This prompt was given to me by Lymirk, who as far as I know also has no social media. Decided to do more modern supernatural stuff, though now I’m wondering if I’m leaning too much on the fantastical to carry my writing. I might continue this one too, and flesh out the characters in another daily prompt. Speaking of, this will be the first time I’ve gotten one of these out at a scheduled time, so let’s hope I can keep it up!
As always any comments or critique are welcome.
“Prompt #9: An unsuspecting youth holds the key to another’s life in their hands. Cover their discovery, how this happened, their reaction and how the two deal with this situation, as well as how others close to them react, as well as a conclusion. Explore some interesting conflict between the two that must be resolved or accepted to some degree.”
Aurelia Cardoso took long, but slow steps as she walked home that day after school, her sneakers squeaking against the concrete sidewalk. She had hazel eyes ― mixed between brown and green and favoring neither. Her black hair hung down to her neck, and it swayed lightly with her every step. Her clothes were plain and practical: an unmarked white cotton shirt and some basic jeans. Simple to wear, simple to clean, and most importantly: cheap.
In front of her, her two of her friends ― Mollie Webb and Haley Sandoval ― discussed something about music, but she hung back a pace or two. Mollie had black hair like Aurelia, but wore hers in a ponytail instead of letting it hang loose, and she dressed simply but not unfashionably. A navy dress ending in a flared skirt around her legs, made of some kind of smooth fabric the girl didn’t know the name of. The kind of thing her parents probably choose and bought for her. Her eyes were a deep brown, so deep you could fall into them and not realize it for hours.
Haley on the other hand had longer, blonde hair that hung down to her shoulders, and stylized into curls. Her eyes were the bright kind of blue, almost too intense to look at for too long. She wore a faded blue denim jacket over a darker undershirt, matched with a patterned knit maxi skirt. It was clear she had put some effort into what she was wearing, but Aurelia couldn’t tell you what those thoughts were.
All three of them had been friends since middle school, since all three of them lived in the same neighborhood and took the same route to and from school. Both Haley and Mollie were pretty animated about their discussion ― “The cadence was just so smooth and-” “Those lyrics!” “-I just couldn’t stop listening.” “The progression really emphasized the-” “Consonance!” “-exactly!”
It wasn’t that Aurelia didn’t appreciate a good song or two, but she just couldn’t get excited about the technical details of it. Her Mollie and Haley were the kinds of people who just lived and breathed this kind of stuff, so the girl hardly felt like she could contribute. One time she had tried, but all she could add was something as basic as “I liked it.” And subtly, she felt like they had ceased involving her in it.
That was just one thing, and if that had been it perhaps she wouldn’t have minded. Easily she could have thought her friends were just being conscientious of her interests and not making her deal with things she wasn’t invested in but… it really felt like it was just the latest thing in a long string of things.
She hung out less together with her friends, in class she always felt like the last person to be paired up for projects, her parents were around so little now ― and now she couldn’t even be involved in her friend’s interests.
So she walked a pace behind, feeling the pit in her stomach grow deeper and deeper with every step, the conversation rolling past her like waves. Then… she suddenly stopped. Haley and Mollie kept on walking and ― Aurelia felt dumb. They probably wouldn’t even notice if she slipped off, would they? She turned her head and quietly said under her breath, “I’ve got, something to do,” pretending that they were listening, and then swiveled on her feet. The girl didn’t even wait to hear if they had noticed before darting off.
It was 3:45 PM. School had ended some time ago, people had gone home. Not only that but their parents had either returned with them, or gone back to work. Still a bright and sunny weekday, but the streets were mostly devoid of others ― beyond the occasional car.
Aurelia didn’t really have a plan on where she wanted to go, but she needed… space. Time to walk, to think, to clear her head. The suburban sprawl around her was quiet, too spaced out for the crowds of a city but too dense for animal life to fill in the gaps. She passed by row after row of lawns, most kept a healthy short trim, and occasionally decorated with small bushes or bright flowers. Trees swayed gently in the breeze, their rustling being the only accompaniment to her steps.
Until she heard a noise. She came to a halt, uncertain of what she had heard. It was quiet, like a whisper on the wind. Aurelia craned her neck, trying to focus on the sound ―
Her eyes widened, and she looked around. The street was empty, and she was alone on the sidewalk. For a moment, she thought she was imagining something ―
No, she had heard that. Her spine shivered and, she found her feet moving before she had even consciously registered it. Who was calling?
She rounded the corner and started jogging, her hands tightening on the straps of her backpack to keep it from bouncing too much. Someone needed ―
Aurelia ran, barely stopping to glance at the intersection before dashing across. A car was coming, but it was far enough away, and there was no time to wait for the light to change. She ignored the honk of the vehicle, and continued.
She came to a stop in front of a white building ― buried behind several trees. The grass had grown long, wild, and patchy. Splotches of earth could be seen, while dense foliage hung over the area and shading it from the sun. Vines grew unchecked over the walls, curling over the roof and into windows. A small tower with a round cap rose from the corner nearest her, with a thick wooden door facing the street. A brick path led up towards the entrance, and a ringed iron knocker hung from the handle.
The voice was clearer now, and Aurelia began to walk up the path. There was an idle thought that passed her mind, the question of why she was following welling up in her gut, but it was quashed by the persistent need of what was calling her. One hand released itself from the backpack strap, and reached for the knocker. She pulled it up, and let go.
Aurelia nearly jumped out of her skin at how loud the bang of the iron against the door was. Moments later, it creaked open, and she heard the voice again. “Enter, help!”
She stepped over the threshold, and felt her hairs stand on end ― as if she had passed through a wall of static. Unconsciously she shivered, but shook it off, taking a look around the interior. The girl was no expert, but she could tell the furniture here was old ― wooden chairs seated around a wooden table with a frayed cloth over it. A dresser against the opposite wall, with a cracked mirror hanging over it. A layer of dust hung over everything, undisturbed.
She began to slowly explore, taking a left down the hallway. She passed by various rooms: what might have once been a kitchen but now was barren of anything beyond counters and the tips of vines poking through the windows. A room with a bed frame, and a wardrobe, but the frame was empty, and the wardrobe doors were broken to reveal a barren hanger. She couldn’t help but wonder why this place had sat abandoned for so long.
“Up, above!” the voice urged. Aurelia felt herself look forward, towards the stairs at the end of the hallway. They curled upwards in a spiral, leading to the top of the tower. The stone steps echoed as she put her feet on one after another, one hand steadying herself against the wall while she slowly clambered up. When she reached to top there was another door, with a broken padlock on the floor.
The girl instantly felt trepidation, and… unconsciously she took a step back. What was she even doing here? She should just ― just leave and ―
“Please, I’m here, help…” she heard again. Aurelia took a breath, steeling herself for whatever was on the other side of the door. She pushed it open…
Inside was a room, filled with paper. Shelves lined the walls, but there were no books on them. Instead the shredded bindings coated the floor, with ripped pages layered over them as if someone had come through and meticulously destroyed everything. The desk by the window was split in half, and the drawers tossed to the corners and left empty. Long scratches ran down the walls, like a knife had been dragged across them.
“Beneath your feet… they… didn’t check…”
The voice was loud now, coming from the air around her. Aurelia’s eyes lowered, and she looked at the floorboards directly below, and she crouched down. She placed a hand against the board and ― the wood suddenly splintered. The girl fell backwards, letting out a startled yelp as she scrambled on her hands and feet.
“Yes good, I knew you’d come,” she heard. The dust settled, and something in the hole shone in the dimness. Aurelia reached into the hole before she thought of it, and her fingers wrapped round something smooth and warm. She pulled her hand out, and saw a red stone resting in her palm. It fit snugly within her hand, and was vaguely shaped like an oval. As she turned it around with her fingers, she could see the light reflecting off of the cuts. Was it some kind of gemstone?
Aurelia felt a sense of warm and satisfaction radiate from the stone and… then she pocketed it, slipping the ruby into her jeans. It almost felt like it was throbbing. This had been a weird diversion, hadn’t it? She couldn’t help but wonder if she had imagined the whole thing. Then her eyes widened as she realized it was nearly four ― she needed to get home.
She jogged down the stairs, casting one more glance over the strange building as she passed through but not turning back after she left.
“I’m home!” called out Aurelia, as she shut the door behind her. There was no response, like she expected. Her mother wouldn’t be home until seven, and her father would likely be gone until the weekend, as usual. On the walls hung pictures of her family ― her mother and father were smiling in the photo, while Aurelia hung between them by their hands.
How long ago had that been? Probably at least ten years, when they still went on vacations. She had her mother’s dark hair, and her father’s hazel eyes, but her skin was somewhere between her pale and his tan. Aurelia kicked off her shoes by the door, and turned right into the kitchen.
On the fridge was a note in her mother’s scrawled hand writing. Food in fridge yours heat for 1 min covered, Love mom. The girl opened the door and sighed, seeing a bag of fast food inside. Dinner as usual then. She pulled out the bag, and placed her cold burger on a plate, along with the frozen fries. Ugh, they never tasted good reheated.
Aurelia placed them in the microwave, and tore off a paper towel to cover the plate. She closed the door and ― then she realized her other hand had unconsciously gone into her pocket and started playing with the stone she had found. The girl frowned. Her free hand pressed start, and the microwave began to hum. She made her way over to the table and plopped down, holding the stone up to her face.
“What am I going to do with you?” she murmured in thought, rolling it around in her hand. It was beautiful, perfectly cut. The kind of stone that’d be the centerpiece of a necklace or a ring ― no, it was too large to be a ring. But she knew she couldn’t wear such a thing. Her friends would wonder where she got it, and people in general would probably think she stole it. Prejudice was alive and well, even if it wasn’t as bad here in the Americas as it was in Europe. At least here it was more unconscious than active ― except for a few people at school who knew.
She wasn’t someone who wore jewelry anyways. The girl puffed up her cheeks in frustration, and felt herself starting to fall into a pit again. No one to talk to, isolated from her family, friends, and even the people around her. “Sometimes I wish I could just disappear,” she mumbled to herself.
“INVISIBILITY IS PRETTY EASY ONCE YOU GET THE HANG OF IT” boomed a voice.
Aurelia screamed, falling out of her seat as the microwave beeped to signal it was done. Her eyes darted around the room ― who was that?
“CEASE LYING ON THE FLOOR, SERVANT” it boomed again, as Aurelia clasped her hands over her ears. “IT IS VERY UNDIGNIFIED” Even with her ears covered, the noise failed to lessen.
The teen shouted back, “Who are you?! Stop being so loud?!” For several seconds, silence held. Cautiously Aurelia lowered her hands and ―
“wait who are you were is my servant?” the voice asked, “you have some of their blood but it is diluted.”
The girl blinked, breathing hard. She placed a hand on the table to steady herself as she rose, and looked around once more. There was no one here, and nothing out of the ordinary except… the stone.
It sat, gleaming on the table. She reached out and touched the stone, and felt it’s warmth and beat ― like a heart beat. “What is even going on…?” she muttered.
“That is what I should be asking you young lady,” the voice replied, an equal amount of bewilderment in its tone. “I-I mean YOU SHALL ANSWER ME, PEASANT”
Aurelia clutched at her head again, and then snatched up the stone. “Stop that right now or I’ll―!” she lifted the ruby above her head and arched for a throw.
“wait wait wait stop” came a plea, and she felt herself stop unconsciously, “listen let’s not do anything hasty”
“Stop shouting at me! And calling me peasant, or servant!”
The stone was silent for a moment, “Hrm, alright then. But no breaking my phylactery or I curse you, child.”
Today was a very strange day, Aurelia thought to herself. Her dinner sat on the table, only a single bite taken out of it. Most of her interest had been taken up with the talking gem stone.
“So, what are you?” she asked, gently poking at it with her other hand.
“I’m a person you dolt,and don’t touch me with your unclean hands!” Warningly, Aurelia wrapped her hand around it and ― “Okay, okay, not a dolt, a-a lovely person, fantastic even! Very knowledgeable and kind!” she released her hold on it.
“Okay, uhm. I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re a rock,” the girl continued.
“Well, my body is temporarily destroyed. Minor setback.” Aurelia lifted an eyebrow. “Given you could even hear me ― which only my servants should be able to ― I feel like you should be far more aware of this than you are.”
The girl sighed, resting her head in one hand. She blew a piece of hair that had fallen over her mouth away and then asked, “Right, so like… what was up with that? I could hear you when I was walking home from school.”
“I had been sitting there for much time, waiting for my subjects to return to me so I might be resurrected.” There was a moment of silence, then, “I might have been a little overeager to sense someone receptive nearby.”
Aurelia let out a breath, shaking her head lightly in confusion. “Okay but, that still doesn’t explain who you are. Or uh, why you’re a phyalcatry.”
“Phylactery,” it corrected instantly, “And I am…” The voice trailed off. “Who and what I am is unimportant. Protect me until my body reforms, and I promise to reward you beyond your imagination!”
The teenager rolled the stone between her fingers in thought, trying to grab hold of the situation. Whatever this was, she was not exactly thrilled at it’s tone. And the promise of some undefined reward made her feel uncomfortable in some nebulous way. “Listen, you’re going to have to actually talk to me if you want me to do something.”
However, the stone flashed and she felt its voice in her head again. “Not now, someone approaches this domain. Hide me!” Aurelia blinked, and she opened her mouth to speak ―
She snapped her head towards the door, as it opened. Hastily she shoved the ruby into her pocket, just in time as her mother entered.
“Hey honey,” the woman said tiredly, not even loking at Aurelia as she removed her coat and tossed it onto the couch. “How was school?”
“Fine mom,” the girl answered. Their conversation was practically by rote ― her mother was always too tired in the evening to really engage with her. And Aurelia… just didn’t have the energy to try and fill the space between them any more. The older woman entered the kitchen, and opened the fridge.
“You’ve had something to eat?”
Aurelia stood up, hand still in her pocket, and began to edge away from the table. She needed the privacy of her room. The girl passed through the living room on her way back, and ― she heard her mother call out behind her, “Are you sure you’re fine?” She froze. “Those kids at school… they aren’t picking on you right?”
“Yes mom, I’m fine,” Aurelia said in a tone that read: I really don’t want to talk about this right now. There was a moment of silence, and then she heard her mother respond, “Okay.”
The teenager took that as her cue to escape, and ducked into her room, locking the door behind her. She took a breath, and moved her bangs out of her eyes. That was certainly more conversation than they normally had. Aurelia mulled over it for a moment and ―
“As repayment for taking care of me until I’m reformed, would you like me to curse your foes?”
The girl pulled the stone out of her pocket, and looked at it in askance. “What?”
“It’s a time honored tradition, favor for favor.”
Aurelia fell onto her bed and covered her head with her pillow, not wanting to consider the implications of that statement. God, the hell was going on?