D. A. RAtliff: Going 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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Going Home

By D. A. Ratliff

I hadn’t planned on going. Fate brought me to speak at a seminar out of state, and the fact that I was only an hour’s drive from my old homestead kept gnawing at me. I tried to push it away, but the itch was there and needed attention.

Foolish to do it. That chapter of my life had been closed for over thirty years. I had made my escape from the doldrums of country life and had never looked back. Didn’t want to look back. Memories suppressed were the best kind as far as I was concerned. But I did it anyway. I decided to go home.

A flurry of activity by my assistant secured a change in my travel plans, an extra night in the hotel, and a rental car. After a leisurely breakfast with colleagues before they caught their flights home, I set out down the state highway to the town where I once existed.

I say existed because I hated every moment there. I was born for more than the 4H Club. I hated cows and chickens and plows. And my family—they were the worst.

As I neared the small town, I was a bit surprised at the pressure building in my chest. The day I left and never looked back, I was seething with anger. That burn of hate was building again. I fought it back, no need for that anger now. I was free.

The town had changed little. A rail line cut through the center of Main Street, several shops shuttered and dilapidated. The diner I was dragged to by my father on Saturday mornings was still open. I had to chuckle, probably still serving those awful, doughy pancakes and rancid coffee. A few old codgers sat outside the courthouse, moving nothing but their eyes as they watched my luxury rental pass through. I laughed out loud. I could hear them now, Who’s that city slicker?  If they knew, they would bust a vein. If they knew.

The cotton mill on the edge of town was in ruins. My mother and grandmother had worked there. Both got brown lung from the cotton dust, and I got so tired of them hacking and spitting up mucus. Not how people should have to live. Certainly not how I had to live.

Two miles on the other side of town, I slowed down to look for the gate. I almost passed it by, but the old mailbox was still standing. Bent, broken and rusted, but it was there. I turned onto the overgrown gravel drive and drove in as far as I dared until the car was past the tree line and, hopefully, couldn’t be seen from the highway.

I got out of the car and looked down at my expensive loafers. I hadn’t planned on hiking, so I really wasn’t prepared. I’d have to be careful. This place wasn’t worth scuffing my shoes.

As I walked deeper into the now overgrown land, I had to admit that it was beautiful. The grove of trees where my parents built the house was now thick with underbrush, lush and green. Beyond the tree line were the family cotton fields. I leased those out, not stupid enough to lose money on the place. Just wanted no part of life here.

When I spotted the path, I stopped. A chill passed through me despite the building heat of a summer day in Louisiana. My mother had painstakingly dug out the path, laying steel rails across it so she could terrace the slope, something she had seen in a magazine. She had made me help her. Hour after hour, leveling each slightly raised terrace and filling it with finely ground granite. Made her feel like a queen to have such a grand path to the house. Made her look like a fool to me.

As I continued along the walkway my mother created, it was apparent that all that fine granite that had sparkled with bits of quartz in the sunlight was now nothing but dirt, the metal rails exposed, limbs fallen across her grand path. The carefully manicured edges now ragged with weeds. It was grand alright.

It was at the end of the path that I felt my first pang of regret. I shouldn’t have come here. Every cell in my body was irritated. The old hatred for how they tried to ruin my life came flaring back. They had tried, but I had won.

Where the large, white, French-style farmhouse had stood was only worn cinder blocks that were once the house’s foundation. I cracked a slight smile from a bit of morbid satisfaction. There were still marks on the blocks from the fire that raged that night. Now only a partial outline of the house remained. Vegetation filled in where rooms once existed.

If they had only listened to me, this wouldn’t have happened. But my dream to be an attorney since I was young was met with disdain and outright amusement. I had to follow in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, grow cotton and be happy about it. It was my fate in life.

No. It was not my fate. I was a brilliant student, and the local schools couldn’t keep up with my need for knowledge. Only one of my teachers recognized that and he arranged for me to get lessons through the mail from a college. I lived for those lessons. I had to rush home to get the mail before my mother got home from the mill and my father came out of the fields. He’d laughed at my crazy ideas and thrown the envelopes in my face if he got to the mailbox first. His words cut through me still. You ain’t going to college, boy. You are gonna stay right here and raise cotton.

I was nearing seventeen when I began to formulate my plan. I agreed to work for my father during the summer before my senior year in high school. He was so happy, certain that he had beaten me down. He had no idea. I saved my money and right before I started my senior year, I applied for life insurance policies on my parents from one of those companies that didn’t do medical exams. Or rather my grandmother did. She was getting sicker from the brown lung and the lack of breathing well made her lethargic and confused. She signed the applications without question. I paid the premiums in her name via money order, five-hundred-thousand-dollar policies on each of my parents, and I was the beneficiary. My parents may have been fools but I was not. I also got the key to my grandmother’s safety deposit box at the bank. Small town—who would ever doubt a loving grandson wouldn’t go to the bank for his grandmother to put something in it for her. Fools they were, but the insurance documents were safe.

During my senior year, I applied to the colleges that I wanted to attend, and with my grades, they were clamoring for me. I was offered several scholarships without my parents knowing as I had rented a post office box and kept everything secret. As the end of the school year approached, I hatched my plan.

The house was heated by an old oil furnace and cooking heat was provided by gas. I began to sabotage the furnace in February so that there would be a trail of repairs. Then the night I made my escape, I waited until my parents and grandmother were sound asleep and I blew up the furnace, which in turn caused the gas line to explode. The house was engulfed in minutes. By the time the fire department arrived, called by me seconds before I lit the oil furnace on fire, I was covered in soot, hands burned from trying to rescue my family. They believed me.

The town was in mourning for my tragic loss. I played the shocked son and allowed all the good folks to take care of me. I graduated from high school, and a month later I turned eighteen and received the settlement from the insurance company. I was out of this town as fast as I could flee and never said goodbye.

With one last look around, I decided it was time to leave. I had enough nostalgia for a lifetime. As I walked along the path toward the car, I took in the dappled sunlight streaming through the thick copse of trees. I knew I should feel remorse, but I didn’t. If I hadn’t escaped, I wouldn’t be a federal judge and wield the power I now possessed.

Better than growing cotton.

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Visit Deborah at her blog.
https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection







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Stephanie Angelea: To Stand With Trees

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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To Stand With Trees

By Stephanie Angelea



Her name was GiAia.

She was Vietnamese and beautiful. Blind at birth, she learned to work hard at a young age, pulling her weight with the help of her devoted, twin brother, Bao, who was mischievous but a highly intelligent young man.

She was also a survivor of the underground cities. Cities built beneath the tallest forest trees, plush landscapes of beautiful Lotus flowers, the deepest and most secluded marble mountains in Ba Na.


Today marked the second anniversary since her people carefully laid by hand the first of many marble steps to build the walkways to each city. Steps that allowed them to escape the spray of bullets killing their families from a war they did not understand and knew nothing about.


In the beginning, the villages joined together constructing three interconnecting cities with sweat and blood, soon to boom with life. Self-sustaining and rich in power plus great wealth, but not of your typical paper money from before it was destroyed by Napalm. The currency of choice became seashells blown from the salt water beaches below the mountains littering the sand dunes in abundance, each contributing its own amount of worth. Daily she picked up shells in a burlap sack dropped by a friend of her people next to the forbidden step.

As the war escalated, their cities trembled but the marble walls held strong. Protection she felt only God could provide. While blood spilled into the rivers above, their rivers flowed of fresh water from springs traveling from unknown tunnels. A gift they knew only Mother Nature would provide.

The numbers of soldiers carrying guns quickly multiplied, setting up camps near the base of the mountains where she would sneak up to sit on the steps. She would stand beside the tall trees reaching as far as she could feel, hoping to reach the Heavens and kiss the Sun whose warmth she felt on her ivory cheeks.


Her ears heard the chatter of the mountain critters screaming in anger at the sounds of grenade explosions and diesel loaders digging the mass graves while the jumping spiders spun their silky webs without a care in the world. They were cities without a name, and it was forbidden for any villager to open the entrance step much less exit it into a country of war.

She and her brother knew the rules, but he was the rebel and she was the follower. While he gathered “much-needed contraband” and stole new technologies from the growing naval base of the foreigners, she sat quietly, waiting and listening to life in the woods. Their parents would be furious with them both if they knew, but her need for peace from the controlled chaos below gave her a chance to be alone and was worth any light punishment she would receive. Bao, on the other hand, would not get off so lightly.

One particular Spring day dawned and the weather was unusually cooler than normal. She sat contemplating the world, daydreaming of her longtime boyfriend, Xang, and sighed, thinking what a sweetheart he was — everything she could have wished for in a fellow — understanding and sensitive. Bao often teased her, whistling wedding bell tunes, yet something felt distant in their relationship she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Only she did know exactly the reason why. It was because of another who was not of their people and had already captured her attention and her heart long ago. A relationship more scandalous than the war itself.


Still, she daydreamed and brushed off a cobweb that had fallen to her nose. Plundering through the camouflage burlap full of seashells, she soon became annoyed at the cobweb tickling her nose and tiny spider legs running across her face.

“OK, little spider, enough! Time to leave me alone,” she desperately pleaded. Assuming it had jumped, she went about her business only to stop short with silent screams when Mr. Spider sunk its teeth into her eye. A bite that felt like huge fangs of a venomous snake.

“Never scream!” she remembered her father saying over and over. “The enemy will hear.”

“Who are our enemies, father?” GiAia replayed the question in her mind.

“Everyone, darling!” he replied.

Reminiscing helped her to cope with the excruciating pain only to repeat the scene while enduring a second bite to the other eye. GiAia’s eyes throbbed, and rubbing them only made it worse.

“Where are you brother? Hurry!” she whispered, sobbing to herself.

“GiAia! RUN!” Bao screamed running toward his sister. “Open it!”

She immediately sprang to open the first step, forgetting her pain and tears, still slapping the spider with its tiny legs crawling over her face. She had it open. The first step to their wonderful city. She could hear her brother running, one stomping foot after another, knowing then that trouble had followed.

Bao’s breath was quick and heavy but he made it to her, sadly convulsing to the ground with three bullets to the back. For a brief moment, she turned to him and they held each other tight, hugging under the step. Her tears and pain returned.

“RUN!” Bao’s pained scream rang in her ears.

“I won’t leave you!” yelled GiAia.

Without fear, she bolted, dragging her brother down the corridor. Her legs felt weak but she had to reach the foyer, set the charges, and close the boulder. It was their only hope and nothing was going to stop her. They knew this place better than anyone and she was fast.
Though the faster they ran, the sooner the enemy caught up to them and infiltrated the corridor to their city.


It confused her and she couldn’t help seeing the worst had finally come to their doorstep.
The corridor seemed to grow longer the more she ran, and she turned to see the Americans chasing them. Just a small glance for them to know she saw their faces! Their faces drew nearer yelling after them and firing machine guns, but it was not the Americans they were fleeing from but the newest enemy of their people from across the border.

People of their own nationality who decided that killing their own would bring them more power. She didn’t understand and it angered her, especially seeing how they had hurt her brother. The entrance was near and a great sense of relief overwhelmed her because they were closer to safety, but it was short lived. The enemy was upon them. GiAia gasped as Bao pushed her through the entrance where she hit the floor rolling.

“Bao!” she screamed, begging, reaching for him to get up.

“STAY! Blow them all, NOW!” he ordered.

“NO! Get up! Please!” she pleaded in tears, running to him.

The enemy continued to shoot and the bullets ricocheted off the marble walls.

“NOW, G! BLOW IT!” he screamed, his last breath, tossing a backpack to her feet.

GiAia stopped, frozen in place as the boulder closed. The corridor on the other side where her brother lay screaming was gone and he with it.

“GiAia, we have to go! He is dead!” her father yelled to her.

She fell to her knees and held the backpack close.

What was so important you would waste energy throwing a backpack instead of saving yourself? You can’t leave me! she thought, drowning out the screams of her father, then her mother.

Her eyes burned less and her surroundings were no longer pitch black. The dirt of the earth become less blurry and now she saw her father’s neatly kept hair lined with gray. The dark fog in her eyes disappeared and her mother stood before her, beautiful with red ribbons in her hair.

“GiAia, your eyes! They are clear,” GiAia’s mother said quietly, holding her tear-drenched cheeks.

She unbuckled Bao’s backpack and it was as always — “much needed contraband” for the cities. She giggled to herself plundering through it one item at a time. Deep inside in a hidden compartment was the newest information and blueprints for building machines specifically for laser surgery — eyes included.

“I can see, brother. I saw you for the first time but you will never know it,” she whispered, rubbing her eyes over the bumpy presence still clinging to her skin as she clung to the backpack and rocked with tears.

“You gave me sight, didn’t you little fella?” GiAia whispered.

Another year passed and the corridor still lay in shambles. The steps laid by hand to their secret city was destroyed. Only holes small enough for her to fit through led to an uprooted tree and was the only access to the boulder she managed to reopen. Bao was smart and he taught her a thing or two about a great many things.

Standing beside the toppled tree, she admired its hollow form — their efforts of turning it into a sight tower.

“False trees,” Bao called them. We could see out over the valleys and cities below but all anyone would see was a tree. The tallest trees in the forest.

The explosions of gunfire still rang in the distance but she was not startled for the seashells collected in the burlap sack was still left every day. The burlap sack Angel dropped off to get the latest Viet Cong intel and where they were in the forest. Thanks to her jumping friend with tiny legs, she could see for miles and had excellent vision.

The web of messages she and Mr. Spider left for the American soldiers today read fifteen southeast. That was fifteen spun knots down the center of the web and a straight line pointing southeast.

The Viet Cong enemy would never know the web held a message and they were all scared of spiders so they steered clear. Messages graciously left in the cobwebs by Mr. Spider before crawling into GiAia’s ear where he would get comfortable draping over it to watch the army creeping along the wooded jungles.

“Angel!” an American soldier hollered out.

“Yeah!” Angel responded.

“Your friend is here!” He smiled, walking away.

Angel approached with his rifle shouldered, pointing to the sack of seashells in her hand and pointing his thumb to the air.

GiAia smiled to him as she had for years holding the burlap sack he left for her daily on the pile of rubble that was once the walkway to the underground cities and the place they first met. His sack of gathered seashells strewn from the explosions of the salt water beaches below.


She smiled, waving proudly to him, grateful he spared her life and that of her brother one Spring day years ago when they first went into hiding, fleeing to their underground cities. In that moment, he ordered his men to help them reach the steps safely after they commuted their first rebellious act of defiance against their parents’ wishes and the strict rules of the newly-appointed leaders.


From that day on, he made their cities wealthy with beautiful seashells blown from the salt water beaches below, unbeknown to everyone.

“No matter. We are a people with no name and on that foundation we grew strong because of him and his American friends.” She spoke proudly. “One day, Mr. Spider, mark my words, I will lead my people and Angel will stand beside me! My name is GiAia and we will be Angels of the Lotus. We will shout louder than all the trumpets in the world to our mutual enemy — WELCOME TO OUR HELL!”

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Stephanie does not currently have an author page but you can find her on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection






Lynn Miclea: escape

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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Escape

by Lynn Miclea

The slap stung her face and brought tears to her eyes. She had to find a way to get out of there and away from that man.

“Now don’t you give me a problem, girl. You’re mine now. I can do anything I want with you.” His sour breath washed over her as his eyes frantically looked around the small room. “Don’t you even think of escaping or it will be even worse for you, I promise.” He backed up and reached the doorway. “You just sit tight now and don’t move. I’m gonna go get some rope and I’ll be right back. Don’t you dare try to get out of here. If you try to leave, I’ll kill you. You hear me?”

Heather nodded, her lips pursed tightly, trying not to let the tears fall. Her face still stung from the slap, and she felt nauseous with fear.

Just this morning, she had been walking the six blocks to high school like she did every day. And this man had pulled up next to her in his car. He had gotten out, said his name was Karl, and he asked for directions. She had hesitated, taking in his old clothes and foul breath. Then he had quickly grabbed her and forced her into his car before she even realized what was happening. But she couldn’t think about that now. It didn’t even matter anymore. Now she just had to somehow get away.

Karl left the room and she heard him lock the door from the other side. She was trapped. She jumped up, desperate. There had to be a way out. She ran to the door and listened. She heard footsteps that seemed to be retreating, and then silence. She tried the doorknob. Locked.

Her eyes searched the room. There was one window, old and dirty. She tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. That seemed to be the only way out. Anxiety clawed at her, and she felt frantic. She pulled her shirt sleeve over her elbow and rammed the back of her arm into the window. Nothing. Again. A small crack. She had to get out!

One more time, harder. The glass splintered. She broke more of the window and pulled out as many shards of glass as she could. Time was running out. She didn’t know when he would be back.

Heather looked out the window. Many tall trees surrounded the cabin. But no Karl in sight. She hoisted herself up on the window sill and scrambled forward, the remaining glass scratching her as she pushed herself through. She dropped to the dirt floor outside. She quickly crouched down, froze, and listened. Nothing.

She took off, running blindly through the woods, her heart thundering in her chest. Roots and small branches reached out to trip her, but she managed to keep her balance and run. A few minutes later a larger root snagged her foot, and she crashed down to the dirt floor. A whimper escaped her with the impact. Filled with terror, she listened. She could hear him stomping through the woods, but she was not sure how far away he was. She got up, stumbled, and ran again.

A path showed up ahead. It would be easier to run on that, but she would also be more visible. She stayed in the woods and ran parallel to the path. Her heart was pounding. It was hard to breathe.

“Hey, you bitch!” Karl’s voice reached her. “Where are you? I’m gonna find you, and you won’t be happy when I do.”

She stopped running and scrambled behind a larger tree trunk. Her breathing was heavy and ragged. Could he hear it? Where was he?

After a few minutes, she didn’t hear him anymore and she ran farther into the woods, away from the cabin. The underbrush was tedious to run through, but she kept going until her chest ached. She stopped, breathing hard, her heart thundering.

“You miserable piece of shit, I’m gonna find you!” Karl’s voice was menacing and it sounded closer now. “Where are you, bitch?”

Heather took off again, sweat and fear drenching her as she ran.

Laughter up ahead got her attention. She looked down the path. A young man and woman were walking toward her, hand in hand, talking and laughing.

Heather ran out onto the path. “Excuse me,” she called out to them.

The couple stopped, and their eyes grew wide with concern. “Are you okay?” the man asked.

“No, I’m not. Do you have a phone? Can you call 9-1-1? Please. Hurry.”

“Sure.” The man took out his phone and looked down at it. “What is wrong?”

“There you are, you bitch. You won’t get away from me.” Karl stepped onto the path, his eyes wild. “And you,” he blared at the young couple, “you two stay out of this. This is none of your business. She’s mine.” He narrowed his eyes at them. “But if you interfere, I won’t hesitate to kill all three of you. You hear me?” He took out a switchblade and waved it in the air. “Enough of this. C’mon, little girl, you’re coming back with me where you belong.”

“No!” Heather stepped closer to the couple. Would they help her? Or would they not want to get involved and risk injury themselves? Had they even had time to call 9-1-1? She wasn’t sure.

Karl took a few steps forward. “C’mon, bitch. Don’t make things worse. You’re coming with me.”

“No,” she muttered. “No.” Terror filled her, and her breathing came fast and shallow.

The young man on the path pulled Heather next to him. “Hey, leave her alone,” he called out.

“All of you are going to die for this.” Karl glared at them, his eyes spitting fire. “Mark my words, you will be sorry.” His venomous gaze narrowed on Heather. “And you, little girl, you will pay for this. And I will have fun making you pay.” He licked his lips.

“No, please, leave me alone.” Her voice was shaky.

“I will not be stopped. And you will be—”

“STOP! POLICE! DROP YOUR WEAPON!” a voice thundered behind Karl.

Karl glanced over his shoulder and then lunged at the group, his knife thrust forward, his eyes wild with hatred and venom.

Heather screamed and backed up. The young man grabbed his girlfriend and took a few steps backward, next to Heather.

“You will die, bitch. All three of you will die!” Karl was ten feet away. He rushed at them.

Shots rang out. The man staggered and took one more step. Another shot split the air and his body jerked. One foot came forward, and then he dropped to the ground, two feet in front of Heather.

One of the two cops rushed to Heather, while the other stopped next to the fallen man, his weapon trained on the body.

The cop who reached Heather looked serious but kind. “Are you okay?” She read the name on his uniform—the name printed was Julian Michaels.

“He … he … he kidnapped me.” She felt woozy.

“We know who he is. We’ve been searching for this guy for months now.” The cop’s face looked grim. “Where did he take you?”

“Back … back there,” she said, pointing in the direction of the cabin.

“We’ll check it out. Your call to 9-1-1 just saved your life. Dispatch contacted us and we happened to be just down the street. You were lucky.” Michaels glanced at his partner who was speaking into his radio. He looked back at Heather. “We’re calling for backup now. Are you injured? Do you need medical help?” He pointed to her arms. “You’re bleeding.”

Heather shook her head. “I cut myself on the window while escaping.”

“You were lucky to get away. Many others didn’t.” The officer shook his head. “We have a lot of questions to ask you.”

Heather gestured to the couple. “They helped me.”

The young man next to her nodded. “I’m sure glad we were here. But to tell you the truth, I was scared myself.”

Heather gave a quick nod and bit her lip as silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

Sirens blared in the distance, getting closer. The cop’s eyes scanned the woods and then looked at the three of them. “We’ll need to talk to all of you.”

“Yes, of course.” Heather shivered and swallowed, a hard lump in the back of her throat. She glanced at Karl’s body and saw a small pool of blood forming in the dirt around him.

Michaels gestured at Karl. “You helped us catch him and bring him down. We are really glad this ended here. And you can rest assured he will not hurt anyone again.” He glanced down the path. “Backup is here. It’s over now. You’re safe.”

“I need to sit down,” she murmured, easing herself down to the dirt path.

“We’ll have paramedics look you over,” Michaels said. “We need to make sure you’re okay.”

“That was too close,” she whispered. “Way too close.”

“I know.” The officer sat down next to her. “I have a daughter your age.” He looked at her, his eyes wet with tears. “Had. My daughter didn’t have a chance to escape. She didn’t make it.”

————————

Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Please also visit Lynn’s blog, like the story there, and follow her at – https://wp.me/s4htbd-escape

Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection





Paula Shablo: You Can’t Get Into Heaven With Someone Else’s Dog

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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You Can’t Get Into Heaven With Someone Else’s Dog

By Paula Shablo

You can’t get into Heaven with someone else’s dog.

Yep. Lessons learned from dreams. So weird.

I crawled back into my bed this morning after taking the dog out. I was cold. I didn’t want to be up yet; I just wanted to lie in bed, toasty warm.

About the time I decided to get up, because I was never going to fall asleep, I … fell asleep!

And, holy cow, such a weird dream ensued.

Molly and I came upstairs and found a big black dog with a white star on his forehead sitting in the kitchen. Never saw him before in my life. But— “Hi, Scout,” I said. “How’d the surgery go?”

He was on a leash, but there were no bandages or anything, so … I don’t know. He wasn’t able to follow us to the living room, though, and that’s where we went next.

Mom and Dad were sitting in their chairs, watching television. I sat down, and a black dachshund jumped up into my lap and squirmed her way next to Molly. I started petting her like this was nothing unusual, although, like the dog in the kitchen, I’d never seen her before.

She was soon joined by two more dogs, a black-and-white border collie and a brown something-or-other with a tail that spun like a propeller with his joy. Within seconds, Scout joined us all, dragging his leash.

None of us seemed at all surprised with this abundance of dogs in the house.

None of us were surprised when my son appeared at the door, ready to take me somewhere, along with all six dogs. Mom and Dad greeted Sam much as if they saw him every day, rather than once every year or so, and waved us all out the door.

At the curb: one hellacious motor home. That thing was gigantic! We loaded the dogs and I took the passenger seat, a comfy captain’s seat that swiveled 360 degrees. Wow!

I turned, expecting to see my daughter-in-law, but instead, there was an old classmate of mine, Tina, and several more dogs.

Wherever we were off to, it had something to do with all the dogs. We drove down the street, turned onto Cedar, and …

… now, we were on crowded city streets. People walking to and fro, lots of traffic. I looked to my left as the motor home took a lurching left turn at a traffic light, and—my daughter was behind the wheel!

What the hell?

“Oh, crap!” she cried, as she straightened the vehicle. “There’s a cop behind me! I hope he didn’t follow me all the way from Grandpa’s!”

“Where are we?” I demanded. Molly was clinging to me like a little monkey.

Suddenly, a little black Chihuahua darted out in front of us, dragging a thick red leash. Sarah slammed on the brakes and swerved, just missing her. “Was that Molly?” she shrieked.

“Molly’s right here,” I said, trying to pry the dog off my neck. “Pull over!”

She parked the vehicle and I leaped out the door to catch the little dog before she could be hit by a car. Molly jumped out of my arms. “Molly!” I yelled. “Get back here! Are you crazy?”

Wonder of wonders, she came right to me and let me pick her up. The other Chihuahua followed and also allowed me to pick her up.

I stood up and looked around, hoping to see someone looking for this little girl. People were hustling through the street in all directions, but no one seemed to be searching for a missing pup.

I turned and noticed a tall building with a crookedly hung wooden door. A sign over the door read: “Enter here.” I turned back to look into the open door of the motor home to tell my daughter I was going to go in and see if anyone recognized the dog.

My son was in the driver’s seat.

Ohhhh…kaaaay.

Tina appeared in the doorway. “Are you going in?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “Maybe someone knows who this little girl belongs to.”

Tina looked over my shoulder at the door. “Uh … all righty, then.” She looked at Sam. He looked back at her, eyes wide, and shrugged.

I shook my head. “Don’t be scared,” I said. “These big bad dogs will protect me.”

I opened the door and stepped inside. The door clapped shut behind me. Molly squirmed and whined, but the other dog was perfectly calm.

I was in a narrow passageway with a long line of people waiting to climb a rickety staircase with half-sized risers. A few people were coming down, but the majority were waiting to make the climb.

I stood on tiptoes, looking up, up, up. I couldn’t see the top. I also couldn’t turn around, as there were now people behind me in this cramped line.

We climbed. Molly tried her best to greet everyone, wagging her tail and stretching out her neck for a pat whenever possible. The few people headed down nodded solemnly, pet the dog and went on without speaking.

The steps were scarily narrow, and I tried to watch my feet while holding a dog in each arm. Not easy.

Finally, we reached the top, and I was overwhelmed to see a path, slightly inclined, with logs half buried in rich, dark soil every few feet. Trees lined either side, and people began the final hike upward.

“Molly,” I whispered to the beloved little black dog, “this is where that photo was taken.”

Molly stared up into my face, just as if she was asking me what photo I was talking about.

“You know,” I told her. “The photo we were supposed to write the March story about.”

The dog sighed.

I didn’t blame her.

The other dog looked straight ahead at the path, and we started the last part of our climb. My mind was racing, trying to make sense of things.

At the end of the path, there was another door. It wasn’t crooked or shabby like the first door, but it was obviously old. One by one, people entered. Once in a while, a person would come back out and start walking back.

At last it was my turn. I went inside, and there, I met God.

Don’t ask me what he looked like. I have no idea.

Don’t ask me how I knew it was God. It was God. I knew it, that’s all.

“What are you doing here?” God asked.

“I found this—” I began, lifting the lost dog toward him.

“That’s not your dog,” God said.

“I know!” I agreed. “She—”

“You have to take her back,” God said. “You have to return her to her owner.”

“Yes, but—”

“You’re not supposed to be here,” God continued. “It’s not your time. Run along now.”

I’m thinking fast during this exchange. What if it really was my time? Molly is so young! She should go back to Mom and Dad.

“It’s not Molly’s time, either,” God said, and I thought, He heard me!

“That’s good,” I said, “because—”

“When it’s her time, she’ll come. You, too. But today is not your time, so off you go now!” And He took me by the shoulders, turned me around, and pushed me gently back out the door.

Now I’m going down, down, down, and wondering if all the others who were taking that same walk were being sent back to life, or if they were being sent farther down.

I decided I didn’t want to know that.

Molly was trying to kiss everyone we passed, and most everyone gave her smiles and pats while avoiding looking directly at me.

Maybe they were wondering the same thing I was about that downward trek.

Finally, someone spoke to me: “The steps are scary.” It was a nice-looking gentleman with a head full of thick, white hair. “Be careful.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “It’s slow going with my hands full—can’t use the handrail.”

“What handrail?”

He was right—no rail.

I picked my way down carefully, my size-six feet feeling enormous on the narrow steps.

I was almost at the bottom when I saw another old schoolmate about to start the upward climb. She was wearing a lime-green visor cap and looked much younger than her fifty-something years. She passed me, saying, “Excuse me, ma’am.”

I turned to watch her climb the steps and called her name, then said, “It’s me! Paula!”

“I thought so,” she replied. “I didn’t want to say anything. Your kids are getting a ticket.”

I was at the door. “What? Why?” I cried, but she was gone.

I went back out into the street. Molly leapt out of my arms and started trotting down the road toward the motor home, which had been moved.

I chased her, the foundling dog bouncing serenely against my breast, watching Molly. “You come here, right now!” I admonished the little stinker. “Are you nuts, Molly? Look at all this traffic!”

Molly sat down next to the motor home and looked up at me. The passenger door swung open. Sam looked relieved as Molly and I climbed in.

“You got a ticket?” I gasped. “Why?”

“Parked in front of a fire hydrant,” Sam replied.

I sighed. “How much?”

“Nothing.” Now my son grinned at me. “We told the cop about the dog in the road, and when he saw you come out that door with the dogs, he gave me a warning instead of a ticket.”

“Thank God!” Tina said.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “You can say that again.”

“What about her? Did anyone know who she belongs to?”

“God knows,” I said. “But He didn’t tell me.”

“Huh?”

And … I woke up!

Now I don’t know if I got the dog back to her owner, or who the owner is, or where we were taking all those dogs, or what town we were in …

Or anything else, for that matter!

But I do know you can’t get into Heaven with someone else’s dog.

So there’s that.

_______________________________________________________________________

Dreams are weird. Have I told you that before?

I’ll probably tell you again sometime.

Until we meet again!

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Visit Paula at her blog! https://pshablo.blogspot.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Larry Stephens: Binnacue, Pennsylvania: A Long Time Ago


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.)

Larry Stephens has once again written about Binnacue, Pennsylvania. You can read his previous stories here: Binnacue, Pennsylvania
https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2019/03/04/larry-stephens-%EF%BB%BFbinnacue-pennsylvania/ Binnacue, Pennylvania – Jamal https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/larry-stephens-binnacue-pennsylvania-jamal/

Binnacue, Pennsylvania: A Long Time Ago

By Larry Stephens

Larry Stephens has once more taken us back to Binnacue, Pennsylvania. You can find his two previous stories here:
https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2019/03/18/larry-stephens-binnacue-pennsylvania-jamal/

What matters the day, or even the time of day? Thomas Mendelson glared balefully at the bright sun as it dropped over the western horizon, inviting a rich tapestry of deepening color to paint the skies. He sighed deeply, shoulders slumped, a myriad of aches and pains nagging at him.

“Shall I bring supper?”

Thomas turned to see his wife Mary, meek, timid, hands bunching and opening in the folds of her apron, eyes cast to the floor. She glanced up briefly making eye contact with Thomas, then hurriedly dropped her gaze again lest he become angry. Again.

Thomas was always angry.

He grunted, turning back to the window. “Why must you ask? You should know by now, woman.” He heard her feet shuffle away without another word and closed his eyes. Grief, sadness, frustration, and smoldering anger washed over him — an all-too-familiar feeling since Thomas and Mary lost their two sons.

^^

The Sarver family held a massive plot of forest that lay squarely between Binnacue Proper (the town itself) and the Binnacue Shire, which sprang up along the shores of the Binnacue Creek, a bubbling, raucous stream literally bursting with trout, minnow, and crayfish galore. The fishing was fabulous and the water was clean and pure.

Oh, the Sarvers wanted to own Binnacue, but they were roundly denied in their pursuit. They then went after Binnacue Shire, but the locals of the Shire would have nothing whatsoever to do with the Sarvers and their high-fallutin’ ways from back east Philly way.

Ergo, the Sarvers were left with their little estate on the northern end of Binnacue Proper, or they could just pack up and go back to Philly. Or wherever. Nobody really cared, so long as the Sarver name never came up in barroom conversation without a venomous spitting accompaniment.

But the Sarvers were crafty, and so they bought the deep forest plopped right between the two Binnacue settlements. A Sarver ‘visionary’ proclaimed the forest would be immensely profitable for the family in the future, and so the land was bought, a title was drawn up, and money landed in the Binnacue coffers.

Within a week, men were plowing their way through the deep forest, cutting a swath through the elms, oaks, locusts and brush, felling trees and hauling out firewood that would last the Sarvers for decades. Once the teams made it through the forest to Binnacue Shire, it was time now to lay a path that would connect The Proper and The Shire, and so in came wagon loads full of chipped limestone, and in one short summer season, a clean path bisected the Binnacue Forest that would last for centuries.

Binnacue Proper held one Smithing shop where one man pounded out dozens of rail spikes and tool heads for the cutting of the Binnacue Forest Path. Without the services of Mendelson’s Smithy, well the Sarvers would have had to set up their own smithy, which was far too much work for aforesaid Sarver visionary.

^^

They were born about three years apart from each other and died within three weeks of each other as if they could not stand to be away from their sibling. Grief stabbed him behind his eyes and they welled; he bowed his shaggy head and raked a thickly-calloused hand across his seamed brow. I cannot do this…

‘Consumption.’ Fools claiming to be men of science; what do they know with their leeches and piercings and snake oils? For all their talk, they were no better at saving James and Michael than the silly priest who claimed that the children were possessed by demons.

Anger flared, replacing the yawning chasm of grief, and it was welcome to Thomas. Anything was better than the grief, the loss, the knowledge that those two beautiful boys would never get to see another sunset like the one gracing Thomas’ dark visage even now. Thomas raised his fist and stared at it and blamed God.

God loves us. Sure He does. He loves us so much that he just rips our hearts right out of our breasts and leaves us with … nothing. What kind of God does that? What kind of God slays two innocent children, and in so doing, utterly destroys any hope of Thomas loving his now-barren wife, Mary?

Because Thomas realized grimly when it came to feeling love for his wife, all he felt was a gaping void. For while Thomas did indeed blame God for killing his boys, he also blamed Mary. She should have been a better mother to those boys.

But now? She could not even bear more children to help the couple offset the loss.

It was as if God deemed Thomas and Mary unfit to have children, so He killed the ones they had and refused to let them have any more. This was not the first time Thomas had had these thoughts, and they enraged him once again.

Thomas was a Smith, and a good one at that, spending over twenty years at the craft. Iron cords of muscle rippled through his forearms and shoulders, and yet it was those very same arms and shoulders that pained him now as his stomach rumbled in hunger. He spun away from the window abruptly to move to his chair before the fire pit in the center room of their three-room house, built entirely by Thomas himself. The fire was low, but it warmed his bones nonetheless. He stared at the dancing tongues of flame, brooding.

Mary quietly placed a rough wooden plate at his feet where a chunk of bread rested against red meat, then stepped back to take up her chair across the room. She picked up wooden needles and began to knit, intent on the task before her as Thomas began to eat.

“Thomas?”

He looked at her as he chewed bread.

Mary continued. “There is a revival—”

“Bah!” He spat chewed bread from his mouth.

“Perhaps we should go.”

“And do what?”

“Well, since we lost the boys—”

“We didn’t lose the boys! God—your God—took them,” he shouted.

Mary stared at him, wounded. But the floodgates were opened now, and Thomas gave in to the rage that burned within him. “You want to go to some revival to praise God? Are you daft? You would sooner waste your precious time that could be better spent on the chores that need doing around here, on praising some god that doesn’t even care enough about us to save our boys?” The wooden plate flew across the room to slam into the wall and Thomas surged to his feet, his face red with rage.

“Why? WHY? Your God doesn’t give one whit about us. Where is He? Eh? I’ll tell you where He is—”

“Thomas, please—”

“He’s NOT HERE!”

“No—”

“He let our boys DIE!”

“No, Thomas, it wasn’t Him.”

“You’re a fool, Mary.” He stormed to the window, turning his back on Mary. She bowed her head and sobbed, which angered Thomas even more. In a flash he bolted to stand before her, his rage towering, barely able to control the fury that urged and pushed him to lay into her with his scarred and powerful fists. She looked up at him; eyes red and puffy with tears and the two stared at each other, mere inches and entire universes apart.

She reached for his hand. “My husband…”

He roughly shook his hand free. “Don’t touch me. I want nothing to touch me ever again. Your God,” he scoffed, ”useless, just as useless as you are now, Mary.”

She took his hand more forcefully and with determination. “Listen to me, Thomas—”

Fury roared between his ears. All he wanted was to be away. From her. From the crushing grief. From this God that she was going on about. From the guilt that assailed his every waking moment that maybe he didn’t do enough to save the boys, maybe he did something wrong and if this God loved everyone so much, why couldn’t He just answer their questions and make this living hell end?

Before he was fully aware of it, his powerful hand flashed out and cracked her cheek resoundingly. Her head snapped back against the chair and her hands flew to her face as a flood of tears sprang forth and she cried bitterly.

When he realized what he’d done, he turned away from her to stand woodenly before the fire, empty, numb. Alone.

Mary’s small hands came around Thomas from behind, encircling him, and she leaned her tear-drenched face against his back, the wetness soaking through his shirt, and she held him, still crying.

He turned to face her and she looked up at him. He looked at her, then asked, “Why do you love me so, Mary? All I do is hurt you.”

She rested her head against his strong chest and said nothing, and something broke within Thomas as the scent of her hair wafted to his nostrils. Both man and wife sank to the floor, and the explosion of tears and grief that held Thomas in its iron grip for so long burst forth, and Mary held on dearly, weathering the storm.

Ages passed in minutes, and then a sharp knock at the door. Thomas broke away from his wife, helping her to her feet. Wordlessly he moved to the door with Mary in tow.

Thomas opened the door to greet skies that were minutes away from full-on night, and a lone man of short stature who gazed up at Thomas with piercing, sad, brown eyes. “Who are you and what is it, strang—”

“There is much pain in this house,” he said and pushed his way into the room. Thomas closed the door; he and Mary turned to the stranger.

“I am Daniel Nash.”

Thomas moved to stand before Nash. “I am Thomas and this is my wife, Mary. Why are you in our home?”

“Because God led me here.”

“What?” Mary gripped Thomas’ forearm tightly.

“Sit with me, please.” And he sank to the wood floor, cross-legged, spine rigid, and waited for the couple to join him. Thomas shrugged toward Mary and sat with his back to the wall, Mary at his side. Thomas flipped a couple more logs on the fire and poked at it for a bit.

Mary looked at Nash, whose lips were moving soundlessly. “Sir, I cannot hear you. What are you saying?”

“Everything I do, I do because I am led by God our Father to do so.”

Mary asked, “Are you … an angel?”

“I am not. I am a servant.”

“You said ‘God led you to our home.’ Why?”

“Because you are suffering.”

“Who says we’re suffering?”

“God.”

He was so matter-of-fact about it, something Thomas was struggling to reconcile. Mary didn’t appear to be having as much trouble buying into what this Nash character was saying. “There is no God,” he countered.

Nash gazed at the Mendelsons. “Surely you do not believe that to be true?”

“I do. What other reason is there for the death of our children and us not being able to have any more?”

“I cannot tell you that, my friend.”

“Of course you can’t—”

“Only that God has a reason for everything—”

“And, let me guess, He’ll reveal that reason to us in His own good time?”

Nash smiled. “So you DO believe—”

Thomas surged to his feet, that familiar rage blooming in him again. “You’re daft! You believe in fairy tales and you’re trying to make us believe in them as well. Why? What do you want?”

“I want nothing. God gives me everything I need. All we need do is believe—”

“Bah!” spat Thomas. Mary reached for his hand and looked up into his eyes, pleading.

Nash continued, his voice soft, sonorous, deep and gentle. “Thomas. You have suffered great loss, but everyone at one time or another suffers great loss. It’s not the loss itself that is the issue, sir. It’s the loss of yourselves that’s at stake here, and God has led me here to help you find yourselves again through Him. Do you understand?”

Thomas snapped, “Can He bring our boys back from the dead?”

Nash replied, again matter-of-factly, “Do you believe that He can?”

Thomas opened his mouth to reply, but he had nothing, no retort. He searched himself, trying to come to grip with the roiling emotions that threatened to engulf him. He could not honestly respond ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ nor did he want to.

“What were you doing when I knocked on your door?”

Mary glanced at Thomas, who had resumed his seat. “We were—”

“What business is it of yours, Nash?”

Nash bowed his head for a moment then looked up at the couple. “You were in the process of trying to heal. But I say to you that you cannot heal yourselves. You can try, but true healing for you needs to happen within your souls.”

Thomas was stunned. “How—”

Nash climbed to his feet. “It is time for me to take my leave.”

The Mendelsons stood as well. Mary asked, “Mister Nash, are you part of this revival that’s happening tomorrow night?”

“I am, but it is not happening tomorrow night madam. It is happening now. The Lord moves when He moves, not when we say it is time for Him to move.” Nash walked to the door, opened it onto a full-moon night, then turned to the stunned couple.

He stretched out his right hand, palm up. “Will you join me now, Thomas and Mary? Will you allow our God to heal your souls? Will you believe?”

Thomas looked toward Mary. “Say yes, Thomas. Please.” He took her hand and they moved as one toward the door where Nash waited, his lips moving soundlessly as he watched the couple. Then…

“Come.” And the three stepped into the brisk night together; Nash making his way from the side of the Binnacue Shire onto the Binnacue Forest Path which was lit deep within the forest by seemingly hundreds of torches that had a strangely mystical quality about them.

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Visit Larry Stephens on his Facebook page!
https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




D. L. Tillery: Lyrics of My Path

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.)

Lyrics of My Path

By D. L. Tillery

In this place I found you, in this place I lost myself, we have touched and we have faded, before you I was jaded, I walked through life behind shadowed eyes and nothing stared … I had no care, now … finally there’s life, finally there’s air. On a path as cold as ice, destitution was my life. How did I survive, until now? Eyes elated my heart, that was my sight of you from the start.

The first taste is like a desert’s last drop of rain … making me whole again with the nearest of your skin, never to stop my heart again. Unknown to me was the breath of life, my soul aching when not in your sight. In this place yet again, in this wilderness that’s not my friend. I’ve come to find you, yet here on this path, I’m lost … deep is the forest all around me unlike the leaves of destiny. I look within and there you are as my heart beats … for you’re never far. On this path that we have walked, are our souls turned to dust. Hold me close until the end … for the fall is calling again.

Under the sky, we shall die but not before our souls have cried. Through the light and through the dark we have danced, we have fought, yet I say if this path was wrong, I do not care for you are forever my song.

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Please visit D. L.’s website for more of her wonderful writing! https://authordltillery.wixsite.com/authorsite

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Calliope Njo: Destiny’s Path

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.)

Destiny’s Path

By Calliope NJO

School let out for the summer. That news caused excitement with everybody shouting and high fiving each other. For me, it meant I had to return to Meadow Grove.

I walked in the door, surprised by red and pink balloons tied together on the chairs in the dining room. Happy Birthday banners draped from the ceiling that spanned wall to wall. I called out and searched but nobody answered. That marked my chance to take off. I enchanted the main entries so they forgot about me as soon as they walked inside. I could not bother with the lingering decorations. I had to go.

Tears pooled in my eyes. It had been a wonderful stay filled with learning experiences that might serve me later. If they only knew how much I treasured them.

I heard a jeep behind me. I watched as it pulled into the driveway and saw Alarik smiling. “Hey. Shrimpy,” Alarik said, as he stuck his head out the window.

No. He couldn’t be home yet. Not until tomorrow.

“Hey.” He got out. “What am I? Chopped liver?” He spread his arms out.

“Alarik, I don’t have time. I have to leave.” A solitary crow sat at the top of the tree.

Alarik gripped my arm. I whistled a spell to influence my feathered friend to bombard him. It worked and he let go.

Mortals ran slower than us so it would take him longer to catch up to me. I did not expect him to get back in his car so soon. I remembered the neighborhood and a field of fruit and Sycamore trees divided the upper and lower areas.

I ran to that and weaved in and out to avoid him. It also gave me the opportunity to ask the birds for help. They would fly in his direct path which might make it difficult for him to see.               

While I continued to Meadow Glen.

The sun rested about midway in the sky and I required rest. I walked from then on and saw a trailer park ahead. Most filled with senior citizens as this one advertised.

My desired destination lay in the direction of the central highway. If I knew Alarik, he would use it and I needed that path, so I did not have an alternative. Maybe wait until full dark to minimize the chance of being caught.

I waited in the city park. Homeless people, gang members, and a few wanderers passed through. I tried to stay hidden at the top of a tree. When the streetlights turned on, I continued my trek.

My parents should have come back home, confused by the decorations that lingered. I could not worry about that. I hoped that Alarik returned home too. It did not feel good to be forgotten, and they were wonderful people, but I did not have a choice.

I made it to the entrance at last. The sun had not risen yet. I sat under a sapling while I wondered where to put my mortal clothes. I should have taken them off when I started this journey.

I took them off and stashed them in a hollowed tree trunk. My true nature came through once I took the clothes off. My hair turned white. I felt horns break through on each side of my head. My hands shifted from mortal to claws. A fine, ivory fur grew on my skin. I imagined my eyes transformed into vertical pupils as I saw more color and more definition.

When the sun finished rising, I transformed into a Forest Helper. I looked to the right of me and the staircase appeared. I thought I would never see it again. It had been so long.

Trees canopied overhead as wooden steps led the way skyward. Home lay a few—

“Hey. Shrimpy. I know you’re here. It’s the only other place. Come on.”

I could not figure out why the persistence. He should have gone home to be with his mother and father.

Something a little stronger would help. I only needed ample time to climb the hill. He would never see it or me.

A female mountain lion roamed the territory, often in pursuit of food. I whistled a tune to encourage her to make herself known in voice only. Maybe that would scare him away.

“All right,” Alarik said. “That’s enough. I ain’t giving up. Never have. Never will. I will discover your secret. It’s gotta be about that prick, Steve.”

My— oh no. He could not have heard the whistles. The whistle spells occurred in a range beyond their hearing spectrum.  How did he hear them? I could not change back into a mortal. No regress once the final transformation took place.

“Skye.”

“This has nothing to do with him. Strange you call him a prick without knowing him.” I had no choice. I walked out to show myself. “How did you find me? Why are you being so insistent?”

“S… S… Skye?” Alarik opened his eyes wide and blinked. He shook his head a couple times. “What the …? You’re an animal?”

“There is no name for us. Forest Helpers seemed the closest description. You must go.” A mountain lion cub stepped out.

His mother made herself known as she growled. The cub looked at both of us before he left. Alarik stood there, transfixed on me.

Only a few of us had the ability to impress an idea into mortals. Those that did remained with the group and never left. I never tried. I did not know.

I imagined him turning around and leaving the area. All that he experienced from the point of my arrival up to now would be forgotten. “Turn around, Alarik. Go home. Be with your parents.” I needed to rely on the spell I cast on the house to do the rest.

He did leave. I wondered, though, how long it would last before he got the idea to try again. The worst about all of this—I could not forget the experiences.

I walked up the hill and felt the air change. A new scent hinted in the breeze as I heard my people calling out. I returned home. A joyous moment meant to be celebrated, but much work had to be done. The Leprechauns would come soon.

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Please visit Calliope’s blog and follow her! https://welcome2019march.blogspot.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




sean Bracken: That’s Him

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.)

Admin Note: Disclaimer – This story contains rape and violence and is not suitable for younger readers.

That’s Him

by Sean Bracken

Josh McDonald slowed his Dodge pickup to a stop and allowed his friend Jack Ryan to catch up with him. Jack was towing his Osprey speed boat, and the rough trail made it difficult to maintain progress.

Josh, known to his friends as Big Mac, glanced at his wife Maggie as she slept in the seat beside him.

“Wakey, wakey, Mags. We’re here,” he said, as he shook Maggie’s shoulder.

Maggie brushed her hands through her hair and rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she looked around, seeing nothing but dense woodland and dark foliage.

“Where’s this lake cabin you haven’t shut up about for weeks now?” she asked, still not fully awake.

“Just a little way up that trail,” said Josh. “I want to wait for Jack and Betty to catch up so you can all share the scene together. I promise, it’s the most beautiful place you will ever cast your eyes on.”

Moments later Jack’s old, rusted, red Ford twin-cab truck pulled up behind the Dodge. Jack hopped out and walked up to Josh’s open window.

“What’s up, pal? Your old Dodge finding the trail too tough? I’m tellin ya, ya need a good old Ford for this here terrain,” Jack drawled in his deep southern accent.

“No, Jack. This here Dodge will still be eating up the roads long after that there Ford is turned into beer cans. I just wanted to share your first sight of the McDonald lodge with Betty and Maggie. It’s just up that trail. What do you say to leaving the trucks parked here and hiking up to the cabin together?”

“Whatever, Pal, you’re the boss on this trip,” replied Jack before ambling back to rouse his wife, Betty, who was also sleeping after the long trip.

The men had been friends since childhood, played college football for the Coyote Kings, and served together in Iraq. Betty and Maggie had also been lifelong friends and had met their future husbands when they joined the college cheerleaders team.

The four friends had left home on the three-hundred-mile journey before sunrise and it was now midafternoon. They all stretched to ease cramps from their bodies as they walked through the forest along an ancient track. Dappled sunshine filtered down through the treetops, lighting the path. Old railway sleepers placed to avoid soil erosion were now rotted and broken from years of neglect. Dense foliage and underbrush encroached onto the trail, threatening to devour it.

Fifteen minutes later the four friends emerged from the trail into a lakeside clearing. Josh stood back and watched as his friends stopped, jaws dropping, as they took in the natural beauty of their surroundings.

Slightly to their left, the lake spread out almost to the horizon. Its calm waters mirrored the dense woodland that surrounded it from shore to shore. A small dock projected out into the water, and beside it a timber table and rough hewn benches lay beside a wide fire pit. Up to the right, a gravel path led to the lodge. Originally a small wood cabin built by Jack’s ancestors in the early eighteen hundreds, it had been added to and expanded by subsequent generations. Now it was magnificent, constructed from local timber, housing six en-suite bedrooms, a modern kitchen, a library, and two lounges, one of which incorporated a dining area overlooking the lake. The structure was surrounded by a wide veranda furnished with hammocks, rocking chairs, and occasional furniture.

Josh gave his wife and friends time to absorb the beauty and serene atmosphere of the lodge and panoramic surroundings before heading back to the trucks.

“Come on guys, let’s get the trucks up to the cabin and unload our stuff. There’s plenty of time for me and Jack to put the boat in the water and go catch some trout for supper.”

Half an hour later they were settled in and ready to launch the Osprey.

“Okay, ya’ll ready for some fishing?” asked Josh.

“Not me,” said Betty. “I’m heading back to that small town we passed about ten miles back. I spotted an old antiques and curio shop I want to explore. How about it, Mags, fancy some shopping?”

“No thanks, Betty, I’m all tuckered out from the trip. I’m going to lie back in that there hammock and just wile away what’s left of the day. Enjoy the fishing, boys. I’ll see y’all later.”

Soon Jack and Josh were out on the lake, Betty was headed back to the small town of Rattlers Rock, and Mags was absorbed in her novel.

After a pleasant afternoon spent exploring Rattlers Rock, Betty arrived back. The back of the truck was loaded with curios she had snapped up in the antique shop and a new dress from a boutique she discovered just off Main Street. Happy, but hungry after her shopping expedition, she was looking forward to a fresh-fish supper.

The old trail, which had been so pleasant in the daylight now seemed gloomy and ominous in the fading light. The dark canopy overhead appeared oppressive and the surrounding forest felt as if it held hidden threats. The sounds of birds and insects, which had brought life to the forest earlier, had been replaced by the sounds of branches and foliage rustling in the cold breeze coming in from the lake. Betty shivered, more from a sense of isolation or foreboding than from the chill in the evening air.

As soon as she pulled up beside Josh’s truck, Betty knew something was very wrong. The truck was too low to the ground—all four tyres had been slashed. She ran to the lodge, shouting for Jack and Josh as she ran. Before going into the house she looked out across the lake and saw the guys about a hundred yards offshore. Too nervous to enter alone she turned and sprinted towards the shore, yelling and waving all the way.

Josh noticed Betty from the corner of his eye and realised straight away that she was extremely agitated. Without waiting to reel in the lines, he started the boat’s twin engines and raced back to shore. He beached the Osprey on the shore beside the dock.

“What’s wrong, Betty?” Josh shouted, as both men jumped off the boat.

“Someone’s slashed the tyres on your truck, Josh, and there’s no sign of Mags anywhere. I’m really worried.”

“Take it easy, Betty. Mags is probably sleeping. She was exhausted from the trip. Let’s go back to the cabin and check in on her.”

They hurried back to the cabin, calling out for Mags from the front door. They were answered by silence. Josh ran to the bedroom, still thinking that his wife was sleeping. His face drained of colour and he felt his stomach heave at the sight that greeted him. His wife was gagged and tied spread-eagled on the bed. Her face was a mass of bruises and cuts. Blood dripped from her nose onto the pillow. Her body was black and blue, covered in lacerations. She was naked. Her chest rose slowly, almost imperceptibly. At least she was alive.

Josh ran to her side and began to untie the ropes binding her to the bed.

“Help. Help me,” he roared.

His friends ran into the room, stopping in their tracks for a second, before rushing to help.

Josh wrapped a blanket around Mags, picked her up in his arms, and headed for the door.

“Whoa there buddy, we should call an ambulance and the police,” said Jack.

“No cell phone service out here. There’s a medical clinic in Rattlers. We need to get there fast. Bring your truck around front. Betty, hold the doors for me.”

Betty and Josh held Mags as Jack drove the truck back down the old trail, bumping and rocking over the sleepers on the overgrown path. Soon they bounced back onto the main road and Jack floored the truck all the way back to town. They screeched to a stop outside A&E and ran inside screaming for assistance.

From there on, time seemed to go in slow motion. The nurses and doctors were composed and relaxed, working quietly and efficiently. Mags was wheeled away through a set of swinging doors. An orderly held Josh back from following.

Almost out of his mind, frantic with worry, Josh had to restrain himself from punching the local sheriff, who had been notified by the clinic’s receptionist. Sheriff Cooper, a pot-bellied, cantankerous old man, persisted with non-stop, pointless questions. All Josh wanted was to be left alone with his wife. Cooper, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, and chewing gum as he talked, made it clear that Josh was the main suspect for the crime.

Eventually, Cooper relented, realising that the three friends were too distraught to give coherent answers. He advised them not to leave town and to hold themselves available for further questioning.

What seemed like hours later, a doctor came into the small waiting room and approached Josh and his friends.

“Mr. McDonald,” he said. “Your wife is okay. She has no life-threatening injuries and should make a complete physical recovery. However, she has suffered a major trauma and will need a lot of time and support to help her come to terms with what’s happened to her. I’ve given her something to help her sleep. You can come in to see her now, but be prepared, she looks an awful lot worse than she really is.”

Josh held Mags’ hand as she slept through the night. The bruising on her face was turning blue and yellow, her lips were cracked, and her eyes were reduced to two slits under all the swelling. As he kept vigil over her, he swore to seek revenge on the monster who had caused her so much pain.

“I swear to you, Mags, he’ll pay for this. Whoever he is, wherever he is, he’ll pay. I’ll find him and when I do, he’ll regret the day he was born. No matter what happens, that man will suffer.”

Through the night Betty and Jack took turns to sit with him. Jack booked two rooms in a nearby guest house, and as dawn broke they persuaded Josh to go and get some rest. The next several days were spent enduring further questioning in the sheriff’s office and keeping Mags company. Sheriff Cooper had made no progress with his investigation and believed that some transient had attacked Mags. He swore that he had never experienced a crime like it before and that no one living in the area was capable of anything so horrific. With so little to go on, there was very little chance of catching the assailant.

A local mechanic had towed Josh’s old pickup back to town, but in addition to the four slashed tyres, the engine had been thrashed. Most of the wiring had been ripped out, and the Dodge wasn’t worth the cost of repairs. The mechanic offered to buy the truck for spare parts, and Josh agreed to part with it.

A week later Mags was discharged from the clinic. She still carried the reminders of the assault. Her face and body were battered and bruised. But it was her mental state that caused Josh the most concern. She was withdrawn, barely talking and unresponsive. She cringed if Josh tried to hug her or hold her hand. She was more relaxed with Betty, but avoided talking about what had happened to her.

Jack packed up their gear and checked them out of the guest house, and soon the group began the long drive back home. Mags sat in silence while the others engaged in small talk to try and lighten feelings of gloom and hopelessness that had enveloped them ever since the attack.

About twenty miles out of town they passed a young hitchhiker standing on the hard shoulder with his hand out, thumb up, looking for a ride. An oversized backpack lay on the ground at his feet. He looked scruffy with long, dirty blond hair and several weeks’ beard. His clothes were dusty and worn from life on the road. As they passed, Mags sat upright in her seat, pointing out the window.

“That’s him, that’s him,” she screamed, over and over. “That’s the man, that’s him.”

Are you sure, Mags?” asked Josh. “Are you absolutely certain?”

Still pointing, her face ashen, she continued to scream. “That’s him, that’s him.”

Jack pulled to the side of the road, exchanging a questioning glance with Josh. Josh just nodded in return. Both men jumped out and looked back down the road.

The young man, thinking he had a ride, had picked up his pack and was jogging towards the waiting men. As he approached he seemed to sense that something was wrong and slowed to a walk, before stopping about ten feet from the truck.

In seconds, the men closed the gap and wrestled the hiker to the ground. Raining punches and kicks, they shoved him over the side of a deep culvert and continued the assault. Shocked and disoriented by the ferocity of the attack, the boy offered little resistance. In moments Jack had him pinned down in a dirty stream of water that meandered down the culvert floor. Josh pulled the youth’s blue jeans down around his ankles and pulled his hunting knife from his belt.

Roaring at the terrified boy, Josh’s rage exploded. “You filthy animal. You’ll never hurt another woman.” With one slice he cut the boy and shoved the bloody organ in his face before throwing it out across the road. The boy screamed in agony before passing out from shock, his lifeblood pumping out from between his legs, turning the water red.

Jack and Josh climbed out of the culvert, pausing only to toss the backpack down beside the body, before returning to the truck and resuming the journey home. They drove in silence. No one spoke a word of what had happened. The only sound came from the purr of the truck’s massive V8 engine and Betty’s quiet sobs from the back of the cab. Privately, both men felt vindicated. They had achieved vengeance and justice for Mags and had made the streets a little safer for all women. There was no need to ever talk of this again.

Over the following weeks Mags withdrew further into herself, rarely leaving her bedroom and never leaving the house. Visits from Betty and other friends did little to help. She had no interest in conversation or company. Josh was at his wit’s end. He was spending sleepless nights in the guest room. He had no idea how to help his wife.

Linda Chambers, a friend of Betty’s, who was a therapist practising in grief counselling, offered to visit Maggie. After a little persuasion from Betty, Mags agreed to talk with the counsellor in private.

Linda arrived at the McDonald home on Friday afternoon. She was a young woman, tall, with a striking head of beautiful, jet black hair. After brief introductions, she went up to meet Maggie in her bedroom. After an hour-long session, Linda came back down to the lounge and spoke with Betty and Josh.

“I’m afraid this is way beyond my area of expertise. Mags is deeply traumatised and is seeking protection through her isolation. Her mind can’t handle what happened to her, so this is her way of blocking the experience from her memory. She will need expert trauma counselling, probably in a residential environment. I can make an appointment for her to meet a colleague, Dr. Mark Rivers, next week. I’ll prescribe a mild sedative for her, otherwise I doubt that you’ll be able to get her to visit him.”

Mags’ appointment was made for Tuesday morning. Josh gave her the sedative pills with her breakfast. He and Betty had to support her out to the car for the drive to Dr. Rivers’ office. By the time they were seated in the doctor’s reception room, she was more alert and becoming anxious to return home. Betty gently but firmly persuaded her to wait, and a few minutes later the receptionist escorted them to the doctor’s office.

The consulting room was lavishly furnished with an old oak desk and matching table, burgundy leather sofa, and chairs. Wood-panelled walls held exquisite oil paintings depicting seascapes and sailing ships. The doctor’s golf clubs stood in a corner and a strip of artificial grass led to a putting cup. A glass cabinet in one corner held a collection of trophies and photographs displaying the doctor’s prowess in golf and deep-sea fishing.

Doctor Rivers, a tall man in his early forties, with dark hair going grey, and intense blue eyes, stood up from behind his desk to greet them.

“Hello, Doctor. I’m Josh McDonald. This is my wife Mags and her friend Betty,” said Josh, extending his hand.

“Please call me Mark,” said Dr. Rivers. “There’s no need for formality here.”

As the doctor approached them, Mags cowered back into the corner of the room. She trembled with fear as she pointed at the doctor.

“That’s him, that’s him. Help me, please help me. That’s him. That’s the man that raped me.”

That was when Josh’s real nightmare began.

The End

Check out Sean’s other work on his website:
https://sean-bracken.site123.me/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Rylee Black: Maggie – Lindsey Sayers Cold Case #2

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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Maggie – Lindsey Sayers Cold Case #2

By Rylee Black

Police Captain Lindsey Sayers drank in the view. Sunlight filtering through towering pines turned floating particles of dust and dirt into dancing points of light and created bright pockets in the gloom of the forest. A well-maintained path cut through the dense undergrowth and disappeared into the trees, thick shrubs, and clumps of forest grasses ahead. It was a portrait of serenity.

She closed her eyes, tilted her head back, and drew in a breath so deep she felt it all the way to her toes. The air here was clean, crisp, and laden with the heavenly aroma of spicy pine. She stayed that way and savored the calm before she had to deal with the unpleasant task ahead.

“Uh, you okay, boss?”

Her breath hitched at the interruption then became a sigh of resignation. Some day she would come back to this little slice of Montana heaven so she could enjoy it properly. Today was not that day, however. Today she and her team were here to retrace the last steps of Margaret “Maggie” O’Shay. Maggie had been a twenty-three-year-old college student when she’d walked into these woods on a warm summer day twelve years ago and was never seen nor heard from again. Lindsey opened her eyes and rolled her shoulders. Time for reality.

“I’m fine, Taggart, just making nice with the universe before we do this.”

He gave her a knowing nod. “I can understand that.”

Hamish Taggart, the newest member of her unit, was a fit, thirty-something man with a quick wit, pale blue eyes that sparkled with humor, and a talent for seeing things most could not. Like her, he’d unofficially died in the line of duty and come back profoundly changed. Almost a year ago, while on a drug raid, he’d been hit by a bullet that had inexplicably missed his vest and gone into his chest where it caused massive damage. He’d lost all vitals while still at the scene. Paramedics managed to revive him before loading him into the bus, then do it twice more before they’d gotten to the hospital. His survival was a miracle.

Several months later, when nearing the end of his rehab, his superior officer had found Hamish holding a conversation with his partner. That wouldn’t have been cause for concern had it not been that Hamish had been talking to empty space. His partner had actually died during the same raid Taggart had been injured in. Unsettled, he’d made a call to an old friend — someone he knew was uniquely qualified to handle something like this. They’d caught up, made arrangements, and then hung up and filed the necessary paperwork to make it happen.

Once released back to active duty, Hamish had been quietly transferred to Lindsey’s Colorado-based unit of cold-case investigators. The first few months had been rough. He’d refused to talk about his ability and was convinced he was going crazy. Eventually though, he’d witnessed Lindsey’s abilities enough times that he was able to come to terms with his own.

His addition to the unit brought the total to four members. Hamish and herself with abilities. And two civilians with open minds but no abilities. They were Echo, a psychiatrist, and Thaddeus, their evidence collector, cameraman, and all-around tech guru.

Lindsey clapped Hamish on the shoulder. “You ready for this, Ham?”

“I was born ready … twice.” He flashed her a big grin and Lindsey rolled her eyes. He never got tired of using that line. His expression turned serious. “What’s your plan for a conduit? You tried everything her parents brought in for you to examine and nothing worked.”

While they both could see the dead, Lindsey actually became them. Not literally, but close. By touching what she called a conduit, usually something the victim handled shortly before their disappearance, she stepped into their last moments. Results varied. Sometimes she was able to confidently retrace their steps, experience their murder or abduction, and identify who had done it. It was so full an immersion she was able to see, smell, hear, and feel everything the victim had. Other times, the terror they’d faced at the time of death had so overwhelmed them that all she got was chaos and she had to be dragged out of their energy.

That’s where Echo came in. In reports, she was listed as an ungifted civilian. Ungifted was a huge misnomer when it came to the tiny thirty-year-old woman with a riot of blond curls and the patience of a saint. Not only was she a phenomenal psychiatrist, but she was also able to tap into spectral energy and manipulate it. How she was not listed in the same category that Lindsey and Hamish were was beyond understanding.

Someone cleared their throat and she was drawn back to the matter at hand — a conduit. Her glance took in the entire group. “This is going to sound strange even to you all, but we’re standing on it. Every single person we talked to said Maggie loved this place. And since this is where she most likely disappeared from, it’s my hope her attachment will have allowed her energy to permanently imprint on the path itself.”

Thaddeus, a twenty-one-year-old self-taught techie genius who swore he was the reincarnation of an eighty’s skateboarder, nodded enthusiastically. “Rad man. Will that work?”

She shook her head with lifted brow. “Rad? I’m not sure if it will work, but it’s all I’ve got.”

His face lit up. “Whoa, so are you like feeling it now? Are you getting major Maggie vibes?”

“No,” she said with a chuckle, “no vibes so far, but we’ve got a lot of trail to cover so there’s time. Let’s move along, shall we?”

Hamish, whose gift was much less reliable and mostly contingent on the willingness of a spirit to make contact, gave a synopsis of what they knew to date, and tossed out questions as they all trailed behind Lindsey.

“According to the reports, the suspects in her disappearance were her ex-boyfriend Carl, her jealous roommate Amber, and an unassociated male with stalking tendencies. All of them had flimsy alibis for the time of Maggie’s disappearance. The roommate waited almost two full days to report her disappearance — why do you suppose that was?”

Echo took a quick glance at Lindsey to make sure all was well before she answered. “The interview notes stated she thought the authorities wouldn’t do anything until forty-eight hours had passed. During questioning, Amber’s friends all said they thought she’d waited on purpose. It seems Maggie and Amber were both being considered for an internship with a prestigious law firm. They thought she was hoping Maggie wasn’t coming back.”

“Yeah, but didn’t I read Amber had a bum foot at the time? Wasn’t it a sprained ankle or something?” Thadd asked. “The part of the trail Maggie was last seen on by those other hikers was steep and rough. I’m not sure Amber could have made it. Plus, Maggie was bigger than Amber so making the body vanish would have been like totally hard for her.”

Hamish paused and held up a hand. Everyone stopped and watched him expectantly. He flashed them the classic ‘hang on a minute’ gesture and went off the trail and into the trees. He was gone ten full minutes before he rejoined them. “False alarm. It was a couple guys who fell off one of the cliffs farther ahead about the same time Maggie disappeared.” He shook his head and cringed. “Not a pretty sight.”

Echo scrunched her face in confusion. “Their energy is pretty mellow for a death like that.”

“That’s because they were okay with it. Both of them said they’d gone out doing what they loved. They said they haven’t seen Maggie, but they’ll keep an eye out for her.”

The group continued on in silence until Lindsey spoke. “What if it wasn’t any of them? I’m not naïve enough to think people who appear to be good can’t hide horrendous secrets, but all three of our suspects went on to marry, get good steady jobs, and avoided further problems with the law.” When the others muttered disagreements, she held up a hand. “I know, none of that is proof of innocence. I’m getting odd readings off the path and just sorting through them out loud. We need to keep in mind that Maggie wasn’t just a sweet college student. She had a tough side. Take this trail, for example. She was leading the fight to keep this forest from becoming a parking lot. It was getting pretty nasty when she went missing. Her disappearance is what saved this place. Why it’s now called the Maggie O’Shay memorial trail.”

“What are you saying, Linds?” Echo asked. “Do you think maybe someone involved with the building project was involved?”

“I’m not sure what I’m saying exactly. But there’s also the issue of the missing funds Maggie and her team raised for their fight against the developers. It was several hundred thousand dollars if I remember correctly.”

Thadd nodded, a sage expression on his face. “That’s several hundred thousand reasons to disappear.”

Hamish looked confused. “I don’t remember reading anything about that. Was she investigated for the missing money?”

Lindsey shook her head. “Not really. No one noticed the money was missing until she was gone. The idea was tossed around that she might have taken it and disappeared. They couldn’t prove it because she was never found. Investigations into everyone else who had access to the money came up empty. Then everyone got sidetracked. The destruction of the forest, the missing funds, and even her disappearance, all went on the back burner when the body of the developer was discovered in his office. Apparent suicide. The note mentioned huge losses and pending bankruptcy. Someone brought up the possibility he’d forced Maggie to give him the money then killed her. When that didn’t work to save his project, he killed himself. But the developer’s alibi was airtight. As for Maggie, by the time she disappeared, she’d endeared herself to the public which made people unwilling to believe she’d done anything as bad as grand theft. But I’m getting a different picture from the memories imprinted on this path.”

Echo tilted her head and surveyed her friend with concern. “A different picture about the money, or about something else?”

“About the money, about Maggie’s disappearance, and most unsettlingly about the death of the developer. I think —”

The sound of slow clapping startled them, and they turned as one to look at the dark-haired woman who’d stepped out of the trees. She pulled a gun from the waistband of her jeans. “Bravo, Captain Sayers. Bravo. You’ve figured it all out, haven’t you? You’re actually as good as I heard you were. Now why don’t you and ghost boy there throw your guns out into the trees like good little cops?”

Lindsey motioned to Hamish and they stepped in front of Echo and Thaddeus. They both ignored the suggestion to give up their weapons. “Maggie O’Shay, I presume?”

“In the flesh.” She shot Hamish a nasty grin. “Or am I? What’s the verdict, ghost boy? Flesh and bones or mist and spirit?”

Hamish glowered at her. “Don’t call me that. We’re virtually the same age so it doesn’t even make sense. Why don’t you throw down your gun? That missing money isn’t worth killing over. In fact, the statute of limitations expired on that years ago, so it’s not even an issue. Right now, you’re just a missing girl who has finally been found. You could be rich and famous. Talk shows. Book deals. Think of all the possibilities.”

Maggie gave him a pitying look. “Still a step or two behind, aren’t you? Toss your gun on out. You of all people should know just how dangerous those things are.”

Hamish side-eyed a look at Lindsey who gave him a nearly imperceptible shake of her head. She didn’t want either of them disarmed if she could help it. “What she’s saying, Hamish, is that while the limitations have run out on the theft, they haven’t run out on murder. How did you know where we were Maggie?”

“Well isn’t that just too sweet? You really are as unaffected by your fame as you make yourself out to be. Your interview with the morning news show ring any bells? The one where you got all kinds of praise and accolades for your amazing success closing cold cases. The way they fawned over you was really pretty disturbing. I wonder what they’d think if I told them just how you’re so successful. Or how you and ghost boy have to have your very own shrink to travel with you wherever you go. Anyway, when that love-struck host asked if you knew what your next case would be, you told him it was mine. I knew I had to act because, well, you’re you and your record for solving these cases is pretty damn high.” She spread her arms. “And so here we are in my woods where I didn’t die, but you will. Isn’t that ironic?”

Lindsey knew she had to keep the woman talking while she came up with a plan. “Let me see if I have this straight. You stole the money that was donated to your cause. I’m going to guess it was a substantial amount. Then you disappeared leaving behind just enough clues to make your fate uncertain. And finally, you killed the developer and staged it like a suicide. Why?”

“Why?” She shrugged a careless shoulder. “I took the money because there was a lot of it, and I wanted it. Since I’d taken all the money, I couldn’t very well stick around, now could I? As for killing the developer? With all the money gone, there wasn’t any way for my group to fund the fight to stop him. I mean people had already donated loads, it wasn’t like they’d do it again. Especially since they didn’t know who’d taken it. The guy was going to win and all this beauty was going to be plowed up and covered with asphalt. So, I did the one thing that would solve all my problems.”

“I see you changed your looks. Blond hair to brown, blue eyes to brown, lots of time in the gym, and you’ve taken advantage of a spray tan. If I hadn’t known how your energy felt, I’d have thought you to be someone of a totally different heritage. But how did you survive? And how did you get the dead developer’s partners to lie for you?”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “I had a lot of money, remember? I arranged to become someone else. Opened an off-shore account. And I moved. Away. Far away. The partners didn’t lie for me. I actually did the guy a favor. His business was in the tank. The partners you’re so concerned with were already set to abandon ship. They’d been distancing themselves from him for a while.” With amazing speed, she grabbed Echo and held the gun to her side.  “I’m tired of all this talking. Throw your guns out and let’s get moving.”

Lindsey wanted to kick herself. She’d let it drag on too long and lost her hold on Maggie. She and Hamish tossed their guns into the trees and they all started up the trail. Lindsey’s mind raced for a solution. She decided the only thing to do was to rush her and give the others a chance to get away. She might die, but Hamish would get the others to safety.

They made it as far as the cliffs when all hell broke loose. All Lindsey saw was blur, but given the way the hairs on her arms stood up, she knew there were spirits involved. Maggie screamed and dropped the gun. Her eyes went wide with terror. She took a step back toward the cliff’s edge.

Hamish leaned toward Lindsey and spoke in low tones. “It’s the dead hikers. The guys I met earlier.”

“What are they doing to her?” Echo asked.

“I have no idea. It’s strange, I know they’re there, but I can’t see them clearly.”

******

The conversation while waiting for the reinforcements needed to retrieve Maggie’s body from the bottom of the cliff centered on the irony of the situation. For over a decade everyone thought Maggie had died on this trail, and only now was it true. Lindsey mused that perhaps karma had come calling on Margaret O’Shay. Echo rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Thaddeus was bouncing on the balls of his feet. “It’s more like Captain Lindsey O’Shay came calling is what happened. What a rush.”

Lindsey sighed at the young man’s enthusiasm. “It wasn’t me, it was us collectively and the dead hikers, of course. You need to chill, Thadd. I understand how good it feels to solve a case, but people died, and lives were destroyed over this case.”

She wandered off to stand at the edge of the cliff where she crossed her arms and stared out over the ravine. Echo came to stand next to her.

“I know you feel bad that Maggie died, but you need to let your team handle the hard stuff the way they need to. As long as there’s no disrespect, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a win. Thaddeus admires you. We all do. And you can just stop beating yourself up about the way this all went down. You figured it out. You had no way of knowing she’d be here. And Lindsey,” she laid a hand on her friend’s arm and waited until she met her gaze. “Maggie’s death is a whole lot more acceptable to me than yours would have been had you done what you planned. Now the crews are here to handle things, so let’s go get the traditional end-of-case pizza. It’s your turn to buy.”

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Visit Rylee’s website to check out her book and her other work!
https://www.ryleeblackbooks.com

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Lynn Miclea: Hide and Seek

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.)

Hide and Seek

by Lynn Miclea

Benjie kept his eyes covered as he sang out. “… 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10. Ready or not, here I come!” He dropped his hands and opened his eyes, taking in the back yard. His eyes roamed over the swing set, the picnic table, the big oak tree with the tree house, and a few smaller trees. But no Stevie. Where did he go?

Benjie knew he didn’t hear Stevie climb the ladder to the tree house, but maybe he’d check anyway. He ran to the oak tree and climbed up the ladder. At the top, he leaned forward and peeked into the small, square, wooden room. A few coloring books, a box of crayons, and two juice boxes. But no Stevie.

He climbed back down. Where did his friend go? He ran around the back yard. “Stevie?” No answer.

A creaking sound made him turn toward the back of the yard. The gate was open. Did Stevie leave and go into the woods?

He knew they weren’t supposed to leave the yard, as they were only six years old, but maybe that’s where his friend went. He glanced back at the house. No one was visible. He knew his mom was inside making dinner. He wouldn’t be gone long. A quick look and then he’d be back.

Benjie pushed open the squeaky gate and walked into the wild brush that grew up above his knees. Was it safe out here? He felt a little nervous. He had never been back here by himself. But he wouldn’t go far.

“Stevie?” He looked at the tall trees. Maybe his friend was just a little farther in, behind one of the trees. “Hey, Stevie, answer me.”

He nervously glanced behind him. He wasn’t too far from home. He’d be okay. He’d find Stevie, they’d laugh, and then they’d go home.

He walked farther into the woods. A path became visible on his left. Maybe he’d follow the path for a bit. Maybe that’s where Stevie went.

Benjie walked for a while, looking at the trees and listening to the chirping birds. A sudden cold wind cut through his thin t-shirt and he shivered. How far had he walked? Where was he?

He turned in a circle. He was on a path surrounded by tall trees and thick underbrush. How long had he been walking? He felt cold and hungry. His mom would be mad at him. Leaves rustled behind him and he jumped. He heard a thump. What was that?

Shivering with fear and the cold, he ran off the path and hid behind a tree. Silence settled around him, but his belly churned with fear. His hands shook. Panic rose in his chest and he tried not to cry. Where was he? Which way was home? He wasn’t even sure which way he had been walking anymore.

He sat down in the dirt near a bush covered in thick leaves and shivered. Looking up, he saw the sky getting dark. How would he get home?

“Mommy?” he called out into the trees. He started to cry and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Then he broke down in choking sobs.

Footsteps and men’s voices startled him. What if they were bad guys? What if they killed him? His mom would never find him.

The heavy panting of an animal filled the air, and he heard the pounding of running paws on the ground. Benjie gasped and pulled in closer under the leafy bush. No!

The men’s voices got closer. “Abby!” a man’s voice called out.

“There she is,” another voice said.

Benjie’s eyes grew wide as the animal crashed through the trees and stopped next to him. A large German Shepherd sat down in front of him and barked. “Woof!”

“Good girl, Abby!” Two policemen stepped off the trail and stood next to the dog.

One of the cops peeked under the bush. “Are you Benjie?” he asked.

Benjie nodded and wiped tears off his cheeks.

“Benjie, we’re cops, and we’re here to help you get back home. I’m Sam, and that’s Mike.” The boy stared back at them, shaking. “Your mom called us. She’s really worried about you.”

Benjie sniffed and turned to look at the German Shepherd.

Sam kneeled down next to Benjie. “And I see you’ve met Abby.” He stroked the dog’s fur. “This is Officer Abigail, our K-9 officer who helped find you.” He looked at the dog. “Good girl, Abby,” he added and pulled a dog biscuit out of his pocket, holding it out to the pooch. Abby wagged her tail and took the treat, chewing noisily.

Sam looked back at the boy. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Benjie’s eyes met Sam’s, and he shook his head. “I’m okay,” he whispered. “I’m cold.”

Sam spoke softly. “Let’s get you home. Can you get up okay? Can you walk?”

Benjie nodded and stood up, brushing dirt and leaves off his dungarees. “Is my mom mad at me?”

“She’s worried about you. We’re gonna call in and let your mom know we found you and that you’re safe, so she won’t worry anymore. Then we’ll take you home. Okay?”

***

Benjie ran up the steps to the front porch of his home and rushed into his mother’s arms, crying. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he choked out.

She scooped him up and hugged him tightly, rocking back and forth. “It’s okay, pumpkin. I’m glad you’re home and you’re safe.” She kissed his head, breathing in his scent. “Where were you?”

“Out in the woods.”

“You know you’re not supposed to leave the yard.”

I … I know,” he stammered. “I was looking for Stevie and couldn’t find him. Where was he?”

“Stevie was hiding behind a trash can on the side of the house. Then he got worried when you didn’t find him, and he came inside and got me. We searched the yard, found the back gate open, and I called the police.”

Benjie sniffed. “Their dog Abby found me. She’s a good dog.”

His mother turned to the officers who were waiting patiently on the porch. “Thank you, officers. I really appreciate all your help.”

“Our pleasure, ma’am. We’re glad this one had a happy ending.”

“Me too.” Her voice caught in her throat. “Oh God, me too.”

The officers and the K-9 turned and walked to their squad car. Benjie looked up at his mom. “Mommy?”

“Yes, pumpkin?”

“I like Abby. Can we get a dog?”

His mom laughed. “That’s not a bad idea. A dog might help keep you safe.” She kissed Benjie’s cheek. “Are you hungry? Let’s go in and have dinner.”

“Okay. I’d really like a dog. And I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

“What, pumpkin?”

“A policeman. Just like those nice men. And I’ll have a big dog just like Abby.”

“That sounds nice. Now go wash your hands for dinner and we can talk about it, okay?”

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Write the Story: March 2019 Collection