Raw NaNoWriMo Draft – How To Make Friends And Not Incinerate People

NaNo 2013 small coverAuthor’s note: This is a raw NaNoWrimo draft. I didn’t change anything except paragraphs (as WP doesn’t convert the tabs). In this section, you’ll see a few places where I didn’t name characters. This is common in my first drafts.

 

Chapter 2

English and biology were after lunch. By the end of biology, Aiden could barely keep his eyes open. It was the middle of the night and the only thing keeping him awake was the fear of teasing if he fell asleep in class. Taking notes helped and again he had reading to do to catch up to the rest of the class.

The last class of the day was called Major Magical Control, the room listed as A-1, which he couldn’t find. The warning bell rang and he stopped a fellow student to ask where it was. “Go out the doors at the far end there.” She pointed. “The annex is the building out back. There’s three rooms, A-1 is the first.”

“Thanks.” Aiden ran, hoping he would make it in time. He got there just before the final bell. A-1 looked like a gym, but there were no basketball hoops or any sign of sports equipment. The walls and floor were all painted white, weird symbols drawn all over them. High above was a gray ceiling. It smelled strange, like ozone with a hint of burning.

Aiden was surprised to see Dylan there, wearing torn up jeans and a ratty AC/DC t-shirt.

“Aiden [last name]?”

He turned to the teacher. “Yes ma’am.”

“Welcome. I’m glad to have you. Did you bring any clothes to change into?”

How many times today was he going to feel like an idiot? “No. I didn’t know this was a gym class. It says Major Magical Control–”

“Don’t worry about it. Tomorrow, bring old clothes that you won’t mind ruining. I was going to have you observe today anyway. Have a seat.” She pointed to a long bench.

On the bench already. It was almost funny. A tingle went through him just before he reached the bench and he stopped, blinking. “Make sure you stay behind the wards,” the teacher called.

Wards? He looked down at the symbols on the floor. A circle surrounded the bench with glyphs both inside and outside. He leaned closer, noticing they weren’t painted but metal pounded into the floor. He touched part of the circle and drew back at the shock. It was like that time he’d stuck his finger in the wall socket. Frowning, he sat on the bench.

“Dylan, we might as well start with you. You won’t wait your turn anyway.” The teacher pointed at a girl with straight black hair. “[name], you face off against him.”

“Why me?” the girl squeaked.

“Because I think you’ve been holding back and he might scare you into using your full strength.”

Dylan rubbed his hands together and smiled. Not a smirk, but a full smile with teeth. It was creepy. Swallowing, the girl moved to stand opposite him. “Remember this is practice, Dylan,” the teacher said. “She needs to stop holding back, but you need to learn control. You’re not trying to hurt her.”

“Right. I know.”

“Get ready. One, two, three… go!”

Fire erupted from Dylan and streamed toward [name]. Aiden let out a choked cry. The girl, eyes wide, held up her hands and the fire seemed to hit a wall. The air crackled and iced formed in a rough circle around her feet.

Aiden’s heart pounded and he fought an urge to run. This was definitely not floating a piece of paper across the room. What the hell was he doing in this class?

“Stop.”

The fire disappeared and the girl dropped her hands. “Excellent job, [name],” the teacher said. “I knew you could protect yourself.”

Dylan snorted. “Yeah, because I was holding back.”

The teacher gave him a look. “Which is what you need to learn. When you’re in the outside world, you’ll need to control yourself. Your first reaction can’t be to burn things.”

Dylan’s mouth turned down.

“All right, next pair.”

Dylan’s frown deepened as he walked toward the bench on the opposite side of the room.

For the rest of class, students came up two at a time to hurl magic at each other. Two girls who could have been sisters raced around the gym hurling fireballs at each other. One of them headed straight for the bench and Aiden ducked. It hit the wards and disappeared in a shimmer of blue light.

He kept wavering between fear and awe, and yet it still didn’t feel real. It was like watching TV or a movie in 3D. Nothing in his life had felt real since Mr. Johnson showed up at his house. Aiden felt like he’d been stuck in a dream for over a month. He kept thinking he’d wake up.

In his notebook, he wrote ‘bring old clothes’ so he wouldn’t forget. He had four pages of notes from the day, and most of that were mentions of things he needed to read in his textbooks. That was on top of the homework. There wasn’t much of that, but combined with trying to catch up, it made him groan.

His backpack felt like it weighed fifty pounds. The sooner he caught up, the less he’d need to haul all his books back and forth.

His parents were asleep on the couch when he got home, an old movie playing on the TV. He shut the door quietly and headed for the stairs.

“Aiden?” Dad asked in a fuzzy voice.

“Yeah,” he said quietly and stepped into the living room.

“How was school?” Dad yawned.

“Fine,” he answered automatically. No, he should be honest. “Weird.”

Dad got off the couch carefully, trying not to wake Mom. “Were you scared? No one tried to hurt you, did they?”

Aiden shook his head. “It’s just… weird. Really weird.”

“I know what you mean. I keep wondering what my new boss is, what my coworkers are. If they think of me as lunch.” Dad sighed. “And I’m afraid to ask because it might be rude.” He laughed, a strained sound.

“I’m sorry.” Aiden looked at the floor. This is when it felt most real, when he thought about how he’d thrown his parents’ lives into chaos. They’d left their jobs, their home, and they couldn’t explain why to the rest of the family.

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t choose to be this.”

His stomach when cold and tight, wondering if he’d say the same thing if Aiden told him he was bi. Or would that be different? Aiden didn’t want to say anything about it because his parents had been through way too much already. Maybe in a year or two. Or a hundred.

“I know, but I feel like I ruined your lives–”

“Hey, we told you. Never, ever feel like that. It doesn’t matter what you are or where you came from. We raised you, you’re our son. We’ll get through this together because that’s what families do.”

Aiden’s throat went tight, eyes burning with the threat of tears. All he could do was nod. Dad gave him a hug and for just a second, Aiden could pretend everything was okay.

“Geez, what do you have in there? A whole library?”

Aiden shifted his heavy backpack. “All my textbooks. I have to catch up on three weeks worth of class.”

“Well, don’t think about starting on it tonight. You look dead on your feet.”

“So do you,” Aiden said with a little smile.

“Yeah, I’ll wake your mom up and we should all get to bed. I’m getting too old to stay up all night.”

Bed. That sounded so good. “Okay.” Aiden covered a yawn and went upstairs.

Raw NaNoWriMo Draft (How To Make Friends And Not Incinerate People)

NaNo 2013 small coverNote: I thought it would be fun to post my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, one scene at a time. This is completely raw, all mistakes and notes to myself included. I only adjusted paragraphs (I use tabs in the original) for readability.

Heading out to the bus stop at sunset was surreal. Adjusting to the new schedule was going to be hard, but on the bright side, no more waking up early. On the other hand, it was his first day of high school and he didn’t know a single person. And his classmates were creatures out of nightmare.

Their neighbors looked like normal people. On one side was a couple with young children and all of them were witches. Aside from their magical abilities, they were totally human. They seemed very nice, too. His shell-shocked parents had been invited to dinner the following week.

On the other side was a family that was part djinn, and again their children were young. The older girl was in elementary school and her brother was just starting pre-school. Aiden wondered if Mr. Johnson had picked this house specifically because the families on either side were human and part-human. Mr. Johnson seemed to think everything through and do things with intent. He was staying in town for a few days in case they needed help, then he was going back to his normal job, searching out supernatural beings and making sure they were certified.

Aiden reached the stop at the end of the block. An older-looking girl was already there, black hair cut short and a baseball cap turned around on her head. “Hi there. You must be new.” She smiled.

“Yeah. I’m Aiden.” He held his hand out, wondering what she was. Was that rude?

“I’m Tina.” She shook his hand. “What grade are you in?”

“Ninth.”

“Oh, my brother is your age.” She looked across the street. “If he doesn’t get here soon, he’s going to miss the bus.” Tina rolled her eyes. “I swear, he’s late to everything.” A moment later, a boy darted out of a blue house and ran down the block. “There he is.”

The boy checked for cars and ran across the street to join them. “New kid?” He asked Aiden.

“Yeah. I’m Aiden.”

“Toby.” They shook hands. The boy also had a baseball cap, turned backwards like his sister’s.

The bus arrived. Aiden hoped to sit with Toby so he had someone to talk to, but the boy waved to a friend and joined him. Tina also sat with someone, so Aiden ended up sitting alone near the front. He set his backpack on his lap, nervously wondering what kind of monster would sit next to him. Everyone he’d met seemed normal, but maybe he’d just been lucky so far. Shadow Valley had all sorts of things, vampires, demonic creatures, shapeshifters, ghosts.

The boy that ended up sitting next to him was older and built like a tank. Aiden was squished up against the window. “Hi.”

The boy barely glanced at him and grunted. So much for conversation.

Before long, they pulled up to the school. It was huge, built of brick, and the only windows were small and soaped over. It didn’t look very welcoming. Sort of like a prison without the barbed wire. The darkening sky didn’t help, either. Streetlights lent pools of light to the scene of kids streaming out of buses and into the school.
Aiden swallowed, very aware that he was surrounded by monsters. Now he could see hints of things that weren’t quite right in the crowd. Extra pale skin, eyes glinting strangely in the light, a misty form drifting through the students, someone with small horns, a flash of blue light.

A little shiver went through him and he thought about just turning around and leaving. He had to remind himself that he wasn’t normal, either. He was fae, a changeling, switched at birth. The memory of the incident in the locker room got him moving again. This school was where he belonged. He had to learn how to control his powers so he wouldn’t have accidents like that again.

A little voice in his head pointed out that it would be nice to do something like that when he wanted to. If he could do that on demand, no one would pick on him again.
He looked around for Toby or Tina, but didn’t see them. He didn’t know anybody, he didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing. He felt very, very lost. Aiden dug his class list out of his bag. At least that was something. Wandering through the crowded halls, he checked classroom numbers until he found the right one for his homeroom. There weren’t as many desks as he was used to. Class sizes must be smaller here.

A few kids were already in their seats in a little cluster at the back, chatting. Part of him wanted to join, but he felt awkward. They looked like friends and probably didn’t want a stranger interrupting. He sat in the opposite corner, a row of empty desks between them.

The warning bell rang. Other kids started trickling in, the desks filling up. He hoped Toby was in the class so he would at least know somebody. Every time someone walked in, he glanced up. Aiden had to remind himself not to stare as he tried to guess what kind of monster each kid was. That pale girl, maybe a vampire. The boy with a pentacle around his neck, a witch. Another vampire — no, he had pointed ears. A werewolf?

Aiden had almost gathered the courage to say hello to the girl next to him, pretty with long blond hair, but the final bell rang and the teacher got up to close the door. “Good evening,” she said.

The kids muttered a greeting.

“We have a new student, Aiden. Please stand up and say hello.”

Everyone turned to look at him and he wanted to melt into his seat. He stood up long enough to wave and say, “Hi.”

“Aiden is a changeling, a fae. His family just moved here and I hope you’ll all be welcoming to him.”

Low whispers went through the room as the looks turned surprised. Mr. Johnson had said fae were rare and if a class full of monsters was surprised, it must be true. As if he didn’t feel like he stood out enough already. Everyone else seemed to know each other.

“Now, I’ll take attendance quickly and we’ll get started. We have a lot to cover today.”

The door opened and a handsome boy stepped in. Aiden’s stomach did a little flip. The boy wore a black shirt and jeans, his short hair stuck up every-which-way as if he hadn’t bothered to comb it.
“Dylan,” the teacher said, “so nice of you to join us.”
Dylan ignored her and kept walking. There were only two empty desks. One at the very front and the other just in front of Aiden. Dylan slid into the seat in front of Aiden, his disinterested gaze shifting to slight surprise for a moment when he looked at Aiden. Then he turned and slumped into the chair, backpack dropping to the floor.

The class was a normal one, at least. It was U.S History, and Aiden could almost pretend he was at a normal school. He’d missed the first three weeks of class but he knew a little bit of history from middle school and he was confident he could catch up. The teacher gave him a book and Aiden took lots of notes on the reading he’d need to do.

With dismay, he headed off to his next class: Minor Magical Control. Mr. Johnson had explained that it was classroom based practice to control simpler, less dangerous types of magic. Things like glamours, levitating small objects, and accelerating plant growth. The day Mr. Johnson had appeared to tell Aiden he was a fae changeling, Aiden had made the tomatoes in the backyard go from tiny nubs to almost ripe.

He wanted to learn how to control his power, but he knew the other kids had years of practice. He was going to look like an idiot.

The history teacher pointed out his locker so Aiden could drop off his book. As he was closing it, he saw the blonde girl he’d sat next to. “Hi there.”

The girl gave him a look and rolled her eyes. With a little sigh, she turned and walked away. So much for making friends.

The teacher in Minor Magical Control greeted him right away. “Hello there, Aiden, right? I’m Mr. Kecskemeti, but you can call me Mr. K.” He pointed out a seat. “I’ll have Maggie sit with you. She’ll be able to help you out. Don’t worry about being behind the other students. I want you to concentrate on making progress, not comparing yourself to anyone else, okay?”

Aiden nodded, but he knew he’d compare himself anyway. Maybe he couldn’t catch up right away, but he’d have to. He didn’t want to be held back. If he didn’t graduate with the rest of his class, he’d be stuck in Shadow Valley for an extra year, and so would his parents. Once he graduated and was certified, he’d be able to go anywhere he wanted.

Maggie arrived and introduced herself. She wore a pink headband and a Hello Kitty t-shirt, not at all what he expected. Most of the kids here wore black or gray. “Aiden, nice to meet you.” She shook his hand, a wide smile on her face. “This must all seem really strange to you.”

He nodded. “A month ago, I thought I was a normal human.”

“What are you, if you don’t mind me asking?” She smiled again. “I’m not trying to be rude, but it helps to know what you are so I understand what kind of magic you might be able to do.”

“I’m a changeling. Fae.”

Her eyes widened. “Wow. Full-blooded fae. No wonder you feel so strong. You have major mojo mister.”

“Yeah, but I have no idea how to use it.”

She patted his arm. “That’s what I’m here for. I’m a witch, but the way. From a very long bloodline. Oh, sorry, that sounded like bragging. I didn’t mean it like that, I just mean that my family has been practicing magic for a long time so I have experience.”

“Okay.” Aiden didn’t know what else to say.

The class was a failure, as he’d feared. The assignment was to lift a piece of paper from another desk onto their own. Some could do it, some had partial success. Aiden couldn’t even get the paper to flutter. He was used to doing well in school and this made him feel stupid.

“Don’t worry about it,” Maggie patted his arm. “You can try again tomorrow.” She’d demonstrated lifting the paper and it had looked so easy. Aiden was so focused on how he couldn’t do it that he barely thought about how weird this was.

The next class was math, a welcome relief, although he was having trouble staying awake. In the normal world, it was almost bed time. Here, it was almost time for lunch. It was going to take a while to get used to this new schedule. When the bell rang for lunch, all he could think about was how much he wanted a nap.

He followed the mass of students to the lunch room. Seeing the food woke him up, but did nothing for his appetite. Do I even want to know what that stuff is? Piles of meat, some of it not cooked, tall bottles full of red liquid, roasted insects. Aiden put a hand to his mouth and started turning away.

“Hey, new kid.” The handsome boy from homeroom, Dylan. “I think you want that side.” He pointed to the other end of the lunchroom where kids were filling their trays from a different buffet line.

“What’s over there?”

The corner of Dylan’s mouth turned up. “Human food.”

A pale boy with hunched shoulders pushed past Aiden and grabbed a tray, filling his plate with raw meat. Aiden’s stomach rolled again, and he tried hard not to breathe in the smells. He followed Dylan to the other side of the room, sure he wasn’t going to be able to eat anything no matter what was over there. Still, he let out a sigh of relief when he saw a pile of salad.

“There’s nothing weird about this, right?” he asked Dylan.

“Nope. Regular human food.”

“Why are there two different lines?”

Dylan shrugged. “Food safety or something. And for the squeamish ones like you.” He smirked again. God, he was handsome.

Aiden thought he should try to eat something, so he got salad and an apple. Dylan got a cheeseburger with a huge pile of fries, and the sight of the meat made Aiden queasy. At the end of the line, he expected to see a cashier, but there wasn’t one. That’s right, Mr. Johnson said meals were free.

Dylan sat down at an empty table and Aiden set his tray down across from him. “Who said you could sit there?” Dylan snapped.

Feeling cold, Aiden lifted his tray. So much for making friends.

As he turned, Dylan said, “Hey. I didn’t mean that. You can sit if you want.”

Aiden hesitated. Dylan probably only felt sorry for him. What kind of sad puppy face was he making? Glancing over the room, he looked for Maggie. She was too energetic, but at least she was nice. He didn’t see her, and the tables were filling up. Everybody already had friends, probably ones they knew from middle school, even elementary school.

Holding back a sigh, he sat down across from Dylan. He thought he should say something, but didn’t know what. Thank him? Tell him not to be a jerk? Dylan picked up his cheeseburger and started eating. Aiden poked at his salad.

Some other kids sat at the far end of the table, giving them odd glances. As more and more kids found seats, the side where Aiden and Dylan sat stayed empty. Kids walking by gave them odd looks. Finally, Aiden had to say something. “Why isn’t anyone sitting with us?”

“It’s me, not you.” Dylan said between bites of fries. The cheeseburger was already gone.

“Why?” Aiden started to worry that he was sitting next to something so dangerous that other monsters didn’t want to get near it.

Dylan shrugged. “People don’t like me.”

Aiden rolled his apple around on his plate. “What are you?”

Dylan gave him a look and there was something in his eyes, a glint or a glow. It made Aiden feel like something small and helpless, a mouse standing in front of a lion. Then it faded and a slight hint of a smile touched Dylan’s lips. “You’ll find out.”

Raw NaNoWriMo Draft (How To Make Friends And Not Incinerate People)

NaNo 2013 small coverNote: I thought it would be fun to post my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, one scene at a time. This is completely raw, all mistakes and notes to myself included. I only adjusted paragraphs (I use tabs in the original) for readability.

Chapter 1

They turned onto an unmarked road. Mr. Johnson said, “Almost there.”

Aiden looked out the window, wondering if he would see anything strange. A whole town full of supernatural creatures. And he was one of them.

He glanced over at his parents, who looked as dazed as he felt. A month ago, they’d all been normal, or thought they were normal. Now Aiden knew he was changeling, that his parents weren’t his real parents… weren’t his birth parents, and they knew their real son was out there somewhere. Still, they’d taken it pretty well. At least on the outside, they were taking it better than he was. But they were probably as torn up on the inside as he was. Aiden worried that they didn’t love him as much now that they knew he wasn’t really their son. He wasn’t even human.

On either side of the road, the woods got denser. Maybe a supernatural town really could be hidden back here. A sign warned they were approaching a dead end. Aiden looked at Mr. Johnson and opened his mouth to ask about it.

In that creepy way of his, Mr. Johnson seemed to know what he was going to say. “Ignore the sign. It’s to keep people out.”

Ahead, it looked like the trees grew right across the road. “What about–”

“It’s an illusion. There are illusions and wards around Shadow Valley to make sure ordinary humans don’t stumble into it by accident.”

Mom drew a sharp breath as the trees loomed closer. Aiden tensed, afraid they would slam into the huge trunks. A little noise escaped him when the trees were only feet away. The truck kept going and in the next moment they were through. The trees thinned out and in the distance there were buildings.

“Welcome to Shadow Valley,” Mr. Johnson said.

“This is so weird,” Dad said.

Aiden had to swallow to get spit back in his dry throat. “You can still change your mind.”

Mom reached over and gripped his hand. “No. We won’t leave you to do this alone. No matter what he says, you’re still our son. We love you, Aiden.”

“Thanks.” His throat was dry again.

“She’s right,” Dad said. “We would never abandon you. Don’t even think about it.”

Aiden nodded.

They reached the first few buildings. It looked surprisingly normal. A gas station, restaurants, shops, a bank. Mr. Johnson made a few turns and there were more houses, neighborhoods that looked like anything you could find in the midwest. Aiden studied them, looking for anything weird. A few people worked in their yards, cutting grass, planting flowers.

“I want to emphasize again that you won’t be in any danger here.” Mr. Johnson took another turn. “We have other humans living in Shadow Valley, generally parents of magically gifted children, or spouses of non-humans. There is some crime, just as in any town, but our crime rates are much lower than the city you were living in. Your neighbors will look out for you. I can introduce you if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to them alone.”

“Thank you. We’d appreciate that,” Dad said.

“Here we are.” Mr. Johnson pulled into the driveway of a house. It looked bigger than the house they’d lived in back in Lawrence[this is a joke! pick a different city later]. White with brown trim, three floors — although the top floor looked like an attack and not a full level. An open porch with an overhang protecting it. It even had a swing at one end.
It looked like something out of a movie. An image of a perfect suburban house. It didn’t have a white picket fence, but the lawn was trimmed.

“Wow.” Mom stared up at their new house.

“The movers should be here shortly with the rest of your belongings. Would you like a tour of the house?”

“Yeah. Thank you,” she said.

New town, new house, new school. Aiden’s stomach turned as he thought about Monday.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I got my invitation from Robyn Bachar who’s talking about the next book in her Bad Witch series, Poison in the Blood.

What is your working title of your book?
Saint of Sinners

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It’s the 2nd in a trilogy. The idea for the series came from The Omen. The kid is the son of the devil, but does that mean he has to be evil? What if he didn’t want to be? That’s how I came up with Alex — he’s the Antichrist, but he wants to save the world. The first book Not My Apocalypse is out now.

What genre does your book fall under?
YA Fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
That’s a tough one. I’m bad at picking actors. I’d probably have to do one of those nation wide searches and make a big deal out of the casting. It could be lots of fun.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
After saving the world, the son of the devil goes to high school.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. I really love being my own publishing company.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Five months. Man, what a slacker! I’m about to start the second edit.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
My editor called the first book “Percy Jackson starring the badass son of Satan”. I’m totally rolling with that.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wrote Not My Apocalypse for NaNoWriMo 2011, and two or three weeks in, I had an idea for a sequel where the main character goes to high school. Alex wants to be a normal kid and Saint of Sinners is about him trying his best to live a “normal” life. I wanted to explore how he would handle a world he’s only seen through a TV screen, and also how he deals with some of the strange things that pop up in his life (like inadvertently getting worshipers).

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Alex gets in a fight his first week at school because he protects a kid from bullies. That’s a theme that runs through the book: Alex standing up against bullies, defending the weak. He learns more about who he is as a person by facing both teenage problems and supernatural ones.

Oh, and his best friend is a talking cat named Mew-Mew.

The next stops are with E.P. Beaumont and Becca Patterson on January 2.

Halloween Flash Fiction Challenge

This is another challenge from Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds. A Halloween theme this time, how could I pass it up? My ingredients: Lovecraftian, Evil Awakens, High School, Stage Magic.

Almost as soon as I read those, I got an idea, and the title came along with it. So have a little pulpy horror goodness:

“Arkham High’s Last Talent Show”

Billy slumped in his seat and sighed. That weird Dwight kid was up next, doing magic tricks. Probably some lame card tricks and a big finale of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Well, Billy supposed, it was better than being in class.

Dwight stepped out, obviously wearing his dad’s suit, since it was too big for his short, skinny frame. He grinned at the audience and a little chill went up Billy’s spine. Dwight had always been weird, but that crazy smile was just creepy.

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to my show.” Dwight pushed his sleeves up. “I promise that you will remember what I am about to show you for the rest of your life.” He turned and motioned toward backstage. Two kids from the drama club pushed something out on stage.

Billy sat up. A flat board with shackles. Places for both arms and legs to be locked down. Was he planning to throw knives or something? The drama kids came back out, struggling to maneuver another board, this one larger and horizontal. The small wheels on each side were almost invisible. It looked like the board was floating, and a huge pentagram was drawn on it. All over the huge star and circle shape were weird symbols. Looking at them gave Billy a headache.

“Now, ladies and gentleman, I need a lovely volunteer from the audience.” Dwight still had that creepy grin. The crowd murmured. Finally, a few tentative hands went up.

Dwight scanned the crowd. “You, Miss Waldrup.” He pointed. “Please, come up here.”

Charlene Waldrup sashayed up to the stage. She could never resist being the center of attention. “What are you gonna do, saw me in half?” she asked. Her friends laughed.

“No, something quite different.” He pushed his foot against the wheels on the upright board. Locking them, Billy realized. “Please.” Dwight gestured for her to step against it.

He locked her down, one shackle at a time: snap, snap … snap, snap. “Kinky,” Charlene said. More laughter from her friends.

“Just wait there. I have a few more things to prepare.” Dwight walked around the board with the pentagram, bending down to lock all the wheels.

Billy glanced around at the other students. They weren’t bored anymore. Most of them looked curious. A few of them looked afraid.

When all the wheels were locked, Dwight pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket and drew one last symbol on the pentagram. It was just as strange as the others, except … it almost seemed to move.

“Are you ready to see some real magic?” Dwight looked out over the audience.

In the back, someone yelled, “Get on with it!”

Dwight’s grin got wider. “Alright.” He turned and held his arms out, over the symbols. Then he started to chant.

Billy shivered. Whatever language that kid was speaking, it wasn’t normal.

The pentagram rippled. The audience gasped and leaned forward. And then … something came out of the floor.

A tentacle slid right out of the center of the pentagram, reaching up and up. Billy wondered how he was doing it. Something under the floor? A projection? He squinted, tried to peer into the small gap between the board and the floor, but he couldn’t see the trick.

“Okay, this isn’t funny anymore. Let me out,” Charlene said. Her eyes were wide, fixed on the thing only a few feet away from her.

Dwight kept chanting, his voice rising to a scream, “C’thulhu fhtagn! C’thulhu fhtagn!”

More tentacles appeared, and Charlene screamed. The largest tentacle wrapped around her, squeezing. Everything erupted into panic. Students poured out of their seats, fleeing for the exits. In the screaming chaos, people were knocked down, trampled.

Billy jumped over seats, his breath coming in gasps as he tried to get away from that … that thing Dwight had called up. The chanting stopped and now he was laughing, the sound of it carrying over the screams.

Shoving his way into the crowd at the exit door, Billy heard another sound rising behind him. A roar or a scream, a horrible sound of triumph. Then a wet crunch. Then another. And another.

With a final squeeze, he made it through the door and out into the bright hall. But there was no safety here. The whole building shook, and from the auditorium came rumbling and cracking. The thing was still coming.

Running past other students, down the endless hall and finally to the far door. Billy burst out into the bright sunlight and stumbled down the steps. The immense crashing noises continued, and despite the terror, he turned.

A horror broke through the roof of the auditorium, and even from the other side of the school, Billy could see it. That was the worst thing of all: seeing, knowing.

In his last moments, Billy fell to his knees and prayed to the terrible monster Dwight had summoned. Prayed to die, because his mind couldn’t take it.

The Great Old One heard, and answered.

Flash Fiction Challenge from Terribleminds: A Game of Aspects

Over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terribleminds, he’s running a flash fiction challenge. Writers pick one item each from three columns and write a 1000 word story about it. I used a random number generator and came up with these: dystopian, graveyard, man vs himself

And this is what I came up with:

The Job

It was easier, and cheaper, to do it in the graveyard. Charlie checked his gun one more time. Three bullets would do the job and then some, but he always wanted to have a full six. Three, the number of kids he had. Charlie shook off the thought and made his way to the open grave.

He didn’t always know who he was killing, or why, but this time he did. Bryant Staley had been in the news for several months, trying to organize a union in his office. The media had been all over it, painting him as greedy, lazy, ungrateful for his job. The corporate office had warned him on three separate occasions. There was no fourth warning.

Things always came in threes, Charlie mused.

He stood near the freshly dug pit in the ground and waited for the car to arrive. It was a beautiful late spring day, a few clouds skating across the blue sky. After this, he’d go home and puke his guts out, but maybe by late afternoon he’d have the energy to play with his boys and visit Gina in the hospital.

After a while, a black SUV pulled up behind his Toyota. Two men got out, dragging a third between them. Staley was blindfolded and gagged, his hands cuffed behind him. He was fighting, but the two men were built like tanks and it did no good. They brought him up the hill and forced him to his knees at the foot of the grave.

“Take off the gag,” Charlie said. But not the blindfold. He couldn’t stand to look in their eyes. “A man should be able to say a few last words.”

The first goon grumbled, but did as he was told.

“Please,” Staley said. “Please don’t kill me.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Staley, but you were warned. You understood the consequences if you continued your efforts to unionize.” At least Valiant Worldwide didn’t use the tactics some other corporations did. They didn’t go after people’s families. That was what Charlie told himself so he could sleep at night.

“I just wanted a better life for my family. I can barely survive on what I get paid. I just want what’s fair. The way they treat us … I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t.” He started to cry.

Charlie gave the two goons a nervous glance before saying, “I agree, Mr. Staley. It’s not fair, but it’s the law. We have to obey.” Maybe, if he didn’t have a family, he might try to do something about it. There were rumors out in California of an uprising. But then again, there’d been rumors like that for years.

“Please. I have a family. Kids.” Staley wasn’t much older than him, a touch of gray showing in the bright sunlight.

“So do I, Mr. Staley. Two boys and a little girl. My girl is sick. Leukemia. Valiant is paying for her treatment as long as I do this for them. It’s nothing personal. If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else.” That was another thing he told himself so he could sleep.

“Does she know what you do?”

Charlie swallowed hard, his stomach going cold. “No.” What would she say if she knew what daddy did to make her better? Would she find out when she was older? Would she hate him for it?

The second goon shifted his feet. “Hurry up.”

Charlie wondered why the goons didn’t take care of this. Or were they just as uncomfortable as he was?

“Any last words, Mr. Staley?”

“Tell my wife and kids I love them. Tell them I just wanted the best for them. I wanted to give them a better world.” Staley was crying again, tears dripping from beneath the blindfold.

For one insane moment, Charlie considered letting him go. Shooting the two goons, jumping into the car with Staley. They could grab their families, maybe make it to Canada. But there were ways for Valiant to find them. They had offices in Canada, and even if the laws there were relaxed, that didn’t mean they couldn’t drag them back to the US for punishment.

And what about Gina? She was too sick to travel, and even if they could make it across the border, the minute they took her to a hospital for treatment, Valiant would know where they were.

“We all want a better world, but this is the one we live in now. I’m very sorry, Mr. Staley.” Charlie lifted his gun. His arm shook a little, but he forced it to steady. The first bullet punched through Bryant’s head and his body slumped. Charlie stepped forward and put two more into his chest. Blood soaked into the green grass. Somewhere in the distance, a sparrow chirped.

“Make sure you give him a decent burial,” he told the goons. Charlie’s part was over. Valiant would put up a headstone, taking the money out of Bryant’s stock options. The rest of the money would go to his family.

That was something, at least. Bryant’s family wouldn’t be kicked out of their home or starve, at least for a year or so. Hopefully at least one of his kids was old enough to get a job and help support them. Even a ten year old could get work that at least put food on the table.

Charlie’s job not only paid for Gina’s treatment, it made sure his boys could stay in school, and it made sure his wife only had to work fifty hours a week. They could even hide a little money away for the future. Maybe Canada wasn’t out of the question. Once Gina got better (and Charlie always thought in those terms: When and never if) maybe they could make it there. Change their names, live out in the country.

Behind him, one of the goons took the first shovelful of dirt.

This is the last time, Charlie told himself. He said that every time.