Michele Sayre: Writer’s Block Is Real

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Writer’s Block Is Real

Ever since I started writing, I’ve seen the term ‘writer’s block’ argued in one of two ways: either it’s real, or it’s not.

For me, it’s real. I know what it’s like to sit down and not be able to write a single word. I know what it’s like to have a million thoughts and feelings running through my mind and not be able to grab a hold of a single one of them. I know what it’s like to have the words in my head and not be able to write them down. And I know what an enormous struggle it can be to get a few words down in a desperate attempt to write only to delete those words altogether.

The reasons and causes of writer’s block have been debated forever but for me I’ve been blocked by either intense emotional struggles, or my mind is just overloaded with a raging storm of thoughts, feelings, and words. Either way is very hard to work through and though I understand both scenarios better than I ever have, I still remember what it’s like to go through them, and I know either one can happen to me again.

I have always wanted to be one of those writers who could write through anything but sadly my writing, unlike my sleeping ability, doesn’t work that way (there’s an old joke from my family that I can sleep through anything- insane heat and humidity, riots, and possibly nuclear war though I have doubts about that last one). But during times of huge and intense emotional struggle and upheaval, writing has been the last thing I’ve even thought about doing. Well, I thought about it but in reality I was either too exhausted to sit down and try to find my words, or worse, I felt intense guilt and fear for even wanting to make that little bit of effort.

As a woman, I have always felt there were more demands on my time than for a man. For example, my father could be loud and pushy about his writing time but I feel like if I had done that I would have been landed on so hard I would have to have been peeled up off the floor. Later on, I knew there were people who felt my pursuit of writing was foolish, selfish, and a complete waste of time simply because the meager amount of time I did take to write made me unavailable to them whenever they wanted me to be. I know now that I had every right to time of my own but that’s in hindsight. Back then, that overwhelming guilt and fear of pissing people off kept me blocked more times than I ever want to admit to.

In the years since those difficult times, I’ve struggled to write because of an avalanche of thoughts, feelings, and words that have raged like a category-five hurricane inside my mind. I know now this was just fallout and the silence after a raging battle that was like a huge echo of noise, but this raging storm took every ounce of energy I had to work through it. But I know I needed to work through those personal storms to get to where I’m at today.

So for any writer reading this who’s been blocked, who has sat down to write day in and day out and gotten nothing written, it’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. It means your human and you’re not perfect. Don’t let anyone try to take you on a guilt-trip you don’t need to take for this. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself for going through writing times like this. Because in my thirty-six years of writing I can tell you from my personal experience ‘writer’s block’ is real. And most of all, you have to find a way to work through it no matter how long it takes.

Don’t give up on your writing when this happens because after a storm there is always calm and eventually, the echoes of those storms will fade and you’ll be able to breathe, think, and feel again. And yes, the words will come to you. And if anyone doesn’t understand that, walk away from them and do your dead-level best to banish their words from your mind. Those words are like a poison you need to get out of your mind and guard yourself against. When it comes to writing, focus on yourself and tell yourself you’re not selfish for pursuing it when you have the time and the energy to do so.

Writer’s block is real like a storm is real, like your thoughts and feelings are real. But like all storms, eventually, it will come to an end. You’ll learn from each storm and grow stronger every time because of that. And most of all, believe in yourself and you’ll find your words again, and they’ll be better than before.

Please visit Michele Sayres’s website: https://michelesayre.com/
Direct link to the article “Writer’s Block is Real” https://bit.ly/2D2lo4I

Lisa Criss Griffin: Not Your Ordinary Joe

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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Not Your Ordinary Joe

Lisa Criss Griffin

Rance Edwards was not thrilled as he looked out the chopper window. The pilot brought the helicopter to a slow hover before gently setting it down in a designated spot on the desert floor. The landing pad was adjacent to a stone entrance leading inside a strangely eroded pinnacle. Colorful layers of the windswept rock were bathed in an unearthly golden orange glow from the late afternoon sun, intensifying their visual impact dramatically. Rance had to force himself not to take a picture, since it was forbidden by the conditions of this clandestine meeting.

He had felt distinctly uneasy about the whole visit ever since he was first notified of the necessity of his presence here. The remote desert location made him more uncomfortable. There were a few cars in the small parking lot, but on closer inspection, it appeared most of them were rusted junkers. Rance doubted they would even start…sad looking, old rust buckets. What a shame. They would have been valuable cars if they had been properly cared for. He crossed the lot, swatting at an annoying fly that wouldn’t leave him alone. He flicked his tongue across his dry lips as he approached the entry to the rocky outcrop. 

A tall blond woman stepped from within the darkness of the entrance, immediately drawing his attention. Rance blinked in surprise, walked up to her and smiled, introducing himself immediately.

“Greetings. I am Rance Edwards from TechMeDNA. I understand you are expecting me.”

“Yes sir, we are. You may call me Tanya. Please follow me and try not to dawdle. It is difficult to find people who get lost in passageways here. The main route through the compound is painted with a wide yellow line. If you do happen to get lost, try to find…the yellow brick road.”

Tanya smiled and giggled at what evidently was a common joke reiterated to all unsuspecting new visitors. The song from a classically famous movie began to play in his head.

“Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the yellow brick road. Follow, follow, follow, follow…follow the yellow brick road! Shut up, shut up, shut up right now. Shut up, shut up, shut up for now! Stop it, stop it, stop it, stop it…staaaaaaap!!! 

Rance squashed the song in his mind like an overripe banana.

“Can you tell me who I am reporting to, and why, exactly?” 

“I don’t have any details to give you. Obviously this meeting is top secret, and they have been deliberately vague. But you already knew that.”

The blonde pressed a brass button on the stone wall. Elevator doors opened, beckoning Rance to take a seat inside the surprisingly plush car. The two of them entered. Tanya selected another button and sank onto a comfortable leather bench. As soon as Rance was seated, he felt the elevator lines chattering as the lift dropped into the depths of the misshapen pinnacle. The artificial lights were dim, adding another layer of discomfort to Rance’s gut anxiety. 

Rance fervently wished his dearest friend could have accompanied him. Wes was also a scientist, knew the same material and understood the importance of this meeting. But, it wasn’t safe for both of them to be here. If something happened to him, his friend Wes would still have control over the technology. No matter how much Rance dreaded it, this meeting could be their best option to see some of the most important research ever done come to fruition. 

The elevator doors opened. Tanya and Rance turned right and walked down the twists and turns of a dimly lit stone hallway. Tanya finally stopped before a beautifully crafted door. Depictions of mythical beasts were cunningly carved into an inscribed illustration of a forest. She turned the golden handle. The heavy door swung open easily into a much brighter room.

The far wall was a huge aquarium, filled with small schools of brightly colored fish. They quickly darted away in unison, surprised at the intrusion. A large, watermelon-colored grouper cruised by the front of the plexiglass, stopping to peruse the intruders before moving on, unconcerned. 

“Please, take a seat. The Guardian will be right with you.”

Tanya motioned towards a conference area to one side of the impressive aquarium. Rance found a comfortable chair and watched a four-foot sand tiger shark swim by lazily on his way to the other side of the habitat. He was beginning to relax when the ornate door once again swung open. A tall man with dark hair and piercing brown eyes entered, followed by a woman carrying a laptop and a soft leather valise in her arms. Rance rose from his chair, nervously wiping the moisture from his hands on the sides of his trousers. 

The couple stood in front of Rance, but no handshake was offered. It was a shame really, what the faux pandemic had done to squash humanity’s desire for human touch. The people who were left unaffected after avoiding the disastrous vaccinations were careful now. With good reason. Which was most likely why he was here.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Edwards. You may address me as Maxwell. This lovely lady is Rory. We appreciate your willingness to meet with us on such an important matter. Please, take your seat.”

The tall man sat down while the girl set up the electronics. He got right down to business.

“It has come to our attention through a mutual human acquaintance that your company may have developed an antidote to the plethora of problems the mandatory vaccine perpetrated upon the unsuspecting victims of the human race. As you know, it has become imperative to offer those unfortunate souls whatever relief we can. Thankfully, the vaccine rendered them all sterile, so the horrors won’t be replicated. We heard of your company’s work to reverse the unacceptable effects of the vaccine, and are interested in hearing more. Please enlighten us, and feel free to use the laptop in your presentation.”

Maxwell leaned back in the soft leather chair, awaiting Rance’s response. Rance removed a thumb drive from his inner suit coat pocket and inserted it into the computer. He quickly typed in an extensive password and several answers to security questions known only to him and his fellow scientist and friend, Wes. The laptop hummed as an introductory screen materialized on the adjacent side wall. Rance was impressed. The clarity of the large picture on the smooth stone wall was outstanding. Rance turned to address his audience.

“What you are about to see is truly horrifying. I want to impress upon you both that the creature featured in this program was humanely treated, and was successfully…re-engineered. He enjoys a fairly normal human life now, with only a few minor lasting effects from the vaccine. He is enormously grateful, and is willing to help others in any way he can. Several dozen other victims have also been successfully treated with our method, and are now able to enjoy the remainder of their lives in peace.”

Rance met Maxwell’s intense gaze unwaveringly.

“As you know, the animal DNA used in the vaccine activated and replicated when the 5G systems became operational, resulting in hybrid humans. Half man, half…very unhappy animal.”

Rance cleared his throat nervously as he started the first video. It was difficult to tell what the creature racing around the caged enclosure actually was at first. Not because the picture wasn’t clear, but because some of the body parts looked human, and other parts on the same body were not. The creature stopped suddenly in front of the camera, pounding viciously on the metal bars and screaming in obvious agony. They had all seen creatures like this after the 5G was in place. It was devastating, horrifying and unthinkable!

Rance stopped the video and assessed his audience. Both appeared shaken, but attentive.

“I am sorry to have reminded you of the extreme evil the mandated vaccine perpetrated upon these poor souls. The following slides are one week intervals of this same creature after the initiation of our restorative technology.”

Rance began clicking slowly through the slides, allowing enough time for perusal and any questions. He stopped before the final three slides.

“The final restoration you are about to see happened over a year ago. The subject has only a few lingering quirks from the animal DNA which are not dangerous, nor particularly noticeable unless someone is looking specifically for anomalies. His physical appearance, behavior and mental status are normal. In fact, he has returned to his area of expertise in the scientific field in order to help those who remain in torment from hybridization. It is his mission in life to help restore humanity to the victims of the vaccine. He sincerely hopes you will help him and help our company stop the anguish plaguing those poor devils still out there, who continue to terrorize the remnants of the unadulterated human population.”

Rance stepped to the side as he slowly clicked through the last three slides. He watched as the incredulous realization of who he actually was, dawned on Maxwell and Rory. Both humans jumped to their feet and faced Rance. Rory scooted slightly behind Maxwell as they looked from Rance, to the last slide, and back.

“What the….! Are you kidding me? Seriously, man?” Maxwell exclaimed in shock.

Rance flicked his tongue out quickly to wet his lips, blinked and clenched his fist behind his back to avoid scratching the small itchy, scaly place on his leg. He smiled and nodded his head.

“I am the living, breathing, rational example of what our technology has to offer the hybrid humans. Others like me are having similar results. We pose no threat to pure human beings. It is our most ardent desire to be able to offer this relief to everyone affected. Will you help us right the horrible wrong done to so many unsuspecting men, women and children? Will you fund our efforts to help those poor, suffering souls?”

Maxwell inspected Rance closely with inscrutable eyes, still slightly incredulous. He stroked his dark goatee thoughtfully before replying.

“We would like to tour your facilities, see other results and meet your scientific team before we make a final commitment. But, if this is verifiable, I am pretty sure we will fund your technology. It is the least we could do for the victims of such malevolence! We will set up a time to do so through our mutual human contact.”

The ornate wooden door swung open as if on cue.

“Thank you for coming, Mr. Edwards. Tanya will see you out.”

Rance retrieved his thumb drive and quietly accompanied Tanya back to the front entrance. He stepped out into the fading light and stopped for a moment to bask in the lingering warmth of the sunshine. The pesky fly returned and buzzed around his face annoyingly. Rance snapped it up and swallowed it before he could stop himself. Damn lizard DNA, he swore under his breath. He hurried to the waiting helicopter, glad to be going home. 

As the aircraft rose above the colorful outcropping, Rance was overcome by a wave of gratitude for the kindness and scientific brilliance of his fully human friend Wes. On the approach to town, his attention was captured by an agonizingly familiar jut of a rocky ledge, partially hidden by the unforgiving sand of the desert. It had been his household’s refuge after the hybridization began. Once they had the funding, it would be the first place Rance would look for what was left of his family.

Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin. All rights reserved

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For more of Lisa’s writing, please visit her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin/

Kelli J Gavin: The Bride

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

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

The Bride

Kelli J Gavin 

When Clarence was fifteen, he and his father drove on the back roads to get to a portion of land their ancestors had lived on for generations. He was excited because he had trained for this venture, yet was intimated at what task he was asked to accomplish. Clarence’s father believed that boys needed to prove themselves as men. That they needed to show their father and the Mighty Lord above, that they could handle the elements and navigate the land that their ancestors had always called home. 

Clarence would need to need to travel the five miles of rough terrain overnight and when he saw The Bride, he would know that home was just around the bend. Clarence planned for the temperature to drop to close to 30 soon after sunset and that the wild animals would be hungry. With only a compass, a slingshot, a flashlight, and his warm woolen clothing, Clarence would discover if he could make it home and no longer be considered a boy. But a man. 

Clarence’s father stopped on the side of the barren road and turned off the old pickup. As he turned to his son and lifted his hat, he reached for his second pack of cigarettes for the day. 

“Clarence. Let the moon and The Bride be your guide.” He nodded and tipped his hat. Clarence knew that he was to exit the pickup and begin his walkabout.

Clarence had loved exploring The Bride as a child with his father. Every turn, every hidden crevice, each long lock of what appeared to be curly hair that lay neatly down the back of her gown. Clarence’s entire life seemed to have occurred all within ten miles of The Bride. 

Believing he was ready for the task at hand, he watched his father slowly pull away and held one hand above his head and waved farewell. Clarence didn’t know that that would be the last his saw of his father.

The night was bone chilling as the wind picked up. The coyotes and vultures seemed to flock and sing a song of vengeance before he even rounded the first hill. He knew resting wouldn’t be an option when he became tired later in the night unless he built a fire. And a fire would attract more of those animals that viewed Clarence as their next meal. Knowing slow and steady would win the race, Clarence secured his supplies and set out on his course. With the compass in his right hand attached to his wrist, he felt confident in his navigational skills to arrive at The Bride and then home by morning. 

A turkey vulture swooped in and tried to take a peck at him. Clarence swung his pack and screamed as loud as he could to scare him away. He had been fighting with those mean birds since the first time he put on boots at the age of two. He hated those birds. Their beady eyes, jowls that seemed to be covered in pocked skin, and their ability to startle even the calmest of men. They were no friend of his. 

A rattler or two crossed his path before the sun completely set and he knew he would have to be more alert with each of his steps when all he had was a flashlight to light his way. Chewing on a beef stick in the second hour of his walk, he reached into his pack for gloves as he wanted to protect his hands climbing through the rough terrain ahead. 

Space out my food. Limit my water intake. Keep watching the moon. Check behind me every two minutes. Check my compass often. Clarence continued to remind himself of everything he thought was of the utmost importance. 

Clarence fell at about the three-mile mark. He twisted his left ankle on a rock and stumbled and went down hard on his right shoulder. The boulder he hit was unforgiving. He sat by the boulder longer than necessary because he felt a little dazed and confused. When he finally had his wits about him, he shone his flashlight in all directions. Three coyotes surrounded him. As he stood and proceeded to yell loudly and raise his hands over his head, the coyotes were smaller than they first appeared and scattered quickly. The pain was worse when he was weight-bearing. Clarence grimaced and knew that this was not the end. He needed to continue. 

Walk it off. Walk it off. You can do this. You have had worse pain. Remember that time you got hit in the right butt cheek by Micheal’s slingshot? That was the worst pain ever. Ha. Remember how you beat him up the next time you saw him? Yeah. He was always a jerk. 

Clarence continued to talk to himself as he walked and then stopped when he realized he was talking to himself. He wouldn’t want The Bride to hear him and think he had gone crazy. 

Glancing at his watch and realizing that it was almost 5 a.m., he knew the sun would soon be rising. He was close. The Bride was close. Twenty more minutes. Just twenty more minutes. 

As the sun began to come up on the horizon, The Bride in all her splendor came into full view. Why was it that each and every time he saw her, a smile spread across his face? Would this ancient beauty always bring such joy to him and the generations yet to come? 

Clarence sat for twenty minutes and just reveled at God’s creation. The Bride was his reward. He had accomplished his goal. Five miles in the dark, overnight on rocky terrain. Make it home by 6 a.m. and Clarence would no longer be a boy.

As he turned one last time to his right, and the rocky driveway came into view, he also saw the sun shining over his home that he shared with his dad. His home that he had so many fond memories in. The home where he last saw his mother. She had passed three years prior from breast cancer. She went quickly and didn’t suffer much. In his grief, he took such solace in that fact. 

Remembering his mom and his dad and the times they had together, Clarence neared his house. He saw his father sitting in his pickup truck. Was he preparing to leave and check on the animals before Clarence even arrived home? 

As Clarence saw his father’s slumped shoulders and slack jaw, he knew that his father had spent the night in his pickup. That he never made it into the house to rest his weary body from a long day’s work. That his father had died in his absence, behind the wheel of his pickup truck. 

Clarence was sixteen years old and now a man. He had accomplished his goal but did not have a mother or father to celebrate with. He didn’t feel much like celebrating much ever again. 

Clarence lived a quiet life on the land that his ancestors had always loved and lived on. He knew that his father and his mother would have been proud of the man he became. Clarence also knew that when his son was about to become a man, that he would change the way they did things in their family and he would accompany his son on the overnight exploration and navigation to discover The Bride by morning. 

They would do it together. Father and Son. They would meet The Bride together.

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For more of Kelli’s writing, please visit her blog: https://kellijgavin.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-bride.html

Lynn Miclea: Drop-Off Point

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

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

Drop-Off Point

Lynn Miclea

Katy stumbled as the burly man roughly pulled her across the hot sand. Quickly catching herself and regaining her balance, she stumbled after him over the uneven ground. Dust blew in gusts across the sand.

She shook her head, vaguely remembering being grabbed, drugged, and thrown into the back of a car. She had awoken groggy and with a headache as the car came to a stop. This man had yanked her out of the car and was now marching her across the hot desert.

“Where are we? Who are you?” Her voice came out weak.

The man glanced at her, a stern look on his weathered face. “We’re where we need to be. And it doesn’t matter who I am.”

She tried again. “At least tell me your name. And why we are here.”

His grip tightened on her arm as he pulled her along. “My name’s Grant, but that’s not important. You’re about to go on a little adventure.” His raspy voice sounded menacing.

Her eyes burned and her muscles felt fatigued and weak. The drug had not completely worn off yet. “But I don’t understand. What do you want?”

“This is the drop-off point. We wait here. See that?” He pointed in the distance. “They’ll be here to get you.”

“Who? For what?”

His lips curled into a sneer. “It doesn’t matter.”

Defiance and anger rushed through her. “Of course it matters! I have a right to know what is happening to me!”

Grant glared at her. “You are an offering.”

She stared at him, not comprehending. “What?”

“An offering to alien beings. I bring them specimens, and they take you.”

Katy peered into the distance trying to see. “Alien beings? Specimens?”

A large metallic object now shimmered into focus, and three strange green-gray creatures stood in front of it. Katy stared at it as panic coursed through her.

“Yes. They require human specimens.”

Her voice shook. “For what?”

“I don’t know and I don’t ask. That is not my problem. I bring humans, and they give me—”

“No!” She struggled and tried to pull away from his grasp but his grip was too strong. “I won’t do this!”

Grant smirked. “Where will you go? We are miles from nowhere. You cannot escape.”

Katy glanced back at the alien spaceship, now clearly visible, and the hairs on her neck stood out. She felt her bowels loosen, and her breath caught in her throat. “Is that …”

“That is their spaceship. They are coming here to collect you. Just like the others.”

Her eyes widened in horror. “No!” She struggled again, desperately trying to get out of his grip.

The sound of a gun cocking cut through the struggle. She gasped and turned, her fear intensifying. Two men stood behind them, weapons trained on them.

One of the men gestured with his gun. “We will take her from here.”

“No!” Grant shouted. “That is not the deal. I deliver her to them. Only me.”

Seeing Grant distracted, Katy quickly twisted and bolted out of his grip, running a short distance away. But who should she trust? What was happening? Who were these two men with guns? Whose side were they on?

Needing to get away and have time to think, she sprinted, trying to get a good distance from them. A strong arm grabbed her. “Not so fast.” She looked back to see one of the men with the guns.

Her throat constricted. “I just …” Her body felt weak. Nausea rose into her throat. She wasn’t sure if it was terror, lightheadedness from the drugs, or the heat of the sun, but she started feeling woozy. She stumbled, her body trembling and weak.

The man caught her and held her for a moment. “Are you okay?”

“Who are you?” she whispered.

He smiled. “My name is Ken, and my partner is Nick. We are investigators, undercover officers. We’ve been watching this guy for a while.” He gestured toward Grant who was now being handcuffed by Nick. “We need to get you out of here.”

Movement caught Katy’s eye and she saw two alien creatures approaching, roughly one hundred feet away.

Ken stepped in front of her. “Stay behind me.”

Katy peeked around the officer and saw the creatures raise weapons. She closed her eyes as the loud crack of gunfire filled the air. She jumped and whimpered, her body shaking.

Ken quickly turned to her. “Let’s go — now. I need to get you back to our van. You’ll be safe there.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her toward a small mound of red sand.

Katy looked at the vast desert, confused. “Where is your van?”

“Here.” He pulled her behind the mound of sand, and Katy looked back and realized there was a large reflective shield that camouflaged the vehicle behind it, appearing from the front like an expanse of the desert.

Katy glanced back at the creatures. The two alien beings and their spaceship shimmered and disappeared.

“What the—”

Ken opened the door to their van, and Katy noticed a trailer hitched behind it. “Get in. You’ll be safe here. I’ll explain more in a few minutes.”

She slid in, feeling herself begin to calm down. She watched as Ken strode back across the desert and then returned a couple minutes later with his partner, who held tightly to Grant, his hands handcuffed behind him, pushing him forward toward the van.

Nick brought Grant to the trailer hitched in the back, and Katy watched as Grant was shoved into the trailer. Clanking sounds reached her as Grant was secured in the trailer. Then Ken and Nick took down the reflective shield, compacted it, and placed it in the back of the van. Ken got in the driver’s side and Nick slid into the passenger’s seat, glancing at Katy in the back seat and nodding at her.

Ken looked at his partner. “Is he secured?”

“Yes,” Nick answered. “He’s clamped into the restraints. He won’t go anywhere.”

Ken started the vehicle and then turned to Katy. “Are you okay?”

Katy nodded. “Yes. What is going on?”

Ken hesitated and then spoke slowly. “This has been taking place for a while. We are part of a sting operation to catch these men and the aliens, who the men are helping. The aliens have been landing in different places here in the desert, and it is hard to catch them, as they have advanced technology and shimmer in and out of existence. Even shooting them — they seem to heal and simply shimmer out, but then they return.” He paused and then continued. “We have now caught Grant, one of the men who have been bringing humans to them. But there are at least two more we are watching. We know how they operate, and we will catch them. And we will come back here and end this for good.”

Katy swallowed hard and licked her dry lips. “Why was I picked? And am I still in danger?”

He shook his head. “People seem to be picked at random. You are one of the lucky ones — we got to you in time. There are others that we could not get to fast enough to save, and they have not returned.”

Katy shuddered as the van moved forward, bouncing over the sand.

A hissing sound suddenly filled the van and a green-gray alien shimmered into existence on the back seat next to Katy.

She gasped and whimpered, throwing herself against the door, as terror flooded through her. Nick quickly turned around, held up a large weapon, and shot the alien in the chest. The alien’s eyes opened wide and then it shimmered out of existence and was gone, leaving a vague acidic odor behind.

Another whimper escaped Katy’s lips. “What … what …”

Nick raised his eyebrows. “This ammunition has a timed delay. Wait for it.”

Katy’s brow wrinkled. She couldn’t figure out what he was saying. Looking out the side window, her eyes scanned the sandy desert. A few seconds later, the spaceship shimmered into existence, and then a powerful explosion rocked the desert. A deep boom traveled through the ground and the air, rattling the vehicle. Katy clamped her hands over her ears against the loud noise of the blast as shards of metal rained down on the hot sand. Her eyes wide, she stared where the spaceship used to be.

“Got it!” Nick stated, pointing at the debris in the desert. “Finally!”

Ken braked and looked at his partner. “Great shot — we did it!” He raised one hand and they high-fived each other.

Katy cleared her throat. “Was that the—”

“That was the spaceship,” Ken explained. “We have now destroyed it. Hopefully we are finally done.”

Nick motioned toward the trailer behind them. “Except for booking Grant. And the other two men. And the paperwork.”

“Yeah, always the paperwork,” Ken murmured, as he pressed on the gas and the van picked up speed.

Katy took a deep breath and felt sweat trail down her neck. She could easily have been on that spaceship. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“You’re welcome.” Ken glanced in all directions around the desert. “Now let’s hope there was only one spaceship and it’s really over.”

Katy gasped, her throat dry. “What?”

“We’ll keep watch for a while. We hope this is it, but you never know — we don’t know who we’re dealing with or what they’re capable of.”

She nodded and bit her lip, gazing out the window at the golden desert sand flying by, as a shiver ran up her spine.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://wp.me/p4htbd-to

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

And visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

R. A. Legg: The Arizona Pyramid

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

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The Arizona Pyramid

R. A. Legg

The odd shape drew me in. It was a mountain and I wasn’t a geologist, but still something was just not natural about this… well it was more of a hill, not a mountain.

I saw it on google and just could not help but think that there was something more here. Something that I needed to see. It had filled my imagination for months and now it was just six miles away. 

We parked the car at the trailhead and put all that they needed in their backpacks. James, my partner, was just looking forward to a long hike. Sure, we had some equipment to excavate a small dig, but that was just in case we found something that looked interesting. We would stop and see if it merited something more. This was how many of these digs started. An arrowhead. Bit of bone or fossil. And the next thing you knew, hundreds of college interns would be digging in grids. But that was like hitting the lottery and James didn’t think we bought a ticket this day.

I was anxious. There was something there. Something hidden in plain sight. I just didn’t know what it could be. 

We checked our water and put our backpacks on. A ranger at the entrance to the trail reminded us to sign our names and record how many days we might be on the trail. James laughed. He was a middle-aged man with about twenty extra pounds. “We wouldn’t last a day out there.”

The park ranger took a longer look at him.

I said, “Just a day trip.”

The ranger asked, “Are you going to the pyramid?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Be careful, there was a lot of rain this spring and now there are slides on the south side. I would not climb there. If you want to scale it, go to the west side.”

“We just want to poke around and see if those slides uncovered anything,” I responded.

“Got it. Are you a geologist?” the ranger asked.

“Nope,” was all James offered, then headed down the path.

“Archaeologist,” I said, and I joined James.

The hike was hot but uneventful. We made good time for two old guys, and we were at the base of the hill that was simply called the pyramid. It did resemble one. It had four sides and it was the right shape, but the top was deformed and there were no stones, just raw rock. Sedimentary by the look of it. This had once been a vast ocean, but now it was the desert of the Southwest. 

We dropped our backpacks and started to set up a small shelter. If we found something it would be nice to be able to study it out of the heat of the sun. After some water and rest, we looked at their objective and decided to split up. James would take the east side of the slide and I took the west. Without a word, James grabbed his handbag of tools and headed out. He loved these explorations. They usually didn’t yield anything, but they were fun, and they were away from the university and all its politics. 

I started to climb the edge of the slide the ranger had mentioned. It looked normal. Sand, loose shale type rock and indigenous plants that were dried by the sun. I was about halfway up when James yelled. He had found something and wanted me to come see. He was just too far away to yell what it was, but a good whistle carried his request on the wind, and I heard it. I looked at him and he waved frantically at me.

I really didn’t want to climb down and then back up again, but he kept waving for me to come over. I even thought about a more direct route, but we were eight miles from the entrance, and I didn’t want to be hauled out by the rangers. So, I slid down and made my way to James. Whatever it was, it was too big to bring down. As I made my way up the east side, I noticed a fossil. It was of a crustacean. So, this place just might give us something. I immediately identified the creature’s rocky remains and it was quite common, so I did not bother to pick it up. Let some hobbyist have it for his collection. James was just ahead and he was excited. He waved at me to hurry. 

I tried, but the slide was making it difficult. Finally, I was about six feet away. James was using a brush to remove sand from a stone. It was rectangular and had a fairly sharp corner protruding from the sand. You could tell, even at this distance, that it had been cut. My adrenaline jumped. 

James looked back at me. “It’s a cut stone.” You could hear the excitement in his voice.

I reached out to touch it. It was smooth on the top, rough on the east side. The tool marks were obvious. 

James looked at me like he was a kid. 

I flung my tool pouch to the ground and pulled out my folding shovel. I needed to know if there was more than one. I went below James and started removing the sand and loose stone. About six shovelfuls in I hit something solid. I changed my digging to a sweeping action and sand kept coming down from above. Finally, I was scraping something hard and unmoving. I stopped using the shovel and started to work with my hands. I didn’t want to damage whatever was under the sand. More sand kept coming from above, but I did see what was solid. Another step. “No!” I told myself. “Just a stone.”

I worked my way up to James and found three more. One had been dislodged and was just to the side. I dug a little more to see what might be underneath it. It was another stone. This one had tool marks on the top. And a groove down the middle. I turned my attention to the dislodged stone. If it had a grove that matched the other stone, then there would be no question. It would be a man-made object.

We could not lift the stone due to its size, but we could dig under one end. Towards the bottom was something cut into the stone. We used our brushes to remove the dirt and it started to look like a letter. Just not our alphabet. Then a second character was found. Could this be a stone number? Like someone had engineered it. The ground was harder here, so I had to get a small pick that I carried in my main backpack. I ran down the hill like a crazy man. Retrieved the pick and was starting back up. There was a slight tremor and then I looked up.

There was a puff of smoke and the deformed part of the top at the hill split. Then the hillside gave way. Tons of rock and sand were heading down at us. There was nowhere to go. I turned to run but dust started to overtake me. I threw the pick as hard as I could with the hope that it would be thrown clear of the slide and that someone would find it. I might not survive, but the pick would tell the story that someone was here when the slide happened. 

Something hit the back of my legs and they buckled. I went face down and darkness overcame me. I was still alive and I could breathe, but it was dusty and foul. He tried to move but couldn’t. It was dark. I reached for his phone, but it would not light up. It must have been smashed in the slide. I remembered that I had a small steel flashlight in my pocket. It took almost six minutes to retrieve it. It was slimy and it stunk of blood. 

“Funny. As bad as this place smelled, I could still smell my own blood,” I thought to myself. 

With the flashlight out, I turned it on. There was just too much dust floating around me and I couldn’t see very far. 

I felt strange and knew that darkness was starting to take me. I fought it. I needed to stay conscious. My mind faded and then there was nothing. 

I woke again to the same darkness. At first, I tried to move, but pain told me to stay put. I fumbled for my flashlight and found it. I turned it on, and the light shot out like a laser. It found a wall that was about fifteen feet away. On the wall was a picture of what looked like a city. There were roads and buildings and, in the center, a small pyramid. I looked for other walls and then I tried to look up. There had to be something above me, but I didn’t see anything. Looking back at the picture I could see things in the sky. Like flying fish. I kept looking around and on the floor near the picture, I saw my pick. It had not been thrown clear. I knew that from the size of what was coming down the hill that James would have been buried along with our tent. The only thing that would tell anyone that we were here was a small scrap of paper at the trailhead, but even that didn’t mean that anyone would look here for us. 

The thought that someone was in the area when the slide happened also flashed on my mind, but a quick look at the park’s ledger only showed two names ahead of ours and they were coming out at a place some fifty miles north of us. So, it was doubtful that they were anywhere near this hill. 

I felt the sadness of being so alone. I could not move and felt cold even though it was close to ninety degrees on the surface today. The irony is that James and I only wanted to see if there was anything significant about this hill and we found man-made stone and now a painting of a civilization that had to be thousands of years old and yet had buildings, streets and flying objects. It would have made us famous. 

Things got fuzzy and grayness replaced the darkness. As my mind faded, I remembered the Ranger’s words, “Are you going to the pyramid?” We would be found, but most likely not alive. Either way, we would be famous…

R.A. Legg © 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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For more writing by R. A. Legg visit his blog: https://ralegg.blogspot.com/

Enzo Stephens: Prints in the Sand

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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Prints in the Sand

Enzo Stephens

I thought I knew this woman.

She’s only been my wife over the past 14 years. 

We share so much. So many of our goals in life are aligned. Neither of us wants kids, so I got the Big V as an anniversary gift to her, and she really seemed to love that sacrifice.

She agreed to my trip proposal with gusto, hopping on the phone almost as soon as the suggestion rolled out of my face. A chance to go to the Holy Land and walk where Jesus trod? Beth was overjoyed.

There was the spontaneous hug and smooch and… God she felt so wonderful in my arms, and I suddenly realized that she’d not been in my arms in… ages?

How can that be?

But as my mind both embraced and basked in her; the fresh, floral scent of her lustrous, raven hair; the way she seemed to just mold her body right into mine that was so perfect; I was also a bit stunned and surprised at the realization of how distant we’d become as days became weeks and so on.

We so needed this trip. 

We needed to step away from our day-to-day. We needed to re-connect. We’d grown into comfy roommates, and that was depressing as hell.

The rest of that day passed with Beth in a flurry of activity; putting together packing lists, posting a TO DO on the big, white grease board that we mounted on the wall beside the door to the house. The grease board was her idea, and it was a doozy!

With her hectic schedule and mine, sometimes we’d only catch ten minutes or so together per day, and weeks blew by with so little contact. But there was the big, white grease board, and it was there I’d stop every morning, bleary-eyed from too many legal briefs and too many late night scotches (neat please) with prospective clients to see some little thing she’d written or drew or both, and that stuff made my day.

But then the little messages became terser as time sped by. From stuff like “Keep me in your shirt-pocket so I’m close to your heart!” to “Don’t forget the grocery store this evening.”

I should have seen the shit coming. But that’s the thing about being comfortable; about being happy and complacent. Shit slips by. And then when you finally wake up and smell the coffee, an ass-bomb is about to go off in your life, leaving you to say… 

“What happened?”

Time crept by — because that’s what time does when there’s anticipation in the air, and we began to step up our game a bit as a married couple. Anxiously waiting for the upcoming trip. We took in a couple dinners together; we texted each other more during the day.

There were more smiley faces on the grease board.

Two weeks before the trip; on a sparkling autumn Saturday afternoon. “Jeff? I need to talk.”

That got my attention. I popped the tops on a couple of Iron City beers and perched on a barstool, facing her over the kitchen island. I pushed an open beer toward her. 

She glanced at it, and that was all. “What’s up, Bethy?”

Beth and Jeff. Funny how sometimes the names rhyme and makes everything seem a-ok.

As if having names that rhyme would make for a strong marriage. 

She placed both palms against her cheeks; pulled them to the countertop and took a deep breath. “I can’t do this.”

A bolt of concern jolted me. “Can’t do what?”

“Baby…” and she laid her delicate little hand on my thick forearm; I heard and felt the sob that wracked her, and that little bolt of concern bloomed. I placed my other hand over hers. “Talk to me, honey. What’s wrong? Whatever it is, we’ll work through it. Together.”

“There’s someone else.”

“Wha…” Someone just punched me in the gut, sucked all the air out of my lungs, and laid a cast-iron skillet upside my head. I uncovered her hand and removed it from my forearm.

I just stared at her, as in, ‘who the hell is this person?’ A torrent of powerful emotions all ripped through me at once, yet all I could do at that time was stare at her. 

“Jeff? Say something…”

What to say? For once, I honestly had no idea of what would come out of my mouth, but if I were a gambling man, I’d lay odds on it being harsh.

“Please, Jeff?”

“The tickets are non-refundable.”

“What?”

As those words echoed in my brain, they just… felt right. That sentence spun back and forth, and with each passing beat of my heart, my determination to see this through grew. Then, “We’re doing the trip, Beth. Period.”

“But—”

The conversation — such as it was, was over, as I was on my feet before I knew I was on my feet, and I snatched that beer off the counter and tromped my way to the basement and my hidey-hole; my safe space. Beth called it my personal porn central and we laughed about it because of course, it was so not true. I know what that shit does to a person’s brain.

No thanks.

I heard her as she called after me on that stunningly beautiful fall afternoon, with the air crisp and a hint of the coming winter, and I ignored her. I had to process this development, and I had to do it without her in my grill.

I threw the door open to my cedar-lined space, then shut it, angrily twisting the lock in place; I stabbed a button on the remote control and the flat-screen blared to life in the face of my indifference. I plopped on the couch and wetly slurped the beer. Some dribbled down my shirt, and I told myself that I’d do my own fucking laundry, thank you very much, so I’ll slurp whatever the hell I want all over myself.

And there was Tom Selleck cruising around Hawaii in a sweet, red Lambo, but I was nothing but numb. Fuck his Lambo, fuck Hawaii and fuck Bethany. 

I was amazed to see that my beer was empty. But never fear, the mini-fridge was stocked! I leaned over and popped the door and nope. 

No beers.

Now I had to make a decision. Do I go back upstairs to snag another six-pack and face her, or can I get by with that sweet looking bottle of Johnny Walker Blue?

I dropped back to the couch and let the tears erupt.

<00>

The flight to Tel Aviv would have been bad enough had we been talking. But we weren’t; we were barely civil toward each other.

She almost bailed on the trip, but I explained two very salient considerations to her:

  1. If she bailed on the trip, I would take it out of her butt in any divorce settlement, and it would not be cheap.

2. Maybe this trip is what we need to save our marriage.

She laughed derisively at that last one, but said the Holy Land might be “cool,” and she’d never been, so there ya go.

We occupied a row of three seats, but the middle seat was empty, and that’s how we left it. The empty seat was a chasm between us, and while my heart ached and yearned to span it, I didn’t.

She caught me glancing at her askance. “What, Jeff?”

“Did you break it off with… him?”

She pushed her hand through her thick, black hair, resting locks of it behind her ear, which was adorned with the little diamond crosses I bought her years ago. “What’s it to you?”

A spike of anger flared. I pushed it down and clenched my teeth; sometimes this woman could be so frustrating! “If we’re gonna make this work, it’s gotta be over. You know that, right?”

She bowed her head, then brushed her eye quickly and turned to me. Her deep, rich brown eyes were liquid. “First, what makes you think it’s a him?”

“What?”

“And second, I broke it off right after I told you.”

Oh God.

I wanted to fold her in my arms and absorb her pain.

And I wanted to punch her right in the face too. How could she fucking do this to me?

Instead I nodded, and not knowing what to say or what to ask, I let it go. Beth, however, was not done. “Happy now?”

I turned away and stared out the window of the plane without actually seeing anything. That numbness was coming back with a vengeance. I wanted scotch or something so that I could…

Feel.

<00>

Tel Aviv is old. Rich, vibrant; thronging crowds; millions of colorful voices calling out in a crazy-yet-oddly-melodic tongue that neither of us understood; we managed to make our way through customs and to our hotel without incident and without really talking to each other.

I grabbed her bag, as any chivalrous hubby would do, but she yanked it out of my grasp and stalked off, leaving me to shrug at the dozens of nodding and smiling people who witnessed the little incident, and I felt both embarrassed and humiliated.

I’d booked us a suite at The Jaffa, the single best hotel on Tel Aviv Beach. It was a divided suite, so Bethany went her way and I went mine, and we passed our first night in Israel essentially alone. Definitely not what I’d planned at all.

We did not break bread together; we did not share in our habit of sipping wine together at every new place we traveled to over the years.

And damnit, I missed her.

Instead of us coming closer, it seemed like this trip was splitting us even more. Maybe she resented me for having to break off the… what? Fling?

I don’t recall sleeping that night.

The next morning saw her and me standing together in the hotel lobby, waiting for our ‘Custom Tour,’ and even though I was supremely aware of the yawning gulf between us, I was almost hopping with anticipation over this tour. This was the bomb.

A white, twelve-passenger shuttle pulled up before the front doors of The Jaffa and a swarthy, liveried man stepped from the vehicle holding a white sign with my last name scrawled across it; this was our Guy. Our Dude. The bearer of Mysterious Secrets of this land that seemed older than time itself.

We both stepped to the shuttle and shivered at the blast of air-conditioning that enveloped us as the doors swooshed shut, and our guide set off at an absurd, breakneck pace. 

His eyes were quite busy, but he and I connected glances in his rear-view, spurring him to chatter. “Good to see you Boss. I am David.”

“Hello, David, and thank you for this.”

“How are you enjoying our land?”

Beth seemed to radiate her own brand of frost. “It’s nice.”

“Is good, Lady. There is much to see, much to try. You must sample our food. It is wondrous.” The shuttle careened across a chaotic intersection littered with a wild variety of vehicles and people.

“I just want to see the places where Jesus walked.”

David glanced in his rear-view again. Furtive, busy. “You will like this tour, Lady. It is a Custom Tour!”

Beth was silent, turning away to stare out her window. “How long to get to the first place?”

“It will be about an hour, Boss. It is about 85 kilometers.”

<00>

David drove us to the desert. 

The freaking desert! As if there wasn’t enough desert like everywhere, this Custom Tour consisted of a freaking desert. 

The three of us stepped from the shuttle with David coming around the front of the shuttle to greet us. He turned to face the arid expanse with arms opened wide. “Here it is!”

Beth and I had our shades on against the baking sun; its heat pummeled us as soon as we stepped out of the vehicle. How is it possible that the sun seemed closer here than anywhere else on earth?

Beth took the words right out of my mouth. “Here what is?”

David pointed at the lone mountainous crag poking up from the desert floor. “Here!”

I glanced at Beth; with her shades on, there was no way to read her. She’d make a hell of a poker player. I faced David, who was beaming from ear to ear. I took a deep breath to rein in my temper. “David?”

He started off the dusty road toward the crag, shouting “Come!” over his shoulder. Beth shrugged and set off after him, and so I followed along like a doggy on a leash.

Every step we took kicked up little puffs of dust and I wondered just how in the hell anyone could possibly breathe around here without N95 masks, but then an image of a slew of crazed and shouting mounted Bedouins waving Kalishnikovs popped up in my head, and they were all wearing some kind of face covering. Well, there ya go.

Beth was annoyed. Her back was ramrod straight and her shoulders were thrust back, as if she were challenging the desert itself. Like, ‘C’mon, Latrine-ditch of the world! I dare you to try to beat me!’ 

This was not going well at all; her attitude was leaving much to be desired.

The walk across the terrain took forever, but later-than-sooner, David came to a halt before the looming pile of rock. I felt a little… tingly; the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. “David, what is this place?”

“This is your Custom Tour, Boss. This is Megiddo!”

He said that like we were supposed to know what it meant. Newsflash: I didn’t. I glanced at Beth who was posing as a statue, and the Biblical story of Lot and his betrothed flashed in my head.

David pointed at the base of the pile of rocks. There was a small chunk of darkness. An entrance maybe? “That is where we are going, Boss and Lady. Come.”

Beth glanced at me; she yanked her shades off. “Jeff? What the hell is this?”

“You heard the man. It’s Megiddo.” As if that statement should settle any further discussion. It didn’t.

“Humor me a second, Jeff. Have you heard the word ‘Armageddon’?”

“Of course. A battle, right? Wait, give me a sec—”

”Yeah it’s a battle site. It’s The Battle site. As in, the Book of Revelations.”

“So?”

“It’s where good and evil wage the final war.”

“Again, so?”

She pushed past me, leaving me to wonder what subtle nuance I missed.

David stopped at the dark entrance; it was in stark contrast to the blinding, searing light of the sun. It promised cool, soothing comfort. David handed us each a small flashlight and he stepped inside, bidding us to do the same. Beth hesitated. I stepped up beside her. “Whatcha waiting for?”

“I don’t like this, Jeff. I don’t like this at all.”

I snagged her hand and pulled her along with me. “C’mon. I’ll take care of you.” And I completely believed that I’d be more than capable of handling whatever dangers might be lurking.

We stepped into the cool, enveloping darkness, feeling the temperature plunge by a good twenty degrees, and I felt Beth shiver as she let herself be pulled along. I thumbed my little flashlight, while several meters ahead David’s beam cavorted in the gloom. “David?”

“Come, Boss. Only a few meters…”

We had stepped into another world. The searing, incandescent light of the sun looked so far away, and there was an odd silence with a sonorous backdrop of susurration. The swishing of sand on sand.

Then, several things happened at once:

Beth and I heard laughter. Sounded like it was David, but it was everywhere; all around us.

Our lights began stuttering, almost strobe-like.

I leaned against the side of the passage through the cave, expecting solid rock, not the soft give of sand. How was that possible? Vertical sand?

Beth screamed behind me; her hand suddenly and forcefully ripped from my grasp, and as I fixed my stuttering beam on her I was privy to my own personal horror show.

A shower of what looked to be black sand poured straight down over her head, engulfing her, and she screamed in agony. “They’re BITING ME!”

“Beth!”

And then an oily, pervasive voice blared in my mind, and I imagined that if the vilest cancer ever could speak, this is what it would sound like. “SHE’S MINE, FOOL!” and then that laughter; mocking, trumpeting… crippling. Battering my every sense, my every thought, and I was dimly aware of falling to my knees, overwhelmed by despair. I was beaten, but by what?

Didn’t matter. Beth was gone and I just wanted all of it to end.

Beth.

Her name exploded, going supernova in my mind. Was she still alive? I had to…

The laughter thundered again, threatening to subsume me. But my Beth. Where was my Beth? I had to find her, and I crawled to where I thought I’d last seen her, the image of her utter terror scorched in my head. I had to find her, I…

Love her.

And with that thought came an eruption of white-hot flame within that I could not contain, and it powered me to battle through the lethargy, the ennui, and plunge my suddenly-burning hand into the pile of hungry, carnivorous sand as the whimpers of her horrific suffering touched my soul. And suddenly I was furious.

A towering pillar of blazing, righteous fury, I pulled my hand back, watching the toothy sand fry to ashes and fall from my arm, and I plunged back in again and found her grasping fingers, and we connected. The power that flowed through me flowed into her, and I pulled, climbing to my feet and using every erg of power I could muster to rip my Beth free of the filth, and she was suddenly in my arms, folded into my body, shaking, wracked with turbulent sobs.

The love I have for my Bethany flowed from me in healing waves, and gradually her heaves abated, and we held onto each other in the pitch black.

The laughter was gone. A ray of sunlight struck our heads and shoulders and we both looked up. The ceiling of the sandy crag was collapsing in piles of fluttering ash all around us. Motion caught my eye and I turned to see the very walls of the cave doing the same. Ere long, it was done and we were exposed to the seething, comforting sun, surrounded by piles of ash being lifted on the desert winds.

I whispered something or the other to my girl and pulled her back toward the shuttle.

<00>

We’re inseparable now.

There have been so many times she has apologized to me for her infidelity, but I had forgiven her ages ago. It occurs to me that maybe that happened before our trip. 

As odd as it seems, I struggle to remember the details of what happened, which is why I’m writing them down now, lest I forget completely, which would suck.

And on a summer night, as we lounge in our respective rockers on our deck, sipping a cold chardonnay beneath a canopy of stars and moths engaged in their chaotic flight, she’ll look at me with meaning and say, “Remember?”

And I nod and reach for her hand, knowing with every fiber of my being that Love Conquers All.

But what I do not share with my Bethy is this:

That there were three of us who went into that cave, so there should have been three sets of boot prints in the dirt leading up to that entrance.

There were only two sets of boot prints.

The other set of prints?

They were hoofprints. Cloven hoofprints.

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Cheryl Ann Guido: A CALL TO KISMET

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

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

A CALL TO KISMET

Cheryl Ann Guido

It had been a long, arduous journey through miles and miles of hot desert sands. The bright rays of the sun seemed relentless, continuously scorching delicate skin despite the thick robes and turbans that thoroughly cloaked their bodies. Too many hours had been spent without adequate cover from sudden sandstorms, not to mention that the two travelers were constantly on alert for the snakes, scorpions and poisonous spiders that called the desert home. Still, this was a necessary pilgrimage. 

The woman halted her camel and gazed up at the monstrous mountain looming in the distance. Almost there. While she mentally calculated the remaining distance, she noted how the intense shimmering heat caused the sand to appear like a liquid pool as sweltering air danced upon its ripples.

“Do you expect that many people will be there?”

She turned toward her companion who was seated beside her atop his own camel.

“There will be as many as there are.”

Aaron Abelman sighed. The woman slowly rotated her head and focused once again on the mountain. Aaron noted how she sat tall and stoic in the saddle with an unspoken determination he had never seen in all of their ten years together. Akila Abelman had always been the kind of girl who was the life of the party. Everyone loved her and she loved everyone. They had met in college and it was love at first sight. After graduation, it had become clear to him that Akila was the girl he wanted to marry. She said yes and although they had never been blessed with children, their life was happy and full.

One day, all of that changed. She woke up different somehow. Gone was the carefree attitude and the bubbly personality he had come to know and love. Instead, his Akila had become a sort of mystic, speaking cryptically and telling stories of ancients and prophecies. She informed him that they needed to quit their jobs, sell all of their belongings, go to Egypt and travel to this mountain. When he asked her why, all she would say was that it was time.

Aaron feared for his wife’s sanity, however, his love for her was strong. He believed in Akila and decided to take a leap of faith. So, after liquidating all of their possessions, they had flown to Africa and begun the long journey on camel back to the mysterious mountain of which she spoke. He wrapped the reins tightly around his hand and began to urge his animal forward.

“Well, let’s get going then.”

As the desert beasts plodded along the shifting sands, their riders began to see others heading in the same direction. Some rode camels, some were on horseback, and some even advanced toward the mountain in wagons pulled by oxen. They were of all colors, races and cultures, a kind of Noah’s Ark of people all headed toward the mysterious mountain.

Upon reaching their destination, Akila and Aaron climbed off of their camels and joined the crowd that had already gathered. A tall, bearded, brown-skinned man dressed in white robes stood on top of a jutting ledge facing the pilgrims. Once the remainder of travelers arrived, he held up his hands to signal quiet.

“My friends, tomorrow at noon the sun will be directly over the highest peak of the mountain. Rejoice, for our journey is almost at end.”

Miraculously, the man’s words were understood by all. It was as if each of them had been able to telepathically translate the language that he spoke into their own. Aaron did not understand how that was possible. He touched Akila’s shoulder and whispered.

“Who is that guy?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? What do you mean, you don’t know?” 

Akila shrugged her shoulders. Aaron shook his head and snorted. He had placed blind trust in his wife. Together they had embarked upon this mysterious journey, but he was tired and his patience had worn thin. He wanted answers. 

“Sweetie, I have done everything you asked up until now. I think it’s time you told me what this is all about.”

Confusion flooded Akila’s eyes. “I can’t. All I can tell you is that I had to come here. I was compelled to come here. It was as if some internal alarm went off inside of me forcing me to follow its directive. It sounds like something is going to happen tomorrow when the sun is over the mountain. I — I have a feeling that it’s something big.”

Aaron rubbed sweat off of both cheeks with the back of his hands and bit his lip. 

“Look Akila, I’m done. I love you but I can’t do this. I want to go back to the States and restart my life. I’m leaving, with or without you.”

As Aaron began to gather his things Akila gripped his arm. Her eyes were wide with fear.

“No, please don’t go. If you go, you’ll die!”

Pushing her aside, Aaron stormed over to his camel and began to tie a sack full of clothes to the saddle.

“Die? So, you know that if I leave, I’ll die, but you can’t tell me why I won’t die if I stay? Uh-uhh, not buying it.”

Akila, who stood close behind his back threw her arms around Aaron’s waist, buried her head between his shoulders and hugged tightly in a desperate effort to keep him from climbing up onto the camel. He spun around and faced her. 

“Damnit Akila, stop it! Don’t you understand what I gave up to come here, what we gave up? We both quit our jobs. I sold my construction business along with everything else we owned, traveled here on a smelly, stubborn camel through choking sandstorms across a steamy desert that is teaming with all sorts of poisonous creatures, and for what? For something you haven’t got a clue about and to hear some guy tell us our journey, that we know nothing about, is almost at an end? No. I’ve had enough.”

Just then, the white robed man approached the pair. Seeing their heated discourse, he intervened.

“Friends, do not abandon your destiny. The love between you is timeless. Trust and have faith. All will be made clear in time.”

As he finished speaking, the man closed his eyes and touched the tips of his fingers to each of their foreheads. A feeling of extreme elation surged through Aaron and Akila as their breaths slowed and a peaceful calm replaced the fear and anger that had caused the argument. After a moment, he removed his hands, bowed, then disappeared into the crowd.

Aaron shook his head and gulped. “Wow. What just happened? I don’t …”

Akila touched her index finger to his lips silencing him. “Shh. Don’t try to understand it. Just stay one more day, please?”

“Alright, one more day, but if nothing happens, we go home, agreed?”

She nodded. “Agreed.”

***

As dusk turned to night, the valley below the mountain became lit by the hundreds of campfires belonging to the pilgrims. Tents of all shapes and sizes were erected to house the many people who had come to the mountain in the desert in hopes of revelation and enlightenment. Many of them sat in groups, enjoying tasty regional food along with the strong Egyptian coffee being brewed and shared by those who called the desert home, others were on their knees praying, and some simply sat quietly watching their children as they ran about the camp laughing and playing. 

Akila and Aaron had joined a small family whose tent was next to their own. The parents and three children had traveled all the way from Norway. They spoke in their native tongue, however, like earlier, all were able to understand the conversation. And just as Akila could not explain her compulsion to come to this place, neither could they.

As the night wore on, the white-robed man drifted from campfire to campfire speaking words of inspiration and hope. A few of the travelers had become skeptical and posed anxious questions to him just as Aaron had to Akila. But in each case, they were instantly calmed and reassured by his touch.

Akila stood up abruptly and walked over to a small open space nearby. Excusing himself, Aaron left his hosts and joined her. She pulled her shawl tightly around her shoulders as she gazed up into the night sky. 

“Isn’t it beautiful?”

Aaron smiled and circled his arm around her waist. “Yes, it is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars before.”

“That’s because we are so far away from civilization. Out here there is no pollution, there are no bright lights, nothing but crystal-clear skies between us and the rest of the universe.”

“Kind of makes you want to just reach out and touch them, doesn’t it,” Aaron sighed.

Without taking her eyes away from the glowing heavenly bodies, Akila smiled and nodded.

“I feel so small, so insignificant compared to them. Yet, seeing them comforts me, almost like I should be up there sailing through the galaxy in a magnificent spaceship.”

“I suppose one day that will be possible.” Aaron hugged her tighter. “But for now, those stars are merely the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Aaron gently separated himself from his wife, then took her by the hand and led her back to their tent.

***

Brilliant tentacles of orange flames peaked over the horizon as the sun rose and began its daily journey across the sky. Akila removed some dates and two pieces of the flat bread they had been given by one of the travelers. It wasn’t much, but it would fill their bellies. As she stirred the black coffee that was brewing in a little pot, her thoughts turned to the gods of ancient Egypt. She remembered learning about the sun god Ra who was said to travel across the sky each day, then plunge into the underworld at night where he would battle the serpent Apopis. After vanquishing the demon, Ra would be reborn and rise again for the new day, thus beginning another cycle. She imagined that perhaps some ancient Egyptian citizens even stood on this very spot marveling at how the sun rose, sailed through the clouds, then sank into darkness only to return the next morning and repeat the journey. Her thoughts were interrupted by Aaron who sat down beside her and poured himself a small cup of the aromatic coffee. He kissed her cheek.

“Morning.”

“Morning, date?” She offered a piece of the dried fruit.

“Nah,” he chuckled, “I already have one.”

Akila laughed heartily. Aaron was pleased. It was the first time she had laughed in many months. Her laughter slowed and she tapped his arm playfully.

“No silly, I meant the fruit.”

“I know.” Aaron tore off a piece of the flat bread and stuffed it inside of his mouth. “But, I’m not a fan, so no, thank you.” His voice was muffled from the food he chewed as he spoke.

“Hey, don’t talk with your mouth full. That’s just rude.”

Akila tried to look stern, but Aaron could see the twinkle in her eyes. He swallowed, then grew serious.

“So, today’s the day. Are you scared?”

She exhaled. “Yes, a little. But there’s no use in worrying. We’ll know what’s going to happen in a few hours.”

They passed the time making their way through the crowd, introducing themselves and chatting. Everyone was a bit uneasy. Finally, it was time to gather at the foot of the mountain. All eyes were focused on the blazing sun which had moved into place directly over the highest peak of elevation. Its brilliance was blinding. In the luminous light a shape slowly became visible then completely blocked out the sun’s radiant form. 

The shiny, round, saucer-shaped ship hovered over the top of the mountain. Mouths agape, the crowd watched as a door opened from the spaceship’s side, lowering until it became a ramp that touched the rocky precipice. A stately figure emerged carrying a tall, golden staff. The man was robed in white from shoulders to ankles. On his head, a gold and white striped headcloth flapped out behind his ears. His eyelids were heavily kohled with dark lines that extended from each of the corners, and around his neck he sported a collar made from beads of lapis lazuli, turquoise, rubies and gold. Gauntlets comprised of brown leather inlaid with precious stones wrapped around his wrists, extending into a point on the back of each hand. He took a step forward as he regarded the silent crowd. 

“My friends, today is the day of reckoning.” His voice was a deep baritone that echoed across the valley. “Five thousand years ago, we came to this planet and planted the seed of knowledge in hopes that it would grow and bloom. Over the years, we have watched, and although that seed grew, it did not bloom. It was our hope that the people of this world would develop into an advanced civilization who would live in peace and continue to spiritually evolve into higher beings. You, my children, were left behind to nurture and guide its inhabitants who were just beginning. In each of your reborn lives throughout the ages, your mission was to teach the way of good and steer them from the path of evil so that when we returned, we could help them travel beyond their planetary boundaries and begin to explore the remainder of the galaxy and beyond.”

He paused as a look of great sadness came upon him. Akila bit her lip and threaded her fingers between Aaron’s.

“This has not yet come to pass. We feel that Earth’s civilization will never be ready for the next step in their evolution. In fact, they have become a malignant growth in the universe and therefore must be eradicated.”

Horrified, the pilgrims whispered and talked among themselves until the visitor clapped his hands loudly.

“Silence! We have made our decision.”

“But surely, there is hope!”

Everyone turned toward the high-pitched voice. Even Akila was surprised that she had dared to speak out. She took a deep breath and continued.

“Give us another chance to make things right. There is good in this world!”

The alien raised a brow as he eyeballed the young woman. She could feel his mind penetrating her own. Pulling herself up to her full height, she lifted her chin, her jaw set in dogged determination.

“My child, I am puzzled. Why do you plead for them?”

“Because humans are not evil, only misguided. They have progressed. They have learned from past errors. They really do try to right wrongs and make their lives better. Please, let us continue to help them grow.”

He closed his eyes for a few moments then addressed the crowd. 

“Very well. I have been in communication with the Council of Ages. They are touched by your faith in the human race and have decided to grant your request. But I caution you, it is your only chance. There will not be another. We will return again in the future for the final day of reckoning.” He raised his staff high in the air as he gazed skyward. “Let this world begin anew and may the gods guide you.” The words echoed throughout the valley as the visitor violently slammed the golden crook onto the ground, and the world instantly plunged into darkness.

***

Akila sat upon an ornate pillow at the feet of the Pharaoh Djoser. The court was quiet that day and they were just about to retreat into their personal chambers when a guard brought in a prisoner and threw the man onto the floor where he landed with a loud thud.

“This slave tried to escape.”

The young man lifted his head and beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She stood up, walked over to him and held out her hand. The guard leapt between them and pushed the man’s head back down with his foot.

“Do not attempt to rise, scum!”

“Stop!”

The guard paid no attention to the woman and continued crushing the slave’s skull with the sole of his sandal as the Pharaoh rose to his feet. 

“You were given a command. Remove your foot, now!”

Reluctantly, the guard did as he was told. Without looking at her, the slave took Akila’s outstretched hand and pulled himself up. 

“Why did you run?”

“I was being flogged by the Master Builder.”

Akila circled him, then gently lifted his chin with a finger so she could look directly into his eyes.

“And why was the Master Builder flogging you?”

The worker hung his head. “He wanted me to place some stones without proper anchors. I told him that the wall would crumble. He accused me of daring to think that I know more than he.”

“Ahh, so the Master Builder made a mistake and you tried to tell him how to fix it.”

“Yes.”

“And he became angry and flogged you.”

“Yes, My Lady.”

Akila turned to Djoser. “This man has committed no crime, My King. He only sought to correct a structural error in the construction of your pyramid.”

The Pharaoh frowned. “But the Master Builder …”

“Should have listened to him,” she finished his sentence. “You do not want your tomb to crumble and fall to the ground, do you?”

“No, I do not. However, the slaves are well known for causing trouble.”

Akila’s eyes narrowed as she regarded the Pharaoh. “Are they? Perhaps if they were better treated that would not be a problem.”

She exhaled. “O’Wise and Benevolent One, you have been given a great gift, the gift of leadership. Only you have the power to guide your people and help them find the right path. Only you can teach them to do what is right and fair by demonstration of your own actions.”

“What would you have me do, Akila?”

“I submit to you that if the slaves were no longer enslaved, but instead became workers who were well treated, provided with a place to live and food on their tables in exchange for their labor, that they would build your monuments willingly.”

The Pharaoh Djoser turned away. “Are you suggesting that I free the slaves? No, I will not agree to this.”

Akila fell to her knees at Pharaoh’s feet. She knew that the best way to persuade him was to appeal to his vanity.

“My King, you have an opportunity to change the way of things, to set the right course, thus ensuring that you will forever be known as the greatest and most important Pharaoh in all of history.”

Djoser rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The greatest and most important Pharaoh, eh? Very well. I will consider your suggestion, Akila, and advise you of my decision. However, as a gesture of good faith, I will free this slave and release him to you. Do what you will with him,” Djoser replied as he turned abruptly and exited the throne room.

Akila smiled. There was hope for these humans yet. After dismissing the guard, Akila motioned to the man. “What is your name?”

“I am called Aaron.”

“Walk with me, Aaron. Tell me more about your people … and yourself.”

{{~.~}}

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Enjoy more of Cheryl’s writing on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

Tanja Cilia: RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH…

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

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

RIVER DEEP, MOUNTAIN HIGH…

Tanja Cilia

We noticed a login to your account @manna_nectar_ambrosia from a new device. Was this you?

Well, actually, it was, and it wasn’t. I hate to break it to you, but when you read this, I will have gone back to where I came from.

You know the double statue of Nyuserre?

You know Nimrud’s Striding Sphinxes?

You know The Sanxing [Fu, Lu, and Shou]?

You know the opal statue of Lakshmi and Ganesha copulating, unearthed last year in Australia?

Well, so do I — I actually crafted them myself. So, you see, since in my universe we have the decimal system, not imperial measurements, I had to come back to create my fifth opus, the one to beat them all!

So, ladies and laddies, here you are: The Leonine Seraphim, at the entrance of Shin-au-av in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert.

You are seeing them now, because I arranged for a temporal shift, to keep them hidden until I was spaceborne and well out of your spatial light cone.

In order to do this, I had to send my clone to access my e-mail account from my go-to Base Office in Malta, which everybody knows is what remains of Atlantis.

I needed to hack into the records of the Thorjan Empire, so that I could make the statues enough like those that were destroyed in The Great Flood, to confound archaeologists.

Then, I had to coordinate the tectonic plates to cause the tsunami that would sweep away the sand from where I had hidden the statues. It’s easy, when you are a whiz at Applied Mathematics.

Lo and behold! All the world’s media was taken aback that such an opus had lain, well, stood actually, hidden for all these years. They can’t identify the stone, they can’t hydrocarbon-date it, and they can’t place the style.

My job is done.

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More of Tanja’s writing can be found on her blog: https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

Write the Story! July 2020

Write the Story! July 2020

The subway/train station from June’s  Write the Story! inspired great stories, some a bit scary! If you missed any of the terrific WTS! stories last month, check out the June 2020 archives.

Writers Unite! started this project to assist all of us to gain followers to our blogs, websites, and author pages and to gain experience as writers. We didn’t do this for accolades or critique but for enjoyment and to share our work with others. Now in the second year of WTS!, we thank all writers who have participated and all who have read and supported the authors. The admins appreciate the positive support you have given the authors.

The July 2020 Prompt!

Here’s the plan:

Based on the image provided, write a story of 3000 words or less (doesn’t matter, can be 50 words or a poem) and post it on the author site that you wish to promote. Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing but if the story is not written well WU! reserves the right to reject publishing it.

Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message. You may also email your story to writersunite16@gmail.comWU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We do ask that you share the link to your WU! Write the Story! post so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers. The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder. DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption. If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments. Thank you.

(Please note: all images used are free-use images that do not require attribution.)