Inktober 2022: Week 1

Oya everyone!

We’re back with Inktober! Yes! You love to see it! I actually had a lot of fun with these first four, I hope you enjoy them. Here’s the prompt list for this year so you can see what’s in store for this month:

Without further ado, let’s begin Inktober!

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Day 1: Gargoyle

Every day on the way to class I look down at the sidewalk. Partly, yes, I’m worried about tripping. Sidewalk’s kind of cracked and broken, plants stick up in odd places, you never know when you might stumble over something and go right on your face. 

But mostly it’s because I’m afraid of looking up. All of the buildings on campus are really old. I was told how old at one point, but I’ve since forgotten. Old enough to look like a European cathedral from the Middle Ages or something, complete with gargoyles.

That last part is the reason I look down. Maybe it’s stupid. A grown woman, afraid of stone statues on a building. But like. They’re terrifying! Weird, misshapen little goblin things looming over from way too high up, with gross open mouths and blank eyes. I can’t help but feel like they’re going to jump down on me the second I make eye contact. So I look down at the sidewalk and scurry along as fast as I can.

Today it’s a little harder to stick to my strategy. For some reason, a ton of other people are also moving along the sidewalk at the same time as me. There’s probably some announcement I missed this morning, or something. Point is that I can’t look at the sidewalk if people are walking past me. So I don’t look all the way up, just ahead.

Kind of funny, because the one time I don’t look at my feet is the one time I actually trip. Something rolls under my shoe, and I go down hard on my hands and knees.

“Oh! Oh, I’m so sorry, are you okay?” Someone crouches next to me, holding out a hand. “I forgot to pick up my pens, I’m so sorry.”

“I’m okay, I’m okay.” I take their hand and they help me up. The little adrenaline rush makes my legs weak, not to mention the impact on my knees. 

“I am. So incredibly sorry. Oh, your hands are bleeding, that’s not good, um, one second I keep baby wipes in my backpack let me grab some.” They let go to sling their backpack off their shoulders and onto the ground.

It’s a guy, probably my age or a bit younger, dark hair sticking out from under a hat that I’m pretty sure is called a newsboy cap. Like from that one musical. He’s wearing a gray hoodie with some sort of logo on the front that I don’t recognize. I wish I was wearing a hoodie, it’s chilly today and the wind keeps picking up and going straight through my cardigan that is much more for cute than for warmth. 

“It’s alright, it’s really not a big deal,” I try to say, but he’s already standing back up with the package in hand. 

“I mean maybe not, but you’re bleeding. And this concrete isn’t exactly clean. So.” He begins carefully wiping the dirt and cement bits from my scraped palms. I wince, but it doesn’t hurt all that bad. After a second he seems to realize what he’s doing and look up at my face. 

“Oh. Sorry. I’m Will, hi.” He grins at me before going back to his work.

“Um. I’m Esther. Hi.” His eyes are so pretty. What? Couldn’t tell you what color they are, but holy buckets. Real people are allowed to have eyes that pretty? 

“I’m sorry again.” He nods once as he apparently decides he’s cleaned the scrapes enough and tosses the wipes in a nearby trash can. “Art homework, supposed to do perspective stuff, dropped my pens and forgot to pick them up. I thought about it for a second, I was like ‘oh no, somebody could trip on those’ but then I figured out how I wanted to do the shading here and . . . yeah. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I repeat, still holding my hands up for no reason. What color are his eyes, why can’t I remember? He doesn’t look at me while he’s talking so it’s hard to tell. “What, um, what were you drawing?”

Will’s face lights up. I feel like that expression is cliche but it’s accurate. “The gargoyles!” 

Oh.

He goes to pick up the sketchbook lying in the dying grass at the edge of the sidewalk, probably from where he’d dropped it to help me up. “Look, it’s the one on the near corner.” He points up, but I can’t look away from the drawing.

It’s very good. Realistic enough to tell he’s using a reference while having a charm of cartoonishness somehow. An unfinished sketch but I can tell what he’s doing with it.

But. Mm. What he’s doing with it is drawing it from the perspective of having the thing looming over you, huge and grotesque, a gaping maw filled with teeth and blank eyes bugging out. 

“Ah,” is all I can say. 

“The ones here are really cool.” Oh, he’s talking. I look back up at him, he’s still looking at the building. His hands move around as he talks. I realize he’s wearing a leather bracelet. “Not exactly completely unique, but they’re still interesting! Y’know they have gargoyles all over the world? They’re actually used for draining off the water from the roof when it rains. Theres little pipes in them, and the water comes out the mouths. Well, probably not these ones. In the 1700s, they made a law to use drainpipes instead because the gargoyles scared people and sometimes fell, but when they made buildings like this I guess they just thought it fit the aesthetic.”

“They are pretty scary,” I agree. 

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” He grins wider, glancing at me again. His eyes are green. “They were originally put on, like, churches and things. Cathedrals. To scare people. Seems kind of counterintuitive to me, y’know? Some of them weren’t supposed to be scary, though, they were just animals and things. Like in Egypt, or Greece. Most people, though, think of the European ones, like the ones in Notre Dame. Gargoyle comes from French, actually, the word does, because it’s from the French word for throat because the water comes out of their throats. Y’know?”

I have classes to get to soon. My hands and knees hurt, and I’m cold. But for some reason. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t care about gargoyles, in fact I would rather not see one ever again.

But.

Will looks so happy. He sounds so excited. I don’t want to stop listening to him. 

He looks at me again, and he stops talking. He nods slowly. “You . . . probably have a class to get to.”

“Yeah.” I smile, hoping it doesn’t look too awkward. Gosh please don’t be too awkward.

“I’m sorry. Again. I ramble. Been kinda going down rabbit holes, researching . . . Um, yeah you should go to your class. Esther, though?”

“Yeah. Esther Hopefield.”

Will smiles again. “Cool. See you around?”

“Yeah, absolutely.”

I continue on my way to class, a bit faster than my previous pace. I risk a glance up at the gargoyles. Still terrifying. But. Interesting. Yeah. I can see what he meant. 

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Day 2: Scurry

Light comes from under the door in front of you. It flickers, irregularly. Torchlight most likely. If you listen carefully, you can hear the crackling and hissing of the flames. There’s another noise as well; soft shufflings and sighings of a human being beyond the door. 

You back away. This is not someone you want to confront. Not like this, anyway. A quick look around the corridor shows you a sort of alcove in the rough stone brick walls. Thick dusty drapes fall over the opening. You duck inside, holding the drape so it does not wave from the movement. Dust flies up in your face and cobwebs crinkle against the back of your head. You hold your breath until the dust settles and move the drapes aside just enough to give yourself a sliver of vision into the dark corridor. 

For several minutes there is nothing. You are alone with the cobwebs, the sound of your own hushed breathing, and the dim flickering shadows spread across the floor. 

You are almost unaware of the approaching footsteps until they enter the hallway. Hurried, accompanied by heavy breathing. The person comes to a stop before the door. They pause to compose themselves, and you catch a glimpse of them as they stop in front of your alcove. 

You recognize the uniform and your lip curls in disgust. One of the queen’s messengers. You restrain yourself from spitting at them. Traitor. Whether they were swayed to the Piper’s side through promises of wealth or security, or whether they had been planted by the man since the beginning, it didn’t matter. Anyone who would betray their people to this monster deserves to be squashed like the roach they are.

They knock at the door. The dull thud resounds in the hallway. A dead echo. There is a response from behind the thick wood but you cannot make it out. The messenger gulps and pulls the door open. It scrapes against the floor,

The stale, dusty air of the old castle is suddenly overtaken with a sickly sweet odor. Nausea overtakes you, and you struggle to keep still and silent. You remember this scent from your few brushes with the Piper. Back before everything went wrong. It was unpleasant then, but not as concentrated as now. The messenger takes a shaky breath and walks inside the room. The door remains open.

“What news do you bring?” The Piper’s voice sends spiders down your spine. So casual, unconcerned of the devastation he has wrought. “Will her Majesty accept our deal?”

“She is becoming more open to it,” the messenger hazards. His voice quavers minutely. “The advisers and generals are mostly steadfast in urging her to resist, although two or three have conceded that accepting the deal is the best option for the kingdom as a whole. I believe that in a few more weeks–”

“Weeks?” 

At the soft interruption the quaver turns into a stutter. “It, it could be less! Perhaps with a little more persuasion on your part, her resolve will weaken!”

There is a moment of quiet. The torch flickers, the messenger breathes quickly. You hold your own breath.

“I do not have weeks, Lathan. I had really hoped this could be solved quickly, without too much loss. I did really want the city intact, you know.” The Piper sighs. You can almost imagine him propping his chin on his hand. Fingers drumming slowly, weighed down by heavy golden rings. “But I suppose if sweet Elsie wants to be difficult, I can handle a little rebuilding later on.”

“Yes, sir. Sir?”

“Mm?”

“Could I visit my daughter, sir?” 

The Piper chuckles softly. “Of course Lathan. You’ve been a good boy. Go on.”

“Thank you, sir.” The messenger steps out of the room. You catch a glimpse of his face as he nearly runs by. 

You shiver. There is a clear choice here. You originally came here, to the ancient castle commandeered by the monster, to rescue the children. All of them taken in one night. All but one, little Alex, who the town found crying in the street the next morning. He could not with his broken leg walk far enough to follow the ‘lovely music’ as the other children had. It was a sick move on the part of the Piper, the greatest in a long line of offenses meant to wear down the queen’s resolve and force her to accept his deal and surrender the town to his mercies. You were the one brave enough — or stupid enough — to slip out of town and pass through the perilous barriers of magical plants and feral wolves sent by the Piper to blockade the town. You followed the faint trail of hundreds of tiny feet to this fortress, bent on rescuing the little ones. If you follow this traitorous messenger, you will find where they are being kept. You can lead them out and to safety.

But. The Piper is but a wall away from you. Alone. The crossbow on your back is heavy and present. You could do it, you know you could. Rid the world of this evil before he could even blink his blank golden eyes. 

Your fingers clench tight enough to leave red crescents on your palms.

Before you can make a choice, you hear an intake of breath from the man in the room. A moment later, a high, clear note as he begins to play his flute. On instinct you clamp your hands over your ears in a futile attempt to block out the heavy magic. 

The magic is not, however, meant for you. Your ears may be blocked, but you can feel the building rumble of many, many creatures approaching.

And then they are everywhere. 

Rats.

Hundreds, thousands, millions of them. Scampering, stampeding, filling floor, walls, anything they can gain purchase on with their clawed little hands. They scurry into your hiding place and run over your body without a moment’s pause. 

Your hands go to cover your mouth instead. Terror and disgust fill your mind and your stomach as you fight not to scream or gag. The sea of rats don’t seem to stop. Is it seconds? Minutes? Years? They shred apart the curtain shielding you. The overwhelming squeaking and chittering should be loud enough to drown out the music, but it remains clear and loud floating above the storm. 

After an eternity the waves are all at once gone. You feel sick thinking of the sheer volume of rats that must be packed into that room. The music fades out leaving silence. You still feel the vermin crawling all over you, phantom claws and tails. 

“Hello, there, lovelies,” the Piper croons to his army. “You get to have some fun tonight.”

You can’t wait any longer. You slip out of the alcove and begin backing down the hallway, eyes trained on the man standing in the center of a writhing mass of greasy fur and beady eyes. His elegant purple and gold coat is untouched by the filth around him, as are his shiny black boots. His long hair is reflecting the torchlight without a strand out of place. The Piper has his back to you, but you put a foot down in the wrong place and a small chunk of masonry skitters across the floor. 

He turns. Smiles at you. You can’t decide what is scarier; the sharp canine teeth or the golden irises within black sclera. 

“Hello there!” Every single eye in the rat storm turns to you. “Ah, I suppose you’re trying to be a hero, yes? Good for you! Good for you, little hero.”

You bring your crossbow up. Your hands don’t shake as you aim. 

“Did Elsie send you? Or did you come on your own? I do hope your queen didn’t send you here, I thought she cared about her people more than that.” His hand comes up, bringing his golden instrument up in preparation of playing it. “I hope you’ve enjoyed your adventure, little hero. Take your shot if you like, but you won’t be making it home if you miss. I’ll be sure to let your people know you died a hero’s death.”

He brings the flute to his lips. 

You pull the trigger.

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Day 3: Bat

Ashley was used to being in the church late at night, long after almost everyone else was gone. Mom liked to take advantage of the time after the kids’ Wednesday night program to catch up with her friends. Ashley didn’t mind it really, she got to run around with whatever other kids were left as their parents did the same thing. The only bad part was that most of the church was very dark. Long hallways lit only by exit signs. It was creepy, but as long as you were loud it wasn’t too bad. Ashley was about seven, so being loud wasn’t at all an issue.

But this time they had stayed much longer than usual. All the other kids had gone home and it was getting boring. And scary. She had taken off her tennis shoes, because shoes are uncomfortable when you’re running around, and had the brilliant idea of carrying them by the laces and swinging them around. She felt cool. 

Emmy, her little sister, was waiting with her in the big hallway that led to the gym. It was one of the only places with the lights still on. Emmy was in the littlest kids’ class. After waiting for a long time, she suddenly remembered that she was in charge of the little frog stuffie named Zebedee. He was the mascot of her class and she was supposed to bring him home for the week. But she had left him all alone in the gym with her bag. He was definitely scared all alone, she said, and she needed to go rescue him. Ashley agreed with this, but was not about to enter the gym when the lights were off. It was too big, too echoey, and altogether absolutely terrifying for someone whose imagination was scarier than anything else. 

Emmy was a lot braver than Ashley. She puffed up her chest and started marching down the big hallway.

Now, this church was a very nice church. But it had one major problem. Bats. Lots of bats. Every once in a while, one would find its way down through the ceiling and begin flying around madly looking for a way out.

At the exact moment Emmy was beginning her rescue mission for Zebedee, a confused and shrieking bat zoomed into the hallway and began darting around like mad. Both of the girls began screaming. Emmy sprinted as fast as her little legs would let her into the gym, beginning to cry but dedicated to saving Zebedee from the darkness and the new threat of a bat.

Ashley cowered. She knew the bat wouldn’t hurt her, it was just looking for a way to get out. But that didn’t take away her fear of something zooming around near her head. She could hear some adults making their way over to the hallway, and Emmy was still audible as she screamed in the gym.

Ashley had an idea. 

She began swinging her tennis shoes around by the laces. At this point in her life she didn’t know what a bola was, but she understood the concept. The shoes flung around in a graceless circle. The bat came closer, still squeaking and zig-zagging near the ceiling. 

Ashley threw the shoes. One of them went wide and slammed into a ceiling panel, knocking it loose. But the other slammed right into the flying creature. 

The shoes and the bat dropped to the tile floor. The bat was stunned, flapping weakly. The adults finally showed up, Mom and her friend and one of Ashley’s friend’s older brother. The older brother happened to be the guy who usually took care of the bats anyway, so he had no problem scooping it up in a paper bag and releasing it outside. Mom went to go get Emmy, who was still crying but had Zebedee clutched tight. She had saved him from the scary bat. Yes, you’re a hero, Mom told her as they left. Ashley didn’t put her shoes back on, buzzing with the joy of victory as she ran barefoot to the car, excited to tell her dad about her adventure when they got home.

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Day 4: Scallop

“I don’t like sand. It’s rough, coarse, irritating. Gets everywhere.”

“You say that, like. Every time we’re here.”

“And does it get any less funny?”

“Yes!” Sebastian tossed a handful of wet sand in his brother’s direction. “Shut up dude.”

Caleb ducked the missile. He stayed ducked though as a shiny in the sand caught his attention. “Hey, purple shell,” he commented as he pulled it out. 

Sebastian immediately forgot to continue attacking and came to look at the smooth, rounded triangle shell in his brother’s hand. “Oh! I know that one. It’s a periwinkle. That one’s alive.” He poked at it.  

“Cool.” Caleb set it back in the sand. 

“Yeah, when they’re dead and open they look like butterflies. Grandma has a bunch in the house, I think she even made necklaces out of them.”

“Hey, we should grab some for Kayla. She likes making necklaces out of stuff.”

Sebastian nodded, going down on his knees to push through the sand in the shallow waves looking for the purple shells. Caleb joined him and for a while the two of them were quiet. The beach was still noisy as little kids splashed around nearby and seagulls screamed overhead and waves crashed out where the water reflected the sun. But they were quiet searching for shells. 

They did find many periwinkles. Most were only one half of the shell, but they reasoned that they would make nice earrings anyhow if their sister felt like making some. The intact butterfly-like ones Caleb held tightly in his hand to keep them safe. They found other things in their search as well; broken glass smoothed by the sea, bits of shell that were black and ridged on one side and rainbow-pearl on the other, colorful rocks, tiny crabs and silvery fish that nibbled at the edges of their swim trunks and at their toes. 

Sebastian eventually pulled out a much larger shell, the size of his palm almost. “Hey look! It’s like. An actual shell.” 

“What do you mean, a—” Caleb looked up. “Oh yeah. That’s a whole shell.”

“This one’s a scallop!” Sebastian crowed proudly, holding it up. “I’ve eaten these before! They’re fantastic!”

“It’s a good color.” Caleb snatched it, turning it over and studying it. “Kind of looks like a sunset, with the stripes. Isn’t even broken!”

“We should give this one to Grandma.”

“Yeah. Think, uh . . .” Caleb opened his hand. “Fourteen is enough periwinkles?”

Sebastian shrugged. “Probably. I’m hungry anyway.” 

The boys ran back up the beach to show off their treasures.

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Hope you enjoyed! Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts, I love reading them. And subscribe to the blog so you won’t miss the rest of the stories throughout the month! It’s absolutely free and all that’ll happen is you receive an email when I post. So I’ll see you next week! HAPPY OCTOBER!!!

~Ace

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