Prompt Short Story: Penance (Lawkeepers 10)

Content Warning: mild sexual assault, crude sexual language, drunkenness

Jeremy yawned and forced his eyes open, groggy with sleep. His head, full of cotton wool, hung heavily on his neck as he pushed the blanket back and planted his feet on the soft, warm carpet of the bedroom floor.

The bathroom was a few short, staggering, steps away and he hung for a moment on the doorframe, staring at the face in the mirror.

It was pale, aside from the redness around his eyes and the dried blood from where he had bitten his lip sometime last night. He hadn’t even noticed doing that. He had been far too busy drunkenly throwing things at his boyfriend.

Former boyfriend, he supposed, now.

His own fault. Everything that came next, he earned. Friends would turn away from him. Family, too. Even his job would be in danger, if Sammy decided to press charges.

He sat on the toilet lid and rested his head against the cool porcelain of the sink, helpless to stop the memories surfacing.

Sammy had found out about the cheating. It was stupid. Fucking stupid. Tike – fucking stupid name – had played the exact right notes on him. Showing up at the bar, all tight shirts and dick-hugging jeans. Complimenting his hair. His eyes. His skin, as he trailed one finger along his muscular arm. And Jeremy had fallen for it all.

He’d fucked him in the back room, the first time. And not just that time, either. They’d fucked in cars, parked in deserted patches just off the road, the excitement intensifying every time a car drove past. They’d fucked in cheap motel rooms, letting the cries from the other sides of paper-thin walls drive them on. They’d fucked on the balcony of the 10th floor of an expensive hotel, the thought that others might look out from their own high windows and see them, hear their echoing cries, making them both harder than ever.

And then Tike had disappeared. Jeremy found himself blocked everywhere, and for two days had moped sullenly about his flat, snapping at Sammy when he came over, then trying desperately to find the same levels of excitement in him as he had in his affair. Always failing.

Then last night, Sammy had stormed through the door and thrown his phone at Jeremy, telling him to read.

Tike had sent him…everything. Sexts. Dick pics. Secret video Jeremy had no idea existed. Even his complaints about how boring it was with Sammy, now he knew the thrill of exhibitionism, and how it felt to hold back nothing, and feel the other person give everything right back.

He had thrown the phone back, disgusted with himself, and shot back a large glass of vodka. Then another. Listening to Sammy rage at him. Knowing every word was true.

Eventually, drunk with the chained shots, barely able to see straight or stand up, he’d thrown first the empty glass, then the empty bottle at Sammy. He’d missed, but the glass had exploded and cut the side of his face.

When Sammy had tried to leave, Jeremy had slammed the door shut, using his strength and bulk to pin him against the wall, trying to force his tongue down Sammy’s throat, force Sammy’s hands to touch him, hurt him, fuck him.

Sammy had escaped with a carefully aimed headbutt – that might actually have been what split his lip, Jeremy realised – and as he left, he told Jeremy to never contact him again, and to expect a visit from the police.

Jeremy’s lip throbbed, bringing him back to the present.

He stood and ran warm water, carefully wiping the blood away and applying disinfectant. The lip opened again, blood sliding down his chin, and he wiped it up before it could fall into the sink.

He was a shit. A fucking shit. He hoped the police did come. He’d tell them everything, and hope they locked him up. His life deserved to go to pieces, after what he’d done.

Taking a moment to text his boss, telling her he was sick, he went downstairs. Thinking about the police again, he took photos of the mess before cleaning it up, his hangover pulsing, threading every breath with nausea, each time he bent down.

Once the apartment was back to normal, wandered around aimlessly, waiting for a knock at his door.

He wondered if he’d have to sell this flat, to pay for a lawyer, or the fine. He had some money – his job paid well – but probably not enough to cover it all.

He wondered what his parents would think. Their only kid, having to sell the flat they’d left him in their will – the flat that had belonged to his grandparents, then his parents, and now him – to pay for the results of an assault on his boyfriend after his affair had been revealed.

He felt a twisting ache, deep inside his chest and stomach. Guilt? That felt like too small a word. He’d known guilt before – who hadn’t? And he’d felt it plenty, when fucking Tike then coming home to Sammy. This was deeper, bigger, more painful, and it made his whole body shake.

As he walked through the hallway between the living room and bedrooms for possibly the twentieth time, he frowned and stopped dead.

He took two steps backwards, and looked again at the wall.

He hadn’t been seeing things. It was right there. A door, looking like it belonged, like it had always been there, but it never had before.

Jeremy reached out a hand and tentatively touched the handle, gripping it when nothing bad happened and turning it, pulling the door open and stepping through.

He had lived his entire life in this flat – growing up, studying at the University nearby, caring for his parents when they got sick. His entire life. But he had never seen that door, or this hallway, before.

The walls were a pale grey. So was the carpet. And the ceiling. There was one door, at the far end, and Jeremy walked the few metres to reach it. On the door, a sign read “Shia Seirenes: Human-Extranatural Liaison & Lawkeeper.

Jeremy hesitated, then raised his hand to knock.

Before he could, a sweet, melodious voice spoke. “Come in, Jeremy.”

He opened the door and entered an office, decorated in sea blues and greens, full of the smell of thriving plant life – and actual plants, he saw, turning his head.

Behind a desk sat a beautiful woman. Her hair flowed long and blonde, and her face was sweet and gentle. Her eyes were as sea-coloured as the office, but deep, a place into which he could drown.

He shook his head slightly to clear the fog, being attracted to a woman was weird, and this shit was already weird enough.

“Take a seat,” she motioned to a comfortable-looking armchair.

Jeremy sat, the armchair even more comfortable than it looked. He was nonplussed, to say the least. This was the strangest thing that had ever happened to him, and he had no idea what was actually happening.

“Let me answer your first questions, get them out of the way. No, your flat hasn’t grown a door, a corridor, or an office. It’s a temporary portal, which will disappear without a trace the moment you leave. I am Shia. I am – or was – a Siren, but now I manage what we call the Lawkeepers, a team of folk who protect extranaturals from each other and humans, and protect humans from extranaturals that might do them harm. An extranatural, is any being with skills beyond what might be considered normal to your average member of the human race. Myself, for example – I don’t use it any more, but I can sing people into hypnosis and have them do anything I ask. I have invited you here for a conversation, as you have harmed one of the extranaturals under my care – that is to say, they are all under my care, and you have harmed one of them. I presume you know to whom I refer?”

Jeremy took a few moments, slowly repeating in his head everything Shia was saying. When he reached the end, he looked up at her and nodded, “I can’t say I actually understand but I guess you answered the main stuff. And yeah, I…” his head drooped again, “I know who you mean. Sammy.”

“Correct. Normally in this sort of case, we would leave you to the human police, but it seems that the issue last night was caused by another extranatural – the one you know as Tike.”

Jeremy frowned, “They’re both – whatsit – extranatural? What are they then?”

“I’m afraid that isn’t information that I can disclose without their permission. If they wanted you to know, or telling you would somehow prevent them from being harmed, then it would be my duty to them to tell you. As that is not the case, it is my duty to them to keep their secret. Do you understand?”

“Yeah. Privacy laws. I get those. Look, Ms Seirenes-”

“Shia, please,” she interrupted briefly.

“OK, Shia. I know what I did. I didn’t know it was a game at the time, but I guess I do now. I hurt Sammy, and that was what Tike wanted, I’m assuming? I don’t know. But I know you know what I did to Sammy last night. I injured him. I hurt him. I assaulted him. I deserve whatever punishment you wanna give, OK? I won’t argue or fight it.”

“Well,” Shia’s mouth curved in a smile, “Punishing a human is out of my remit, but Sammy will agree not to go to the police if you perform an act of contrition for us. Not the catholic sort, something more akin to…doing us a favour. If you will perform this act, we will wipe clean your slate on your promise never to contact or try to find out about Sammy or Tike ever again. If you do not, then you will face the human police, and we will ensure that you receive the harshest sentencing.”

Jeremy paled, wondering what ‘favour’ he could do to offset his horrendous actions of the previous night. Also, in a side section of his brain that he was desperately attempting to keep quiet, he was close to screaming “What the fuck are they?! What the fuck did I have sex with? What the fuck did I fall in love with? What the fuck!!”

Instead, he forced himself to swallow through the lump in his throat, and nodded, not trusting himself to actually open his mouth to speak.

“Good. Then I, or one of my officers, will be in touch in due course, to let you know your mission. Please be assured that you will be fully protected, during your time with us. Even though you might feel vulnerable, you will not be, at any moment, in actual danger. We want you to help us, and pay for your mistakes, we don’t want to have you hurt. It simply happens that sometimes we can make use of humans for our needs, and those like yourself are ideal. A penance for your actions, during which you assist us in making things safer for everyone. It seems like a good trade to me, and I hope it does to you.”

Jeremy nodded again, forcing a grunt of agreement out through his lips.

“Good. You can go now. Please remember that I, and my Lawkeepers, work in secret to protect people – natural and extranatural. Therefore it is of paramount importance that you speak of our existence to nobody. If you do so, our deal is off and the police will appear. Keep to our agreement, and you will be able to continue your life as is – hopefully a better person, for learning from your mistakes.”

Jeremy stood, clearing his throat and trying to work up some saliva so he could speak. His words came out in little more than a croak, “I understand. Thank you for allowing this chance for me.”

Shia’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Sammy asked me personally to do this. Remember that. I was all for leaving you to rot in jail.”

Jeremy’s eyes widened at the sudden anger in that beautiful voice, and turned to leave as fast as he could. Out the door, down the corridor, and back into his flat.

Turning around, he saw the door was gone, the wall looking like it had never existed. Just as Shia had told him.

He wondered what his penance would be. Something that felt dangerous, but wouldn’t be. Playing bait to lure someone in, was his first thought, and it wasn’t a pleasant idea. It was, however, more than he deserved.

In the kitchen, he took every bit of alcohol from the fridge and cupboards, and poured it all down the sink, the stench of alcohol bringing the previous night back strongly.

Once done, he opened his laptop on the sofa, and began searching for therapists. He might not be able to tell them about Shia or the extranaturals, but it seemed there was an awful lot more he needed to work through. He wanted to get as far away from the person he’d become last night as he possibly could. Nothing would change what he had done, or how terrible it was, but he could change his future, and he would.

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Writing prompt used:

He had lived his entire life in this house, but he was standing in a hallway he’d never seen before.

Prompt Short Story: Magic (Lawkeepers 9)

18 year old Annie Jenings was bored. She’d done her chores  – swept and mopped the floor, filled up the horse feed, generally tidied the three roomed building she lived in with her one remaining parent, and now she was bored. Her da was supposed to be tending to the health of the horses – walking, brushing, whatever – for the folk who paid him, but she was pretty sure he was at the inn, drinking away the money she hadn’t stolen while he slept, and squirrelled away for food.

She supposed that meant he would be gone until the money ran out or the inn kicked him out to sober up. Annie brightened a little, that meant she didn’t need to be bored at home. She could go and visit Irving! 

Irving Napier was the 28 year old son of the oldest, and richest, family in the village, and Annie was in the process of trying to seduce him. She had played the game before, on boys her own age, but never seriously (and didn’t some of them get upset about that!), but Irving was different. Not for his money, though that would do nicely. No. He was a shy man, pale from a lifetime spent in study, but beneath the surface was an intelligent, funny, gentle person, and Annie was carefully peeling back his layers. She liked what she found, but she also liked his area of study.

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Prompt Short Story: Memories (Lawkeepers 8)

Shia and Patterson poured blood-spiked coffee from the carafe – hers black, with plenty of sugar, theirs with cream and even more sugar.

“How are we doing this, then, boss?” Shia asked, leaning against the counter.

Patterson tilted their head in thought, “This dude’s a telepath – and by all accounts, a strong one. I think we persuade him to show, rather than tell.”

Shia nodded, “OK. You or me? Or can he do both?”

“That’s one of the things we need to find out. But first, we need to make him talk to us.”

The pair had run down yet another lead on the witch. On arrival, they found yet another almost abandoned house, the only person there a short, weedy man, tied to a chair with multiple bruises.

His relief at being freed made him open his mouth to begin with. Before his reticence had returned on the way to the Lawkeeper station, he had revealed that the witch – or her cronies, at least – had captured him some weeks ago, and were trying to get him to use his powers as a tracker. According to his rap sheet, this was his regular job, so quite why he required kidnapping for it, neither were sure, and at this question he had remembered himself enough to shut up.

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Prompt Short Story: Diet (Lawkeepers 7)

Shia kicked the door closed with one boot, hands full of grocery bags, keys in her mouth. She mumbled at Frankie as she poked her head out of the home office.

Frankie grinned, interpreting the grunts as the request for help that they were, “I can help, one sec.” She disappeared back into the room and returned in a few seconds, bare feet padding across the hardwood floor to the breakfast bar.

She began passing items to Shia, who placed them in their correct spots – cupboard, fridge, freezer, counter, “Good day?”

Shia shrugged, “Quiet one. No sign of the witch, she’s gone to ground again and Patterson is getting antsy. Did manage to bust a couple of vamps trying to trick humans into being eaten, though, so that was good.”

Frankie steeled herself, “So when you find the witch. Like. What then? You go in with lots of backup and keep out of danger, right? You’ve told me how powerful she is, surely Patterson won’t let you in the way of her magic?”

Shia’s shoulders stiffened and she half-turned to Frankie, voice ever so slightly cold, “Patterson and I will decide together at that time, and if finally catching her means going into danger, then that’s what I’ll do.”

“And what about me? If you die, what do I do?” Frankie asked, handing over a packet of deli ham. “Your blood keeps me alive, it fights my leukaemia. Without it, I’m dead.”

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Prompt Short Story: Blood (Lawkeepers 6)

The first human to reach over 130 years old stared out of the car window as they passed through the neighbourhood he had grown up in.

“This was so different in my younger days,” he sighed, almost to himself.

The driver nodded politely and made an agreeing noise, unsure if the old man could even see or hear them through his reverie.

A medical marvel, he was. Not only the first human to reach 130 (and still that – 30 years later, nobody else had come close than 120), but also, apparently, regenerating. Aging downwards. Becoming younger by the year.

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Prompt Short Story: Messages (Lawkeepers 5)

Arriving home, Kyra locked the door to her flat, her shoulders visibly slumping as she let the weight of the day pass. She removed her coat and scarf, hanging them on an old-fashioned hat stand. She looked longingly for a moment at the soft sofa, then shook her head. Later. There was one more thing she had to do today.

Kyra entered the darkened room and closed the door behind her, activating the deadlock ward with one thumb. A light shimmer passed over the door, confirming that nobody else could enter.

She turned to the room itself. It was small, barely more than a cupboard.. A ball of light magic cast a soft glow over a desk and chair. On the desk, sat a black box.

Kyra pulled out the chair and sat down. She turned two sets of dials on the box to the right combination, and snapped open the double lock. The front and top opened, and she pushed the box towards the back of the desk as she reached inside.

Cradled carefully in her slender hands was an old, battered typewriter. The metal casing gave it weight, and the slight aura of magic gave it gravity, as she set it down within reach and laid her fingers on the keys.

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Prompt Short Story: The Boss (Lawkeepers 4)

Kyra folded her arms and sat back in her chair, “You want to do what, now?!”

Patterson looked over at Shia, who shrugged, and back at their boss, “I want to set a trap for Justinia.”

“Using yourself as bait.”

Patterson nodded.

“And me as a lure.”

Patterson nodded again. 

Kyra reached up to run her hands through her hair, then remembered she’d had it cut short last week in a moment of…self doubt? Madness? Need for change? Something. She already missed the hair that reached down to her tailbone. It would take years to grow back. She sighed. She knew why she’d done it, and it was too late now.

Patterson was patiently awaiting her attention. Their reaction to her haircut had been extreme, but then, they understood, at least a little. They’d known each other a long time, as friends, then lovers, then friends again. She had moved up the ranks while Patterson had chosen to remain in the field, determined to capture Justinia. She understood, but sometimes that meant saving them from themselves.

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Prompt Short Story: Remembering (Lawkeepers #3)

Patterson shifted in their sleep, the cot in the back of the van creaking as they sought a comfortable position. Shia looked back in concern as they gave a whimper. And then another.

With a sharp intake of breath, Patterson woke, one arm flailing to escape the blanket. They looked around, their soft brown eyes wide, taking deep breaths as they brought themselves back to the here and now.

In the apartment. Across from a large, empty, rundown building. Another stakeout, a long one this time, information gathering rather than taking action. It meant downtime, time to think, time to dream. Time to remember.

Losing the witch again had triggered a flood that Patterson had long been holding back. There had been no sign of her since, and the captive they’d taken was unable to tell them anything about her whereabouts, as he had only ever seen her as a projection. As far as Patterson was concerned, the other information he was spouting in hopes of making a deal could be dealt with by someone else. And yet, here they were, following up a lead from the guy.

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Prompt Short Story: Lawkeepers

Pattinson straightened their suit jacket as they got out of their car. Sniffing the air, they sighed as the scent of blood permeated the miscellaneous smells of a quiet neighbourhood. She never waited for them. Always eager, always running in ahead.

Opening the front door of the house they had spent most of the last 3 days watching, they stared at the bodies on the ground, at the girl covered in blood.

Her eyes narrowed as she stood up, “You’re late.”

“You’re overeager.”

She snorted, licking blood from her fingers, tongue darting quickly between her extended fangs.

“Took a minute longer than expected to persuade the Council of our findings. Fortunately for you, they agreed to the execution order.”

“Of course they die, these ghouls were killing people for their parts. They knew the laws, they broke them, they paid. Drink up while it’s still warm, then you can take me somewhere nice before you do the boring paperwork.”

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Prompt Short Story: Mothball City

Mothball City

It’s always a little quiet here when one of us is fading. We always fade, you see, but we don’t always come back, or sometimes it’s just a long time before we do, and even then the chances of winding up in the same district isn’t super high.

The Agency assigns us based on some complicated algorithms, and if the numbers don’t land on you, well, you stay in the closet, so to speak. At least we’re dormant while we’re not in use, I can’t imagine passing all that time still awake and thinking.

Anyways, when one of us is on their way back to the closet, we gather around whoever it is, and we hear stories of their kid – from the first day they became their Friend, to the day they realised the kid was growing out of them.

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