Old Woman of Hellshard

Writing prompt for local group.

[WP] Include the who-what-where of:
Old Woman. Famine. Dark Alley

Vanya came to a halt as the pain of a thousand needles jabbed at her side. Huffing heavily, she balanced herself against a nearby wall and scanned the horizon, analyzing every citizen. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She locked eyes with a frail old woman for a brief moment. Vanya glanced away, but she could see from the corner of her eye, the old woman approaching her.

She was not yet ready to continue running. The pain was still too much. She tried to turn her back, but it was confirmed to be futile when she felt the boney hand gently touch her shoulder.

“Excuse me, miss?”

Vanya cursed under her breath as she turned around. “I don’t have anything, and I’m in a hurry.”

The knee jerk response was lost on the woman. She simply looked back with her sad eyes, her skull too prominent to be healthy. “The famine has taken all I have.”

“I– but I don’t–” stammered Vanya.

“Anything you can offer.”

It pained Vanya to look at the old woman. Her own mother looked like this when she was struggling, but every moment here was time lost chasing her target. It’s been several hours now with no leads, and the frustration has already overwhelmed her. The silence grew awkward, while various scenarios danced around Vanya’s mind. If she couldn’t find her target in this town, she’d have to return back to square one. Finally, she reached into her pouch and pulled out her field rations and handed the woman a coin to dismiss her. 

The old woman nodded gratefully as she returned to beggar’s spot.

Vanya’s breath had finally returned, but so did the hopelessness. She once again scanned the area and found the same old eyes were staring at her.

“You’ll miss it if you’re not there,” the old woman called.

“Miss what?” asked Vanya, her face screwed up.

“There’s a dark alley over there that is hidden to all who don’t stand there.” She pointed at the pile of rotten garbage. 

The wall across from it was dull, devoid of anything worthy of attention. Vanya skeptically walked over but had to plug her nose for the stench. Her eyes followed the wall opposite her. A few steps away from the garbage, the dark alley appeared before her eyes. It was cleverly obstructed by the architecture of the two surrounding buildings. 

Vanya took a few steps in and immediately noticed on the ground, two splotches of blood. One red, one black. With pursed lips, she felt a little bit of regret at how she treated the old woman who ultimately helped her get back on track. A deep breath later, and she was refocused. The new lead filled her with hope once more.

Not-So-Sweet Reality

Writing prompt for local writing group.

[WP] A beekeeper whose existence is threatened

“The queens,” said the elderly man dressed in a black tuxedo, balancing a pen on a single finger with ease.

“Out of the question. You don’t know what you are asking. Absolutely not,” I said. I couldn’t hide all of my annoyance in the last few words. I had to stop to regain my facade of politeness. “I told you. It’s not about money so I won’t be bought. I mean it’s the fate of our species and the planet that we are talking about here.”

“Unlike the methods of my brethren, I have been chosen to use less dramatic methods, although no less damning.”

“You’ve said that already and I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“I will offer this once since you have already accepted the gift. You will be spared the trials that are ahead,” the man said slowly, carefully choosing his words.

I wanted to rebuke him right then and there. The way he said it felt like a slap in the face. But as much as I wanted to, he also emitted a presense that demanded respect. A calmness in his words and actions, but the words themselves seemed more unfiltered than intentionally spiteful or full of pride.

My thoughts regrouped from retort to regard once again. “And what would happen to my bees if I accept?”

“They would no longer be your concern.”

“Would it be you that would take care of them? They are more critical to the ecosystem than ever.”

“I know.”

The answer didn’t reassure me. There was something familiar about him that I couldn’t place and it was mixing up my train of thought.

“I’m one of the last beekeepers. I travel all over the continent, bringing my bees to help the farmers pollinate their crops. Who will–“

“The last,” the man interrupted coldly.

I stared back, brow furrowed, for a good ten seconds. “O’Mallory’s hive is on the west coast. Charbonneau still has a healthy colony in Europe.”

He gazed through me, sending a chill down my spine like he could read my soul. At that moment, he shook his head ever so slowly, and my stomach filled with dread.

“Who are you?” I didn’t want an answer, even though deep down, I already knew.

“There are four of us. That is all I will say. Do you accept?”

“If I accept, I can’t bring anyone with me, can I?” I managed to choke out.

“No.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought about those I would not see again.