#WriterInMotion returns with a bang with more writers participating in this round.
The prompt this time around can be found here. I’ve initially posted my drafts on WIM Forum, which I’ll link below and posting only the first impressions and the final draft.
I saw the tweet that the prompt was live (on Aug 1), I was middle of an errand when I quickly looked it up. Initially it looked like a calming scene of a cabin atop a grassy hill and mountains in the backdrop. I showed it to my siblings and asked them what they feel first. Both said, it looks creepy and lonely! – something which I’m not feeling!
Later that night, I looked closely at the photo. Is that fog in the mountains at the back? Or mist perhaps? The cabin is awfully small and not maintained well, seeing the moldy walls. The cabin faces towards the mountains in the background, where I assume the door would be, as we only see a shuttered window in the photo and unkept grass and weeds (idk?). Is it some sort of lookout post? Or a shepherd’s hut while his cattle graze?
After sleeping on it, the next day (on Aug 2), I looked at the prompt once again. The initial relaxed feeling was still there but I was getting mysterious and mystic vibes from it. As a fantasy writer, I couldn’t help but listen to the pang of “it’s not what it seems to be”. Why would someone trek all the way up the hill and only to stay in a small battered cabin? It seems to lack any modern-day capabilities, light, internet, etc. It can be a great spot for a murder mystery also! There is also no walk-trail and why is the cabin so small!
I’m also having a beginning of a character in mind – a young girl, a witch? An outcast?, but I’ll but hopping on Pinterest to solidify some of the ideas bouncing my head.
I’m planning on sticking my mystic-vibes but let’s see where this goes!
Read this on the Forum
Unedited Draft 1
Read on the Forum
Self-edited Draft 2
Read on the Forum
CP-edited Draft 3
Read on the Forum
Final Draft 4
SMOKE AND FOG
The lull of the raindrops on my roof wrapped me in a nostalgia. But those memories were painful now. I was far, far away from the ones who jumped in the puddles with me and the ones who dried my hair after I’d become fully drenched.
I jumped awake at crash of thunder.
My eyes had remnants of dried tears. The candle had burned low and cast long shadows on the walls of the cabin. How long was I asleep? I stretched my bony arms, deeply inhaling the wood spice of the incense and coughed on the pungent burning smell.
I jumped off the bed, shaking its wooden frame, and my anklets chimed in sync with my footsteps as I hopped to the counter where a concoction gently bubbled. It was a tonic to cure insomnia, made from raw honey, dried lavender and smoked nutmeg.
It was my best-selling product. Apparently the veil-dwellers had trouble sleeping just as much as humans. Regardless, it was a hassle to make, and so I prepared large batches to last a long time. Nutmeg to be first crushed, smoked, ground and then finally infused in warm honey. But this batch had gone beyond the useful hint of smokiness. Grunting, I threw it away.
The wind howled – a wailing cry that rattled my bones.
I lit another candle and went toward the only shuttered window that I had in my single room dwelling. I forced it open against the wind and breathed the petrichor, smiling to myself. Why did I feel more alone during rainy days? The mountains in the distance were barely visible in the dense fog. The night was quickly consuming the ever-changing colors of dusk. Another gust of wind plastered the raindrops on my face, and a memory of my mum resurfaced.
Aarohi, you’ll get sick in the rain!
Every day, during dusk an animal would perch near the large oak tree in front of my cabin. I had eventually realized these animals were from beyond the veil – and they weren’t animals at all. They were shape-shifting Djinn, all with the same unblinking orange eyes. This time it was a cat with fur dark as coal.
“Do you want to come in?” I called out to the cat, above the sound of the rain.
Another of my mum’s cautions rang in my head. Aarohi, How many times have I told you, never, ever look or stray outside when it’s dusk and dawn!
With a scoff, I closed the window.
Mum always talked in a hushed voice. She was scared, superstitious, and perhaps overprotective. I was not one to get spooked easily. Much to her distress, I was the only child with the sight. Sight to see beyond the veil, which becomes the thinnest during dusk and dawn.
I wiped my face and returned to my counter. Working methodically, I prepared another batch of nutmeg.
The sight not only gave me the ability to see the veil-dwellers but also cure ailments by perfecting the tonic to the illness by adding the person’s hair, nail or even blood. This made me a master herbalist, both in the human realm and beyond the veil. There weren’t a lot of people who knew about herbs and even fewer who had the sight.
The sight, however, also made me hang out with dead children and have animal spirits as pets when I was younger, although I was not able to cross over to their realm. This pushed my mum to the brink of derangement and led the village to banish me to the Spirit Mountains at the age of thirteen.
A knock boomed at my door, making me flinch out of my daze. Another knock sounded, and I called out while re-doing my messy bun, “I’m coming! Enter quickly!”
I fixed my emerald gown and opened the door.
A man walked in, drenched to the bone and trembling. There was no way a human would venture out in this weather; it had to be a veil-dweller. I quickly closed the door and passed him a towel. He wiped his hair while his wet clothes dried on their own. Once done, he passed the towel back, making eye contact with me. His eyes were shimmering shades of gold.
“Thanks.” he said in a calming, lullaby voice.
My heart raced. I recognized these eyes. They were the same ones from the crow last week and the cat just now. Darkness rippled from his tan skin.
That isn’t darkness, it’s black smoke.
In the two decades since my banishment and living with the sight on these mountains, this was the first time I’d seen a Djinn in human form.
“Uh-um, crazy weather, right,” I said awkwardly, “Is there something I can help you with?”
“Aarohi,” He smiled. “I’ve been watching you.”
With nervous energy, I busied my hands to crush the nutmeg. A thousand thoughts buzzed my head as I tried to remember any advice Mum had given me or any instant when I might have insulted a veil-dweller.
The djinn wandered around my house, taking in the jars that neatly lined the walls, the still-warm bed, the table littered with notes and diagrams, and the counter where I stood. He came up behind me, his black smoke pooling around my feet, drowning the cabin.
I fisted my hands and spun on my heels. “Have I offended you?”
“All this time, you’ve been calling me to come inside, haven’t you?”
With a sinking feeling I remembered my mum’s final warning; Always wait for them. Never speak first to a veil-dweller, or they will become irreversibly tied to you.
I had spoken first.
My breath hitched as his arms wrapped around me.
“I’ve come to take you with me.” He smiled as his darkness erupted around me.
*Final word count: 968*
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