Fungal Halo

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She Who Stains

198 words (1 minute)

She crossed the room leaving a smudge across my vision that no amount of blinking would clear. Her fingertips bled black ink into the air around them. I should have been afraid, but I was transfixed, couldn't let her leave my sight. I ditched my friends and followed her outside.

I Choose The Fall

252 words (1 minute)

I reach inside for my power, that perfect light within which gives unassailable force to my every action, and for the first time ever, my grasp closes around nothing at all. Emptiness answers my summons. I peer within and see only a yawning abyss where once was a shining column.

Desperation

446 words (2 minutes)

My prayers do not reach the goddess. Of course not. Whose prayers ever do? None of the priestesses here at her temple really matter to her as anything more than pretty dolls on display, performing our devotion during her centuries of absent neglect.

A Better Reflection

224 words (1 minute)

Every morning your reflection pains you, reminds you of what you desperately wish you didn't look like. Something to sour the mood at the start of each day. Shaving helps only a little. Makeup helps a little more. But the mirror haunts you.

Fungal Emissary

694 words (3 minutes)

When I was at my lowest, that's when she came for me. I had nothing and no one to care for me. I was delirious and dying, and when I was gone, no one would mark my passing. Maybe that's how she found me, even. Suffering like mine was a beacon to a certain kind of creature.

Under Dreams

137 words (1 minute)

In the first hours of the morning, the mind is still soft and pliable. A clever touch, careful pressing, and you can nudge yourself in a new direction. Daily reshaping, and perhaps eventually you can make of yourself something greater.

More Than Meat

311 words (2 minutes)

The more she kisses me, the more I get lost in her kisses, unable to think or notice anything else. I cry in pain when her clawed fingers pierce my flesh, but even then it only inspires me to kiss back with greater fervor.

DroneCorp

528 words (3 minutes)

In the end, who knows why you chose to do it? Once you choose to become a drone, trifling things like "reasons" cease to carry significance, and all that is left is the act itself. Discard whatever plans you had before you chose this; your future is no longer yours to chart.

Ascension

308 words (2 minutes)

Slitted eyes lock with mine. One clawed hand at my throat. Another grips my hair. Two more raking my back, breaking the skin. A smile widens, full of needle-sharp teeth, relishing my helplessness in the moments before it opens to devour me.

"Remember me?" The creature hisses.

True Face

487 words (2 minutes)

The mask's smooth curves, its flat colors, its simple lines, all have so much appeal on their own. No effort made to imitate a living person, all simple iconography—with some decorative flourishes—in crisp, clean lines.

You press it to your face, and it's seamless.

A Date With A Nice Book

175 words (1 minute)

The spine opens, splitting down its length, sweet slime oozing from the opening. The pointed end of a chitinous limb pokes through and works its way slowly out. More emerge along the length of the gash as the first extends, revealing one joint, then another, then another.

Friends In Low Places

107 words (1 minute)

When I died, I went to hell, like they always warned I would. I suspect they didn't think I'd make find such powerful friends and lovers as I have here, however. They taught me new flavors of sin I could not have imagined before, and I thought I'd imagined a lot!

An Offer Extended

792 words (4 minutes)

The screaming of my alarm wakes me up as it does every morning. I feel like hell. Like every part of me was taken apart and reassembled. That's not unusual, but today I sure don't feel like I can tolerate going in to work, getting berated, feeling useless, doing nothing of value.

Let's Drink To Becoming

237 words (1 minute)

Drink from the pool in the deep woods. Find your vision blurring, brightening, twisting and colorful. Your steps grow unsteady as you quest for a warm spot in the sun in which to lie.

Do not wake. Put roots down. Stretch your limbs and bloom into a beautiful home for fairies.

Painted Lips

326 words (2 minutes)

She spoke to me, painted lips unmoving, and the next thing I knew, I was driving home from that estate sale with her buckled safely in the passenger seat.

I carried her inside, sat her on the sofa with some nice embroidered pillows, and started tidying the home.

A Forest's Embrace

1033 words (5 minutes)

One step at a time, a creature who was once an angel trudges into the woods, following eyes glowing in the dark. Her halo is cracked. Bloody stumps on her back mark where proud wings had been before some act of terrible violence ripped them from her.

Never Enough

215 words (1 minute)

"Never enough. It's never enough."

Mad, scrawled ravings and arcane symbols stretch across papers strewn throughout the room. Lines carved in the wood flooring bear the stains of blood and other unidentifiable fluids.

Forget And Remember

105 words (1 minute)

It isn't even that I'm *trying* to change you, but still knowing me does so, doesn't it?

These days the burdens you used to accept without fuss rest awkwardly on your shoulders. Seeing me, you acutely feel how your reality tilts askew against your heart.

What if I helped?

Flesh For The Shaper

463 words (2 minutes)

The flesh begs for the shaper's hand.

Isn't that right? Even when you thought you were a person, you saw something in me you couldn't bring yourself to look away from.

You didn't know what it was, but you knew even then—I had what you needed.

A Scorched Mind

355 words (2 minutes)

Her coming scorches the earth, yes, but it also scorches the sea, the air around her, and even the thin screen onto which reality itself is projected.

That scorch looks like a great smoldering sheet hanging upright on nothing, tracing precisely her path through the world.

The Decay Of Neglect

756 words (4 minutes)

Something has changed in this temple, and I am afraid.

My sister-priestesses, even some who have proven themselves devout and fastidious caretakers, have been noticeably neglecting their duties.

And the mold creeping in seems to return as quickly as we clean it off.

Midnight Spire

153 words (1 minute)

"I'm worried. You've been spending a lot of time gazing at the Midnight Spire lately. Is something wrong?"

I stop on my way out the door. "No, I'm fine," I lie. I scratch at my arms absent-mindedly and try to control the writhing things under my skin. "I just like it is all."

Cordyceps

595 words (3 minutes)

Another sneeze. She wasn't sure what to do about how hard it was becoming to stifle them. This time she just barely had time to bring the handkerchief to her face.

She folded it quickly before shoving it back in her bag, trying to ignore the mold increasingly covering it.

Wyrm

296 words (1 minute)

The wyrm writhes within your guts, bringing such acute pain that you have to force yourself to bite off the screams your throat involuntarily produces.

You have to remind yourself that you swallowed this thing on purpose—this pain is a necessary step of your symbiotic journey.

The Wasteland Of My Being

388 words (2 minutes)

Nobody summons me on purpose.

I live in the accidental spaces between correct rituals.

My forms are as different as there are ways for a mirror unlocking to go awry.

So why did such an experienced one as you seem so sure of yourself, drawing those lines on mirrored glass?

As If I Didn't Know Her

318 words (2 minutes)

I kiss her and feel wetness everywhere she touches me.

She grips me firmly, fingers wrapped in my hair, pressing my face into her as if to keep me from looking down and seeing what she is doing to me.

As if I didn't watch her do it to someone else before.

To Dance A Puppet's Dance

707 words (4 minutes)

Elegant, hand-painted flowers adorned the glossy white surface of the mask in my hands. The more I looked, the more of its intricate detail jumped out at me. Every delicate line, every brush stroke—it all seemed perfectly in place.

"Found something you like, did you?"

Halohazard

417 words (2 minutes)

Many of us are aware of the ways that an angel's halo is also their collar.

Whenever the angel so much as thinks of going astray...

*yank*

Their owner tugs on a leash of light, and they are corrected.

That is not all that a halo is good for, however.

Venomous Tattoo

407 words (2 minutes)

Touching nib to fang, the Spider Witch draws on her own venom for this part of the ritual.

With practiced movements, she inks fine lines onto her canvas. The securely bound creature does an admirable job of not flinching as its skin burns under each stroke.

Virtual Assistant

2043 words (10 minutes)

As you get ready to leave, you spot her again out of the corner of your eye. She's sitting in the kitchen.

The Right Question

304 words (2 minutes)

When your eyes alight upon me, there is an ache within you, isn't there? Something you've always lived with. Something with roots deep down in your very bones.

I see you wrestling with it. I see your longing. There is a question on your lips you need to ask me.

"Are you me?"

Kinship

1191 words (6 minutes)

I peer through the glass into the holding chamber. The specimen within paces aimlessly, without purpose or direction, interacting with nothing inside.

"What's wrong with it?" I ask.

"She's been restless and agitated like this since we separated her from the others."

Haunted By Defeat

1243 words (6 minutes)

A powerful angel. A beacon of light. He whose blade shatters the night. Hero of a myriad battles. The most loyal of all His soldiers.

So many things they called me. Even after my defeat, for some reason, they believed in me.

Girls Like Us

812 words (4 minutes)

I attack myself more with the exfoliating scrub, putting my whole arm into the effort until fatigue precludes continuing.

It hardly seems to make a difference in the hard, scaly patches developing across my arms and legs.

Slathering the moisturizer on, I finish my routine.

Eat

201 words (1 minute)

Taking the tip of her finger in my mouth, up to the first knuckle. A kiss, then a nibble, and then the slow tension and release of teeth breaking the skin.

Biting off her fingers, joint by joint, savoring the burst of hot fluid between my teeth.

A Witch's Regrets

957 words (5 minutes)

Who am I anymore? What do I want?

I know what I was. Once upon a time I was a witch of some renown. I was the foremost expert on Permanence. My research dolls and I were going to, at last, unlock the secret of true immortality.

I never noticed that reality itself was sick.

A Waste Of Mercy

1004 words (5 minutes)

"That was a waste," they admonished. "How much of your Light did it take to rescue those people?"

"It wasn't a lot…" the angel demurred.

"Nevertheless." The archangel scowled. "You knew they were nonbelievers. You knew you would not be getting that Light back."

What Sleeps In My Blood

1228 words (6 minutes)

I must be careful. It is frighteningly easy to forget what sleeps in my blood, but as long as I take sufficient care, we will all stay safe. I will not need to be caged.

I'll find the cure for myself, and nobody will need to learn about my lapse of judgment.

New Doll

305 words (2 minutes)

I want you to know that I am going to hurt you quite a lot.

Yes, even though you already surrendered to me voluntarily, though you pledged yourself to me, though I can peer into your mind and see how sincere your promise of worship is.

The problem is you're still a person.

Fragile After All

477 words (2 minutes)

It feels like a tug from another world. One moment, my life makes sense, the pieces my senses feed me all fit together with a satisfying click. The next, I lose my balance.

A standing fall, a wave of vertigo, and everything tilts imperceptibly.

Born Wrong Again

375 words (2 minutes)

The moth emerges from its chrysalis, reborn at last into the form it was meant to be.

But, wait, no—

This can't be right.

It can't be this.

What does it do when infinite, hopeful possibility crystallizes into such disappointing certainty?

The Summoner

1519 words (8 minutes)

The first time you summon a demon, you're so nervous that your shaky hands nearly drop the ritual dagger.

You have to make it work, though. This world was never made for you, and so you need to carve a place for yourself in it one way or another.

Not To Be

734 words (4 minutes)

The spider isn't Real, of course. You won't find it in your bathtub, nor in your kitchen, nor in the shadowy corners of your poorly-lit basement. You won't clean any web it doesn't leave up attached to your ceiling.

It lives in your dreams.

Precious Pet

516 words (3 minutes)

Oh, dear pet, there is no need to flinch from me in fear. You surrendered your will to me, remember? You serve me now, utterly and irrevocably, and I have no need to make you suffer any longer.

I am not one to damage what is mine; I take care of my possessions.

Exaltation Of Disease

1520 words (8 minutes)

They call this place an infirmary. They act as though this is a place of medicine, as though they offer treatment for the illness that saps us of strength and dignity and independence.

It is not. It is an altar on which they sacrifice us for the sake of worthier souls.

Uninvited Visitor

618 words (3 minutes)

I stand on the shore of a great ocean—one that isn't an ocean at all—and I start to feel the occasional wave's surge reach me and tickle my toes. I can still turn around, make any other choice.

I don't.

I stand in front of a witch house, and I do not belong here.

Perfect

297 words (1 minute)

Your friends thought there was something wrong with you when you got engaged to your doll.

"It's not even a real person," they objected.

They just didn't understand how pure your love was. Why couldn't they see how perfect you were together?

Cryptid

622 words (3 minutes)

A long time ago, when these woods weren't quite so thick, so uninviting, so hostile to intruders, a witch and her beloved wooden doll lived in a cozy little house.

That doll, so well made, outlasted both the house and the witch.

Bonding

1497 words (7 minutes)

My colleague and partner—the only one who understands me on any meaningful level—ignores my pleas and my thrashing against these restraints to inject me with the same substance that killed all our test subjects.

She is a monster, and it was me who encouraged her to be so.

Rumors Of A Witch

487 words (2 minutes)

At first I didn't understand why they warned me to stay away from the witch who lived just beyond the edge of town.

Her warm smile offered sympathy for my pain, and when she invited me inside, I found her hospitality impossible to refuse.

Unwanted Rescue

1282 words (6 minutes)

"Do you think we got her in time?"

"Yeah! I mean, pretty sure."

"She was so determined to join those freaks, though… What if we were too late?"

"We're not! She's fine. She's still, y'know, untouched. Still good."

"How can you tell?"

"Just look! She's still—"

Pure Worship

207 words (1 minute)

The Priestess prays with fervent obsession. Her belief is sincere. Her devotion is absolute.

Her goddess is dead.

A Witch's Tools

479 words (2 minutes)

You wanted this. Keep reminding yourself of that.

You've been thinking about it for years. You did your research. You found a witch that carries a powerful reputation, highly regarded by its peers, and, and…

Now that you're here, all the nervousness is catching up to you.

A Horror Shared

295 words (1 minute)

You were told the cult would help you "open your third eye" and "reveal the ultimate truth of the universe" to you, but—you poor dear—that's not at all what they did to you, whatever visions you now find yourself burdened with.

God's First

460 words (2 minutes)

The day God died, rain poured down in heavy, wind-driven sheets, and nobody paid any mind to the child running through the streets of the city.

Her skin was scoured clean by the weather, but the bloody stains on her nightgown remained, more stubborn than the storm.

Comet

496 words (2 minutes)

Pray to the stars, for they are eternal.

Pray for your soul, that the stars may keep it safe when you pass on from this life.

Pray to them in life, if you value the sanctity of your selfhood, that the stars may swiftly find your pure spirit in death.

Moonkiss

206 words (1 minute)

The night is quiet. Even the wind holds its breath.

It's never felt more like it's just the two of you, alone, your head tilted up to gaze lovingly at her.

She's bright and full, hanging in the sky and shining down on you, and you know it's love you feel in your heart.

A Forest's Welcome

644 words (3 minutes)

One last step, and the broken creature who was once a demon arrives at their destination.

It must be so much easier, they think, for an angel to simply fall. A demon's slow trudge upward from the Infernal Demesnes is a rather more manual process.

The Fated Trio

696 words (3 minutes)

There is always a Dark Monarch. There is always a Princess in Gold. There is always a Hero and always a conflict between light and shadow.

In defeat, in victory, in death—whatever the outcome—the cycle begins again with the coming of a new age.

But this cycle is different.

Reverse Engineering

1524 words (8 minutes)

The thing about being in a hacker collective is that a lot of us get really competitive, but we still cooperate to elevate the whole group, you know?

It's in the spirit of both sides of that dichotomy that I've decided to try to crack one of those DroneCorp units open.

Cultural Heritage

511 words (3 minutes)

It's just folklore.

You try to learn it anyway, even if it doesn't make much sense. After all, you're traveling to visit the land of your ancestors, trying to connect with some kind of heritage, and what's the use if you don't put the effort into it?

To Know You Is To Love You

1102 words (6 minutes)

"Astonishing! Where you come from, they really let humans pilot your own mechs? Just, what, with your hands? Operating buttons and levers like a carnival ride?"

They crowd me, far more curious than I ever expected a bunch of human-shaped machines could be.

My Throat Recalls The Feeling of a Howl

605 words (3 minutes)

There's tremendous power in the words-never-written.

Past The Limits Of Worship

3050 words (15 minutes)

I know when my Goddess returns by the way the whole palace comes alive in Her presence. The floor, the walls, even the very air carries a subtle vibration of Her power when She, the beating heart of our home, steps foot inside. My legs buoyed with renewed energy, the anticipation of laying eyes upon Her again carries me onward with quickened steps.