Playing with Words
Posted by Debbie Mumford
I’ve been writing short stories recently and part of that, at least for me, is playing with openings. Sitting down, writing whatever comes into my mind, and then discovering whether or not that opening holds the seeds of a story.
Just for fun, I’ve been posting some of these experiments on my website. I’ve named the series “Prompt Openings” because I often use a prompt to get the words flowing. (I keep a spreadsheet of words, phrases, objects, pieces of titles that catch my fancy and then use the entries as prompts.)
So, here is a recent opening that has become another Dani Erickson tale. The prompt? “Brothers and demons.” Yeah. That was pretty much destined to be a Dani story 😀
High school. It’s a totally different world than what I expected when I first stepped through the glass-paned front doors last year. Back then I’d just discovered my destiny as a demon hunter and was still focused on the mundane issues I’d always anticipated when entering the big-leagues of public education. You know what I’m talking about: bullying upper classmen; cute boys who didn’t know I existed; cliques of mean girls; cute boys who would break my heart; teachers intent on writing tests filled with the most tedious details imaginable; cute boys who wouldn’t return my affection. The normal problems of a teenage girl’s life.
What I hadn’t expected to find were kids just like my six older brothers who were demon-ridden. Literally. Teens with small, rat-faced demons riding their backs, claws firmly embedded in necks and scalps, draining their victims’ life force while whispering evil suggestions into their psyches.
That was then.
Now, my high school was a much happier place. I’d defeated hundreds of personal demons and enough of the larger, humanoid demons that the vermin were wary of stepping foot on my territory, and Longmont High was very definitely my territory. Consequently, kids were kinder, more gentle than the national average. Teachers — many of whom were also demon-ridden when I arrived — were more inclined to be helpful, more willing to explain difficult concepts multiple times, seeking alternate examples to get their points across.
Now, I’m not claiming that my school was a utopia once I’d exterminated the demon pests, but it was, on the whole, a calmer, more civilized environment than anyone had a right to expect … and that was largely due to me.
Even my youngest older brother said so. Jamie had been at Longmont High for a year or two before I arrived. He definitely noticed the difference. Of course, he also knew all about my demon-hunting abilities. He’d learned my secret when I rescued him from a horde of demons who were using him as bait last spring. And to my eternal surprise, he’d kept my secret.
For a price.
“You want what?” I asked, my eyes bulging and my face heating. “Wick doesn’t do charity work.”
“That’s my price.” Jamie folded his arms across his chest and stared at me with familiar belligerence. “You want me to keep your secret. Fine. I’ll risk the Wrath of Mom, but I expect something in return. I want Wick to teach me how to fight. If you can do it, so can I.”
I shook my head and stomped onto the little bridge in the center of Loomiller Park. We’d needed privacy for this conversation, so we’d headed to the park where we could see anyone approaching long before they could hear what we were saying.
“And just what are you going to do with said fighting skills,” I asked, not bothering to keep the sarcastic tone out of my voice. This was Jamie, after all. The closest brother to my age. We were rarely civil to each other, even without the excuse of personal demons.
He frowned, but his jaw jutted out at a stubborn angle. “Once I’m trained,” he said, “I’ll help you fight demons. Make sure you don’t get yourself killed, ‘cause if you did and Mom found out I’d known anything, I’d follow you to the grave in about a heartbeat.”
I laughed out loud. “Help me fight demons?” I said. “When you can’t even see them? How’s that going to work?”