Sean Bracken: The Great Danes

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The Great Danes

By Sean Bracken

CE 891

Marauders

Strong muscles glistened with sweat in the early morning light. In perfect unison, powerful strokes moved the ships against the current of the river Seine. The beat of a large drum, mounted at the stern of the lead ship, provided rhythm to the oarsmen as they pulled against the fast-flowing river.

The fleet consisted of one hundred warships, each crewed by sixty to a hundred warriors. The battle group was supported by a further twenty-four cargo craft, carrying extra arms, provisions and live goats for milk and fresh meat. The men aboard these support ships were also fearsome fighters. The sides of the longboats were protected by rows of shields, hung over the sides, just above the oars.

Above each ship, a tall mast hewn from mighty spruce trees, supported a single square rigged sail, furled and tied securely to a crossbeam.

The men were in jovial spirits. Paris was but two days away and the men looked forward to taking the city and the riches it contained.

They chanted in time to the drum, “Heave… Ho, Heave… Ho. To conquer Paris, we all go. Heave… Ho, Heave… Ho. King of Paris, fear your foe.”

The strong currents gave way to gentler waters, as the boats rounded a bend in the river into a wider expanse, and the men eased back on the oars. High on a hill overlooking the river, the old monastery of Saint Benedict stood tall and proud. Six ships pulled away from the main group, heading towards a shingle beach. The riches of this place were renowned throughout Europe and beyond. The Norsemen meant to have it all.

Word of the advancing Viking fleet had reached the monastery two days earlier. The Abbot, Brother Cornelius, had responded to the news by organising the monks into a hurried but effective concealment of the rich treasures and holy relics. Chalices, encrusted with precious gems, joined golden crucifixes and ornate tabernacles. Beside these riches, piles of illuminated books and scriptures were assembled. Each work painstakingly created over centuries by the hands of monks working into the dark nights by candlelight.

All traces of the treasures were gone with only hours to spare, before the invading horde arrived.

Led by Gulag Jacobson, the Norsemen were quick about their business. No sooner than the ships reached shore, the battle-hardened men were climbing the hill. The vine fields and vegetable gardens were left unattended. Goats, sheep and cattle ignored, as the raiding party reached the cloistered halls of the monastery.

At first the structure seemed abandoned. The warriors made their way from building to building, from room to room, finding nothing. The chant of holy song called out through the empty halls and, following the sound, the Viking warriors found the church.

Monks, dressed in brown, rough sack-cloth robes, tied at the waist by plain ropes, stood singing their songs of praise to their God. Not one monk showed any sign of fear. Instead they seemed to be joyous.

Filled with bloodlust, the Vikings descended on the praying monks. Broadswords and battle axes rained down on the heads and bodies of the monks. In moments, it was all over. Fifty monks lay dead or dying. Their blood seeping into the crevices of the chapel floor. The holy song replaced by the cries and whimpers of the injured.

Perhaps, had the Norsemen spared even one monk, they might have discovered where the treasure was hidden. But no, as the last monk expired his final breath, he took the secret with him.

The Vikings ransacked the monastery, upending furniture, desecrating the church. Their search was in vain. Frustrated beyond belief, in anger they put torches to the buildings. Fuelled by ancient oak rafters, wooden pews, timber floors and the corpses of the dead, the monastery was soon an inferno.

Before returning to the ships on the beach, the Norsemen rounded up the cattle, goats and sheep, and herded them aboard the boats.

Pulling hard on their oars, they rowed fast and furious, intent on rejoining their comrades for the assault on Paris.

Behind them, flames from the burning monastery soared high in the sky, and black clouds darkened the sun.

Present Day

Baldur and Frya

Jenny Rider’s heart heaved from exertion. The trek through the forest and the final climb up to the clearing would have been taxing enough, but the oversized pack on her back slowed her progress and weighed heavy on her shoulders. Despite the discomfort, Jenny relished her environment.

The area had been a national park and wildlife preserve for many years, but because of poor access, remained unspoilt and untravelled. Here, there were no sign-posted nature trails, park benches, picnic areas, camping sites or any other signs of humanity. The only paths were animal trails, made by foxes, deer, badgers and other wild creatures.

This was where Jenny felt whole. This was where her spirit soared. This was where she became alive.

In the real world, Jenny worked as a day trader for a major banking corporation. Her days were spent studying computer screens, monitoring subtle changes and fluctuations in commodities, shares and currencies. She was good at her job, some said that she was gifted, so much so that between her salary and performance bonuses, Jenny had become a very wealthy woman. In her late thirties, with a mane of rich auburn hair, piercing blue eyes, and gifted with a tall athletic body, she was envied by many and loved by all who knew her.

At her heels ran Baldur, a Great Dane. Baldur and his sister Frya had been her constant companions for many years. Today, Jenny’s normal joy of the forest was missing. Along with her tent, sleeping bag and provisions, Jenny carried an urn containing the cremated remains of Frya. She had come here to bury her beloved and loyal friend at the top of the hill, on the fringes of the forest.

“Nearly there now, boy,” she said, as she reached the edge of the forest.

The shadows of the foliage gave way to a broad expanse of meadow, leading up to the ruins of a now desolate abbey. Little remained of the monastic settlement. A single arched wall stood tall and proud against the sky. Devoid of its splendid stained-glass windows, it defied the centuries, a testament to the masons and craftsmen of old. Wisps of cloud drifted overhead in the late June sky. Below, the majestic river Seine continued its journey to the sea. Undergrowth from the forest threatened to invade the clearing. Gorse and ferns encroached into the sacred grounds, as if testing and probing, in preparation for nature’s final incursion and takeover of the land.

Jenny and Baldur sank to the ground below the arched windows. Exhausted from the hike, Jenny sat with her back against the structure and released the clasps on her pack. Baldur lay beside her, resting his huge head on her lap. She pulled a dish from her pack for the dog and gave him some water from her canteen. The thirsty beast lapped it up in a few seconds and Jenny gave him a refill. She chewed on an energy bar while she rested. Then it was time to pitch camp.

Jenny led Baldur over to the edge of the clearing. Many years ago, when she was still a young girl, she had helped her father to choose the site, and she had used this spot ever since. The big firepit they had built all those years ago only needed a little cleaning, and soon it was as good as new. Well practised and trained, Baldur vanished into the treeline, returning moments later carrying a branch in his mouth. The dog continued to search for firewood and kindling until Jenny gave him the command to stop.

Jenny set about unpacking her tent and camping gear. By the time Baldur had amassed enough branches and twigs, the campsite was ready. As the sun began to set, Jenny had a warm fire blazing in the pit with a pot of water coming to a boil for coffee.

Frya’s ashes sat in an urn at the side of the tent.

“It’s getting dark now, Baldur,” Jenny said. “We’ll take care of Frya in the morning.”

They both enjoyed a filling meal, cooked on the open fire. Jenny sipped on the last of her coffee and gave the last of the water to Baldur. She knew that there was a pristine stream nearby for fresh water and that she could refill the canteens in the morning.

They sat quietly together, enjoying the nighttime sounds of the forest, until the dying fire had fully extinguished. Under the light of a full moon, they crawled into the two-man tent and slept soundly until dawn.

The following morning, after replenishing their water bottles and enjoying a hearty breakfast, Jenny picked up the urn and began to scout for a suitable place to bury the ashes.

She eventually decided to dig under the arched window of the monastery. Bandur nodded his head as if in agreement with her choice.

As she began to dig, Jenny reflected on the history of this sacred place. It had once been a thriving community of monks. Their life devoted to prayer and contemplation of holy scripture. The monastery was reputed to have been rich in treasure, and religious art and manuscripts. Until one morning the Vikings had arrived. They sacked the settlement, killed the monks in a bloody slaughter and torched the buildings, before making off, laden down with the riches they had stolen.

A dull metallic thud interrupted Jenny’s digging. She cleared the dirt from the hole and looked down. Expecting to see bedrock or a flagstone from the floor of the old church, she was surprised to see what looked like a stone trapdoor with a circular brass handle attached to it.

“What have we got here, Baldur? Perhaps an old wine cellar or storage area. Come on, let’s keep digging and see what we find.”

Baldur joined in to help, scraping away at the dirt with his front paws. An hour of constant excavation revealed the full extent of the trapdoor. It was roughly three feet by two feet with two handles, one at each end of the longer sides. Jenny pulled on the handles, but the door stood firm. It was firmly embedded in the soil. Jenny redoubled her efforts, straining to lift the stone slab. It was futile, the slab refused to budge.

“Baldur, fetch the rope, boy. Go to the camp and fetch the rope.”

Baldur immediately obeyed her command and ran back to the camp. He picked up Jenny’s climbing rope in his mouth and ran back to her, wagging his tail.

“Good boy, good boy,” she said, scratching the dog behind his ears and feeding him a reward from her pocket.

Jenny looped the rope through the brass handles and threw the slack up and over the arched window frame. She ran around to the other side and, using the arch for leverage, pulled with all of her strength on the rope. At first, the slab refused to budge, but slowly, ever so slowly, Jenny felt movement. With one final heave on the rope, the massive stone slab slid up and free from the hole. Jenny sank to her knees, gasping for breath. Her arms and back ached from the strain.

“Come on boy, let’s see what we’ve found,” she said. “I hope it’s not the grave of some long-dead monk.”

Jenny switched on her torch and shone it down into the excavation. Rough hewn steps, carved into the rock, led down into the gloom.

“Sit, Baldur, sit. Stay, boy.”

The dog obeyed and Jenny began to climb down into the dark chamber.

At once she knew that this was no grave site or wine cellar. She was surrounded by a treasure trove. Gold and silver relics, stacks of ancient books, chalices and crosses filled the room.

Leaving Baldur to stand guard, Jenny set out on the twenty-mile hike through the forest back to civilisation. Three hours later, she found a roadside service station and a Wi-Fi signal. She Googled a number for the National Institute for Antiquities. She explained her discovery to the man at the other end, Professor Tibot. She told him that the find was now open to the elements and needed urgent attention.

Professor Tibot must have been a man of some influence. Just over an hour later, he alighted from a Bell helicopter, in the parking lot of the service station. After quick introductions, Jenny was in the air, heading back to her camp.

When they landed, they found Baldur still patiently standing guard over the excavation.

The professor was astounded at the wealth of Jenny’s find. He contacted his institute in Paris on the Bell’s radio and, by that night, the area was swarming with people removing and cataloguing the treasure. Floodlights and generators had been installed, allowing the team to work through the night.

Jenny was entitled to fifty percent of the find’s value, but she waived her rights to the claim on one condition.

And so it came to pass that a great treasure trove, missed by the Vikings all those centuries ago, became named after two other Great Danes, Freya, goddess of love and war, and Baldur, god of peace.

Despite the great excitement at her discovery, Jenny left the dig site with a heavy heart. Frya was interred at the forest edge, and Jenny knew that her private place, known only to her and her late father for all these years was gone. From now on it would be famous. Public trails would be opened and soon coach loads of tourists and day-trippers would take over.

The End

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Please visit Sean’s blog for more of his work: https://sean-bracken.site123.me/

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Rylee Black – O’Dell Castle

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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O’Dell Castle

By Rylee Black

Tommy O’Dell settled himself into the seat of the airplane with a relieved sigh. A small groan slipped out as he shifted to tuck his tattered backpack under the seat in front of him and then another as he lifted arthritic shoulders to wrangle in the seatbelt then snap it shut. He turned eyes, once bright blue but now rheumy and red-rimmed with age, to the young woman next to him. The smile he gave her was sad and his lips trembled a bit with the effort. When he spoke, his voice held hints of its once deep baritone and whispers of his native Ireland.

“Growing old is not for the faint of heart, lass. Enjoy your youth while ye can.”

The pretty redhead returned his smile. “Oh, I am, sir. Though Mum thinks I enjoy it too much at times. Is Ireland home or are you just going for a visit?”

“A wee bit of both, I suppose. And you?”

Her face lit with an excited smile. Ah, how much she reminded him of someone else. “I’m going to visit my nan on my dad’s side. It’s my first time here. Mum and Dad moved to America when I was just a little baby. I’ve spoken to my nan on the phone loads of times and we’re super good friends. Mum and Dad surprised me with this trip as a graduation gift. I know they couldn’t really afford it and that makes it even more special. I plan to pay them back when I can.”

He couldn’t help but smile back, her enthusiasm was contagious. “How splendid for you, my dear. I’m sure your nan is just as anxious to see you.”

They chatted off and on for the whole flight, she because she was unable to contain herself, and he because her pale skin, red hair, and bright eyes brought back cherished memories of a girl with those same traits. He learned her name was Aileen after the very woman she was on her way to see, and she was going to be in Ireland for all of her summer break between high school and college. He told her only that he was visiting old friends.

When the plane touched down in Dublin, she helped him navigate the ramps, and he helped her with the sometimes-intimidating process of going through customs. They parted ways with a hug.

When she hurried off toward two women, one with hair the color of hers and the other a beaming elderly woman with hair of grey, Tommy relaxed with the knowledge she was safely in the arms of family. He leaned heavily on his cane and scanned the area for Shamus Doyle. He’d met Shamus almost a decade ago when Tommy had come to Ireland for the very same purpose he was here now. Shamus was a taxi driver who’d become a friend and kind-of surrogate son over time. Each year he took time off work to pick up Tommy and take him anywhere he needed to go. After the first couple years, they’d grown so close he’d invited Tommy to stay with him and his wife Molly each time he came.

The two men spotted each other at the same time and lifted hands in greeting. Shamus went to him pushing a wheelchair. He’d been uncertain about bringing it, afraid he’d offend the older man’s pride, but he was glad he had when he saw relief flit through his friend’s eyes.

Shamus wrapped an arm around Tommy’s shoulders and tried not to notice how thin he’d gotten. “Now I know you’re a strong, proud man, Tommy, but you’ve lived a good long while and the way I see it is you’re deserving of taking a load off when you can.”

Tommy flashed him a smile. “Right you are, Shamus. Right you are. Did you bring me a pint as well? I’ve built up quite a thirst on my journey.”

“I’m not sure I could get away with that even for the likes of you, Tommy O’Dell. We’ll stop at Manny’s place on the way to my home and get you one though. And a nice hot meal to boot. You’ll be longing for one of Donovan’s famous pastries I’m sure.”

They made the stop as promised. While they ate and drank and caught up with what had happened over the last year, people who’d come to know them both stopped to chat or extend the offer of another pint. Shamus drove them to his home where his wife Molly met them at the door, her pleasure at seeing Tommy again obvious in both her smile and the hug she folded him into.

∞∞∞∞∞∞

The next morning dawned sunny and clear. The beauty was marred though by a strong wind that blew its cold breath across the green hills and verdant valleys. Shamus and Molly sat at their small kitchen table talking quietly while their elderly guest slept.

Molly took a furtive glance toward the hallway that led to Tommy’s room before she spoke. “He seems so fragile this year, Shamus. Eighty-five is too old to be traipsing around and climbing over rocks and up hills to visit old ruins. Are you sure it’s wise to be making that trip today? It’s a cold wind that’s blowing out there.”

“I have to, Molls. Ya know I do.” Shamus shook his head, his expression sorrowful. “I agree with you about his condition, but going to the castle is why he’s here. Today is his Rose’s birthday, and he’ll be takin’ her flowers and spending a few hours talking to her just like he always does when he comes.”

“I don’t understand why he does it, though. She died at those ruins, Shamus. Such a terrible, terrible accident. And at such a young age too. They’d only been married a little over a year. She was just a child really, when you think about how young they married. How can it bring him any kind of joy to be there?” Tears shimmered in her blue-green eyes. “I hate it so much. I’ve come to love him just as if he were my own flesh and blood. We both have. We can’t let him do it. We just can’t.”

He stood and went to her, pulling her up and into an embrace. “You’re right, I do love him, and that’s exactly why I have to take him. He left Ireland after Rose died, Molly. Traveled the world and never settled. Never wed again. This one trip here a year for his Rose’s birthday is the only time he allows himself to come back to the homeland he loves.” A door creaked open down the hall and they looked into each other’s eyes. They both felt it. That sense of foreboding. A knowing that this trip was somehow different than the years before. Shamus used his thumbs to wipe the tears from Molly’s cheeks, then kissed her softly. “You’ve such a kind and caring heart, Molly me love, it’s one of the reasons I adore you the way I do. Now dry your tears and let’s make his beloved’s birthday as special as we can.”

Molly made a big breakfast of all the things Tommy enjoyed the most and kept the conversation lively and light. Both she and Shamus took every opportunity they could to let Tommy O’Dell know just how much they cared about him and how happy they were he’d become such an important part of their lives.

When the time came for them to leave, Molly hugged the old man’s thin form as tightly as she dared. “I love you, Tommy. I hope you and your Rose have a wonderful time today. I’ve packed you and Shamus a lunch and gathered up a big bunch of wildflowers for you to take. I’ll have a hot supper waiting when you get back.”

Tommy hugged her back with more strength than seemed possible. “I love ya too, lass. I’m more blessed than an old fool has any right to be. The two of you are like the children my Rose and I never were blessed with. I’ll be forever thankful for that day Shamus answered the call to the airport.” He kissed her cheek, then whispered so softly that only she could hear. “You take care of that wee babe you’re carrying, and if you’re of a mind to, name her Rose.”

Molly drew in a breath. How could he know? She hadn’t even told Shamus yet. The old man pulled back just a bit and winked. “Don’t you be worrying, I’ll be keepin’ your secret.”

∞∞∞∞∞∞

Shamus loaded the wheelchair into the trunk just in case, and then helped Tommy into the passenger seat before he hugged and kissed Molly.

“We’ll be back before nightfall. I love you.”

The trip to the ruins of the O’Dell castle was long and mostly on unpaved roads. Shamus kept a sharp eye on Tommy as he drove and they talked. The old man seemed even older and more fragile today than he had the day before.

When he’d driven as far as he was able, he turned off the car and went around to help Tommy out. He looked up at the ruins. All that remained now was a small bit of one wall and a single window. The hill to reach it, though not too steep, seemed like an impossible task for the man standing next to him.

“I’ve brought the chair, Tommy. It’ll take some work, but I can get you up the hill.”

Tommy patted Shamus’s shoulder. “You’re a good lad and your offer of help is appreciated, but this is something I need to do alone. I’ll make it just fine. Knowing my Rose is waiting for me up there will give me all the strength I need.”

Shamus nodded his understanding and pressed the bouquet of flowers Molly had gathered into the old man’s hand. “Right ya are, then you tell yer Rose happy birthday from me and Molly too. I’ll be waitin’ right here for you. If you find you haven’t the means to make it back down when you’re done just give a call out and I’ll come get you.”

Shamus watched Tommy’s progress up the hill with a heavy heart. He’d aged so much recently. His once erect and proud posture had become the bent-over stoop of an old man. Each June he came home to make this same trek up the hill to the ruins of his ancestral home. No one had lived in the place for years. Centuries probably. Time and vandals had slowly taken their toll on the once-grand castle. When he’d first started bringing him, there’d been parts of three walls each with their own glassless cathedral window and breathtaking view. Now all that remained was the small portion of one wall and its window.

He stood rigid, willing himself not to rush to Tommy’s side. To do so would do more harm than adding a decade to the man’s life. When Tommy finally made it to the top and sank down onto a low place in the wall, Shamus finally let out the breath he’d been holding. After a couple more minutes of making sure Tommy was set and safe, he went to the car, kicked back the seat, and closed his eyes. He’d take a short nap while Tommy talked to his Irish Rose.

∞∞∞∞∞∞

Shamus’s eyes shot open and the breath caught in his throat when the realization that night had truly and completely fallen filtered into his sleep-addled mind. When he leapt from the car, an unnatural wind, playful and full of odd energy, yanked at the legs of his trousers and took his cap on a merry jaunt across the grassy hill. Clouds skittered through the sky blotting out the stars and moon, then moving on only to be followed by more. Tommy! Good God in heaven, where was Tommy?

“Tommy?” The wind whipped his shouted words away. He raced up the hill stumbling over rocks and nearly breaking his ankles in unexpected dips. “Tommy, can you hear me? Where are you, man? Give us a shout out now so I can help you down from your blasted hill and into the warm car. Molly’s going to be worried sick about the both of us.”

The sound of laughter floated to him on a gust of wind, and small shadowy figures danced in and out of random moonbeams. Shamus shook his head to clear it, clinging to the certainty that sleep still dulled his senses, causing him to hear and see things that weren’t actually there. Damn this place. Why did that hard-headed old man insist on returning here year after year?

Shamus had spent his whole life in Ireland. Most of it here in the shadow and spell of the ruins of the O’Dell castle. He’d been raised up with a Mum and Aunties who’d prattered on and on about how the ruins were filled with magic and fairies and wee people who meddled in the lives of humans who dared to visit them. He’d listened when he’d been told not to as they’d spoken in quiet tones of restless spirits who walked the earth searching for lost loves or wreaking havoc on those who’d wronged them. There’d even been tales that at these ruins the veil between worlds was thin enough to cross. In his youth he’d mocked it all and gotten his ears boxed for the effort. As he’d grown, he’d learned to keep his mouth shut and then had done so until the day he was able to go off to university and be away from all their nonsense.

Laughter rolled over him again but this time there was a familiarity about it. He’d not heard it often, but he’d swear on his nan’s grave that the laughter was that of Tommy O’Dell. Oddly though, it wasn’t only the deep, rich tones of the old man he heard. There was a woman laughing with him, a bright and beautiful sound that warmed the heart. A sudden gust sent clouds over the moon and he had to fumble his way to the top of the hill in total darkness. He needed light to find the old man. Why had he not brought his phone? Not that there was any signal in these hills for him to call for help, but at least it had a flashlight on it. His foot hit something solid. No, solid wasn’t quite right because it wasn’t stone he’d run into. With his heart hammering in his chest, he knelt and reached out a hand. Tears instantly filled his eyes as he shook the shoulder he’d found.

“Tommy? Are you okay? Tommy, can you hear me?” He called to him, but he knew. He and Molly had felt the shift but neither had put a voice to the words.

He was suddenly surrounded by the titter of what seemed like hundreds of tiny voices and the tinkle of childlike laughter. Trepidation filled him and he shook the old man harder, tears now flowing freely down his cheeks. He froze when something feather-light landed on his shoulder.

“Open your eyes, Shamus Doyle. Believe. Tommy isn’t in that tired old shell you’re shaking anymore. Look up and rejoice. He’s with his Irish Rose at last and it is such a sight to behold.”

Shamus drew in an unsteady breath and looked up. The wind moved the clouds and a bright beam of moonlight illuminated the scene. There in the silvery path of light were a young and devilishly handsome Tommy O’Dell and his beautiful red-haired Rose dancing the jig Tommy had boasted about being so good at countless times over the years.

“Look Shamus,” Tommy called. “I’ve found her. My beautiful Rose. I told you she’d be waiting, now didn’t I. Still pretty as an Irish sunrise just like I told ya she was. I’ll be leavin’ you now Shamus. A million thanks to you for taking such good care of me and bringing me this one last time. May the path you walk be forever blessed. Farewell, my friend. Farewell. Give our love to Molly.”

They both waved and Tommy’s Rose blew him a kiss before they turned to walk the beam of light. Just as they were shimmering forms half of this world and half of the next, Tommy turned around one last time.

“It’s the magic, Shamus my boy. Always believe in the magic.”

And then they were gone, and the night grew still and quiet. Shamus stood there in the light of the moon staring after them with tears on his cheeks and his heart bursting with the freedom that only comes when one opens their heart to the impossible.

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Visit Rylee’s website at https://www.ryleeblackbooks.com!

D.L. Tillery – Where once we were

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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Where once we were

By D.L. Tillery

Through the window, I left you there, on that plain my heart laid bare.

Down the hillside my tears have run, like the blades of grass grow in sun…

What once was there yet far from you, I had a care though never fair

On the breeze our love once soared, never again, I’ve closed the door…

Yet here I am overwhelmed with thought, why did I give my heart?

Remove from me what we were,

like the stones have fallen away,

down and across the Everglades.

Wrapped in secret is the lie,

the one we’ve told and screamed to the sky,

where once we built that place called home

is nothing left but an old torn-down mess,

cold as stone. If I could go back to where

we were, I’d call for you again and again

though I know you’d never appear,

for you’ve long since passed away from here.

Now my eyes can no longer see…

Just as the place we once loved,

has come to be…

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Please visit D. L.’s website and follow her: www.authordltillery.wixsite.com/authorsite

Lynn Gordon: “This Beautiful Place”

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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“This Beautiful Place”

by Lynn Gordon

It’s Christmas morning and the house is filled with everything this special day brings.

Squeals of delight come from the six-year-old twins, Felix and Titus, as they unwrap their gifts.

“OK boys, save some for after dinner when Gran and Pops are here,” I chastise.

The aroma in the kitchen lets me know the turkey is coming along nicely.

“Nothing to do for a couple of hours, time for a bit of fresh air. Who is up for a walk to the castle before dinner?” My tone is breezy as I help Dan tidy the detritus left behind after the frenzy of unwrapping.

Felix abandons his Leggo starship and runs towards the garage.

“I want to go on my bike!”

“Don’t forget your helmet,” I shout after his disappearing form.

“What about you two?” I ask the other boys in my life. Dan is helping Titus with the Leggo. They are both focusing their attention on their task and pay scant regard to my question.

“Mind if we stay here and play, luv?” Dan gives me a quick glance before returning to his task.

I sigh. I thought a walk to the clifftop with the family would be a perfect start to this lovely Christmas morning. We’ll probably not get another chance today once Mum and Dad arrive.

“Mum … Mum come on, I’m ready.” It’s Felix, itching to get going.

“Shouldn’t be too long.” I blow a kiss to Dan. Titus hardly registers my words, such is his focus on his Christmas present.

“Come on Loopy, you can come with us.” Our old chocolate Labrador needs no encouragement. He bolts out of the house and circles around Felix, desperate to get going.

Thirty minutes later the three of us approach the old ruin close to the headland. Loopy whines as I put his lead on. He’s never ventured too close to the cliff edge, but I’m not taking any chances. I ignore his protests and caution Felix to stay on the path as he pedals frantically — his little legs like pistons.

A shaft of sunlight struggles to make its presence felt through the dark grey clouds which are gathering momentum.

A flash of light catches my eye. As I do a double take and focus on the location of the glinting sunlight, I’m sure it is the sun reflecting off the only surviving window in the old ruin — except … there is no glass in the window.

I shake my head, convinced I have imagined the phenomena.

“Just my mind playing tricks on me.”

Loopy is jumping around my feet excitedly before he too seems to sense something that is just ‘not quite right.’

Loopy cowers and tugs at his lead, encouraging me away from the spot, and it is at this moment I realise Felix is nowhere in sight.

A shiver runs down my spine as the gathering clouds plunge the area into a gloomy darkness; a distant rumble of thunder shakes me out of my revery.

“Felix … Felix! Oh God, where are you?” I shout into the wind. Loopy whines as he nuzzles into my legs, sensing my anxiety.

I freeze with terror as I look towards the cliff edge; it’s thirty metres away from where I last saw Felix. He never, and I mean never, goes anywhere near the edge, but this thought offers little comfort as I look around in vain for my son.

“Felix, Felix,” I roar, and by now I’m convinced something dreadful is unfolding in this beautiful spot which I love so much.

I’m shaking uncontrollably. I drop Loopy’s lead and run around frantically searching for my boy.

My heart is pounding so hard I fear it will burst out of my chest. I curse as I rummage through my pockets and realise I don’t have my mobile.

I am alone … and I have never been so afraid in my life.

“Feeeliiix!” I wail as tears flow. Loopy has scampered off, but right now I cannot concern myself too much about my beloved pet.

“Is it my imagination or has it gotten really dark all of a sudden?”

What to do, what to do, I try to compose myself; I need to think clearly.

“I took my eyes off Felix for no more than a few seconds, so where the hell can he have gone?”

I need to think; I breathe deeply in an attempt to calm myself.

“He cannot possibly be too far away, he simply can’t be!”

It doesn’t matter how many words of reassurance I utter, my fear is mounting and I can barely think straight.

There is that damn flash of light again, and this time I am in no doubt that it is coming from the old ruin.

I run towards the cliff edge; the sense of dread all but incapacitates me, and I force myself to move. I do not want to look over the edge — the prospect of what I may see terrifies me but I have to know. I have to be sure Felix and his bike are not lying at the bottom of the cliff in a tangled mess.

“Dear God! How can I be entertaining such thoughts.”

One more scan of my surroundings before I reach the edge.

“There is that bloody light again!” I am angry now; I know I am being irrational, but that light is really infuriating me. The sky is almost black, so “What the hell is that light,” I utter through clenched teeth.

Something stops me in my tracks; I no longer feel the need to explore the cliff edge. Instead I am compelled to return to the old ruin and this damned light.

As I walk towards the new focus of my search, I am astonished to realise my panic and fear of moments ago have dissolved, and I am filled with an unexpected sense of calm.

The pounding in my chest subsides. I hold my breath as I’m transfixed in wonderment and joy at the sight in front of me. I just stare at the tableau.

A beaming smile on the face of Felix as he greets me.

“Hi Mum, are you alright?”

I can barely speak.

“Why are you crying?” he asks.

I still cannot speak. Felix turns to ‘his little friends’ as he will come to refer to the bizarre circle of ‘creatures’ sitting in a huddle on the grass close by.

I am no longer afraid. Instead I stare in wonderment, and my heart is filled with joy at this incredible spectacle.

“Come and say hello to my friends, Mum.”

It’s bonkers, I know, but I feel no sense of incredulity or disbelief; instead i just stand smiling in gratitude that my boy is safe. I find myself addressing one of the strangers who seems to be the leader of the odd little group.

They are surrounded in a halo-like glow which seems to sparkle and dance like fireflies on a balmy summer night. The hubbub of chatter and laughter cloaks me in a gentle tingling sensation, and I am warmed with the pleasure of this unexpected feeling.

Felix takes delight in showing off his newfound friends.

“This is Bitzy,” he proclaims proudly as he lays a hand on the shoulder of the little creature nearest to him.

“Bitzy, this is my mum.”

“Enchanted to meet you, Mum of Felix.” The little stranger addresses me with a beaming smile and a tiny outstretched hand at the end of a stick-thin arm. It is only now I fully take in the wondrous sight in front of me.

The tiny creatures, six in number, are like little humans dressed in brightly coloured suits with wizened faces and tiny flexible limbs. Each has a necklace of tiny sea shells which make for an enchanting melody with each movement of their animated little bodies.

I can barely contain myself, even though every fibre of my body tells me I am in some sort of fantastical dream or hallucination. I find myself returning Bitzy’s gesture as I take his outstretched hand.

A gleeful giggle escapes as I address the gathering.

“It’s very nice to meet you too — what brings you to this place?”

Before any response comes my way, the glistening halo begins to fade. I blink as the dancing light envelops Bitzy and his friends before dissolving away so that only Felix, me, and his bike are left at the old ruin.

In silence, we return home, retrieving Loopy on the way.

“Hi guys,” Dan greets me as we enter the hall, “did you have a good walk? You’ve been out for ages!”

I just smile down at Felix who returns my smile in silence … there is nothing to say.

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KELLI J GAVIN: “ALWAYS — A LOVE LETTER”

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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Always — A Love Letter

By Kelli J Gavin

I will never tire walking these hills. It just isn’t the same without you. What once was an adventure has become a chore. You and me was how it was always supposed to be. Then our always turned into for only a short while. I will love you always. Nothing will change the way I feel about you.

Everything was so challenging at home. Dad had lost his job eight months prior, and mom was working two jobs and we were barely making ends meet. He started drinking the day he was laid off and never really stopped. Mom cried while making dinner. She cried when she went to bed. She also cried each morning in the shower. She never thought that I saw her or heard her. But I saw how much pain she was in every single day. I sat with her when I finished my homework and we would watch a movie every weekend. Our times together were few, but I loved to just be with her.

Dad finally realized he needed help and agreed to go to treatment. He didn’t want to, and would then go three more times before becoming sober. But at least he finally said yes. That left mom and I at home. The peace was wonderful. Dad was no longer there to pick an argument with mom every night when she got home from her second job. But without dad there, my mom also didn’t know how to fully function anymore. The crying continued, but she didn’t do it as often anymore.

The first time dad came home from rehab, he was angry. Still angry about losing his job, angry that mom never came to visit him, and angry that it appeared that our lives continued on without him. Almost as if he wanted us to be struggling even more in his absence. He didn’t want to know about what we had done when we weren’t together. He may have not been drinking, but he still believed the world revolved around him.

Six nights after dad returned home, mom was two hours late coming home from her second back-to-back shift. When she got home, he never gave her a chance to explain. He hit her across the face as he yelled, “And don’t try to tell me that you were at work! I know that the restaurant closed two hours ago!” I came running as I heard the yelling escalate and ran into the kitchen just I saw my mom hit the floor.

“Rachel! Rachel, I am sorry! I didn’t mean to do it!” My dad broke down as my mother cowered away from him. He came near and she kicked at him and held her hand up in the air.

“Get out. Get out of this house. You will never hit me again. Do you hear me? You will never hit me again.” My mother’s voice remained calm and collected. Tears streamed down both of our faces as I sat down on the floor next to her. I wrapped my arms around her.

Dad looked down at the floor and nodded once. He then turned, took his keys from the kitchen table and left. Just like that. We heard from him the next day. He called to tell us he had been arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He agreed to go to rehab again. He said his attorney would deliver his car keys and the additional information in the next day or two.

I was hurting so much. I was hurting for my mom, for my dad, for my little family. I didn’t know what to do. My mom and I would surely have to sell the house. How long would dad be gone? Did it really matter? Was their marriage even something that mom wanted to try to save?

The only way I could avoid the dark cloud of sadness that poured over our home was to leave and roam the hills and surrounding valleys. Unfortunately I discovered that the sadness had already taken up residence within me no matter where I went. I began to walk even farther each day, as I only returned home when there were no more tears left to cry. One afternoon, I saw a tall stone structure over a grassy hill. As I approached I realized that I could see through the stone. Was that a window? I got to the top of the hill and I could see the entire structure. I was in awe of what appeared to be the ruins of a very old church.

I approached quickly so that I could take in all the beauty. I could imagine the singular window that was still standing once filled with gorgeous stained glass. What a beautiful sight of all that was left standing. The rest of the aged church stood in piles of rubble here and there. I am sure that over time, many had come to pillage the useful stone to create property markers or adornments for a yard. But this last standing wall refused to bow and crumble as the elements threatened to take over.

Then, I saw you. You sat on the ground next to the rocks looking up at the sky, maybe even admiring the birds overhead. You played with the long grass in your hands and worked at intertwining two pieces in a design only you understood. You then glanced in my direction. When I saw you looking at me, I immediately became aware that I had been watching you for quite some time. I shouted a friendly hello and you waved in return.

When I approached and you greeted me, I found myself immediately at ease. All of the grief and sorrow that I had carried with me on my walkabout was still present, but was no longer so heavy and weighing me down. We fell into a comfortable conversation and I basked in how natural it all felt. We shared about where we lived, our families, that you were home for two weeks from college and that I would be graduating the next spring. You talked about how hard it was to be the eldest of six kids and I spoke of how lonely it was being the only child.

We sat on the amazing large rocks near the ruins for what seemed like hours. I noticed the sun was setting and we both watched it in all its beauty. Then you turned and asked me if I had been crying while I was walking. I remember becoming worried that my makeup had smeared when I attempted to wipe every tear away. You saw me trying to fix my makeup and you reached over and touched my arm as if to tell me to stop. You were the first person to tell me that I was beautiful.

Your smile, your deep ocean eyes. We agreed to meet the next afternoon at the same time so that we could enjoy another spell together. We both arrived with umbrellas wearing rain boots. I saw you at the top of the hill. I was so relieved to see you even in the rain. There was that beautiful smile I had come to admire the afternoon before. Our conversation picked right up where we had left off. We spoke of heart hurts, life hurdles, and glimpses of joy. I shared about my dad and the fact that my mom was now a shell of the woman she once was. You took my hand so naturally as I spoke, I couldn’t imagine a time you hadn’t already been holding it. I wondered if you felt it too. That current between you and me. That electric shock each time you pushed a stray hair away from eyes. Or when I traced the outline of your fingers with mine. We were drawn to each other in every way.

The fourth afternoon we met, I brought a picnic dinner and a blanket as the grass may have been wet from the night before. It wouldn’t have mattered. Your kisses were urgent and searching as if you wished to gain knowledge of who I was that I had not yet offered. I wondered if there were other girls at school whom you spent your free time with, and then found I didn’t care. All that mattered was you and me and the time we had together.

The idea of you heading back to school in a week hit me with such unexpected urgency. You brought me home to meet your family and enjoy dinner in your very loud home. Your mother gave me a handkerchief that she had just finished embroidering. You thought it was an odd gift to give, but I treasure it to this day. You held my hand as you walked me home. You insisted on walking as it would take longer and allow for more time together. Mom was always working until 11 p.m. and I always welcomed you in. Time spent in your arms was the only place I wanted to be.

Two days before you returned to school, my mother had a rare Sunday evening off work and said she wanted to meet the young man that had been occupying all of my time and thoughts. I was embarrassed, but only for a minute. She saw a difference in me; that difference was you. You made us laugh that evening at dinner. To see my mother so filled with joy made me think that things were finally going to turn around for us. She was enthralled by your stories of campus life. Of professors and classes and study groups. You were so kind to answer each of her questions. She thanked you earnestly for making me happy again and for spending time in our home. You hugged her so warmly and smiled when you told her that it was a honor to even be allowed to be with me. You had my heart from that moment on. I knew I loved you.

Tuesday morning came and I decided to not go to school so that I could see you off. I got to your home as your father was packing the car. Your mother stood on the porch wiping her tears with a dish towel. Your youngest brother and sister who were not yet in school played in the yard as you hugged your mother goodbye. And then you turned to me. I searched for that smile that I loved, but believed it wouldn’t be found that morning as we said goodbye. You kissed me and held me. You wiped my tears and promised to return the following summer. You promised to call me and text me. I felt a piece of me leave with you on that cold Tuesday morning.

Once you got back to school and settled in, we texted each other constantly. We spoke almost daily, usually late into the night. Just hearing your voice when I closed my eyes made me feel you were still right here with me. I went to school and got a part-time job so that mom wouldn’t have to worry about paying for any clothing or activities for me. I kept busy in your absence just waiting for your return come summer.

Your text caught me off guard. “I love you. I am sorry. I had to take a job here near campus this summer because there aren’t enough jobs back home. I need to pay for more of my tuition as some of my grants and scholarships decrease next term. We won’t be able to spend the summer together.” I cried for two days. I didn’t even answer when you called. I just couldn’t do it. Not speaking to you enabled me to pretend that maybe I had misunderstood.

Your summer job took up so much of your time. You were working about 60 hours a week and sleeping whenever you got a chance. We spoke maybe once a week and your text messages became few and far between. I have to admit, I stopped making as much of an effort as I had. I didn’t want it to seem that I was over eager and you seemed so cool when we spoke. I saw you becoming further and further away from me and I felt helpless.

I accepted that we may not be a forever thing when I saw the For Sale sign go up in your parent’s front yard. My mom came home one afternoon and said she saw your mom at the grocery. She said they were moving 250 miles away, closer to where your father’s new job was located. I then knew that you had less of a reason to return home. Less of a reason to return to our ruins on the hill. Less of a reason to return home to me.

I hadn’t spoke to you in three weeks when I decided to call you and tell you I had met someone. I wasn’t sure if my new relationship was going to turn into anything, but Jamie was there with me. I could see him, touch him, love him. I heard your voice crack. I cried and tried to muffle any noise that I could. You said you were sorry. I told you I was sorry also, but I really wasn’t sure what for. You said you missed me already. I told you I would always love you. Always.

I return to our ruins but it isn’t the same. The beauty still surrounds it, but you aren’t there. Even these ten years later, I still remember seeing you on the rocks like it was yesterday. Someday, I will tell my children of my first love. Of the boy that smiled and looked at me like I hung the moon. Of the boy that captured my heart and returned the joy I had lost. Of the boy that restored hope and laughter to my home.

Distance and time may have separated us, but I will love you always. Nothing will change the way I feel about you.

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Sarah Anne Steckel – “The Ruins of the Radiant Winds”

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 Ruins of the Radiant Winds”

By Sarah Anne Steckel

“Meet me at the ruins of the Radiant Winds temple at high noon for a friendly duel. Signed, a friend.” Vortex read the crumpled note over once more and shifted his gaze to the fallen rubble, where only a single window remained of the once great temple. He began his slow trek down the steep hill toward the ruins, his right hand idly resting on the hilt of his broadsword as he tried to brush the vivid memories of when he was last here out of his mind; that’s when he saw the visage of the oncomer, a small-bodied and fully-helmeted being. Although their helmet was made of metal, the armor they wore was leather, and two short swords were strapped to either side of their body.

“Not much of a getup for a duel, I’m afraid!” Vortex called out in a vague taunting manner. As the distance between them lessened, he began to question who this ‘friend’ truly was. He never recalled meeting a small man who he had ever fought, and the only person he ever knew who could use two short swords in a battle was a woman who he poorly parted ways with long ago. “Who are you, friend?”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ve already realized, friend.” The smooth female voice taunted faintly as she reached up to remove her helmet to reveal a head of long pink hair. She smiled at him, even though it appeared more like a scowl, and as she dropped her helmet to the ground, she drew both blades simultaneously and quickly lunged at him.

“Newo!” Vortex could have laughed, but instead, he withdrew his sword and parried her attack. Even though she was half his size, her quick movements made it hard for him to keep up, and he quickly found her stabbing her left-handed blade into his thick armor. He looked down at his abdomen, thankful for the chainmail and armor plates that protected him from her sharp and pointy blades. “And here I thought that I’d never see you again…”

“Well, that’s what happens when you leave your partner in the night, and travel halfway across the world…” She relaxed her stance and lowered her weapons down to her sides. A softer, yet still scowl-like smile crept over her lips, “I stabbed you with my non-dominant hand. You’re still slow, Vortex. I’m surprised you’re not dead yet.”

Vortex beat at the spot that she stabbed him in moments ago, and grinned. “Can’t kill me that easily!”

“All those nights traveling together, I could have slit your throat at any time,” she mumbled under her breath, her gaze flitting off toward the ruins that stood behind them, and frowned. “There’s not much left here now, huh?”

“Was there much more here ten years ago?”

Newo smiled fully, a grin that spread in a feline-like manner across her face. “No, I suppose not. There were more goblin corpses littered on the ground the last time we were here…”

Vortex chuckled loudly, “That was quite a day, was it not? I’ve never seen you so happy, goblin blood and gore covering you head to toe, laughing maniacally—hysterically—as we sliced them down. How long did that battle take again?”

Newo shrugged, a lock of pink hair falling over her shoulder and resting in her face. “My mind distorts it, I think—I remember it lasting days, and yet… only minutes. I can remember all of it, and yet almost nothing at all, Vortex.” She looked up at him, unaware of her cheeks growing hot until it was too late. “Those were the best days of my life, traveling, hunting, and killing with you.”

“Aye, they were quite a time … weren’t they?”

“Vortex?”

“Yes, Newo?”

Her voice softened, a nearly juvenile and innocent tone. “Why did you leave me across the sea in Marnyx?”

Vortex lowered his gaze to the ground and sighed deeply, and for several moments he said nothing. “Because it started to become more to me, Newo. You are one of the most vicious cut-throats I’ve ever met, and we made a good team. If it were to become more than that, it would have put our lives in jeopardy.”

Newo narrowed her eyes at him and glared. “How?”

He turned and looked upon her angry face and forced a smile. “We were dangerous people, with bounties on our heads. Those that wanted us dead could have used those affections I had for you against us. I was afraid—”

“Shut up!” Newo firmly commanded, and with a deftness she reached up and grabbed either side of his face and kissed him briefly. As she pulled back, she grinned and said in an arrogant tone, “As you’ve stated, you’re hard to kill, are you not? I say let them try, and I will condemn all of them to hell!”

Speechless, Vortex just stared down at her. He watched as she took a step back from him, and while unable to hide the grin on her face, she glowered up at him. “Now, don’t you ever leave me again, Vortex, or I will find you and murder you in your sleep—I swear it!”

He fumbled with his fingers, but then smiled down at her. Although his cheeks were hot, and he was still slightly embarrassed that he was so taken off guard from her kiss, Vortex couldn’t deny that it felt good, it felt right, to have her back at his side. He placed a heavy hand on her shoulder and patted it firmly. “I swear it, Newo. So, what’s next then?”

“Ah, let’s go to the tavern the next town over. I think you owe me a drink or two—don’t you think? Then … let’s go on another adventure!”

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Paula Shablo – “Walking Out”

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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Walking Out


by Paula Shablo

Holly woke up.

The sun beat down on her, and she realized she was naked even as she was taking note of the pain of sunburn. The swell of her breasts was red, raw—close to blistering.

“What the hell?” Holly gasped, rolling to her side and making the first of many attempts to rise.

When she finally succeeded, she swayed and bent at the waist, feet apart, grasping her bare knees and gasping with pain. She was nauseated and finally lost her battle with a rising gorge, vomiting copious amounts of muck between her feet.

“Sweet Jesus!” Holly groaned. Still grasping her knees, she shuffled herself backward, wiping her feet carefully in thigh-high grasses as she went. The grass was still slightly damp with dew close to the ground, and as she brushed through it, the sweet, green smell wafted up around her.

Holly sank down in the grass and lay on her belly, letting the cool dampness of the grass soothe her burning breasts and thighs, which had apparently gotten the most exposure to the sun. She didn’t care why; it may have been positioning in relation to grass blades, for all she knew. It didn’t matter.

Everything hurt. The sunburn on her breasts was the most prominent of her pains, but she was perfectly aware of the rest of her body, and finally rolled over enough to take stock.

She was covered with bruises and scrapes. Crusted blood covered several places on her body and matted her pubic hair. An exploration of her neck and the back of her head revealed thick, sticky blood, not yet completely dried, and a large area of swelling behind her right ear.

Swelling, yes, but … well, it also felt … dented.

“I’m dead,” Holly whispered. “At least, someone believes I am.”

Someone.

Who?

She sat in the grass, knees drawn up to her chest, her arms resting atop them and her chin on her wrist. She stared straight ahead.

Holly was nowhere.

Obviously, she was somewhere, but she didn’t recognize anything. She took in the vista in front of her, moving only her eyes. Rolling hills, lush green grass, various clumps of small white flowers, and off in the distance, a stone fence that meandered up and over a hillock.

“Fence,” Holly whispered. “Someone built it sometime.”

She rose to her feet again, more steadily this time, and shuffled her way back to where she’d awakened, searching the ground as she went. She was hoping for any sign of her clothing, but didn’t see anything.

“Damn it!” She was peripherally aware that she was speaking aloud, and didn’t give two cents worth of crap that it was crazy—the sound of her own voice was reassuring.

“If I don’t keep talking,” she said, “I’m probably going to start screaming.”

She certainly wanted to scream; it made perfect sense to want to scream in a situation like this, didn’t it?

“I’ve been dumped. Left for dead.”

“Obviously,” Holly replied to herself, her tone sarcastic. “Also, beaten and certainly raped.”

“I don’t want to think about that part.”

“You have to think about that part.”

“I will! But not now. Not yet. Right now, I have to think about where I am and how to get back home.”

That made sense, so she dropped that subject.

“No clothes. Shit. I’m going to be burnt all over!”

No, she decided, she was not. She got down on her knees again and began to dig in the rich, dark soil under the grass. It wasn’t terribly wet at the surface—the morning dews wouldn’t be enough for that—but as she dug deeper, it was damp enough to make it stick to her skin. She rubbed it on her face, shoulders and breasts, making a semi-effectual paste.

Then she headed for the stone fence. Fences, she reasoned, do not build themselves, which meant that wherever she was, it was a place known to people.

When she reached the fence, she discovered that it was aged and crumbling, but she was determined not to give up, and began to follow it.

The hill, which had seemed small from a distance, proved to be a bit of a climb, and Holly leaned more and more frequently against the waist high structure. In some spots, the stones had fallen, leaving gaps in the wall, but mostly it was intact.

Holly finally reached the crest of the hill. Looking down, she could see in the distance the single remaining partial wall of what must surely have been a church in the past.

“Pretty lonely church,” Holly muttered. “Who came here? There’s nothing else around!”

This wasn’t entirely true. Just to the southwest of the structure, surely less than a mile away, was a body of water too large to be called a pond, but too small to be a lake.

Holly didn’t care what anyone might call it; it was water!

At the next area of breakdown in the stone fence, she carefully maneuvered her way to the other side and headed for the water, praying for it to be cool and clean. She wanted to run, but didn’t quite dare. It was downhill, at any rate, and didn’t take long.

The water was so clear, Holly could see to the bottom, even off in the middle distance, where there was an observable drop-off into some depths. She walked right in, avoiding sharp stones, and once the water reached the tops of her aching thighs, she sank down into it, resting her buttocks on her heels.

“You’re washing away evidence,” she said, even as she plunged her whole head into the water and began scrubbing blood out of her hair.

“Shut up. I’m attracting flies.”

She had been. It was not only annoying to realize, it was disgusting. She washed herself as best she could without soap, not caring about evidence, not caring about anything but being clean.

Afterward, she moved from that place, moved to where the water wasn’t cloudy with her cleansing efforts, and drank deeply. For a moment she felt like she might vomit again, but pushed past the nausea and slowly made her way back to the shoreline.

Her milk-white fair skin had had more than enough of the sun, so she squatted down next to the water and mixed up a large amount of mud, which she smeared liberally over her face and body.

She wandered back to the “church”; it surely must have been a church at one time. She could see the remains of foundation and collapsed walls, and not far from that single still-standing section was a double door and frame, the wood nearly rotted to transparency. Once there had been door handles and hinges, but those were gone now. “Medieval salvage company,” Holly declared dismissively.

The standing section had to have been a window, Holly decided. “I’ll bet it held beautiful stained glass once,” she sighed. There was no sign of broken glass there now, so perhaps it had been salvaged, too, sometime decades in the past.

Holly sat down in the window, naked and covered with drying mud, and sighed. She looked around her at all the beautiful nothing, and tried to think about yesterday, but nothing came to her except loading and starting the dishwasher after breakfast.

She’d been planning a walk in the park with Sandy, her aged Corgi.

Did they go?

She didn’t remember.

She hoped not. Because, if they did … where is Sandy?

“God, I hope I went to the post office or something,” Holly cried. Then Sandy would be at home, with a full water dish and a bowl full of kibble.

There was just a lot of nothing after loading the dishwasher, adding detergent, spinning the dial and pressing “Start.”

Really, she couldn’t even be sure it had been only yesterday. It was morning when she woke up; the grass was still damp with dew, and the sun hadn’t had time to do a complete number on her skin yet, so she assumed she’d been there overnight.

Still, she was somewhere else before that, wasn’t she? Her clothes must have been left in that somewhere else place. Who knows how long she might have been there…

“Okay, this sucks!” Holly started to cry.

“Just stop that, right now. You have to get out of here.”

“How? I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how long I’ve been gone, I don’t know where to go!” And of course, she couldn’t stop crying.

She let herself cry. And cry. And cry some more.

Finally: “Finished?”

Her breath came in coughing little hiccups. “Yeah.”

“I’m alive. Alive!”

Whatever else, there was that fact. She woke up. She knew who she was. The where and how—that was going to have to wait.

First things first.

“Okay, look around.”

Holly looked.

The stone fence continued down the hill and around a bend. Whatever lay beyond that bend was obstructed from view by a copse of scrubby trees and a large rock.

“It stands to reason,” Holly told herself, “that at some point, that wall will lead somewhere.”

“Yes. Sooner or later. Hopefully, sooner.”

“I’ll follow it out of here.”

“Right.”

Soon enough, she would do that. Naked, covered with dry mud, she would follow the stone fence and find a way back to the world.

But for now, she sat in the window of the otherwise destroyed church, and wondered if she should pray to remember … or not.

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Please visit Paula’s blog: https://pshablo.blogspot.com

Jenny Booker -“The Perfect Spot”

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.)

“The Perfect Spot”

By Jenny Booker

“Not much farther,” he said breathlessly.

He forgot how steep this bit was and he wasn’t as young as he was the last time he walked it.

Maybe I should go to the gym next week, he thought, but then the final destination came into view and stopped that rude idea from progressing.

“This is the spot,” he called out to his best friend.

He walked over to the rocks to rest his tired feet — all that walking and they were finally there.

His best friend followed behind a few minutes later and chucked the large bag down and proceeded to light a cigarette.

Taking it in he then, as his feet allowed, moved to the window to see the gorgeous view of the sea below — and the welcome breeze felt like a high five on his face that cooled him down to assist him in the next step of the plan.

“How long have we got?” his best friend asked.

Glancing at his watch — it took nearly two hours to get there so not much time.

“Let’s get to work,” he suggested, noticing a flicker of nerves in his voice. This is the perfect spot, he thought — this was where I took her on our first date, and hopefully, as he clasped the little box in his pocket tightly….

Where she will say yes!

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Visit Jenny’s blog and follow her! https://itsjennythewren.wordpress.com

Kenneth Lawson – Tribute

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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Tribute

By Kenneth Lawson

Time knows all.

There was a time when the walls that surrounded the remains of the window kept the rain and wind out. But that was centuries ago.

Now all that remained was a collection of stones and weeds and a few trees that were too stubborn to die in the cold wind and rain coming across the great bulk of an island in the north sea.

But he came back every year. He had to.

Every year, no matter where he was, or what he was doing, he stopped in the middle of September.  ​Hopped a flight and spent days, sometimes a couple of weeks, traveling from one end of the planet to his home. Or what remained of his home.

There he would get lodging in the old inn in the nearest colony for a week. Once every day he would make the long dangerous trek to the remains. There he would say a silent prayer to his ancestors.

Once done, he would return to his world.

This was the 200th year he had made the trek to the dark side of the world. He was getting tired and he couldn’t take the travel like he did when he was much younger. The last few years he’d barely made it. It crossed his mind this could be his last year.

For over 200 years he had returned to the land and building of his ancient ancestors. To pay tribute to them and honor their lives and the difference they had made in their world.

But alas he had no heirs to pass the stories on to. No son. No daughter. Nor even a nephew that might understand the powers he had once had.

He stood on the hill overlooking the great seas. Seas he had once ruled and sailed in mighty ships that commanded respect and fear. Now only a small fishing boat that barely brought any fish back was all that was left of the grand harbors and buildings that had once stood where the small remains now stood.

He knew buried in the mounds of rocks and stones was his story. And he felt it was now time for him to join them.

He had come to the end of his time.

One last time he prayed to his Gods and honored his history and their memories. Slowly the last Keeper of the Stories made his way to the sea. Overlooking the cliffs.

He reveled in the cold wind that nearly blew him over. Not yet.

Not until he was ready.

He recited an ancient prayer as he let the wind carry him over the edge. The last thing he remembered was the sky opening up as if to welcome him home.

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Please follow Kenneth on his blog: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/fantasy/tribute

Lynn Miclea – “Window to the Future”

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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“Window to the Future”

by Lynn Miclea

Aliya brushed the hair out of her face as she walked up the grassy incline. She had wanted to climb to the top of the hill in her neighborhood and see the view for months now. Her breathing heavy and ragged from exertion, she was finally here. A shiver of anticipation ran through her as she neared the crest.

Looking up, her eyes opened wide and she stared at the view at the top of the hill. A ruin was there — part of one, anyway. Just the window was left from some unknown structure. It looked ancient and powerful and she felt drawn to it.

Although exhausted from her hike, and still breathing heavily, she moved toward it, her arms outstretched. Something about it felt awe inspiring and even personal. She needed to be closer to it.

The overwhelming power of the window washed over her as she got near enough to touch it. Tentatively, she reached a trembling hand to the stone. It felt warm and rough, and she placed her hand flat on the rock. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath.

When she opened her eyes, the view through the ancient window had shifted. Her brow furrowed as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing. Through the window was a barren wasteland. The ground was parched and devoid of life. There were no trees, plants, birds, animals, or people. Just empty, scorched dirt — as though a huge fire or a war had blown through the area.

“What am I seeing?” she whispered to the window.

A voice in her head answered. You are seeing the future of Earth. Years from now, war and greed will have destroyed all life on the planet. However, this can be prevented. It is not too late. The one who can see this is the one who can change it and save the planet. We have been waiting a long time for you to arrive.

Aliya looked around but saw no one. She looked back at the window. “Who are you?”

We are the gatekeepers of the world. We have been trying to save your planet, but we cannot do it alone.

“But … but I don’t know what to do. How can I save Earth?”

There is a piece missing in the wall surrounding the window. A vital piece that has come loose and fallen out. The missing piece that will save the planet.

“What piece? Where is it? How do I find it?”

It is a crystal that is vital to mankind. In fact, it is vital to all life on Earth. You must find it, plug it back into the wall, and close the loophole that has developed. That loophole created the wars, the greed, the hatred, the fighting, the emptiness, and the catastrophes that have befallen the planet.

“But how do I find this crystal?”

You will know where to look. It is in your possession. It needs to be placed in the wall before the window closes completely and disappears — then it will be too late.

“What kind of crystal?”

You will know it when you see it. You know where it is. Hurry. We are running out of time.

Aliya removed her hand from the wall and took a step back. Was she imagining everything she heard? How would she know what crystal or where it was?

She glanced at the window and the view was back to the way it was before. She could see the blue sky, a few clouds, and the other side of the hill. Her eyes followed a dirt path leading down the hill to a long stretch of beach which lined a huge dark blue ocean. It was hard to tear her eyes away from the view.

After a few minutes, she slowly turned and ran back the way she had come, going back to her home. An urgency gnawed at her, and she felt that the voice in her head was real. She had to help. But how?

Something pulled her to the closet in her bedroom. She wasn’t sure why, but she opened the closet door and immediately picked up a small wooden box from the floor. Treasures she had been given by her grandfather when he was still alive. She smiled, remembering the smell of sawdust and tools on him, and the jangling of keys that always hung from his belt.

Sitting on the side of her bed, she slowly opened the box. Folded papers, a marble, and a few coins greeted her eyes. And there on the side — what was that? A pink stone — rose quartz. A crystal of love. She didn’t remember seeing it there before. Did she simply forget about it?

The crystal began vibrating and emitting a low hum. She instantly knew. Deep inside, without a doubt — this was it. This was what was missing and what was needed.

She picked up the smooth, pink crystal and held it in her hand. It was cool to the touch, but it warmed up as it sat in her hand. She felt the vibration move through her. Goosebumps rose all over her body. She knew what she had to do.

She ran outside, down the street, through the field, and back to the grassy hill. She climbed up to where she was before. The stone window was there. She felt an urgency within her.

She approached the window and held up the rose quartz. “Is this it? Is this what was missing?”

Yes. That is the missing piece. The energies of love and compassion have been lost from humanity as mankind turned its back on this force. But this energy is vital for the survival of all life. Without it, the world and all life forms will perish. Time is running out.

“Where do I put this?”

Look for it. You will find it. You will know.

Aliya pulled her hair back and stepped closer to the window. She ran her hands over the rough stones. On the inside ledge on the left side, a gaping hole stared back at her. A deep black emptiness emanated from it. That must be it.

Trembling, she reached forward, her fingers shaking as they held the crystal. She inched it closer. A sudden flash of white light arced from the crystal into the black hole, and the rose quartz slid into place with a soft click.

“Is that what I was supposed to—”

The window vibrated, and she felt the rumbling through the ground under her feet. Bright light flashed through the window and her hand came up to shield her eyes.

After a few moments, a sense of peace settled around her and she opened her eyes and looked through the window. A vast field of pink and yellow flowers greeted her. A rabbit ran through, twitched its nose, and then hopped away. Tall trees shimmered in the distance, their lacy leaves dancing in a light breeze. Two birds sang as they flew past in the sky.

Aliya blinked. The window shimmered and shifted back to the original view. Blue sky, a few clouds, and the grassy hill on the other side.

She stared at the view for a few minutes. “Am I done?”

Yes. You were the only one who could do this. And time was closing fast. We thank you.

“But who are you? Can I see you?”

You will see us soon enough.

A flash of light burst through the window. The stones shimmered for a few moments and then collapsed into a heap. The window was gone. A small pile of old rocks sat in the grass where the window had been just moments before.

She stood there for a few more minutes.

“Are you still here?”

The only answer was the whisper of a breeze as it rustled the weeds at the top of the hill.

She turned and slowly made her way back down the hill and through the field toward her house.

As she approached the door to her home, the wind picked up, and the breezed turned into a whisper.

We are always here.

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please also visit Lynn’s blog, like the story there, and follow her at – https://wp.me/p4htbd-oC

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

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