A while back I thought this would all be a good idea: Write a list. Pick a prompt. Write a story. I got as far as writing the list and deeply considering the consequences and then got distracted by a second wind in my novel-writing. Well, now that Chebk has posted her own list prompt story, it seems I must follow suit.
For the sake of competition, I have also used every prompt in my list, although I think Bradbury was an advocate of using single prompts in the beginning for creativity’s sake. (The hodgepodge of all these prompts resembles a lot of really bad stories I remember writing in early Creative Writing classes.) OH WELL. This story was a good exercise in free association and trying not to look back to edit too much.
You can all thank Chebk for forcing a “Positive Stories Only” rule on this prompt. There was also clearly a word count maximum rule. :(((((((((
The list: The graveyard in the middle of the city. The Ferris Wheel. The beach after the storm. The three girls on the bus. The paper plate. The prophet. The guava tree. The succulent garden. The demon.
The prophet and the demon stared up at the Ferris wheel. Around them, everything smelled of salt and sugar, the earthly sins of fried doughs and sharp slush of candied lemonade. Screams from the rollercoasters stretched across the sky. Children wailed and laughed and bellowed.
“Shall we?” asked the prophet, well-aware of what the demon was to answer. She was large with brown skin, huge hands, and shaggy hair dyed cotton candy pink for the occasion.
The demon ceased her teeth’s movements against her bleeding, black fingernails. Her mortal skin was a bloodless pale, a grey-white like stretched clay, eyes obsidian where there should have been whites beneath her thick black shades. In lieu of an answer, she held out her arm for the prophet’s sweaty grip. She knew the prophet would not have asked if she had not already seen the answer.
From high above the fairgrounds, they could both see the three girls near the funhouse. The prophet played with the demon’s corn silk hair as their cart swayed. “What are these innocents to you anyhow?”
“Sport, mostly,” the demon said with a shrug. “What are they to you?”
Below, the three girls walked together, strides overlapping. They leaned against one another, arms clinging in a tangle, clothes clashing in a riot of neon and glitter. Just the sight of them made the prophet’s heart ache and pulse and wrench.
“They’re young,” she said flippantly. “They have so much ahead of them.” The girls caught the #29 bus up from the school district, same as the prophet who liked to sit in the back, feigning sleep as all the potential of so many fates beat against the dirty windows like moth’s wings. The three girls lived futures tangled together in metal knots. The prophet found it profoundly beautiful.
“Youth,” the demon repeated. She was a week out from her fourth century of life. “You’re barely older than they are.”
“You’ll find others,” the prophet said, as though she has seen such a future event.
“Others will have their lives ahead of them, too.”
“Not like these.”
The demon tsked, but she kept her eyes on the prophet’s face, watching the sure smile unfurl.
The cart swung violently as the Ferris wheel lowered them back to the rising steam of the concrete. The demon helped the prophet from the cart, their fate lines overlapping, skin to skin. “You knew I would let them live if you asked,” she said. As they passed the line for the petting zoo, the demon stopped the prophet and touched her face, cold fingers across a dark brow. “Where’s the fun in that?”
The prophet smiled as though almost on the edge of surprise. “They’re behind us,” she said. Just over the prophet’s shoulder, the three girls approached, caught up in their conversation, all the flashing lights spiraling over their young skin in lazy circles. The demon had no time for a witty reply. The prophet slipped her hand into hers and tugged. They fell into the three girls as the prophet turned too sharply.
First there was only rain on rocks, a garden of cacti and stretching weeds catching water before the rain turned to a fall of blood. Three voices conversed, somewhere beyond the cloud cover. Baker Beach, the demon’s occasional hunting grounds, was awash in screams as the demon herself fought her mortal bonds. Lightning chased the sky. Heavy fruit hung in the trees in the city. They all came crashing down as the demon broke flesh and turned to face her predator. The scent of guava and mango lit the sands. Three girls began to chant. Then everything was the cloy of dirt and dark and pressure.
The demon burst through, gasping, alive and awake in a graveyard in the middle of her blessed city. The prophet sat among the sleeping bodies of the three tangled girls, smiling, always smiling like she always knows and is still pleasantly surprised.
“—so sorry.” They all pulled apart.
The girls walked away, disappearing into the crowds, none the wiser.
The prophet led the demon away, linking their arms in a parody of the three girls on their way to school. Their hips bumped as they walked back towards the fair entrance. The demon dropped her arm until they were holding hands once again, demon and mortal, prophet and damned.
“You could have just said I’d be needing them someday,” she chided. As they walked back out into the night, the sounds of the carnival quieted to a dull roar. The demon felt the curl of her wings push up against her mortal skin as the moon peeked out from behind the gathering clouds.
The prophet shrugged with one shoulder. “No fun,” she said. It was such a reversal of their previous conversation that the demon had to appreciate it and laugh, short and deep.
“Witches,” she said, savoring the syllables in her mouth. “The world is getting more interesting.” She remembered walking down the street, passing a bus stop and noticing the chubby brown child staring at her, unflinching, then getting up to follow her. The prophet had told her visions in macaroni-and-glue art projects stuck to paper plates in those days, crayon chicken scratch, Crayola fever dreams. She saw so far that she found the demon with whom her fate was to be later intertwined and got an early start. The demon had yet to shake her. Four hundred years of life and she wasn’t so sure she wanted to get rid of such an immature visionary.
“So, what do I get for saving your life?”
The demon said, “From what I saw, I’m still going to have to technically die.”
When the demon placed a biting kiss on the prophet’s closed lips, the screams from the rollercoaster rose in a crescendo. Stepping back, the prophet smiled her mysterious smile. They did not part with goodbyes; they never did. The demon knew they would meet again.