Friday, June 29, 2012


The first step is fake. Or, at least, done from expectation rather than compulsion. The brew takes some time to take effect, as I noticed the first time I took it, when I didn’t know what to expect. Those around me think it simply becomes easier to slip between. As far as I can tell, the reverse is true.

Though maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it just feels so natural, now, that I can do it whenever I please, so after drinking it I feel no different. I feel as though I can be the same as the first time, whenever I choose to, and perhaps only when I choose to, drink or no.

But the first time I drank…I still remember that.

I expected nothing. They hadn’t told me anything, except that it would make me a better warrior. It smelled of alcohol, and something else. I thought little of it. Courage. Others started growling, and I thought, That’s an interesting part of the culture. Becoming closer to animals, when they were about to start a fight. It made sense—they slept closer to their dogs than the tribe that had taken me before this one, and their dogs were closer to wolves than any I had ever seen.

A few started up a howl, and the others ran after them as one. I noticed that I was following, then I stumbled. A warrior to my right caught me, nudged me up, jerked her muzzle toward the front. Follow.

From there, it was…red and black, impacts and silence and growls.

The next morning, I woke up by the river, amidst a pile of my tribe and our furs.

My memories of that battled have never become clearer, but they have never faded. I cannot tell you the face of any I fought, any I saved, any who saved me, but I can still hear the howls, growls, and snarls.

Friday, June 22, 2012


There’s a rule.

There are many things people call rules, where Harriet works. Don’t kill; don’t forget; don’t be obvious. But they’re all guidelines. Any book in which they’re written has without a good reason written after in white ink and in a very small font. Any conversation where such a rule is spoken, without a good reason hangs unspoken between the interlocutors’ eyes.

But there is a rule, one rule, for those who guard what needs guarding. One who knows each world, and knows enough to know that (nearly) everything is worth protecting.

The rule is simple: Never get attached.

The rule is simple, except when it isn’t.

She reached her hand through the hole in the wooden fence. Her hand met another hand, very smooth, smoother than the day before. Manicured, Harriet guessed.

“Hello, lovely.” Neither knew the other’s name, the other’s face—safer that way hangs in the air, between every word they speak—but Harriet knows this woman well enough to know her lovely. “Relaxing day?”

The other woman’s hand shifted in a way that meant a smile. “Yes. Beautiful day at the spa. You’d’ve hated it.”

Harriet laughed. The other woman could get Harriet to laugh; that would be enough to earn lovely on its own.

They spoke for longer, of many things. The evening was beautiful, as long as it lasted. Their date night always one of challenges and achievements and wonder and lips brushing gently over knuckles.

Harriet broke first, as she always did, when she stopped thinking, What a bright mind; what a lovely voice, what expressive hands, and started thinking, A woman with exactly this shade of skin, with enough money to pay for a spa day, but at a job that lets her hands run as rough as she feels like, that needs neither calluses for practicality nor smooth skin for perfect appearance—

Harriet stood, suddenly. “I should go.” She said that a little differently each time, but their last words, never spoken, were always the same.

I’m sorry. I can’t figure out who you are. If they ask, I can’t know you well enough to answer.

Friday, June 15, 2012


EDIT: The html for this was not cooperating. If it didn't make sense to you on first read-through, that's because it made no sense. I've fixed it now. 
This was written as part of a challenge to write thirty things in thirty days based on thirty prompts. The posts from this challenge are tagged "challenge", and the title to the posts are the corresponding prompts.
"You'll only find peace while traveling."

Spells, Samantha decided, should be more dramatic than that. Really. There should be chanting, or markings, or at least a moment of clear focus, for heaven's sake. But no, the spell that defined her entire life was six words in the vernacular. It wasn't even a good story. She couldn't even remember what she'd done! It was embarrassing. And now...

"It's in my bones," she whispered.

Most people wouldn't mean that quite so literally, her bones whispered back, in their annoying, upper-crust-accented way.

"Stop it." Samantha paused a moment, then tried mouthing, [Can you hear me like this?]

Of course. If I were a being of air, I would be much easier to live with. She felt the voice ring with a definite smirk. Sam couldn't explain how she knew that, but then, the voice wasn't really coming in through her eardrums, so that was hardly odd.

She kept her mouth closed this time, and thought, Can you read my mind?

It was hard to keep time, without a watch and away from any place with a big town clock, so she counted steps. At twenty, she tried moving her tongue without her lips, [Can you hear me like this?]

Of course. Again, immediate and smug. Good. It couldn't read her that deeply.

[What happens if I stop?]

You know.

Sam did. That hunger, thirst, itch, lust, want, that started in her feet and moved up, until she couldn't focus, could hardly eat, certainly couldn't sleep, until she ran and ran and ran, drinking in every new sight and sound. She'd fought it, at first.

[But no injury.]

A laugh, one that wouldn't be anything but genuinely amused if it didn't echo through her rib cage, ick. No food, no water, no sleep, and then you run mindlessly until you collapse. But no, no injury beyond that. I need none to prod you into finding me something new.

[It isn't new to you,]
she bit out, as far as she could without opening her mouth.

I like how new things taste. Besides, if I set you running until you saw something I hadn't seen--well, you'd die first. And then where would I be?

Sam's eyes flickered to the knife at her belt. [Huh.]

You won't do it.
 There was just the barest something, so slight it didn't translate into anything but a feeling, wouldn't be there if she weren't actually in the same body.

[But if you make me miserable enough, I might.] She walked to a weeping willow, drew her blade, sat under the bowing branches. [You like the taste of new things, but you're not a being of air.] Another flicker of understanding. Instead of pushing at the creature in her bones, pulled the feeling closer. [You like things to be a little the same. You don't want me attached, but you're attached to me.] Sam put the blade to her throat. [How attached?]

You wouldn't. You wouldn't!
The cry went from echoing to buzzing, climbing in pitch as the spell woven through bone reacted.

"It's balance," Sam murmured. "You can't make me too miserable, because I might." She put the knife in her lap. "But I won't, because you can still make me plenty miserable." Her fingertips lay on the hilt now. "We rest, at the next town. I will be friendly, and I will stay until I am done," her bones thrummed indignantly, "or until I sleep with someone, whichever comes first. Just because I'm not starving doesn't mean I'm happy with this set-up. Deal?"

Her bones went quiet. Deal.

"Good." Sam closed her eyes. [Do you need to sleep?]


[Then keep watch. Neither of us wants me dead yet.]

Friday, June 8, 2012

Love and Trust

There are two rooms in two houses.

The first house is the one she got when she was still working her way up. She didn't like it very much--not the best neighborhood, no front yard to speak of, difficult to have any decent privacy--but she keeps it, because it's hers, and because people expect it. In that house, she allows herself two luxuries: two places she needed, not for her work, but for herself, before she would consent to living in such a house for decades, for the rest of her life.

The first is not one of the rooms, but a back yard. It is small, but present, and enough to grow in. She's made it good publicity, since it is organic and environmentally friendly, but first and foremost her garden is her garden. Life from her, feeding her. That keeps her grounded, no matter how many people might try to knock her down. When something goes too horribly at work, she thinks, garden, and her head clears. There's hardly room for what she's managed to fit, but the garden is there. It's hers.

The second luxury in the tiny house is her room. In the dining room, there rests a blank panel that swings out if you press here. Behind, there is a room without a visible floor, because it only barely fits her bed. On each of the four walls, there are books. No one has ever seen this room, though a spouse would, if she married. Anyone she trusted completely would see it.

The second house is a luxury in itself, and she knows it. It's a second house, how could it be anything else? But her work demanded something, some show of status--it was a second house or a mansion. She hated living alone in large places. They always felt cold, and hollow, and empty.

So she bought the place, a small, cozy space, and snapped a picture from the right angle, and put a picture in the right place in her first house. She dropped, "my cabin," or, "my retreat," when necessary, using the latter just enough and in the right tone that no one ever asked to attend. Whatever her words said, she made her tone say, "my sanctuary," "my sacred space," "the place I go to be alone."

That one is more isolated. It had to be, to give the right effect. That is no luxury, that is work, that is showing off to impress the right people. Nor are the books luxurious, to her mind. They are the ones she cannot bear to part with--torn, beat-up, almost disintegrating, old, well loved, hers. They do not fit in the reading room, so they were in storage until she had her reading cabin.

The bed, here, is in one of the rooms she takes pictures of. She can't sleep without books around her. But there is one room she never photographs, she wouldn't even let someone she trusted completely photograph. Show them, yes, but not let them document.

In the heart of the cabin she built, she has something she calls a waiting room, though she only calls it that when no one can hear her. It is behind a bookshelf--push here and the wall and shelf swing in. She sleeps in her reading room, but she only enters this one to dust and polish.

Her garden grounds her, makes sure no one can knock her down.

Her reading room is home, where she can forget the world and sleep.

But this, this room...

Two chairs, one candle in the center of the table, and a small kitchen off to one side. No division--the dining room and the kitchen are the same room, in her waiting room.

Whenever she's in a relationship and her partner want to know if she loves them, or asks her to marry them, she thinks, Would I show them this room?

If she can imagine them in the waiting room to her home, her heart, then they get to come in. They can see the cabin, the room, even the reading room in her first house, that most guarded of sanctuaries. If not, she's honest.

She hasn't been able to say, "Yes," yet. But she may, someday, so she keeps the room. Sometimes, on the days where she takes down a romance novel and wears rose perfume, she imagines cooking with someone else, in that room.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Lasts and Firsts

This is my last blog post written as a high school student.

In fact, while you read this, I'll probably be out of my graduation ceremony, though I might still be in it. I might be in the middle of delivering this speech:
High school is a surreal experience. We enter these woods, just out of middle school, just barely finished being everyone’s elder, and suddenly we’re the young ones again. We see around us people who are already fretting over college or career, who are nearly out of the woods we have only just entered. We see old friends drifting from us or find ourselves drifting from them as we each find new interests and lessons. Now we’re there, coming out the other edge of these woods, again so old and so soon to be so young. Now friends aren’t just drifting apart; some friend we’ve had is going across the country, or we are. We won’t just be yelling at each other across dark woods; we may be shouting across stormy oceans. Skype and Facebook and Tumblr will help, but it is always easier to forget each other when we don’t have to see each other every day.
This is the moment when we all look back, to that first day we stepped on campus, or on the football field, or on stage. Freshman year seems yesterday and forever ago. Just yesterday that we stepped into these woods, forever ago that our life didn’t somehow revolve around what comes next: college applications, or job applications, or service applications, or wondering *sharp breath through teeth*—Did I make the cut? 
Back then, forever ago, yesterday, the seniors were getting stressed about the same things we just went through. That one SAT test they hadn’t taken in time. A huge paper in English class. A mathematics test in something our parents didn’t understand. Juggling extracurriculars with academics. We were going through the woods, sometimes seeing perfectly and walking confidently, sometimes stumbling over tree roots in the dark, sometimes with only the next few feet visible by a torch-bearer, by a friend or a sibling or a parent or a teacher. Wherever we were, however we walked, we’re out of those woods. Now, we’re somewhere much clearer, and perhaps even more intimidating. We can see we’re entering another forest , but we can’t see the forest’s end from where we are. We have to go on faith, leaving torchbearers behind. So out we step. 
And to my fellow graduating class of 2012, remember: Whenever it seems like the world is ending, it isn’t. We’re just taking over.
Which is the last speech I will write as a high school student, though not the first. I may be listening to one of the last speeches I will hear as a high school student. Regardless, if you are reading this close to the publish date, I'm going through a last or a first--last breakfast, first dinner; last day, first night; last song, first conversation.

I say goodbye as a last, and shall greet you next post as a first. See you on the side opposite, readers.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart