s made friends in stranger circumstances than this. And besides, Aven seems to glow with angelic light. (Or maybe the fuzzy white lines are a sign of rapidly diminishing consciousness.) Perhaps it’s the heavenliness that causes Emolas to look closer, that makes him peer beyond the huge smile and vibrant eyes and bouncy voice and really see the person offering him kindness in this forsaken place. Eight rings adorn his ears, four on each lobe. His shirt has a tear in the sleeve. The skin around his eyes is tight, almost stretched: smile lines barely containing a grimace.
He sees these things with an odd sort of detachment — his hyper-dialed senses overwhelm him with too much information to possibly process. The lights still flash and people still scream and Aven’s grin is as bright as ever, but the black spots in Emolas’ vision are multiplying and the world seems fuzzier somehow, like everything is cloaked in mist. The music (it isn’t music) fades to static in his ears. The lights dim. His newfound friend’s smile grows dark. And all he can see in this nether world of shadows and shifting sounds is a streak of blood, crusty and old, smearing Aven’s lower lip.
Emolas touches his own lips and feels the blood there.
He’s in no position to ask this, and really, he almost feels bad (his family calls him a hypocrite, and maybe he is), but in this place, this cesspool of darkness, where so many souls are fractured — well, he can’t help himself, he can’t, Sovereign help him he must sweep aside his own dizziness and venture an earnest concern:
“Do you need help?”
Aven’s grin never falters, even as his eyes flinch.
And then Emolas’ body jerks into high-alert mode, his nerves snap to attention and muscles tense. Because something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong, and this is what he does — help people out of their wrongness, or something like that. He grabs Aven, pushes him out of the churning sea of bodies — and as they shove through the crowd, he catches a glimpse of a shadow, an anomaly. A figure moving in time with them, circling their perimeter so subtly Emolas might not have noticed if he hadn’t encountered stalkers before.
Something glitters in the shadow’s hand; something sharp.
“Oh man,” Aven whispers, seeing it too, “man, I musta really ticked that guy off. Man, Liriel’s gonna flip when she hears about this.”
“I understand the feeling.” Emolas grits his teeth and sighs, mentally steeling himself. “My past is screaming at me from a graveyard of stupid decisions.”
Before Aven has time to blink, Emolas shoves him back into the crowd and swings around to slams his elbow neatly into the shadowy knife-man’s face.
“Sorry!” he cries, and dashes after Aven. He trips over someone’s legs, skids around a pair of alcohol-smelling dancers, plunges into the crowd — and then he has Aven by the sleeve and drags him through the throng, going nowhere but away from the man with the knife and the (probably) broken nose.
Emolas winces again.
“Exit door, exit door,” Aven screeches, and there it is. They slam through, stumble, sprawl. A carpet of thinly packed snow catches them.
Silence. Silence and the stars.
Emolas’ headache returns in gentle waves, lapping at the shore of his consciousness. Aven spreads out in the snow like a great, overgrown dog and laughs, but Emolas has no room for mirth. He wobbles to his feet, brushes snow from his legs, breathes in the murmur of midnight wind and distant traffic — and his heart drops, it plummets to the depths of his soul, because his migraine is worse and he lost Keros and now there’s blood on his elbow.
Blood. From someone’s nose.
The concert building is grey and box-like, an unassuming facade for the chaos within. Emolas shakes his head. “I think,” he says, “I think metal concerts represent isolation from God.”
And promptly faints.
This is it. This is his life. He’s either on the verge of unconsciousness because the poor boy doesn’t take care of himself, trying to help someone else despite being in worse shape, or getting punched.
There is no in-between.
Also, enjoy this unwanted sermon on the demonic qualities of heavy-metal music.
So yeah, talk to me, guys! How would your characters respond to this prompt? What kind of music festival would you shove them into? What trouble would they cause? Stay tuned for the release of prompt #2 tomorrow, and in the meantime…