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Sarah Anne Steckel – Anthem of Man’s Dying Day

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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Anthem of Man’s Dying Day

By Sarah Anne Steckel

The divine and otherworldly being hovered far up above the bustling seaside metropolitan city, completely unseen to the human eye, as he watched the ant-sized men and women as they scurried to and fro in their menial daily lives. His obsidian wings gently flapped to call forth the twilight and blanket the sky, causing the city lights to rage and burn like fire against its radiant darkness. Clutched firmly in between his hands was a leather-bound tomb, and in his free hand was a quill pen with a single vulture feather; for he wasn’t an ordinary ethereal man but an angel of death, and it was his job to write down the death of man.

Off in the distance there was the low rumbling of thunder, and from his high vantage point he was able to witness the turbulent storm as it rolled in across the eerily calm ocean front. The ocean air grew thick and heavy, as waves that only grew larger and larger began to crash angrily against the somber sandy beach. The maleficent gray clouds masked by the darkness of the night, plump and heavy with rain, opened up their mouths and spewed hail and flooding rain on the civilians down below. Chaos erupted within the streets as individual blocks of power began to experience mass power outages at a single time.

The omnipotent being began writing on the pages of his book, his keen and wary eye on the tsunami that had formed in the center of the ocean, its epic size continuing to rapidly grow as it traveled further inland. The sounds of sirens caused his attention to shift to the humans below him as they screamed and wailed, their city streets already flooding with a mixture of rainwater and sewage. What remained of the city lights flickered and died, leaving the metropolitan metropolis lifeless and dark; the city went eerily silent, the literal calm before the storm.

The tidal wave arched high above the tallest building, casting a shade even in the darkness of night across the entire island. The celestial man gracefully flapped his wings a second time, pausing briefly in his writings to watch the exact moment that the water crested over and descended down on the silent city. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky with its bright, electrifying blue-hued brilliance, capturing the wave as it struck the tallest skyscraper, the water’s weight toppling the iron-rod building as if it were made of straw.

The humans below screamed and bellowed as the water swallowed entire buildings and blocks whole, dragging them along with their occupants helplessly into the hungry sea. Whatever had remained after the first wave was quickly demolished by the second tidal wave that bludgeoned the already welted and deliberated streets; there was less of a human rebuttal now, their cries and pleas only a murmur in his ear. He made a few more scores in his epic tomb, listening as the rumbling of thunder began to roll north.

The archangelic man smoothly flapped his obsidian wings a final time and closed his book; observing how the once lively and bustling city and all of its scurrying and busy creatures quickly perished. He could feel their restless souls as they still continued to cry on, unwilling to accept the truth that they all had died. He felt no remorse for them, this was a job that he was sent to do, and dutifully he obliged. In silence he placed his vulture quill pen behind his ear and took flight. Just like he arrived, Azrael, the angel of Death, departed the human world unnoticed but sure that he would be called back once again to dutifully record the anthem of man’s dying day.

©Sarah Anne Steckel

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Please visit Sarah’s page at https://www.facebook.com/Sarahs-Writing-and-Art-2310272992552740/

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Kenneth Lawson – Any Port in a Storm

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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Any Port in a Storm

By Kenneth Lawson

Two more palm trees came crashing down on the beach as the computer finished final preparations for automatic shutdown. The automated weather station had triggered a shutdown when the rains and winds had hit certain marks.

The solar panels and a small wind turbine, that generated power that ran the inverters and batteries that ran the station, began to shake on their foundations as the winds and rains picked up.

Meanwhile, deep inside the stone and concrete building, an automated computer had been monitoring communications on the tiny island of Leetown, a private island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves began to crash against the outside of the building. Within minutes the tiny island was covered in twenty feet of water which crashed over and through everything. While most of the smaller less well-built buildings lay flat in a matter of minutes, the old stone-and-block building didn’t completely submit to the water. It remained standing.

However, the ancient mortar-and-cement casing did partially give way to the intense weight and pressure of the water as it swept across the small island. Water found its way into every little nook and cranny that had an opening at all, forcing blocks and stones to shift and let in more water. When it was done, three feet of water made itself home throughout the tiny building. Computers and electronics were waterlogged and fried.

Several weeks later, Cole Webber made his way back to the tiny island.

In the weeks following the storm, he had made a financial killing off the data siphoned off the internet and private networks he had been tapping into for several months. The cost to set up the substation had been high. But the need for secrecy was higher. This particular island had been chosen because of its location to the main backbone of the internet running under the ocean and to the nearest land-based server center—thus allowing him direct access to the main trunk traffic of the internet and the ability to piggyback on others who were spying on the internet. Also because it was so far out in the middle of nowhere, it would never occur to them that anyone would set up a hardware system to tap into the servers.

The usefulness of the substation was now past. He had what he needed from it, and with the storm destroying everything, he thought it was time to come in and rip everything out.

As he expected, the island was a total washout. By now most of the water had subsided and found its way back to the ocean. However, there were still pockets where several feet of water sat and the bugs were making themselves at home.

The solar panels and inverters and all of the external hardware that had run the small computer station were in ruins outside the building.

Pushing the door open, he was greeted with water up to his knees. The water came gushing out of the door around his legs. Using his flashlight he looked around inside the small building.

There on the far wall, mounted high, was a single monitor, its cords dangling against the wall. To his surprise, a single light was flashing. The screen had a small blinking oblong dot in the upper left corner. Cole recognized it instantly as a DOS prompt.

Stepping into the room, now covered with slime and mud, he saw computer components lying all over the tables and floor. He approached the one screen still working.

And the built-in speaker spoke to him.

“Hello, Cole, we’ve been waiting for you.”

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Please visit Kenneth’s blog at http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Larry Stephens – Boxer Briefs

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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Boxer Briefs

By Larry Stephens

Everyone knew a real crap-storm was imminent, but the real question in the mind of Greedy O’Shamlin was when.

Because when mattered to Greedy.

Greedy played the odds, always, and since he was a perpetual betting man, he was betting that the raw unbridled fury of nature would take its sweet time making landfall, thereby screwing up all sorts of stuff with limitless tons of dirty water. Whether the water fell from the sky or washed up from the sea, well, it was still dirty, and Greedy really had no affinity for dirty water.

But still …

Because while Greedy loved playing against the Fates, he hated filth more. It’s why he lived alone and it’s why he was quite happy living alone. Simply put, people were filthy.

And so Greedy reveled in the steaming pellets of clean water that pummeled his skin, and yet, a tiny niggle of doubt squirmed around in the reptilian part of his calculating brain.

That doubt had a little but persistent voice that kept repeating stuff like, ‘you need to get outta here, dumb-ass,’ and ‘it’s a freaking Category-5 hurricane, dumb-ass.’

Greedy decided to respond to that small, annoying seed of doubt by lathering his long, blond hair in a wonderful, enriching, lavender shampoo. Tea-tree oils evoked a tingle on his scalp that was quite pleasant.

Alas, the hot-water tank had reached its limit and the streaming shower began to grow tepid in temperature, and so Greedy rinsed his tresses until they squeaked between his pressing fingers.

He tapped the shower control to OFF, slid the opaque glass door open soundlessly, and stepped onto heated marble flooring, eschewing a bath sheet in favor of air drying, and waited for the fog to clear from the vanity mirrors on two walls of his custom bathroom. He really hit a hard workout earlier in the morning with great focus on his triceps, shoulders and quads, and he wanted to see the fruits of his labor.

In the interim, Greedy decided to brush his teeth for the fourth time on this day—a bit excessive, but filth had a way of hanging on stubbornly between one’s teeth. It was when he shut down his sonic toothbrush that he heard a very jarring noise from the exterior of his home, one that certainly warranted further investigation.

He pulled a pair of boxer-briefs from a hook over the door, stepped first his right foot through and—

The jarring noise again! Sounded like parts were being ripped off the house itself, and there was some kind of outrageous roaring going on out there, and right at that second Greedy felt that it was time to stop playing the odds and maybe expedite matters to the point of a rapidly-ensuing personal evacuation.

The grubby cat can fend for itself.

He hoisted that left knee up to jam his left foot through the briefs and the big toe somehow got stuck and then Greedy wobbled, losing his balance, and he reached his hand out to halt his fall but missed the granite vanity completely and saw the unyielding vanity surface rushing up toward his view and then…

Blackness.

Wake up already!

“Huh?” Greedy opened his eyes with the memory of what he saw last vivid in his brain, and he completely expected to be in a hospital or something, or at the least, lying sprawled out on his bathroom floor, thankful for the warm tiled floor.

But that’s not what Greedy saw, not at all. What greeted Greedy’s view was … gray. Like everything was gray. He looked around—absently noting that he had full movement of his neck, which meant that his neck was not broken, and saw gray.

No floor, no ground, no walls, no outside or inside, no ceiling, no sun. Nothing. Just gray. What the—

So, you were doing something pretty stupid there.

“What? Who’s talking?”

Allow me to answer your question with a question. Do you know your name?

“What kind of stupid question is that? Am I paralyzed or something?”

Or something. Now, your name please.

“It’s Greedy O’Sh … wait a minute; hold on a sec.”

Take your time, I’ve got all the time you can imagine.

“Something’s off. I remember my name being ‘Greedy,’ but I remember something else too, something … older?”

Now you’re getting there. Keep working at it.

“Why the fu—”

Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by your circumstance. Your name? WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

“Okay, okay, don’t get your panties all in a bunch—”

When you figure out WHO you are, you’ll realize just how inappropriate that comment is, Child.

And yes, there! Just a tiny little thread right at the edge of Greedy’s memory, an old thing that he didn’t really understand (like quantum physics or women), but he found that little niggling thing and latched onto it tenaciously.

“It’s Jrgshddl.” He shook his head, or at least it felt like he shook his head. “Did I just say that?”

Welcome home, Jrgshddl.

“Wait. Am I … dead?”

Your physical shell is lifeless and will be returned to the earth by fire.

“Oh shi … er, crap! So what is this … place, and who the heck are you?”

You already know the answers to those questions, Jrgshddl.

“Are you … God?”

You know I am.

Greedy/Jrgshddl’s mind reeled. He struggled to absorb and understand everything that happened and that was now happening, but … so many questions! “Okay, God. So what is this place and what’s the plan for me now?”

You should remember that this is just a holding place for you. It’s a place for you to rest and reflect and to understand your place and remember your progression.

“So, like Purgatory.”

You would do well to not ascribe your silly Catholic rituals and fantasies to me, Child.

“Well, I’ve just had my pee-pee slapped by God Himself.”

You no longer have a pee-pee. In fact, you no longer have a physical body.

“I was being figurative, not literal.”

Yes, Jrgshddl, you’ve been like that since I gave you your first spark of life.

“So, um, God? Do you mind if I take some time here to try to get my head wrapped around all this?”

Listen to me now, Child. Your physical shell is gone. Dead. Reduced to ash. You have to let go and do so as soon as you can. Once you let go of your physical trappings, you’ll trigger the ancient memories you’re supposed to trigger, and then we can move on to the next phase for you.

Without a physical environment, Greedy was at a bit of a loss as to what exactly he should do. Pace? That seemed to work for him when he was … alive. Sit down? On what, and where? There’s nothing—

That’s correct, Jrgshddl, there’s nothing. I designed this place like that to make it easier to let go.

“Well you certainly did a fine job.” No response. As Jrgshddl attempted to look around and be confronted by nothingness, he tried to push, or project his mind out from himself and into the nothingness.

Why not? There was nothing else to do. But the odd thing—as if any of this wasn’t odd anyway, was that as Jrgshddl tried to expand his consciousness, the memories of his life as Greedy O’Shamlin seemed to flit away. This was a gradual thing and it continued until Jrgshddl’s mind was soothed and integrated with the surroundings, the surroundings of nothingness.

Jrgshddl?

“Yes, God.”

That’s much better, Jrgshddl. Now we can talk.

“I’m all ears, God.”

I always did enjoy your humor, Child. But now we must be serious. In your life as Greedy O’Shamlin, well, you left a bit to be desired.

“In my defense, nobody’s perfect. Well, nobody, except for you and Jesus.”

Child, there is no need to defend. I know all and I see all. I knew what was in your heart from its first throb until you rejoined me here. I’ve known it for ages, Jrgshddl, and I will know it when you finally pass to the next stage in your evolution.

“Which is what?”

Which is not for you to know yet. But I will say that I gave you an illustration of what’s next for Mankind in my Word, which you call the Bible.

“Riddles! Why not just come out and give up the deets?”

Because you are not yet ready and you have to return.

“Well, I don’t see the problem because I won’t remember all this anyway.”

No, Child, that’s not accurate at all. Allowing a slight bit of remembrance is what helps Mankind to elevate themselves to their next phase. So yes, you will remember just a bit more than last time, and you’ll be that much closer.

“This seems like a colossal time-suck to me. I mean, why all the back and forth, why all the life and then death? Why not just bump us up to that next stage without all this … stuff?”

Jrgshddl, in the world of the living, there is a metal that you pull from the earth. It is beautiful and pure and clean, and Mankind treasures it. It is called ‘silver.’

“Okay, sure. I’ve had some silver.”

Do you think it comes from the earth shiny and beautiful? It does not. To create the beautiful metal, the impurities have to be removed from the ore. That is done through fire, which is called ‘refiner’s fire.’

“Okay, so I’m not really getting all this yet—”

Truly refining that metal takes more than one pass through the refiner’s fire, Child. You, and all of Mankind, are like that ore that’s pulled from the earthfull of wonderful potential and beauty as well as impurities.

“So going back and forth like this will remove impurities?”

Absolutely. So if this ‘pass’ cleanses you of all your impurities, no further refining will be needed and you can move on.

God’s thoughts echoed in Jrgshddl’s mind with the impact of a gong on a distant mountain just as a blast of shockingly cold seawater engulfed him and he sank below the surface of an extremely angry sea.

He kicked his legs and feet frantically and finally broke free of the riotous surf and opened his eyes in shock and then wonder. A raging deluge of rain hammered the ocean, which protested by heaving gigantic surges and surf back at the sky, which responded with insanely powerful winds and jagged bolts of lightning.

And Jrgshddl was right in the middle of it.

He kicked himself in a circle, feeling like a microbe against the heaving vastness of the seas, amazed that he was able to keep his head above water, and spied a red lifeboat with lights flashing fore and aft, bouncing around on surf determined to crush the small craft.

It was durable though—built to withstand a hurricane! He struck out toward the boat, no more than one hundred feet from it and closing in, when he heard voices.

He looked toward the boat, seeing the door ajar; long hair whipping around, and a familiar face etched with frantic worry screaming his name, and he longed to go to her.

“Come on, Jordon, COME ON!”

Jordon?

He knifed through the pounding storm surge, fighting crisscrossing undercurrents that strove to yank him under as exhaustion began stealing over him and then …

Small hands snagged the collar of his shirt and pulled him toward the craft and he pushed and clawed and climbed to be free of the angry hands of the sea until he fell forward on top of the woman who held him violently, clinging with every ounce of desperate strength.

He gasped, shaking saltwater from his mouth that was causing his belly to rumble. “You saved me. You saved my life.”

She kissed him. Deeply with frantic passion. “No way was I letting you go, Jordy. It wasn’t your time, my love.”

Together the two kicked the hatch door shut and held each other as the Category-5 storm raged.

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Please visit Larry’s page at
https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Erin Crocker – Things We Left

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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Things We Left

By Erin Crocker

The toe boxes of Ellony Pickett’s scuffed Mary Janes kicked against one of the table’s wooden legs.

“Stop it!” Doris turned from the pile of dishes in the kitchen sink.

A reporter on TV shouted over the hurricane. “…evacuate last week. Residents of Eastern Florida—” A sudden whoosh of static drowned out the station.

When the channel cleared, Ellony kicked her feet harder to keep up with the bouts of wind. Her eyes widened when she noticed the trunk of a palm bending. Another whoosh interrupted the report.

Tap. Tap.

“Child, I said to stop.”

For the first time in hours, Ellony’s green eyes diverted to the woman with an unlit cigarette hanging between her thin lips, struggling to talk. “Stop what?” the little girl asked.

Doris flicked the spark wheel on her cheap BIC. “You know,” she mumbled.

“I don’t,” Ellony whined.

Swish. “…And reports are just in that the wind…” Swish. Swish. “…The count is down—” Swish. “And we’re expecting that…” Swish.

“Dammit, Charlie!” Doris called down the empty hallway. “Charlie!”

Ellony turned back to the TV and rested her chin on her knuckles before batting her eyes and holding them for a few seconds. She swung her legs, and her toes resumed the tap, tap, tap of kicking into the table’s leg.

“I asked you to stop!” Doris turned and creased her forehead.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“Charlie, if you don’t get your ass in here—”

Tap.

“I’m comin’, woman.” The overweight man shuffled down the hall and pulled his jeans over the roll on his stomach. “What the hell you want?”

Ellony grimaced at the curly chest hair that lay in thick patches over his a-line undershirt.

“Get outside and fix the antenna.” Doris nodded to Ellony. “Little shit’s driving me crazy enough kicking those shoes into the cabinet. Now I gotta deal with static. Program’s about to come on and I ain’t going to miss it today. Get out there and fix the thing.”

Charlie turned the corner of his mouth up and shook his head as he shifted his tone to mimic Doris’. “Get out there and fix the thing.” He threw his shoulders back. “Woman, all I do ’round here is fix shit. Day’s Saturday. I ain’t doin’ shit.”

Doris threw her hands on her hips. “To hell you ain’t! Get out there and fix the damn antenna.”

Tap. Tap. Tap.

“And, woah. Did you get that?” The reporter motioned to a stuffed animal that whizzed by his head and disappeared among the rain and debris. “Did you see that?”

Whoosh.

“I said fix the damn thing!” Doris took another drag and sat the remainder of the cigarette in a saucer.

The sound of her mom slamming the cabinet door shut was little Ellony’s cue to exit. After the last confrontation, when the girl had stepped in front of Charlie who was stumbling toward her mother, hand balled into a fist, vying to strike Doris a third time and inflicting the punch on Ellony instead, she’d learned to stay away.

In the safety of her bedroom, she wrapped her seven-year-old arms around Isha and hugged the stuffed rabbit as though the ratty toy possessed the ability to protect her. Her thoughts turned back to the storm on the television; the beach looked nothing like all the beaches she’d seen in the adverts. To her little eyes, it looked like the reporter was standing in the middle of a nightmare. She hugged Isha tighter. It’s a shame some kid lost their stuffy.

Swish, Swish, Ellony used the remainder of baby fat that hadn’t yet left her cheeks to expand the air in her mouth into a sound she thought resembled the angry wind. Swish, Swish, Swish.

The storm became louder. Dishes whirled and flung against walls. Louder, a scream sounded from somewhere in the house. Darkness tiptoed into her room that, seconds ago, the sun had lit. Loose twigs tapped like bony fingers against her window.

Here’s my chance, the girl told herself before grabbing Isha and sneaking out the screen door. Once outside in the wind, she placed her fist in front of her mouth. “This is Ellony Pickett with channel nine weather. And this,” she nodded to Isha, “is my assistant. The winds are going really fast. Can you all hear that?” She turned her fist to the trees and looked to the hazy, green Midwestern sky.

***

“…Reports say it was an F-5 that tore through the Midwest yesterday evening—” Nevaeh turned in time to see the picture at the side of the screen showing the arm of a small child reaching for the floppy ear of a stuffed rabbit; debris and what Nevaeh thought to be wooden planks covered the rest of the child’s body.

The woman made a quick job of turning the television off. “What on earth do they show on TV anymore. I—”

“Mommy!” Terrell turned his focus from the TV to his mom’s worried expression.

“Finish your milk, baby. We gotta get going.” She rushed around, throwing a few more items into a duffel bag while she spoke. “…Pick up Daddy, and then we gotta beat the traffic.” Nevaeh paused and tossed her Havana twists behind her back. “Finished, little man?”

“Yeah.” Terrell held his empty glass up and his smile grew when he did. “Mommy, what’s an eff eye?”

“An ‘eff eye’?” Nevaeh turned and the TV caught her attention. She remembered the photos of the ravaged town … and the small child. “Okay, an F-5. It’s a tornado, a very bad storm.” She knew she didn’t have time to explain more. A horn from outside honked and a few shouts caught her attention. “Come on, baby. We have to leave … now.”

Terrell jumped from his seat and ran to Nevaeh who put a hand around his shoulder and tried to comfort her boy with a reassuring look and a quick hug. He pulled back. “Jo-Jo…”

Nevaeh’s heart fell through her stomach at the realization she’d forgotten the stuffed lamb. She knew they didn’t have time. The firefighters weren’t going to magically stop the wildfires, and traffic was getting worse. “Sweetie, we just can’t—”

“Jo-Jo smells like Pops.” He blinked those sweet brown eyes Nevaeh couldn’t tell him no.

“Stay right here.” She hurried to the stairs. “Don’t move. Mommy is going to find him, I promise.”

Her feet thudded up the staircase and she rushed to Terrell’s room. Nevaeh opened the door and her eyes scanned the boxes of toys that remained in bins in his closet. She bent and surveyed under his bed. Terrell was right; Pops, Nevaeh’s dad, had given Jo-Jo to Terrell days before the older man passed away. She had to find him. That’s right, she thought, Terrell crawled in bed with us … early this morning. She flew to her room and tossed the blankets around.

From outside, desperate honks sounded. She peeked out her bedroom window to see cars lined up at the four-way stop that served as the exit to her family’s subdivision. How much time did they have? Days? Hours? Minutes?

“Shit, Jo-Jo,” she whispered.

***

Terrell’s eyes gleamed when he saw his mommy run back downstairs carrying a tote.

“Okay, baby. I found him,” she said. “Now, we have to go. It’s going to be okay.”

Terrell wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, why they had to leave everything behind, but he was certain of three things; he had his mommy, his daddy, and somewhere in Mommy’s bag, was Jo-Jo, and Jo-Jo smelled like Pops.

The little boy smiled.

Terrell sat in silence and allowed Nevaeh to buckle him in his car seat.

***

A snapshot of Terrell and Pops fell from a burned box in the attic as hungry flames licked the siding of 105 Oceanview Drive. The photo landed next to Jo-Jo whose palm extended outward as though he lay, faithfully waiting for Terrell’s tiny hands to pull him to safety.

The lamb, who Terrell had left under the guestroom bed during a game of hide-and-seek stared at the bottom of the mattress with unknowing glass eyes as the frame of the house collapsed and the fire consumed his tiny plush body.

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Please visit Erin’s blog! http://bit.ly/2IM9SfM

Barbra Badger – Devil Wind

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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DEVIL WIND

By Barbra Badger

‘Fremantle Doctor’ affects the city of Perth on the west coast of Australia and is one of the most consistent winds in the world.

Standing outside in a small Southern California town, two coworkers enjoyed the sunshine and a gentle breeze on their ten-minute break.

“I love the wind.” Charlotte released a long sigh. “Maybe it’s the way it tosses my hair and ruffles my clothes—playfully, like my grama used to do. Oh, how I miss her.”

Graham listened with a twinkle in his eye ’til she finished (a rarity among their circles). “I know a place in the south seas ‘twould cure you of that obsession.” He was shaking his head as he rolled a cigarette.

She loved his Aussie accent. That’s what charmed her to be his friend in a somewhat unfriendly place. Workers here were paid minimum wage $1.25 hour, except for the welders. The dissatisfaction running rampant made for lots of grumbling and scowling faces. Charlotte felt ‘safe’ with Graham. He was happily married and not much taller than her. (Another rarity—anywhere.) The near equal height made it easy for her to talk to him.

“What do you mean ‘cure’?”

He held the freshly-rolled cigarette tightly in his lips. “The wind never stops there. It brings hurricanes to a certain island every year. No one lives there, it’s impossible to keep materials from blowing away at any time. But hurricanes even remove everything that could be used for building shelter.”

The light that had gleamed from Charlotte’s face dimmed, her shoulders drooped a little. It was plain the joy she had felt from the spring breeze was gone.

Graham made note to take it easier when describing things to her. He thought she was tough. Watching her heft twenty-pound weights in and out of the test basket all day had given him the impression that she was hard shelled.

He didn’t know she had taken this job out of sheer desperation in survival mode. It was that condition which was the source of her strength. After all, she was only five-feet tall, weighed 100 lbs. with her work boots on; alone now after marriage, a long live-in situation and before getting the job—homeless.

Places in the world where the wind has a name, Santa Ana, N’oreaster, and many more; the people living there know what to expect and usually when to expect it and how to respond when it comes.

Not too many days after their conversation, another Australian swept through the side door. Charlotte looked up, their eyes locked. The magnetism was so strong and immediate for both of them, even at fifty feet apart, he lost his breath, and her knees buckled.

The Santa Anas began blowing that day. They have been known to tip overloaded semis, toss large dangerous objects onto the freeways, take shingles off roofs, and make thick clouds of sand obscure drivers’ views and pit windshields.

Graham was not impressed with his first experience of the Southern California wind, but he had a feeling something else dangerous was brewing.

Charlotte was carried on a wave of fear and delight for days while she and the new Aussie spent break times and lunch together in the field across the road. They talked, they laughed, she sang, he grinned. She was drowning in a sea of hormones.

Like the unannounced devil wind that spontaneously picks up four-foot-long 2x4s as it twirls across an empty lot, she was spinning in a fog when the hurricane hit with full force.

She discovered Hurricane Frank was married, too late.

Seen by Barbra Badger at 1:32 PM

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Larry Stephens – I Won

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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I Won

By Larry Stephens

Glen Hutchinson—Hutch, rolled his brawny shoulders and rotated his thick, corded wrists as he gazed absently at the bright orange sun peeking above the roiling Atlantic.

Hutch enjoyed mornings here in Wilmington, North Carolina, especially when September rolled around. The seas were always tumultuous and the air often thick and damp, and surprising thunderheads would spring up seemingly out of nowhere, signaling heavy storms were on their way.

A sparkling glass wall separated Hutch from the winds and the spray of the surf and the soggy, humid air; the east-facing wall of his huge house that contained all of two bedrooms and three bathrooms, one massive training room, and a couple of needful things, such as a kitchen. That was all Hutch needed, but oh that training room!

A variety of heavy bags, focus bags, speed bags; a boxing ring; throw dummies; weights galore, treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machine; the array of equipment was dizzying, and it was where Hutch essentially spent most of his time.

Training. Turning himself into a weapon; a fierce force of lethal destruction and his obsession was relentless.

Although…

On this fine September morning, Hutch was annoyed.

A very close, underground ‘friend’ of Hutch’s forwarded a streamed mixed-martial-arts fight to Hutch late last night with a cryptic message of, “Ya gotta see this Hutch.”

Such a message was unusual, and so Hutch opened the stream on his tablet and watched the beginning of a match between what looked to be two heavyweights. At first, Hutch was bored, even dismissive.

Two younger guys, punks really, all tatted up with stupid-looking trunks and hair poking up all over the place, and one guy had a ridiculously long beard. As if. What kind of an idiot would get into a match sporting that nonsense?

The bell rang and the two squared off, then began exchanging; first light jabs and quick snap kicks to the opponent’s legs. Nothing serious or even worthy of Hutch’s time, and Hutch vowed to lay into his friend for wasting his time with this dreck.

But then things amped up between the two combatants. The bearded guy scored cleanly with a left cross then rushed in to swing wildly at the staggered opponent.

But it looked like the guy who was staggered was sandbagging, and as the bearded guy came in whaling away, the clean-shaven warrior delivered a wicked left hook, followed with a devastating right uppercut, snapping beard-boy’s head back like it was on a rope.

Beard-boy staggered back, reeling and then the sandbagger ripped off a spinning heel-hook kick to beard-boy’s temple that was so fast that Hutch completely missed seeing it at first. One second beard-boy was reeling; an eye-blink later sandbagger’s heel was slamming into beard-boy’s temple. The crunching sound of the blow told a grim story for beard-boy. Damn!

Hutch rewound then stepped the video forward, frame-by-frame, and even there, the sandbagger’s foot was a blur.

Hutch stopped the stream and snagged his phone, an eerie gleam in his eyes.

^^

The phone rang, incessant, demanding immediate attention; the Vincent Price laughing ringtone mocking and taunting Ben Schofield as he sat in his dumpy studio apartment with the blinds drawn on a sunny Pennsylvania morning. Ben ignored the damned phone.

The Fight replayed for the super-zillionth time in his head in slo-mo. Ben knew that he suckered his opponent in by faking a stagger, but again he chastised himself bitterly. The two punches were enough to finish the fight; the guy was out on his feet, eyes glazed, breath whistling through his open, gasping mouth. He was beaten, no doubt.

But that wasn’t good enough for Ben, no siree. He just had to follow up with that heel-hook kick, and he knew just as sure as Ben knew he’d won the fight, that he’d severely hurt the man. Hell, he felt his heel actually sink into the man’s head!

Ben was utterly shocked to discover that he’d killed the man.

His license was immediately suspended, so no more fighting, but that wasn’t the worst part of this nightmare. The worst part was that his opponent had a wife and two kids; toddlers, both boys, and Ben Schofield—in one swift and thoughtless move—wiped their daddy from the face of the living.

Depression swamped over Ben again and tears leaked silently from his burning eyes.

Vincent Price started laughing again and Ben vowed to get rid of that damned ringtone just as soon as he could get up enough energy to give a damn. He snared the phone from the coffee table in front of him and eyed the display. It read ‘Marky Mark’ and Ben thumbed ‘Decline.’

Marky Mark was his trainer and fight manager, but Ben had zero interest in talking to the smarmy asshat. The phone immediately piped to life in his hand and a nameless rage surged within Ben. He thumbed ‘Accept,’ then, “What?”

“Benny—”

“Don’t call me that, shitball.”

“Look Ben, tough break on that fight, huh?”

“Ya think?”

“C’mon dude, crap happens!”

“Mark,” Ben paused, heaving a deep, exhausted sigh. “Mark, I killed the guy.”

Mark’s usual ebullience was subdued. “I know—”

Ben was on the verge of breaking down and Mark was the last person Ben wanted to see that. Another sigh, then, “So what the hell am I supposed to do now?”

“No worries, Ben. We can get you licensed in another state—”

“No.”

“Nevada will license you.”

“No they won’t.”

“Well look, I maybe got some good news for you.”

“Do tell. The suspense is killing me.”

“Cheer up, Ben. This one’s a big payday!”

Ben paused, then, “‘One’? Another fight?”

“Listen Schofield, you take this one and you’ll be set for a few years to get up on your feet somewhere and make a life for yourself. That’s a lot more than most fighters your age.”

Ben thumbed the red icon and dropped the phone.

^^

“Come in. You’re Ben, right?”

“Yeah, and you’re freaking gorgeous.” Ben stepped through the double doors, eyeing the tall, slender blond with the painted-on micro-dress. “I never knew a woman who dressed like you’re dressed, unless they were a pro.”

She turned and smiled at Ben, her teeth gleaming. “I’m not a pro, Ben, and I’m not sure if that’s a compliment.”

Ben looked at his feet, suddenly uncomfortable. She pushed her hand out to him. “I’m Brenda. Brenda Hutchinson.”

Ben was surprised. “Missus Hutchinson?”

She laughed. “God no. I’m his sister. I can’t imagine anyone marrying that man. Come in, I’ll show you your room. Hungry, thirsty?”

“Don’t go to any bother, please. I hadn’t planned on staying. Water is fine.”

“Nonsense. You’ll need a place to rest after your travel and to get ready. Follow me, Ben.”

^^

Night had fallen over North Carolina, but the surf outside pounded and thundered, and jagged shards of searing light punched through the gloom. Ben could not sleep, not a wink. So he rose from his place on the floor beside the sumptuous bed, wearing sweat pants with no shoes or shirt, and stepped out into the massive training room. The owner of the place, Glen Hutchinson, still had not made his presence known.

The floor-to-ceiling glass wall facing east over the raucous ocean drew Ben to stand before it and gaze into the pitch that was punctuated by chaotic whitecaps. It was an awesome vista and Ben drank it in, thinking about how timeless and ageless is the sea, when he gradually became aware of another presence off to his right. Ben turned to see a middle-aged man, also shirtless and shoeless, staring at the ocean. A jagged split of lightning illuminated his craggy features and long, unkempt hair. He turned to face Ben and smiled. It seemed a genuine smile with warmth, and Ben liked it.

“It’s wondrous, don’t you think?”

Ben eyed him askance. “I don’t get to see stuff like this very often.”

“That’s because you’re stuck in the Appalachians. Binnacue, right?”

Ben studied the man—Glen Hutchinson. His bare torso looked as if it were chiseled from a block of iron; rippling cords of muscle stood out in relief across the man’s thick chest. His neck appeared to be an extension of his back; the jaw, set and square; receding hairline with gray at the temples. Ben guessed him to be in his mid-forties, but he could have been in his sixties just as easily. “Yeah, Binnacue, Pennsylvania.”

Ben turned to face Hutchinson. “Why don’t we cut the crap and you tell me why you dropped one-hundred large to get me here?”

“You’re a fighter—”

“Was a fighter.”

“No. It’s in your blood. You’re a fighter.”

“Yeah. So what?”

“I saw your last fight.”

Ben said nothing, glaring bullets at the man. “I saw what you did to your opponent.”

“I killed him. What about it?” he growled.

“It isn’t that you killed him, it’s how you killed him. I’ve never seen a kick move so—”

“Fuck off!” Ben turned away from the window and away from the lunatic that wanted to dredge up all the horrible memories.

Powerful fingers clutched Ben’s shoulder. “Hold on. Let me make you a proposal.”

Ben shook himself free. “What?”

“Let’s you and I fight.”

“What?”

Hutch dropped silently into a cross-legged seat on the floor. “We fight. You win, you get my estate. I win and…”

“And what?”

“That’s it! I win.”

Ben shook his head. “You’re out of your mind.”

“Sit with me for a minute.” Ben paused, staring at the man, shrugged, and then sat across from him. The two men stared at each other while the weather beyond the glass wall grew in intensity.

“Do you know me, Ben?”

“Why would I?”

“Exactly. Why would you? I’ve made it a point my entire life to stay out of the public eye.”

“So what?”

“I’m not bragging when I say this Ben: I’m the best hand-to-hand fighter in the world.”

Ben stared at Hutch for a beat, then two, then he laughed; a sharp bark of a laugh that was more derision than humor. “You really are nuts.”

Hutch stared at him. He stood abruptly, water flowing upwards. Ben stood as well. “My proposal is on the table. You have until tomorrow at this time to take it or leave. One more thing, Ben…”

“Lunatic!”

“It’s to the death.”

“You… what?”

“What do you say?”

Just then Brenda stepped into the room, clad only in a man’s dress shirt, and Ben saw her as inhumanly beautiful. “Glen, we should think about evacuating. The storm—”

“Forget the storm, Brenda.” She seemed to shrink within herself a bit at his retort, but yes, the storm outside was intensifying.

“I want her.” Brenda gasped.

Hutch stared at Ben. Then, “Okay. You win, you get Brenda and my estate. I’ll be dead anyway so who the hell cares. We go at this time tomorrow.”

“Let’s go now.” Ben began rolling his shoulders and other light stretching. Hutch immediately dropped into a left fighting stance, a gruesome smile planted on his face. He began circling Ben slowly, measuring each footstep.

“My attorney already has the proposal I made to you drafted and ready to go. You win and you get it all.”

Ben responded by lunging then backing immediately out of range. Hutch laughed. “Damn you’re quick boy.” A blast of thunder punctuated Hutch’s observation. The skies were beginning to go from pitch black to steel gray and the wind ballooned to a constant roar.

Hutch moved in, arms tucked in to his sides, hands up, palms out; classic Muay Thai, daring Ben to strike. The man’s shins were shiny with scar tissue and Ben knew to avoid those else he’d be clubbed senseless. Hutch jacked up his front knee and lunged; Ben slapped the knee and side-stepped. Hutch followed with a chop that was masked, but Ben saw it coming and ducked, sweeping his foot out to hook Hutch’s back leg.

It was like hooking a stanchion.

Hutch leaped over the hook and flashed a back-kick aimed at Ben’s head; he rolled away from it, then leapt high, whipping a spinning heel hook kick at Hutch’s head, who countered with a forearm block. That hurt Ben more than Hutch and he staggered as he landed awkwardly.

Hutch surged in throwing calculated, precise strikes that Ben was able to block, but the blows were powerful and fast. One slip and Ben would be out of it.

Which maybe wasn’t such a bad thing.

Hutch leaned left, Ben launched himself straight up with his left knee striking squarely under Hutch’s jaw. The crack drew a gasp from Brenda and left Hutch reeling backward. Ben bolted in on Hutch and slammed both elbows on either side of Hutch’s neck, dropping him to his knee, but then he rapid-fired two hard strikes into Ben’s right knee.

Searing pain erupted in Ben’s damaged knee and he fell backward. Both men hesitated, collecting themselves, when the storm exploded seemingly right over their heads.

The glass wall was blasted into shards by the thundering sea, inundating the entire training room and engulfing all three in a surging tide that hammered them first against the wall of the house and then yanked them mercilessly out to sea, their little drama dwarfed by the unimaginable fury of the storm.

Ben battled to break the surface of the raging sea, bursting through with a gasp and sputter. He struggled to tread water against the tides and his ruptured knee. But he was able to clear his vision and take stock a bit.

Perhaps one hundred feet away from him, someone was struggling to swim, and judging by the splash, it was Hutch. Ben began side-stroking toward the man who was no longer splashing. As he hove into view, Ben could see streamers of blood mingling with the whitecaps and Hutch’s head barely breaking the surface. Then his head sank and didn’t rise again.

The house was utterly demolished, debris littering the sea all around Ben, and he latched onto timber and slow-kicked himself to shore where he found Brenda, barely alive with a jagged chunk of timber sticking out of her chest and a glittering shard of glass protruding from where her eye should have been.

Ben crawled on shore, aided by waves that battered him and flattened him to the sand. He raised his head, roughly wiped hair from his eyes. “I won, you lunatic bastard. I won.”

https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

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




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




Erin Crocker: We all Fall Down

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.)

We All Fall Down

By Erin Crocker

“Ashes, ashes! Ashes, ashes! Ashes!”

Little Serenity’s shrill voice carried with ease through the living room and into the narrow kitchen of the two-bedroom home. Ed rubbed his wrinkled forehead and added more vodka to the mug of orange juice that sat alongside piles of neglected plates and glasses that lined the countertop.

“We all fall down!”

Ed guzzled the alcohol-infused mixture until it was empty.

Serenity entered the kitchen, arms spread wide. “No, all of us fall. I’m the queen. I command you!” She turned her large light blue eyes to Ed. “Daddy, you too. Fall down!”

“No, no. Not today,” he managed.

Serenity’s foot was this narrow, tiny thing, but that day it could’ve been the foot of a velociraptor as she slammed it against the white tile floor. “Fall down!”

Ed’s nose flared. “I’ve had about enough of you, girl.” He pointed to the fragile screen door that separated the kitchen from the neglected backyard. “Out with ya.”

Her arms folded across her stomach in a pout. “Fine. Stupid Daddy.” The words faded as she exited. “Stupid Daddy. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

When Ed’s eyes caught sight of a fresh presentation of chocolate-chip-sized deposits trailed across the floor, he grumbled. “Damn things, back again.” A saucer fell and broke as he reached past a pile of plates to grab the box of rat poison. He shook it just to make sure there’d be enough to kill the sickening invaders.

***

Serenity hopped around the yard and eventually settled at her mother’s garden. Flowers blooming in spring, well, they’re a sign of new life, Serenity’s mom had told her daughter the prior year while rubbing her growing belly.

“Like your baby?” Serenity had asked.

“Our baby.”

But the small girl in her jean overalls and fairy princess shirt had never thought of the intruder as someone to be included. Worse yet, as her mom’s belly got bigger, she could no longer play games. Fall down, Serenity had demanded.

“I just can’t, baby.”

Soon after that afternoon, the young girl’s mom had fallen down, along with her unborn baby brother who her parents were going to name George. Serenity’s mother and George had both fallen down, for good.

Serenity skipped around the square flower box. “Water them, care for them, show them a lot of love, and in early spring they’ll grow with help from sun from above.” Her thin lips curled into a smile as she continued her song. “Sing to them, talk to them, they’re safely in their beds. Then, silently, quietly, rip off their little heads.” Her fingers ripped off the white bloom of a daisy, and a familiar buzz filled her stomach.

The sun that escaped the barrier of trees and branches that lined an old path through the forest caught the girl’s attention. She dropped the dying flower and used her ripped up Sketcher to kick it into the dirt. “Time to go see Maria. She’ll play with me.”

The bumps along the unsure path reminded Serenity of the weary sidewalk outside of her aunt Gerry’s home. Serenity never knew why her mom had decided to send her away, but she was awfully glad her dad picked her up just days before her mom fell for the final time.

As she continued through the opening, the trees thickened and imprisoned the sun. Serenity appreciated the darkness as much as she appreciated seeing the mix of purple and black that circled Justine Harrelson’s left eye. The stupid little thing had approached Serenity on the playground, flipping her shiny blonde hair, displaying her marshmallow white teeth, like a hungry lion, a stupid little hungry lion. Weirdo. The girl let out this merciless laugh before continuing. I heard your mom died. Your mom is dead. Your mom is dea—”

Justine didn’t have a chance to do much more after that but scream. Students from all corners of the playground ran toward the chilling cries for help just to witness Serenity’s little hand come up with a fist full of hair before charging back down to the girl’s face. The next time, her hand came up covered in blood. She’d managed to do a number on Justine before a teacher arrived to stop the scene.

Remembering that darkness excited Serenity in a way she’d only known one other time. She took careful steps along the surrounded path until she came upon warm lights that glowed and outlined a mobile home. Serenity grinned and approached the front door.

“Hold on, hold on.” Maria peered out the door. “Oh, it’s you.”

Serenity took note of the rollers.

She motioned for the little girl to come on inside. “I’m not busy, just settin’ my hair.”

Serenity crinkled her nose and ran her fingers through her own short, black hair. “Sitting on it?”

“I put it up in these rollers here. It stays rolled up for a week. I got it off one of those mailing catalogs. Don’t know if you all see the mail truck comin’ out here.”

Serenity shook her head and took a seat on the couch and swatted away a line of cigarette smoke.

“What are you up to today?” Maria shuffled into the kitchen area and stirred a deep pot before covering it. “I’m making up some stew here. When I finish, you can take some back for you and your pa. How’s that?”

“Thanks.” Serenity took in a noseful of meat and spices she hadn’t noticed when she’d first arrived. “I want to play ashes, ashes, let’s fall down.” Her little eyes flickered and lit brighter than the flame on Maria’s lighter as the woman flicked the spark wheel to light another cigarette.

“Can’t today, button.” She gestured to her head. “Gotta keep these suckers still.”

Serenity huffed. Her face reddened and burned and the fire seared her stomach all the way to the bottoms of her feet. The girl balled her hands into threatening fists as she tried to put out the flames.

“Tell you what. Why don’t you go out and look for frogs in my yard? I’ve seen lots of those things out lately.”

***

Ed poured more orange juice in the navy mug and filled it the rest of the way with vodka. The powder trail of poison blurred and danced when he studied it. “Dumb little shits,” he grumbled. “That oughta do it.”

It had done it for Laurel and his unborn son. Done it to the point the cops had hauled his ass down to the station until he proved he hadn’t been home the night his wife had poisoned herself. When the dumb fucks released him, they’d said, “Darn lucky the little girl didn’t eat them cookies.”

Ed had agreed at the time. At least he had his little girl, the porcelain, innocent face with wide almond eyes. He was damn fucking lucky. After a few weeks, he noticed how loud she was. She never shut the hell up, ever. Talk, talk, talk, talk, sing, sing, sing. She was Laurel’s job.

He took another sip; he could’ve put her in that dress. That one dress, the navy one with bright yellow sunflowers and those dirty, white saddle shoes. He could’ve polished them up real nice. Paired them with white frill socks from the dime store and a big poof of a hair bow. He could’ve appreciated the little girl then. Her still, slim body resting, motionless in a shiny, wooden box, her doll-like hands sleeping against her chest. He could’ve cried, kissed her forehead, and said a prayer before sending her to a silent sleep.

The bottle of vodka was empty. Ed reached for the Jim Beam.

***

A sharp cry caught Serenity’s attention. She walked toward the noise and saw a fragile creature. “Hey there,” she cooed at the baby sparrow. “I guess you lost your mommy.”

She reached for the bird and cupped her hands to cradle it. It sat still, beak opening ever so often to elicit another squeak. She studied its wide, black eyes. A few feathers had started to grow. The thing’s desperate screech irritated Serenity when she tugged at one of the attached feathers. She pressed the top and bottom of its infantile beak together and noticed how its eyes widened with fear. Her stomach twisted and tumbled, so familiar. The thrilling satisfaction nearly doused the fire.

“Here you go.” She sat the little creature on a bed of grass and grabbed a nearby rock. “We all fall down.” Her hum was peaceful as she tossed the stone and watched it crush the infant’s fragile skull.

“Serenity?”

She hadn’t noticed Maria open the trailer door.

“Over here.” Serenity stood and moved away from the dead bird.

“Soup’s ready. Bring the bowl back.”

“I’ll return it full of cookies just like me and my momma used to make.”

Maria extended the plastic tub to Serenity, purplish-red painted lips stretched into a smile. “I’d like that very much.”

***

Ed had enjoyed Maria’s soup. It’d been a long time since a woman cooked him a meal. A long time, indeed. And then, to follow it up, Serenity had left him with a plate of cookies before rinsing the tub and returning to their neighbor with a few cookies inside.

Maybe she was doing better than he thought. His hand shook as he reached for the bottle of Wild Turkey and took a drink. “Time to bait those fuckers again,” he mumbled and grabbed the box of rat poison from the table. He shook the container. Had he used that much a couple of days ago? Maybe. Hell, he couldn’t remember. Ed bit into a still-warm cookie.

***

Serenity skipped up the uneven path. Even the trees that lined the walkway seemed lighter that day. She sang her favorite song, the one her mom had taught her. This is our song. It will always be our game. Nothing will ever come between us. But something did.

Liar, Serenity thought. “We all fall down. We all fall down. We all fall down. All fall down.”

***

“I don’t know how he did it, but that sick bastard did it.”

That’s what Sheriff McAllister had said when police had finally arrived on scene and found Ed’s body surrounded in an eruption of fluids that ranged from frothy vile around his mouth to moist stools near his waist and feet.

Thank God that little girl didn’t eat any. See if the neighbor lady heard or saw anything.

Maria was nowhere to be found.

Her property sat in silent isolation for days until buzzards started to circle the roof of her trailer. Their never-ending honks caught McAllister’s attention. Hours later, they hauled Maria’s body from the residence.

McAllister glanced at the sun that danced through the forest’s branches. He thought of the innocent tears that had plagued little Serenity’s face. “She is the sunshine in all of this,” he’d said. That trash of a father she had. It’s a wonder the little girl is as stable as she is.

***

The years weren’t kind to Serenity. The trail of death that seemed to stalk her reminded her of the dark, uneven path of her old home. As soon as she reached adulthood, she moved back to that home. She needed familiarity.

And it was while she was clipping a rosebush that a head of light blond hair appeared at the end of that old path. “What you doing?”

Serenity took in the little boy’s cheeks that had not yet shed their baby fat. He was in red shorts and a blue and white striped top. A strand of hair fell down his forehead and his lips exposed his white teeth when he gave her a chubby smile. She motioned for him to come over and spent the morning explaining all of her flowers to the boy.

“Go home. I go home,” he finally said.

“Did you just move in?”

“Me, sissy, Momma, and Dada. Just move up there.” His chunky finger pointed at the trail.

“That’s so wonderful.” That feeling surfaced in Serenity’s stomach. It tossed and tumbled through her body with freedom. “Run along home, now. Tell your mommy to have coffee ready. I’ll stop by with sugar cookies.” Serenity’s excited grin made the boy chuckle. “You like sugar cookies?”

He nodded his head.

“Okay, run on home. I’ll be over soon. I promise.”

Serenity’s eyes followed the boy as he toddled up the path and disappeared in the clutches of its darkness. Her grin spread wider across her face. She sang, “We all fall down.”

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Visit Erin’s website and check out her fantastic writing… https://authorerincrocker.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Write the Story: March 2019 Prompt!


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

Here’s the plan:

You 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 want to promote. Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing but if the story is not written well Writers Unite! reserves the right to reject publishing it.

We have chosen not to do full-editing. This project is based on the writer attracting new readers with their work. Therefore other than common grammar error editing, we will not edit content.

Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email daratliff07@gmail.com. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message or subject line.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. WU! will also add the story to the Write the Story page on our blog…where it be for all to read along with the other stories.

We do ask that you share the link to the WU! Write the Story page so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. 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

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. Please note: you do not need to be a member of the WU! Facebook group or follow the blog to participate. If you want to join us, however, that would be great!

Thank you.

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

Now… go Write the Story!