Chiman Salih: Moon Struck

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Moon Struck

Chiman Salih

Adam was in his early thirties, with a defined body, calm face, and deep-set eyes. He ran a small, auto-accessory shop. Most of the time, he skimmed through different magazines and books while waiting for customers. 

At nighttime, he would gaze at the moon, so he could escape people contact. Those around him considered this normal behavior. He loved to stay alone most of the time, yet he was a precise observer of life’s happenings.

Obviously, he was a sort of selenophile; he would sit for hours on the scratched concrete bench at the corner of the park behind his home, only to gaze at the sky with bare eyes. Sometimes, he sat there until midnight. 

When he was preoccupied beholding the moon, like looking at a lover, he would narrow his shiny silver eyes to look more precisely and enjoy the spread of light reflecting off his face. Every time was like the first time he had stared at the moon. He continued this hobby even after he married Luna.

Her name had first attracted him, and their relationship had developed to love and then marriage. Luna loved him for his pure heart and his transparency. 

He had wanted a new spot to sit and gaze at the moon and other celestial glowing objects. He had limited his scouting missions only to a few nights of the full moon every month. This place was the farthest corner of the graveyard located in the southeast part of the city, just below the visible peaks of the mountain range which towered over the small city. A thick forest and a small abandoned cottage sat inside the left-hand part of the forest. Adam thought about using it when the weather turned cold and windy. 

During the full moon cycle every month, the moon appeared more radiant and closer to Earth. It gave a fancy spectacle to the city, especially when it’s situated behind a row of peaks. The stars resembled shiny pieces of gold poured over the peaks and sparkled throughout the extended sky. Together they comprised a magic blend and beautified the nocturnal scenery. During these few days every month, Adam was the closest human to the spectacle, and the sight blended his spirit and body until he met an acquaintance there.

He was alone at the graveyard on one of these nights, a cool breeze caressing his cheeks. He was warming up against a tall pine tree when the hiccup of a strange-looking man drew his attention behind him. The tall and stocky man wore aviator glasses and a big hat.

The man approached Adam and sat on a big stone beside him. They chitchatted about the beauty of tonight’s moon. 

To Adam’s astonishment, the man alleged to be from the moon. 

“That moon?” Adam pointed to the shining moon, wholeheartedly believing the man’s claim. He asked many questions about who lives on the moon.

The man startled Adam with his bizarre answers. He said the residents of the moon live for seven hundred to a thousand years. The man was now one hundred and fifty years old but was still considered a teenager.

Adam laughed, thinking about how he was talking to the oldest person he’d ever met, and yet the man was just a teenager. Adam asked if he knew anybody from Earth.

He answered that he knows Armstrong, an American astronaut, and he’d recently met a Chinese yǔ háng yuán. 

“So, you are really from the moon!” 

The man told Adam to leave because he would return in a special movement that required him to be alone. “Earth dwellers shouldn’t be there.” 

The moon resembled a shiny orange plate as it lowered behind the highest peaks. Its light sparkled over the whole city. It appeared just a stone’s throw from Earth, prepared for someone to embark on it.

Adam didn’t want to leave this spectacle, but he had no choice; it was late, and his wife had been calling him—besides, the man had ordered him. When he set to depart, he was confused and could not remember the right direction.

The man told him to take the opposite direction. “I was exiting from there when I was alive.”

Adam took the road. He hurried to arrive home and tell Luna the night’s awesome story. While reciting the events to Luna, everything sounded natural to him, until he recounted when the man had said, “When I was alive.” Fear gripped Adam as he repeated the man’s last phrase.

It seemed he hadn’t paid attention to the man’s speech at the graveyard, when he said “alive,” which meant he was dead at the moment he met Adam. 

Luna’s biggest concern now was why her husband was terrified by a supposedly dead person, but not by a man who claimed he was from the moon!

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Please visit Chiman on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/ChimanNSalih/

DR. PAUL’S FAMILY TALK: October BOOK REVIEWS WITH DEBORAH RATLIFF

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk “

Impact Radio USA

WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff joined host Paul W. Reeves to review three books on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 as part of the monthly Expert Series.

When We Believed In Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
Drift (Rachel Hatch Book 1)  by L.T. Ryan and Brian Shea
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Check out the podcast of the October Book Review radio interview here:
https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/experts-series-deborah-ratliff-10-21-20

Missed September’s Book Review segment? The podcast with host Paul W. Reeves is here:
https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/experts-series-deborah-ratliff-9-23-20

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA
LIVE At 11:00 am Eastern Time Monday, Wednesday, Friday
http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Enzo Stephens: Oasis

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Oasis

Enzo Stephens

Windy’s — aka., Battle Mountain Bar, was tucked neatly between the Broadway Deli and the Roadway Inn & Suites, Battle Mountain North, which pissed old Jackson Wind off to no end whatsoever.

Because along came some newfangled piece-of-shit joint called the Electrify America Charging Station. Whoop-de-do. Some do-gooder thought it would be a good idea for all the mining equipment in the area to run on batteries. 

Idiots.

Probably Chinese.

The constant parade of heavy vehicles that rumbled past the clapboarded Windy’s, shaking and vibrating the living shit out of the place to ‘plug-in’ became a very good reason for telling the 12-step program to take a fucking hike.

Jackson Wind was pure Shoshone; no stranger to either rotgut or some of the finer legal drugs available. And Jackson Wind needed very little excuse to self-medicate (as the tree-huggers called it. DUDE! It’s called ALCOHOLISM.).

Jackson knocked back a few fingers (who the fuck is counting?) of some MaCallen’s 18, then whacked the thick glass on the surface of the glossy bartop and belched. Two-thirty in the afternoon on a fuck-o-Thursday in the middle of fuck-tober in the year of Our Lord twenty-fuckamo-something-or-the-other was just a fine time to start mashing the liver for the day.

He glanced outside the permanently dusty windows as a clump of sagebrush trundled along at the urging of the constant baking wind, cursed at it then wandered to the back of the long, narrow barroom to a badly abused pinball machine, wishing for another drink.

The front door was thrust open letting in a blast of soul-sucking air. “Shut the fuckin’ door!” The visitor obliged, clicking the door in the latch.

“Hey Windy.”

“Schmitty. Rum and coke?”

“Does your ma bang the Battle Mountain football team?”

Windy grunted as he moved behind the mahogany bar. “She’d screw them before doing your skanky ass, whitey. Now whatchoo doin’ here so early?”

Schmitty stepped up and onto a stool at the bar. Albert Manassas Schmidt yanked his ball cap off and dropped it on the bar; his blond curls were matted to the sides of his head with sweat. “Got a bidness meetin’.”

Windy snorted. “Yeah, right. Who da fuck do bidness in this shithole?”

“Welp,” and he paused to take a rip of the RNC, smacking his lips. “Some crazy rich muckety-muck is wantin’ to build hisself a big-assed mansion right here in Battle Mountain.”

“No shit?” Windy rested his round forearms on the bar.

“I shit you not. And if this little pow-wow goes right, I’m thinkin’ the Battle Mountain Bar is gonna be hoppin’ a whole lot over the next little bit.”

Windy ambled out from behind the bar with four more fingers of MaCallen’s and perched beside Schmidt. “Well, I ain’t never turned away good bidness, mind ya. So is this a big contract for ya?”

Schmidt took a sip, savoring the bite of the rum and the sweetness of the coke. Did the fucker slake a man’s thirst? Nope. But who the hell cares? Schmitty glanced at Windy. “It is a big one, for sure, but like I said, this rich muckety-muck is a weird one.”

“Whatcha mean?”

“Dude’s all pissed off at his kids, sayin’ they’re like vultures that would skin a man while he’s still alive. Said they tried to clean him out of his dough; did a hostile takeover or some shit over his company; killed off his sugar-baby—”

“Man, there’s some fucked-up people in this world.”

“Ya think?” He slapped his glass down and asked Windy to just plop that bottle of Calico Jack 100 right up there on the bar, along with a couple cans of coke and bucket of ice, just as he fished a crumpled Benjamin out of his dusty jeans. Windy saw this as an opportunity to reload his fine self with a heapin’ helpin’.

“So anyway, all my help is local—”

“You tellin’ me them Mezkins are local, Schmitty?”

“Not them, douche-puppet. It’s off-season, so those boys lit outta here.”

“Not the worst of ideas.”

“We make our bread where we can, my friend. And mine is here.” Which was true, because while Battle Mountain’s citizenry numbered just under 4,000, you’d best bet that Schmidt worked a house for just about each and every one of them. The number of forty-niner mine-shacks he’d renovated and updated (gentrified if you wanna know the truth) was just a touch below the 100 percentile.

Windy shook his head, nipping at his scotch. “Ain’t that a fuck-all? Ya got a big job and ya got nobody to do it.”

“Well, not quite.”

“Whatcha mean?”

“I’m gonna sub the deal to some out-of-towner. Great rep, especially for builds like what this whacko wants. He should be here any minute.”

“Oh, so THAT’s the bidness meeting!”

The door that served to keep out the constantly roiling scirocco swung wide, drawing four eyes immediately. A short man with a buzz-cut stood for a moment, staring at the whipping sands, then shut the door. He strode into the diffuse light of the bar, marching straight up to Schmidt. “Hello. Are you Mister Schmidt?”

Schmidt stood up, towering over the buzz-cut dude. “I am. And you are…?”

“I am Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein. You may call me ‘Bart’.”

Schmitty motioned to Windy to bring drinks to a small, pockmarked table along a bare adobe wall. “Well, okay there, Bart, let’s take a seat over here.” As he led Bart to the table, he caught the eye of Windy, who was shaking his head with vigor, his mouth forming the word ‘NO.’

Bart pulled a chair out and took a seat. He was in a black three-piece suit with a bright (and odd) perfectly perched red bow tie. Schmidt glanced at his shoes, noting the high polish, and the oddly strange lack of the ever-present desert dust.

Windy placed two clean glasses and a pitcher of ice water before the two men and made haste behind the safety of his bar, watching, his eyes huge.

Schmidt sat down across from the man and saw that he placed a business card on the table. Schmidt took it up and promptly dropped it. It felt… oily to the touch. Slimy. Like picking up a piece of snail snot. He pushed the card around to read it:

‘Leinstein’s Happy Home Building Company’ embossed in glossy black cursive. “Mister Leinstein—”

“Bart, please.”

“Okay then, Bart. This is going to be a tough build in a lot of ways, and we don’t have a lot of calendar to get it done. Desert conditions, high winds, freezing temps at night, and—”

“We are just fine working in the desert, Mr. Schmidt. My company just finished a home in Abu Dhabi for a sultan. An oil baron, if you will.”

Bart’s deep, sonorous voice was disarming. Smooth, silky; it resonated with Schmidt in an odd way. “Noted, Bart. But there’s something more.”

“Do tell sir.”

Schmidt took a deep breath and blew it out, chasing that with a hefty swig of water. He scowled quickly, reminding himself to get on Windy’s ass about changing the water filter. “Sure. The client we’re doing this job for says, and I quote here, that we are to build a house for his two full-grown children to live in. The house must be Enticing, Mysterious, and Esoteric.”

Schmidt leaned back in his chair to study Leinstein’s reaction and was disappointed when the man seemed to not react at all. He just stared at Schmidt through — and I shit you not, a freaking pince nez (like where the hell did that come from?). “I see, Mister Schmidt. By this request, I am to assume that there are no set number of bedrooms or bathrooms or other rooms in the house?”

Schmidt nodded.

“And the usual spaces, such as kitchens, common rooms, all other interior spaces are to be left up to our designs?”

Schmidt gulped. Turning control of a job like this, with a payday like this, to a man who looked like a USMC version of Pee Wee Herman was dicey as hell. He glanced toward the bar where Windy was staring bullets at him. Windy shook his head slowly and Schmidt looked back to Bart, his gut and anus severely clenched.

Again, Schmidt nodded, and Bart smiled, and damn if that smile didn’t look like something out of the movie Hellboy. The first one, not the shitty sequel.

“Very well then, Mister Schmidt. I have the contracts with me. Now tell me, when does the house need to be finished?”

I’m in it to win it, I’m in it to win it, I’m in it…

“We have two months before he inspects.”

“Do not fret, Mister Schmidt. We will make that schedule just fine.”

The two men huddled together for the next few hours and hammered out a deal along with site location and preliminary architectural plans, and that was that. Bart was out the door and into the desert evening like a fart in the wind.

Schmitty moved his weary butt to his favorite stool and bade Windy to reload him with a double RNC. Windy pushed the tall glass across to Schmidt. “Dude?”

“Yeah, Windy?”

“That dude was bad news.”

“I don’t give a damn if he’s the king of fuckdom! As long as he gets the shit built on time and the buyer likes it, whatever.”

***

Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein strode into the desert night; swirling, gusting winds not affecting the man nor his clothing. He stepped off the hard-packed tarmac across from Windy’s and into desert nothingness. When he was sure he was out of sight of the bar, he turned and smiled.

***

Galena, NV. Pop.: 0

Twenty-five miles southeast of Battle Mountain stood a collection of scattered piles of rotted timber that was home to a myriad of denizens of the hostile climate that holed themselves up for the night in little cubbies and ratholes; some digesting their prey while others waited for theirs.

Galena, Nevada. An old mining town that went through a couple of half-assed renovation attempts since its heyday in the 1880s but was now nothing but whispers of the past and ancient planks groaning at the constant abuse of the wind.

It was here at the main junction of Galena where Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein stood, impervious to the blustering sands and the glittering night sky, talking to a massive triangle he etched in the sand around him.

His language was unrecognizable, if there were anyone to hear it. But it rang forth from him with sonorous power, reverberating and throbbing in the night, and the triangle in the sand began to glow with a putrid greenish light.

“Come!” And they came, boiling up from the sands like erupting pustules vomiting forth wretchedly amorphous and writhing shapes that whipped and cavorted in the chilled, dry air, all around Bart, and Bart was thrilled, as he was always thrilled when they came at his call.

Bart hacked up a glob of snot and spat it out with great force, where it was snatched by a gale-force blast of wind. “Come as well and join your brothers!” 

The air was suddenly rent with the thunder of hundreds of massive, flapping leathery wings whose shapes wove in and out of their wildly cavorting brethren from the dirt, and Bart laughed, long and loud. The insane troupe of beings joined with him, and the cacophony rocked the remnants of long-dead and dilapidated shelters.

Others came from a myriad of directions to join in the obscene orgy, and the numbers swelled and swarmed.

“HOLD!” And the horde of insanity froze, despite a thrumming undercurrent of protest.

Bart seemed to grow taller, more commanding, and he radiated power. “HEAR ME NOW, BROTHERS, AND YOU WILL FEAST!”

The horde throbbed with excitement, and as Bart spoke, groups and clusters of the horde split off from the others, vanishing into the night, until finally only one remained. One of the first who rose from the dirt. It grinned and leered at Bart, insanely tottering and twisting before him, waiting. Bart issued one more set of instructions and, with a vomit-inducing pop, the being was gone.

Bart turned away from Galena and strode in a northerly direction, back to the Battle Mountain Bar. There was an old Shoshone boozing windbag of a monkey that needed Bart’s unique brand of attitude adjustment.

***

Albert Manassas Schmidt, at one time in his long-lost days, was a roughneck, having worked oil rigs on the Atlantic, where outrageous tragedy struck without warning, and just about on a daily basis because the Atlantic is a completely fickle bitch that doesn’t like people.

Every day, it was, ‘who’s gonna go next?’ Every night after pulling a ten-er, some idiotic Okie-chump would hand over a beat-up Polaroid with a plump broad and a couple of cherubic kids and ask Schmitty to ‘please get word to my family in case I don’t make it tomorrow.’

Schmitty kept a cigar box for just such mementos, but when his last tour finished, he got the hell off that rig as fast as he could, and so the cigar box stayed behind.

Less than a week later that rig scored a geyser that was so powerful that it blew the damned rig apart and wiped out every man on it.

Atlantic. Fickle bitch.

Point is, Schmitty saw men bite it in so many ways — outright drowning, being swept off by sudden storms never to be seen again, death by sea creature (which utterly terrified the fuck out of him), equipment mishaps, etcetera, etcetera.

Hell, a dude standing less than three feet away from him was incinerated by a lightning strike.

But as he stared at the smoking hole in the desert floor where Windy’s once stood, Schmitty reasoned that a) Windy was in there when the bitch went up, and b) he probably didn’t go gently into the night.

Nevada State Troopers clumped themselves up out of the fluttering ash pit, followed by a couple of EMTs hauling a wheeled gurney with a white sheet covering an oddly shaped lump. Schmitty knew in his heart that it was Windy.

Well, who the hell else would it be, dumbass?

Only three days ago, Schmitty and Windy sat their butts on roughly padded barstools and talked about how things just might be looking up for both men. “Hah!”

He kicked at a hunk of sagebrush that bonked against his booted ankle, climbed in his old Bronco and took off, shedding a tear for his friend.

Not for the first time, Schmitty wondered just how the new build was going, or if it was going at all. But the way he was feeling, the new build just didn’t seem all that important to Schmitty now.

***

Schmitty lay on a very uncomfortable bed, propped to a 45-degree angle in the Battle Mountain Medical Center, furious at the jackass that put insipid daytime teevee on and turned the fucker up loud enough to wake the dead.

He barked a laugh at that one, a laugh that turned into a gut-wrenching, churning series of coughs that wrought waves of pain that cascaded over him. He sagged weakly into his pillow. He thumbed the dispenser for pain meds, another fruitless exercise as he exhausted those at least an hour ago. 

Long enough to wake the dead. I’m just counting the hours now until I get to test that theory.

“Hello, Mister Schmidt.”

Sonorous baritone that seemed to soothe his ears. He turned his head creakingly to see that buzz-cut Marine Corps version of PeeWee Herman standing at his side. Schmitty did not hear the creepy fucker come in, and he said so in a croaking whisper.

“The cancer has you in its grip, Mister Schmidt. Are you in pain?”

“Stupid… question. Does a… a scorpion hide in… your boot?”

“It is good to see that you still have your sense of humor, despite your impending demise. Ah, but that’s the way of things with you… monkeys, isn’t it?”

“Fuck… are you… talking about?”

Bart touched his perfectly tied bow tie and for the first time, Schmitty noticed the length and the filth that seemed to live beneath the surface of the guy’s fingernail. “Mister Schmidt, the house is complete.”

“Ahh, I… I forgot about that.”

“Myself and my crew did not, sir. The job is done, and we believe the person who ordered the house will be quite pleased.”

Confusion wracked Schmitty, but then the cobwebs cleared, despite the incessant, bludgeoning pain. “I can’t… pay—”

“There is payment and there is payment, monkey, and I will be paid soon enough.” 

There goes that Hellboy smile again. All Schmitty could do was stare at Bart.

“I so like being there for when one of you monkeys pass, especially when you haven’t figured things out yet. So let me share a doozy for you, Schmitty. This one’s going to kick you in the shorts, I do believe.” He stepped closer to the bedside. “Guess I don’t need to tell you to sit down, eh?”

“Not fun—”

“Think about my name, monkey. Remember my card? Oh, you didn’t like that at all, did you? Remember?”

And yes indeed, Schitty did remember the disgusting feel of the thing. “Bart…”

“Yes. Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein. You don’t have long now, monkey, so I’ll give you a tip. Think about the initials.”

“Wh…?”

“B. A. A. L. Get it? Ba’al! That’s me, in the flesh, so to speak.”

Schmitty, last breath wheezed out of him like a flaccid balloon with a puff or two remaining, yet his eyes remained open in horror.

***

Becky and Ryan Carbondale fairly leapt from their late-model Honda minivan they parked in a luxurious-yet-overgrown governor’s driveway before a sprawling two-story home that sparkled in the riveting morning desert sun. Their twin sons managed to unbuckle themselves with surprising dexterity that caused Becky to seriously suspect that the boys had decoded car seats sometime in the past when neither she nor her hubby were looking.

Ryan popped open the rear lift to free their four-year-old Labrador Retriever, Boz, but Boz was having none of it. He lay on the floor in the back of the van with a whimper and his tail curled tight against his body. “Suit yourself, pooch.”

Ryan left the door open and joined his family as they ooh-ed and ahh-ed the lushness of the grass and the flowering hedges and bushes that crowded the house. “What do you think the water bill would be here?”

Ryan pulled the two boys close to him as he stared upward at the house looming over him. There was a feeling…

“Ryan!”

“Oh shit, yeah. No idea babe, but it can’t be cheap.”

“It was so wonderful that your Grandpa Milford just gave us this place. It’s… spectacular!”

And as the four stood before their new home, the desert winds whipped in all directions and then focused in several spots behind the young family, and it seemed as though the sand rose to greet the winds, creating a number of whirling, silently cavorting dust-devils.

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Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Book Reviews with Deborah Ratliff

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”

Impact Radio USA

WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff will be reviewing three books as part of the monthly Expert Series.

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Check out September’s Book Review segment podcast with host Paul W. Reeves and tune in tomorrow!

Podcast Here:
https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/experts-series-deborah-ratliff-9-23-20

S.McC: The Shadow Queen

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

The Shadow Queen

S.McC

A slim-heeled foot stepped upon the hallowed ground, sending ripples out to the decrepit cottage buried in the surrounding forest, awakening magic long forgotten.

‘Are you sure we are in the right place?’ Cindy teased her husband as he got out of the other side of their sleek black BMW jeep.

Lucas grabbed the brochure from the inside pocket of thHe black door and lifted it towards his face. He frowned at it and then squinted towards the half-buried cottage. ‘It kind of looks like it if you squint.’ He said and shrugged, trying to make the best of it.

This would be an overdue break away for both of them and much needed, as they worked obscene hours. Between that and the three children growing it was beginning to get harder to find time for each other, but they were as happy as they could be in their life.

They walked unhurriedly, linking arms, towards the love cottage, that was more of a two-story spooky shack. It supported a crooked roof, with several tiles missing, and plaster was falling from the once white walls, that was now caked with dirt from years gone by. The window upstairs was broken and the chimney was barely holding on with bricks missing from several places.

They looked at it with plastered smiles on both of their faces, as their eyes roamed and worried at what might be out there within the woods. Or even worse, at what they might find inside, for horror films were their favourite to watch, and the cottage looked like it was straight out of one of them.

‘Where did the travel agent say that the key was?’ she asked as they reached the crooked wooden door.

‘Under the mat,’ Lucas replied, as he looked around in search of one, upon the broken floorboards of the porch.

‘I don’t know about you, Hunny, but I only see a plant pot,’ Cindy replied. ‘A dead plant in it at that,’ she mumbled under her breath, wrinkling her nose at the brown sapling that was bent over within. Lucas lifted the pot and found the big rusty key underneath.

‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he asked, glancing again at the blackened windows with their hanging frames.

‘Yes.’

He put the key into the lock and twisted. It clicked, and he tried to push the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. He grew frustrated and tried slamming into it with a shoulder. ‘You’re going to hurt yourself!’ Cindy sighed in annoyance at him.

She stepped in front of him so that he couldn’t see what she was doing as she rubbed two of her fingers together. A soft glow came from the key and another click was heard. ‘You didn’t turn it enough, silly,’ she said as she rattled the key a little to hide her tracks and opened the door with ease.

‘Hmmm,’ Lucas grumbled and followed her into the cottage. ‘Cindy…What?’ he said as he smashed into the back of her.

‘Oh my gosh! Lucas, look!’ Cindy said excitedly, her voice gaining a pitch.

‘What?’ he began but stopped as he noticed that the cottage was as luxuriously furnished as the brochure had said, and it was clean too he noted, at the sparkling polished wooden floors. Maybe they would have their romantic weekend away, he thought, wiggling his eyebrows. Hugging Cindy from behind, he kissed her gently on the cheek.

She squirmed within his grasp and wriggled free facing him. ‘Before any more thoughts of that,’ she wriggled her fair eyebrows back at him, ‘we need the luggage.’

‘Aww.’ A little dismayed, ‘Really?’ he asked.

She nodded and quickly moved out of reach as he smiled and hung his head. He turned around slowly and walked back towards the car. She watched him until he was nearly there and more occupied with grabbing the luggage before going over towards the brick fireplace.

Before her, she found a bucket of coal and a few logs with some sticks. Bending quickly down she arranged them before rubbing her fingers again and starting a fire. She sat back and watched it brighten.

‘Good idea.’ Lucas’s voice made her jump as he stumbled in, half rolling half dragging the suitcase behind him. ‘Where do you want this?’

‘Bedroom please.’

‘Where is that?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said, gazing around and finding another door off of the kitchen. ‘You will have to find it.’ She nodded towards it.

‘Yes ma’am,’ Lucas replied teasingly, as he rolled the case away into a room beyond the open kitchen. Cindy squinted at the door to the kitchen and rubbed her fingers, forcing it to close softly behind him. There, that would give her some sort of warning at least.

She inched as close to the fire as she could without burning herself and looked deep within the flames before chanting. ‘Tyd I mi tan bach, fy chwaer.’ She rubbed both her hands as she sat crossed legged gazing in at the leaping flames.

Within moments a head appeared. It was not the head of someone who she had been expecting, and she thought it very odd. ‘I am here, sister.’ The head spoke the usual druid response, regardless of man or woman, and it calmed her a little.

‘Where’s Betty?’

‘Betty is busy.’ The figure in the fire hesitated whilst replying; something was wrong. Betty had never been busy before, and she was meant to give her last-minute instructions on the item she was to gather here.

‘OK,’ she replied wearily. ‘Any other instructions I need?’

‘No, nothing to worry about, did you find it yet?’

‘No.’

‘Hmmm. Does the husband suspect anything?’

‘No, he has no reason to believe that I am not his wife,’ she replied whilst touching the charm upon her chest.

‘Then find it, child, and hurry,’ the head said as a faint rustling came from the direction of the kitchen. 

Cindy waved towards the flames and whispered, ‘Hwyl fawr.’

She quickly rubbed her fingers as faint shouts of, ‘Cindy, I don’t think the house wants us to be together.’

‘It isn’t wrong,’ Cindy mumbled before he managed to open the door, and came sauntering into the room. She plastered a smile onto her face as she turned toward him. ‘Did you find one?’

‘Yes, and it’s just as luxurious as this place is,’ he said, waving his arms at the sitting room and kitchen.

‘Hungry?’ she asked, walking through to the kitchen.

‘Yes,’ he said enthusiastically. ‘I brought the cool box in, while you were busy making the fire. What do you have in it, rocks?’

‘Something like that,’ she laughed, whilst turning around and pulling a face. She hoped he didn’t suspect, as she walked over to the cool box and popped the lid open. ‘Spring rolls?’ she suggested as she got the small box out.

He nodded and grabbed two plates. She divided the spring rolls, trying to keep her calm composure at all costs, even though she was shaking inside. He sat and waited for her to do the same. ‘Can’t forget the wine, hunny,’ she said as she turned back into the kitchen to grab a bottle, hoping that he would start eating the rolls. She couldn’t afford to eat one nibble of them herself, as they were laced with a sleeping spell.

Thankfully for her, he did. ‘These are lovely,’ he said, scoffing them as quickly as he could into his mouth. ‘Do we have any more?’

‘You can have mine,’ she said, smiling happily at him.

‘Then what will you eat?’ he asked her. ‘You don’t need to lose any more weight, you look gorgeous just the way you are,’ he said, looking appreciatively at her curvy figure. She wasn’t slim by any means, with thunderous thighs and wobbly arms, she looked every bit the mommy figure that she was.

Her hair of rich golden blonde framed bright blue eyes, and to Lucas, she was amazingly beautiful in every way. ‘You’re sexy, you know that,’ he said, giving her a wobbly smile, as the last of the rolls went down to his stomach.

He yawned. ‘I feel very tired.’ She hadn’t thought that they would work so quickly but was glad of it.

‘Want to go to bed?’ She wiggled her eyebrows at him. He sat up a little straighter at that and made his way over to her. His dark brown hair rubbed against her cheek as he tried to kiss her but missed. He was barely taller than her and as skinny as a string bean.

Cindy wondered what the wife saw within him as he hugged her, whilst trying to make his wobbly legs lead them to the bedroom. He stumbled over to the giant four-poster bed still holding her hand. Wow, Cindy thought, he hadn’t been lying when he said it was luxurious.

A thick carpet was under her feet and she could see another fireplace alongside the wall. She felt a little bad about tricking him, but she had a task at hand and needed to complete it. He was pulling off his black shoes, weaving drunkenly as he did so. She sat beside him and pulled him down using her arm that was wrapped around his shoulders. He yawned again.

His head hit the pillow and he was softly snoring within the blink of an eye. Cindy gently tugged her arm free and got up, hastily pulling the cardigan back around her. Now where to look. It wasn’t a large object and her sister had said that she would know what it would be when she saw it.

She walked back into the kitchen and grabbed her equipment. A bowl of gold and a needle. She looked around whilst she waited for the drug to properly kick in. There didn’t seem to be anything calling out to her around the kitchen or the sitting room whose fire still crackled in the hearth.

Considering it enough time, she quickly went back to Lucas and heard his snores before she saw him. Eugh, she thought, how could anyone sleep next to that. Pulling her needle out of its pouch, she quickly jabbed him in the arm, where a nice blue vein was running. She withdrew his blood.

‘I hope this works,’ she murmured, not caring if he heard or not. The sleeping drug would not wear off for several hours. She placed the golden bowl upon the floor and placed the blood inside of it, chanting, ‘Uffern waedelyd tyd I mi yr brehnin syn cysgu.’

The blood swirled within the goblet of its own accord and Cindy gasped. It was working. She lifted it off the ground and stood up within the room. It stopped swirling and reset against one side of the goblet as if leading her in a direction. She followed its direction out of the bedroom and stopped at the only other door in the house.

She tried to open it but no luck. Frowning, she looked at the door; it didn’t appear to have a lock. It also didn’t appear to be any different from any other ordinary wooden door. She waved her hand across and said, ‘Dangos.’

A part of the door brightened and words formed upon it. ‘Only the souls of the damned lie beyond.’ She didn’t like the sound of that as she looked at the bowl again, but she had no choice. If she wanted to become a full-fledged member of the druids, she would have to complete the task which they gave her.

She sighed and looked at the door again. ‘Agor,’ she said as she waved at the handle. It clicked open and the air around her got colder, turning her blood to ice. Her gut was warning her against going down those dark steps into the blackness below.

She hesitated at the top of the doorway, torn. Did she want this? She gulped and pulled herself together, yes more than anything, she thought, as she took the first step. She rubbed her fingers. ‘Golau,’ and a small ball of orange light appeared in front of her.

It led her down and down the many wooden steps. Some of them half torn with age and most were slippery under her feet. The blood within the bowl led her down past several doors that were buried within the sides of the stone wall. Each time she reached a door, the hairs on the back of her neck stood further and further out, and a sinking feeling grew within her stomach.

She nearly fled back up the wooden stairs. Each time, however, she was reminded of the promises they had made to her, for help with healing her sister, and she tried to make herself braver. Inside, however, she was shaking like a leaf. The blood within the bowl was threatening to spill as her hands betrayed her.

She reached the last step and found herself inside a cavern. The walls around her were smooth and made of a stone that she didn’t recognise. Its blackness was eating away at her small light.

In the middle, there seemed to be a shadowy figure, clasped in chains of silver running down from each of the walls. Cindy blinked, and as she did so, the chamber changed and before her eyes lay a black stone clasped tightly by silver, sitting upon a pedestal. It seemed to glow slightly with its own light.

Shaking her head and closing her eyes again, she couldn’t get the image of the shadowy figure out of her mind. Had she just dreamt of that or had that been real? She was feeling a little tired from the use of magic, but she hadn’t thought she was that tired that she would be seeing things.

She closed her eyes once more, but the shadow never appeared, and so she shrugged off the image, placing the bowl of blood upon the floor, and walked quickly towards the black stone on the pedestal. Her heart quickened with each step. This was it, she thought her way in, all she had to do was get it back to the druids and she would be one of them.

Her hand, however, hesitated over it. Something about taking it from here didn’t sit well with her. It oozed magic that felt wrong and unfamiliar to her own. ‘They need this, and I need them,’ she whispered as she plucked it gently from its silver clasps, thinking only of her sister.

It felt cold to the touch, almost freezing, and she wished that she had something to wrap it in.

Placing the cool stone in her mouth so as not to lose it and wishing that female clothing came with better pockets, she took off her cardigan. Before she got an arm out of the sleeve, the stone started burning her lips. It started snaking its way down her throat as if it were alive.

Her eyes widened as she started pulling upon it. It would not come loose, her energy lagged and her light flickered before finally going out, leaving her fighting the stone within the blackness of the cavern. She feared what was happening as inch by inch it hit the back of her throat and turned slowly into a liquid made of fire as it made its way towards her heart.

She wanted to scream in pain. The agony of the fiery liquid made her claw at herself. She slumped to her knees. Terror took over as her breathing was cut off. Holding her throat, gasping for breath, her blue eyes rolled into the back of her head.

The black stone, now a liquid, merged with her blood. Her veins turned black as it was pumped around by her beating heart. Her hair, once blonde and vibrant, dulled to the richest of blacks. Hands touched the cold floor, as the liquid turned her veins black, making them stand out against her pale skin. Her eyes rolled back and forward, as black and as lifeless as the cavern in front of her.

The body stood up off of the floor and stretched each of the limbs. Taking its time to feel all the muscles that lay within. Muscles that it had been deprived of for so long.

She was no longer Cindy. Cindy had gone, and in her place, unlocked from the silver chains that had imprisoned her for centuries, stood The Shadow Queen.

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Lisa Criss Griffin: No Place Like Home

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

No Place Like Home

Lisa Criss Griffin

The voices outside her house had returned. Hilda wrung her gnarled hands in despair, her anxiety playing across her wrinkled face. She fled upstairs to the attic to peer out the small window into the overgrown yard. The evening light was fading, but the brightly hued blooms of the flowers around her quaint little cottage still gleamed with color. She couldn’t see anyone, but the voices were still there.

Hilda turned towards the stairs in horror as her front door opened, creaking in protest. The voices were louder. They were in her house! This had never happened until her beloved husband Lars passed away. His recent death had crushed her, and she had no desire to see anyone. It seemed people had lost all sense of decency since Lars died. Why couldn’t folks allow her to grieve his loss in peace? This was still her home! 

The first time, the intruders simply walked in her front door and completely ignored her indignant protests during their unannounced visit. Hilda scolded them as they walked through her home, touching things and admiring her cottage. They never really bothered anything though. After several similar invasions, the choice to hide rather than confront the interlopers when they invaded her home seemed to be her best option.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen often, and was less frequent now that the weather was turning cooler. She had sent a letter of complaint to the local authorities earlier. The officials had never been proactive, so she doubted they would do anything about the trespassing. Hilda lived outside of a sleepy, rural village where nothing much ever happened. She and Lars liked their privacy, and had enjoyed a lifetime of delightful solitude in their country home.

An exasperated sigh escaped Hilda’s lips as the voices traveled past the stairwell in her home. She looked down and realized her fists were clenched in frustration. This was going to have to stop. She took a deep breath and moved to the top of the stairs. Hilda bravely started down the steps. The front door slammed shut, the voices disappearing into the front yard. By the time she made her way downstairs, the trespassers were gone. Like every other time, nothing had been disturbed.

Hilda stepped outside, reveling in the subtle fragrances of the fresh night air. The moon was full, illuminating her familiar but overgrown yard. Lars had always taken care of the yard. He hired someone to do it after he got sick, but they stopped coming after his death. It would frost soon, so she decided not to concern herself with it. 

She took a short stroll to the edge of the vegetable garden, admiring the brilliant orange color of the fat pumpkins dotting the ground between the towering stalks of corn. The garden had done well this year. Lars had always been so proud of his garden. Her throat constricted as she teared up, her grief over Lars’ glaring absence overwhelming her. She held onto a sturdy cornstalk while she had a good cry, the depth of her loneliness escaping in a pitiful wail.

Something soft rubbed against her ankles. She looked down to find her beloved cat looking up at her with his glowing golden eyes. They had a special bond, and Hilda fancied he understood everything she said to him.

“Hi there, Claus. I’m mighty glad to see you.”

Claus smiled and swirled his fluffy black tail around her legs lovingly.

“I suppose those people scared you too. I’m glad you came back.”

Claus purred as she picked him up, cradling him in her arms while she returned to the quaint cottage Lars had built for them so many years ago. She lit a fire and the two of them basked in the gentle warmth and crackling of the flames, enjoying each other’s company in the well worn rocker by the hearth. 

Sunlight was sparkling through the leaded glass windows of the cottage when Claus jumped from Hilda’s lap and padded silently towards the front door. The sound of a car door slamming outside in the driveway disturbed Hilda’s rest. She rose from the rocker. A key rattled in the lock of the front door. Claus hissed and arched his back, skittering sideways as the door swung open. A young couple walked inside, closing the door behind them. The young woman looked around in delight, then embraced her beaming husband.

“Oh Fritz! I can’t believe this lovely old cottage is finally ours! I think we will always be happy here. I love it so!”

“Yes. There is something special about this place, Marta. I love it too!”

“WHAT? This is MY house, you young fools. You can’t just waltz in here and claim an old lady’s home! What is wrong with you young people nowadays?”

The couple shared an intimate kiss, ignoring Hilda. A low growl emanated from Claus, who had returned to the safety of Hilda’s protective stance. Hilda hurled a teacup sitting on the small table next to her rocker, against the wall behind the amorous couple. It crashed and fell to the floor, shattering into jagged shards of china. 

Fritz and Marta jumped apart in surprise, exchanging looks of disbelief.

“The realtor said this place was haunted, but I never believed it, Marta.”

“We got it for almost nothing, Fritz. We could never find another place like this on our budget. What are we going to do???”

“Maybe it wasn’t what we thought. Maybe it just fell by itself. I confess my interests were elsewhere.”

Hilda grasped the saucer, ready to smash it against the wall too. Wait a minute. Why couldn’t they see or hear her? They thought she was a ghost? Marta was already picking up the pieces of the teacup, her face etched with sadness. Hilda released the saucer and picked up Claus, holding him closely as she watched the couple.

“What happened to that darling elderly couple that owned this cottage before us, Fritz? Did the realtor give you any more information?

“Yes, he knew quite a bit about them. Lars Jansen built this lovely cottage for his beautiful wife, Hilda, when they were first married, a very long time ago. They were crazy in love and kept to themselves for most of their lives, except to worship God at the church in town. The minister revealed the couple used to help their fellow citizens anonymously through the church, and were adamant that nobody know who was doing all the good deeds during their lifetimes. They were well liked and friendly…people thought they just enjoyed the solitude of this place. They didn’t have children. The realtor confided to me that Lars never got over Hilda’s tragic disappearance during the flash flooding last spring. They finally found her clutching her beloved cat, both drowned, downstream in the river that runs through the edge of this property. Lars grieved and grieved. He was overheard begging Hilda not to leave him and their home. He came down with pneumonia shortly after her death and died a few months ago. I think Lars missed his precious Hilda so much, he just died of a broken heart.”

“Oh, how very sad! I pray they are together now. I hope we will have their blessing to take care of their beautiful cottage and love it as much as they did!”

Hilda held Claus closer, shocked by this revelation. She was…a ghost? Maybe that was why nobody seemed to notice her? How could she find Lars? She wanted Lars! Where could he be? 

Hilda bolted out the back door and made her way down to the river. There was an old tree by the river that bore their names from the time they first bought their land. Lars had proposed to her there, and it was one of their favorite places. Hilda reached out and traced the heart around their names, carved into the large tree so long ago.

“Lars loves Hilda 

 forever”

“Oh Lars…where are you?!”

A sudden breeze stirred the branches of the ancient tree, causing colorful maroon leaves to slowly cascade like large confetti around Hilda and Claus. A strapping young man stepped out from behind the tree. 

“Hilda. My lovely Hilda. I was wondering when you would come! You are as beautiful as ever, my love. Claus, you look wonderful too!”

Hilda looked at her hands as Claus jumped down and rubbed contentedly against Lars’ legs. They were no longer gnarled and misshapen. In fact, they were the hands of her youth. She felt her face. It was smooth and firm. She gasped in delight and threw herself into Lars’ awaiting arms, her mind reeling in amazement.

“What now, Lars?”

“I have a surprise for you and Claus. We have a new home. You will love it! Trust me? Trust God?”

“Yes, you know we do!”

Lars picked up Claus and nodded to an angel, who folded his gorgeous wings around the little family. A golden glow shimmered around the three of them. Their true home and sanctuary, beautiful beyond their wildest dreams, was already built and awaiting their impending arrival beyond the ornate Gates of Heaven.

Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin

All rights reserved

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Michele Sayre: MY TOP-TEN BITS OF WRITING ADVICE

I still see lists of writing advice and the ensuing arguments over it. So I want to put in my two-cents worth here with mine:

1) Writing advice is not the law of the land. Someone can yell at you for breaking said writing advice but they can’t throw you in jail for it.

2) Writing advice is just what has worked for someone and is shared in the hope that it will help others. This is why I do it. If it’s done for an ego-stroke, be sure to wash your hands after reading it.

3) Basic rules of spelling, punctuation, and grammar are not bad. They are fluid and change over time. Don’t be afraid to change and if someone doesn’t like that, just walk away from them.

4) Don’t try to write like anyone else. Find your own your voice and write in your own way. The best writers are the ones with the most unique voices.

5) Criticism can be a valuable tool, but only if it’s not an axe that’s being ground on your back.  

6) You don’t have to write every single day. There will be days where life gets in the way, or you just can’t get any words out. Remember, there’s always tomorrow.

7) Don’t be afraid to scrap something and start over. Nothing ever comes out perfect and sometimes it’s best to start over on a blank page.

8) Being a writer doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk about it. The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing, especially writing time or anything writing-related.

9) Writing is a ton of editing most of the time. Complain about it if you will, but don’t stop until you get it right.

10) Writing can be taught, but only if you’re willing to learn and do the work on your own.

__________________________________________________________________________

Please visit Michele on her blog! https://michelesayre.com/

Paula Shablo: Coming Home

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Coming Home

Paula Shablo

Gramma always said the house had “character.”

I didn’t remember ever being to the place as an adult. I’m not a young person anymore, so I may be wrong, but it does seem to me that I couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve the last time I laid eyes on the place.

I also didn’t remember it as being so… crooked.

We were still quite a way out from it when we were first able to catch sight of it. It wasn’t a particularly big house, although my grandmother had raised seven children there. The roof was swaybacked as an aged mare, and the whole house seemed to lean.

Madge sat up straighter in her seat and stared until we lost sight of the house. The roads leading to the place twisted and turned, and so for the next few miles we’d only get glimpses. “Is that it?” she gasped. I could tell she was less than impressed.

“Yep.”

“Um…it looks a bit…”

“It’s an old house, Madge.” I sighed. “It’s also a free house.”

“How long has it been since anyone lived there?” Madge demanded.

“Oh…let me see. Gramma moved in with Mom when I left for college, so—”

“Oh dear God!”

I threw a scathing glare at my love. “That sounded suspiciously like you were saying, ‘But you’re so OLD, Liv!’ Which,” I added, “I am.”

“Not at all,” Madge remarked mildly. “But that’s a very long time for a house to stand empty.”

“Mom never wanted to live there,” I said. “After Gramma died, she actually tried to sell it. But, it being so far out of town, she never got any offers.”

“And now, it’s passed down to you.”

“Yes.”

Madge stared at the cottage as it once more came into view. “You called the county and had the power turned on?”

“Yes.”

Under her breath, she muttered, “Surprised the power surge didn’t blow the place up.”

“I heard that,” I informed her haughtily.

“Do you suppose it actually works?”

I sighed again, and didn’t bother to answer. I wasn’t sure of anything.

The cottage disappeared into the trees as I took the next curve at a slower pace. Madge was fidgeting in her seat, and I was nearly holding my breath, waiting for her next words. I knew what they’d be, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow when she said, “Are you sure it was a good idea to give up our lease?”

I wanted to stop the car, but I drove on with some determination. “Madge, you know as well as I we were close to getting an eviction order. This economy—”

“I know.”

“The house is mine. The land around it, too. Free and clear—the property taxes are paid out of Gramma’s trust, and that continues until the family line—” I stopped abruptly. The family line ended with me.

There were cousins, of course. Mother had siblings. But the house had been left to her and her descendants. I was it, and I had never had children.

I could leave the house to one of the others, but the trust that funded the property taxes and other minor expenses would be done with.

Madge stared at her hands, neatly folded in her lap. We had discussed children; of course we had, and if we’d been of another generation we might have gone further than a discussion. But we’d both been in our thirties when we met and fell in love—not exactly a great age to be having babies, not with all the hoops we would have had to leap through to accomplish it.

I took a deep breath. “That doesn’t matter, because we can deal with who next gets the house later. For now, the place is home.”

“Home…” Madge let the word drawl on, thoughtfully.

“Our home.”

The cottage popped back into view. I frowned. It looked…straighter. The roof line appeared less swaybacked.

Madge leaned forward in her seat, gasping. “Do you see that?”

“Uh…” I blinked hard. “It must be some trick of the light.”

“Maybe it was just a distance perspective that—”

“Made it look like it was falling over? I—I don’t know.”

We had a straight stretch of road to traverse, and would soon be arriving at the house. As we got closer, it looked even better.

“A fresh coat of paint, and it will be downright cute,” Madge declared.

“I’m sure there will be some roofing issues, and the porch might need some work,” I said. “But with no other expenses besides utilities, we should be able to swing it on our pensions.”

“Is it—is it already painted?” Madge asked. As we arrived, it appeared to have been painted a buttery yellow. There were no chips or faded spots that we could see.

Madge turned to me as I parked and shut off the ignition. “Did you send someone ’round to paint?”

“What, in the last half hour?” I couldn’t take my eyes off the house. It really did appear to be freshly painted, and it was a color both of us loved—warm and sweet, like early morning sunshine.

We got out of the car. Walking a complete circle around the cottage, it was clear that there were no repairs needed. The porch floor was intact. Every shingle on the roof was perfectly in place. No window was broken.

Madge stared at the house, then placed hands on hips and stared at me. “When did you have time to—?”

“I didn’t!” I protested. “I would have, of course; I planned to! I—I wanted to see it first, but—” I stared back at her, and shrugged. “My flabber is gasted, Madge, what can I say?”

Open-mouthed, she studied me intently. She knew I wasn’t lying. “Well,” she said, “I don’t know whether to be amazed or terrified.”

I knew what she meant.

We had both seen the house before we arrived; we’d been seeing it off and on for miles. We hadn’t imagined the dilapidation.

Determinedly, I took out the key and marched up to the door. “Well,” I said, “I’m going to go with amazed. I’m sure there will be work to do inside, and we’ll do it. And it will all be amazing once we’ve moved in and made it our own.”

Inside, we discovered vague shapes under dust-covered sheets, and this was more like it—more like what one would expect of a house that had stood alone for a long time.

We lifted the sheets off carefully and took them outside for a good shaking, trying not to leave too much heavy dust in the house.

Under the sheets we found furniture that was perfectly intact and charming. Madge shook her head in disbelief. “Look at this beautiful chair!” She ran a hand lovingly over the tapestry. “I’ve always dreamed of having a chair like this.” She sank into a seat and sighed contentedly.

My grandmother had apparently been a fan of Queen Ann style; the table and chairs, the small sofa and the chair, a couple of occasional tables and a china hutch all reflected a time ages past. It was all in wonderful condition and beautiful, and I couldn’t believe our good luck.

We had rented a small furnished flat in the city for years, and had never owned much in the way of furniture. The moving van that was scheduled to arrive the next day had our clothes, musical instruments and books, and not much else.

“Let’s look at the bedrooms,” I suggested. “See what size bed we’ll be needing.”

The flat had featured a Murphy bed. “Ahh,” Madge sighed. “No more shoving the bed up into the wall! Joy, joy!”

We went upstairs. Furniture was covered with sheets in the bedrooms. The larger room held two full-size beds and two big chests of drawers. The smaller room held a queen-size bed, a wardrobe, a dresser and a chest of drawers. Neither room had a closet, but there was still plenty of storage space.

“How many kids?” Madge asked.

“Seven.” I grinned. “My mother was the youngest.”

“Wow. Close quarters.”

“We’ll have to clean up all this dust, but—I think we have everything we need!” I still couldn’t believe it. I flipped light switches. The power was on and working.

“I can’t believe no one wanted this house,” I continued as we went back down stairs that exhibited not a hint of a loose board or even a creak. “I think it’s charming!”

Sure, we were going to have to get a modern refrigerator and a washer and dryer, but those things seemed trivial now. I had anticipated a daunting job of repair and restoration, and now…

It was perfect, really. Anything else was going to be icing on the cake.

Madge slipped out the door and came back inside with my purse. “I think it’s time you read the letters your mother and grandmother left for you,” she said. “Maybe there’s some sort of explanation.”

“Like a caretaker or something?” I asked. “Okay.”

We sat at the table.

I read out loud. “My dearest Olivia.” I looked up at Madge and grinned. “Gramma never would call me ‘Liv.’ She said I had a beautiful name and I should insist on using the whole thing.”

Madge smiled. “She wasn’t wrong, Olivia.”

“Stop it.” I looked back at the neatly scripted letter in my hands. “I have prayed for the day when someone would love my little house enough to make it a home again. I miss it so, but your mother insisted that I should not be alone, and she didn’t want to live so far away.

“I agreed to live out my days with you and your mother, not because I was alone, but because you were. When your father died, I was afraid June might come to wish she could join him; they loved each other fiercely, and it was a great blow to her.

“I know now she will not return to her childhood home, and none of my children are interested in it either. I have left instructions that it will go to you.

“You need to know that the house is special. It has great character. If it is loved, it returns the love. If love dwells within its walls, it thrives. If you call it home, it will be restored.”

Madge gasped, and I felt my jaw drop as I looked up at her. “She meant that literally, didn’t she?” Madge asked. She didn’t need or expect an answer, and so I just smiled.

I opened the letter from my mother. “Livvy,” I read, and grinned. She wasn’t adverse to nicknames. “What Gramma said. Ha ha ha!

“I want you to know I did love that house. We all did. But we had to balance that with the need for schools close by and other things that we thought were so important at the time.

“I’ve gotten wiser in my old age, and wish I’d done differently. But I wanted things for you…

“Well. You’ve done good things with your life, and you deserve all the best, and this house will be the best thing for you. I feel that.

“At this stage of your life, you and Madge are free to live as you like, where you like in your retirement years, and I know you will make the house your beloved home.

“And it will love you back. Believe it.”

I could feel the tears slipping down my cheeks. I smiled at Madge and she smiled back. “I do believe it,” I said. “I do love it, too.”

“So do I,” Madge agreed. “Coming home is the best thing we’ve ever done.”

“It is.”

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Please visit Paula on her website: https://paulashablo.com/.

Cheryl Ann Guido: THE POET

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

THE POET

Cheryl Ann Guido

The sun hovered low on the horizon casting blood red and fiery yellow streaks across the half lit sky. Clouds had begun to gather forming patchy areas of smoky grey that threatened to consume the beautiful sunset. The smell of slightly damp air foretold the impending arrival of a soaking rain storm. It was obvious to the man that this old home had seen its share of weather throughout the years and had withstood the ravages of time. 

He stood in the entry of the old cottage, noting how its creaky wooden door appeared cracked and splintered with age. Not surprising for a small two-room house that had been standing for at least a hundred years. Its cream-colored masonry exterior was marred with smudge marks and chips and its roof had lost some shingles, but inside it was a treasure, with a large main room and an upstairs loft that greatly appealed to him. He needed quiet, a place to pen the multitude of thoughts inside of his rambling mind, and this tiny home surrounded by a lush forest was perfect. Turning to the proprietor, he reached inside a pocket, then dropped some coins into the other man’s hand.

“I’ll take it.”

Retreating back inside, he slammed the door shut without another word. The main room seemed cozy enough. An overstuffed chair was positioned directly in front of a huge fireplace. Near the rear wall, a wooden table with two chairs sat a few feet from a small square metal tub held in place by four tall rectangular wooden legs. An old hand pump, whose nozzle emptied cool fresh water into the tub, was attached to its side. It too appeared worn and scratched but it would do. He did not require much.

He set the small sack he had brought on top of the table, then glanced over at the fireplace. A stack of logs was neatly piled next to the hearth. Grateful that he would not need to chop wood until at least tomorrow, he placed some of them on a rack inside the hearth, opened the damper and removed some kindling from the small tin bin next to the woodpile. As he stuffed the twigs and leaves underneath the thick logs, his mind wandered, thinking of past events and what may lie in store for him in the future. When he was satisfied with the kindling arrangement, he removed the tinderbox from the mantle shelf and struck a sulfur match. Crouching down, he carefully ignited strategic areas of the flammable material and watched as growing flames appeared, dancing, crackling and lulling him into a trancelike state. Once the fire began to roar, he shook himself back to reality and stood up.

The unopened muslin sack caught his gaze and he realized that he wanted some refreshment. A shelf above the water basin contained a few plates and two wine glasses. He removed one of each and sat at the table. After unfastening the leather chord that secured the bag, he withdrew a single baguette, a hunk of cheese and a large bottle of Zinfandel. It was not the best dinner or the most expensive wine, but it was all that he could afford. Once again, his mind began to race, going over and over what had driven him to this isolated place. He broke off a piece of the bread and poured a generous amount of wine into the glass. As many do when alone, he began to speak aloud, knowing full well that there was no one who would answer.

“Why, my darling? Why? You were the light of my life, my heart burst with love for you. Now that you are gone, I am left to mourn the loss of you.”

Pushing the plate aside, he reached into the sack again and withdrew a few pieces of paper, a quill and an ink jar. He needed to write down his feelings, to tell the world about her. But how to begin? 

He dipped the tip of the quill into the ink and wrote: 

On a dark and moonlit night, I came upon a curious sight.

A maiden fair upon a bench, a porcelain-faced and black-haired wench

With eyes like moons in eves of June, I almost swooned from love’s sweet tune

He sat back in the chair, grunted, then scratched out the words with the tip of the quill.

“No.”

Beneath the discarded words he began again.

Oh sweet my lady beauty true, my love belongs to only you

“Argh, this is unacceptable!” 

He ripped up the paper and tossed the pieces into the blazing fire.

“Why am I finding it so difficult to write? I have never had a problem before. The words have always flowed easily. What madness possesses my mind?”

Before he could pick up the quill again, a crow began to caw loudly outside the window, scratching and poking the glass with its beak.

“Damned bird! Why do you torment me? It is night. You should be sleeping in a tree somewhere!”

He stood up and walked toward the window with the intention of shooing it away, but as he approached, the bird retreated and flew back into the darkness. The irony of the crow’s apparent anticipation of his action caused him to shake his head and laugh as he raised his fist and shook it in the air.

“Away with you, demon! And never return!”

Suddenly tired, he decided to rest in the big comfortable chair in front of the fire. Drink in hand, he sloshed the remaining wine around the edges of the glass goblet while he watched the flames change color from orange to yellow, to bluish white and back again. Soon, his eyelids became heavy. He fought the sensation for a few moments, but finally set his glass down on the floor and succumbed to the irresistible pull of sleep. As he slipped into unconsciousness, he envisioned the woman who had stolen his heart. Petite yet shapely, wearing a gown of purest white, he could almost feel his right hand upon her waist while his left gently held hers as they danced to a haunting waltz inside of a candle-lit gazebo near the edge of a lake. Round and round they whirled, both smiling, lost in their love for one another. She was a vision of beauty, the perfect woman, at least for him, and when she spoke, her voice tinkled like a thousand lilting musical bells. The light fragrance of Gardenia permeating the air as she moved was utterly hypnotic. Such a glorious evening, forever etched in his mind, to be relived over and over again. He just could not recall exactly which night it was. But it had happened, had it not? His mind frequently clouded as of late, and often it became difficult to determine reality from imagination. Well, no matter, she was real to him and their romantic evening had been this wondrous once upon a time.

A scratching at the window made his eyes snap open. “Must have dozed off. What a delightful dream.” He blinked and rubbed them as he saw that the big crow had returned. Narrowing his gaze, he glared with hatred at the intrusive visitor. “Damn you, bird! I should have brought a pistol along. Then I could have silenced your incessant cawing once and for all.”

The crow began to vocalize again, but the sound of its chirping was strange, quite unlike before and nothing like the normal chirping of such a bird. The man cocked his head in an effort to hear better. It was almost as if the black-feathered creature was trying to speak to him.

“What are you saying, little monster? Have you a message or am I still dreaming?”

The crow’s eyes bored into his own. Almost as if in a trance, the man walked over to the window and opened it. With a whoosh, the crow swept inside the room, flying like mad around the walls until it finally perched upon an old grandfather clock, a piece he had not noticed before.

“Ho! What is this? How could I have been so blind not to have seen a thing of that size?”

Rubbing his cheeks, he sank back into the big chair. Once again, the bird began to sing its strange song. As the fire continued to blaze, he heard a barely audible female voice humming the tune of a waltz, their waltz. The man bit his lip as he caught a fleeting glimpse of a voluminous white skirt fluttering in front of him. Looking up, he felt his heart begin to pound as he recognized the delicate pale features crowned by perfectly coiffed upswept black curls. Two large round pools of blue stared lovingly into his own eyes while blood-red lips pursed into a seductive smile, the same smile that had stolen his heart. Still seated, he reached out for her, but in that instant, the vision dissolved into wispy puffs of smoke. Gone also was the grandfather clock and the crow that had been perched upon it. He noticed with dismay that the fire was also extinguished, leaving him chilled and confused.

A deafening clap of thunder pierced the silence. A moment later rain began to pelt the glass of the window with loud continuous thuds. He could see that the window had been pulled shut, but by whom? Had he done it himself while in a state of delirium? Shaking off the thought, he decided that it would be best if he simply retired for the night. After ascending the rickety stairs, he lit the taper sitting on a small wooden table beside the bed. As the soft glow illuminated the room, he noticed a feathered quill lying upon a small piece of paper with a tiny bottle of ink on the nightstand. How odd, he thought, that there would be writing instruments in the bedroom of this old rented cottage. It is almost as if they were meant especially for me.

A tapping at the window caught his attention. “Oh bother, must be that infernal bird again!” But it was only a tree branch scraping against the glass in the wind. He swung his feet onto the bed, pulled up the old woolen blanket and stretched out. Folding his hands under the back of his head, he closed his eyes but was unable to sleep because of the constant thunder and the scraping against the window pane.

Exhaling loudly, he sat upright and ran his fingers through his hair. Eyeing the paper on the nightstand, he grinned broadly, for inspiration had finally come. After inking the tip of the quill, he began to write.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary …

{{~.~}}

Author’s Note: Edgar Allen Poe has long been a source of inspiration for me. As a teenager, I became enthralled by his work, reading every piece he has ever written. His exceptional style and creative genius spurred me to write my own stories and poems. This short story, though a work of fiction, is my humble homage to this troubled but extraordinarily talented man, an author of imaginative poetry and provocative fiction whose unusual and sometimes macabre storytelling continues to inspire not only myself but so many others even today as we aspire to hone our craft.

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Please visit Cheryl on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoautho

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Admin note: The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe may be found here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48860/the-raven

Happy Fifth Aniversary, Writers Unite!

“Four score and seven years ago….”

No, wait—the creation of Writers Unite! five years ago was not so momentous to warrant a quote from President Abraham Lincoln. However, the group has had an impact on a large community of writers.

In October of 2015, a few writers, tired of writing groups that offered no writing advice, only social gatherings, decided to create a group named Writers Unite! as a haven for writers to present their work and discuss writing without harsh words or ridicule. Respect and support for each other and the writing process is the group’s goal.

Five years have now passed, and we have certainly had our share of growing pains. Our insistence on keeping WU!‘s focus on the writing process and not self-promotion, we hope, has given writers a place, a haven as described, to share their work and improve their skills by helping each other.

We strive to provide fun, entertaining, educational articles, workshops, and writing prompts to help novice and experienced writers hone their skills. WU! also offers a public Facebook page for non-members and a web presence where we showcase our members’ writing, offer workshops, and members’ guest posts. Our efforts are to help members drive more traffic to their social media and, hopefully, their work.

WU! also sponsors an anthology series to provide members the opportunity to learn the publishing process and become published. The response to the calls for submissions for the anthologies has been exceptional, and we are publishing our fifth anthology, Dimensions of Paranormal, this month. Submissions for our sixth anthology, Dimension of the Wild West, are underway.

As we approach 75,000 members, I remember back to the early days when we were worried we would even get one hundred members. We have certainly surpassed that. Our growth has been phenomenal, and we are fortunate to have support along the way.

There are many people to thank for making Writers Unite! a success. A special note of thanks has to be to Paul W. Reeves, who joined WU! in 2016, and shortly after, asked if we would like to appear on his radio show, “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk,” which at the time was on a terrestrial station in Detroit, Michigan. At the time of our first appearance on the show, WU! had 6600 members. By the time we made our third appearance within three months on the show, we had grown to 23,000 members. With no other marketing efforts to account for the growth, Paul’s show gave Writer’s Unite! a boost among his international listeners. With that growth rate, Facebook’s algorithms kicked in, and we have seen steady growth since then.

Now with his internet radio station, Impact Radio USA, Paul, also a group admin, continues to highlight Writer’s Unite! and many authors (some members) on both “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” and “Impact Interviews and Music.” We are grateful for his continued support.

As the longest-serving admin for the group, I want to say unequivocally, this group would not be successful without the admin team in place. I cannot begin to explain how hard these admins work to keep this group running smoothly. It would take an exceedingly long post to list their accomplishments individually, but I must single out Lynn Miclea for her exceptional dedication to publishing the anthologies. Her expertise in editing and formatting is invaluable. To the rest of the team, Michele Sayre, Jessica Fisette, Stacy Smith, and Paul, thank you. Your dedication and support for Writers Unite! means everything. All hours of the day or night, they are willing to help.

However, there is one more team member, and that team member is more valuable than all.That member is you. Each of you, who as members, post, teach, mentor, discuss (okay, maybe debate at times), and create the value that makes Writers Unite! unique. Take a bow, you deserve it, and without you, this wouldn’t be fun.

As admins, when you tell us that in any way this group has given you the support or knowledge that has spurred you to write, complete a novel, or publish, you have made us proud. We don’t want accolades. Your success is enough.Thank you again for making this a fun, exciting, and quick five years. Here is to completed works and happy publishing.

The Admin Team

“Writers Unite!” Mission Statement:
To provide inspiration, instruction, and promotion for writers of all levels of expertise.

“Writers Unite!” Vision Statement:
To provide a haven for writers as they hone their craft.

A community for writers to learn, grow, and connect.