The Bounds of Reason

Today I thought I’d share the results of a writing exercise I did with one of my writing groups.

I forget the exact prompt, but it was something about having to disarm a bomb while tied up. In my group, we spend 30-40 minutes on these and share the results with each other. It’s interesting trying to come up with something interesting and (sort of) coherent so quickly, and I’m always pleasantly surprised when I manage it.


She flinched, then hauled herself to her feet, wincing, moving awkwardly, because he hadn’t seen fit to untie her hands.

She wasn’t surprised to find he was a monster with round yellow eyes, spiky brown fur, and sharp teeth, though she’d gotten a strong sense of humanity from him at the moment of awakening. These metamorphoses were commonplace once you got outside the bounds of Reason. She liked Reason, but there was no way within Reason that someone with her level of skill in the area–that was, precisely none–could disarm a bomb; she hated when her employer gave her problems that she could solve only by venturing into Dream–or Helter-Skelter or P’O’lu* or whatever you wanted to call it. She stuck simply with the moniker Dream–not out of any affection, but because the only kind of dream she had ever had was a nightmare. True, she fared better out there than most, but the price of her success was that waking Dream was also almost exclusively nightmare.

So she grew tentacles to match the monster’s talons, tore away his (its?) knife and strangled it. She didn’t know or care whether her captor would revive if returned to Reason. Priority #1 was getting a magic spell strong enough to work within the Bounds and Priority #2 was getting the bloody hell out of this, well, bloody hell.

Literally bloody. The trees had, perhaps in answer to her thoughts, begun dripping blood. Warily, she walked on. She needed either to find a witch or become one, fast, but just because the surroundings didn’t make sense didn’t mean they were always as helpful as they had been in letting her grow tentacles.

As she thought this, the tentacles began strangling her, so she choked several nonsense words at them, and when that only served to make them turn purple, shrank her neck to the breadth of a hair and her head to the size of a pin, allowing her to escape herself momentarily. On a whim, she did the same with her manacled wrists and then, returning to her regular size, caught her tentacles–she’d only made two, thank goodness–and ripped them off her.

Painful, and also losing her precious time (probably; the temporal interface between Reason and Dream was highly unpredictable, but usually, unless you pulled off a miracle, it worked to your disadvantage).

Safety spell, she thought, and everything around her suddenly became dangerous out of contrariness. It was a strange dance of embracing and denying your instincts and desires that made you able to manage dream, so she threw herself at the nearest giant Venus flytrap and coaxed a net from its throat with caresses. Something told her this net would, if correctly activated, render whatever it touched safe and useless. In its present state, however, it was likelier to sink into her skin and suck her soul from her body and feed it to the plant, so she shouted more nonsense words–the vilest she could think of–to make herself gloves and then decided that inconveniently the Water of Life would be necessary to activate the net–was it a spider web perhaps?

How to procure the Water of Life quickly? Saliva! Hers! Her ex had once accused her of thinking she could walk on water, so why shouldn’t–by dream unlogic, which had a thing for her bad almost-jokes–her saliva really be the Water of Life for three seconds? She spat on the net and set off running for Reason.

*Charles Williams reference

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