Kenneth Lawson: The Green Waters of 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! 

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The Green Waters of Home

By Kenneth Lawson

The pictures brought back memories. 

Memories that he wanted to stay in the deepest darkest recesses of his mind. It all came back to him in a flood of senses, the heat, humidity, and bugs. And the never-ending water. The fire, and the running and swimming for days on end. The creeks and streams seemed to go on forever, and there was no discernable way to navigate through the thick growth of trees and weeds and the creatures that followed him as he rode his too-small canoe through the water that still haunted his nightmare. 

He threw the picture down. It landed hard on the table, cracking the glass that held it inside the frame. “You want me to go back there?” 

“Yes.”

“I told you I’d never go back to that swamp again.” 

“I know, and I don’t blame you. But…” 

“NO BUTS… I’m not going.” He cut him off mid-sentence. 

The old man pleaded. “You know the way, and the people.” 

“And the people scare the shit out of me. What they tried to do to me last time…” 

“I know, I know, but you’re needed there. Things have gone from bad to worse. And you can stop it.” 

“Suppose I don’t want to?” 

“Then you’re just as much to blame as them.” 

He sighed and shook his head, and with finality that he’d made up his mind. “If I’m going to do this…” 

So, it came to pass, that he, Ben Roberts, returned to his native land, the Louisiana Bayou. Deep in the deep south, there is a place that few men dare to venture. But having been born there, he had refused to return for many decades. After they had killed his family and tried to burn him alive in a voodoo ritual, he barely escaped with his life. 

He still had the scars. 

While most didn’t show and were faded with time, he knew and remembered what they’d done every time he looked in the mirror. The anger came to boil on a regular basis. He wasn’t sure he could control his rage, much less gain control of the voodoo priest that was now in control of the small band of followers that were terrorizing the neighboring villages and towns. He knew that most of the older people still believed in the old ways and the power of the magic and spirits. 

The canoe paddle splashed as he shifted it in the green water. Ripples raced out from the edges of the canoe, ending when they ran into one of the trees growing deep in the delta bayou. The sound of birds was muffled by the canopy of leaves that shielded him from the hot August sun. 

Watching the canoe ahead of him, he tried to keep up, but his rowing skills were not to this guide’s level. Actually, he barely made his canoe move in the general direction he was aiming it for, and then not quickly. It had been decades since he’d been home. And he didn’t want to be here now. But it was necessary. 

Getting out, he followed the guide to the old village hidden deep in the swamp on a small patch of relatively dry land, that was still surrounded by water and trees that shielded both the sun and prying eyes. 

“You came back,” the priest said when he entered the small shack that served as both a temple to some kind of god and his house. 

“Yes, I’ve heard the stories. About you, and the troubles you’ve been causing. It’s time to stop.” 

The High Priest took a drink of his cold beer. “And you’re going to stop me?” He pretended to look scared. 

“I am.” 

“How, pray tell?”

Ben felt his anger starting to rise inside him. His pulse quickened and he felt the throbbing in his head. The throbbing of pain and blood pumping to his body under increased pressure. Struggling to control the rage that had been burning inside him for decades. He pulled out a revolver. The small-framed three-inch barrel gun had been easy to hide under his shirt, but now it was time. Time to settle old scores. 

Along the way here he noticed the building, new buildings that he suspected housed the illegal smuggling operations and other illegal scams they were running. The High Priest, as he called himself, looked over his beer at Ben’s gun. 

“You don’t really expect that to save you, do you?” 

“By itself probably not. But I brought friends.” 

“Friends?” 

“Yes. At this moment, this entire island and the surrounding islands are being surrounded by federal agents. Your guards were so doped up that not only did they miss us but they also didn’t find the GPS marker I am carrying. Which leads the feds directly to you. I had only one request of them. That they let me do this.” 

With that, Ben raised the gun and fired. The High Priest dropped to the floor. Within seconds several men came running from various parts of the building. Ben emptied his gun escaping the hut. The final report read that one Billy Bob Randolph, alleged leader of the gang using the voodoo spirits and practices as a front for various smuggling and other illegal operations, and who had been terrorizing the locals into submitting to them, and buying their overpriced and crappy goods for decades, had died in a shootout with the federal agents. 

Not that he had been killed by a fed but by a civilian. Recently, the situation had become more lethal as several people had disappeared and a couple of bodies found floating in the water. So, it was time to clean out the gang. The only way they could do it was with an insider, someone who had been there before and would be let in. Thus, Ben Roberts had been recruited for the job. His only request that he be allowed to kill the man who had killed his family decades before. 

Revenge in the green waters of home.

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Please visit Kenneth on his website and on Facebook: http://kennethlawson.net and https://www.facebook.com/kennethLawson/

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Kelli J. Gavin: Going Back

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! 

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Going Back 

By Kelli J Gavin

Michael winced at the pain in his shoulder. It had started hurting by about the fifth time he put the oar in the water. How was he going to make it home? Michael let the small boat float a bit as he took another drink from his water bottle and used the handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow and neck. Irritated that the water levels had dropped, he wasn’t able to drop the motor into the water. Using an oar would be the only way he would be able to return.

The morning he set out for home, he swore under his breath as he approached the dock. He didn’t have a plan, he wasn’t prepared for the elements. Michael knew that the phone call from the Sheriff was important, but he still wished he hadn’t answered the phone. His father had taken ill and hadn’t been to town in months. The road was almost impassable. First, washed out by floods and then so many huge holes that formed when the water receded. The Sheriff tried to check on him but couldn’t get his boat through the muck. He returned with a smaller boat a second time. With the water levels so low at this time of year, the Sheriff wondered if Old Man Lemond’s boat may have been stuck in the mud and he couldn’t reach out to anyone for help. The second time the Sheriff reached the narrow end of the channel, Old Man Lemond greeted him with a single shot from his old shot gun. No words were exchanged. That single shot was a warning to stay away.

Ms. Zimern tried calling every few days, but the phone stopped going to voicemail and now just continued to ring. Ms. Zimern was actually the one that alerted Sheriff Wallin to the fact that Lemond was ill in the first place. She was also the one that made sure the Sheriff knew he hadn’t been into town for a couple months for his staples of bread, frozen meals and powdered milk and plenty of canned goods.

Ms. Zimern was always incredibly friendly when she called Sheriff Wallin. Quiet and kind, that was Ms. Zimern. Michael was nine when his mother died, and Ms. Zimern had been called in to help care for Michael and his little sister, Nicolette. She had never married and found that caring for other people’s children brought her so much joy and filled the void. When she started cooking for their family, she also found herself then putting the children to bed at night and anticipating Lemond’s return home from the long shifts he worked at the factory in town.

Ms. Zimern cared for Lemond much more than she would ever admit. She once had dreams that they would marry one day and raise Michael and little Nicolette together. Such dreams never came true as Lemond held on to a liquor bottle much tighter than any relationship he had ever had. Lemond grew cold and distant and as his children grew, the need for Ms. Zimern became less. When Michael turned sixteen, she visited once a week to clean their home and to cook meals for the next few days which included plenty for leftovers.

When Michael turned seventeen, Ms. Zimern said it was too much for her and couldn’t return. Lemond had gotten drunk, came home in soiled clothing and tried to take advantage of her. In that moment, any dream she had about possible love and companionship dissolved right in front of her eyes.

Michael left home at the age of twenty. He had stayed at home two extra years just so he could keep a watchful eye on his little sister. When Nicolette graduated from High School, she ran out of the front door of the old cabin at the end of the narrow channel and never looked back. She and Michael excelled in their Freshman year at a small community college and once he saw that Nicolette was going to be just fine on her own, he knew it was time to start his own life. He dropped out of the school that they both attended and decided he wanted to pursue art while going to night school.

Michael’s artwork was dark. Mostly paintings of trees, grass and water, the vines were what grasped most people’s attention. They often were reaching out for people, strangling them and sometimes even pulling people into the deep. Night school enabled Michael to experiment with other mediums. Sculpture, clay, drawing, but he always went back to painting. He was at rest when a paint brush was in his hand.

Michael came to the realization that all he ever painted were scenes from his home. Where everything was green, muddy and wet. He felt a release when he painted. A calm would wash over him and he knew he could continue on. Michael took jobs here and there, washing dishes, cleaning barns, helping with cattle and horses, but only to pay his rent and put food on the table. He was fortunate to sell a few pieces and then scored a showing at the local art gallery. Every wall was bare by the end of the show. Commissions started pouring in and life became a bit easier. 

Michael began creating art full time and found a great space for a studio with an apartment above. He called Nicolette each week to check in with her. He started sending her money each month so that she wouldn’t have to worry about anything. She was grateful that her brother helped her pay off student loans and pay her rent.

When he left home with Nicolette in tow, he knew that his dad would just fall further and further into oblivion. Michael tried calling home a few times, Christmas, his dad’s birthday, but was always greeted with a snarl, “Who is this? Why are you calling?” The conversations always went downhill from there since his dad was probably double fisting bottles just to get through another day.

Michael knew going to see his father now that he was ill wasn’t going to be easy. If he fired a shot in the air at the Sheriff, chances are it would also happen to him. Michael also knew that he would need to announce himself as he slowly approached the property at the end of the channel.

Toiling over the fact that this might be the last time he saw his father, Michael realized his chest ached just as much as his shoulder. This was stress, he kept telling himself. You are fine. Just check on him, tell him who to call when he needs help, say goodbye, and go. That is all you have to do.

As he neared the property at the end of the channel, he observed that the water was no more than about three feet deep. No wonder the Sheriff couldn’t get his boat down there the first time. Michael shouted, “Dad! Dad, it is me, Michael! Dad, I am here to see you!”

There was no response. Michael announced himself again and his father never emerged from the small house. Slowly floating up to the rickety old dock, Michael reached out to grab the first metal post. He proceeded to throw a rope around the post and stepped out of the boat. Fearful that the dock wouldn’t hold his weight, he gingerly stepped on one board at a time until he reached solid ground.

Discovering that the front door was secured, he walked around back to see if that door had been left unlocked. It was unlocked just as it always had been when he and Nicolette lived there. His dad intentionally left it open for when they returned from school. Michael knocked as he entered. Old Man Lemond was seated at the kitchen table, bent over resting with his head on his arms. There were dishes and trash here and there and Michael knew that his dad must be passed out from the liquor that had already been consumed that morning.

Michael hesitated as he prepared to place his hand on his dad’s arm. That is when he saw the handwritten letter on the table and the discarded pen.

Dear Michael and Nicolette,

I am sure by now you know that I am sick. Liver Cancer. The doc said maybe a few more weeks. I don’t know. Each day gets more difficult. I hurt a lot and the pills he gave me don’t seem to help. I am lonely and it is time for me to go.

I love you guys. I am sorry. For everything. Your mother and I loved you both. I am sorry I was never the dad you needed. That I couldn’t be the dad you deserved. 

My pension is now managed at the bank in town. They also have an account that will pay for my final expenses. Burn this house. It isn’t worth much. 

The boat is at the bottom of the channel. The truck wouldn’t start. I couldn’t walk to town. I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t call anyone to come get me. Who would I call?

Tell Ms. Zimern I am sorry. Tell her. Don’t forget.

Thank you for…

Michael quickly flipped over the single sheet of paper to see what else it said. That was it. Nothing more. His dad must have passed out as he was writing it. He stuffed the paper in his pocket and reached forward to wake his dad.

Old Man Lemond wasn’t to be woken. Michael checked his neck for a pulse and placed his hand in front of his nose to check if he was breathing. He has passed away probably within the last twelve hours, Micheal thought. He sat down next to his dad and just sat in the quiet for a few minutes. No tears, no emotion. Just an acceptance of what had happened in the hours before he arrived.

Michael reached for his cell phone to call Sheriff Mallin. He told him his father had passed recently while writing a letter. And that they could probably get out to the house if they brought a 4×4. Sheriff Mallin was stern and serious, but never offered an apology to him that Old Man Lemond had passed.

Michael went to clear out a few things from the bedroom. His parents’ wedding picture, his mom’s dairies from the bedside table where they were always kept, and the Family Bible from the coffee table. He took his grandma’s silverware from the hutch and both the high school graduation pictures which hung in the hallway. That was it. Nothing else of worth, nothing else that was treasured. He found a duffel bag in the bedroom closet and placed each item in there. 

As Michael prepared to leave the house for the last time, he paused and went back to the kitchen. He pretended for just a moment that his dad was sleeping. He reached and touched his hand and saw that he was still wearing his wedding ring. Old Man Lemond had never recovered from losing his wife. Michael bent over and kissed his dad on the top of his head.

At the end of the dock, Michael sat down after placing the duffel bag of belongings in the boat. He removed his shoes and let his feet dangle in the water. When he got back to town, he would see if he could hire Ms. Zimern to clear out the home and then would place the property up for sale. Someone would like this land for hunting and fishing. But this land wasn’t a property he ever planned to go back to.

The Sheriff and Coroner arrived within a half hour and removed their hats. They took pictures and notes, made a few phone calls and then told Michael it was okay for him to leave. Michael then told him that he would be in town for a few more days and that he would plan on having his dad’s remains cremated and buried and that he would take care of the arrangements with the local funeral home. No service was necessary. Sheriff Mallin clasped Michael on the arm and nodded at him. Michael then returned to the dock and the boat which had carried him home.

Michael sat in the boat rowing slowly and knew that there was no going back. He would not return again.

That evening, he called Nicolette. A brief call, only to explain what had happened. No tears or consolation needed. Just an exchange of information. He then called Ms. Zimern. He shared the news. He asked her if he could hire her to clear out the house, and she immediately said yes. She went on to explain that she somehow knew that this would be the final way that she helped both he and Nicolette. She said she would indeed clear out the possessions and either leave or sell the furniture. He explained she could keep any cash she made.

“Ms. Zimern, my dad wrote a letter to my sister and I that I found on the kitchen table. He asked me to tell you that he was sorry.”

There was a long silence before Michael heard a stifled sniffle. “Thank you Michael for telling me that.”

Michael returned to his home, to art and the life that he created and loved. He hung three picture frames in his hallway. His parents’ wedding picture and Nicolette and Michael on their graduation days. The Family Bible and their mother’s diaries were kept in the duffel bag under his bed.

Michael was thankful for the last letter that his dad had written. He was thankful for an apology and thankful for a bit of closure. Micheal wanted to try something new. He felt inspired. No more darkness, no more vines and water and despair. Michael was going to focus all of his efforts on the sky, landscapes and nature. Scenes filled with light, with promise. Paintings filled with hope for the future.

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Please visit Kelli on her blog: https://kellijgavin.blogspot.com

Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”: Why Do We Write?

Please enjoy the podcast of Writers Unite!‘s first segment on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” which aired Friday, August 16th. Host Paul W. Reeves and WU! Admin Deborah Ratliff discuss “Why Do We Write?”

http://bit.ly/2TUd4sf

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Writers Unite! has the pleasure of being featured every Friday on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program on Impact Radio USA!

Host Paul W. Reeves, an educator, author, editor, musician, and composer, is familiar with all aspects of the writing process. He supports authors by providing them a platform to talk about themselves and their work to his large listening audience.

In a quest to bring the creative writing process to all, Paul has graciously asked Writers Unite! admin Deborah Ratliff to join him on Fridays to discuss the writing process.

Upcoming segments will address such topics as:

  • Being professional
  • Securing an agent or publisher
  • Independent publishing
  • Grammar
  • Writing that first novel
  • Marketing a book and an author
  • Business plan

We hope you will listen and that the information given will help you in your writing career or in taking that first step to writing a novel, short story, or a better letter to the editor.

The Writers Unite! segment airs on Fridays at 11:00 am EDT.

Go to: https://www.impactradiousa.com/ Click on Listen Now.

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” airs LIVE on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:00 am Eastern time.

Join Paul and his sidekick Arrogant Al for more than writing. There is news, sports, music, contests, and a lot of fun on each show!

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The podcasts of WU!‘s appearances on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” will be accessible for your convenience on a blog page entitled WU! On”Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”.

Bastian Kurz: The Witch of the Swamp

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! 

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The Witch of the Swamp

By Bastian Kurz

Baba Yaga

That was her name, she thought, as she splashed through the muddy waters of the swamp. Baba Yaga, that meant she was the witch of the swamp. She shouldn’t need to run for her life in her own swamp, her territory. 

A slimy, mossy root twined around her foot and she fell.

“Fuck,” she screamed as she fell, and after a huge splash, the water of the swamp filled her mouth, reducing her swear words to bubbles. Then, as she got herself up, the first hound reached her. Baba Yaga spit out the water of the swamp and her will manifested itself and turned the beast to ashes. She shook her head, her eyes gleaming in the dark of the night.

“I’ve run enough!” she screamed and water evaporated from her clothes as she dried at will. The root, entangled with her left foot, straightened itself and then grew to become a staff in her hand. Two other beasts, slaver dripping from their fangs, arrived and she pointed her staff at them. The two of them, their bones cracking, blood splashing, were crumbled to clods. Then her hunters arrived. The first bullet whizzed past her face and then a hailstorm of bullets broke loose. Baba Yaga, death in her eyes, was hit several times. Blood poured out of her wounds.

“I hereby maledict all of you with the curse of the Baba Yaga!” she muttered as she fell. The final curse of a dying witch unraveled and took the lives of the witch hunters.

A smirk on her face, Baba Yaga fell into the swamp waters never to be seen again.

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Please visit Bastien on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bastian.kurz.5

Marian Wood: Murder In the Amazon Rainforest

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! 

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

Murder in the Amazon Rainforest

By Marian Wood

The beautiful Amazon Rainforest

The birds were singing and the breeze was blowing through the trees, the crocodiles sat in the river. Sounds of the Amazon Rainforest were all around us. I am Matt. I and my friend Billy have always wanted to travel, to see the world. With a keen interest in rainforests, we were now exploring. It had been an interesting expedition up till now. We had planned a quiet trip, we had our notebooks and had worked out our route.

Taking the helicopter from the airport, we had both felt the trepidation as we saw the river below us. Had we known what was ahead of us, we would have been too scared to leave our homes. Walking along the banks of the river, we became aware that we were not alone. There were plenty of wild creatures but these were human voices.

The men were talking in hushed tones. We now strained to hear them.

“Where we putting her?”

“Wouldn’t ‘ere be a good place? Forever with the crocs in the rainforest.” His friend laughed nastily.

They proceeded to dig a hole, then we watched them throw her into it. We both stood frozen, not sure what to do now. My heart was racing so fast that I felt sick. Who was the dead woman? What was going on here?

* * * *

Caroline

Crime and greed, the two go together. So, what had happened? Running a crime syndicate required muscle and control. Those who didn’t obey were dealt with severely. On this day mad George had been watching creepy Caroline. Her actions did not seem to match her intentions. He knew that if something was not done soon they risked losing everything.

Caroline had always been an attractive woman and had always gotten what she wanted. Always trusting her own abilities, she never imagined that George would turn against her. He was supposed to love her. This day had been unexpected, promises of a romantic holiday had ended now in the Amazon Rainforest.

She knew something was wrong when they had gotten in a helicopter from the airport. Then meeting Wild Roger, she had started to feel dread. Their first night there in the stinky smelly hut had been hell, no washing or toilet facilities, this was certainly not a romantic holiday. Catching the two men discussing the cash had been her final downfall. She hadn’t noticed the dagger until it was in Roger’s hand and pressed up against her chest.

Misery

Spending the rest of the day bound and gagged, trapped in her own misery, in the heat of the rainforest in her toilet-stained trousers, she knew this was the end. The men wanted the money for themselves. She had sat wondering if George might turn on Roger. Hoping that maybe he would save her, but also knowing that was unlikely.

If Creepy Caroline had been aware of the two explorers she might have tried making a noise, but she sat quietly. Imagining an empty desolate forest, what really was the point in trying to make noise? Especially with the gag in her mouth. Sitting plotting her revenge on Wild Roger, she would need to somehow get the dagger off him. She could see the shock on his face as she got the better of him.

The men return

After sitting alone all day, they now returned. Straining against the gag, Roger now took it off her. Staring into his cold blue eyes, she could see the meanness and evil, maybe even the face of a psycho. Looking up she looked at George and pleaded and stammered, “Please, can we go home now?” 

He stood quietly looking at her. He knew she would do or say anything to get out of this; she could not be trusted.

They could have been together if it wasn’t for the sake of Roger and a few million pounds. However, how could anyone really love this scheming manipulative bitch? He thought of the people she had hurt and now saw her on the floor, vulnerable and smelling of her own stale urine. Searching in his pocket he found his small handgun. Wouldn’t take much to blow her head off. Maybe later he would do the same to Roger. The money would then be all his.

George’s decision

Thinking it through again, he knew he had his chance. She still trusted him, so would not expect this, he thought. Putting his hand around the metal, he felt for the trigger. Already loaded, he would just need to point and fire. Shaking now, he found himself doing it. A romantic liaison had turned into ‘murder in the rainforest.’ It took one sudden sweep from his pocket to pulling the trigger. He felt the gun ricochet and saw her shock as she went from conscious to dead.

“Whew, good one, mate. Didn’t think you had that in you.”

“No neither did I.” Stood in shock, he had actually killed someone. He had killed the woman who two days ago he had discussed a romantic break with. What sort of person was he? He didn’t know.

* * * *

Captured

It was now late afternoon; we had hoped the men had gone. Though we hadn’t heard a helicopter, we had decided that they must have caught it a little way away. We had not lit a fire that evening because if the men were still around we did not want to alert them. We had been talking quietly, both thinking of stopping our adventure early. It was Monday today, we had been here since Saturday. Due to being collected the following Saturday, we now wondered whether to light a flare in hope of going home early.

We had come to explore the rainforest though, and if the gangsters really had gone, then one dead woman shouldn’t stop our fun. Kidding ourselves that all was okay, the sudden feeling of cold metal on my neck made my stomach turn over. I’m sure my heart stopped beating through fear. As the man pulled me up, I grabbed my backpack. Thankfully the man was too stupid to question this. Looking over at Billy, I could see that he was being dragged along too.

The hut

“Where are you taking us?” I asked.

“Somewhere you can’t talk,” said the tall cruel-looking man. Stumbling through the forest, this really was it. I could see that Billy was scared too. He hadn’t said a word, but I could hear him whimpering. I thought about the flare; I just needed to set if off and try and get help.

We reached the little hut in the rainforest and were pushed inside. Straight away we could smell urine and the dark mustiness. Cobwebs and scary giant spiders.

“What we doing with them?” said the shorter weasley-looking man.

“Tie ’em up, they mighta seen’ something. We need time to get away. They can rot here, no one will know where they are.” His friend laughed an evil cackling roar.

We allowed ourselves to be tied; as long as I still had my backpack I knew we would be fine. I had dropped it in the dank corner, hoping the men would forget about it. All they seemed concerned with was binding and gagging us.

“Right, come on man, don’t want more problems,” said the tall cruel-looking man. Giving us both a quick kick in the shins and chest, they now left.

Tied up

The ropes were tight and the gag tasted disgusting. I wondered if mine had previously been in the lady’s mouth and shuddered. Now wriggling across the room as best I could, I eventually reached my backpack. Manipulating it with my head, I managed to turn it over and was relieved when its contents spilled over the floor.

Hands tied behind me, I now wriggled around to find my knife. Feeling for it, I was glad when the sharp blade touched my hand. I had seen this in films, I now had to somehow cut through the rope without cutting my wrists. Working at the rope I managed to loosen it a little which enabled me to get the sharp blade to cut through the knots binding me. Now free, I pulled out my gag and cut through the rope around my feet. I then helped Billy and we were now free.

“Matt, what now? What if they come back?”

“We need to get out of here and then set off the flare. We need to get away from this hut and report what we have seen and heard.”

“Why didn’t those men kill us, Matt?”

“Don’t know mate, but seriously we just need to get away from here.”

Escape

Limping a little, feeling the wounds on our legs and wrists, we walked away from the hut back into the rainforest, hoping that we were not about to walk into the men. Hearing a helicopter, we now hid back in the trees, not wanting to be seen. It was not one we recognised from the mainland. There was no company name emblazoned down the side. These men must have had a third accomplice and why they came to the Amazon Rainforest with their dirty deals.

Now watching them disappear into the distance, we waited till we could no longer see them. Unpacking my backpack again, I found my flare. We had abandoned our belongings; for now, we just needed to get help. Setting it off, we wondered how long we would have to wait. About an hour later we heard a rumble. Both of us felt a wave of relief when we recognised the mainland helicopter, with ‘Amazon Rainforest Choppers’ written down its side. Knowing that we were safe, we walked out into the clearing and explained to the pilot about the two men and the woman. He then talked into his radio.

Rescue

A little while later we heard more helicopters. Black, blue and white this time, the Amazon Rainforest police. They took statements from both of us and wanted to know where the lady was buried. Nervously we led them to her shallow grave. Digging her up, she was recognised immediately. Caroline Waters, she was wanted for quite a few crimes in these parts.

“Would you two mind accompanying us to the police station? We need you to identify the men who tied you up. We think you have come across a major crime syndicate here.”

“Yes, of course,” I said.

“Can we please collect our belongings?” said Billy.

“Yes, Fred, could you go with the lads and help them. Meanwhile, we will send Caroline back to the mainland.”

Things went smoothly from there. Fred helped us to take down our campsite and we were soon at the police station on the mainland. The men were George Miller and Roger Willis, wanted for money laundering, burglary, assault, and fraud. It was a few weeks later that we heard that they had found George Miller alone, hiding in a dark hotel room. A few days later they had found Roger’s dead body with a bullet wound in his chest. There was no sign of their other accomplice who flew the helicopter; we wondered who he was and the police are still investigating.

Crime and greed

All because of greed, a man and a woman were dead. If they had to commit the crime, surely a few million was enough to split three ways. Billy and I would have been happy with one million as a reward. We were mentioned in the newspaper and awarded for our bravery. This was enough, it had been a terrifying ordeal and we were relieved that they had not killed us when they could have.

We were lucky that they had not checked my backpack. The knife had cut our ropes and the flare had gotten us home sooner. So, where are we travelling to next? Certainly not to a rainforest, maybe we will find an empty bleak mountain to explore, surely we can’t find trouble there? Or can we?

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Please visit Marian on her blog: https://justmuddlingthroughlife.co.uk

Charles Stucker: Northwest Through the Swamp of Life

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! 

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

Northwest Through the Swamp of Life 

By Charles Stucker

The cypress moaned in the warm summer breeze, an eerie sound that filled the swamps with ghosts of Caddo and Comanche raiders. Josiah poled the small punt through the still green water, ignoring the midges and mosquitoes which swarmed him. Periodically, he checked his compass to insure he kept the bearing for the Gibson place. His seven years tutelage under legendary Mike Carson honed him to the bland-faced, hardened lawman who now sought three brothers for the murder of a black family outside Round Prairie. With his horse safely resting at a stable back in Texarkana, he slid forward, toward his targets. A bag of gear resting under the boat’s single bench and a double-barrel Greener shotgun completed his equipment. 

Something disturbed a flock of birds in the middle distance. He heard them, even individual wings flapping, but did not spot them. Worried that he might move forward into an ambush, he pulled the pole from the water and rested it athwart the gunwales. The punt rocked gently and slowed its forward progress while Josiah reached down and then brought the Greener to his shoulder. He recalled Mike’s laugh the first time he tried to fire the ten-gauge gun and fell backward onto his tailbone. He wished Mike were here but knew he was busy chasing a band of comancheros who ran guns and liquor to the Apache out near Pecos. 

A hundred yards distant, more birds rose in noisy display. Suddenly, fearing a flanking move, Josiah risked snakebite and jumped into the water. Grabbing the towline in his left hand, he waded through the hip-deep water toward a small rise. A shot rang out, followed by a voice, “Shouldn’t aught to of follered us, law-dog.”

“I ain’t here to fight, just let you know it ain’t all that bad,” Josiah called as he released the line, grabbed his small bag out from under the seat and shoved between reeds into a blind spot. They might shoot all day and never hit him. His bag contained enough vittles to last three days, and enough extra ammunition to hold off a dozen men. Hoping to resolve things without shooting—Judge Williams frowned on killing suspects, and Josiah aimed to keep him happy—he made another call. “Them folks from Round Prairie just need to know if you took their bible.”

“Why’d a body want a Goddamned bible?” a new voice, nearer, called.

“Inheritance. It lists all the relatives. Nobody actual cares about killin’ darkies.” Josiah tensed and ducked. He could sense them moving in from all directions. If he kept talking, they would trap and kill him. A shot rang out and the round whistled past, skimming low over the water, missing him by inches. He played his best card. “Mike Carson is headed this way. You shoot me, you’ll run forever.”

“Ever ranger claims they’s Carson.”

“Shut it Evrit. He said Carson’s a comin.”

“Damn it, boy. I done tole you don’t mention no names around the law.” A new voice, a powerful baritone against the whining tenors of the brothers.

“Mister Gibson, your boys ain’t in all that much trouble,” Josiah called again. “They come in peaceable and most they’ll get is six months. If a white jury can be found as will convict ’em.” 

“You ain’t Carson? I hear he loves them niggers. His own sister’s shacked up with a damn Mex.”

“You got that right. My paw died at Pittsburg Landing. Can’t stand them darkies—they as much as kilt him.”

“I fought beside Bill Anderson,” Gibson replied. “Missed the raid on Lawrence, but we kilt a whole heap o’ Yankees.”

“I’d shore thank you if we could take care o’ this afore Mike gets here.” Josiah listened to quiet movement as the three brothers moved toward their father. He steeled himself for what must come. He slogged out of the water, the bag strap slung over his shoulder and the Greener in both hands, but pointing down at the ground. “Iffen we get a trial finished, Carson cain’t touch ’em. Law says so.”

“Come on out. We’ll finish this right here,” Gibson called. Josiah had no doubt they waited for him to drop his guard and kill him. He fumbled his bag open and put six shotgun shells into his shirt pockets, then put a fresh box of forty-fives into the pouch on his belt before dropping the bag. He took a moment to check his Schofield, insuring the revolver had no mud in the action. Then he continued, threading his way through the tough, tangled Spanish moss, hanging like nooses from the trees, until he reached the edge of a clearing. He recognized the trap. Gibson, a paunchy little man with a corncob pipe between his teeth, sat on a log across the clearing from where he stood. A woman, her face down, with a dingy apron and a red scarf over her head, stood directly behind him. In the dim light of the swamp, he could not be certain if she was white, Mexican, or Negro, but her stance indicated a captive. To the left, two brothers argued over a pot of stew. He did not spot the third. 

Josiah stepped forward, watching in his peripheral vision for movement. As soon as he emerged from the brush, Gibson stood and waved him forward. “You got a good head, boy.”

At that moment, the brothers by the fire pulled their pistols and the third stood from concealment behind the woman, a Sharps’ trapdoor rifle in his hand. Josiah jumped to the side just before a shot rang from the Sharps. The two brothers fanned their rounds toward him, but he ignored the bullets passing over his head to bring his barrel to bear on the elder Gibson who tried to pull a shotgun from where it lay along the log, nigh invisible in the light and distance. Two thunderous shots rang as one, but Gibson’s blast went into the ground as he doubled over with a load of buckshot in his belly. Josiah turned and shot the two by the fire, the pellets spreading enough to strike both. 

He leapt to his feet and dashed toward the last brother, just as the mulatto woman he hid behind turned and brought a knee up into his thigh, causing him to fumble reloading the Sharps. Josiah caught him aside his head with the butt of his Greener, then dropped it to draw his Schofield. He need not have bothered. Only one of the Gibson brothers remained active, and he cradled his brother, whose blood bubbled from a pierced lung. 

Shaking his head in consternation, Josiah gathered their weapons, then put manacles on the conscious one. The mulatto approached him. “Suh, what am I gone to do?”

“How old are you?” Josiah guessed under twenty.

“Nigh onto fifteen, suh.” She motioned to the dead body of Gibson. “He kilt my baby.”

“I’m sorry.” Josiah fought the desire to take in four dead bodies. “I can take you to the church at Whitelake. They might make a place for you.”

“Why you do that. You hate us.”

“I just said it so to bring them in to pay for their crimes.” He studied her for a moment. “If Gibson got a deed to this here land, then as his wife, you inherit. I can see to that much.”

“We was never married.”

“You had a baby by him. That’s close enough for me.” He knew how Mike would feel about it. No matter how treacherous the swamp, you only needed a good compass to get through.

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Please visit Charles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Charles-Stucker-103988060951288/

Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”

Join host Paul W. Reeves and Deborah Ratliff from Writers Unite! as they discuss all aspects of the writing process on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”, Impact Radio USA!

Go to: https://www.impactradiousa.com Click on Listen Now!

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” airs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:00 am EDT pm on Impact Radio USA. (Shows repeated throughout the day.)

Paul and his sidekick Arrogant Al bring you the best in music, fun song contests, news, sports, general info, interviews (with a lot of authors) and the best… uh… worst.. no… best jokes around!

Roger A. Legg: My Swamp

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! 

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

My Swamp

By Roger A. Legg

The paddle dipped into the black water as the canoe slid forward. This process was repeated over and over again as the white-barked trees slid by. Just ahead was the marker tree. A tree that looked like the tens of thousands of other trees that were all around them. But this tree had a broken branch that refused to separate itself, so it hung there, lifeless. That was the way of things here. Lifeless thinks hung about, on trees, bushes or in the water. Nothing really moved, except for the animals, and they usually hid behind the dead things. 

Suddenly a bird flew from a tree next to the canoe and an alligator’s head slipped below the waterline. He was the intruder here. He and his man-made object didn’t fit in with the rest of the trees and it moved contrary to the water’s flow. Jason put his paddle on the other side and started the turn. He needed to go right just before the marker tree. If he waited too long he would run afoul on a tree trunk just below the water. He had to repair his canoe the first time he found that stump. Now with all his supplies, he didn’t want to do that again. Two more turns and he would be on the home stretch. A small island that you could barely tell was land. The trees and shrubs covering his little island refused to give it up. Jason had to settle with using the trees as pedestals for the foundation of his shack. Their firm grip on the land would last decades and hopefully, he would have moved on by then… hopefully.

The rhythm of his paddling continued. He was not in a hurry and the sun wouldn’t set for another four hours. The gnats darted at his mask and the mosquitoes were digging at the seams in his clothing. They would soon give up as they always did and he would make it to his sanctuary. The two-roomed shack that he had built from scratch, or rebuilt, as the first one collapsed within a week. It only took a month of paddling in scrap wood from various locations. A grocery store, the local hardware store, and occasionally a job site just at the edge of town. Pallets were the best as they came with nails. He would carefully remove them and then reuse them in building his home. The first year he was here, the shack only had one room. Lots of shelves, but just one room. 

He had a small deck where he fished for food. After six months he knew where the best place to find crawfish and bass. He still had trouble with eating catfish, but the taste would grow on him. Now almost five years into his solitude he had two rooms, a separate bathroom and two storage units at other places in the swamp. This way if someone found and raided this place he would have enough to last until he could replenish his supplies. 

Jason passed the old oak tree. It was the only one in this section of the swamp. It towered over the other trees in the area. The leaves were on the smallish size and had a brown tone to its green. The tree itself had a huge trunk that broke into thousands of branches that fanned out to find the sun. Jason liked to stop here to rest as the leaves created an umbrella that the sun could not shine through. But today he just glided by and kept up his leisurely pace. Today he needed to get back to his shack. He had something he wanted to try and he needed daylight to do it. So, no stopping. He put his paddle in and with one strong stroke the canoe sailed on. 

Two more turns at yet more markers that no one would know, but his shack came into view. It was straight ahead. A thick bunch of trees that both reached to the sky and hung down to the water. Jason kept up his pace. A quick look around assured him that he was not followed. Not that anyone would be interested, but it was always on his mind. He lived on his own and he had stuff worth stealing or even being killed for. Especially now, with his latest find. Jason lifted his paddle but didn’t drive it into the water. He paused and looked around again. If there was any sign that he was followed or that anyone was watching he would turn and move away from his home. But again today he was alone. So he let the canoe dive into the branches that hung down. They brushed by him on both sides and he dug his paddle in and gave one good stroke. Once past the first layer of branches, the water was clear of debris and he was able to paddle up to the dock. He quickly tied off the canoe and stood up. He stepped carefully onto the dock and kept his hand on the rope leading to the front of the canoe. He would tie it to the lift and pull the canoe out of the water. With it tied off, he returned to the back and tied it to the other lift. Then in one smooth motion, the canoe was out of the water and dripping on the dock. 

Jason pulled the tarp off his find and threw it on the upper deck. He then lifted a steal contraption from the canoe. It took him close to an hour to reconstruct it as there were no instructions, but he managed to get it done and moved it to its place inside the shack. Now, fully assembled, it was not only heavy but bulky. He had to move it one side at a time. He walked it into the shack and put it near the window that faced in the direction of the oak tree. He then went and got a few pieces of wood and brought them into the shack. He placed them in his newly assembled wood stove. He loved the idea of not having to cook outside in the rain anymore. It would also provide some heat on the few mornings that frost actually visited this swamp. Yes, this was going to be much better. He put the wood in, careful to make a small pile of kindling that he could easily light. At first, white smoke started to come out of the wood that was over the kindling, then a small fire with more smoke, but instead of heading out the window the smoke started to fill the shack. Jason looked around for his pitcher. He needed to put out the fire, but the smoke got worse. He ran out of the shack and pulled the pitcher out of his rain barrel and filled it. He held his breath and ran back in. Splash and the fire was out, but the smoke lingered all evening. The typical breeze refused to blow and his poor shack had smoke seeping out of every crack and crevice. Finally, just before sunset, he was able to breathe inside his home. Jason pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket and, with a short pencil, one that was tossed away being too small to be useful, he wrote “P-I-P-E” on a scrap of paper. He then put the paper back into his pocket and got ready for bed. He was going to have to risk another trip into town. He hated going back and forth so often, but he wanted his stove to work. And he was going to have to find some of his money and go to the hardware store and buy it. 

That night all the parts and pieces he needed to complete his stove appeared and arranged themselves in the correct order. It was simple, but come the light of day, the dream faded with the dark and Jason had to figure it all out again. That’s why he was here. Jason used to have a thriving business and a family, but since the accident, all the thoughts and dreams just seemed to drift in and out. He wished he had a way of recording his dreams, maybe then he could get some of his life back. 

Anger filled his face, he couldn’t get them back. No, they were irreplaceable. Tears started to fill his eyes. Then as suddenly as it started, Jason yelled “NO!” and it all vanished. Their faces, their names, his life. Gone. Back into the part of this mind that no longer worked as it should. To a place that teased him. Giving him a glimpse of what he had and what he lost. 

“Pipe,” Jason said out loud as he read what was written on the paper in his pocket. He looked at the stove then nodded his head. He took the pencil out and wrote near the word pipe, “M-o-n-e-y” then “4 inches.” Jason took another piece of paper from the tablet on the shelf by the front door. He carefully folded it and placed it in his right pocket. He then took the paper he wrote the words on and made a picture of how he wanted the pipe to be. He placed this paper in his left pocket. Jason then collected some dried fish, a canteen, and a rain jacket and headed back to his canoe. He would go to his storage, then read his paper. From there he would make his way to town and if he was lucky, get what he came for. 

That night as Jason pulled his canoe from the water he pulled the paper out of his left pocket and examined it. Nothing was written on it. “Good, I didn’t forget anything.” He went in, prepared the stove and lit it. The cabin filled with smoke and he ran out to fetch the water to put the fire out. He waited all evening for the smoke to clear and then went back in. This time he pulled the paper from his right pocket and swore to himself. “Well, maybe tomorrow.” Jason put the paper back in his right pocket and went to sleep. 

The owls stopped their screeching when they heard the cries of agony coming from a small clump of trees that smelled like smoke. He’d remembered what brought him here and what he had lost. The vision of their broken bodies filled his nightmares. Then he fell into a deep sleep and it all faded with the sun…

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Please visit Roger’s blog at: https://ralegg.blogspot.com

Sarah Anne Steckel: Transcendent Recurrences

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! 

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

Transcendent Recurrences

By Sarah Anne Steckel

The two of them quite a pair; Newo with her tawny complexion and vivid pink hair, as she walked beside her much taller and paler companion. As they passed under the streetlights, she glanced up at him, noticing how the luminescent light reflected off of Vortex’s bald head, and chuckled softly.

“What?” He looked down at her and tried to hide the smile that was pulling at the corners of his lips. When she failed to reply, he asked, “Have you been in the city long?”

“No, actually I just got in last night.” Newo crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him, the quick pace she needed to keep up with him slowed to a halt. As the adrenaline of first initially finding him wore off, his question reminded her of how she’s been spending the last couple of lifetimes finding him. Her eyes narrowed at him and she scoffed, “I’ve been busy searching every major city for you for the past couple of years, haven’t had the chance to sightsee.”

“Maybe we can start tomorrow, I know my way around here alright, what would you like to see?” He was oblivious to Newo stopping in her tracks and continued to walk for a few more paces before he noticed her absence and turned around to face her. He smirked and shook his head slowly from side to side. “What, you’re still mad that I didn’t come find you this time?”

“The past…” Newo counted out on her fingers, tapping each finger twice. “Ten times!”

“No, it hasn’t been that long…”

“It so has been that long!” Her voice raised, the tone verging toward angry. “Ten lifetimes! T-E-N.”

Vortex shook his head wildly and rubbed the back of his head anxiously. “How can you remember all of this?”

“Really?” At a loss for words, she watched as Vortex walked a few more feet away and motioned to the front door of a run-down bar. She sighed loudly and shook her head, looking to the other side of the street before pointing at a bar that was illuminated by several bright neon lights. “I want to go over there.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Newo, we’re already on this side of the street!”

As the traffic in the street cleared, she stepped off of the curb and began taking several steps, the bright lights reflected off of her vivid hair and turned it into a rainbow of violet, magenta, and teal. Newo shouted over her shoulder as she stopped in the center of the road. “Nope, I’m halfway there!”

“Fine, whatever,” Vortex said with an angry sigh and opened the door to the small dive bar, not closing it until after Newo disappeared behind the door to the other place. 

Newo stormed the dancefloor and promptly marched right up to the bar and flagged down the barback. Slamming her fist down onto the hard oak countertop she loudly demanded, “Double shot of vodka!”

“So demanding…” A suave voice whispered into her ear, its familiarity causing Newo to miss grasping a hold of her shot glass when it was handed to her. The glass struck the counter, the alcohol spilling over the rim and splashing her hand and shirt. Newo’s eyes glazed over, her mind falling into a maze of memories; unlike Vortex who she always remembered when she woke up in a new life, she could never recall the owner of this voice until it spoke to her.

As she began to break free of her forgotten memories, Newo found herself muttering under her breath, “Calamity.”

“I found you,” Calamity said with a smirk. His face was so close to hers that he could smell the perfume that she dotted behind her ears. Slowly he leaned back and lifted his drink up to his lips, and when he lowered his glass his face was contorted into a broad smile. “In fact, I’ve been waiting for you here all night.”

“You’re drunk!” Newo halfheartedly reprimanded, but her face quickly twisted into a playful grin.

“When am I not dunk, woman?” Calamity cheered as he reached into his pocket and removed a handful of bills and tossed it in the barback’s direction. He pointed at Newo’s spilled drink and wriggled his fingers four times. Returning his attention to his pink haired friend, he chuckled loudly. “Which means that you’re gonna need to catch up!”

“How did you know that I was going to be here?”

As her drinks were placed in front of her, Calamity urged her to drink them one after another, and only spoke after she finished all four shots. “I always know where you’re going to be.”

“Only once a lifetime?” Newo grinned faintly and rested her arms on the corner of the bar, and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Why is it I only come across you once?”

“I’m your ‘missed once in a lifetime’ chance! One of these times, you’ll pick me and not Vortex. I just have to be the first to find you.”

Newo mumbled something about him coming close this time as she turned her head away from him. Her thoughts returned to the few and seldom times that she had come across Calamity, and there were only two other lifetimes that she was able to recall. In each time, he always just saddled up beside her and spoke to her as if they had always known the other, as if he simply walked away seconds ago. He spoke as if everything they said to one another was one giant inside joke, and always seemed to have a juvenile smile on his face.

As if he could read her mind he asked, “Do you remember the first time we met?”

“Well, the time before this one was the sixties…”

“Ah, the sixties…!” Calamity sighed longingly. “All of those drugs I did!”

“Then the late eighteen hundreds… Wasn’t that the first time?”

“Nuh uh, nope!” Calamity shook his head. A smile formed on his face as he reached out and poked the tip of her nose playfully. “And you pride yourself on such a good memory!”

“Well, smartass, why don’t you remind me then, how did we meet? Cal—stop that!”

Newo watched as Calamity produced a rolled joint from his coat pocket and lit it. She narrowed her eyes and frantically tried to take it from him. “You can’t smoke that in here!”

“The more of a fuss you make, the more you draw attention to it,” he replied nonchalantly and continued to smoke it. “And besides, what are they gonna do… kick me out? It looks like we’re just goin’ for a walk then!”

Falling silent for several moments, he puffed on his joint and continued to guzzle back more of his drink. His eyes glazed over and for the briefest of seconds, Newo got the distinct feeling that he had forgotten she even existed. Loudly she cleared her throat, and she watched the light in his eyes brighten as he glanced back over at her. “You were saying?”

“Oh yeah…” Calamity smiled. “We met a long time ago… back before the Temple of Radiant Winds was a ruination.”

Newo breathed a heavy sigh; the inside of the large bar suddenly felt small and quite claustrophobic. A time that long ago was quite hard for her to recall; her brows furrowed as she struggled to recall the faded memories. “I was… a temple servant… And Vortex was in the king’s army… The army had come for shelter, away from the goblin army that threatened the nearby borders.”

“Yes…” Calamity hissed into his glass. “I was with Vortex that night, do you remember?” As he snubbed out the end of his joint, he noticed the barback and other patrons were glaring in his direction, and shugged to himself. Finishing off the last of his drink, he grabbed her by the hand and began walking away from the bar. “C’mon, let’s go for that walk.”

As their hands touched, the memory appeared vividly in Newo’s head; she recalled seeing Calamity beside Vortex as the three of them stood in the waist-deep waters of the flooded river. They waded between the thicket of oak trees, and Newo, who was weighed down by her long servant robes, was finding it hard to continue on. Her legs and feet were coated in heavy mud, and twice she fell and sunk down below the water.

“I got her, keep going!” Vortex shouted as he scooped her up into his arms. “The horde made it to the temple, the quickest way out of here is down the river!”

“We’re not going to be very fast wading through this mud, Vort!”

“Calamity, just keep going!”

As Vortex continued to carry her while he stumbled along in the muddy waters, Newo began to notice periodic sightings of armed goblins. All of those that they passed by had noticed the trio, but all failed to attack. Newo grinned and whispered loudly to the other two, “They think we’re also goblins, hunting after the humans who’ve escaped.”

“How do you figure that?” Vortex asked.

“Isn’t it something like goblins’ sight is bad at night?” Calamity slowed his pace so he was walking beside Vortex and Newo.

“Yes, their sight at night is poor, and the mud we’re coated in offers us a slight disguise.”

“So, once the first one from way back realizes that we weren’t goblins, and runs ahead and alerts the next dozen…” Calamity looked nervously between Newo and Vortex before continuing. “We have a small horde to fight in the middle of a swamp, whilst protecting a damsel!”

“I am no helpless damsel, sir!” Newo scolded bitterly through gritted teeth. “Give me a weapon, I will defend myself, just you see!”

“You stay put and do as you’re told!” Calamity growled and pointed at her. “Let the men handle this, we don’t need you getting in the way and ruining things.”

“Put me down! Give me a weapon and I’ll fight you right here!” Newo began to yell, causing Vortex to open up his arms and allow her small body to plummet into the water. He growled and hissed in a low and angry tone, “This is why and when we’re going to be discovered as humans, this right here. Well, here you go, now’s your chance to see how well you stand in a fight!”

As Newo got to her feet, Vortex shoved a small short sword into her hands, and then motioned to the thirteen goblins that ran up the banks of the river into sight. In haste she hacked away at the mud-saturated skirts of her temple robe, in an attempt to make it easier for her to maneuver in the waist-deep water. As she readied her blade, she watched as the first three goons took off running directly at them. Vortex chopped the head off of one, and Calamity ran his sword through the center of the second two.

“If we keep heading East like we are, the river gets deeper and the current grows stronger,” Newo shouted. “It makes for a quick way out!”

“Best suggestion we got!” Vortex nodded, striking the next attacking goblin with the hilt of his sword. The creature sunk into the water, and the trio continued their backwards trek in the river. Farther behind them, the water’s current began to turn from stagnant to trickling.

As they continued with their retreat, Newo felt a hand grab her ankle from underneath the water, and it forcefully pulled her under. As a second hand grabbed ahold of her waist, she felt its sharp fingernails begin to pierce the soft flesh of her stomach. Newo screamed and began stabbing through the water like a madwoman. The cloudy water began to turn opaque red as she felt her blade pierce through several different body parts.

Feeling a firm hand grasp the back of her shirt and pull her towards the surface, it was Calamity who she heard fight back a haughty laugh first and say, “Well what’d you say? Looks like you do have a bit of fight in you!”

The cold night air of the city struck her face, and shook her from the past. Her hand was still interlocked inside of Calamity’s as he continued to pull her down the quiet side street. Her mind still a bit hazy, she found herself mumbling out loud, “We fell…”

“Huh?” Calamity stopped his pace and looked over his shoulder at her. He lessened his tight grip on her hand, but failed to let go. With his free hand, he removed a flask from his jacket pocket, opened the lid with his teeth, and took a swig.

“When we met… We retreated down the river… I never told you both that the river current picked up only because it turned into a waterfall… We fell down it, broke my neck—I, I think I died there.”

“To be fair, I shouldn’t have trusted directions a woman has told me,” he said sternly, even though his face was veering on a smile. “I never have since.”

Newo frowned furiously, trying her best to mask the laughter that she was holding back in her throat. “Damn it, you’re such an asshole sometimes Cal, why do I have to like you so much?”

“Why do you and Vortex always have to meet first?” Calamity sighed deeply, his gaze rising to look at the clouded night sky. “One of these days, I tell you, I’ma meet you first, and change everything.”

“Change everything? You’re drunk, Cal.” Newo smiled sweetly, and patted the back side of his hand. “You always revert back into treating me like the helpless damsel when you get too drunk.”

“I’m always drunk!” Calamity cheered jovially, and hugged Newo tightly to his chest. “And I’m serious when I say, one of these lifetimes I will be the one to find you first. I will find you and I will complete my mission.”

“Your mission?” Newo’s face sobered, and she looked up at him concerned. While she seemed to remember him proclaiming resentment towards her always meeting Vortex first, this talk of a mission was new. “What’re you talking about?”

Calamity fell silent and looked down at his feet. He raised his flask up to his lips again and drank, tightening the lid with his teeth and putting it back into his coat pocket. His grip on her hand tightened once again, and he began walking down the street once more. “C’mon Newo, let’s go find some fun to get into, like old times! I think there’s a casino nearby—you were a pretty good card player, we could read each other pretty well in Kemps!”

While she tried to put his mumbling in the back of her mind, what he had said left her with an eerie and uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. Now Calamity was chattering and making small talk like he usually did when he was inebriated, laughing at his own jokes and thinking he was the funniest guy around. As the knot in Newo’s stomach tightened, the things that she found most charming and enduring about Calamity made her nauseous and irritated her.

Silently she groaned, knowing that she had to somehow turn Calamity around and point him in the direction of the dive bar Vortex was in. She stopped in her tracks, and gave his hand a hearty yank, pivoting his larger body around to face her. As he looked down at her with a confused expression, she said coquettishly, “Hey, I know of a bar down here with awesome drink specials.”

“I’m in!”

Even though she had to nearly run to keep up with his fast skipping, she wasn’t fast enough to stop him from kicking the front door to the dive bar open, or hide from the glare of its angry patrons. She slid into the barstool beside Vortex, who also offered her an angry glare, his gaze flitting between her and Calamity in annoyance. Forcing her gaze off of the counter and up into his eyes, bashfully she blurted, “Look what the goblin dragged in!”

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Authors’ Words: Edgar Allen Poe

Writers Unite!’s Write the Story project has been successful with more and more writers joining it. To celebrate the short story, a quote from a master teller of short stories and more, the amazing Edgar Allen Poe.

“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Eleonora by Edgar Allen Poe (published 1850)

Edgar Allan Poe

On January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe’s father and mother, both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was thirteen years old at the time. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies.

Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature. His stories mark him as one of the originators of both horror and detective fiction. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story. He was also one of the first critics to focus primarily on the effect of style and structure in a literary work; as such, he has been seen as a forerunner to the “art for art’s sake” movement. French Symbolists such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud claimed him as a literary precursor. Baudelaire spent nearly fourteen years translating Poe into French. Today, Poe is remembered as one of the first American writers to become a major figure in world literature.

Resources

https://poets.org/poet/edgar-allan-poe

Image of Quote found on Google.com. Unable to determine origin. Credit to the creator of the image.

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