Impish Impulse

logs-timitrius-flickr

Photo credit: Timitrius



Naqsa stared into the fire until her eyes dried, trying to spot it again.  She’d seen things before: floating shapes, odd colors.  She’d made the mistake of admitting it.  Her father called her impressionable.  Her brothers teased her mercilessly.  Her mother pulled her aside, named it witch-sign, ordered her to stop seeing things.

Now her mother whispered, baby on her chest.  “Put another log on, Naqsa.”

“I just did.”

Her brother scoffed. “Idiot!  It’s obviously burned down.”

Naqsa added a log.  There, something moved in the fire.  She glanced at her mother, imagining what to say, what wouldn’t sound crazy.  Nothing.

Later, she awoke to shouting and flames.

A small thing jumped from beam to beam, all the colors of fire, igniting whatever it touched.  Nobody else noticed.

If her visions were truly witch-sign, Naqsa must at least try.  She sought the shapes, instinctively tried combining them. They moved!  Two joined, beginning to form…  water, she hoped.

The thing stopped, red claws visible against the wood.  Yellow eyes glared, ready to pounce.  If she could join another shape, maybe…

Her father yanked her outside.  “Stupid girl, daydreaming again.”

As the house collapsed, Naqsa’s vow solidified: keep seeing things, and learn.



Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction, hosted by the wonderful Alastair Forbes.  Thanks Al!  And thanks to Dawn for the original photo prompt:

spf-04-dawnmiller-2-lingering-visions-5-march-2017

Photo © Dawn Miller



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27 thoughts on “Impish Impulse

  1. You, my lady friend, have a similar witch-like power of connecting things and shapes. This was enchanting, true to the meaning of the word. I love the ‘gaps’ in the sequencing, if that makes sense (“Later when she woke…”); I continue to enjoy what’s left out and what’s put in, and how they’re strung together. Thanks for sharing… Bill

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    • Thanks for such a lovely comment, Bill. I’m always worried about what I leave out, wondering how much gets across to the reader when I can only show the tip of the story’s iceberg. I keep telling myself it’s good practice, that being forced into this small form will help hone my skill at writing tightly, getting directly to the point. Then I read some of my friends’ stories and they somehow squeeze such beautiful description into the same amount of words, and I wonder how they do it.

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  2. Wow terrible parents. They sound mean about it, you might think she’s making up stories but it seems like she saved them. She’s smart though and she’ll learn how to control and use her powers. Others including her family don’t need to know even bough it’s a terrible burden to keep inside. Great writing 🙂

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    • Thanks Amanda! Yeah, they’re not so understanding. Her father is a product of his patriarchal culture, trained to see women and girls as silly and flighty and to dismiss what they say. Her mother, I think, is just trying to protect her. In their culture, arcane magic is considered sinful. If people found out Naqsa had the nahja sight, she would be shunned, or worse. It is very difficult and dangerous to manipulate the nahja on your own (she’s probably lucky she didn’t succeed in combining something and activating it, as she’d have no idea what she made!), so she’ll want to find other secret magic users to teach her. It sounds like she’s dedicated to it, and as you say, smart enough.

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    • Thanks Iain, I like her vow too. I had a totally different ending, where the fire imp laughed at her for not being able to stop it, but I changed it to give her a little more choice and power in the end.

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    • It’s a curse in her society, but hopefully she can see the gift in it and get the most from it. I searched for an image of a chiminea that didn’t have modern elements in it, but I couldn’t find one right away, and got to this one first (which is actually a fire in a chiminea). The fire looked so vivid, I knew I could think of something. Thanks for commenting Keith!

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  3. Wow. It seems as though she were constructing molecules with magic. That’s a powerful ability. Too bad her parents don’t recognize her abilities. Hopefully in the future she will find a mentor to teach her the way of the shapes. Love the idea of this and the execution of it. I felt almost like I was reading an Anne MacAffrey story. Beautifully done!

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    • Ooh, I’m happy to accept that comparison, thanks Eric! It’s more the other way — she’s constructing magic with molecules or rather, with bits of nahja. She has the gift of being able to see the nahja plane, which is the first requirement for doing arcane magic. Her parents not only wouldn’t recognize her abilities, if they knew about them, they’d think she was blasphemous or cursed. Like a demon/devil/witch thing. Too bad she wasn’t born the next country over, where at least she might have the chance of going to wizard school, if her parents could afford it.

      Thanks for your great comment!

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      • Thanks, Eric! Some of it is, yes. The main character in the Curse of Corwallen Manor is a wizard from that country that accepts it, but she moves to this country that doesn’t and has to hide her skills. And yes, some magic happens. 😉

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  4. I think you judged the gaps in the narrative just right. I remember when I started writing, the ned to include every part of the story. I’m learning to let some of it go, but still have to ‘kill my darlings’ in longer fiction. This is spot on though. Great tale – I wonder what will become of the little enchantress?

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    • Thanks Lynn! It’s tricky to know whether the reader will get what happened in the gap — here, that she presumably tried to think of ways to tell someone about what she saw, what she was worried about, but decided not to, given their negative reaction when she said she was seeing things before. I was also imagining that she wasn’t sure she could trust her own perception anymore: I mean, how would you feel if you saw things that nobody else did? Like maybe you were crazy. So she goes to sleep without saying anything, only to realize that the danger was real. Would it have helped if she’d tried to say something? Probably not. What could her parents have done, even if they believed she did see something, not understanding the danger?

      I wonder what will become of her too. Most likely she will seek out people who secretly follow the old witching ways, who can teach her to use her powers. Now, what she will do with those powers… that’s anyone’s guess. 🙂

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      • I think you’re right – her parents might not have believed her or understood the consequences even if she had made them listen. Hopefully she finds her won way, likeminded souls who understand her gifts

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      • Yes exactly. I was thinking that this experience, of not being able to stop a horrible thing from happening, was the trigger that made her realize she couldn’t just keep hiding and being quiet: hence, vowing to pursue it, regardless of what her parents say. Hm, now that I think about it, that does sound like a good backstory for a later book… 😉

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  5. Great story, Joy. I like the way you show Naqsa’s developing skills against her family’s attitude towards them. They evidently won’t listen to her explanations. She faces a hard time ahead to prove both to herself and her family that she really has these powers. If only she’d had the chance to save the house…

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    • It’s a sad situation with real-life corollaries: the child who’s too naive to realize that the questions she’s asking her parents prove she’s “different” in a socially unacceptable way, and then learns from their negative reactions not to trust them with the truth anymore. Proving to her parents that she has the powers wouldn’t be good; she would have to prove that they were good powers to have, and that would go against their religion and their upbringing — as much as it goes against her own. Maybe far in the future she can use her powers to help them, and maybe that will mend the rift, and maybe not. Thanks for the great comment, Millie!

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    • Thanks Al! As I think more about it, I realize that we are surrounded by messages and norms that tell us to stop seeing things, stop paying attention, stop speaking up about it, stop doing something about it. So vowing to continue seeing things is an excellent vow, I agree. 🙂

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