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  1. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 7 ~ Mari was grooming a dream when the boy entered her shop. "Back so soon?" she asked. Gently, she returned the dream into its box, nestling the featherlike creature into the velvet lining. She closed the lid, then returned it to its space under the counter. With hesitant steps, the boy came up to her. His skin was pale, the glow of emotion absent from his features. His eyes were dark with the numbness of forced indifference. The boy held out a fist-sized object wrapped in cloth. From beneath the finely woven threads, a shattered light pulsed softly. Carefully, Mari untangled the folds of fabric, handling the delicate, pulsing mechanism with practiced ease. The crystalline object's ruby-red facets were mottled with chips and cracks. Typical for a heart of the boy's age. "It's still hasn't healed," the boy said. Mari turned the heart in the light. Across the middle ran a bluish-black stain, reminiscent of a bruise. Nostalgia. It was the melancholy longing of times gone by, of a love long lost. The helplessness of watching a friendship fade away. The chest-deep ache of wanting to spin the clock's hands backwards and return things to How They Used to Be. "I- I know you told me to give it time-" the boy was speaking, stammering. "But it's been months. I still-" he hung his head. "It still hurts." The last words were spoken in a whisper. Shamefully. He knew, then, that this was a phantom pain. Mari let her fingers graze the discolored crystal, and for a moment was awash with the staggering weight of the sadness. Clipped, awkward conversations. Uneasy silences. Forced laughter. Indifference. Absence. The boy continued speaking, dragging his hands through his hair. "I- look, I know it's supposed to fade quick. It shouldn't be there anymore, I- I thought it was gone, but... things bring it back, you know?" "Yes." Mari nodded. She rewrapped the heart. "A phrase reminds you of a conversation, an image calls forth a memory that sends you hurtling back to the past, and every reminder of times long dead makes the scar darken." She knew. She understood. Yet the child understood less. "Some things are simply inevitable," Mari said. She held out the heart. The boy took it, tucking it back in his chest. "It will hurt for a while... but it will fade. Have patience. As trite as it is... please don't cling to the past." She gave what she hoped was a sympathetic smile. "Accept it." The boy nodded. He left the store. Mari stood in the silence for a moment. She laughed, quietly. Then, she took a box off a shelf and took out the dream within. "Now," she addressed the coil of concept that lay within her palm, watching the sharpness of its intent and the direction its desire flowed. "Where were we?"
  2. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 6 ~ Sometimes, Derek wished he couldn’t smell emotion.he tried not to sneeze at frustration’s sharp, pepper scent as he tried to breathe, squeezed between a snoring college student and a teenage girl whose earphones were blasting Fall Out BoyMy Chemical Romance In the cramped space inside the bus, the colors of the passengers emotions were giving him a headache. Jagged lines of scarlet irritation flickered through people’s heads like tiny lightning bolts. Frustration swarmed through their minds like hundreds of brick-red wasps. Here and there were others: midnight cloth-scraps of dread, Was it because it was the first day of school? Teenagers did tend to shuffle around bad moods when summer died and school rose to life like a zombie, ready to chew away at their brains. He turned his attention to the students. It didn't take a mind reader to pick them out- he could see their silent dread in the creases between the eyebrows of the boy sitting across him, in the frown that seemed etched in the jawbones of the girl beside him, in the lowered heads, in the eyes glued to their phones or closed in an attempt to snatch a few more minutes of precious, summer-vacation sleep. Derek felt a spark of annoyance flicker red in his mind. He snuffed it out. Tightening his grip on the his calmness, he took a deep breath, allowing the silvery emotion to sweep over his body, relishing its soothing coolness as he pulled it through his bones. He couldn’t judge them. Not everyone could sculpt their mental state as easy as molding clay. And even if they could, most people were content to wallow in their bad moods, holding on to their anger or frustration with the self-righteous indignation of a child crying out that life wasn't fair. He couldn't understand why people liked doing that. It made as much sense as holding on to a razor blade when it would've been easier to let go. Emotions tended to do strange things to common sense. Still, he wished they could chill a bit. Dread smelled like burnt hair, and he was starting to feel its disgusting, running-spiderlegs sensation against his skin. Outside, a car horn blared. Metal crunched against metal. A pair of men started shouting in the distance. The irritation in the room increased. Derek considered the situation with practiced apathy. He looked outside the window- school was a fifteen-minute walk away. Well, there was no use grumbling about it. He paid his fare, got off the bus, then started walking. Now, how should he feel today? As he walked, Derek let his mind turn to the space behind his eyes. It was there, that ever-present, colorless void where he could see his own emotions as something between vivid memory and hallucination.
  3. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 5 ~ Cara shivered, winding her deep green scarf tightly around her neck. A cold wind was blowing through the city, sending raindrops flying horizontally and bringing with it the cool, fresh scent of newly-wet pavement. Petrichor. The moderate drizzle had started a few minutes ago. Cara only managed to duck under the overhanging roof of her favorite cafe - Paper Cakes - before the rain hit full blast. Paper Cakes was a wide, squat building squeezed in between a fast food restaurant and a hardware store. Cara passed it every day walking to school and on the way home. While there was a handful of other coffee shops in her one-and-a-half kilometer route, Cara loved Paper Cakes the most. It wasn't because of their delicious milkshakes or the comfortingly haphazard arrangement of the tables and beanbag chairs inside. Cara came for the books. She smiled as she gazed inside the shop window, noting the shelves crammed with well-worn paperbacks. Towering stacks of books were scattered around the cafe space, piled precariously high. Strangely enough, each shelf and stack was neatly arranged, giving a sense of disorganized symmetry to the entire shop. Ah yes, Paper Cakes, this completely familiar building I have always known all my life and didn't just bring into existence by my willpower this very instant. Cara thought fondly. Taking a few minutes to stick her head inside and borrow an umbrella from the girl behind the counter, Cara continued her walk towards school, happily gazing at the familiar sights that she had obviously not imagined into being that greeted her eyes.
  4. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 4 ~ 6:00 AM I woke up with my eyes burning, my head aching, and his arms around my waist. When I tried to drag myself out of bed, he pulled me back down. "Five more minutes," he muttered. I tried to fight the tiredness that weighed my limbs down and chained me to bed. But as much as I wanted push past the fatigue and force myself up, it was easier to lie in his embrace. And so I did - warm under the sheets, in his arms - and couldn't help loathing myself. There was a time when I'd have leapt to my feet as soon as the alarm went off, when I'd have forced myself to sleep early instead of spending half the night awake with him, watching episode after episode of a show I didn't even like that much until my eyes burned and my head ached. I'd told him to leave last night. I told him to leave every night. But as much as I knew he needed to go, it was getting hard to imagine making it through the day without him by my side. I opened my mouth to tell him to leave, but he sighed, breath warm against the back of my neck. "Get mad at me later. Go back to sleep." I closed my eyes. I’d tell him later. It's not like he ever did anything huge. They were just small things. Insignificant things.
  5. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 3 ~ Once upon a time there was a girl who was born to the Mrs. and Mr. Van Acter, who both, upon seeing her solemn baby face and wide unblinking eyes, promptly named her Carrie. This was quite unusual for them, as both of them had quite noble dispositions and would’ve named their child something not as common as Carrie. It was indeed so strange, as well as the freak car accident that killed both of them a few months after Carrie was born. And as these stories go, Carrie was adopted by her closest relatives, her aunt and uncle. As it so happened, her aunt and uncle were very reluctant to adopt her, and more reluctant to be caring, proper parents to her. So they simply hired a governess to raise her as properly as she could be while they surreptitiously pretended she didn't exist
  6. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 2 ~ Administrator let Jaq play games. They were games about the stories she told her, stories of the world - Soret, the humans who lived in it, and History. Humans were evil. Administrator kept giving Jaq games. First there were simple ones that taught her how to change her shape, to gain fangs and claws and gills, and then there were better ones where she had to fight humans. Now, Administrator gave her real games. Jaq liked these games best. They helped Administrator. They were fun and made her think. Administrator was good. That meant when Administrator wanted humans dead, that meant she was protecting her from them. The world had been through a bad time, because the humans had done evil things. Administrator didn't want that to happen again. And Jaq liked the games very, very much. 1[X] "Good morning, Jaq." Administrator's voice said. Jaq jolted out of her sleep. Administrator was here. It must be morning. That meant Administrator had another game for her. Jaq uncoiled herself, stretched. Games were fun. Jaq rippled out of her sleeping-shape. Now she had only four limbs, but longer and bigger, and eyes. Now, she felt the wetness of the warm, water of her sleeping-place, lit dimly green from light outside. Goodbye, sleeping place. See you at night. Jaq sat up, out of the water, and shivered as soon as the air hit her skin. It was dark. The ladder was at the right, as usual. She climbed out of the sleeping place, into more darkness. She rippled into her playing-shape. Now it wasn't cold anymore. She had fur now, and ears. There were more scents, more things to hear with four ears. No more too-long back limbs. This was her favorite shape. Jaq waited. She wanted to play already. What would her game be today? Jaq hoped she had to hunt humans. Jaq liked playing games. Administrator let her play lots of them. Games were fun. There were different kinds of games, some where she was alone and some where she had friends with her. The monsters were always there in the games, two legged fleshy things that had glowing sticks. The monsters were bad. They were called humans, Administrator said. They were there so that playing would be harder. Jaq understood. The humans helped to make her better at playing. Administrator had taught her how to change herself, how to play better. But the humans were strange. Jaq once asked Administrator about them, what kind of creatures they were. Administrator always had a story for everything. Administrator had showed Jaq the things humans did to each other. The red stuff that came out of humans when they were hurt - blood - was everywhere. Many, many humans lay on the ground, defeated. Humans were walking around them, ignoring them, even laughing at them, ravaging the bodies. That was terrible. They were supposed to play fair. Administrator showed Jaq more things humans did. They hurt their young, hurt those around them. They were dishonest, and they were greedy when playing. They were never content with what they won. Jaq didn't understand why. Humans tried to have everything they wanted. If they didn't get what they wanted, they destroyed it. All humans were evil. Jaq understood that now. Suddenly arrows of light flared up in Jaq's vision. She followed them, then lay down when they blinked out. Jaq curled up for a while, waiting. She could smell metal. Metal smelled like human blood. She couldn't wait to tear some humans apart. They made playing hard. The darkness lifted from her vision. Jaq licked her paws, stretched, yawning. "Defeat all the humans." Administrator said in her ear. Oh, there he was. Jaq was wondering where he had been. "Leave no one alive." Administrator was always there. Administrator talked to Jaq all the time, through her head-piece. Wrapped around her face, leaving only her mouth and nose bare. It rippled with her form, shrinking or growing. Administrator had showed Jaq the things humans had done. The red stuff that came out of humans when they were hurt - blood - was everywhere. Many, many humans lay on the ground, defeated. Humans were walking around them, ignoring them, even laughing at them, ravaging the bodies. That was terrible. Administrator showed Jaq more things humans did. They hurt their young, hurt those around them. They were dishonest, and they were greedy. They were never content. Jaq didn't understand why. Humans tried to have everything they wanted. If they didn't get what they wanted, they destroyed it. Jaq felt sick when Administrator showed her the images. All humans were evil. Jaq understood that now.
  7. SeaFlame

    Seven

    ~ 1 ~ This ship had been drifting in space for a long time. Noroc didn't know how long. Crrrrrk He didn’t expect it be dragged into a black hole. Crrrrrk He also didn’t expect it to be ripped from the universe and fall Outside. Crrrrrk But here it was. Crrrrrk And here, there were hummers, Noroc thought. Horrible things. Hsssssss The airlock sealed itself completely, shutting out the vacuum of space. Noroc released his grip on the crank. He needed to stop the pilot from sending out a distress signal before he woke up. Noroc turned, himself around and stared anxiously at the crumpled insides of the ship, only gripping the handhold. The rest of him hovered silently. He needed to stop the hummers from discovering them. The circular corridor was cramped and narrow and dimly lit, white lights flickering weakly. From the dull grey metal hull sprouted handholds and tangled clumps of wires. Noroc grabbed a handhold, pulled himself forward, and glided. Grab. Pull. Glide. Null gravity meant he had to be careful to not crash into anything. Portholes in the curved metal walls showed the starless darkness outside, and beyond, the Tesseract. The blinding white rip between realities, the doorway to all the worlds was a slit in the distance, slowly growing nearer. Noroc knew he couldn't let the ship go through if the pilot managed to send out a signal. The hummers would follow them, discover their world, and come like a blazing starflare, washing over space and eating up the darkness. Worse, they would discover how the Tesseract worked, and exploit its power, conquering all of his kind. hummers were terrible, Noroc thought, his lip curling back in disgust. The corridor turned right here, leading to the place where the crew slept. Noroc hoped they were still unconscious, and rounded the corner. There was a hummer, clumsily clawing at the handholds, its crooked, pale limbs flailing as it tried to readjust to null gravity. It turned, its head lolling, barely supported by its thin neck, bare skin pulled taut over sharp bones. Its watery eyes widened - they were a disgusting black color - and started to ooze liquid - poison, Noroc thought. It opened its red mouth and let out a strangled sound, the vibrations running through Noroc's skin. Alien- disgusting - terrible thing Noroc lashed out, stabbed the hummer through its frail chest, and it was silent. Crunch went its skeleton. Liquid seeped from the gaping hole Noroc had torn in its body. Noroc glanced at it at disgust then continued forward through the ship. He had to hurry. Another airlock. Crrrrk crrrrk crrrrrk FWOOOSH Fire! Noroc darted inside, whipped his head around. He spotted the red valve that controlled oxygen and spun it shut. Help help me I’m burning I’m burning kill me already! Crrrrkcrrrrkcrrrk The fire was raging, thundering down the corridor towards him. Crkkcrrrrkcrrrk Like a starflare, a wall of heat and light Crrrrrkcrrrrkcrrrrk The oxygen was off! Noroc looked up anxiously. hssssssss The fire disappeared, faded away, nothing more to feed on. Noroc relaxed, continued. There were some hummer corpses burnt by the fire, but Noroc was still worried. He had to get to the pilot. Grab, pull, glide. Grab, pull, glide. Noroc wanted to stop using this ridiculous way of travel and hurry. But he had to be quiet. He passed another porthole, and there was an eye staring inside, a huge, pale, perfectly circular disk shining like a moon against skin as black as a vacuum. He ignored it. Finally, the last airlock. why isn't it working, why isn't it working, oh God I think it's outside help me it isn't working I can't send a distress ca- Noroc smiled. He didn't bother opening the airlock. He pulled back his lips and let his slick white tongues slither around the door, his long, lithe, snakelike body writhing behind him in excitement, thousands of dark tendrils uncurling and burning like a comet’s tail, creating a coat of cosmic light. Noroc’s tongues tore the metal to shreds, and he looked down at the hummer. Finally. The pilot looked up from the console in horror at the thing in front of him. A sleek, dark, bullet-shaped head with two shining disk-shaped eyes on the sides, pale and devoid of emotion stared back at him, the lip rolled back and the mouth a fleshy grey hole crammed with twisting white tongues. HELP ME HELP ME SOMEBODY IT’S HERE IT’S NOT HUMA- Noroc ripped the creature from limb to limb. Oh. They weren't called hummers after all, Noroc thought, darting out of the ship into the freedom of space. They were called humans.
  8. Shall we? Sol, still preening, acquiesces. Without an ounce of effort she slips into a pose worthy of a girl on the cover of a lo-fi hip hop beat mix. Casual. Elegant. Cozy. Aglow in the ambient light of the morning, she sits perfectly still, perfectly elated to be the subject of an artist with such a fascinating name. Luna cast a look of mild displeasure at her twin. Like a dog thrown a bone. She wasn't so easily placated, no. Luna peers at the pair of men over the edge of her phone. The light of the screen glints in her eyes as she studies them with an expression akin to a cat considering a flowerpot on a ledge. Sat at a comfortable slouch, an arm slung over her seat's backrest, she consults the results on her screen. "Dear-mad, hm? Cool name. Irish?" Without envy. "Does Mr. Coat Rack here have an equally cool, equally exotic name?" Her eyes alight on him. A sweet smile curves her lips. She addresses the taller man this time. "You the designated companion of sir Diarmaid here? Cause we-" she waggles a finger from Sol to her "- have the solemn obligation to accompany our kid brother on his dates-" From a table away, Phil's glare could have hewn steel in half. "- that is, study dates." Luna barrels on without missing a beat, shooting Mr. Coat Rack a conspiratorial wink. "Is that your deal too? Wingman, dudebro escort for your dear friend as he paints and meets pretty ladies?" Never mind there wasn't a paintbrush in sight; all for the alliteration. "
  9. Mai has reigned victorious over Chapter 1 of the textbook. She presses a post-it note to the top of the page, slams the cover shut, and slides the book off her lap and onto the seat beside her. The itch for productivity has been scratched. It is but a tiny, insignificant step towards the future she's planned for years, but every moment counts. Must count. Needs to count. There is no time for dawdling or lollygagging, no, not with her. Mai reaches for her drink and finds it has gone cold. She makes a face as she sips. "Dunno why you keep ordering coffee. You drink it half an hour after it arrives." Phil notes. Mai scowls at him over the rim of her mug. He grins, spreading his hands in a placating gesture. "That any way to treat your study buddy?" "You're not studying," Mai points out. Her expression softens. "Thanks, though. For coming with me." His presence is enough. The cafe is cozy, but Mai knows well the disquiet that would ensnare her if she had come alone. It lingers still at the back of her mind, fixed in the image of her empty bedroom, the vast, dim spaces of the library, the hazy glow of the computers. Mai drums her fingers on the table, feeling the restlessness in her rear its head once more. It's an endless compulsion, turning her thoughts back, always back to her goal. Her hands are stained with highlighter. She pictures the material she's yet to cover in her mind, a mental map she's run over and over again. Her mouth is dry. Phil's voice snaps her out of the haze. "You okay?" Mai forces a smile. "Yeah." He mirrors her expression. "Don't work yourself too hard, 'kay?" She forces herself to swallow. "I won't." Phil looks like he wants to say something else, but a voice interrupts the conversation. A man in a sweater stands before them. A stranger. Mai's hand finds its way to her pen, reflexively turning the object between her fingers. Phil's normally placid expression borders on a glare. Mai sighs in relief as his attention drifts beyond, settling on Phil's sisters. ~ ☀ ☪~ Oh! Sol manages to stamp out her grin, raising a delicate hand to her lips in feigned shyness. "Oh!" Sol breathes audibly this time. "Are you sure?" she asks, tucking a dyed strand of hair behind her ear, twisting in her seat to face the stranger, one leg crossed over another. Luna shows no such reservations; sister's grin stretches from ear to ear. She coughs, and Sol swears she can hear a "poser" in the sound. Never mind her- who was this nice gentleman? Who was the goth-boy coat rack? "He looks like a nice coat rack, all the same," Luna adds kindly. Oh, for the love of- Sol pictures herself wrapping duct tape over her sister's mouth and manages to hold her smile. "I'd be flattered to be a model," Sol giggles, shuffling forward ever-so-slightly in her seat to prop an elbow on a knee and cradle her chin on the palm of her hand, face tilted up to the stranger. She cocks her head to rake an unsubtle gaze over the bespectacled man. Her grin edges its way from pageant-queen to predatory Cute. Really cute. Luna, for the moment - thank goodness - has fallen silent. Sol appreciates her sister's ability to hold her tongue, as few and far in between these moments can be. Sol straightens, crossing one leg over the other. "I'm Sol, and this is Luna. What's your name, up-and-coming artist boy?"
  10. Sol presses her forehead against the coffee table, back arched, knuckles rapping against the wooden floorboards. She considers her brother, his friend, and the mind-numbing spectacle of him pining after her for years on end. It is a heavy burden to bear, to be the resigned audience to the dragging dance of the two - genius idiot and loyal idiot. Alas, it is a sister's duty to chaperone her younger brother, particularly when said younger brother insists on accompanying their just-friend to a study session eight in the bloody morning. On a weekend. Sol releases a muffled groan. The cafe, for all its homey furnishings, has a distinct lack of pillows. Sol has the decency to not curl up on the nearby couch. If there is any consolation to this unwanted trip, her brother has kindly paid for their drinks. The barista arrives with two cups. Reluctantly, Sol drags herself upright, wavers, then slumps backwards against the seat. Oh, the agony of sleep deprivation. Luna is studying the barista from beneath her bangs. After a moment's consideration, she beams a blinding grin at the young man. "Thanks..." her eyes catch his nametag, "...William. Cute name. Like the prince?" William blinks, manages a nod, and scoots back to the counter. Luna's self-satisfied smirk draws a giggle out of Sol. "You bastard." Luna raises an eyebrow "What?" Sol shook her head slowly, pressing a palm to her cheek in mock disapproval "My, my, sister. Eight-o-five in the morning and already, some poor boy's caught in your targets" Luna widens her eyes, looking innocent. "Oh, Sol. You know I'm the most vocal advocate for hydration." "Ya thirsty." A beatific smile crosses her sister's face. "What I lack in sleep, I shall compensate for in hydration." A soft creak from the front of the cafe signals the arrival of new customers. The sisters watch with mild interest as the odd pair enters. "Hey. You can try with him. He's cute," Luna notes. She inclines her head at the first man, who looks like a gangster stereotype lifted from a twelve-year-old's self-insert fantasy - down to the tight pants to the smolder. "So is the other one," Sol mutters, eyeing the edgelord's companion. Where the gangster-man is all edge, his friend is light and softness, wide-eyed behind his round spectacles. Cuddly. "So cute." After a moment's thought, she adds, "They look like the dudes from the angel show." Luna pauses, her drink halfway to her mouth. "The what." "The one on Tumblr? The demon was Killgrave from Jessica Jones" Luna looks at her blankly, then curls her lip in disgust. "Good Omens! How dare you forget Good Omens? Uncultured swine. You're disowned." She turns away with a toss of her head, slurping loudly from her straw. Sol rolls her eyes. Surreptitiously, she continues to observe the new arrivals. What business does such an odd pair have to be at a coffee shop eight in the morning, on a weekend? In her periphery, she catches sight of her brother. He is twiddling twiddles his thumbs, still sitting silently across his not-girlfriend. Sol looks at her sister, now engrossed in the display of her phone screen. She looks down at her drink, at the misshapen ice cubes already half-melted. A sigh escapes her lips. What a waste of a good weekend.
  11. Eight-o-clock. All is still. The Logovore Cafe sits golden in the rays of the early morning. An ornate clock ticks steadily behind the counter. A metronome to the tuneless humming of the barista as he bustles about, preparing for the day. He heads to the door and flips the CLOSED sign to OPEN. SLAM. An exhausted-looking student stands at the doorway, one hand flush against the door. "Out," she hisses, "of my way." The barista blanches at the look on her face. The girl sweeps past him, trailed by a sheepish-looking boy and two older girls. "Sorry about that," the boy mutters. He leans over the counter. "Uh. A chai latte for Mai, a peppermint mocha for Phil, and-" "Hibiscus tea with pearls," said the first girl, her eyes fixed on her phone. "For Sol." "Black tea with pearls for Luna," said the second, looking over her sister's shoulder. The trio cast a glance at their third companion. Mai has situated herself at a booth in the corner of the cafe. In the time it has taken the flustered barista to take their orders, she has booted up a laptop, surrounded it with stacks of paper, and is flipping through a book on her lap. Sol quirks an eyebrow at her brother. "Bro. It's eight in the morning. On a Saturday. Why are we in a cafe watching your girlfriend study for an exam a year away?" Phil reddens. "She's not my girlfriend," he sputters, running a hand through the spikes of his hair. "We're just... study partners." Luna looks up from her phone. She exchanges a glance with her sister. "Riiight. We'll be over there." She jabs her thumb at another table. Phil watches his sisters leave. With a sigh, he slides into the seat opposite Mia. "He-" Mia raises a hand to stop him. "After this chapter." She flips a page, twirls a highlighter in her fingers, then draws a neon yellow line across the paragraph. Phil shut his mouth with a snap. Okay then. He settles back in his seat to wait for his drink.
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