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Words by Bark

Written by Dentonius

To be critiques by NotenSMSK

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Submitted on
March 24, 2013
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36 (who?)

I’m barefoot again, toes curling in the soft grass as I watch the night rise, waiting for the light show. The stars here shine brighter than I’ve ever seen, and sometimes the sky is streaked with ribbons of sea green and violet. It’s the Northern Lights, I think. Whatever it is, it’s truly breathtaking. Colors swirling slowly like an acid trip galaxy, I can’t help but stare. This place is unbelievable.

With a chuckle I wonder if I’m on another planet.

I take slow steps into the yard, it’s warm tonight and I’m feeling lazy. Plopping down in an Adirondack chair I give a small wave to Andy and he’s scowling, having spotted the bottle of wine in my hands.

“I’ll share,” I offer even though I know he doesn’t drink, at least not while he’s working.

He sighs and leans back into his chair staring out into the horizon. I’m surprised that he doesn’t speak; I thought for sure he’d object. I take his silence as a sign and unscrew the top taking a deep swallow straight from the bottle.

It tastes of black cherry and clove, and it’s lush in my mouth. The alcohol takes hold  quickly and my shoulders drop, eyes drifting closed, I take another sip before Andy comes to his senses and takes it away.

But he doesn’t move. He just stares into the distance, eyes fixated on the sky. Tonight the lights are subtle, a slip stream of glowing silver against the canvas of black. The stars blaze tonight- they are the show.

I take another sip and smile. It must be the wine, I feel...content.

“Take it slow, okay?” He’s giving me a look,  that look, a warning.

“I will. I thought I’d have a glass or two and save the rest for some other time.”

He laughs, but it's mirthless. “That bottle is leaving with me when I go whether it’s empty or half full. I can’t have you getting caught with it.”

He’s going to be here for another four hours. I could drink this whole bottle. I could get drunk and be oblivious. Numb.

It’s tempting. It’s beyond tempting, but I know I can’t. Alcohol robs us of our inhibitions and makes us dangerous. I shouldn’t be drinking period. I shouldn’t take this kind of risk. Andy shouldn’t be letting me, either.

“Why are you doing this?” I ask, curiosity getting the better of me, the warm buzz of the Merlot loosening my tongue.

He stands and walks over, taking the bottle from my hands and sitting in the chair next to me. He takes a sip and hands it back and I blink, surprise taking over my features.

He laughs again, or snorts really, but I’m too shocked at his behavior tonight. I stare at him intently waiting for him to answer my question.

“Because you deserve it?” It comes out like a question and his brow is furrowed, like he’s unsure. I’ve never seen him like this. He’s usually a pretty serious guy, doesn’t talk much, doesn’t do much at all really except for watch me, makes sure I don’t try and run.

“You know what could happen if I drink too much, right?” I don’t know why I’m questioning him. He’s allowing me a freedom I thought I would not experience for a very long time. I should shut my mouth or fill it with wine while I can, but I’ve already blurted out this question and I am really curious as to why he would do such a thing.

He looks me in the eye- something he rarely does- and he scoffs, his mouth jutting into a scowl. “As a matter of fact, I have no idea what could happen. I have no idea why you are here. All I know is that I am to stop you from leaving, should you attempt to do so.”

I take a sip from the bottle and reply, “You also know that alcohol is a big no-no.”

Should I take it from you?” he snaps.

I hold the bottle tighter in response and let out a long, slow breath. I don’t know what to say. I had assumed he knew about the people kept here, and what we can do. Do I answer honestly? Do I feed him some lie? There is a part of me that questions his words. He has no idea? How can that be? How could he not know?

I answer truthfully; I don’t have the energy to deceive him. “Alcohol lowers our inhibitions. We can...perform with ease because we let our guard down and feel. We become powerful and potentially dangerous, and under the influence...uncontrollable.”

“What does that even mean?” He asks, and the confusion on his face is so clear. He has no idea who, or what, he has been protecting. “What can you do that would make our government have to hide you away? I’m just trying to understand...”

Now he looks lost. I’m flabbergasted, I’m amazed, I take a sip of wine and hand him the bottle. He drinks greedily, swallowing three times before grimacing.

“Show me,” he says and I’m considering it because I’ve never seen him like this- so desperate, so needy. I feel powerful in this situation and he seems so weak. It’s a complete role reversal and it’s strange, but at the same time, there is a part of me that wants him to know. Once he sees he will fear me, and maybe I want him to fear me, I want him to see that his attempts at holding me here are in vain.

Show me,” he repeats his voice low and steady. I take the bottle from him and drink deeply, wiping the dribble from my chin.

“Watch,” I say and motion to the fire pit. There are two pieces of wood and I focus on them, bringing my spite to the surface of my thoughts. I concentrate on the pit; on the black ash that everything will succumb to once I’m done. I inhale, closing my eyes, and then exhale, blowing out a big breath that brings fire to the wood. It catches in a fiery haze casting an orange glow across Andy’s face.

He seems calm at my display but he’s always calm. His gaze is a bit intense, lingering over the flame, scrutinizing it but really...I can’t gauge his reaction at all. Leaning over I blow on the fire causing it to rise upward into the sky like flaming ghost. It shoots back down into the pit and Andy is leaning back, sweat forming on his brow from the heat.

“Fire,” he whispers and his eyes are wide, “you can make fire.”

“Oh yes,” I nod and laugh a little, amused by his awed expression. “I can scorch and eviscerate, I can burn you to the ground.”

I lean back and try to gauge his reaction. He’s quiet but tense, deep in thought, running all kinds of scenarios in his head, I’m sure.

“Could you do that to me? Burn me where I stand?”

I hand him the bottle. “Sure,” I reply and smile as he squirms in his seat. Taking the wine, he drinks a small sip and stares into the fire.

“Andy...” I start, unsure of why I’m compelled to tell him more. Maybe it’s the wine; maybe it’s because he seems...concerned. “I can’t believe you didn’t kn-”

“Why do you stay?” He interrupts. “You could use this...power to escape. You could go anywhere you wanted; you could have a normal life.”

I sigh and rub my hands over my face. “A normal life?” I laugh bitterly. “Do I want to be here? Not particularly but...I can’t leave, not yet.”


I lean forward and put my elbows on my knees. I’m good and buzzed now, my mouth opens and the words spill from my lips. “Did you know that I have killed people? I didn’t mean to- it was an accident- but that doesn’t change the fact that it happened. When our emotions run strong, so do our powers. I can’t be out there like this. I need to learn how to control it. That is why I am here. You’re not protecting me from anyone. You’re protecting everyone else from me.

We don’t say anything after that. He lets me keep drinking, watching me closer with every sip I take and I can see the morbid fascination in his stare. He’s...excited by this. Every once in awhile he actually cracks a smile. His eyes dance, deep brown irises just a sliver around dilated pupils when he fixates on me sitting in the dark. Then he studies the fire, pupils shrinking to pinpoints as he watches the flames lick the air above the wood. 

He can tell the flames aren’t natural, his expression awed at the pine barely alight and yet the flames grow higher. It’s bordering on too high, and I know this will soon attract unwanted attention. I can feel waves of heat thrumming through my fingertips.  

Suddenly my whole body feels flushed, and in this moment I want to bring fire into the night. I want to let loose an inferno that will make these brilliant stars seem like nothing.

It makes me feel like a God. Such glorious heat, pure and amplified like molten lava running through my veins just aching to be released.  

“That’s enough,” Andy says, his voice shaking. He isn’t so captivated anymore. No, he’s scared just like I knew he would be. He sees me now for what I am, a danger.

I take a deep breath to try and center myself, I then take what’s left of the wine and pour it out over the wood, but it doesn’t extinguish. Fists clenched, gritting my teeth, I focus on the tiny blue flames and I beg, I plead with myself to make it cease.

“Stop.” I hear my own voice but it’s unfamiliar, rough and high-pitched and on the verge a scream. Andy is out of his chair and stepping backward, his breaths coming in pants, his fear cutting through the air like a jagged blade.

Memories unbidden flash through my mind. My carelessness. My stupid mistakes. My inability to rein this in.

I cannot let that happen again.

I make myself breathe evenly and direct my focus toward the center of the heat. I will it to stop.

“Please,” I breathe, tears spilling down my cheeks. The flames die in a flourish fading into wisps of smoke that curl into a haunting filigree. 

Ash floats through the air, falling like a passing flurry of snow and I can't stop shaking. I look at Andy; he's gone stock still, his right hand hovering over the holster of his gun.

"You see?" I say with the steadiest voice I can muster. “This isn’t a prison. I’m not being held against my will, not really...” I trail off, wiping another tear away and breathing deeply. I must tamp down my emotions; I can’t afford to feel this way right now. “We live quite comfortably, and we stay because we hurt people if we don’t. This place...It’s beautiful, it’s our safe haven, our sanctuary. This is where I need to be, for now.”

This is my entry for the second of round of: :iconwriters--club: writing tournament.
Check it out! [link]

There are 163 participants [link] and a ton of fantastic literature being created for this tournament.

The theme for round two is Sanctuary.

I have done prose- a short story, a delve into fantasy. Tell me what you think? Feedback is always welcome.
Thanks for reading. :)

Much love to Vintagejgc for all her help with this!
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As a take on the word 'Sanctuary', this is pretty innovative. As a work in its own right... it's also pretty amazing. Tackling this bit by bit, I'll tell you what I liked -best-, and what could be improved.

You've got just two characters in here, and they're both well-developed. Though there's no explicit character description, (I have no idea what colour their hair is, for example), the reader gets a good feel of their attitudes and motivations. -That- is what's important in a short scene like this, and it's done well. Everything else fills itself in, given sufficient imagination.
They feel -human-, with understandable drives and behaviors.

Writing dialogue is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in most literature. There are two traps: not making the dialogue organic enough, and making the mistake of thinking people just stand there and talk, without any other actions.
Your dialogue vaults both of those pitfalls, with a single exception: contractions in your characters speech. Unless emphasis is being specifically put on a word (usually shown in italics or bold for good measure) then phrases like "I must" are often replaced by more colloquial ones, such as "I've gotta", "I have" is replaced by "I've" and so forth. Some of your phrases feel like they need contracting, others like they need expanding. This is mostly in the latter half.
Other than that, the conversation between the two is fluid and believable.

Sometimes, understatement says all that needs to be said. You don't need to detail -how- soft the grass was, or -how- exactly the colours swirl. If you've got enough details in an exposition or description, they bond together without too much detailing, and an overuse of description can spoil the immersion. Your opening paragraph is exactly how it -should- be done, in fact.

The firepit section falls victim to understatement in a less desirable way, however. The first paragraph contains the phrasing "blowing out a big breath that brings fire to the wood". In and of itself, that sentence has little impact, and as such a pivotal moment (where the readers view of the main character starts to shift dramatically), it -needs- more impact than that.

The second paragraph contains the phrase "like a flaming ghost. When describing something, it's generally bad form to use words that are direct synonyms. I generally like to avoid using 'flaming' to describe a fire, 'freezing' to describe cold, and 'wet' to describe water. That fact in itself is self-evident; the description needs to bring forth -more- than that, some additional and unique features.

Turns of Phrase
This is all positive; I'm just going to list some of the bits I liked best.
"Colours swirling like an acid trip galaxy"
"The stars blaze tonight- they are the show.
"It's a complete role reversal..."
"bringing my spite to the surface"
"I hear my own voice but it's unfamiliar, rough and high-pitched and on the verge of a scream"

It starts well, continues well and ends well, save for a few minor falterings in the descriptions, and in a few lines of dialogue that aren't as natural as they could be. I would say that the 'traumatized superpowered person' is a bit cliche, but yours is a refreshing spin on the concept.

Well done indeed, sirrah.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
1 out of 1 deviants thought this was fair.

Hi. My turn to evaluate you. As usual, you showed fair technique at story telling. I saw good plot development, sufficient detail and adequate description in your setting. The. Length generally was suited for this format.
Your aside about being in another world, possibly a parallel one as that is a common theme, is entertaining. Many times, i feel that way. Finding evidence to complain is hard for me, because i admit that eachnof us writes in his/her own style. But this tale does follow standard rules for form and content. Congratulations and keep the ink flowing. I await your next endeavor.

For #poeticalcondition.
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The Artist thought this was FAIR
1 out of 1 deviants thought this was fair.

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TheVoiceofMadness Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Truly well done, I've always had trouble with differentiating dialogue between characters so it's always nice to read a story where I can truly feel a difference in personality between each person speaking.
prettyflour Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
TheVoiceofMadness Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
No problem! Keep up the good work!
Alodix Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2013
Reading long texts in English is an effort for me but I must say that I went from the beginning to the end with pleasure ! I like the crescendo of how the tension is rising through the story until it calms down at the end. I think your style is effective with good images and I like your singular characters :) 
prettyflour Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.  I really appreciate it!
Alodix Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2013
You're welcome ;)
artistic-heart13 Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I'm not that great with writing feedback, but I know I really loved this; the way you wrote it made it so easy to be drawn into the story. It felt like I was reading a part of a book, one that I could read over and over again and never get tired of. In short, it's amazing, and so are you for being able to write something like this.
prettyflour Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
What a wonderful compliment!  Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.  I truly appreciate it!
artistic-heart13 Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You're very much welcome.
eclaire291 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Hmm, this is similar to "Sanctuary in the Deep," but, at the same time, something new altogether. This is so much darker than the first, and I love it. I love the way both Andy and the speaker lose control--Andy of his command over the situation and the speaker of her self-control. I also enjoyed the tension when the speaker revealed more about herself, how Andy went from intrigued to frightened. I enjoyed the exploration of human nature in this!

It may not be a fit in my group's gallery, but it'll fit in just fine with my favorites. ;P
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