Hullo my Mad Steemian Friends! 🙂 It’s Day 4 of #marchmadness and today I not only wrote while I was actually awake, but I wrote almost 2000 words – yay!
I needed 2350 to get on par, but I’m happy with what I did (even though I’m writing largely nonsense). By the end of the week I should be right on track… only to fall off the track when the weekend raises it’s tiring head. xD (just realised the end of the month is on a weekend too, aaarrrghh!)
Anywho, the prompt for today was — meat and gravy — and, here it is! Oh man, I have time to RELAX tonight for a change. It’s great. 😀 Might play some Civilisation. (In reality, I’ll probably sit on the couch in typical potato fashion and stare blankly at steemit, refreshing, hoping for something new to pop up)
Today’s wordcount: 1962
Total wordcount: 6080
✶schedules post for later ~ wheeeee!✶
Floating atop the dirty river were thick brown chunks that looked almost spongey. They almost looked like large blobs of overcooked meat, bathing in a pool of gravy. Cassandra wrinkled her nose. For all she knew, those chunks could be exactly that. Maybe not drenched in gravy, but them being chunks of meat was a distinct possibility. Human meat for that matter. Though they were only rumours, she had heard much about Harclyffe and his morbid fascination with blood and death and it wouldn’t surprise her in the slightest if those chunks turned out to be the grim, bloodless remains of his victims. At least Loren, though perverse, didn’t harbour such tendencies.
Peering over her shoulder, she stole a quick glance at the two blundering idiots slowly following her along the riverbank. The pair muttered beneath their respective breaths as their bare feet met the mud and grime and were sucked into the depths before they yanked them back out again, their arms flailing as they smacked at the foliage that tried to restrict their passage. The men’s inability to traverse the natural environment was eyebrow-raising; they truly hadn’t been let out of that infernal building for years.
Sebastian —the one who had first made contact with Loren— was tall, blonde and carried an easy smile, while his friend, Henry, was short, pudgy and seemed to wear the weight of the world across his scrunched shoulders. They weren’t what she had expected, but they would suffice, and the fat one had the diamond! She smiled, brushing aside the heavy leaves of a large, purple fern. It shouldn’t be too hard to dispatch them and take the powerful gem, after all, they had bought her story that she was a slave just as they, desperate to escape entrapment, that the bracelet she had worn was her connection with Loren and at its disconnect during the turmoil, he had lost her.
He would never lose her. She was the key —their key— and she embraced her duty with all of her heart.
It was with great reluctance Loren had allowed her to journey to the neighbouring city, a journey that was a good four days walk through Mother Nature’s reclamation. It would have only taken a day —two at most— twenty years ago, but things were different now. Thick trees clumped together and formed barriers that could only be walked around, more than a few plants had become sentient and had discovered a taste for meat, and animals that were once small and frightened had become beasts that should only exist in tall tales. Her favourite was the koala. Back before the solar storm reached their skies, she had found it largely amusing to tell every tourist she laid eyes on to watch out for the dropbears. Now they had become actual dropbears —dangerous balls of teeth and claws that would fall out of a tree onto unsuspecting passersby and tear their heads off— it was fantastic, if hazardous. Best to travel during the day so as not to risk the cute little fuzzies.
Loren would want her back as soon as possible and with the diamond. The men didn’t matter. Sebastian seemed capable and cheerful enough to withstand the events that were coming, however, it was doubtful he’d agree once she took out Henry. If not, it didn’t matter. His body would be just another carcass left to feed the plant-life and sustain the scavengers.
The dirty river water bubbled and churned beside them as the great screeches of winged menaces swept across the darkening sky, and a cool breeze blew from the opposite side of the river, carrying the faint scent of rain on its wintry breath. That would not do; not these days. It seemed they would need to take a detour before their end would come.
“There’s a small village nearby,” she called over her shoulder. “We should probably stop there before it rains.”
Henry yanked his foot out of the mud —again— and sighed, irritated by his inability to have properly prepared for his escape, and subsequently go for his first hike in twenty years. It was not like he’d had a choice, though; the only clothing he had was what was available in the town-hall… perhaps he should’ve put some boots aside the last time he returned the dirty clothes of the dead back into dilapidated wardrobes for the next willing dead to scavenge. Hindsight was such a burden.
“A village… near here?” He furrowed his brow. There were no other towns nearby —Hervey Bay had been the nearest at thirty kilometres away— but then, a lot had probably changed while he was trapped in Harclyffe like a princess locked in a tower… and those deluded teenagers had to come from somewhere nearby. He shook his head and muttered, “Whatever. Think they have shoes?”
Cassandra only shrugged and kept leading them along the riverbank, her impossibly perfect hair bouncing down her back. It was unfathomable how neatly combed it was; surely it should be a mess after walking from one township to the next and then running off through the tangled town the past night. He sighed. It didn’t matter, the main thing was he could actually see again. Hallelujah!
Yanking his foot out of the mud for what had to be the thousandth time, he grunted. From his vantage point atop the bell-tower and from his somewhat frequent treks into the few remaining houses that hadn’t been completely shattered by nature’s wrath, he had known that the region had become overgrown with unnatural flora and fauna, but the town had been protected by Harclyffe’s expanding power, like a shield in an old science fiction programme, and he hadn’t quite expected it to be quite so annoying. He had been naive.
A strange wail sounded in the distance, somewhat like a cow’s moo combined with a dingo’s howl, and though it was high and piercing, it was muffled by the thick foliage that surrounded them. Henry tightened his coat about himself, as though that simple act would ward off whatever creatures may be prowling, and Sebastian snorted, the first sound he had made in what seemed hours, evidently amused by both the moo-howl and his involuntarily reaction. In response and without realising he was actually doing it, Henry stuck his foot out and tripped Sebastian over, laughing as the lanky blonde twirp flailed before falling face-first into the bubbling water, and then also stumbled over as Seb grabbed his foot and yanked him down too.
“Children,” Cassandra muttered, without a backward glance. “If you would kindly recall the bull sharks that once infested that river and remind yourselves of the transformed nature of the world we now live in, perhaps you’d like to remove yourself from the water’s edge.”
Leaping up from the mud, Henry backed away from the churning water and glared at Sebastian as the man casually kicked a rock into it. The woman was right… this was no time for games, even if Sebby had deserved it. His heart leapt into his throat —the diamond! Hopefully it hadn’t fallen out of his pocket.
He thrust his hand into the coat pocket and breathed a sigh of relief. It was still there, almost glued to the fibres around it. Did it really matter now though? Cassandra was running away from her balloon-headed freak just as they were escaping theirs. The diamond —the payment for the other wizard, Loren, to take them on— was now worthless and unneeded. Although… maybe it could be used as a type of currency, it was unlikely that normal money was still used these days and most people would probably be happy to take a diamond. He would keep the loathsome thing, for now.
The sky darkened bit by bit each minute they spent pushing themselves through the thick river grasses and slogging through the insanely sticky mud, the smell of impending rain grew stronger, and Cassandra began to run. He had once enjoyed a nice, peaceful rainy day, but had also seen what these new rains were capable of and it wasn’t pretty. Several of the teenagers Harclyffe courted before their demise bore the pock-like marks across their flesh from each raindrop they had received before finding shelter, the misshapen circles imbued with hints of green and black. He bet that each one had burned as it formed too. Shuddering, he and Sebastian chased after Cassandra through the sudden wind that had swept up and the leaves that swayed along with it, hoping to reach the village she had mentioned before the first drop was to fall.
Long vines as thick as those that had crawled up the town-hall cut zig-zags across the conjoined trees, barely leaving any room for a human body to squeeze through let alone a trio of them to barge through in desperation. Spindly twigs whipped back and forth with the increasing gusts, their edges as sharp as a well-honed knife. The strange moo-howl wail repeated itself several times over across the way, getting closer each time, and then was joined by two others, then another. A shiver ran down his spine as Cassandra increased her pace. She seemed to be well-versed with the environment; if she was worried, he should be too.
Lights flickered through tiny gaps between branches and the hint of burning wood brushed his nostrils. There was fire nearby —was it friendly, or as unnatural as those hungering vines?
The trees suddenly cleared to reveal a small clearing with ten or so close-knit, crudely-built houses surrounded by a ring of metal drums, each one burning bright with orange flames, and the dull chatter of other people touched his ears. Henry breathed a relieved sigh and glanced over his shoulder at Sebastian, his normally cheerful face taut with worry, worry that was quickly hidden when he caught his gaze. He had been strangely silent this entire journey, apart from the earlier snicker… that in itself was a bit of a worry.
Before he could say anything, Cassandra whipped around and offered a small, tense smile.
“I’ve been here before on ‘balloon-head business.’ Pub’s at the back. Don’t say anything about Harclyffe, Loren, or even your trademark ‘balloon-headed freaks,’ she advised. “Sit down, grab a pint, and…” she paused, a crease in her brow, and then her smile became more natural. “Just act like a bogan. You’ll be fine.”
“Act like a bogan?” Sebastian questioned with a smirk, the first words he had spoken all day. “So, get drunk, impregnate you, and spend the rest of our lives screaming at one another while we ignore the kids? Sounds hot, Cassie.”
Cassandra narrowed her eyes and Henry stepped back, almost expecting them to reignite with that blinding inner storm. They didn’t, but her voice was strained as she finally replied, “Cute. Just drink, swear a lot, and don’t use big words. I’ll pay.” She brandished a small silver cigarette case before placing it back in her pocket.
“Uh, those cigarettes?” asked Henry.
“What? Did you expect coins and notes to still hold weight?” her smile returned. “Smokes and booze, my newfound friends. Oh, and pot. Damn that stuff has changed over the years, people go mental for it. Will sell their children for it. Could probably buy the whole pub supply with just one bud. Hard to harvest though, the things have a hankering for meat these days.
Henry stared, speechless, and nodded wildly as Sebastian voiced his question.
“Man munchin’ marijuana? Seriously?”
Cassandra winked and said, “You know it,” then motioned toward the larger of the buildings behind all the others. “Hurry. Before the rain breaks through.”