Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here's to 2014

2013 has been something of a rollercoaster for me. I met some goals and missed others. Somehow I was able to keep up some of my writing through what was the busiest academic year yet. The entire experience was quite an adventure, though not one that I am keen to repeat any time soon. I would rather be more realistic this year, to pick things that suit my lifestyle and goals that I truly want to accomplish--not just borrowing words from someone else's list.

This year, I did make some memorable goals--and some good memories. I graduated with honors-a journey that took me a handful of years and perhaps more sanity than I care to admit-but it is also a time for new things, new experiences and new adventures in this coming year.

I know there are many shiny new things that come with this new year--so here are my new year wishes for all my readers, friends and family. May your 2014 be filled with magic, dreams, and the good kind of craziness that makes you smile.  I hope you read wonderful books, meet amazing new friends and travel somewhere that makes your heart sigh. I hope you have one absolutely perfect day. I hope you make so many good memories that you can't just pick one favorite. Oh, and be yourself in 2014--be creative, take pictures, sing, dance, write, paint, whatever. Do your thing. Do it proudly. And I hope, somewhere in this new year, you surprise yourself.

Cheers,
-Sara H. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NaNo-In-SANE-No (Friday Fiction)

I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Don't forget to read and share. Happy weekend! 

A/N: In honor of NaNoWriMo, I'm dusting off a lovely little short piece I wrote for the Faithwriter's Challenge for the topic "Cyber-Communication" . To all my fellow Wrimos, happy writing! This weekend is the all-day write-in (Nov 9th). Best of luck and thanks for reading. 



Kelsy threw herself across the narrow dorm-sized bed with a happy shriek. 

She bounced, lightly. 

It felt good. 

Quiet trickled in and she felt the first inklings of relaxation creeping in past her frazzled student brain. 

It also felt good. 

Mac time! 

Kelsy reached under her bed to retrieve her Macbook out from the knapsack stowed beneath. Lying on her stomach, grabbed the laptop and the notebook under it, rolling over and sitting up. Opening the laptop, she waited impatiently to log into her digital world. 

The silence of the tiny dorm was welcome in a thousand ways. 

Her roommate had for the holiday and gifted a bag of holiday chocolate before reluctantly joining the departure crowd of students in the hallway. 

Kelsy had cheerfully waved her off. 

Now, she flexed her fingers in anticipation. 

The Macbook chimed, alerting her to new emails and friends on her messenger list. With a pillow for a padded backrest, Kelsy positioned the laptop carefully on her lap, and the gifted chocolates to the left of her knee as she settled in. Unwrapping a green-foiled specimen, she popped the shape in her mouth and chewed slowly, enjoying the taste of milk chocolate sliding down her throat. 

Updates day 1, updates day 2, updates day 3...penpal reply, coupons for the mall, oh joys, credit card confirmation for—oh, nice, update day 23? 

Having skimmed the subject lines in her priority inbox, Kelsy clicked on the top and began to read, one hand already reaching into the chocolate bag for another treat. She nibbled on this next chunk as a smile came to her face. 

It’s the first day, Kels! The FIRST! Can you believe it??? I’m very excited!!! I can’t wait to get started. I think I’ll start right at midnight, maybe. I have to work tomorrow, don’t think the ol’ boss would like my sleepyheaded self. Cheers, kiddo! 


Kelsy grinned, clicking on the next one. 

Well, I’d say it was the second day, but you know that already, don’t ya Kels? I didn’t stay up after all. I wanted to, boy did I want to. Work was lousy, but you know that already too. Got started, a nicer opening than last year, I think it’s a solid five-hundred words. I’m doing myself right proud. Cheers, kiddo!

A giggle threatened to escape. 

Kelsy, Kelsy, Kelsy. I think I’m about t’ die. This is only day three. ONLY DAY THREE!!!!! I wouldn’t be screaming like u say, but I cant believe this!!! I really can’t. I’m behind on my word count and it’s only the first week!!! This happened last year, remember? It happened last YEAR!? I can’t let it happen again. No way, no say. Cheers, kiddo. 


Kelsy winced. The sheer number of exclamation marks had her editor’s fingers twitching in anticipation. She hurriedly clicked to the next update email. 

It’s day nine, Kels. I’m doing fine. Just fine. Really fine. Better than fine, I think. I was busy for a couple of days, but busy is good, right? Guess what? My word count with up, uppity up! I feel so proud. I hope your grades are doing the same. Cheers, kiddo.

Another chunk of chocolate went in her mouth. 

DAY TWENTY-THREEEEE!!!! I’m flying, Kel-bels! I really am! Lookit my word count, just take a look at it! I did all of that. All by myself. :) (btw—sure gonna miss u for thanksgiving. Hugs n’ kisses!) 


It was too good to leave untouched. 

Snatching her Iphone off the nightstand, Kelsy sent a quick text before she hit the speed-dial. The text was warning enough, because the phone didn’t ring more than twice before a warm voice came through from the other end. 

“Kel-bels!” 

“Happy thanksgiving! How’s *NaNo going?” 

“You called to ask that?” 

“Word count’s lookin’ good!” 

“It is, isn’t it?” 

“Yep. I’m cheerin’ for ya. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.” 

“Your hands or your red pen?” 

“Both!” 

The laughter was shared and the conversation danced along several other topics before the clock on the nightstand blinked at them, announcing a bedtime hour. 

“Yeah. It’s late. No, it was fun. I’m good. I’ll do some homework or something. You—write! Get those words in, okay?” Kelsy smiled. “And Mom? Stop writing in character. I miss your regular emails—and yeah, I’ll be home for Christmas. Hugs n’ kisses!” 

*NaNo=National Novel Writing Month—writing 50k words in 30 days

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thirty-Dollar Haircut (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Vonnie over @ her blog My Back Door. Click here to read and share more great fiction. 

A/N: This is actually a rerun for me at the moment, since I haven't finished the new little pieces I've started. It was written for the FWC Challenge for the topic "Hard and Soft". I wanted to write about Sisters (which is also a major theme in this year's NaNo Novel!) so enjoy! 

THIRTY-DOLLAR HAIRCUT

Her smile haunted me. 

I’m still not quite sure why. Maybe because I hadn’t seen her smile in so long or maybe because I was too busy in my own selfish world to recognize her happiness. I never realized how so little could make her so very happy. I should have. That's what sisters do. 

She was working too hard, I suppose, that’s when I first noticed it. It started with the cut on her finger after dinner one night and then one cut turned into two and the next thing I knew, her hands were covered in band-aids. My fears escalated to a point where I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was no one to discuss the matter with, and there was absolutely nothing I could say. 

I didn't have the nerve. So I began to worry. 

I wasn’t sure how to ask her, or even how to go about beginning to ask what was going on. That was a train wreck of a conversation that I would make absolutely sure to avoid. I had seldom interjected myself into her life, and it seemed almost a crime to do so now. Granted I had only begged for two favors of her in my life, to live with her, instead of my sparring parents and to sign for my student loan, so I could attend college

We have an understanding of sorts. I think. 

Last night, I’d whined about the fellow I wanted to invite to dinner. Shayline’s only reply to my question was an appraising look followed by two direct orders. 

Clean the house and get a decent haircut. 

I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my hair, but of course, I wasn’t going to object and I couldn't actually remember the last time I had cut it. So I wound up taking the thirty-dollars and heading for the mall. There were a few cheap salons which should offer a decent haircut for the allotted money, tip included. 

If I had paid more attention to my older sister, I suppose I would have realized sooner. But we've already established my lack of attention to detail, so it would be pointless to dwell on that. 

Then again, when one is sitting on a stiff metal chair, with a wet and decades old vinyl smock on the front, thoughts turn elsewhere to keep from focusing on the nauseating mishmash of color that became the temporary shroud for my beautiful transformation. 

I was too busy concentrating on not breathing, because the disgusting chemicals turning my hair into a work of art were too strong for my sensitive nose. Now I remembered why I generally put off haircuts. They were self-inflicted appointments of absolute torture. 

To distract myself, I let my thought wander to my sister. Sitting miserably in that horrid chair, I dissected her harsh personality before me. She wasn’t an easy person to get along with, her methods were strange and her life, routine. She was stubborn to a fault and absolutely put her foot down when I begged for a bellybutton ring. When I went through with the piercing without her permission, she simply purchased a bottle of cleaning solution and left it on my dresser to acknowledge what I thought I’d hidden. 

I couldn’t bear her silent disapproval and removed it within the week. Her aura was so strong, there was a sort of strength to be gained from it. But if you were unfortunate enough to garner her displeasure, you would do everything within your power to right it. 

Awkward hands tangling through my hair was cause enough for another hiss forced through my gritted teeth. The jabbering, gum-snapping stylish-in-training was wearing on me. I hated the inexperienced hands and the feel of someone else so close. Too close. I'd never really done well with that kind of close. It was one reason I'd wanted to move over with Shayline, she understood space. 

My shoulders grew rigid as the sharp snapping of the scissors continued on and I dug my fingers into the crumbling vinyl armrest cover. Eyes squeezed shut, I waited for the torture to be over. 

The bell chimed as the light footsteps of another entered. A whispered exchange happened behind me and then I felt the presence shift, announced by a faint, floral fragrance. There was something vaguely familiar about it and the new puzzle tangled itself in the snares of my mind. Soft, gentle hands slipped into my hair with only a faint pull, as if hooked on a fingernail. 

The chattering student was sent to attend to another customer and when the gentle hand touched my cheek, to signal the chair tipping back, I had to open my eyes. 

I stared upwards into the shocked face of Shayline, knowing my own expression couldn't be much different. “Dana?” Her voice changed at once, a little hesitant, a little worried.

“S-shay?” I gaped upwards, staring from her comical expression to the pair of scissors expertly wielded in one hand. My gaze snapped to the mirror and I was relieved to find the resulting image, satisfactory. “You cut hair?” I heard myself say. 

“In my spare time.” She tilted the chair back, reaching for the dryer. "Looks like she didn't do too bad a job."  

“The band-aids…” I twisted to look, but she rapped my head with her knuckles, a cue to look in front.

“Stay put. You’ll ruin your hair.” She chuckled. “I’m improving.”

A blush tinged my cheeks as she began to methodically work through my tangle of hair. Her hands were soft, smooth and sure. The same hands that had always combed, untangled and braided my hair for so many years. I closed my eyes to enjoy the sheer pleasure of it. 

(c) Sara Harricharan

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

5 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo 2013


Just in case my monster NaNo Post scared you off, here's the bare bones of my favorite writing adventure.

Why should you do NaNo? I don't know--but I'll gladly tell you why I do.


  1. It's fun. You get to join in on a crazy challenge with fellow writers of all ages all around the world. The NaNo community is absolutely amazing. 
  2. It's the easiest way to write a rough draft without agonizing over the details. If you tend to take forever to get something down on paper, NaNo will be fantastic for helping you to get in the habit of writing every day. 
  3. You'll actually have written something resembling a novel-manuscript in a decent rough draft if you give NaNo an honest-to-goodness actual attempt. Plan stuff. Plot. Or just take random notes. But go ahead and do it in the spirit it was meant to be enjoyed--pure fun. 
  4. Stress relief. I write quite a bit. Stories, papers, articles and so on. Most of the time, it's pretty serious writing, with heavy emphasis on perfect first drafts and things making sense from the get-go. NaNo lets me write like crazy and actual follow my writer's instincts in crafting the kind of story that made me want to start writing in the first place. 
  5. It's good writing practice. Some days I love sitting down to write. Other days, I could probably chuck my laptop out the window somewhere. NaNo reminds me that keeping a writing practice is important--and fun. Sometimes I don't want to write--at first--but once I start? I can't stop. 

If you've never tried NaNo before, I'd advise you to give it a shot and take it as easy or seriously as you want. Join me. Try it. Enjoy it. Have fun.

See you in November!

-Sara

T-2 Days to NaNo 2013



Whew! It's been a busy week.

There are exactly two days left to NaNoWriMo, the  2013 edition and my month of yearly crazy, creative hyper and constant speed writing. Actually, it's not as crazy as it sounds, but I kind of like the little touch of crazy there, because it reminds me that NaNo is all about writing--and having fun while you do it.

So, now that it's almost NaNo, I mean, November, it's time for my obligatory NaNoWriMo Post. I try to do these earlier in the month in hopes of dragging more innocent interested writers into the adventure with me, but as this is my graduating semester at University and as a 4th year ML(Municipal Liaison), I've been plugging NaNo around on campus, rather than my blog.

But, I would never forget my loyal readers, so here's the updated "Why I do NaNo" in complete excessive rambling style. The short version will follow shortly.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month where the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 Days. Wouldja like to hear my campus pitch? I've been practicing it for nearly the entire month and somehow, (big surprise!), it seems to sound better in written words than the spoken ones.

Alrighty, here we go!:

What is it?
NaNoWriMo, shortened to NaNo, is an international, month-long, non-profit writing event for writers all around the world. The idea is to write a novel (or novel-length manuscript) of 50,000 words during the month of November in a mere 30 Days. As crazy as that sounds, it's a tremendous amoung of fun with an amazingly supportive writing community of like-minded writers. It was founded in 1999 by Chris Baty out of Berkley CA. NaNo is now in its 15th year.

Where does it happen? 
Everywhere! Literally half a million writers will be joining in the NaNo madness this year in over 600 regions across 7 continents. It's going to be amazing. To know where local events (such as writer meet-ups and weekly write-ins) are hosted, home in to your local region by finding your state and the closest city. If your city isn't listed, try the "elsewhere" region--you'll find online events and chatrooms where you can participate.

When does it happen? 
As mentioned above, NaNo takes place in November. Too busy in November? A more relaxed, stripped down version of NaNo called Camp NaNoWriMo takes place in Spring and Summer with alternate months. For instance, this year, they ran Camp NaNo's for April and July. The year before was June and August.

Who participates? 
You! and me! and any other writer interested in using NaNo as a kick in the pants to get some words down on a page. You do not have to write fiction to qualify to give NaNo a shot. It is free for everyone to join. To sweeten the deal, there's a touch of the real writing world with the solid Nov 30th deadline, prompts to keep up with your project through a daily word count goal and encouraging pep talks from famous authors like James Patterson and Lemony Snicket. (writers under 13 can participate in the YWP).

What do you win?
Web badges. A certificate. Up to 50% off amazing writing software for both Mac and PC, such as Scrivener and Storyist, as well as discounts on editing packages. You will also receive up to 2 free proof copies of your book through Amazon's POD, CreateSpace. And of course, you'll have a rough draft or a Zero draft, if it's rougher than rough, to help jumpstart your writing project. The hardest part of novel writing can be starting or continuing, NaNo helps you to build forward momentum and get the story out. Because it's quite difficult to edit/publish something you haven't written yet, eh?

Why should you do this? 
Because it's fun. No, I'm not kidding. Writing should be fun, something enjoyable and refreshing. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the technical points or the difficulties of writing a specific draft or required proposal that you forget why you started writing in the first place. Every year, I look forward to NaNo because it's pure stress relief. I can do what I do best--unleash my creativity on a blank novel-shaped canvas--and I can have fun doing it. There is no pressure to share, edit or craft perfect sentences, I just write what I'd want to read--a really fantastic story. Through NaNo, I have produced several decent drafts of novels in the process of being edited, reworked and someday, will be published. I owe this to NaNo. I would recommend that every writer give it an honest shot, at least once. If you hate it, fine, but at least you would have tried it.

How do you do this? 
This is actually my favorite section in my presentation. How do you do NaNo? Honestly, one word at a time. No, I'm not being smart, I'm being serious. I sit down and I write one word after the other and I keep on doing this until the end of November and sometimes into December or January, so I can finish the story. November is a ridiculously busy time for me, but I have a fantastic time thinking and puzzling through the finer points of writing my story, getting to know the characters and bringing it all together. 50k words works out to be 1667 words a day or 1700, if you want to round up. Most of us write about 1000 words a day on a daily basis, through emails, texts and random things like notes to family and grocery lists. 1667 isn't that hard.

Rules: 
Ah yes, the rules. It's simple. Don't write anything before November 1st. Nothing. Nada. Zip. You can outline and plot and character sketch and world build to your heart's content, just don't actually start writing until November 1st. You're welcome to keep writing after Nov 30th.

If that sounds a little crazy, let me mention something interesting--writers like Sara Gruen(Water for Elephants) and Erin Morgenstern(The Night Circus)--wrote their first drafts during NaNo. Then they polished them up and sent them out. Pretty inspiring, huh?

This year's theme is 8-bit, just in case you were wondering about the pixelated web badges, the theme changes every year. Last year was Venn Diagrams(very cool!) and they are free for your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter and everything, so you can find fellow wrimos and declare your noveling passion.

The bottom line?

Go ahead and give NaNo a shot, because it's pretty hard to edit something that you've never written. If you'd like to novel along with me, find me here as ScarletFury. Feel free to add me as a buddy or drop me a nanomail. I love hearing from fellow Wrimos.

Happy nanoing!
-Sara

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lunchbox (Friday Fiction)

Hello, everyone! I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo, starting next month, so hopefully, there will be some fun excerpts to share in the next few weeks. 

To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Don't forget to read and comment. We love feedback.



A/N: I think this is the very first ghost story of any kind that I've actually tried my hand at. This was done for a prompt line, "she couldn't put the spider down his shirt, so she stuck it in his lunch" and it could be any length, but preferably under one page. I managed to fit it in one page, but the story itself is probably pure fluff, as I cannot seem to write anything vaguely "terrifying" on demand. Hehe. Thanks for reading and happy weekend! 

“Should we scare them?” Lesa’s silvery form hovered in the corner outside the door of the Men’s locker room. “Quit hiding in there and come on out.”

“I’m not hiding!” Eric floated through the door a second later, twisting and tugging at his wispy white jersey. “What is it now—aw, really? More of them?” He scowled down at the huddled group of students picking their way through the darkened hallway of the abandoned school wing. “We just did this.”

“I know, Boo.” Lesa swirled up next to him, planting a kiss on one cheek. “But it’s such fun to scare them. I wish they’d come every month, the year is boring except for Halloween.”

“Only you would think it was fun,” Eric said. He sucked in a breath, preparing to blow it out in a frosty gale that would send the student trespassers running for home.

Lesa clapped her hands in glee. “Ooh, do let me help, please?”

Eric rolled his eyes skyward, but waved a hand to encourage her. She grinned, a wolfish gleam in her eyes as she drew in a healthy breath and blew out in the same instant that he did. Every flashlight in the group flickered. Dangling posters along the wall fluttered wildly, helpless in the sudden gust of icy wind.

Nearly every girl shrieked, along with a few yells from the startled boyfriends. Seconds later, first round of bickering broke out amongst the coupled pairs.

Lesa and Eric watched with curious, unseeing eyes, as the group leader seemed to be having it out with his petite girlfriend. “They’re so much like us,” Lesa sighed. “The poor darlings. They don't know what they have, not everyone can be a ghost you know.”

“Not quite like us. I’m pretty sure she didn’t stick bugs in his-”

“It was once and it was a spider and it was my lunch that I gave you! How can you still be harping on this? It's been fifty years!”

“You were going to let me eat it!” He snapped at her. A distinct chill settled in the shadowed corridor, his ghostly aura expanding as his arms crossed over his chest. “You wouldn’t have said a word. You were going to let me-”

Lesa sniffed. “Fine, so what if I was? It was your fault, you started it. If you hadn't put one on my head, I wouldn't have had to-"

"Oh, so now it's my fault?"

"It's always your fault. Just because there was an itsy bitsy spider in your lunch, didn’t mean you had to come tromping along in all your muscly glory to shove me down the stairs for it! You could've picked it out.”

“It was an accident!”

“Oho and by accident you just happened to tumble after me?”

Eric slapped a hand on his forehead. “That was the real accident, look, babe, just-just let it go, huh? Let’s have some fun tonight.” He held out a hand. "There's what, eight of them there? One who gets them out of the building first, wins." 

Lesa sniffled, then reached over and grabbed his hand. They ghosted through the arguing pair below, shutting them up in short order.

(c) Sara Harricharan 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Photograph (Friday Fiction)


This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Vonnie, over at her blog "My Backdoor Ministry." Stop by to read and share in the writing fun. 

A/N: This was a prompt piece written for my university's creative writing club this week, as per the given prompt. The idea was to be written in 500 words or one page, whichever came first and the prompt was "Cop". I think I've been watching too much NCIS this week. Oops. Enjoy the read!

The scent of raspberry tart wafted up from the bakery all the way to the upstairs apartment. The door was answered by a blonde woman with a kimono-style dressing gown hanging off her bony shoulders and a half-chewed croissant in hand.

Upon taking in the entire team of police officers and detectives in the hallway, she stuffed the rest of the croissant in her mouth before allowing us to enter. We all did, standing as carefully as we could in a neatly organized sitting space where everything was either white or beige.

Her eyes were red and bloodshot and she hugged her arms to herself after locking and bolting the door once we were all inside.

“Callie,” Detective Allen reached into his jacket pocket. “We were hoping that you could-”

“You said the last time was the last time.” Her voice was cracked and hoarse as if she hadn’t spoken yet for the day.

Considering the hour was only eight o’ clock, I assumed she’d been up for at least some time. Then again, some degree of blindness was necessary for the hideous kaleidoscope of color that made up her kimono-dressing gown.

Little feet came pattering into the room, a curly-headed boy in blue footie-pajamas with a death grip on a tall travel mug with a rubber band around the middle. He went straight for his mother, holding up the steaming offering. She called him a sweet boy and took the cup, bending down to his height to point him to the kitchen with directions for breakfast. She sent him off with a kiss to one chubby cheek.

Detective Allen stared down at his scuffed shoes and waited until the boy was in the kitchen. “They made me come, Callie,” he said. He held his hands out, palms up. “I promised Rafe I wouldn’t badger you and I’m not here to-”

“Spare me. Make your case,” her voice was clipped. She straightened and took a sip from the steaming mug. “I don’t want your useless excuses.”  

So he did. We all did. We told her about Toro Angelico and how they were smuggling children across closed borders, using them as carriers for drugs and selling them into wretched futures. We took turns, speaking at length. She drained her cup at the end.

“Please,” Detective Allen drew out the last photograph taken of Toro before he’d been released from custody. “Can you help us this once? I’ll do everything I can to get you off the list again.” She took the photograph and handed him the cup.


I’d never seen a metamorphic work before, but it was terrifying. Her bony shoulders jerked and twisted in an unnatural way as her forgettable face became fat, stubbled and scarred. A smirk touched her moistened lips. “What is it you want to ask me, detective?” The accent was unnerving coming from a face that did not belong on an obviously feminine body. “Something you cannot ask on the record?” 

(c) Sara Harricharan

Saturday, October 12, 2013

NaNoWrimo Prep: Book Cover (2013)


Well, it took me the greater part of an hour, but I think I have something that resembles the image in my head for this year's NaNo Novel.

I've finally decided on the title of Broken Glass with the logline, "Something twice broken can't be once repaired." I may change that later on, but for the most part, that's what I've got. The FMC's name is finally official, Cynthia Harlocke. I'm so excited!


It took forever to decide on a name that I truly loved and I think her best friend's name is shaping up to be Marcella or Marliandra, something like that. We'll see.

Anyway, that's the story behind the new cover and banner. Let me know what you think and feel free to share some of your own NaNoPrep adventures. Did you settle on a title for your NaNo? How 'bout a cover or banner? Let me know in the comments below. I'll be happy to swing by and take a look.

If you want to find me on NaNo, click here for the link to my profile. Happy weekend!
~Sara



Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's NaNo Time! (2013)

It's NaNoWriMo Time!

Can you guess what time of year it is?

If the post title didn't give you the most obvious hint, then please plug your ears while I scream at the top of my lungs--well, I guess, I mean, I could type in capital letters or something. Never mind, that. Ignore the hyper.

It's NaNoWriMo time!

I am gearing up in full Nano mode and you can expect plenty of nano-themed posts to be making their way out of my brain, down my fingertips and onto this blog. Currently, I'm dealing with the student headache known as "midterms" so all coherency in regards to NaNo, will have to wait until I'm done.

In the meantime though, if you were waiting for the news alert, here it is!

This year's Nano theme is 8-bit, so check out the cool retro graphics employed for this year, like the 8-bit coffee mug on my ML badge. Yes, I am back again for another year of MLing. It's about as addictive as the novel-writing itself. ;) I've earned my year 3 pin and I can't wait to get some nano-themed pictures up.

Until midterms are over,
Happy writing!

~Sara

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Six Weeks (Friday Fiction)

I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Remember to keep your stories PG-13. Don't forget to read and comment. We all love the feedback. Happy weekend! 

A/N: Hey everyone! Sorry for the long wait, I guess we're having Friday Fiction on a Saturday after all. It's just been a really big week for me (midterms), and so I've been scrambling to get papers written, tests taken and all of that other fun college student "stuff". At any rate, I didn't have a chance to proof the next section of the Greybell story, so I'm posting this little oneshot I whipped up this afternoon. I hope you enjoy it and next week, I'll try to get back to Nena, Andy and Liandra. Happy weekend!


Carla fumbled in her purse for the membership card, crossing her toes for luck as she shuffled the handful of plastic debit and credit cards. It took a moment, but she found the one she wanted and slid it through the card reader, jamming the rest into her coat pockets.

The gloomy grey gate beeped at her, the security light winking, before it swung open with a quiet click. The hallway was barely lit, as usual and her footsteps echoed on the damp concrete floor as she scurried down to the door at the end where the green light signaled a vacancy.

Here, she swiped the membership card again, keying in the passcode before swiping an available credit card. The transaction took a few minutes and then asked for program selection and physical verification. Carla tapped through the presented options and selected the time slot of half-an-hour and then reached inside her shirt for the fat gold locket. Clicking open the catch, she held up the contents to the tiny robotic eye.

The lens readjusted and after a moment, a thin net of green light shot out and analyzed the curled lock of hair and the faded photograph. A congratulatory message flashed on the screen, then a progress bar blinked to life beneath it.

Building visuals and checking data match…

Carla tucked her cards back into her purse and then pulled the cuffs of her hoodie over the palms of her hand. Today was an early work day. She’d been up and on her feet since four-thirty, dealing with idiots and non-idiots alike. She still had to pick up her mother’s prescription and cash her father’s bi-monthly paycheck.

Her parents would not expect her for at least another hour, her mother at least. Her father would be too busy to notice unless there was no dinner on the table. For now, she had time enough.

The card reader beeped and a deposit box slid open below the reader. Shrugging off her purse, hat and her locket, Carla dropped them inside and accepted the ticket that would allow her to retrieve them when her time was up.

The dingy door swung open into a blinding white light.

Squinting into the brightness, Carla inched through the doorway and tried not to flinch when she heard the door clang shut. The lights flickered and dimmed as her vision adjusted, before a virtual backdrop of green grass, blue sky and stick-like trees were projected on the blank walls.

She tried to focus on the crooked burn on the back of her left hand, the painful hangnail on her right pointer finger and the way that her shoelaces were tied unevenly as the gaudy pixelated images sharpened until they were so fine and delicate, she could almost believe they were real.

The lack of wind was remedied a moment later when the air vents at the corners of the room switched on and a white noise chatter seemed to filter through with it. A generic wooden bench slowly formed in front of her and Carla gingerly perched on the edge, twisting her hands in her lap.

This was always the worst part.

“Carla? Is that you?”

She bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut, hands tightly clenched into fists.

No, this part was always worst.

“Carla?”

She forced a smile and turned to greet her grandfather. He looked just the way he always did, a little worried for her sake, a little more wrinkled than she remembered, but always, always so steady and comforting.

“Grandpa!” She was off the bench and hurtling towards him.

He caught her easily in a hug and held on tight while she sniffled and bawled and babbled incoherently into his chest. She cried until her voice was rough and hiccupped as the tears eventually stopped on their own.

Her grandfather guided her back to the park bench and sat her down next to him, one arm wrapped around her thin shoulders. He pressed her head to the crook of his shoulder and hummed softly, an old lullaby from years ago.

When she tugged on the hem of his workshirt—he always wore the same uniform as her father had—he stopped humming and smiled down at her. “Feel better?”

“Yeah. A little.”

“I didn’t think I’d see you this week.”

“…I worked late on Tuesday,” Carla took a careful breath. “It was a lousy week.”

“Tell me about it.”

She did.

He listened, never interrupting, but always having just the right sort of thing to say or the right sort of pause that let her continue explaining about her work, the new management rules and how her mother was too sick for two weeks in a row.

“…be sure you’re resting enough.” He warned, threading a hand through her fine hair. “And eating. You don’t sound like you have enough time for anything.”

“I don’t,” Carla admitted. “I honestly don’t. I don’t even know how I’ve made it this far.”

“But you’re close to the end, aren’t you?” He asked, referring to the internship. It had been just the break she’d needed at the time, but sticking it through to the end was the real challenge.

“Six more weeks.”

He chuckled. “You’ll do it.”

“I hope so,” she slowly began to straighten up, a flicker of sadness filtering through her eyes. “I really hope so.”

“That’s my girl,” he praised. “Make me proud.”

Tears shimmered, threatening to spill once more, but she blinked them back and made herself smile even as his digital form twitched and fizzled, the timer on the door, chiming for the remaining thirty-seconds.

“Always,” she whispered, watching as the figure pixelated and exploded into tiny fragments of floating blue light. It swarmed around her, briefly, cool to the touch, before the air vents along the ceiling sucked it away.

The timer buzzed loudly, the projected atmosphere and setting slowly vanishing away, taking the light with it, until four, drab grey walls greeted her. Carla shuffled to the door and stepped out into the damp hallway once more.

She gathered her things from the deposit bin when it opened and hurried out with the same speed she’d entered. She thought of her coworkers and then her poor parents. Six more weeks, she reminded herself. Six more weeks and then she would be certified for one of the prestigious IT positions.

Once certified, she wouldn’t have to pay to use the virtual reality rooms. She could store more data for free and even purchase her own canister of Realistix, the evolving AI that could mimic any given creature or person with the proper DNA sample and a visual reference.


Six more weeks…

(c) Sara Harricharan
Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Greybell Flower: part 2 (Friday Fiction)

Hi everyone! 
I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. You can thank my pile of homework for the late addition. I've been writing this piece in between of figuring out my papers due for tomorrow. (I did finish the papers first though. So no worries!). Anyway, here we go, part two of the Greybell Flower. Enjoy the gardening adventures with Andy and Nena. Thanks for stopping by! 

To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Remember to keep your stories PG-13. Don't forget to read and comment. We all love the feedback. Happy weekend! 


Missed last week's installment? Click here! 

Nena buried her head under the round pillow in her sleeping hut. The groan that left her lips had everything to do with the fact that she hadn’t been able to rest in peace since the moment she’d retired for the night. A few more torturous minutes of her overactive mind led to the decision to leave the warmth and safety of her sleeping bag for the chilly night air.

Dressing by the moonlight that filtered through the shuttered blind of her single window, Nena jammed her feet into waterproof boots and stuffed her arms through the sleeves of her raincoat. She stepped out of the little hut and turned to smile up at the night sky.

There was no surprise at the strong glow of pale yellows and pinks from the nightflowers that covered the hillside where all the sleeping huts were grouped. The friendly light lent a pleasant haze to the night and she paused to pluck the blossom of from one golden bunch. Wrapping it halfway with her handkerchief, she directed the light to the dirt path and made her way down the small hill and towards the main greenhouses.

An invisible pull seemed to be coaxing her as she drew nearer and stopped upon seeing Andy standing at the fork in the path from where the men’s sleeping huts were separate from the women. “Hi?” She held up the flower.

Andy gestured for her to proceed. He was bundled up in his winter gardening gear with a hat pulled snugly down over his rounded ears. He fell into step beside her and made a sound of impatience when she stopped to offer him a flower.

He pulled her to a stop only a few moments later, his sharp green eyes almost glowing in the night. “Can you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Nena cocked her head to the side, a wrinkle stealing over her brow. “Andy, I’ve-” She froze. The flower fell from her hand and her body grew rigid.

Andy muttered to himself and yanked her back a few paces, fumbling in his coat pocket for a pair of earplugs. “Cover your ears!” He shoved the rubbery stubs into her slack hands, making sure that she was responding before he tended to himself.

“What is it?” She eyed the flower several feet ahead of them in the path and then looked down at her hands. “I didn’t even hear anything.” She blushed a moment later, then touched the emerald gems fastened to her ears. The inter-gardener communication link activated a second later and she heard Andy’s reply.

“You don’t have to hear it.” Andy snapped. “But it explains that Marcus fellow.”

“The plants didn’t like him,” Nena fell into step behind Andy, pausing to snatch up her handkerchief and the floor as they passed it. “I mean, they don’t like anybody, but they didn’t bother her.” She bit her lip. “You don’t think it’s her, do you?”

“There’s only one other person it could be and since she’s walking behind me, I’m not inclined to blame her.” Andy rolled his eyes heavenward. “Less talking and more walking, alright?”

They reached the greenhouses and split up at the main entrance to narrow down the source of the invisible pull. Andy promised that the earplugs would keep them from falling under the spell of whatever it was and extracted her promise that she would call him the moment she noticed anything amiss.

Her first instinct was the rare plant storehouse, before she remembered that their resident thief had already wrecked it the week before. It was just one of many odd occurrences in the weeks leading up to the agricultural conference.

Word on the underground was that the conference was a flimsy cover for a peace summit. Whether that was true or not, the Celphians were strange individuals to the point that any perceived slight would be grounds to refuse cooperation with humans in any shape or form.

The potential loss of access to such advanced technology had prompted the Garden Council to step in and make their presence known. The Emerald Garden Emporium had kept to the quieter corners of the market and scientific research, enjoying a quiet existence.

It was due to the lack of outside interference that they were able to raise and nurture rare plant species such as the Greybells in question. That thought sent Nena scurrying for the isolation greenhouse and she turned the corner just as Andy arrived.

His grim smile made her stomach sink. She could feel the pull drawing her towards the greenhouse door, compelling her to enter and discover the source. She opened her mouth to speak only for Andy to lurch forward and clap a hand over her mouth.

He shook his head vigorously, then pantomimed walking around to look through the tiny window on the rear entrance. Nena managed a shrug and followed him around to the backside of the greenhouse.

The invisible pull settled itself as a yawning ache deep in her chest that brought tears to her eyes as her mouth opened in a soundless cry. She clapped both hands over her mouth, but couldn’t stop the tears from trickling out.

Andy looked away, pretending not to see as he squinted into the gloomy interior as far as the tiny window would allow.

She watched as his eyes darkened from the glimmering pale green to a near pitch black, showing him everything that he desired to see. A moment later, he stepped back, shaking his head and stretching out one hand to rest on the side of the greenhouse.

She perked a brow, but he only shook his head and gestured to the window. Blinking away the streaming tears, Nena pressed her lips tightly together and stretched up on tip-toe, cupping her hands over the glass to take a look. The sight that met her eyes stole her breath away.


© Sara Harricharan 
found on google images. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Guess (Flash Fiction)

found on google images.
FLASH FICTION PROMPT

"I guess he likes you."

"Great. I intensely dislike him."

"Why can't you just say 'hate' like a normal person?"

"I am normal, Joanie. You're normal. I'm normal. Let's be perfectly normal and order that eggplant
parmesan for dinner and we can keep on talking about being normal, alright?"

"...are you sure you're doing alright, girl?"

"After everything I just told you, you're seriously going to ask me that?"

"...yeah?"

"I hate you."

"Awww! I knew you had it in you."

"Joanie?"

"Yeah?"

"Shut up."

"Shutting up now--ow! Hey!"

(c) Sara Harricharan

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Greybell Flower (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by the immensely talented Rick "Hoomi" Higginson over at his blog, Pod Tales and Ponderings. Click here to read and share more great fiction! 

A/N: I meant to do a second installment to my Craegen story, but I haven't been able to sit down long enough to type it out. This piece I am sharing today is actually the stub of a character sketch I'd started on Wednesday and finally had a moment to expand. I hope you enjoy it. Happy weekend!

found on Google images. I own nothing

“It looks like blight,” Andy stepped away from the exotic, bell-shaped flower, frowning down at his thin gardening gloves. They were coated in a substance to help identify certain plant diseases based on the resulting color. He now rubbed his thumb and forefinger together, watching the fabric fingertips turn blue in confirmation.

His frown deepened. The curling velvet petals of the hand-sized blossom looked as if it would shrivel and die if he so much as glared at it. Greybells were strange, rare flowers, said to adopt a melancholy air and personality of their own.

In the twenty years since he’d arrived at the Emerald Garden Emporium, he’d worked with countless plants of all kinds. This assignment had his toes curling in his waterproof boots as he stripped off the testing glove and dropped it in the waiting baggie held by his assistant, Nena. They would have to request an expert and there was no guarantee that said expert would arrive in time for him to fulfill the special order for the Greybell.

There were two of the troublesome flowers, one to flank each side of the podium during Ambassador Lianne’s speech on interspecies agricultural advancement between their races. Greybells were the result of a strange mixture of black Irises and pointed tea roses, a treasured plant on Ambassador Lianne’s native homeworld, Celphei.

“We’ll have to call someone then?” Nena carefully sealed the baggie and drew a sharpie marker from her messy bun. She propped the bag on Andy’s shoulder and scribbled in the label section. “Anyone in mind?”

“Whoever is fastest,” he twitched. “Would you stop-?”

Nena capped the marker and stuck it over her ear, holding up the test glove sample to the light. She stood a whole head and shoulders taller than him, her thin lips pursed into a complicated shape. “It looks kind of pale blue, doesn’t it?”

Andy picked up his glasses and perched them on the end of his upturned nose. “A mild shade of blue,” he admitted. “Now hurry up and mail it before we lose viability and-”

“I’m going, I’m going. Sheesh.” Nena turned away, gliding over to the little office cubicle to retrieve shipping supplies. She addressed the package to the Garden Council and requested the best that they could spare within the confines of their budget.

At the far end of the central worktable, a glowing clear box pulsed with soft, golden light. Placing the package inside, she keyed in the coordinates for the Garden Council receiving room and verified the transaction with a thumbprint.

Once the confirmation chime sounded out in the empty office, she headed for the refreshment bar, snagging a packet of the popular flowering mirage candy on the way out. Andy lost himself in his work too many times to track and she did not want to be the one scolded for allowing the famous head gardener to neglect the necessary functions of the living.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Their expert arrived right on time.

When Liandra appeared at the headquarters of Emerald Garden Emporium, she came with a handsome translator and a frilly black umbrella with a curved handle that resembled a toucan. Her translator, Marcus, explained that she did not speak, but would be more than happy to take a look at the Greybell, as it was her preferred area of expertise.

“She doesn’t speak?” Nena looked from the petite brunette to her giant of a translator. That could be more of a problem than she wanted it to be. Andy’s scowl remained, so she made herself smile and continue speaking. “I guess that’s fine, as long as you’re with her. You say she’s worked with Greybells before?

“She’s very good,” Marcus said. His easy smile was perfectly bland as he rested a hand on Liandra’s thin shoulder. “You might be surprised.”

“I already am,” Andy muttered. He skirted the odd duo, angling towards the westside greenhouse. They’d had to move the Greybells into a section of their own, quarantined for special care. “The greenhouses are this way. If we could hurry this up? There’s a week and a half until the conference and inauguration. Personally, I’d like some leeway in case this falls through.”

“It won’t,” Marcus said. His chin lifted a few degrees higher. “Believe me, it won’t. We wouldn’t have come all this way if it were a lost cost. I shall stay with Liandra as she needs me.”

“Now we’re worried.” Nena muttered to herself. She trotted out of the main offices and locked the door behind them. The small group followed after Andy, leaving perfect footprints in the thin layer of dust on the concrete path.

They entered the sunlit greenhouse in single file as per Andy’s instructions. This particular greenhouse was reserved for expert horticulturalists and high-ranking scientists only. The experts could treat and care for unhealthy plants, while the scientists tested their creations with the greenhouse’s living bodyguard.

The circular greenhouse was protected by thick, spiraling thorned vines that grew outward from the underside of the center of the ceiling, creeping downward to the floor and twisting into the shape of a deformed hedge. These vines were vicious, bloodthirsty plants with enough sense to leave familiar auras alone, but well-trained to attack fresh blood. They would reach out to any living creatures if one ventured too close, so Marcus and Liandra were instructed to mimic Andy’s footsteps exactly. Nena simply brushed them aside when an inquisitive tendril curled over her shoulder. It curved along her cheek, then withdrew when she pressed a kiss to one smooth, thick-veined leaf.

Liandra kept one hand fisted in the unbuttoned cuff of Marcus’s silk shirt and the other wrapped around the toucan’s beak of her umbrella. Her footsteps were barely audible as she kept her eyes riveted to the floor.

The vines stretched out to Marcus, but shrank back at a death glare from Andy, who finally came to a stop in front of a dull, mosaic wall. The handcrafted backdrop did nothing to enhance the beautifully planters holding two drooping, lifeless Greybells.

Liandra stared at them for a moment, then tugged on Marcus’s hand. They exchanged a look and then he checked his watch. “I can stay an hour.”

“An hour?” Nena looked between them. “And then what?” She leaned away from another thorned vine that crept around her shoulder. “We can bring anything you need, name it and I’ll see to it.” She bit her lip, sneaking a glance at Andy. “He’ll sign off on it.”

Andy gave a terse nod.

“Thank you, but that is not necessary.” Marcus squeezed Liandra’s hand. “I am sure whatever you have on hand will be more than sufficient. Where is your equipment? Is it kept nearby?”

“Back supply closet,” Nena pointed to a barely visible indentation at the left corner of the mosaic wall. “I have a key.” She fished inside her shirt to pull out a thin, golden chain with a dainty, bejeweled key at the end. “Did you bring anything of your own?”

The odd duo shrugged in sync.

Nena swatted away another vine and stepped around the Greybells, to reach the door. She unlocked the supply closet with the key and another requested thumbprint, standing aside for them to enter.

Marcus nudged Liandra forward and remained where he was, casting a wary look up at the ceiling where the mass of tangled, prickly vines shifted in restless movement. “Do you need these to be shipped or will someone come for them?”

Andy’s pale green eyes darkened a few degrees. “That’s classified,” he said, shortly.

“Of course, apologies.” Marcus forced a smile that translated into a grimace. “Liandra?”

Liandra appeared a moment later, her arms filled with empty terra cotta planters, the umbrella swinging merrily from her left arm. She held out the pots and gave a funny jerk of her head.

With a resigned sigh, Marcus helped her with the armload. Together, they arranged them in an odd pattern on the floor, occasionally moving the Greybells, until the drooping plants were surrounded on all sides.

“Now what?” Nena looked from the empty planters to Liandra.

Andy grunted. “How long will this take?”

“As long as it must,” Marcus snapped. “Can you please be quiet?”

Nena’s eyebrows arched upwards and she exchanged a look with Andy.

Liandra swung the umbrella slowly from her hand, head cocked towards the nearest Greybell flower. Her own pale grey eyes took on a distant faraway look, her posture rigid, her lips slightly parted.

A minute later, she twitched to life, the umbrella snapping up and open to prevent one of the thorned vines from stabbing at Marcus’s unprotected side. The taller man flinched, edging closer to Liandra with a slight shadow settling over his features.

“She says we should wait outside,” Marcus glowered at the plant that seemed to be hovering, still poised to attack him. “Are those venomous?”


© Sara Harricharan

I hope you enjoyed that little snippet into Liandra and the Emerald Garden Emporium. Let me know what you'd like to read more--the continuation of Greybell or the second installment of Cassie's story in the world of the Craegens or something else entirely and I'll set my muse to the task. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Green Sneakers (Flash Fiction)


Found on Google. I own nothing.
FLASH FICTION PROMPT

Green.

Her sneakers are green.

Why are they green?

Why is she looking my way?

She shouldn’t remember. There is nothing to remember. I can’t forget no matter how hard I try, but that is my problem. I didn’t catch her hand. I didn’t break her fall. I didn’t stick around to see her world return.

Grass stains on the white of your tennis skirt. Bloodstains on the white of her shirt. Twisted ankle, twisted head. She won’t remember me, even if I’m dead.

Stupid, stupid green.

Don’t look this way. Because I couldn’t save you, I lost.

I’ll never deserve your friendship again.

(c) Sara Harricharan 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Craegen : Cassie Aldracks [part 1] (Friday Fiction)

Hi everyone! 
I have the lovely distinction of hosting Friday Fiction this week. I've been trying to smooth out this piece out between my weekend homework today, so I hope it doesn't sound too much like all the Shakespeare and Melville that I've been reading. It is part of a gigantic creature-topia style world that I've been working on for the better half of nearly three years, featuring dragon-like creatures called Craegens. I'm really excited to share the first introduction/chapter piece. This is one of fantasy worlds, so be warned that my imagination is running at top-speed. Synopsis is below. 

To join in the Friday Fiction fun, just add the link to your story to the linky widget below. Remember to keep your stories PG-13. Don't forget to read and comment. We all love the feedback. Happy weekend!




A CRAEGEN'S HEART 

Newly-turned 18-year-old Cassie Aldracks isn't looking for anything exciting to happen as she works towards earning her Healer's Ribbons. Her quiet existence is turned upside down when the worst swallows her whole--a creature inheritance? Her family was supposed to be human--and Craegens are supposed to be extinct! Her transformation, new powers, new friends and new enemies, have her rethinking a peaceful realm on the brink of war over a centuries old cycle. 

My claws came in before the scales.

I had plenty of time to panic by then and it was easy to hide them under standard-issue gloves. My hands simply curled in in themselves and the rounded nails lengthened and grew to points. I thought I was hallucinating the first time.

By the ninth time it happened, I’d realized that they were claws and had ruined three pairs of black gloves. No one else seemed to notice, as it was approaching our midterm season and everyone was focused on their studies.

I could excuse myself to study in my room and that worked until the dorm leader threatened to lodge a complaint about maxing out my indoor hours. I hid myself in the library then, searching out books and scanned pages of obscure legends to explain away the fact that my eighteenth birthday had brought me nothing but pain.

The good part was that I was no longer required to return home during the breaks, I was now considered a legal adult and thus able to stay over at the academy as long as I had less than five demerits. I only ever had two and that was usually because of my idiot roommates who refused to break tradition, even when it cost them a mark on their academic record.

My uncle was never forgiving of those two marks though, so I would find myself up to my elbows in all kinds of volunteered work to make up for the transgressions. I soon learned how to deal with it. Showing up to class with claws for hands was definitely one way to ruin my carefully balanced reputation.

I preferred to remain just under the radar as far as my fellow students and professors were concerned. Creature inheritances were quite rare among the population and even though they were protected to some degree, the restrictions that came with it made you out to be an exotic pet of sorts.

The scales came in as the semester progressed. I woke up to find my hands covered in silvery-white scales with a peach tint if held up to the light. The claws seemed more natural then. A frantic scrubbing session in the private showers only showed that there were more of them than I’d realized.

The sides of my face, patches along my arms and legs, a few splotches along my torso and then my ears. My ears were the worst, instead of the normal, natural, human-looking appendages with rounded tops, I had dainty, pointed elf-ears.

Very real, very pointy, elfin ears that would not go away. This was not supposed to be happening. I could hear just fine with them and there was no shortage of sensation. In fact, they were more sensitive than before. The pain was excruciating when I tried to stretch it in a useless attempt to return them to their original form.

Several long minutes of panic eventually melted away to sheer exhaustion. I’d spent most of the night trying to decide how I could hide the scales, only to finally look up in the mirror and realize that my original appearance had returned. No pointed ears, no shiny scales and definitely no claws.

I almost thought I was imagining things, except for the fact that there was a very distinct nightmare that chose to surface. For my eighteenth birthday, the most important day of my young life, I had the worst dream I could recall. I’d fallen into some sort of personal torture where everything ached, burned and cracked.

This nightmare remained burned into my memory. I couldn’t recall any other that was so vivid. I don’t know how long it lasted, only that I couldn’t wake up from it, no matter how hard I tried and that no one heard me, even though I screamed and cried for it to stop. I clawed bloody marks into my entire body and ripped up the sheets, coverlet and pillows. I made a mess of everything and there was so much pain.

But when I woke, I found that I’d screamed myself hoarse and could barely whisper. The destructive details that would have proved the nightmare to be more real than a dream were conspicuously absent. My bed was in perfect condition, there were no visible marks anywhere on my body, but there was a dull ache that lingered as if I’d pushed myself too hard in basic training or something.

I chose to believe it was a nightmare, even though I had skipped the underwater basic training regimen that week—for a field outing with my specialty Healer’s class—and never took part in any of the workout sessions. The aches faded away, except for the occasional phantom pains in my shoulders and lower back. I couldn’t figure out what they were and my monthly physical didn’t show anything out of the ordinary.

Not even my claws or scales came out that day.

If I hadn’t seen them that very night, I would’ve been sure that I was imagining things. I searched the library for all the information I could about creature inheritances, hoping that I could find out whether there was anything buried in my family history. Some of the ancestry records were sealed though, and I couldn’t learn anything beyond my father’s parents, which, predictably, didn’t explain much.

I was hardly up for company or the remaining weeks of school when I stumbled out of my student quarters for the day.

“Oi, Cassie!” Kima came bouncing down the hall, pausing to sling an arm around my shoulders. “You look terrible,” she poked my cheek. “Are you still staying up to watch Lolly-dramas after curfew?”

“Kima!” I tried to pull away from her, wincing at the slap of her blonde pigtails against my face. As my self-appointed best-friend, Kima had a habit of filling in every single gap in my personality. If I was quiet, she’d be twice as loud to make it up for us both. Today, she was ridiculously hyper, if the constant twitching of her fingers were any indication at all. “Ow. Hey, watch it. What’d you do, clean out the dessert bar again?”

She gave me a look, then reluctantly released her gorilla-grip to wave her little flip wallet with her meal tickets in it. “Actually, I kind of used them all up and I was sort of hoping that-”

I dug into my pocket and handed over my own wallet. The sooner she stopped talking, the sooner I might have a few moments of piece for my troubled mind. “Just take it, whatever you want.”

“Really? Aw, you’re a sweetheart.” Kima happily flipped through the week’s tickets and tore out all the ones for the dessert bar. “I can trade you a fruit one, if you like.”

I made a face. “Actually, this week I feel like eating steak.”

“Steak?” She stopped in mid-step, pulling me to a stop beside her. “Cassie, you never eat steak.” She snapped my wallet shut and tucked it down the front of my jacket. “How are you feeling? Fever?” She slapped a hand to my forehead. “You look terrible, but you feel fine.” She bit her lips. “How was your monthly check-up?” Her worried look changed to a frown, “and for the record, the next time you feel like skipping the practicals, warn me ahead of time!” She produced a plastic folder and generously whapped me over the head with it. “I had to give your nonexistent excuses to Healer Surrey, how do you think she took it?”

“Er, thanks?” I took the folder, meekly. “Sorry, I didn’t know that I would—I kind of overslept.”

“Lolly dramas,” Kima retorted, referring to the overly dramatized web series that the art students took turns producing. It was a wild, wacky show that was somehow addictive in spite of everything to the contrary. “Quit watching that stuff after curfew.” She sighed, “Quit watching anything after curfew. You need sleep. Every sane person needs sleep. Anyway, I told her that you were helping Conner with his science project, so she was fine with letting you off this once. The second time, I told her that you were slated for a check-up, but she didn’t really buy it that well and the third time-”

“The third time she said she saw you in the library, which only worked, because I told her that you were helping me on a proj-” Conner’s dry voice cut into the conversation. “Kima, are you filching dessert tickets off of Cassie again? That’s rude, you know.”

“She never uses them!” Kima protested. She danced around to walk on my other side, to make sure there was distance between her and Conner. “I’m just helping out,” she frowned. “Hey, don’t you have a few steaks on your menu this week?”

“Steak?” Conner looked at her and then at me. “You don’t eat steak.”

“It’s ah, a craving,” I flashed a smile. “So, hey. How’s the project I haven’t helped you with?”

“You can show up tomorrow afternoon so I can test it,” he said, smoothly. “Here,” he reached into his pocket and produced two dinner meal tickets with pictures of a juicy steak printed on the glossy card stock. “You can have these. I’ve already bargained with the others.”

“Bargained? With who? For what?”

“With whom and why,” Conner corrected. “With the Seniors in the Athletics department so I can see if my experiment can really have a positive impact on idiots with brawn for brains.”

“Hey, they’re not all that bad,” I defended. I took the tickets and retrieved my wallet to stick them inside. My friends were right, I generally avoided most meats and sweets as a general rule, but lately, I’d been craving red meat like it was going to be extinct. If I wasn’t so tired, I might have bothered to care why.

“That’s ‘cause they’re all nice to you,” Kima sighed. “You have no idea what it’s like to be competing with them, the blockheads. Do you have any idea what I went through this past week? I was supposed to take three volunteers through my study, for the midterm project and two of them bailed. If I see them again this semester, they’d better hope they’re heading home for the summer holidays.”

I sniggered. “That bad?”

“Worse,” Kima shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m putting myself through this on purpose. Being a duel-enrollment student is horrible. Say, Conner, why didn’t you ask me to help with the experiment? I wouldn’t have minded. I still count halfway for the Athletics department. ”

“You’re a girl,” Conner wrinkled his nose. “You’d ruin the data.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” She sputtered.

The bickering started up and I laughed to myself, watching them walk on ahead. It was nice to have friends that were just mine, who didn’t care that I had picked the most troublesome department to specialize in. Their strange friendship included me and overlooked the fact that technically all of our chosen departments were always at odds with each other.

Well, the science tech heads and the sports ones, anyway. Our academy was divided into the four departments that consisted of the cornerstones of our society. First, Technologies and Sciences, second, Athletics, third Medical and Healing, fourth, music and the arts. The Medical division was fairly neutral and the art types were considered to be too strange and offbeat to mingle much. Most students stayed within their departmental confines and were content in doing so. The boundaries between each are fairly strict, but students were allowed to interact with the other departments.

We still had our general studies classes together, but our mornings were often filled with specialty classes. Kima was holding a special position as dedicated Athletic Healer by her choice as a dual-enrollment student. Conner held the highest GPA for his department—Technologies and Science—consistently winning and holding either the top student award or the runner-up position.

I was just happy to be an average student working to keep up decent grades and maintain the necessary levels I’d finally reached in my healer classes. There was nothing spectacular about me, compared to Conner's amazing techno-whiz abilities and Kima's amazing Athletic feats, but I was happy enough to belong for the time being. Maybe I'd find a dream or a better career path later. 

Maybe. 

Having a Healer's ability was almost good enough, as far as uniqueness went. 

Unless you had a magical gift, you were classified as a Doctor, if you were blessed with magical talents, then you earned and maintained the title of Healer. My talents were respectable enough that I had tested and earned entrance into the program where I felt I could make the most difference.

A wave of weariness washed over me and I made myself hurry up to stand between Kima and Conner, half-leaning on them for some support.

“Cassie?” Conner pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you alright?”

“Perfectly fine. Just need that steak,” I made myself smile and followed them into the mess hall. The past week had left me feeling increasingly tired with each passing day. I slept through the entire weekend and scrambled to complete my homework during class.

Insomnia, which had plagued me on and off since my thirteenth year, had vanished in the wake of this extreme exhaustion. I’d taken to chugging energy drinks in between of everything, paying out of pocket with all that I’d saved up from the past few years.

My generous relatives did not care to grant me an allowance, but I never bothered to tell them that I could earn some extra credits by lending a hand on weekends. Thanks to some of the kinder superior officers on board our floating-rock-in-space-station academy, I was able to find and accept odd jobs that were safe and decent, earning some credits in the process.

The mess hall was humming and bustling with the usual mass of students filing through to collect their necessary meals. The entire process was fully automated and thus foolproof. For tracking purposes, we all scanned our ID cards upon entering and started the timer for the allotted hour and a half given to the midday meal. We shuffled through the serving line after scanning our meal tickets. Our trays were collected at the end and the appropriate credits deducted from our personalized meal plans.

Our usual table was in the corner and of the eating courtyard, just within view of the exits and close enough to the trash receptacles so that we wouldn’t have to wait too long in line to clock out. The steak looked appetizing enough, but a little too cooked for my new craving. I hated the thought of wasting food, so I ate it anyway and then felt an overwhelming urge to sleep again.

Pushing the tray away, I folded my arms on the table and rested my head atop them. Conner and Kima were still arguing over his experimental project and I knew they were giving me some privacy, when neither of them commented as I closed my eyes.

Surely a little nap couldn’t hurt…

(c) Sara Harricharan

A/N: Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this opening installment.