Tag Archives: authors

Stephen Oliver: Sharing Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

Stephen Oliver

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Despite the horrors of Covid-19 and lockdowns, I hope this year brings you joy, experience, and new knowledge.

Apropos knowledge, I remember coming across a “law” of life some time ago, similar to Murphy’s Law:

Roger Lincoln’s 2 Rules for Success:

1. Never tell everything you know.

It’s a good joke, but nowadays, hoarding knowledge is greedy, arrogant, and, ultimately, insane.

It’s greedy because knowledge doesn’t belong to anybody. Oh, I know that there is proprietary information, like the exact form and contents of a company’s databases or their communications protocols. Even their contracts and internal documentation belong in this category. This is all well and good and is useful for holding your own in the competitive world of business.

However, there is a second area of knowledge that cannot be contractually limited: know-how. Knowing how to design and construct databases, how to communicate between subsystems, and so on cannot be limited to a particular company. God knows that enough employers and clients of mine have tried. I even had one client who tried this after becoming involved in his project, designing an interface between mobile phones and other equipment (this was in the early 80s when such interfaces didn’t exist). He tried to force a contract on me where I could never design any kind of communications or control program again, nor could I build any embedded projects using the same microprocessor or communications protocols. I laughed in his face and told him that no court would uphold his claim, and it would only cost him a lot of money to try. The very attempt to limit knowledge transfer and use in this way smacks of scarcity thinking.

Hoarding knowledge is also arrogant; you’re acting as if you were the only one who has any right to have and to use the knowledge. This is a symptom of weakness because you think you will be seen as feebler if you let others have access to knowledge. Allowing others to use knowledge is a sign of strength in my eyes because the more knowledge there is out there, the more knowledge will be created as people make new connections between otherwise disparate topics. This leads to the beginning of extelligence, where the relationships between different pieces of information become divorced from the need of a human mind to make said connections. Google and other search engines may very well be the beginnings of extelligence.

Finally, hoarding knowledge is insane. No matter how you try to hide knowledge, Nature is a blabbermouth. Somebody else will discover what you are hiding. Alfred Russel Wallace paralleled Darwin’s work; he deferred publication to Darwin because Darwin’s work was further developed than his own. Even works by a single person, such as Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity, would eventually have been developed by someone else. However, it might not have occurred until years later. When the time has come for information and knowledge to become known, they will, no matter what anyone does to prevent it.

This relates to the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon. On an island off Japan, scientists studied the behaviour of troupes of monkeys. They were given food regularly, but it simply lay on the ground and became dirty. One old female monkey discovered that washing the fruit in seawater not only removed the dirt from the surface, but the salt in the water added something extra to the flavour. With difficulty, she taught another monkey the same trick. They then taught other monkeys, which in turn taught others until, suddenly, after around one hundred monkeys, every monkey could do it, even without being explicitly shown how. Even more interestingly, monkeys in other troupes and on other islands suddenly learned the trick. It was as if a threshold had been penetrated, and the knowledge became common to all the monkeys.

This confutes social Darwinism and the “survival of the fittest” thinking so prevalent today. The common position is that everyone and everything is, and has to be, in conflict and competition. Phenomena like this are proof that Nature is ultimately cooperative.

Cooperation in the spreading, use, and learning of knowledge is the way to go. People keep talking about this being the Information Age; let’s work together to make this the Knowledge Age, where people work together to increase the level of knowledge in the world. This all links back to the book The Go-Giver I mentioned in a post in my other blog, in which the characters talk about adding value to whatever you give others. If enough people are prepared to add valuable knowledge to others, there will be a breakthrough, a threshold will be breached, and that knowledge will belong to everybody. This is a personal dream of mine, and I have it for the most selfish of reasons: I want to be part of that breakthrough and have access to all that knowledge.

We do need to keep the difference between information and knowledge in mind. Information is simply data with a meaning; knowledge is knowing how to use that information, as well as the information itself.

So let’s all go out and spread knowledge as far as we can, because only in that way will we be given new knowledge in return.

~~~

Fiction

Of course, I have been writing from the point of view of a non-fiction author since I also published a self-help book. These days, I’ve switched to fiction, but the truths are still the same if you replace the word ‘knowledge’ with ‘story.’

I’ve heard from other writers, time and again, that they think their stories “aren’t as good as others.”

Who’s to say if it is or isn’t. Many declare that Fifty Shades of Gray is great, while others decry the many flaws they see in the book. The same is true of the Twilight series of books; I’ve read more than one review that moans about one-dimensional characters and the sizes of plot holes. Nevertheless, these stories are popular.

Why? That is a question only the readers can answer. However, publishers have made fortunes from books like these.

But, getting back to the theme of ‘knowledge,’ or in this case ‘stories,’ the more available, the better the readers’ entertainment. It may be that someone needs to read your particular stories, written in your specific manner, for them to get the most out of those tales.

So, stop comparing yourself to others. It would be best if you only were comparing yourself to your past self, i.e., striving every day to become better than you have ever been before. Believe in yourself, and you will reach your goal of being published. As I’ve mentioned before, I have recently had two short stories published in anthologies. Plus, I have had requests for information and even complete manuscripts from agents and publishers in the past few weeks. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but I am hopeful.

“Don’t talk yourself out of an idea just because it’s been done before. Put your own spin on it. Bring in your own personal experiences. You will have your own stories to tell, which will make it unique.”
–Dr. Joe Vitale

So, what I’m really getting at is, if you’re serious about being a published author, you have to write the way you write, then put yourself, your stories, and your knowledge out there.

As I said in a Facebook post recently, “You gotta keep submitting. Otherwise, nobody out there knows that you exist.”

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

Write the Story! may 2021 Prompt

Welcome to Write the Story!

April proved to be another amazing month of stories based on the prompt of an ancient jug. The scope of creativity within Writers Unite! never ceases to amaze us!

A reminderWU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!

Write the Story! May 2021 Prompt

Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or poem (minimum 50 words) and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is fine.)
  • Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing, but WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
  • The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
  • Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email to writersunite16@gmail.com. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.
  • Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

—————–

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

Calliope Njo: The Job Offer

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

The Job Offer

Calliope Njo

Growing up, Anne dreamed of becoming a cop. An old man’s tales were what got her started. All she wanted to do. She knew the dangers and the risks but that only made her want to do it more.

Her dear old father told her he didn’t approve of her life’s choice. He called her an unfilial daughter and that she should take Home Economics and work as a secretary in a big company. Then she would at least start to become a filial daughter. Marry the CEO and produce a grandson who would take after his grandfather. That led to countless arguments.

Anne saved up all of her money from working Parking Enforcement and found a place to live. Not a glamorous job, but she wasn’t looking for that. The thing she wanted to do would take money and time that she needed to find a way to do.

A few years after that, she got accepted into the police academy. Not at all easy, but she did it, and graduated with top scores. Too bad her Dad didn’t come, although she wasn’t too sure his presence would’ve changed things.

That led her to today. Online courses were great because she squeezed them in. She dreamed of becoming a lieutenant or captain but needed more education to do that.

The term paper was due the next day. That meant endless hours spent at home putting it together. The research was already done. Well, she thought, she might go out and walk around town and get a feel of the outside before burrowing into a hole to complete the paper.

On her return, she found a pot on the Welcome mat. Red clay, engraved flowers, water-stained on the bottom, and no indication who it belonged to. No Made-in-China sticker either.  A rolled-up piece of paper was inside. She took the pot into her apartment and locked the door.

She pulled out the note and unrolled it, half expecting spiders or scorpions to appear, but that was her magination. The note said in order to fulfill her duties, she needed to fill the pot with pure water from one source. A map drawn on the bottom showed her where to find it.

Fulfillment must be the word of the day. It seemed to be the focus of everything. She was about to get the coffeemaker started when the doorbell rang.

She looked through the window to see a tall woman, her head reached the top of the door, black suit, white shirt, and sunglasses. Why the sunglasses when the sun set a long time ago? Hard to tell if she was armed or not.

It rang again.

Anne opened the door and smiled. “Well, Zody Meriwether Whipple. Made Wallstreet Journal’s list of top five corporate owners. Personal worth of five-hundred-twenty-five million dollars. Single no lovers. The strange thing that nobody is sure of what your real name is. It’s one in a long line of aliases. There are theories that you are responsible for the murders of various people, but no evidence and no witnesses. Therefore, no prosecution because it’s conjecture.” She let the woman in.

Zody laughed. “I suppose I should be flattered and reassured that I made the right choice. We’ll go over those minor details later.”

“Minor details. Interesting.” She walked to the kitchen to start the coffee. The woman in her living room was the focus of that paper. With her right there, it made things more difficult. How she wasn’t sure yet. 

The woman spoke. “You already know my name. Interesting. 

“Tell me what this pot or pitcher is all about. Why me?”

“That’s strange. I thought a woman of your intelligence would be able to figure that out.”

Anne grabbed a cup and poured the coffee while she ground her teeth. “It’s a pot. It had a lot of uses before this. Anything else? A test or initiation into an exclusive club? Of which, you would provide very little detail if any? A society so secretive nobody knows about it and that’s how you’re able to stay away from the law. Along with enough doctors and lawyers to inhabit their own country. The underground tunnels that form a network under the streets are used constantly for your purposes only and if anyone asks they’ll only say that the Chinese used to use them centuries ago.” She took a big sip of the hot liquid and felt the burn all the way down. “You see, I don’t have the answers to those questions and only you do. So excuse me if I’m not begging at your feet to let me into a network of women across the globe to do your bidding.” She slammed the mug on the counter.

“All right. All right. Let’s calm down. Nothing can be solved with hostility.” She put her hands up.

“Hostile? You think this is hostile? You haven’t seen anything yet, lady. I use that term loosely.”

“Anne, please…”

“Please what? Huh?”

Zody approached Anne with open arms. “I am not the enemy. Despite what you might think, neither is your father. His ideas might be centuries old but—”

Anne opened the door and watched Zody.

“Please… .”

She had it with this woman. “Please what? Fill that pot with tap water and tell you here you go. Here’s your precious water. Oh. Not what you wanted? OK. How about a nice tall bottle of melted ice from the great iceberg of the north instead?”

“That’s not what it is.”

“Isn’t it?” She opened the door wider. “I’ve got work to do. Thanks to you, I don’t have much time left.”

Zody let out a big breath and walked out.

Anne slammed the door behind her. She went back to the report to put it together. It would take all night.

Out of all the choices available, she had to get that one. It looked interesting at first. After the encounter though, it was anything but. Nevertheless, it still needed to be finished. “You can’t pick the vics or the perps.” She laughed as she remembered the TV series that line came from. All too true.

Typed up, read through, and errors fixed, it was emailed to the professor. After that, wait two weeks to get the scores back. Three o’clock in the damned morning which gave her three hours to sleep. She took it.

Nothing too out of the ordinary on her next shift. The drunk with the triple-F name, was still in holding. Rumor had it they were waiting on a psych eval since he kept going on about how the aliens were going to gather up all the humans and make them their new food source. Problem was, he stole a truck’s worth of aluminum foil to hide the cheese.

Granted that was a TV show once upon a time, but unless they came back to TV in rerun form, it caused her to take a few steps far and away from him. A few calls here and there, nothing too far out there. She was happy about that.

With the paperwork completed and taken care of, she went home. She sent up a silent prayer for no calls as she worked on her homework assignment. That report was turned in but there were still some questions and answers that needed to be done.

There was something soothing about brushing teeth. It always relaxed her and made it easier to fall asleep. The phone rang as soon as she finished. She looked at the screen on her phone before she answered. Unlisted number. She turned it off and went to bed.

She got up and got ready. Once out the door, it felt like somebody was watching her. An unseen presence she passed off as work-related stress. Car started OK, and once out of the parking lot, she started her radio. Maybe some tunes might help to ease things.

She kept looking around but everything seemed normal. There were the typical Cadillacs, Lincolns, Toyotas, and a few Harleys but nothing to say these were the people following you. Not that anyone would have a billboard on their car stating as such.

Even at her desk, that feeling was still there. She used every bit of will she had to stop herself from jumping every time somebody came up behind her. With the following day off, she planned to use that day to work on her studies and maybe relax a bit. A day away from everything was maybe what would work.

As much as she would love to turn her phone off, she couldn’t. She put it on vibrate instead. The way it rattled on the table always got her attention.

She opened her text and her laptop to start studying for a midterm. Too early to find out how she did with that report. She included everything she needed to, but in the end, it always depended on whether or not the teacher liked it.

Her phone rattled. An unlisted number again. Jorge knew how to get a hold of her when he needed to. Dad would never call and Mom didn’t want to do anything that would get him angry. So she would never call. Chances were it was a telemarketer. There was always a loophole.

She knew she was hungry but for what she had no idea. Nothing sounded good. The doorbell ringing brought her out of her endless search.

“I tried getting ahold of you but there was no answer,” Zody said. “That’s why I’m here. I really could use your help.”

Not again. Anne leaned against the doorjamb. “We’ve already been through this. So unless you want me to beat something over your head in the hopes a hole would open up to let in the information it’s going to get, I suggest you leave now.”

“Please, Anne. Somebody is after me.”

Oh, how funny. “Let’s see, between the white Cadillac, blue Ford F-150, and the yellow Mustang, none of them could protect your precious soul.”

“What? What are you talking about? I don’t own any of those cars. None of my people do either. How long have they been out there?”

“You know, for someone who has a rather large bank account, you don’t have very good bodyguards. And they’ve been there since your arrival. What was I supposed to think?”

“We’ll talk about that later. Could I come in now?”

Anne stopped leaning when something clicked from behind Zody. She grabbed Zody’s arm and pulled her inside to shut the door. There were multiple law enforcement personnel that lived here. Nobody dared to do anything. Ever. Did someone not get the memo?

A shot fired before she had a chance to shut the door. She ducked. “Down.”

Zody was face down on the floor. Blood didn’t pool around her, but she had to check. “Are you OK?”

“Now do you believe me? For the record, I have bodyguards. It is a necessity. With so many here in law enforcement I didn’t believe I needed them.”

A short black woman banged the door open. “Ma’am… .”

“Which one? Your boss is alive and on the floor. Your humble servant is the one talking to you. Get out of my doorway and call 9-1-1 if you haven’t already. I take it you know the details.”

“Right.” The black woman reached into her pocket and took out a smartphone.

“I need you. Please? Don’t ask me where that thing came from. That cheap jug, jar, ugly rotten vase thing. It has a way of showing up without me knowing about it. I need someone by my side. You’re it.”

Anne stood up. She looked outside her doorway to see red and blue flashing lights with a noise she would never tire of. That ol’ familiar yellow convertible.

“Jorge. Come in.” She laughed as he jogged through the bushes. “You could just walk around.”

He shrugged. “Don’t you know it’s dinner time?”

“Gee. Sorry to disrupt your enchilada.”

“How did you know?”

“It’s Wednesday.”

“Right. What happened?”

She pointed at Zody still on the floor. “Talk to her.”

She went to the kitchen to make coffee again. One of these days, the ol’ coffee maker was going to refuse to work. That would be the day she would cry. It’s been a lot of years since they found each other. It was love at first mug.

It took some time before the police left. A quick glance at the microwave told her it was twelve-eighteen. Zody found a way to get up off the floor it seemed. She covered her eyes and laid her head back.

“Ma’am, might—”

“Are you going to suggest, might I suggest you call one of your bodyguards and escort you home? I’d agree except there’s one thing. You see, I have this thing about following something through. I came with the intent to put you by my side. I’ll even pay your tuition. Just come with me. You’ll receive full benefits, accrued time off, and whatever else you may need that I’m sure I’ve got the documents for.” She uncovered her eyes and stood from the couch. She walked past Anne and opened the door. She had that lady’s shirt in her hands. “I don’t care what time it is. You get your ass to my assistant’s house and get her over here. I don’t care if she’s in her PJ’s. It’s clothes. Get moving.” She pushed her out the door and closed it. “I’ve had contract negotiations that weren’t as deadly. Close but not quite.”

Anne raised her eyebrow. “Ma’am. Perhaps you should reconsider. If you’re looking for someone with law enforcement experience, this building is full of them. The apartment right above me, he works for the FBI. The one next to him works homicide. Three apartments on this floor alone, are all ADAs. All you need to do is knock and be prepared to answer a whole lot of questions.”

“I understand that. Who I want is you. I don’t know what I want. When I want it is now. Where I do I want it? I’m not even there yet. What’s taking so long?”

“Road construction. Look, I’ve got things I have to get done.”

Zody dropped her head and shook it. “No. No. And no. You tell me who I need to talk to and let me take it from there.”

Someone knocked on her door. Zody opened it. “What do you want?”

“Excuse me, young lady, didn’t your mother ever talk to you about manners?” An old woman asked.

Anne smiled. “Welcome to comedy central. Coffee?” She hoped her mother would accept the attempt at humor.

Zody laughed. It worked on someone.

“Just who are all of these people and why is it I had to find out what happened from Mrs. Stone?”

“Because you have nosy neighbors who are insomniacs. To answer your question, most of them are hers.” Anne pointed to Zody.

“You will not—”

“I will talk to my daughter in private. This does not concern any one of you here.” Dad stood in the doorway.

Could this night get any worse? “Just come right in. Good to see you, oh dear Father. Gee, I don’t even remember the last time we saw each other. It’s been ages.”

“That is quite enough. After this event, I expect you to leave the police and return home where you will learn how to be a proper housewife.”

Anne approached. “You need more practice at the shooting range. Get out. Now.”

“Hmph.” Her father stuck his nose up in the air. “I did no such thing.”

“Leave. Now.” Anne was done with the night.

He opened the door and slammed it on the way out.

Anne fell to the floor and dropped onto her knees. Too much going on and she still didn’t know what the jug meant. Maybe, she will take Zody’s job offer after all. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/

Enzo STephens: Buffer

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

Buffer

Enzo Stephens

“Ahh, these kids. So precocious!”

Eggs McMichael chuckled to himself at the cluster of teen boys gathered outside the doors to the girls’ gym locker room.

That’s where the action was, if one was a hot-blooded young lad, firing with all kinds of torrid passions and emotions. Especially after a girls’ swim practice two days before a big State Meet.

The girls would be hopped up themselves, anxiety fueling their steaming blood, overriding the sheer physical exhaustion that follows a tough practice.

But there were the boys, laughing, roughing each other playfully, spewing coarseness and profanity as they hovered before the twin, barred doors that essentially blocked the boys from becoming Men.

Eggs turned away from the coarse boys, focusing his attention on the whirling and whizzing floor buffer, as he expertly and effortlessly slid it over well-trod tiles that were practically begging to be polished.

“Polish me, Eggs!”

“Don’t forget me, Eggsy!”

“I hear you, you greedy tiles. I’ll getcha. You best bet that I’ll getcha for sure, don’t you fret none.” More chuckles, as if the tiles would talk back to Eggs, maybe chuckle right along with him, sharing in the humor.

But, despite the demanding tiles, Eggs had a system, and he was damned good at it too, so the pushy tiles would have to wait their turn!

The tiles were twelve by twelve each, with twelve tiles stretching from wall to wall, making for a twelve-foot hallway, which was damned narrow if trying to jam 300 caterwauling, rambunctious kids through it all at once.

Be that as it may, Eggsy would run that buffer right up against one side, just beneath a row of bright red steel lockers, and then shuffle-step sideways, all the way across the hall, leading the monstrously heavy buffer on a whizzing dance until it bumped up against another row of lockers on the opposite wall.

Back and forth, back and forth; the buffer would whoosh and hum and thump its way over the entire hallway until—and sometimes this downright surprised Eggsy, the buffer would bump right up against the heavy double-steel doors at the other end of the hall.

Surprise! You’re done, Eggsy old pal old sod. Now take a breath and stop and admire your work, buddy-bud. 

And sure enough, old Eggsy would look back up at the hall he just traversed with his mechanical dance partner, and the afternoon light would catch it… just… so, and that damnable hall-floor would flat out sparkle. And that was just damned fine. Finer than fine. It would make Mama proud.

She always said, “Eggsy, you know it don’t matter what you do to make your living, boy. Just do it as best as you can and do it like that every time. Even on days when you feel like an old banana peel rotting away on a steaming hot sidewalk, you just do… your… best. You got me?”

Oh yeah, Ma, I got you!

On this day, even though thick, gray clouds hung over the face of the glittering sun, the floor gleamed with a beautiful diffuse light that seemed almost… ethereal.

Eggsy smiled, choosing to ignore the pack of horny dudes acting like asses in front of that girls’ locker room.

Precocious punks ruin everything.

Eggsy made his way to the Janitorial Closet and pulled a wide cloth push-broom, shut the door, and stood at the end of the hall, waiting for the girls and their array of lustful escorts, because surely the girls’ feet would be wet. Some would be dripping a bit of pool water from their hair and maybe their clothes because some wouldn’t change in the locker room.

Body image issues or some shit like that never made a lick of sense to Eggsy.

So Eggsy stood at the ready. He adjusted the large pack strapped to his back, taking a moment to pat the top of it gently, almost lovingly.

“Don’t you pay them coarse boys no mind, Mama. ’Member, t’was a time I was like that too. But you sure did help me get over them devil-afflictions, yeah, you surely did!”

“Hey retard! Who ya talking to?”

Eggsy glanced around, wondering if that was directed at him. ‘Retard’? Eggsy looked up at the cluster of boys in puzzlement. One of them, much bigger than the others, separated himself from the group and began walking toward Eggsy.

Eggs pointed a thick forefinger at his barrel chest and raised his brows.

“Yeah, you, ’tard.”

Oh, he was a big ’un, for sure, and the boy knew it too. He walked right down the middle of the beautiful floor like he owned it, and judging by how the rest of the boys trundled themselves after him, he may as well have owned it. And them too.

Eggs McMichael rarely spoke to anyone while on the job. Just wasn’t his place to do that. No sir. His job was to clean the place as best as he could so everyone who walked those floors would just know that this school was the cleanest school in the whole damned state!

He’d have to make an exception now, as the big boy was just a few yards away and looking damned mean. “Something I can help you with?”

“Somethin’ I can help you with?” Mocking, sneering, and Eggsy had no idea why this was so.

The crowd of young lads began laughing and jeering and hooting, moving closer and closer to Eggs, making him both nervous and uncomfortable. He edged backward until his butt nudged up against the doors.

“Damn, Butler, you see the shape of this dude’s head?”

“Shit yeah. Totally looks like an egg! One of them brown eggs, like something them nature lover’s mac on.”

“It’s even got speckles on it!” The laughter was flowing, and it was kind of infectious, too, so Eggsy smiled right along with the boys.

The big one edged closer to Eggs. “I said, who ya talkin’ to, egg-head?”

“No, no, my name is Eggs.”

“What? Are you shittin’ me?”

“No sir-eee. Eggs McMichael.”

“Get the hell outta here!” More laughter, then the big one seemed to collect himself, puffing his chest out a bit.

“One more time… Eggs. Who ya talkin’ to?” He stepped forward and poked Eggsy in the chest with his finger to, I dunno, make a point?

“My Ma.”

“What? I don’t see no one else around here.”

“No, she’s right here…” and he reached behind him and patted the top of his backpack.

“What the hell you talking about?” He gestured toward Eggs. “Grab that backpack and give it here!”

Two slimmer boys stepped forward, moving to flank Eggs, but stopped when Eggs raised his hand, palm out. 

He then slipped the backpack from his shoulders and set it softly on the polished, tiled floor, glancing at the gaggle of suddenly silent boys. Eggs then unzipped opposing zippers on the top of the backpack and plunged both hands into the bowels of it, stopping to look at the boys and smile.

“Well? Whatcha waiting for, fuck-tard? Give it up. What’s in there? Got some cash you wanna share with us?”

Eggs pulled his hands free of the pack and lifted a large ceramic urn. Highly polished, glittering in the dim, afternoon sun; faded orange with childishly painted flower petals arrayed on it. Complete with a pour spout and a thick, curved band of ceramic serving as the thing’s handle.

Well, our dear Butler was not happy with this development. He was expecting some sort of treasure, something valuable to pocket, then pawn for some always needed jake, not this bucket of shit.

He strode forward and whipped a heavy backhanded fist into the side of the vessel, sending it to a shattering crash on the gleaming tile.

Pieces scattered and flew, and ashes strew out across the floor, just as Eggy let fly with “MAMA!” and he dove to the floor, trying to gather up the ashes in his weathered and powerful hands. Rising to a kneeling position, his hands cupped before him filled to overflowing with ash and pieces of broken pottery, Eggs McMichael came to realize the futility of trying to save his mom.

Her vessel was gone, shattered on the floor.

Butler was a bully, but Butler wasn’t stupid, and right at this very moment in time, he understood to the very core of his being that he was in very grave and very immediate danger, and he snagged the elbow of one of his buddies and took off at a sprint up the hall, away from the grieving, sobbing, and crying janitor with the oddly shaped head.

The boys were gone, as were their echoes.

The girls burst from their locker room in a furious flurry of chattering excitement, making a beeline for the double doors at the other end of the hall.

Eggsy McMichael rested on his knees at the other end of the hall, tears and ashes and shards of shattered pottery littering the floor.

The dim sun strolled deep into the west, and the shadows in the beautiful hallway grew long and long before Eggsy McMichael raised himself to his feet and took up his push broom to clean up the mess.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Chester Harper: Cave of Wonders

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

Cave of Wonders

Chester Harper

Adam carefully and meticulously exposed the ancient fire pit in the indigenous shelter. Every bone and stone fragment held a previously untold story. The morning sun warmed his bare shoulders and back. The birds sang and all was well in his world. A shrill scream silenced the birds and sent a chill down his spine.

“Columbine, Jack, where are you?”

“Dad, come quick.” Jack sounded excited, not panicked. 

Adam ran into the cave entrance at the rear of the shelter. They had exposed the opening a few days before and had yet to explore into the cave. The rockslide that concealed the entrance appeared to have been there for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years and they didn’t expect to find anything of historical significance or value in a cave sealed for centuries. He had told the kids to be careful and not to go far into the cave. What trouble had his ten-year-old twins stumbled into now?

The interior of the cave was cool, and Adam wished he had taken the time to put on a shirt. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he called out to his children, “Columbine, Jack, where are you?”

“Over here, Dad.” Columbine aimed her flashlight towards Adam to direct him to where they stood. Adam once again wished he had his son’s ability to see in the dark.

“Can you come get me, son? I can’t see in this cave.”

“I’ll send Columbine with her flashlight. She doesn’t really want to stay here alone, anyway.”

Adam wondered what his children had found that had his usually fearless daughter spooked.

Columbine took her father’s hand and looked up into his eyes. “I’m sorry if I scared you, Daddy. I didn’t mean to scream.”

“It’s ok, sweetie. I’m sure you couldn’t help it.” He put his arm around her shoulders and realized she was cool also. 

They soon got to Jack’s side and Adam looked up at his son, already six feet tall, and was greeted with a toothy grin that would have terrified most people. Adam marvelled, once again, that he was the father of a sasquatch…a recessive male descended from Esau.

“What have you kids found? It must be something else to have caused Columbine to scream.”

Jack stepped aside and Columbine aimed the flashlight beam onto what they had found. “What the hell…?” Adam found himself looking at a skeleton laid out in a typical funerary pose for a leader of an indigenous tribe. The shocking part, however, was that the skeleton was at least eight feet tall. In a niche near the skull was a clay vessel that was definitely not of indigenous American make. Adam carefully picked up the vessel and, other than a broken handle, it appeared to be perfect. He turned it over to look at the bottom and a roll of parchment fell out. The little script he could make out looked like ancient Arabic; definitely out of place in southern Missouri. 

“Who do you think it was, Daddy?” Columbine tugged at Adam’s pant leg to get his attention.

“I have no idea, honey, but I’m going to do my best to find out. Now let’s get out of here, I’m freezing.”

“I’m fine, wimps.” Jack rolled his eyes at his father and sister.

“Shut up, Jack. We don’t have fur coats and Daddy isn’t wearing a shirt.” Columbine smacked her furry twin to add emphasis to her words.

Adam chuckled quietly at the sibling rivalry of the twins as they left the burial site.

Six months later…

“I am here today to present my and my team’s findings regarding the ancient burial recovered in the cave of the indigenous shelter.” Adam looked out at the attentive audience before him. The large room was filled with nearly every member of their community. Women, children, and dominant males in the front with recessive males in the rear, due to their height. Adam continued. “According to the document found in the vessel accompanying the body, this area was first settled by the Osage people from the Ohio River Valley. They were joined by several families from the white settlement wanting a more remote location for their settlement. Of note, the clay of the vessel is not of local or even North American origin. It is found primarily in the Middle East, particularly the area that, to the ancients, was known as Edom.” 

The collective murmur of the crowd allowed Adam to take a break and ready himself for his next statement and the reaction it was sure to cause. When the crowd had settled, Adam resumed. “The people intermarried with the Osage and several of, as they called them, Esau’s sons were born to them. These were male children we now call recessive males.” The room exploded in even louder talking and exclamations of surprise. Adam raised a hand for silence and went on. “One such son became the great leader Screaming Eagle. He lived a long and honorable life and, as a final show of respect, was laid to rest in the cave with the history of his people, written in their native script, as the Osage had no written language, stored in a vessel from the homeland. The cave was to be sealed with boulders to resemble a rockslide, thus preventing tampering with the mighty leader’s body or the history scroll.”

The shocked crowd sat on the edge of their seats to hear Adam’s final remarks. “In conclusion, it would appear that our people have lived here longer than our history indicated. They first settled here in the early 17th century, not the late 18th century, as we had thought. They settled here with the indigenous Osage and assimilated into that tribe. In other words, a group of our forebears intermarried with the indigenous people and this could, and more than likely does, explain the wildman and sasquatch legends of those indigenous groups. Thank You.”

Adam accepted the applause while making eye contact with the leaders of the community. Even though their land was very remote in the middle of a protected national forest, and the rugged terrain discouraged visitors, they could not risk the outside world coming in and making similar discoveries, possibly exposing them to the entire world.

***

This story takes place after Willow and the story with the photographer. Columbine and Jack are still kids.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Chester on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/C-W-Harper-Author-101485477895994/

Riham El-Ashry: The Lost City

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

The Lost City

Riham El-Ashry

 

The face of a young girl screaming shined in the light of the descending sun. A massive wave covered her body and dragged her downward. Down. Down. She gasped desperately for air, but only water rushed into her lungs. Her eyes were terrified gazing upward, and her hand stretched asking for help, but in vain. A giant golden perch fish swam by, opened its mouth, and started to bite the girl’s arms…. 

———————————

Her screams awoke everyone in the house. Her mother dashed into the room, almost tripped over the carpet. And in a few seconds, she was beside the ten-year-old Amira, holding her tightly while reciting holy words. 

“Hush, my dear! What’s wrong? Is it the same dream? Is it that scary?” Mona ran her hand on Amira’s curly hair and patted her shoulder. 

“She was there. The same girl… holding out her hand and calling me.” Amira cupped her ears. “Her words echo in my ears.” 

The mother’s eyes moved between her child and her husband, helplessly asking for an explanation. The stepfather looked at the opposite wall and frowned. 

“You are only spoiling her. Don’t you realize why her nightmares disrupt our nights?? This is all fake. She’s making it up.” He turned his face away and was about to leave the room but stopped abruptly with eyes fixed on something on the floor. 

“What’s that there in the corner?” His voice which was trembling with anger now soothing roughly of surprise. 

“That olla? I don’t know. Maybe it is an old one. I don’t remember it,” Mona answered carelessly. 

Abbas was a pottery maker, well known for his talent and skill. His pots and vases were exhibited in rich bazaars and a favorite to tourists. He was a renowned pottery artist and everyone in Luxor and beyond knew or at least heard of him. 

When his beloved woman was forced to marry another, he felt the bitterness of being helpless and weak. Imagining his girl in the arms of another kept him awake for months. At first, he was lost, then he decided to be as rich and powerful as the man who stole his love. And he waited patiently for a chance. Seven years in hell made him determined to win her back after his rival’s death. 

Reaching what he long dreamt of was not now enough, his eternal love had a daughter who reminded him every second of his suffering and pain. The little girl represented her dead father in their life. And Abbas hated her, tried to annoy her and send her away. But this time, he didn’t mean to irritate the little girl. 

“What have you done this time?” The mother narrowed her eyes and examined him. 

Abbas, sitting on the colorful floor rug beside the strange piece. “Where did you find this beauty?”

———————————–

Merit waved to her mom who sat on the Hapy’s bank sorting the fish Merit and her stepfather were catching. The Ra was taking his marvelous fire life-giving disk down the sky. It was a successful fishing day for the small family. They packed almost all their belongings getting ready for the flood. It was only a week ahead and their hut on the bank would be destroyed soon. Addaya worked hard to collect as many fish as he could to secure food and trade for the coming weeks till the river became safe again for sailing. 

The mother started up a fire, she had some reeds to stick the fish onto. And she grilled two fish for dinner. Merit’s family loved to have dinner by Hapy and watch Ra blessing them through the golden rays of the sun. Searching in the woven basket, she found a decorative pot with some words inscribed on it. Among the words was her daughter’s name. Her eyes widened in dismay, it was an execration text on a drinking pot. 

“Who would curse my daughter?” She thought that it must have been done by Addaya who detested his former rival greatly. 

———————————

Abbas ran the tips of his fingers on the ancient vase. The blue ornaments and mysterious shapes took his breath away. Finally, he looked for a long time at Amira till she and her mother were perplexed. 

“No, you are not going to do this?” Mona stood between her husband and daughter. 

“I will. It is the chance I was waiting for, far too long. Finding an ancient treasure is my ultimate dream, not even you will compensate for that.” Abbas pushed his wife and grabbed Amira’s hand and dragged her out of the adobe room. 

Abbas’s house was built on a small hill on the bank of the Nile. It belonged to his family, and he inherited it. He lived there watching the great river and its west bank, imagining himself one day rich and maybe famous by a grand chance that his ancestors might bestow upon him. Often he gazed across the Nile and examined the Valley of the Kings and dreamt of the lost city, the Golden City, that archeologists searched for. Silently, he prayed this would be his chance. 

They descended the slope hastily. Abbas almost stumbled over a rock, while Amira was trying to pull herself backward and called her mother. The full moon lit up the whole area. When they reached the old boat, Amira pushed him and ran to the other side. 

“No, I won’t ride the boat. It’s.. It’s like the nightmare… The little girl drowned here.” She closed her eyes and suddenly became attentive as if listening to someone. “Do you hear that?” 

Abbas looked around and at Mona who reached the bank now, and said, “There is nothing, no sounds.” 

“Let’s go. I can guide you,” Amira uttered in a calm, assured voice completely opposite to her previous tone. 

“It’s the Pharaoh’s curse, don’t go, please,” the mother pleaded while Abbas and Amira sailed the boat to the west bank. 

Holding up a big lantern, Abbas followed Amira’s directions. They walked for a long distance towards the mountain. With every step, the silence intensified and the slope sharpened. The dust stirred around them as they went deeper into the valley. On a clear spot, Amira stood firmly, pointed ahead and said, “There. I found the pot there.” 

After a few weeks a marvelous discovery was announced, the Golden City was finally found. 

————————————

Final note: the Golden City of Aten was uncovered in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt early this month. All details in this short story are made up by the author. 

For reference: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-56686448

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Riham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010254645147

Paula Shablo: The Museum

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

The Museum

Paula Shablo

Sometimes, amid all the rubble and refuse, we find a little treasure.

On this day, my daughter Penny and I had separated from the group and gone over to the next street. There, we found the old city museum, mostly intact. We mounted the crumbling stairs to the front entrance. The doors were standing open, hinges broken.

There was a huge foyer with a floor of cracked and broken tiles. Displays were, fortunately, not kept near the entrance, and I felt a surge of hope as we moved farther inside that we would find things well preserved.

Mosty, that hope proved futile. The place was a disaster area. I sighed and tried to hide my disappointment.

Perhaps there would be something useful…

“What’s that, Daddy?”

I looked back at Penny. She was standing in front of an arched niche. An ancient piece of pottery was neatly displayed there, miraculously unharmed in the midst of the destruction around us. There was a chunk missing from the handle, but I figured it had started out that way. You know, before The End.

“Where I grew up, we called that an olla,” I told her.

She peered up at me quizzically. “An oh yeah?” She looked dubious.

I felt the smirk on my face and quickly raised a hand and pretended to wipe away sweat from my upper lip. “An oy yuh,” I said, carefully enunciating. “It’s Spanish. It means a clay pot of some sort or other.”

“You speak Spanish?” Penny asked. “Like Jorge’s mom?”

“Not as well as Jorge’s mom, no.”

“Maybe I can learn it, too.”

“Why not?” I agreed.

“Am I Spanish, Daddy?”

“Part,” I answered shortly. It seemed like a ridiculous question, in light of everything.

In the camps, there is real diversity with acceptance that never happened in the world before The End. The only thing that matters now is whether or not you make a good contribution to the well-being of the group as a whole.

Penny gave me a frown that informed me that her thinking was—as usual—ahead of mine. “Well, who cares?” she said. “Who knows if there are even countries anymore.”

See what I mean?

“What countries are you talking about?” I asked, curious. The children have teachers, but I hadn’t taken much interest in whether they were learning world geography or civics.

“Oh, Mexico, Japan, places like that.” Penny dismissed the subject, adding, “If they’re around, nobody cares about anything but clean water and food and a safe place to sleep. So, whatever.”

I couldn’t argue with that, so I kept my mouth shut.

“Did I ever go to the museum before?” Penny asked, running a hand over the side of the olla.

“Not with me,” I admitted. During her early childhood, I spent most of my time deployed to one location or another. “Maybe with Mamma.”

“I don’t remember.” She reached out to remove the artifact, then pulled her hands back. “Is it good for anything?” she asked.

“Yes.”

I recalled for her my years living on the Rez. We would draw water from the mountain streams and fill ollas in the kitchens with it. Sediment would sink to the bottom, and we could dip our cups full of cool, clean water to drink. “The clay it is made of keeps the water cold and gives it a sweet taste,” I told her.

“It’s not very big,” Penny observed, giving it a critical once-over. “We’d have to fill it a dozen times a day if we kept it in the big kitchen.”

“If you want it,” I said, “you could keep it in your room for yourself and your sisters.”

“That seems selfish.”

Penny is so much older than nine. My chest swelled with pride.

“Perhaps we could take it back with us and fill it with dried flowers for the table in the main room,” I suggested. “Sometimes a little decoration is a nice touch, and everyone could enjoy it.”

Penny gave me an impulsive hug. “That’s a great idea, Daddy!”

I relished the hug—Penny is usually standoffish with me.

I carefully lifted the olla from its display niche and set it in the small wagon Penny had brought along. “What else do you think we can find in a museum?” I asked.

Penny shrugged. “Dinosaur bones? We can’t use those for anything.”

I laughed. She was right about that.

“Do you think there was somewhere to eat in here?” Penny moved farther into the big, filthy space and slowly moved in a circle, surveying. “Maybe there’s food.”

I nodded. Practical Penny.

And then she saw it—

“Daddy! A bookstore!”

She was off and running before I could tell her to be careful.

Oh well. We can look for food later.

Penny loves books.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Paula on her blog: https://paulashablo.com/

D. A. Ratliff: A Thousand Nights

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

A Thousand Nights

D. A. Ratliff

Amir Farsi was a happy man.

Blustery icy wind from the churning Irish Sea sprayed the sleepy village, empty of summer tourists. The winter weather was so unlike the warmth of his homeland, yet he was happy.

He sat at a table next to the window watching the sea and the few souls braving the outdoors, with Finn, his five-year-old Golden Retriever, at his feet. The pub would open at eleven a.m., and he still had an hour before the regulars arrived. While revenue during the summer tourist season kept the pub in business, Amir loved the winter months with the lads who lived in the village year-round and came by for a pint and a chat. In the forty years he had been in Ireland, he remained enamored with everything Irish.

He smiled as he turned to look at the portrait hanging over the bar. The Red Fox was the pub’s name, but the painting was of his beautiful wife Colleen as she was when he met her—fair of skin and red of hair. Lovely then and lovely now, and he loved her as much as the first time he met her. He missed her as she had left the day before for an archeological symposium in the States. He poured another cup of his favorite Bewley’s Dublin Morning Tea as his mind wandered to the day his fate changed.

Colleen O’Hara was an archeological student on a dig in his homeland when they met. He had been passing through the valley when he found the dig site. He had been alone for so long, enduring a life not worth living. Then he emerged into daylight and found his Irish beauty.

She had been a sight that day. Knee deep in a trench, face soiled with dirt and sweat, bright red tresses contained in a red bandana. Curious, he approached the trench to see what she was doing, and the moment she looked up at him, her eyes the color of sapphires, she captured his heart. A warmth he had never felt swept through him, only deepened when she spoke, in an accent he had never heard and one that gave him joy. He closed his eyes and remembered.

Amir hadn’t realized he had kicked dirt onto the area she was sweeping with a brush. She stood with her hand on her hips. “Feck off…don’t be bothering me work.”

He had taken an awkward step backward, never taking his eyes off of her. “I am sorry. Forgive me for disturbing you.”

She continued to stare at him as a grin crossed her face. “You can stop gawking.”

He responded, confused. “Gawking?”

She laughed. “Not from Ireland, are ya?” She reached out a hand. “Help me up out of this hole.”

He pulled her up, and for a second, they were standing close. At that moment, he understood love. At a loss for words, he muttered his name. “I am Amir Farsi.”

“Glad to meet you, Amir. I am Colleen O’Hara.” She wiped the sweat from her brow. “Your country is scorching hot. I need a cold drink—come with me.” 

He had followed her that day and would for the rest of his life.

Lost in thought, he jumped when Ray, his bartender, tapped him on the shoulder. “Sorry, guv, but time to open. You look like you are a thousand miles away.”

He rose and grabbed his tea mug. “This weather will do that, lost in the sea.” That was only partially true. He had been lost in time as well. “Come on, Finn, time to go to work.”

~~~

Amir unlocked the front door a bit after one a.m. With Colleen gone, he had remained at the pub until it closed. Finn ran toward the trees as soon as he jumped from the car, and Amir stood in the doorway waiting for the big dog to make his rounds.

He shivered but not from the cold. The shiver emanated from his core, and he attempted to shake it off, but the tremors remained, leaving him anxious. He yelled a bit louder for Finn than usual, and once he had the dog inside, he closed the door quickly.

There was never a question that he felt as if part of him was missing without Colleen, but this was different. Something else was happening, a sensation creeping into his soul that he didn’t recognize, and it filled him with fear.

Finn whimpered and nuzzled his hand. “It’s okay, boy. Let’s go to bed. I’m likely just tired.”

He woke at five a.m. from a restless sleep. He thought perhaps the storm awakened him, but he knew better. Dreams had invaded his rest, blurred images, random sounds, nothing clear, and nothing made sense. He lay in bed until nearly six before a persistent Finn managed to get him up and outside.

When they came in, Amir was making tea when his mobile rang. It was Colleen.

“Amir, good morning, my love.”

“What time is it there?”

“Almost eight-thirty in the evening. We just got back from dinner, and I am exhausted. Going to try and sleep. I will call you later.”

“I miss you.”

“I miss you, too. Oh, something came up at the last minute, and I need to tell you… Hold on.” Amir could hear muffled voices before she came back on the line. ”Darling, gotta go, just found out an old colleague is here. I haven’t seen him in many years. I’ll call you again as soon as I can. Love you.”

He held the phone to his ear for a few seconds before he put it down. He missed Colleen. Perhaps that was why he felt so out of sorts. Maybe it was loneliness. He needed to shake off his doldrums.

“Finn, let’s have breakfast, and then off to the pub.”

His day was long and tedious. At least it was delivery day, and he insisted no one help him put away stock. His skin was tingling and felt as if there was a coiled spring inside him. He hadn’t planned on staying late to close and clean the place, but he sent everyone home again and did everything himself.

Driving home, pellets of icy rain struck the windshield, and despite turning the heat up in the Land Rover, he shivered. Finn, asleep in the passenger seat, stirred and turned his belly toward the warm air blowing from the vent. Amir chuckled. That dog loved his creature comforts.

Turning onto the narrow cobblestone drive leading to the house, he shook off a feeling of dread that washed over him. The reason he should feel so anxious wasn’t apparent. He missed Colleen, but she had gone on digs for weeks at a time before, and he had not felt this way. He hated to go to the doctor. Always in fear that they would discover…. Well, they hadn’t yet. If he didn’t feel any better soon, he would go.

The imposing stone house loomed in front of him. A sight that always made him feel warm inside but not this time—if anything, he was colder. He and Finn dashed to the front door, the dog much faster and pawing at the door by the time he reached the stoop.

“Finn, you are one spoiled dog.”

Once inside, Amir decided a hot shower might help. He poured a double of Irish whiskey and headed upstairs, surprised how winded he had become when he got to the top of the stairs. He stripped and turned on the faucet. As the bathroom steamed up, he glanced in the mirror, surprised to see how pale his olive skin appeared—his crystal green eyes dull. He shook off his worry, downed the whiskey, and stepped into the shower.

Fifteen minutes later, Finn beside him, Amir slipped into sleep.

~~~

For the second morning in a row, he woke after a restless sleep, but this time in a cold sweat. He struggled to sit up, his head was spinning. Finn was gone, no doubt gone outside through the doggy door. He pulled on a robe and made his way downstairs to make tea.

The light in the kitchen drew Finn back inside, and as his tea steeped, Amir fed the ravenous Golden Retriever. A pang of hunger hit him, but he shuddered at the thought of food. However, he had to eat and pulled a hunk off of a loaf of soda bread, poured his tea, and sat at the breakfast table. Images from dark dreams floated in his memory.

The images were fuzzy but familiar ones from his youth. Why would his past be haunting him? It had been forty years since he left that existence, never expecting to relive it. He missed Colleen more than usual and thought that had to be the reason for his unease. He finished his tea and hurried upstairs to dress. Better to be at the pub and busy than sitting around the house brooding.

As he left the house thirty minutes later, Finn didn’t follow him. He ducked back into the house. “Finn, where are you?” He walked into the front parlor, where the dog sat in front of the library door. “What are you doing? Mum’s not in there, she’ll be back in a couple of days, and all will be well. Come on, let’s go to the pub.” He turned to leave, and Finn followed but not before looking back at the library door. Amir shook his head—yes, boy, I miss her too.

By mid-day, Amir was so weak he couldn’t take another step without nearly passing out. He told his staff that he hadn’t slept well, and he was going home to take a nap and would be back. On the drive home, he wished Finn could drive. Arriving home, he could barely crawl out of the Land Rover, and when inside, knew he would never make it up the stairs. He stumbled to the parlor, dropped onto the couch, and fell asleep immediately.

His ringtone shattered his sleep and he awakened abruptly. In the darkness that had fallen, he groped toward the glow of his phone screen. He exhaled —it was Colleen. He had been avoiding her calls because she would know he was not feeling well from the sound of his voice.

“Darling, how are you? I hate that we keep missing each other and voice mail is not enough.”

Mustering all the energy he could, he responded. “Been busy, love. Sorry. How’s the meeting going?”

She hesitated, uttering a short grunt as if she wanted to say something else but spent the next few minutes telling him about her presentation. He was getting weaker by the moment, and when she finished, he decided he needed to end the call. He managed to say, “Darling, no problem here. Let’s… talk tomorrow.”

“What’s wrong, Amir? Tell me.”

“I’m fine, just been busy.” He took a breath. “You know me, love, hate the cold, but I have to go.”

“Okay, but I want to talk to you later.”

“Of course, I love you.”

He fell back against the cushions, his breathing shallow when he realized that Finn was sitting in front of the library door, nose against the door frame. He struggled to stand. “Finn, she isn’t in there. I’ll show you, boy.”

Opening the door, Finn’s reluctance to enter surprised him. The dog sniffed the air, a deep growl coming from this normally gentle creature. Amir flipped the switch to turn on lamps and walked in, Finn close on his heels.

The house they lived in had been Colleen’s ancestral home for several generations. She loved this house and this room in particular. Bookshelves lined the walls, leaving only a few spaces for family portraits. Amir stood in the middle of the room as hairs on his neck bristled. Something felt wrong—something was missing.

Amir turned toward the one thing in the room connected to him—the earthenware jug. It was gone.

The alcove Colleen had constructed to hold the vessel was empty. He had told her it was a precious family heirloom, an earthenware water jug handed down through generations of his ancestors. It was not.

That it was aged was a fact Colleen confirmed, but he had hidden the actual use of the jug from her. It had not housed water. The jug had been his prison.

He stumbled to an armchair, sagging onto the seat as fatigue overcame him. Where was the jug? Did someone steal it? Was that why Finn seemed so interested in the room? He glanced at Finn, now leaning against his legs, the hair on his back ruffled. What did Finn sense?

His head felt too heavy to hold up, and he rested it against the chair back. He should have told her. The Master warned him that he needed to remain connected to the jug. He could be gone from its proximity for short periods, but the transformation would dissipate if too long, and the jug would trap him forever. He had feared traveling with Colleen as she begged him to do, until one day, when cleaning the jug, a small piece of the handle chipped off. He dropped the piece into the jug for safekeeping.

Colleen was traveling to his old home and pleaded with him to come. How could he tell her that he could not go unless the jug went with him and not tell her everything? Then he thought of the small fragment of the jar—would it be enough to protect him? It had been. Now he traveled with her to digs, they vacationed, and all was well. When he returned, he hid the small piece in the jar until the next time he needed it. Now, everything was gone.

Memories overwhelmed him as he thought back to those days—when he was a jinn or genie as some knew them. Amir was a mischievous spirited genie, often in trouble because he loved to create havoc by possessing humans or haunting the places they dwelled or worked. He had relished the fact that humans were afraid of him, but once he took his revelry too seriously, and the Master imprisoned him in the jug as punishment. Once granted his freedom, the Master required that he keep the jug with him at all times as a reminder to behave.

Then he met Colleen when he was on a walkabout, trying to stay out of mischief. He had never been in love. Although jinn could live as a human, marry, have children, and die, he had never found anyone that made a settled life seem more exciting than his wanderings.

Colleen changed that with one look into her blue eyes. He wanted to spend his life with her, grow old with her, but he feared his jinn ways would lure him again, and he couldn’t risk losing her. He petitioned the Master to banish his skills, and the Master had agreed but warned him. The jinn soul was powerful, and his life only sustained if his jinn essence remained close. Amir had agreed, and the Master cast out his jinn and entombed it in the jug which he must keep close.

Exhaustion overtook him, and he fell to sleep. Finn’s guttural growling woke him up hours later. Moonlight streamed through the trees, casting shadows in the room, and for a moment, he didn’t see the figure standing near the alcove. When he did, his blood ran cold.

The Master.

Amir shushed Finn, who obeyed but continued to lean against him as he rose as if to offer support. He bowed.

“Master, I am honored to stand in your presence.”

The figure stepped from the shadows. Tall, muscular, his olive skin glistening in the moonlight, the Master folded his arms across the silk vestment covering his chest. Adornments of gold and silver disks jangled as he moved.

“Amir, you were warned. Explain yourself.”

“I have little to explain, Master, as I do not know what has happened. I have honored your command that I keep the jug close by, but I will admit, I tested its limits to find out how far away I could travel. Then a small piece chipped off the handle, and by keeping it with me, I was able to travel anywhere I chose. I do not know where it has disappeared or why.”

“You were always quite resourceful, Amir. You could have continued to live as jinn and accepted a moral life without the purge of your spirit, but I understand your fears. We have changed over the eons and allowed others to rewrite our story. We would have never caged our kind in vessels if that French writer had not translated the mythology of our kind and added his special twist. Since we are shapeshifters, the idea of a tiny genie in a bottle was humorous. Thankfully, we do not do it often. The stories of a thousand Arabian nights were enough to tell our history, but as myths to many, embellishment is expected.” The Master sat in the other armchair and motioned Amir to sit as he continued.

“I have maintained a connection to you all these years. I came to warn you, but I can do little to help you. You have forty-eight hours at best to reunite with your jinn spirit, or the life that it sustains will cease to exist.” As he began to vanish into the air, the Master said, “The jug is not lost. That I do know.” With that, the Master of all jinn was gone.

Amir struggled to get to the couch in the living room, and as he collapsed on the cushions, he noticed his phone. A missed call from Colleen, but she left a voicemail.

“Darling, I am worried about you. Please, please call me. I have so much to tell you. I tried to tell you the other night that I took the jug with me to show to my colleagues on a whim. They were so excited and impressed with the artifact. Call me.”

His heart seized. Colleen had the jug. Perhaps there was hope. He called, nearly too weak to talk, and when she answered, he stopped her. “Bring the jug home, now. I need it to survive.”

The fright in her voice was evident as she reacted. “Survive? What do you mean? Of course, I will be home as quickly as I can. Amir, I love you. What is wrong?”

“Just bring the jug.” He hung up and willed himself to last long enough for her to arrive.

~~~

The sunlight was glaring in his eyes as he slowly raised his lids. He was breathing and felt stronger. Finn whimpered, and he realized the dog was lying next to him on the couch. But who was holding his hand?

He turned his head to look into the beautiful blue eyes of his love. “Colleen, you made it.”

“Yes, and I have the jug right here.” She picked it up to show him, and he brushed the fingertips of his free hand across it, feeling his energy rise.

“Thank you… I needed it here.”

“I don’t understand. What is happening? Why do you need this jug with you?” Her voice trembled and her eyes wide with distress.

He smiled as relief washed over him. “I will tell you all, my love, but it will take a thousand nights.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Lynn Miclea: Stepping Out of Time

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

Stepping Out of Time

Lynn Miclea

Standing in her den, Carla admired the beautiful water jug which she had picked up at a garage sale a few months earlier. Something had immediately drawn her to it, and it now sat in an alcove in the wall at her home in San Francisco. Looking at it, she smiled. It was one of her favorite finds from a garage sale.

Stepping forward, she reached for the jug, a beautiful artifact from long-ago days. As her fingers grazed across the surface, she felt a vibration, almost a shock. What was that? Pulling her arm back, she stared at it. Then she gingerly reached for it again and rested her palm against it, feeling a low vibration and hearing a humming sound.

Curious, she grabbed it and lifted it up, admiring the hefty weight of it. Looking inside it, she wondered who used it and how it had been used.

She was suddenly in a busy market on a dusty dirt field, and she blinked in the bright light. Many people walked through the market and stopped at various stalls. The voices of sellers calling out their wares permeated the air. Women wearing rags bargained for lower prices for food and items they needed.

“Are you gonna buy that?” a man’s voice addressed her.

“What?” Carla looked up.

“The jug. It’s my best selling item. Do you want it or not?”

Shocked, she put it back down on the table in front of her, along with the other pottery items. “Um, no, sorry, not today.”

As she released the jug and pulled her fingers back, she found herself again in the den of her home in San Francisco, staring at the jug in the alcove.

Her mouth dry, she stared in disbelief. What just happened? It sure seemed like she had been transported to another time and space, but that was impossible … Maybe it was just a daydream or a hallucination.

Her fingers trembling slightly, she slowly reached forward and touched the jug again.

She was immediately back in the busy market, voices calling out, dust swirling around.

The seller stared at her. “Well, make up your mind. Either buy it or not.”

Carla gasped. “I … I’m sorry.” She removed her hand from the jug and was instantly back in her den at home.

She swallowed hard, a knot forming in her belly. It made no sense. Backing up, she stared at the jug. Goosebumps rose on her arms. She shook her head and turned away.

Feeling spooked, she went into the kitchen and made a cup of tea and sat down, trying to relax. By the time she finished the warm, soothing drink, she found herself intrigued. She needed to know what was happening with that artifact.

Walking back into the den, she glanced at the jug. It was beautiful and had clearly been used a lot in its heyday. Feeling herself drawn back to it, she slowly approached it and reached toward it. Her hands shaking, she grasped the handle.

Instantly, she was back in the busy market, facing the man behind the table.

“Well?” He glared at her.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll buy it. How much?”

After she paid the man, she held the jug against her body and left the market, walking along a dirt road. Turning around, she looked back at the hustle and bustle of the people buying and selling food and other items. It looked strange but also somehow felt familiar.

“Bethany, there you are. How are you doing?” A warm female voice interrupted her thoughts, and Carla turned to see a middle-aged woman, her brown hair in a tight bun, smiling at her.

Somehow Carla knew this woman and her name came to her right away. “Tillie, it’s nice to see you here.” How did she remember the name? “Look what I got.” Carla, now Bethany, held up the jug.

Tillie smiled. “You’ve had your eye on that for a while now. I’m glad you finally got it.”

“Yes, it was time. I really wanted it.” She felt nervous trying to keep up a conversation. Who was this Tillie? She knew it was someone she was close to, but she couldn’t quite remember who, and she didn’t want to say anything wrong.

Tillie laughed. “Well, it will come in handy. We can always use another one.” She smiled wider, showing a gap where a tooth was missing. “We need to get back and start fixing something for supper. I thought you could make that stew we love that you make so well.”

“Oh yes, I love that stew,” Bethany answered quickly. “I’ll start making that.”

“Good. Well, I need to pick up more potatoes first. You run on home, and I’ll be there shortly to help.”

“Okay.” Bethany watched Tillie head into the market, her long skirt swishing behind her. She glanced down and saw she was wearing a similar long skirt. Where were they? Who were they? And when was this?

Anxiety churned in her belly. She wanted to be back home. She placed the jug on the ground and let go. Nothing happened. She was still there on the dusty road just outside the market.

Worry gripped her. How was she supposed to get back to her own time and place? What if she couldn’t get back? Tears burned her eyes. She had no idea what to do. Was she stuck here now?

Shaking her head, she looked around, shielding her eyes with her hand against the midday sun.

She was suddenly back in her den in her modern home. Gasping, she quickly pulled her hand back from the jug. Her eyes widened as horror filled her. Vowing never to touch the jug again, she slowly backed out of the room.

Vague memories flitted through her mind. Tillie had been her sister. She remembered her more clearly now. They were close, and she loved Tillie. But that was another lifetime, a past life suddenly in the present. It felt so real — she was right there in it again. The sounds, the sights, the smells — she was there. This jug somehow linked her to that previous lifetime. Was it the same jug? And even if it were, how was any of this possible?

Wanting to have nothing more to do with the jug, she stayed out of the den the rest of the day.

The following day, many questions still churned in her mind. And part of her longed for her sister. She loved and worried about Tillie. She was drawn back to the den, staring at the jug with wide eyes. She was sure it was the same jug.

Without thinking, she found herself walking toward it, her hand outstretched. Before she could stop herself, she grabbed the handle of the jug.

Instantly, she was back on the dusty road. She watched Tillie walk into the market toward the man with the potatoes they liked. She felt herself smile. The stew would be good — it was her favorite meal to make. Turning, she headed off down the dirt path toward home. Maybe she would add peas and carrots and onions to the stew. She hoped they had some pork to add in, but they didn’t always have enough.

Wait! What was she doing? This was not her time. This was the past. She didn’t belong here. She was Carla, not Bethany. She put the jug back on the ground and stood there, hoping to return to San Francisco. Nothing happened. She remained on the dirt path. She was still Bethany, somehow now stuck in a past life.

Standing there for ten minutes, she hoped it would wear off and she would return to her normal time. Nothing changed. As a few people passed by, she waved and smiled at them. Finally, she picked up the jug and headed toward home.

After walking about thirty minutes, she turned down a small path and found herself facing a small hut, and she knew this was her home. She slowly opened the front door and went into the dimly lit interior. A few old, worn, but comfortable sofas were arranged in the middle of the room. Memories of family and celebrations flooded her. Turning to the right, she headed into the kitchen. A large wooden table took up the back part of the room. She smiled as images of happy times at family meals came to her with everyone talking at once.

It was time to start the stew. Bethany gathered the vegetables and brought them to a small counter and started chopping them. She would make the stew she was famous for, and she would make it even better this time. Tillie would love it, and she smiled as she worked.

As she turned to grab another carrot, something fell to the floor. Stooping down, she picked it up. A photograph. At first she did not recognize the futuristic woman in the photo. Someone dressed in different clothes, but still familiar …

Goosebumps suddenly rose on her from head to toe. That woman in the photo … a face she knew. But how was this possible? She stared at the image again — it was her! Her belly quivered. It was her from the future! But how could she even know that …

Her gaze was drawn to the jug that sat on the counter. That was the link. But why would she have a picture from the future?

It suddenly hit her. She was now stuck in the past. She had a different life somewhere. But how could she get back? Was she now stuck here in a past life permanently?

She looked back at the photo. Her familiar, smiling face looked back at her. A face from a life she was supposed to be living now. But … but she now had the stew to make. Tillie was counting on her to make it.

She held the photo to her chest and closed her eyes.

When she opened them, she was back in her den in San Francisco. She was home.

She glanced at the jug. A note was now firmly attached to the front of it, and she leaned closer to read it.

I had to send something to you from this time period — a lifeline — to bring you back. Do not go back there again. You will be stuck there and I will not be able to bring you home again.

Carla stared at it as a sob welled up in her chest. But what would happen with the stew … her heart was torn … She put her hands down to grasp her long skirt, but it was no longer there. She was now wearing jeans.

Confused and overwhelmed, she looked around her modern apartment. No, she didn’t belong back in the past anymore. That was a past life, and she had already lived that. She needed to remain in the present. She was Carla again, not Bethany, and she needed to stay here.

She ran to the hall closet, searched on the shelves, and picked up a hammer. Then she rushed back to the den, and before she could change her mind, she brought it down hard on the jug, smashing it into pieces. She would throw it out later.

A choking sob rose in her chest as her heart ached for Tillie, her sister, who she now deeply missed. She glanced at the shards of pottery now sitting in the alcove.

“I hope you liked the stew, Tillie,” she whispered, as one tear slowly slid down her cheek.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/

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

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

K.A. Bachus: The Example

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

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Dimitis Vetsikas from Pixabay.

The Example

K.A. Bachus

“What’s wrong?” said Louis. He watched Vasily dejectedly move the rubble at his feet with the toe of his boot. When Vasily shrugged, Louis insisted. “Tell me what makes you so pensive.”

“That.” Vasily pointed to a small section of wall still standing among the debris of what once had been a significant villa near the Adriatic shore.

Louis struggled with a few larger pieces of wood and concrete shoving them aside and then tripping over smaller pieces of mortar and bricks. The older portion of the building had been built with brick. This remnant of wall, standing only a few feet above the surrounding devastation, must have been in the oldest room of the house.

“So what, Vasily? Everything else is flattened. It is a triumph of your skill.”

“An incomplete triumph, then,” said Vasily. “There should be nothing standing. I will examine my calculations again.”

Misha reached them, wiping plaster dust from his face. “Is there a problem?”

Louis indicated the miscreant piece of wall with a tilt of his head. “That wall has refused to obey Vasily’s mathematics.”

Misha’s royal-blue eyes widened. “Vasily, everything is destroyed and the terrorists are dead. I counted body parts. We are undamaged and the fee will be exceptional. There is no reason to be unhappy about a small section of wall.”

Vasily looked up at his friends. “There should be nothing standing. Do you understand? Why is it standing?”

Louis snorted in exasperation and struggled up the small mound of no larger than bocce ball-sized detritus to inspect it. It was an ordinary brick wall. The blast had denuded it of plaster, much of which still hung in the air as a choking dust. This remnant stretched no more than two meters and stood only a meter and a half above the rubble that buried its base. Louis’s long spidery legs crunched and slipped as he circled this errant testament to the builders of antiquity.

He caught his breath.

“What is it?” asked Misha.

Louis did not answer. He stood staring at the other side of the wall. Misha scrambled up toward him. Vasily sighed and followed.

“So?” said Vasily.

The three men stared into a wall niche. It contained an ancient wine pitcher, an oenochoe, whole and undamaged except by time.

“So,” said Louis, “it is at least two thousand years old. It is lucky. You never miss, Vasily, but you missed this. We must keep it.”

Vasily shook his head. “How can we do that? It was treacherous getting here. We are on foot and it is almost winter in the mountains. How do you propose to carry that thing? It will shatter during the first slide down a shale-covered incline.”

“It will not. It is lucky.”

Louis raised a dark eyebrow at Misha, waiting for his opinion.

“Louis, I have never known you to be superstitious.”

“I am not being superstitious. This is evidence.” Louis swept his arm over the devastation around them. “Some things, especially some ancient things, set an example of survival.”

Vasily snorted. “Don’t ask me to help you carry it.”

Louis carefully lifted the artifact from its niche and cradled it in his arms as the three men slithered down the pile of rubble. He took extra care and was the last to reach firm ground.

“How will you carry it and be able to draw your weapon at the same time?” asked Vasily. “If you cannot draw your gun when necessary, The Example will not have helped you survive. It will not fit in your rucksack with the MP5s and I have no room for them in mine.”

Misha pre-empted a nascent argument when he saw the flash of temper in Louis’s black eyes. “You must find a sack to carry it in until we reach the mountains. Then we can sling the MP5s over our shoulders. It will fit in your rucksack.

Vasily was not to be deprived of a chance to goad his friend. “If you fall, be sure to land face down or you will ruin two thousand years of Example.”

Louis fought an urge to cuff him. “You are very funny and have no taste.”

“But I know how not to behave in a brothel. If you were not wanted by the Italian police after that fracas in Naples, we would not have to cross the worst of these mountains to get out of here. We could simply take a train from Trieste. You are too hot-headed.”

Louis ground his teeth and looked to Misha in hope of support. He found no quarter there.

“When you find a sack, be sure to carry it in your left hand to keep your right hand free,” said Misha.

It took an hour to locate a large enough bag for the pitcher. Louis spotted a burlap feed sack half buried in manure behind a cow barn. It was not long before the smell permeated his skin, but it was an improvement over carrying his find cradled in his arms. Vasily made faces at him, holding his nose and grinning.

Misha spied a clothesline at another farm and cut out a portion of it, leaving the ends dangling and the drying clothes on the ground. After they evaded the farm hands and scrambled a significant distance up the first real slopes away from the coast, he called a halt and fashioned a sling for the sack.

“I am perfectly content to carry it all the way in my left hand, Misha.”

“I am not content to pick you up when you tumble down a mountain because you cannot crawl. Some of these passes are treacherous in snow.”

“It is not so very far.” Louis was conscious of a whiny note in his voice.

“We are not eagles. Half the distance we travel will be on the inclines.”

“Remind me to explain the hypotenuse if we get home,” said Vasily.

Louis snorted. “Spare me your mathematical superiority, Vasily. I know the Pythagorean Theorem.”

“Our feet will know it intimately in twenty-four hours.”

The sack gained weight over the next half-day, but Louis kept silent. They were approaching a steep wilderness where they each could carry their own MP5. He did not need any more of Vasily’s teasing before then.

“Misha,” said Vasily, “the jug has general magical powers of stoicism as well as survivability. Louis has not complained once in at least two kilometers.

Louis did not speak to him as they ate their afternoon rations. He struggled to fit the pitcher in his rucksack when they had shouldered the submachine guns. Vasily helped him stuff some dirty shirts around it to make the shape less awkward and unstable across his back. Louis was delighted to lose the stinking sack and said a sheepish thank you to his friend for the help.

Misha divided the boxes of 5mm ammunition equally among them. Louis’s share fit snugly around the neck of the artifact. He hoped the boxes would not shift and crack it.

The snow began within an hour after they set out again. “I have an uneasy feeling,” Vasily said as they toiled up a particularly steep trail. 

Louis’s teasing jibe died on his lips when Misha answered, “So do I.” Vasily responded to life generally with suspicion and paranoia, but if Misha felt uneasy, there must be a reason. Louis took his MP5 off his shoulder and held it in his right hand. The slope here was even more steep and slippery with snow and he now had only his left hand to support his scramble upward. He noticed Misha doing the same.

Vasily spotted it first. He had cautiously peered around the side of a boulder, his sandy hair plastered to his head by wet snow, making it blend with the color of the surrounding rocks. They were on all fours now, staying low on a severe gradient topped by the boulder. Vasily signaled for a stop and told them with hand signals that he had seen a muzzle. He peered again, his left hand telling them one, two, three muzzles — waiting. Waiting for what?

Bandits? signaled Louis.

Vasily shrugged.

Ambush, said Misha’s hand.

Louis watched his eyes sweep the terrain, taking in the details of their situation. The snow had dampened sound and was accumulating quickly. Their enemies most certainly had notice of their approach but might not know how near they had come. He and Misha joined Vasily under the shadow of the boulder and quietly put down their rucksacks under a short overhanging ledge. They stuffed extra magazines into every pocket.

Misha made his dispositions. He sent Louis to the left, Vasily to the right and allowed the enemy to give the order to begin the fight by showing himself boldly in the center. The three enemy snipers were dead in thirty seconds. Their leader took a few potshots at Misha with a revolver before Louis ended his career from behind.

Despite his hunger and fatigue, Louis agreed with Misha’s decision to climb into the night. The enemy’s shallow cave would make a commodious shelter, but he did not relish sharing it with the corpses they had hidden there.

“You see, the wine pitcher has helped our survival,” he said as he shifted his rucksack, trying to ease a sore spot on his shoulder.

“No,” said Vasily, “our intuition did that.”

“Intuition is just as mysterious a force as a lucky ancient relic,” retorted Louis.

Misha kept his voice low. “There was nothing mysterious about Vasily’s eyesight, Louis. He spied the muzzle. And we were able to surprise them because we had been quiet as we climbed. I suggest we continue that practice.”

Exposed beside a snow-covered rock, they ate in silence at midnight, then shouldered their burdens and stumbled on. Misha called a welcome halt as the sky lightened. The wind had exposed most of the larger rocks, but left indeterminate drifts on their lee sides. He used his knife to cut a twisted branch, two meters long, from a tenacious tree growing out of a rocky incline.

“This tree is an Example of survival,” he said, grinning. “My new staff is a worthy artifact.”

Louis narrowed his eyes at him as Misha poked the drifts that crossed what once might have been a path. Most of the drifts were no more than knee deep, but when the stick sank completely up to Misha’s hand, he looked at Louis. “Which artifact gets the credit for this, the jug or the stick?”

“Your intuition gets all the credit, Misha. As always.” Louis felt suddenly too weary to maintain his usual resentment.

They huddled on an eastern slope with a spectacular view of mountain shadows running from the dawn. The wind blasted them, unobstructed by significant boulders or brush, but it cleared the snow away from the body heat that would otherwise melt it and make them wet. Louis decided he should be grateful for this. He hated being both cold and wet. One discomfort at a time was enough.

They dozed, sitting up, two at a time, with the third man responsible for watching.

“We have sufficient food for only one more meal,” said Misha a few hours later.

They stood looking down the crevice his stick had warned them about that dark morning. By noon, the wind revealed its length and depth. It took half an hour to find a spot narrow enough to jump over.

Vasily grabbed Louis by his jacket when he teetered on the edge, overbalanced by his heavy rucksack. “The jug is setting a bad example of survival, Louis. Do not follow it.” he said, impish mischief in his light eyes.

Louis was still too intent on his rumbling stomach to care about Vasily’s jibes. At this point, he would have consumed the pitcher itself had it been edible.

When they sat down at last in a pine forest, sheltered for once from the wind on this side of the mountain, Misha’s next announcement was as welcome as the stale rations he handed out.

“We will cross the border in an hour. I know a place that will be safe, but we should not have weapons visible, just in case.”

Louis saw the wisdom in this, but he knew the disappearing food supply had not left sufficient room for three MP5s. He waited. Misha and Vasily said nothing, apparently unconcerned. He sighed. “Will there be farms on our way where I may find another feed sack?”

Misha grinned. “And clotheslines? Yes.”

They had blown up a terrorist cell, killed a four-man ambush that awaited them, crossed a mountain in the snow and evaded a plunge down an unexpected crevice, but a conductor on the train from Villach threatened them most of all as they made their way home. Louis could not keep a sneer from showing on his face. The little man was so full of his own importance, questioning their lack of credentials (they never carried any on such excursions), their disheveled appearance (not worse than usual, in Louis’s estimation) and the origin of the cash with which they bought their tickets (in gold, as provided under the agreement with the government that had hired them). What the man really objected to, Louis knew, was the smell coming from the feed sack-wrapped artifact. People stood at the other end of the crowded car to evade it, allowing them to lounge over more than their share of seats.

When the officious man threatened to put them off the train at the next station, Louis’s hand became drawn to the inside of his coat, reaching toward the holster there.

“You see, Sir,” said Vasily with exaggerated politeness. “We are archeologists returning from a dig near the Adriatic. We bring an important artifact and have not had time to clean up, we are so excited to have found it.”

Louis raised an eyebrow and arrested his hand before it reached his weapon. Vasily was faking a Polish accent. The only language he normally spoke with an accent was English. He spoke German like an Austrian.

The conductor wore a skeptical look. Vasily reached for the clothesline draped over Louis’s shoulder and removed the sack. He opened it, releasing a waft of redolent barnyard that permeated the car. Drawing out the oenochoe, he displayed it for the conductor, dusty, substantial and surviving. Louis allowed his face to show his pride in finding it.

Their interrogator could not apologize enough, calling them each ‘professor’ and ‘doktor’ and asking them to please, please resume their seats and enjoy their ride home. They thanked him with smiles.

Once home, rested and washed, Louis looked forward to dinner. Cook had a special genius for preparing grilled fresh trout in a light cream sauce. She also invariably added something French to the menu just for him ever since his regular visits as a boy. She spoiled him still, even after he came to live in Misha’s house. Every evening he was home he enjoyed a special treat. It helped, of course, that the others in the household also liked French food, but he knew she did it for him. He walked into the dining room with high expectations; his starched shirt and dinner jacket needed filling after several days of meager rations.

He nodded to the old man sitting across the table. “Good evening, Professor.” Louis’s mood could not be dampened. So what if Misha insisted on giving the old tutor a comfortable retirement. It had nothing to do with him and would not spoil an excellent meal. Even the memory of the canings the Professor had applied to his backside when he did not fully memorize the monarchs of England in their proper order faded when he thought about the trout. Monarchs. Pfah! Parvenues, especially the Saxons.

“I see you have returned with an artifact,” the Professor said to Misha as the soup was served. “I am anxious to see it.”

“It is Louis’s find,” Misha replied.

The Professor looked at him with surprise. Louis knew the man did not think him capable of any intellectual sensibility let alone the capacity to spot an ancient artifact. He did his best not to allow his smile to be overly smug. A little bit smug, yes, but not excessively so.

Forced to conceal the exact location and circumstances of the find, Misha artfully steered the conversation away from the oenochoe each time the Professor brought it up. Louis busied himself with the superb meal before him and heard none of the old tutor’s disquisition on the rarity of such a find of that size.

When the cloth was drawn and an excellent port served, Vasily brought Louis’s find to the Professor. Louis had eaten too well to listen much until he heard the word, ‘reproduction’.

“What?” he said, arresting his glass midway to his lips.

“It is a reproduction. Don’t you see?” said the Professor, turning the pitcher on its side. “Here. I must say the quality of Japanese manufacturing has greatly improved.”

Louis had left his seat and peered over the tutor’s shoulder at the bottom of the jug. Vasily’s eyebrows rose with surprise and delight. No one spoke as Louis read the words printed there. “Made in Japan!”

Perhaps it was the excellent port enjoyed on a full stomach that made him treat them all to the heartiest and most joyous laughter in his extensive repertoire. He slapped the Professor on the back in gratitude and congratulations for the joke.

The episode of the jug became Louis’s most popular story. People especially enjoyed the way he mimicked Vasily telling the conductor, in an impossible Polish accent, “It is most definitely the very vessel from which they poured a special wine made just for Socrates himself!” 

<END>

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

Please visit K. A. on her website: https://kbachus7.us2.authorhomepage.com/books/the-example