ART PROMPTS :: WEEKLY :: REBIRTH

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Just a small little thing. Sometimes we need a prompt to get the juices running, so here's this thread to help you out.

Every Saturday I'll throw a prompt down in the thread. Make something based around it. I can be anything! A drawing, painting, map, photo, poem, story, music, etc, etc.

At any time you can come back and, if you missed a week, throw it down in the thread. Nice and simple. No limits (bar site rules).

Prompt this week is...

Rebirth


Previous prompts:

-Hindsight
-Indignation
-Gloss
-Erasure
-Strength
Frogge
"nothing can beat the power of gay"?
13172
Yes pls i really need this
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6428
This is a good idea. The theme is quite inspiring too, unless you think about music and the band Erasure.
AtiyaTheSeeker
In all fairness, bird shrapnel isn't as deadly as wood shrapnel
3316
Finally getting in on this. I regret not doing it in the week or so since the first prompt. I feel I do better with less-specific prompts for art, and I've been wanting to practice with my apocalyptic setting as opposed to my fantasy one soooooo...

Week One: Erasure

"What do you mean, 'they'll just be gone'?" I couldn't believe my ears, but I heard every syllable perfectly. Big, fanciful sound triangles on top of your head will do that better than human ears. At least, I wish I could call them fanciful. At least kids are happy to look at the cute little fox-girl trotting about the overgrown hellhole we call New York.

Many times, the adults just ready their slurs and cock their guns.

Kathy shrugged back. "They'll just be gone, child. Trying to explain magic is pointless. You'd have an easier time explaining how that death ray of yours works to a street urchin". Her painted lips were drawn up in a bow as always, my scowl a flip side to her coin.

I can see how she and dad went their separate ways. Of all the years I've known her, of all the myths she's told me about, this scatter-brained bitch was the Kathy I was so desperate to find? She must've done harder drugs in those absent years than anything Tom's enjoyed, and he's had some exotic highs.

The offer was unreal. Had to be some catch. Magic always had a cost, even stuff cast by good people with weird talents. "I've fought too many monsters and warlocks", I groan, "You have to tell me more about the ritual. How it works. At least, tell me what it'll cost".

She giggled at me. She fucking giggled! I wanted to grab her by the collar of that goddamn turtleneck and stare into her bubbly face with my cold inhuman eyes. "What, besides the pain you've felt for so long? Little else. I know the spell too well by now. Lots of people have come to my little mobile home to cope with my special therapy, Dana". She reaches to ruffle the tuft of fur between my ears, poking forth like a punk's hairdo. I growled, wanting to show her why you don't pet wild animals.

"Oh", she cooed, "Don't you try to bite me, Dana Marie Omnivora Fiona-Lynn Cooper". My gods. She actually remembered that silly extended name we came up with when I was a kid. Though pinned to the sides of my head before, my ears perked up. For a moment, nostalgia flooded back to me. My eyes widened, brow easing out from its furrowed glare.

This wasn't right. I knew my BS meter was off the charts, but I couldn't grasp why. And now I understood it. So I let the words pour out. I hoped to rival the eternal flow of Niagara Falls, and match even a fraction of its strength.

She blinked as I pulled my head back, painted nails buried in my scruff and giving a soothing scritch moments ago. "No", I told her. "This isn't you. This isn't the Kathy I knew before. I trusted her. Learned so many cool things from her". I growled once more, backing away. "You're not her".

The middle-aged mystic's gaze was blank. She looked like a robot with a confused AI, trying to process a course of action for an unexpected prompt. As much a facade of human intellect as a primitive android, that smile returned.

"Are you the same Dana, sweetheart?" Those words cut me like a mono-blade. I'm not just trying to be dramatic here; have you ever been cut by one of those? Most blades you can feel the sting, even a dull one, before it gets ten times worse. A mono-blade is like an old razor fresh from the package, so I'm told, one so keen that you don't feel you've been cut until you're dribbling blood.

Her babbling continued, the initial pain worsened as time went on. "No, dearest fox", Kathy smiles with a sing-song voice, "Of course you're not. I'm not even mad. Look at yourself in the mirror. Once upon a time you were small, listening to me rattle on about stories I've known to heart".

A cozy wool blanket, her legs around mine as I sat on her lap. "But now look at you, Dana. Or should I say, the Apocalypse Fox? Naming yourself after that big disaster no one could stop. It suits you. Your face tells it all. You've killed so many people to try and do good".

I could barely see her. My eyes burned that bad. "How many of them had lives of their own, now gone? Memories and thoughts trickled away forever like a snowman in spring or, I suppose, a person shot with your raygun?"

I fought to avoid crying. If I gave into her manipulation, tears would spell my doom like blood spilled from a gaping wound. She didn't get it, but she used her words like weapons.

Like a blade.

She said something else, but I shut her fucking mouth with my fist. Not a slap, but a punch. "Shut your goddamn MOUTH!" My body trembled as she stumbled to the shag rug. I didn't feel the blow against her jaw. "How dare you", I glowered. "You gave yourself up, didn't you? Sold your soul, but not a demon. Nooooo. Not something nearly as easy to fight".

She staggered up, a new coat of crimson smeared across her lips. I spat back, "Comfort".

Dabbing her swollen lip, Kathy shook her head. At least that saccharine tone was gone. "You came to me for that reason", she replied. "To erase your past. Start anew. Right?"

"I came here", I grimaced, "To see if my past could be salvaged. The Kathy I knew is dead, just like her ex. Smothered by Absolution instead of ripped apart by bullets. But dead is dead".

Kathy shook her head. "You know, that's harsh. I'm not mad but--"

"Of course not", I sighed. "You *can't* be mad. Those pre-fall meds are stopping you from *being* mad. Stopping you from feeling any emotion other than calm. Must be a thrill to get your quack magic to work so well, feeling no duress to inhibit conjuring your quick fixes. Am I right?"

She shook her head. "Please, Dana. If you won't reason with me, then leave". That wishy-washy voice was driving me insane! I'd bet she wasn't even listening. She sure as shit couldn't fathom what I was telling her, with nothing left but dampened emotion and false empathy. "If you keep being upset--"

"Upset?! That doesn't even begin to DESCRIBE IT!" I flipped her the bird and slammed the door to her trailer behind me. If I stayed, she'd be lucky to have some of her goddamn crystal ornaments broken. Oh no. I would've broken something much more internal than an old Wiccan trinket!

As I trudged out of there, passerby citizens of that refurbished campsite perplexed by my shouting and storming off in rage, baffled thoughts kept ringing through my mind. How could she? How could she run from her problems by erasing them?

How could she erase the mother I used to have?


2/20/20: Hope it's fine to update my post instead of adding a new one. I, uh, felt inspired to write this bit of backstory.

Week Two: Strength
"SHUT UP!" My roar of wrath echoed that aging cur's parlor. I couldn't deal with any longer. How on the gods' green planet could my father have learned a damned thing from him?

But there he stood, indifferent to my pain. My limbs felt like they were going to fall off. The searing patches of fur would be scarred forever, I knew it. There's no way in hell they'd ever grow back after all that. A scowl across his weathered face, dark arms crossed over his chest.

I couldn't do it again. I couldn't bear to do another one of his sadistic training exercises. I couldn't put up with another one of my few mortal pleasures being stripped for my refusal to act. I--

"Is that all, Raziya?" His stern words pierced my mind. I was still surprised he was using the name I chose for myself, even flat-chested and with a voice too deep to pass for a woman's. He was just humoring me at that point, but it pissed me off nevertheless.

"No!" I shouted back. "It's not enough! When will it ever *be* enough?!"

He shook his head. "When you actually put in some true effort, you daft daughter of lions". A step closer to me. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, kid. And get that damned snarl off your face!" I remembered when his raised voice used to terrify me. All it did was put more powder in the pan, ready to go off any minute.

He carried on, whether or not I met his gaze. "This is harrowing to you", my master grumbled, "Because you've never been pushed this far before. Did you think a philosophy called the Faith in Fire wouldn't test you with trials by fire?" A groan. "I can't believe you came from your father's loins".

A spark, jolting me to my feet. "What was that?"

He looked my defiant glare dead in the face, uncaring to the rage I felt. "No. Forgive me. You *are* your father's cub. You are just as reckless as he was!"

I barely remember what happened right after that. I know I swung my claws at him. I'm sure I tried to blot out what truly happened. Before I knew it I felt the worst pain I'd ever experienced. A blow to the guts, the groin, or the bosom were all nothing compared to this.

It felt like my insides had splattered all across my belly, but I wasn't allowed to die from it. Not even black out. I was paralyzed in pain. I could only crouch there and clutch my side, too wracked to even start sobbing. Just more forced suffering.

I learned later on that it was a kidney punch. But the words he spoke to me as I gurgled a horrified noise were burned into my mind forevermore. What better way to describe it than what a flame's merciless fury does to simple flesh?

He crouched, eye to eye, his voice raised once more. That time I listened to him. "What did you expect? You thought tearing into me would fix your problems, Raziya? Even that attempt was like all others of yours: half-assed!" A grunt as he composed himself, and he carried on. "It's strength you want, but it's strength you were never taught to fight for. So you were coddled. So your father never told you how to fight. So your mother refuses who you are. Who cares?!"

My tears began to flow, pulsing from my eyes like the throbs from his stunning jab. I couldn't form words, but I tried. He sighed. "Not another word", he spoke softly. "Not until you're earned them. But listen to me, and you just might get them back sooner than expected".

I looked him in the eyes as best I could. I didn't want to find out what would happen if I spoke out of place. Not after a brutal strike like that. "People suffer", he replied, plain as day. He shook his head. "Such is life. We can't escape pain, but we learn to deal with it as we can. But only one adversary stands in your way, and it's not me".

An impulse like a flinch flitted across me as he pointed. I was still scared to be touched by him again. "It's you. You came to me, wanting to be different. I'm no alchemist of yore. All I can do is refine who you are, turn pig iron to steel. But I cannot turn lead into gold".

I began to emit those weak, sobbing noises. "But!" His thundering shout cut my sob short, swift as lightning. "You are not lead, no matter what lead is within you. You have imperfections like iron brought to the bloomery. But you'll never be steel if you're too afraid to shed your lead!"

In spite of consequence my head lowered, yet I was unpunished. Gentle like a spring breeze in the heat of his indignation, he relented. "Enough allegory. Even if I Hektor revel in it. Think. You hold back and you give up, suppressing the fire inside you. But that fire still lingers. Why else would you keep fighting? If you were as weak as you think you are, you'd have left my home by now".

He sighed. "Can you stand, Raziya? You're allowed to take your time. And to speak".

As always when overwhelmed, words failed me. All I could do is shake my head, and even that was hard to do. Hektor patted me on the shoulder. "You know my faith. Our faith. Aralisi will not coddle you like your parents did. I am ashamed that your mother turned her back on her maker's ways. Yet I know Mosi wanted to teach you his ways. I am not leonine, merely human, but her roar still brings me awe and terror to this day".

Finally I replied. "I'm sorry".

"I know. One day, you won't have to be. But until you commit to what you truly want, you will still feel the shame you feel". Carefully we eased back up. "Now I ask, as always when you become silent: what comes first to mind?"

Wincing, the words flowed out. "Of course I feel shame, master. I've felt it my whole life. It's like I-- augh!" The pain flared up, and he held me steady as I grasped my side. "Masks! All I've worn are masks! A boy! A thief! A failure!"

We inched closer and closer to his kitchen, where he kept his remedies. Prodding my thoughts he gently asked, "If they are masks, then what lurks beneath them?"

"Wh-what lurks beneath?" My eyes closed tight while ushered me to a chair. "A scared little girl. One who'd already lost her dad, and who's afraid to lose herself".

"Then", he spoke, "Let the tears flow from that girl trapped within. Let the weakness leave you as a woman to be. Never forget that this is important. This is the Paradox of Fire. A fire must be stoked by another; yet it must learn to burn bright for its own glory, for others rely on its power and warmth".

The *Paradox* of Fire? He had never told me this facet of our philosophy. Never hinted at it, and it was something my dad had never mentioned. Those thoughts stopped short from his words. "Indeed, your father's child", Hektor smiled. A rare treat. "I'm lucky to see that same surprised look as, from the blue, I told him the best-kept secret of our motto".

Hektor shrugged. "You'll have time to reflect on it. Our training is done for today. You need rest to heal from my strike to your side. Even healing potions can't work miracles, can they?"

Even the tablespoon of concentrated, liquid magic he readied reeked of bitter herbs and cherries from afar. "Forgive me for hitting you so hard", he frowned. "It wasn't your time to be struck that harsh, despite your attack. But in due time, when you strike at those who would do you or an innocent harm? The pain you feel now will be nothing compared to theirs, my disciple".


3/10/20: Holy cow! I didn't realize this was still updating, or that I missed a prompt beyond Gloss! Decided to whip up a picture for Gloss which, some say, tells a thousand words. Will try to get to the other ones in due time, probably as vignettes. tl;dr Making a cat cry once more, literally this time.

Week Three: Gloss

"...sometimes makeup makes you feel faker than a bad self-image ever could".

Cool, I needed this :)

Hindsight


Colonel Trevino put down his binoculars and checked the satellite feed on the screen next to her. It confirmed what she saw through the binoculars - small explosions blossoming throughout Denton district as her troops drove the monster out. A trail of smoke and rubble where offices, factories once stood mapped out the history of the battle. It looked impressive - and no doubt scary, for the residents of the city - but little actual damage had been done. In just a few minutes the battle would be over, and the citizens would be able to sleep well, knowing the glorious military will be able to drive the monsters away.

"Colonel Trevino."
"General McConnell."
"The operation is going well."
"Yes General."
"What is your opinion of the target?"
"The monster? It's not putting up much of a fight. I still have two battalions in reserve."
"Don't call it monster where others can hear you. For now it's been designated Z1. It was explicitly told to hold back."
"It doesn't look like it's holding back. I can see it bleeding from here."
"Colonel, humour me with a hypothetical. What if you're right, and it's not holding back? Then we have a single creature that is nearly the equivalent of a whole battalion."
"We're winning, General, with only one battalion."
"Half a battalion, then. It means that if it is not holding back, it is no longer following instructions, and we have half a battalion of firepower that we can't control. What do you recommend in such a situation, Colonel?"
"Strike now while it is alone."
"Reduce the risk. Now suppose that instead I am right, and Z1 is not just holding back, but holding back too much - now we have a weapon that we can control, but we don't know how big of a weapon we have. That seems like a liability to me."
"Are you proposing that we push it?"
"Indeed. Z1 is by far the more tractable - have you seen the vids of Z2?"

Colonel Trevino nodded.

"Where is the target now?"

The colonel checked the satellite images. "Near the outskirts of the city. We've nearly driven it out."
"Good. I have given the order to terminate Z2. Order your remaining battalions into place. Keep Z1 away from the city, and give me a line to a loudspeaker down there so I can have a chat with the it."
"You're going to tell it you just destroyed its brother?"
"Sister, I think, and yes. Have the battalions ready to..."

The flash of light was small from this distance - far away from the city, behind the temporary command post the general and colonel occupied. They would not have seen it if they weren't ready for it - a small nuclear blast inside a containment vessel. The light was visible from here, but the shockwave would not go far.

"It is done. When your troops are in place I'll deliver..."

The colonel groaned and the general staggered to his knees as a scream as sharp as a knife and loud as thunder tore through the room. Even with her hands over her ears, Colonel Trevino felt like her eardrums were going to burst. She clenched her teeth and fists until the tightness in her chest gave way to a dull throbbing, until she dared take a breath without screaming herself.

Focus. She looked at the general, who was still on his knees, grimacing in pain. The scream didn't stop, didn't waver. It felt like a knife was driving itself into her brain. Focus. The noise made it hard to focus. She shuffled to the satellite image - she didn't trust herself to be able to hold the binoculars - and blinked, hard. Focus. Her brain refused to translate the image in front of her into understanding. Focus. She couldn't see battalion A. She grabbed for the radio. Focus. No, the emergency alert. She pushed the button. There was no response. There should have been an immediate response.

"General!" She shouted, although she doubted her could hear her over the scream.
"Colonel!" He shouted back, and she was surprised at how loud his voice was - she could hear it clearly even through the tempest of noise. "The other battalions - withdraw them here!"

Colonel Trevino nodded, not trusting herself to speak further, and picked up the radio. She steeled herself for whatever noise would come through and pushed the button to open the line.

Nothing.

"Battalions B and C, this is Colonel Trevino. Do you copy?"

Nothing.

"Battalions B and C, fall back to command."

Nothing.

She still found it difficult to focus. The sound of the scream buried itself in her brain, like an icicle inching through her skull. She looked a the satellite image, forcing her eyes and brain to cooperate until she was sure she understood what she was looking at.

Nothing.

None of her battalions. A, B and C were all gone. No city outskirts. No Denton district. Her hands shook. She called up more images. She shut her eyes, and for a brief second, sheer helplessness and panic drowned out the screams. No city. The whole city, reduced to rubble and ash.

"General," she whispered, "they're all gone."

The general struggled to the satellite image, braced his hands on the table and stared at it. "Gone," he mumbled, and Colonel Trevino could hear him, even though the scream should have torn all other sound away.

There was movement. Her stomach tightened as she looked closer. Something in the ash. She couldn't see clearly in the satellite image. She took the binoculars, raised them. Her hands were trembling too much, the binoculars' stabilisation was failing. She braced her elbows on the desk.

It didn't take her long to find it. A humanoid figure, rising like a revenant from the ash. Humanoid, but much larger than human, dark and grey like the ash around it. It pointed up, and a beam shot from its fingertips into the sky. Trevino dropped the binoculars, blinded by the black afterimage.

"Colonel," said the general, "I think we've made a big mistake." He was staring at a blank screen.

She groped for the binoculars again as her eyes recovered. She swept back and forth, looking for the creature, for Z1, but her eyes were still half-blinded and the screaming kept making her want to forget what she was doing and curl up in a corner. She looked past a broken stump of a building, a tornado of fire, ash.

Eyes. Two glowing eyes, staring straight down the binoculars at the command post. At her. The monster was staring at her. Eyes so full of hatred that they burned. It did not stare for long

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