This was the week that almost didn't have a Challenge at all, and for good reason. Our favourite archivist, Annie, had just come out of surgery, thanks to an idiot who was talking on the phone while driving (Don't Cel and Drive people; I repeat, don't Cel and Drive!!!) As a result, Leah was in no position to be thinking up story suggestions. Can you blame her?

By Friday though, La-La Lander had provided a suggestion; giving us what became jokingly known as the End of Week Challenge. A writer needs to be able to work with all senses, so the challenge was to do a scene describing what your favourite Immie sounds like. A lot of people posted something they quickly put together that same day, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I took my time. The results, I think, speak for themselves...


Deb lay on a leather couch in the one and only Loft, attempting to meditate. It was a process she simply wasn’t very good at; an active mind like hers took considerable effort to calm. The closest she had come so far was something she had learned in a drama class years ago: a technique to focus awareness. On the surface, it seemed so simple: close your eyes and focus on sound. Identify all the sounds that your own body is making; then expand your awareness to include sounds in the room, then the building, then finally outside the building.

She closed her eyes and turned all of her awareness inward, to her own body. She had never quite mastered the skill of listening to her own heartbeat, and so she wasn’t really surprised not to hear it now. Her breathing was a quiet whisper, deep yet not as steady as she’d hoped. A squeaky little rustle of fabric on leather announced that she was once again fidgeting in place. A faint gurgling reminded her that she really shouldn’t have had that can of Pepsi before starting. All right, everything perceived and catalogued; expand to the next level.

She stretched her senses outward and was immediately assaulted by Duncan's Buzz, extending almost two floors straight up. Deb reigned in firmly, Not those senses, girl. Her eyes still closed, the loft loomed in her mind like a huge cave. Slowly, sounds reached her: the steady tick of an antique clock— no, more than one, and out of sync too. They seemed to be coming from the same direction, only a collector would put them all together on the same shelf. Over in the kitchenette, a refrigerator hummed softly to itself. Perceive, catalogue, and continue.

She stretched her awareness further, past the walls she could not see, through the floor. Her senses quested, straining for the faintest vibration. There… a steady, rhythmic sound: heavy breathing; the scuffle of bare feet on hardwood floor; controlled grunts, power rather than mere exertion; sharp cries that hovered on the edge of being meaningful words, seeming to have their own primal meaning. Oh Muses defend her; Duncan was working out!

Perhaps she should not have called upon her muses, who eagerly provided imagery for the soundtrack from below. The dojo was closed to the public, so he’d probably be stripped to the waist. She heard no whistling hum of steel cleaving air, so it wasn’t a kata, an unarmed routine then. Her eyes snapped open, but even that didn’t stop the vivid pictures in her mind: a thin sheen of sweat glistening on toned muscle; the black hair unbound, plastered to his skin or spraying droplets in response to some lightning-quick movement. Dark eyes gazed into another world, lost in what was known as meditation in movement.

Before she even knew it she had leapt to her feet, pacing like a caged tiger. Gods! Immie or not, she was still human. "Don’t do it, don’t go down there, girl. You’ll only turn yourself into a drooling Dunkie Junkie. " She walked over to the sink, poured herself a glass of very cold water; "Besides, there’s no way you could get halfway down that staircase without getting caught." The icy shock of the water brought some restraint; "Snap out of it girl. You’re here to learn some self control, so control yourself already."

With firm conviction, she returned to the couch and started the whole exercise from the beginning. Focusing on her own body, she was shocked by a sound like a small bird frantically beating its wings against a glass window— could that be her own heart? Her breathing was shallow and ragged; her own blood rushed through her skull like pounding surf. Fingers scraped leather like claws. Calm, control. Perceive, catalogue and continue.

Her awareness expanded, filling the huge room. The clocks still ticked in counterpoint, turning the steady measure of time into a complicated rhythm; one of them chimed pleasantly. The hum of the fridge was joined by an intermittent metallic ping that could only be the oft-maligned hot water heater.

She hardly needed a conscious thought to send her awareness ever outward. Steady, girl. Fearing another attack of hormones, she lumped all those primal noises coming from below under one label: sound of a really cute guy working out. Don’t analyse, just perceive, catalogue and continue.

For the first time, her senses were stretched to their utmost limits, extending out to embrace the whole of Vancouver, or at least the immediate neighbourhood. She heard distant traffic noise, the ever-present gulls calling back and forth and— something else. It sounded close, very close, but she couldn’t quite identify it. The first image that came to mind was of a harsh wind sweeping down a canyon, echoing as it bounced off steep walls. That didn’t belong in a city, did it? She wasn’t sure; she was prairie girl, maybe a coastal wind blowing through skyscrapers could do that. Whatever the sound, it was continuous— Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh….

The sound was just beginning to seem familiar from something else when it was joined by a new noise. The sound of dying loon? No, more like a cat being skinned alive… two cats. What in the name of Heaven? She tried to block out the offending wail, but her senses were so open she couldn’t get rid of it. It seemed as if it were just outside, who would be torturing small animals under her window? Torturing small animals to the tune of Bonnie Portmore— Oh no, please say it isn’t so!

Her concentration shattered like glass, her nerves were almost as bad as they’d been at the cabin; she couldn’t take it any more. She rushed to the window and threw it open, exposing herself to even more of the teeth-rattling din. A quick sweep of the street below and she saw the villain. Deb had nothing against buskers, she knew several street performers personally, but this… this was what street performance in Hell must be like. She had taken off her sword for the exercise, but her main-gauche dagger was still in place. Drawing the slim blade, she leaned part way out the window and threw a perfectly aimed shot. The tortuous howling became one long wail, like the call of a lovesick moose, before fading into blessed silence. It was in that moment of calm that Deb realised what she had done.

§ § §

Duncan was still towelling off when he heard the geriatric rattle of the elevator coming down. Even knowing its source, the Buzz still put him on alert. He saw Debra’s face through the cage and it was not the expression of someone who had just finished a calming meditation. Come to think of it, he did remember hearing some rather peculiar noises. His voice was calm but wary, velvet on steel; "Is there something wrong?"

The gate groaned in protest as she heaved it open; her footsteps ticked an impatient beat. "No, not exactly wrong," her words trembled like the song of a small bird, "It’s just… could you take this to the busker downstairs for me?"

"A twenty?" The words tripped off his tongue like a drunk stumbling out of a pub. He had a very bad feeling about this.

Somehow her words sounded as pink as her flushed cheeks, "Yeah, and uh, could you try and get my knife back?"

"What did you do?" Voice like the scrape of a whetstone. She cringed.

The whining tone was not unlike the instrument she had so recently silenced; "It’s not my fault. I have a very low tolerance for amateur bag-piping."

Ok, ok, so I couldn't resist the bagpipe joke. It's just that I couldn't have something that drool-worthy (a descriptive fru if I do say so myself) without some way to break the tension. I almost had an openning paragraph talking about Deb's surprise that the Loft actually existed and that it really was in Vancouver, but I decided it was unnecessary exposition.
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