SOS Writing Group Session 1 Entries

A series of short stories by myself and others.

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The themes/word prompts for this writing session were: Melancholy, Nature, Looking Back, Travelling

To listen to us talk at length about our stories on youtube click here.

The stories included are:

Miko Story by Otaking/The Good Student

This story was written by using a tabletop RPG called Maid RPG.

During the early Taisho era the areas immediately outside the centre of Tokyo were still a quiet country-side. There, on the lands that would later become the Akihabara, the mecca of Otaku, lay Igu Jingu, a Shinto shrine of no importance dedicated to the snake God Ikugami.

This Shrine was of no great religious influence, but no one would dare destroy it. For the shrine maidens who served Ikugami had supernatural powers, and have protected the land since the distant past.

Ikugami had supernatural powers, and they have protected this land since the distant past. Ikugami who sealed away the winter demon god, the jealous god; Isakanonushi, and who granted everlasting spring to this area, is truly a god among gods. Christmas was approaching but within the temple grounds it was still Spring.

Within the grounds is a holy spring that bubbles up to create an open air bath for the shrine maidens to use. There are also four stone monuments made of volcanic rock set at the four corners of the compound which sealed Isakanonushi’s power. It is said that anyone who comes in contact with the stones will die.

There are three shrine maidens, Miko, at Igu Jingu. Their names are Kamiya, Yugami, and Hizumi. The maids wore the white haori (formal coat) and red hakama (split skirt).

Hizumi, the head shrine-maiden, also wore a dark-yellow pointy hat known as an eboshi. Hizumi received the gift of immortality at the age of nine so that she could take on the burden of watching and waiting for the day Isakanonushi might be unleashed, from the very day he was sealed 94 years ago. The price she had to pay to take on this burden is that her sex was changed from male to female. For this reason she bears a deep-seated desire for vengeance towards Isakanonushi. Because of her long years of service to Ikugami she could channel the shrine god’s powers the most. Her hair was purple and her composed, expressionless demeanour was matched by her subtle cream-coloured eyes.

Two years ago Hizumi was joined by Kamiya. As an inexperienced miko she couldn’t channel Igukami.  She looked up to Hizumi as a mentor in an earnest way and always tried her best. Kamiya was 18 years old, had silver hair, and brown tanned skin. 

Finally, Yugami, a wandering Miko who exterminates demons, joined them two months ago. Having learned of the resurrection of Isakanonushi she had come to protect the shrine. Although an outsider she was trusted by the other shrine maidens. Yugami at first glance had a boyish attitude but actually was very shy. Her weapon was a Yumi, a Japanese longbow. Despite her strength as a miko she was only 15 years old. She also wore what seemed to be a dog collar. She had gold-coloured eyes and matching blonde hair.

Thus they lived their daily lives as shrine maidens of Igukami. Aside from the morning and evening purification and occasional rituals, this daily life does not change. They clean and cook and do laundry in the compound, and bathe in the hot spring. It is an uneventful life waiting at the shrine for the inevitable attack, but a blessed one.

— Ready! Action! —

It was Christmas and the shrine maidens were in the middle of their morning purification (cold-water ablutions) when the first demonic attack started. The barrier around the shrine kept the monster out but if they didn't hurry up and repel the attack it would soon be breached.

“Hurry! It is the resurrection of Isakanonushi, who Igukai sealed away long ago! The monsters attacking now are his minions!” said Kamiya, breaking the silence as they finally arrived at the sacred barrier’s border a few yards from where the monster rampaged. “They mean to destroy Ikugami’s sacred shrine and bring about the full resurrection of their dark god!”

Hizumi nodded and Yugami drew an arrow from her back out of thin air and pointed her Yumi towards the monster rampaging at the temple’s gate.

The monster that they were faced with did not roar nor make any vocal sounds. In fact it did not have a face at all. It had bat wings and a black skinned humanoid figure which could be seen flickering briefly in and out of existence as it striked the invisible barrier around the temple with its black claws.

“A nightgaunt,” Hizumi almost whispered as she focused on upholding the barrier for as long as she could by holding a sakaki (branches of a kind of divine wood) while whirling back and forth in accordance to a ritual dance called miko mai.

Kamiya, who was still too inexperienced to draw on the powers of Ikugami, but still insisted on taking part in the battle, simply drew a revolver out of her Miko robes and aimed it with both her hands at the monster’s direction. The revolver was loaded with bullets which had been blessed by Igukami through Hizumi’s prayers in advance.

The nightgaunt suddenly breaks through the barrier dodging Yugami’s arrow and heads straight for Kamiya but right after coming close up to her, it hesitates and then heads straight for the closest of the four stone monuments, the one which was guarded by Hizumi. Hizumi had already been knocked down by the shock when the barrier collapsed so she was too late to do anything to stop the monster from toppling down the stone monument and destroying it. There were still three stone monuments left but now the nightgaunt stopped flickering in and out of existence.

Great, this means I can actually aim at this thing finally, thought Yugami and launched another arrow at the monster. Unfortunately destroying the nightgaunt had not only stopped its flickering out of existence but had also made it more agile, so it quickly dodged the arrow and headed straight towards Yugami.

In the meantime Kamiya had regained her composure and blindly shot her revolver towards the monster to distract it from Yugami. None of the bullets actually hit but it did succeed in making the monster turn  back towards Kamiya.

Hizumi wiped away the blood from her forehead. She had hit her head on a stone when she collapsed earlier. She straightened the eboshi on her head and to turn the battle around she decided to channel the power of the shrine god, Igukami. All she did was place her hands together in prayer and close her eyes but that was enough and although she looked no different, her eyes were no longer emotionless and now she temporarily embodied the serpent god, Igukami.

With her newly acquired powers, Hizumi or rather Igukami raised her hand and casted a spell to enhance the weapons.

“Go forth and destroy this lowly demon,” said Igukami in Hizumi’s voice. “But it will cost you for having called on my assistance for so little.”

At his words both Kayami’s revolver and Yugami’s yumi glowed with a blue hue like a fire which doesn’t burn. They both didn’t hesitate to aim and fire simultaneously at the monster which had once again started darting towards another one of the stones.

The monster tried to dodge but the bullet and the arrow which also glowed with the  blue hue changed course mid-air to hit the nightgaunt, incinerating it in a blue fire immediately.

— Obligatory Bathing Scene —

Later that night at the temple’s holy spring that bubbles up to create an open air bath for the miko to use.

“Will Isakanonushi try to break free again?” asked Yugami soaking in the hot springs  while gazing at the starry sky with her bare back towards the temple.

“Yes, soon.” answered Hizumi, who had returned to her senses by now and was also in the bath. Igukami having had left her body entirely. “This was only a first attempt.”

“Then I will intrude on your temple’s hospitality for a while longer,” said Yugami apologetically.

“You have been very helpful to us.” replied Hizumi with a rare smile which quickly dissipated like mist in the hot spring’s vapour to give way to the usual blank expression on her face.

“What will you do about that problem?” asked Yugami, glancing to her side and pointing her thumb towards Kamiya who was also there bathing while hiding her face with rabbit ears.

“Ah…that? Nothing.” replied Hizumi.

When the nightgaunt died the witchcraft hiding Kamiya’s rabbit ears stopped working and the rabbit-girl was exposed as a priestess of Isakanonushi. “Then Kamiya dies in Hizumi’s arms. A single-tear falls from the taciturn miko on Kamiya’s dying face but the tear passes through the body onto the ground as Kamiya phases out of existence” - or so Isakanonushi’s script should have gone. An evil god that plays with humans’ fate for his own amusement in the name of testing them. That’s what Hizumi saw Isakanonushi as.

Hizumi knew from the start that Kamiya had been sent on a mission to disrupt the shrine but she also knew that the god Kamiya worshipped saw Kamiya as nothing more than a pawn to be sacrificed, and so she let her stay.

The Kingdom in autumn by Fahrenheit

May our fallen be jolly, raised for as high as their souls will permit and leave us victors the spoils of battle. What cruelty is this to leave burning in our minds the memory of glory and a lifetime of irrelevance? Now we will close our eyes and remember the day of our victory...

For eight long months and under the most cumbersome of conditions, the siege of Hessen castle had reached its climax. No less than eight thousand troops, marching under allied banners had surrounded the walls, thoroughly cutting the enemy off from the outside world. Now running low on rations had the enemy made one final and desperate plan for their last battle.

With their newfound vitality, the last army of Hessen, in one single and tremendous stroke, rode out on horseback eight abreast and ambushed our most elite units. With a savagery not seen before in the entire war our best and most heroic fighters were forced out into the great Fulda River where they were weighted down by their armour then indignantly slaughtered.

But our armies would never surrender from only a single stroke of luck. In our finest moment every pikeman we could allocate with the upmost haste formed into a line, four men deep and with a width long enough to completely envelop their last fighters. The enemy, in their last act, charged in perfect order towards our lines, nothing had been more terrifying than that calvary charge and only our faith could ensure the formation. At once the full force of the castle garrison ran into our pikes, their horses in horrific consensus then squealed and screamed as they recoiled or perished from their impaling wounds, only piercing our first two ranks and having ran out of momentum they attempted a retreat.

Not squandering the chance, our ranks parted and from this our lancers sallied forth. Disorganised and without hope, the enemy were broken by our riders seeking only total victory and revenge.

Upon seeing our valour, the castle opened its gates and cut down the banners of their old allegiance. All at once fate had granted our final victory. Gleeful and reckless celebration filled the days and then the week after the siege but as the leaves fall from the trees so too was it necessary that these times of joy had to come to an end. On the first day of the new month every soldier was paid for the last time and disbanded in perpetuity.

Since that day myself and many of the senior officers now roam around the shrewd and grasping halls of the court. A place for men without valour who have never know the striking of iron or weight of armour, for these men be tested on the battlefield would surely burn away the weakness within!

Today we are like ghosts, men of an old era in a time of the new age, old comrades now pave the roads where they had once marched and raise the cattle they had once slaughtered but can us officers so hastily put away our swords and enter the new day? Still, we lurk around the stables and garrisons and when we meet, we only talk of the old times, move our bodies as we did in battle then clash friendly swords until we remember the fire and the pain.

I believe my brother James can still be seen in the shadows, a great friend killed by the most wretched men of Hessen outside of the immortalising field of battle as he laid sleeping in his tent. When I sit by the lake at night, I see his figure faintly in the water then when I hear the prisoners, I hear his voice as well. Only his sword remains of him now, sitting above my fireplace, a sight which inexplicably fills the heart with sorrow. This is what us draggards will become, men soon to be trapped in the statues and the relics.

And I sit out in the forest, hoping for the battle, for the faint glimpse of metal in the darkness under the firs, for the shouts of an unknown enemy to cut through the air and to knock the leaves from the trees. Then we can be ourselves again, warriors like our fathers able to protect life with our own, to bring death by our own hand and to balance on this edge with our foes. The King does not thirst for war, he is a man who only sees its cost as he empties his coffers and fills the graves. He is a man who only fires a bolt for the hunt, a wise leader and old soldier who has long lost the love of the fight and if he became what I desire, he would be hated as a warmonger. Only the echoes of battle exist in the King's hunt, even in the sound of the royal fanfare, the terror in the animal, the skill of the rider as he fires from horseback and in the thrill of the pursuit.

Six days ago, our youngest general walked off into the forest. I remember his voice clearly. During the final battle, without his clear and decisive leadership to take up a phalanx formation against the enemy, many more men would have been granted passage into the next life that day. Every day the times move on without us, the young general saw this too and so he is now headed south, over the Frankfurt River and into the next province. If he leads men once more to a glorious victory or dies on the front line is immaterial to him, as the dogs run towards the fox in hut, so to will he run to be warmed by the fires of war.

I see this man and my brother too, they both stand together, hold my sword and call my name. Tomorrow I will cast off my titles and leave the castle, I will honour you, my brother.

Far From Forlon by ChiasmoRoss

As the car comes to a stop with a subtle jolt, I grunt: having half-fallen asleep, it bothers me to have to face the reality of being out here, in the literal backwoods with no sign of civilisation around us if we are to exclude ourselves and the piece of machinery which brought us here. At times I think my sister's idea of “trying to help” is but to make things harder for me; yes, I am tired and all, my second-tier type of job in the finance industry is not pleasant in the least, but the idea of going to the middle of nowhere, and prop up a tent to relax seems totally idiotic to me.

I simply loiter around as she unpacks the trunk of the vehicle, ignoring her voice as she asks me to help in what I can only decipher as a friendly yet teasing way; my sister would never force me to do something, no: she'd only try to subltly coherce me into doing so, like all females like to do.

As the sun shines among the trees, I am glad that, at the very least, she chose a place with some shades: I leave her to her tasks, as I sit under a large oak and simply observe the place, hoping I will not die of boredom in this place; something is nagging me, though: this area, have I been here before?

I shrug: does it really matters? There are hundreds of camping areas like this, where one can pretend to be in the wilderness, and cook faux German wursts on a store-bought “fireplace”, and then go on spouting empty platitudes about the beauty of going out of the city, and experience the harsh yet rewarding pleasures of a night in the woods, and blah blah blah.

Resting with my back against an old tree , my fingers slip into my pockets as they reach for the cigarettes and lighter I usually take out when trying to relax, then, my eyes catch it: a glimpse of a memory stuck in the moment, like a kite trapped in long branches: that oak with that peculiar profile over there, and the shape of those shrubs...they have grown, but I recognise them, yes! It's the same place where my father and us...the breath I've been holding for those brief seconds suddenly escapes my lungs with what must have sounded like a younger me when we first came to this place. Yes, I recall! I do recall these trees, this opening among them, the area...

I turn to look at my sister, and she catches the glimpse of surprise and joy which, like a fish beneath the slick surface of a pond when coming out to eat a fly, must have surfaced onto my face; she says nothing, and I too am unable to utter a word: of all the surpsises, this was the last one I expected, the last one I could have thought of. That Summer of what must have been almost twenty years ago, when my father was still a healthy man, and he had deiven us far from the city, taking a handful of his few days of rest to show us how to prop up a tent and simply to let us enjoy the environ around us: we're back here.

Finally words come to me: “This is the place...” “Mhm” my sister replies, nodding knowingly: she is done for now with the preparation, and comes to sit next to me, nudging me as she takes her place under this tree where, once, we rested after swimming with our old man in the river not far from here, all the locations around our camping site flooding back inot my mind “I believed it was time for you to enjoy a good rest, and since you are too stubborn to admit the need of your body for some 'good old vibes', the old camping site seemed like the most logical place to make you unwind a bit.”

“I must admit...” I can sense my voice breaking a bit “it feels good to be here, but I also have this sort of painful sensation in my guts.”

“You missed this place, and never had the courage to come back here: I know you.”; indeed, my sister knows me to an almost scary degree! I lost so many friends because I feared getting back in touch with them when I deemed it 'too little too late'; but she tricked me for my own good, and now I almost am living those moments once again...the trees, the bushes, the firepit we shall set up tonight again like we used to: my heart hurts with joy, for once not just with the dull routine of life.

The day passes quickly, as we catch up with how our lives are going: it comes so easy to open up now, the crackling of the fire in the circle of stones, the strong shadows which are cast all around us making the contrast of our words and thoughts even stronger but never harsh; it is indeed good to tell my sister how things have been going, after I secluded myself from these earnest and fulfilling moments of peace; life seems so long and empty when one exists only to go on another day, and this short escape is the greatest gift she could give to me: I owe her big time.

As we prepare to go to sleep in our tent, I give one last long glance at the camping lot, the sun now almost completely gone from the horizon, its light the same deep dark red as the ambers of the burnt branches left in the fire pit: as the breeze of the evening rises and touches my face, it feels almost as if my father is caressing me now, telling me not to forget these moments, the past ones and the present ones, as life is not just my commitment to a workplace. I barely hold back a tear and smile, waiting a bit longer before retirning for the night; this place, far from the city, holds so much now, as it held so much then. This place, I shall have to visit it again, for it is far from forlon.

The Village by Captain Erik

It was a sunny day of Summer, the birds were singing, cherries were ripening and everyone was enjoying the jubiality and beauty of nature. In a park, the majestic trees were brushed by the gentile breeze while three children were playing under them.

The park was a refuge for all beings, everyone was in harmony there, the animals, the humans, everyone. The kids were playing with a tin can which they found in the park when an idea struck into their head "Let's begin to collect tin cans and other metal trash and go to the scrap yard with it!". They thought that they'll make some easy money out of this, also doing something good for nature. They planned this in a period of days, they will go and collect all tin cans and scrap metal in a period of one week and then sell it to the scrap yard for some money. Well, this seems childish, but they are children, what do you expect? They want to make some easy, independent money.

The three kids went to their family and asked some of them what they thought about the idea. The one kid asked his mother, his mother told him that she wasn't eager to the idea because why do they need money for? Other one went to his grandpa, who said that they should do it for civic reasons, not for money, and the last one went to his dad who said that a grasp of independence doesnt hurt anyone, they are also doing something good. The three kids contemplated the idea and, in the end, comed to a decision, they should carry their plan as it was.

All was settled, at the end of the week, the kids met in the same park in which the idea flourished and they started collecting the tin cans. They went to all the corners of the park and collected all the things they could find, then another idea came in their minds, they should go to the city and collect some tin cans from there.

All is set and done so they went to the city. In the city, the kids found every possible trash that they could think of, from straight pipes to plastic bottles and cartons. There was filth everywhere and the people weren't taking action eather, the exact opposite, they were accentuating the problem. Every corner they turned, every street they went there was at least one person who threw trash on the ground. This, the kids thought, was a disgrace, that's how bad society has gotten in the city? All this filth, all the arrogant attitudes, the obscene and scandalous lives that an average person lives in a city was the result of man walking away from nature.

After all the garbage that they have seen in the city, the kids called it the day and went home. The next day, the kids went to the fields outside their homes to search for the cans, they also heard that the nearest scrap yard is in the next village, 6 kilometers from their houses. They crossed the creek and started the job. While searching, they found huge piles of trash from campers, so they started searching and filled up three bags with tin cans. Walking up the hill, they found a place where they can squash the tin cans to make more space in their bags. They prepare to go home when they realise that they have enough cans to get some money out of them so they decide to go to that nearest village.

While walking through the field, they encounter one huge hill they had to climb. They hesitated but had to do it for ,you know, easy money. So they climbed the hill and seeing that they didn't have enough time left, started running. While running, one of them falls off and hurts his arm but it isn't that bad so they continue until they reach a wide field.

While on the field, they see flowers, plants and a cow which they thought was nice, but the field seemed unending, infinite, they thought they were lost for a moment until they spotted a corn field in front of a ranch. Well "It doesn't seem that bad" thought they but it was when the rancher gets out of his house and starts shouting at them "HEY! YOU, COME HERE!". The kid's were scared but they mustered their courage and shouted back "WHAT HAPPENED, SIR?"; "Come here kids" he said, so they crossed the corn field to the man.

When they reached the man he asked "Did you get lost kids? Need some help?". Well, the kids said that yes, they got lost while searching for tin cans and metal scraps to get them to the scrap yard, to which the old man replies "Good job, kids! But now, don't you want to come into my garden? I have some good cherries.". The kids enter the garden and there they find three cherry trees, they taste one cherry and it was one of the best cherries that they ever tasted. Then, the old man comes and says to them "Kids, you can take as many as you want. I don't have a problem with it.". The kids were happy and prepared to leave, while they prepared to go, the old man said "You know kids, I studied agricultural engineering.

When I was young the people were more careful with. Back then, there wasn't so much trash on the streets as now. You know, there were some good days back then, more quiet, more beautiful days. But yeah, I'm really proud of you kids, you don't see so many young people so interested in long walks in nature and coming to the village just to collect tin cans, you walked 6 kilometers, you really did a good job.". The three kids said goodbye and left the old man, at the same time they were shocked. They never saw such a display of goodness from a person in the city, they thought about it while taking tin cans from the ground.

They were walking through the village and saw beautiful houses, smiling people that were greeting each other, they saw a real community for the first time. They weren't familiar with this behavior, in the city everyone minds his or her business even though they are greeting each other from time to time you can feel the spirit of a community. Everyone is so atomised, minding his own business, not caring about each other, not even about themselves. Well, the village wasn't like that, the kids felt for the first time that your neighbor is really your neighbor.

The kids walked a long way and they realized that there wasn't much time left so they had to get home immediately so they went through the same fields from which they came. While on the fields they admired the sunset and the nature around them, it was like a dream, the thing is that it wasn't. But one thing they can say is that this day is the best day that they ever had in their lives.But what about the tin cans and the scrap yard? Well, they sold the tin cans to the scrap yard but they got two dollars out of those bags, but it wasn't all for nothing Because, if it wasn't for their idea they would never have had such a beautiful day.