Sunday Photo Fiction – Torture

35 11 November 24th 2013

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

If you’d like to submit your own flash fiction story based on the photo, click here.

I place the pen against my mouth and close my eyes, trying to pull the threads of my emotions into a straight, logical line that I can write about. I find that they’re all connected into a tangled web, not very flattering to my intelligence or my conscience. My lips quiver next to the plastic, and moisture gathers at the corner of my eyes.

It’s my lack of guilt that makes me guilty. We were all stood in a line together, eyes down, whilst they assessed us. I was the person next to you, not the one who chose you. Not the one who dragged you out of the line. Not the one who directly caused those screams that triggered never-melting ice to grow in our spines.

I can’t be dishonest about the sleepless nights in the cells, where I didn’t feel bad for you because I was too busy thanking God it wasn’t me.I don’t kid myself that a lifetime of this is worse than what you went through.

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – I Can’t Hand Out Happiness.

Image

Copyright – Alastair Forbes

This prompt came from Alastair’s Photo Fiction Blog.

My name is Paul, and I grew up in Bridlington, in a squalid, one-bedroom apartment. My mother used to tell me, “It’s you and me against the world, Paul, it’s you and me.” It never felt that way. No, I was on my own and I knew it. Throughout my childhood, I wasted hours on the beach, walking along the litter strewn front. The foil of empty crisp packets reflected stony clouds. During the peak season, I stayed away from the smells of waffles and the sight of children with their ice cream cones, or the jealousy would crush me.

I went into the army when I left school, made a few friends who still visit me now and then. When I returned, I had enough money to buy the cart. I painted it up, bought stock, and I somehow made enough profit to survive. Sometimes, when cycling around, I see a lonely looking child. I give them an ice cream, and hope it’s enough to get them through the day.

Taking Back The Crown – Thoughts

Okay, so I know it’s been a few days since I posted the ending of TBTC, but bear with me. I hope you enjoyed the series, I had a good time writing it, and it was great for me to able to focus on a longer project in preparation for NaNoWriMo.

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who stuck with it, or went back and read the whole thing! Thank you so much!

Honestly, how did you feel about the ending?

I hated it! I was so disappointed with myself! I kept on telling myself I had plenty of time to fix it and I never quite managed to get it to feel right.

Obviously, the relationship between Seta and Sonya is so complicated. Seta’s transition from guardian to romantic partner is tricky. I felt like I managed to make them equals from Sonya’s point of view, but I could never really figure out when Seta realizes Sonya isn’t a child anymore. When does it become acceptable for him to have romantic feelings for her?

I originally wrote Seta as younger than I really wanted him to be. For that reason, there’s an edge of jealousy when he thinks Sonya is sneaking out to see a boy. I never changed that when I rewrote Seta to be older, and that’s a mistake on my part. That was originally when I wanted to hint that Seta was beginning to develop those kind of feelings. With the later age differences, we’re on dodgy ground right up until Sonya sees him on the day of her coronation.

I guess I just felt a huge amount of pressure to get it absolutely perfect, because Sonya and Seta are my favorite couple in the TBAM series by miles, even though they hardly feature/will feature in the main books.

Another possibility I considered was having Seta help Sonya with the final battle, as it would allow him to see her in a leadership role rather than as a child. However, I felt this would veer far too closely him “saving the day” and that is absolutely something I wanted to avoid. This was Sonya’s coming of age story; she did need to do this by herself.

If you would like to read the series, click here. That link will take you to the first post.

Taking Back The Crown – Ending

 Later that night, after the ceremony, Sonya found Seta in the newly refurbished Palace gardens. He turned to her, looking upset.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

  “I’ve been talking to people here. The amount of difficulty you’ve been through in the past five years… Why didn’t you allow me to help you? Did you really think the Elders could have stopped me if I thought you needed me?” His face looked pained.

  “I didn’t need you, Seta. I needed to do this myself.” For the first time, Sonya realized they were of almost equal height.  If they battled now, would she beat him? “I hope you understand.”

  “I wish I could forgive you straight away. Did you have any idea how worried I was?”

  “You didn’t need to worry about me. I’m not a child anymore.” As if to prove it, Sonya took what she felt was the boldest leap of her life and kissed him.

 Afterwards, he held her tightly and they stood in silence as thoughts trickled through their minds. Seta was the first to speak.

  “Do you think the Elders knew that this would happen?”

  “I suspect they did.” Sonya murmured into his shoulder.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Nineteen

Half a year since they’d won the battle, and Sonya was still working tirelessly with the other magicians to restore the Palace and other homes in Litia. They sent out the message that Litia had been reclaimed. Slowly but surely, families and individuals came back to reclaim their properties. They formed an emergency government with Sonya at its head, planning for a proper election within the next three years. Their main project was rebuilding the Litian academy, a school that would educate both magical and non-magical students.

 Sonya had never really given up hope that Naria and Trin would return. However, she knew that Litia needed and wanted its Queen. Under pressure, she agreed to a coronation ceremony, scheduled after the Palace would be completed. It was going to be Litia’s fresh start, but she knew that she couldn’t begin until she had determined one last thing.

 One evening, she warped to the Natetic Training grounds. It was midday there, and the sun shone down on her. Sonya hoped it was a good omen. Luck did seem to be on her side, she came across nobody as she walked to the old combat room they’d trained in. They must all have been eating their main meal. As she waited for him, she looked out of the window and told herself that if he stayed here, she’d understand. It would still hurt, but he would have his reasons.

 “Hello?” Sonya swung around to see him. He suddenly dropped the tray of tea he was holding. She winced and hoped that the noise would not attract the elders. “Sonya?”

 She nodded. She wondered if he would recognize her, even without the scars. It had been five years for her, and a year for Seta. There was a big difference between fourteen and nineteen, but did Seta still see her as a child? Sonya swallowed. She hoped not.

 “Where have you been?” He stepped over the mess on the floor and grabbed her arms. “You’re so much older.” She looked him in the eyes.

 “Litia.” she replied, honestly.

“Is that where you’re from? Sonya, why did you leave? I was angry, but I didn’t think you’d run away. I didn’t want you to go away.”

 “I came back before. You didn’t recognize me, but I came back.” Seta’s eyes widened.

 “That was you? What happened to you? The elders never told me…”

 “The elders haven’t told you much, have they? They forbade me from coming back here. They knew who I was, where I was from, and they neglected to tell you.” Sonya explained.  “Let me show you where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing.” She held out her hand and Seta took it.

Sonya teleported them both into the foyer of the Palace, which had been decorated for the Coronation. Seta looked around, taking in the view, especially through the windows where the ravaged city could easily be seen.

 “The country was attacked and I lost all of my family on the night that you found me. They’re crowning me as Queen tonight.” she said. Seta closed his eyes.

 “The Litian Royal Family. I’ve heard of them. I should have known.” He opened his eyes again to see Sonya smiling.

 “I think Litia deserves a Queen that’s actually completed her training. Will you help me, even though the elders forbid it?” she asked.

 “As long as you are honest with me from now on…”

 “I promise. Always.”

 “…I’ll assist you in any way that I can.”

Taking Back The Crown – Part Eighteen

Sonya laid her plans carefully. This time they would not be surprised by the enemy.

 On the night of the attack, Sonya transported herself into the bathroom attached to Naria’s old bedroom. She peered out of the door and saw Magdalene sleeping in what once had been the bed reserved for the Queen. She recognized her as the woman who she’d attacked the day she’d came back to the Palace, shortly after the raid.  Sonya knew that Magdalene wouldn’t be able to resist the idea of taking over that room, taking full glory in the fact she’d overthrown the Royal Family. Sonya had no doubt that Magdalene saw herself as the Queen of Litia now, and thought that the bedroom rightfully belonged to her.

 “Magdalene.” Sonya called out, as she walked out of the bathroom. She couldn’t kill Magdalene in her sleep; it would be dishonourable.

 Magdalene suddenly sat bolt upright, and slashed her arm across the air, making Sonya think she had perhaps been awake the whole time. Sonya managed to reflect the attack, sending it into the wall, causing brick dust and plaster to fly across the room. Magdalene jumped out of bed, but Sonya’s next blow caused her to fall the floor. They duelled wordlessly, panting with effort, but Sonya always had the upper hand.

 A messenger came to warn Magdalene of the troops attacking the Palace and Sonya struck him dead within seconds. It wasn’t long after this that Sonya struck Magdalene across the body and she collapsed lifelessly to the floor.

 Sonya grabbed Magdalene by the collar and dragged her corpse out of the room, leaving a trail of blood behind her. As she walked towards the staircase, she heard the noise of intense battle. If her plan had worked, the majority of troops would be in the palace foyer. Sonya wasn’t disappointed. Proudly, she looked on and watched as her army fought with the Rutilus.

 She then took pleasure in the faces of all the dark magicians as they watched their leader’s dead body tumble down the staircase.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Fifteen

Sorry about the missed day. Been a little distracted of late. I can only hope this mood improves by the time I start NaNoWriMo.

 Eighteen months later, their small army marched into Helena with Sonya and Linden at their head, but they didn’t see a soul. They pressed on, Sonya feeling uneasy, until they reached the central square.

 “This is a mistake.” Sonya breathed.

No sooner than she had finished whispering those words, a screaming mob of Rutilus and dark magicians had surrounded them. Sonya found herself taken back to the night of the raid on the Palace, watching as people were slaughtered. Not again. It wouldn’t happen again. She surged forward, throwing attacks at her enemies and watching them fall. Her recruits followed her into the chaos. She suffered blows on her back, front and legs but kept going until she found herself against the tall Palace gates. Sonya turned to see hundreds of Rutilus pressing towards her, and she couldn’t keep them at bay.

  What can I do? What can I do? Sonya thought. A Rutilus threw an attack, and she was blown into unconsciousness.

 Linden saw this happening and used his magic to shoot a blue flare into the sky. This was the signal to retreat.

 “What about Sonya?!” Orika yelled above the din.

 “She’s gone! There’s nothing we can do!” With that, he teleported back to the base.

 Orika ignored him and dived into the mass. With the aid of some other recruits who did not want to lose their leader, she retrieved Sonya’s body and finally retreated.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Fourteen

For months there were arguments about how they should oust the dark magicians from Helena.

 “We should approach from the North and slowly clear everyone out.” Linden advised. “There aren’t enough of us to split into groups. If all the Rutilus come in from the Back Desert, they’ll be able to pick us off, one by one.”

 “No, we need to take them by surprise. If we take Magdalene, the leader, before she can call them in, they might just leave us.”

 “Your highness, I appreciate you are concerned, but I have experience in these matters. You must trust me.”

 Sonya walked out of the room, frustrated.

While the plans were discussed, Sonya spent time teaching new recruits everything she knew about magical combat. She was even taught new things by those who had studied different methods under trainers from other lands. In the end, Sonya had her own style that she was comfortable with, but she never stopped feeling guilty about her incomplete training with Seta.

 She made friends with Orika and, six months after moving to the camp, confided in her about the Training Ground and the circumstances in which she left. She neglected to mention her feelings for Seta, but Orika understood and comforted her.

 “Why not go back and explain properly? He might want to fight with us.” Orika suggested.

 “For a group of magicians who train in combat, they’re very anti-conflict. They don’t get involved with other people’s wars.”

 “Maybe in general, but he might not be.” she pointed out. Sonya was doubtful. It was best to leave Seta and those painful memories behind.

Taking Back The Crown – Part Thirteen

If I’m completely honest, writing this part made me a tiny bit emotional. Also, I may not get around to posting tomorrow as I’ll be out all day.

 

 “Who is he?” Seta asked. He was sitting on the floor in her room. He’d clearly been there for quite some time. Sonya had warped in fifteen seconds ago, and now stood in front of him, unable to move or answer. To let him think that she had been visiting a boy was unbearable, but if he knew the truth…

 “If you won’t tell me where you’ve been, then I have to assume the worst, Sonya.” Seta’s lips were turned down firmly at the edges. It was clear he found the whole situation unpleasant. “Sneaking out at night, the way you’ve been distracted… I suspected what was going on, but I really didn’t want to think it was true. Give me any explanation…” He was almost pleading.

  Sonya couldn’t even look at him. The shame burned her chest and eyes.

 “I know the rules are strict but, in the end it’s your choice to stay here… You’ve really disappointed me. I can’t ignore this deceit. I have to tell the Elders.” He walked out of the room, leaving her drowning in the sense of her own disgrace.

While he was gone, Sonya made up her mind. She quickly searched through her room for things she wanted to take with her, but realized she never really kept any personal effects here. Taking a deep breath, she transported to the camp and went straight to Linden.

 “Back already?” he asked, looking concerned.

 “I’m back for good. I’ll be staying here permanently until we take back Litia.”

Taking Back The Crown – Part Ten

So, we are half-way through. Hurrah! I’ve increased the number of overall posts to twenty, and am struggling with literally just the last line of the thing. Everything else is written and ready.

 “You seem distracted, are you alright?” Seta asked quietly. He and Sonya were eating their evening meal in the dining room, surrounded by the gentle hum of other people’s conversations. Sonya replied that she was fine, but it didn’t stop Seta from looking concerned. Sonya changed her story.

 “Actually, I have a small headache. May I meditate alone in my room tonight rather than doing our usual exercises?”

 “Of course you may.” Seta was mocking her unusually formal tone.

 Once upstairs, Sonya changed again into her black robe. She warped straight to her old holiday home.

 On the path outside, Sonya shielded her eyes from the dazzling sunrise opposite her. She could hear the sounds of people laughing. The gates to the front of the house were open. She slowly walked up to the doors.

 “Hey! You’re too young to be around here!” A wiry, middle-aged woman walked towards Sonya from the left. Sonya turned and she stopped suddenly, her mouth going slack. Her wrinkled eyes looked Sonya up and down. “It can’t be…”

 “I’m here to see Linden Hayber.” Sonya said, calmly. She hadn’t known what to expect, whether they would even recognize her or if she’d have to convince them of her lineage. There was a pause before the woman complied.

 “Follow me.”

 She opened the doors and led Sonya through familiar hallways, up one set of stairs, and to a door that had been painted white. The laughter and voices of many men and women could be heard through the other walls, but this room seemed silent. She rapped on the door with her knuckles.

“Who is it?” an imperious voice answered.

 “It’s Orika. There’s…” She broke off and looked at Sonya before turning back to the door. “…Someone here to see you.”