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Enzo Stephens: Ghostwriting

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

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By Enzo Stephens

“Hey, so what do you do to put bread on the table, Enzo?”

“Well Jake, I’m a professional writer.”

“Really?  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

Jake’s wife, Emily provides this further illumination to Jake’s aspiration.  “He has such good ideas…”

Now it’s my turn to act interested.  “Well, that’s tremendous, you guys. So what’s stopping you?  You guys could go in on it together; like a little family project.”

At this point, there comes an onslaught of excuses that, quite literally, feel like an overdose of Novocain being jammed in my carotid with the barrel of a recently-vacated ballpoint pen.

As in, OUCH.  Please stop and don’t say another word.  But of course, the good Jake and Emily continue their diatribe, and again, for the sake Being a Nice Guy, the Interested Face gets plastered on again while they blather on.

“Good question Enzo.  Writing is a huge time investment—”

“—And there’s all the stuff with the kids.”

“Right!  Lots going on, Enzo.”

“Do you think I’ve got ‘lots going on’, guys?”

“Uh, well…”

“I just bet you do!”  Emily can be inappropriately chipper.  Then, “So Enzo, are you published?”  

Nice uncomfortable-subject shuffle there, Emily.  “You mean, is my work published?”

“Hah!  Now THAT’s a writer for ya!”

“Yes, I’ve got some work out there.”

“Really?  In your name?”

“No.  I use a pen name.”

“Anyone we’d recognize?”

Now there’s just a whole array of snarky answers I could throw in here, but I walk a deeper strategy of snark when this topic comes up in party banter.  Here we go…

“Oh yeah, you would.”

“Clearly, Jake, Enzo isn’t comfortable sharing his pen name, are you Enzo?”

“Not really, Emily.  I mean, why use a pen name if you’re just gonna dole it out like Halloween candy?”

“Hah!  Good point, Enzo.  Maybe a better question is, can you recommend any titles for us.”

“Despite my reticence to share my pen name, Jake, I’ll contradict that stance, but only here and now with you fine folk, and that’s under the promise from you guys that you will keep it under your hat.  Hmmm, maybe I can get you to sign a Non-Disclosure—”

“Enzo, you’re too much.”

“Right Enzo, our word is gold.  You can bank on it.”

“Cool, Emily.  Okay, have you ever read ‘Cujo’?”

And now comes the obligatory moment of stunned silence as the realization rolls over their non-poker playing faces.  Then, “Jeez, that’s you?”

“You’re…” voice lowered to a whisper, “Stephen King?”

A quick wink in response, and then, “So let’s talk about your desire to write…”

“Well, Mister King, like I said, there’s just no time.”

“First, Jakey-poo, I am NOT Stephen King, so please drop that right away or this conversation is el-don-no.  Capisce?”

Sheepish looks.  “Sorry, mister K—”

“—Uh uh!”

“Oh right.  Enzo.”

“So really, guys, telling me you don’t have enough time to actually sit down to write is, well you know, an excuse.”  I held my forefinger up in front of their faces to halt their silly defensive protests while I pressed on.

“The truth of the matter is deeper than what you just told me.  For instance, everyone has kids. I know of a single mom with three little ones that can crank out a one-hundred-thousand word masterpiece in three months.  What do you think her time-suck is like?”

So now they’re looking away a bit and they look a little uncomfortable like they’ve just been scolded.  I sucked in a deep breath and climbed right up on my soapbox. “Writing can be a hobby, sure, and I suspect that’s where you’re at when you said that you always wanted to be a writer, Jake.  

“But if you want to put out really great material, well, like anything else, it requires a butt-load of work.  And even more practice! Do you feel me?”

Honestly, after all that I’m pretty surprised that the court that I’m holding is still populated with these two. They nod in unison, giving me license to press on.

“So let’s get real here, guys and explore this a bit.  Is it the work that’s stopping you from chasing this dream you have of being a writer?”

Jake hemmed and hawed a bit, glancing at his oddly small feet.  “Honestly, Enzo, it’s getting started that’s the problem for me, I think.”

“Okay, that’s good, Jake.  You’ve drilled down a bit.  Let’s go further. What’s stopping you from getting started?”

‘Uh… I suppose it’s just sitting down and, you know, actually doing it.”

I nodded, and I totally GOT Jakey.  We were on to something here. My nodding encouraged Jake to press on.  “It’s like I know what I want to write. But I don’t know how to start.”

“And he really does tell wonderful stories.”  Yeah, thanks for that, Emily.

“I’m sure Jake does.  But I’d like to share something with you guys to help you move forward with your dream.  Good?”


“Try taking on some small side gigs that will actually pay you for your writing.  When you know that you’re going to get paid BEFORE you begin writing, well, that’s all the motivation you’ll need to hot-wire your head.”

My Old Fashioned suddenly became bone dry and that sucked, so it was time to move on, but before finding the nearest watering hole, I had one more tidbit to drop on these hopeful folk.  “Nothing teaches the craft of Writing like getting paid for your Writing. Each gig you take on teaches you… just phenomenal amounts of improvement! So if you want to get going here, go build an account on a side-hustle platform and start bidding on small jobs.

“I’ll tell you now, the pay will suck.  But you’re not doing it to earn a living; not yet anyway.  Think of it as On the Job Training; you’re getting paid to learn.

“One more thing; I have a pretty significant volume of published novels doing the Exact.  Same. Thing. It’s called ‘Ghost Writing’, and I cannot emphasize the benefits of doing this to new and younger writers enough!”

Mic Drop.  Time for a refill!

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Soon:  More Ghostwriting

Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.

Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife, and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

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

D. A. Ratliff: Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

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Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

By D. A. Ratliff

Every so often, in a writing group that I am a member of, someone will ask this question. What is your favorite writing spot? I invariably and blithely answer: Have laptop, will travel. Then it dawned on me that my laptop does indeed travel where I do. 

I am an obsessed writer.

I began reading at an early age, and in elementary school, I discovered writing. My efforts were admittedly short stories about my Chihuahua, Henry, but I was writing. I was that rare student who loved having essays and term paper assignments, relishing in the research as well as the composing. My lust for writing had begun. 

Then I graduated college and well, had to act like an adult. I continued to read, but my writing efforts were work related and, while important, certainly not imaginative. Difficult to make a policy-and-procedures or a training manual fun, but I did love writing newsletters where I could be a bit more creative.

During these years, a gnawing urge began to develop. I wanted to write fiction. As a child, I had a vivid imagination that followed me to adulthood. However, I had doubts as to whether I could write a story good enough to attract readers. I had taken creative writing courses, but college was behind me, and I was unsure I had the skills. I needed practice, but how?

I started writing fanfiction.

I know – it’s fanfiction, but I deduced that with developed characters and show canon already in place, I could concentrate on how to construct a story and write dialog. It was fanfiction, easy, and all the fans of the show would love all the stories. Wrong. Critique in the world of fanfic can be brutal. Fortunately, most were kind to me.

But it worked, I gained confidence and discovered the weaknesses I needed to address by writing over eighty stories about a canceled science fiction show. Yes, eighty. You see, I couldn’t stop writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. And once I began to believe I could write, I left fanfic behind and started writing my first novel, a science fiction story. I haven’t stopped since.

Writers understand the call of the keyboard. I do take my laptop with me practically everywhere. No, not to the grocery store but the doctor’s office, or on a plane, any place where I have downtime with nothing else to do. Okay, maybe when I did have other things to do as well.  I only know that I need to create.

Writing every day is not a challenge for me. I hesitate to think of how many words I do write per day as an administrator for a large writing group, or on Facebook Messenger and email, and when I can, my fiction works in progress. (Yes, works. Okay, I have a few going at the same time.) I have worn out a few keyboards in the last few years. It’s when I’m not writing that the need to write manifests itself. I have a sense that I forgot something, that nagging urgency that I should be doing something. It is as if a part of me is incomplete.

If you write, you know that feeling. You have a new idea, the plot, the title, and the characters start to develop in your head. How it begins and ends. I am a pantser style writer, meaning that I don’t plan my stories before writing them. I start writing, and then the fun begins.

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from British author, Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

If that opening line falls into place, then so does everything else. There is such a feeling of satisfaction to watch letters appear on the screen as fingers move about the keys. Hours pass like minutes as the story unfolds and, when I finally stop, there is a sense of accomplishment that today I created something. That feeling is what makes writing so obsessive for me.

Not all days are so satisfying. All writers have those days when the words won’t come, or the plot stalls or transition between scenes is elusive. When this happens, doubt begins to creep in. Is this story good enough, will anyone like it? Why am I writing? I have learned never to force the words, for those are never the right words. Taking a step back, working on another project, taking a walk, or cleaning the house (the last resort) always helps me to find my muse again, because I have to write.

I write to tell myself the story.

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D. A. (Deborah) Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters, but her lifelong love of mystery and science fiction novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies, will be published in late spring 2020 with a second novel, One of Those Days, to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 57,000+ members from around the globe.


Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

By Enzo Stephens

Those in the writing community know what these two topics are/mean, but for those of you who are not or who are considering dipping your toes in the water, these two topics — Planning and ‘Pantsing’ refer to a writer’s approach to their craft.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to refrain from using the single-quotes on Pantsing. We all get it.

I think the way to approach this is to break each method of approach down; discuss pros and cons. By no means are my lists or dissertation intended to be comprehensive. I’m just not smart enough to be able to include everything, so if you can think of anything I miss, by all means, feel free to comment away.

It’s interesting to me how surprisingly adamant some writers are about which method they prefer. The reason why is because it seems situational to me. 

When I work on a full-length novel or even a series of novellas, I absolutely have to use the planning method.

But I’ve recently discovered that there is joy in the pantsing approach. 

Okay, permit me to share-eth my (somewhat colorful) thoughts on the planning approach and why it works for me.

Sucky Memory

I’m sure there are more eloquent ways to say that my memory sometimes feels like a black hole that originates from my frontal cortex, but that’s the truth of the matter, and I’m positive that I’m not the only one with this problem.

A plan is one way to compensate. Let me ’splain…

We’ve all read a GOOD novel, and I’m sure most of us can clearly state why the novel was good. Excellent plot, strong character development, great subplots, dialogue, and character interaction was outstanding, tremendous scene-setting, and so on.

I venture to say that what makes it GOOD is simply… pause for dramatic effect… continuity.

Plots and subplots need to make sense and they need to drive through to a reasonable conclusion. Same with characters. And, the entire work takes on its own pace, building to a crescendo that — if it’s really good, makes for a page-turner.

You know what I’m talking about. That’s what The Shining was for me. I could not get enough of that beast, and it’s the most re-read book in my entire collection.

Now, for as many GOOD novels read, I dare say we’ve read at least twice as many BAD novels.

What makes it a BAD novel?

Well, it’s the inverse of all the stuff I said that makes for a GOOD novel. A bad novel just crushes continuity and pace because it’s just so damned distracting.

Plot holes, total character missteps, aspects that just seem unreasonable / not thought out or not researched; you get the idea. 

My first works — way back when an IBM Selectric was my go-to, utterly sucked. Sure, I’d knock out a scene or two, but good Lord, what a mess they were.

Didn’t take me long to figure out that I ended up spending all my time going back and correcting/revising earlier work just to maintain continuity, and not enough time allowing my creativity freedom (my Muse is still swift-kicking me in the nuts over this I believe — demanding wench!).

Okay, time for a quickie backstory. Not only am I a crazed ex-Marine with over 50 years of hand-to-hand combat experience, but I also have over 30 years’ experience in Information Technology. Ergo, the tools that would help me to elevate my writing hove into view.

In short, planning tools.

All because my memory sucks and I can’t keep details straight. But only when I’m writing them, not reading them. Makes me feel hypocritical in some odd way. Like, what right do I have to criticize someone else’s writing when mine’s just as bad (if not worse)?

Data Flow Diagram

This is a good one for laying out the overreaching plot outline, and then subplot constructs and directions. There’s a definitive beginning and end, and critical milestones to get from one end to the other. 

This is typically one of my first tools that comes into play when creating a novel or a series (shorts, novellas or full-blown works).

There’s a lot of freebie versions of Data Flow Diagrams that can be found via standard Google search. 

Character Matrix

This is one of the most underrated and underused tools I’ve ever seen, but man-oh-man has it been a lifesaver in my writing. 

Mine is home-grown and it’s 9-10 pages of 8-point font extensive. It covers everything about a person that can be imagined — personal stats, usual likes and dislikes, background, jobs, churches, organizational affiliations, relationships past and present and desired. Religion, politics, positions of social issues; personality disorders; strengths and talents; special abilities… the list goes on and on. 

I use this when I’m creating my Main Character, and I use scaled-down versions for other characters; the less impact to the story, the less of a CM I use.

Again, there are variations of this via standard Google search if you’re so inclined to be tightly wound when applying your creative process. That’s a joke.

Decision Tree

So, what happens if Uncle Bob decides to hack his weenie off with a linoleum knife in a fit of pique over his recalcitrant kiddies because they’re such jerks? How does that crazy act impact the subplot, the overall plot, sub-finishes, and so on?

Out comes the Decision Tree

I love this because it really gives me the chance to explore actions and reactions of a character given a specific situation, and then really build on that. From some of the steps involved, I’m able to impart serious suspense when it’s time to write the scene, story, whatever. And when I’ve got a novel done — say 100k words, I’ve probably got 100 pages of decision trees. 

All that is cool, but here’s the neat side benefit of using decision trees: no longer fretting over word count. I have knocked out tens of thousands of words just rolling through one branch of a decision tree. This device is outstanding for me.

You won’t really need to go chase down some Decision Tree template; you can make your own quite well.

The Bottom Line

Okay, so it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that writing a book is a pretty significant undertaking. 

I consider it a project, much like the development and delivery of a suite of software to a client. There is a definitive start and end point. There is up-front work; development work; testing; then implementation. There are milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Behind all of it is a Plan, and what drives the plan is its flexibility and the tools that make planning easier and more effective.

Pantsers, there’s a lot to be said for planning!

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Planning vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa.
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Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.
Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife, and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

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

Rico Lamoureux: Perspective

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

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


By Rico Lamoureux

“The first thing I’d do is run,” Simon said. “Just take off running like Forrest Gump. Then I’d drive a car. Go to the movies. Talk to a girl. How ’bout you, Jacob? What would you do if you were normal?”

“The same. But definitely the girl first.”

The two friends laughed, sharing in both understanding and longing, Simon perched atop a six-foot wall within the heart of the city, Jacob’s hands nearby as his safety net. The wall was part of some artsy display of the financial district, but he and Jacob had chosen it as their hangout spot for it suited them both — Simon enjoying the high view of being above most others while his buddy got to comfortably sit on the adjoining section which was two feet shorter, Jacob spending half his time gazing up towards the towering skyscrapers above, feeling small, feeling content.

“You ready to go under the knife next week?” Jacob asked, personally knowing all too well the answer to this rhetorical question.

“You’d think after sixteen surgeries,” Simon sighed, “but just as nervous for number seventeen. You remember those old Erector sets? I can’t help but feel like one every single time. And they’re already talking about eighteen, putting in pins in a few months.”

Trying to hide the cringe, Jacob shook his head. “I feel you. Just had mine removed a couple of years ago. Damn, I hate those parallel bars. Parallel bars, paralyzing pain.”

This is why they were so close, the two being able to share so much while appearing to be so different. Jacob, with his immovable tumor pressing up against his pituitary gland causing him to be seven and a half feet and still growing while little Simon and his dwarfism had him standing at a mere three feet three inches tall.

“One of these days, Simon,” Jacob assured as he gently placed a giant-sized hand against his dear friend’s tiny back while simultaneously looking up as a commercial jet flew by. “One of these days we’ll both run like Forrest, get the girl like DiCaprio, fly like Cruise. One of these days.”

And with such a declaration Jacob scooped Simon up into his ginormous hands, up against his huge chest and the two headed off down the street, ignoring the gawks, finger pointing, and occasional cell phones capturing what most would never really understand.

True friendship.

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All Rights Reserved

Please visit Rico on his blog: https://theflashfictionponder.com/

Cheryl Ann Guido: The End

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

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

The End

By Cheryl Ann Guido

She stood beside the antique wood-burning stove reflecting on her life. On top of the cast-iron burner, a percolator slowly brewed her favorite beverage, dark rich coffee. The steady rhythm of the pops that coincided with tiny brown bursts of liquid hitting the glass top was hypnotic. Such a pleasant, calming smell, she thought, as she inhaled the smoky aroma, letting the steam travel deep inside her nostrils.

Her faithful dog Molly was curled up on a brightly colored braided rug in front of the fireplace. The logs would burn just long enough. Molly lifted her head and wagged her tail. How she loved that mutt. Molly had been at her side for nearly ten years. It was good that they were together, especially now.

The percolator went silent, signaling that her coffee was ready. As she poured some into her favorite mug, she was reminded of her grandfather. After his wife died, he built this cabin, way up in the mountains. It was supposed to be his personal retreat, but there were many times that family joined him.

As a child, he had told her his dream of wanting a place where he could be free of modern conveniences, a place where he could escape from the world and be one with nature. Here, there was no electricity, no running water. Water had to be drawn from the well behind the house, one that he had constructed himself after days of using a dowser rod to search for the precious liquid. Lighting was provided by candles and kerosene lamps. The only heat came from the fireplace, though it was enough to warm the one-room home. She remembered his excitement when he found the antique stove at a junk shop. Chopping wood would keep him in shape. He told her as he went to work, cleaning it up and polishing it to a brilliant shine. Being a carpenter by trade, he made all of the furniture, a wooden table with four chairs, a bed, and some shelves to keep supplies. The one piece that he was most proud of was a wooden rocking chair. In it, he would sit on the front porch, smoking his pipe and rock for hours. In the late Fall, when it became too cool to sit outside, he brought the rocker in and placed it in front of the only window in the house so he could still observe the winter wonders of nature. How many times had he told her that these things were all that he needed for his life to be complete? He was right. Now it was her turn.

She picked up her mug, grabbed a wool blanket, and settled down in the rocker, throwing the blanket across her legs. As she watched some cardinals flutter from tree to tree, she thought about her world, a world that had been in turmoil for years. Everyone on the planet lived with the daily fear of annihilation as its leaders threatened to destroy their enemies with nuclear bombs and other deadly weapons. There was so much hatred, so much conflict and refusal to work with one another in the name of peace. Yet here, in the quiet of the mountains, the birds sang, the lake was crystal clear, and the trees hid all of the ugliness. Here it was easy to forget.

A rabbit hopped onto the ledge of her window. It cocked its head, picked up the carrot that she placed there every morning, then scampered back into the woods. She smiled. She would miss this when the time came. She wished that she could gather all of the forest creatures together and just will the evil in the world to go away.

A wet nose shoved itself under the palm of her hand. She looked over at Molly, who had joined her and now rested her massive head on top of the blanket. She scratched behind the dog’s ears as she sipped her coffee. It won’t be long now, she thought. The planes had flown over a while ago. A few minutes later, the earth shook. Plates and glassware had tumbled off of the shelves and crashed onto the floor. It was then that she decided to make some coffee, a last little bit of enjoyment.

In the distance, a blinding glow lit up the sky. The fiery light grew bigger and bigger as it slowly advanced with a sound that roared like a thundering freight train. She placed the now empty cup on the window ledge, then wrapped her arms around Molly, watching the wall of flame coming closer and closer until it finally consumed the trees outside of the cabin.

“I love you, Molly.”

She buried her face in the fur on top of Molly’s head and kissed her as the world went white, and they became nothing.


©2020 by Cheryl Ann Guido

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Please visit Cheryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

Kenneth Lawson: Threat Level

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

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

Threat Level

By Kenneth Lawson

The Space Driver floated past him.

Just out of reach.

Trying to manipulate the engine drive component in gloved hands with no magnet to hold anything where it needed to be was a pain in the ass. It was impossible. 

The Space Driver, the name they gave to a glorified screwdriver designed for use in outer space on spacewalks, floated just out of his reach. He shifted his position slightly in the harness that held him to the space station and was able to barely grasp it — clasping a tether cord to the errant space driver. He let it float while he finished working on the maintenance hatch. Closing it, he collected his tools, the wandering Space Driver being the first one in his bag. He attached a certificate of approval seal over the seam of the hatch door, saying that he had inspected the insides, and all was well.

It wasn’t.

But he couldn’t find anything wrong in the settings or control panel under the hatch. So, he signed off on it. 

Commander Rogers entered the space station, then returned all his tools to their respective cubicles and got out of the spacesuit. As he placed the Space Driver in its case, he realized that if what he suspected was true, a screwdriver, even a specialized one, wouldn’t fix what was wrong. 

Something was off on the space station. Things had been not right for some time, and recently, it had gotten worse. Various systems failed for no apparent reason and suddenly started working again. There were other little things, like small objects moving around, that puzzled him. 

Everything floated up there if not secured, but the stuff always secured somehow wound up in odd places.

So far, no injuries had occurred on the station, but it wouldn’t take much for an essential system to fail, or at least act up, and the result could be fatal.

He was trying to avoid that, especially for himself. He wanted to get back to Earth as soon as possible, and this wasn’t making his job any easier.

He was the space program’s ace troubleshooter, and he wasn’t shooting this trouble. 

In all of the other cases, he’d found something small that no one noticed, a bug in the code, a faulty switch, or an incorrectly set up system. What was going on here was not hardware related. It was the virus. The same virus that had caused several other ships’ crews to become incapacitated, eventually turning them into virtual zombies and shutting down their systems. They all died.

He’d been up here a week, going over the ship’s systems. From life support to water and waste disposal to entertainment, he found nothing. Nothing. Everything was as it should be. He did do a couple of upgrades, but nothing important or mission critical. What he was doing while doing routine systems checks was to see if he could find the source of the virus and, if possible, the transmission path. He found no trace of the virus, only the results and symptoms of it. The crew was not behaving as they should, not remembering what they did, and not being able to explain why they couldn’t remember moving stuff. The lack of memory was one of the first recognizable symptoms of the virus. 

Circling back to his cabin, he stopped at the main control center of the station. Checking in with the commanding officer, he learned everything was as it should be. But he knew better. There seemed to be something slightly off about the way he addressed him. Nothing obvious, but a pattern of speech that was different than it had been all along. Talking to some of the other officers on the deck, he got the same vibe from them. They acted as if they were all right, but they seemed slightly unfocused as if drugged. When he talked to them, they snapped back to a version of reality.

He checked their medical records. Everyone checked out with no issues, either physically or mentally. Especially mentally, they didn’t need a captain going crazy on the bridge of the space station. But he suspected that it was happening, and not just the captain, but most of the crew. 

Going down to the mechanical systems room, he looked around. He’d been down there before; it all looked the same as it had before. The reading on the charts all was within specifications. So, he talked to the chief engineer. He got the same response as he did on the bridge. 

Something was affecting the crew. It was now more than just unexplained occurrences. He did not doubt that the virus was affecting the crew.

The progression of events was identical to the situation on a space station blown up by the action of a crew member years before. A space-borne virus had infected the entire crew. The virus drove them insane and wreaked havoc on their bodies. For the few that survived the blast by making it into escape pods, they had become little more than zombies that stared at the walls and made slow muttering sounds. Within a week of rescue, their bodies shut down, and they died of an uncontrollable infection. The only salvation at the time was that the survivors were in quarantine and the virus didn’t spread. 

If this virus ever got to Earth, he realized that within several months at most, the entire population would be dead. So far, they had no idea of the mode of transmission, or if there was a treatment for it. Distress calls led to the discovery of several ships adrift in space, the entire crew dead, and the virus suspected to be the cause. They still could not locate the virus’s source. 

Back in his cabin, he communicated with his superiors back on Earth. 

His supervisor was concerned. “You sure you haven’t been infected?”

“Yes. I’ve managed not to eat or drink anything here, brought emergency rations with me. I’ve been careful about not touching anything. I’m wearing gloves at all times.” He had been using emergency stores that he had brought with him when he boarded. He noticed they didn’t properly search his packs when he arrived. A lack of interest also pointed to the virus. 

“When I spoke to the crew, they were acting just like the crew did on the old space station a few years ago.”

“Okay, this is it, we have to contain the virus.”

“So that means…?”

“Yes. Blow it up. Whatever this is, we can’t risk it getting back to Earth or one of the colonies. The only way to make sure it doesn’t spread is to destroy the station.”


His next stop was the commanding officer of the space station. It was difficult to explain to the commander that the virus had infected him and most of the crew, and what the prognosis of the infection was. They were all going to die. Because they still didn’t know the transmission method of the virus or what catastrophic effects it would have on Earth, they could not risk letting anyone back to Earth. The commander accepted their fate and he decided against telling the crew. Best to allow them to live their last moments in peace. 

The transport shuttle was about halfway to Earth when the space station blew into a million pieces. He watched from the cockpit as the debris field spread, almost reaching him as the small ship approached Earth’s atmosphere.

His heart ached for those who perished, but he wondered only one thing. How much time had he bought for Earth? 

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Please visit Kenneth on his blog: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Calliope Njo: Baxter

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

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By Calliope Njo

I suppose I should have expected it. Baxter hadn’t been himself for a while. He didn’t greet me at the door like he used to or find the ball so we could play fetch at the park. I’d like to think the squirrels missed him too. About the only thing he did was eat and sleep. The final decision was done out of love.

When I bought the house, the furniture went in first but it still needed something. I got a dog and he fit in perfectly. The house was complete. 

Since his death though, no familiar pair of brown eyes when I peered down the hallway or the noise he made while he slept. My once warm bed turned cold. The house felt incomplete again.

I complained every morning I had to wake up early to be sure he got his daily walk in. It felt funny to sleep in and it still did. I went back to the old schedule and became a member of a gym instead of sleeping the extra hour. Funny how it worked out.

I had two weeks coming, and that’s what I did. Grandpa had a cabin up in the woods and I took advantage of his offer. He warned me though that come Halloween, I had to be wary of the Nightmare Hound. An evil dog that if seen, would kill anyone and take away their soul to his master. Even though the story was hard to believe, I gave Grandpa a big smile. “Okey-dokey.”

He laughed and gave me the keys.

I smiled when I imagined Baxter running around chasing all the squirrels up into the trees. He would have loved this cabin.

Grandpa never mentioned wolves in the area, so when I heard howling, I wondered. Could have been the Nightmare Hound, but he spoke of no noise the hound would have made. I went back to sleep with that thought in mind.

Between hiking and fishing, I kept busy during the day. Made a trip down the hill to the local town. Scarecrows, Jack O’Lanterns, and decorated shops spoke of the coming holiday.

The cafe had a Halloween special. Mummy meatloaf, spooky scalloped potatoes, and ghostly green beans. I couldn’t stop laughing and only hoped that it tasted better than it sounded. The waitress told me I had better be careful because the cook was looking for brains. She pointed him out and he poked his head out. No mask but he had enough makeup on for me to believe he turned into a zombie.

The dessert sounded perfect, Goblin Berry Pie. The goblin berry was a mixed berry filling but delicious with a scoop of ice cream. A little too much to devour, and may have to pay for it by waddling, but it was all good. Baxter would have inhaled the potatoes and the green beans with a modified recipe of course. That mixed-up mutt would have had it, anyhow.

With all that food in my stomach, I had to do some serious hiking the next day to work it off. About halfway there, that howling came again. It sounded louder which made me think it came closer. Could it be after me?

I turned on my flashlight and quickened my step a little to beat that beast back home. I got in and secured the door. It might not have made a difference but it made me feel better.

A dog barked from somewhere. “Hold on a minute buddy boy you’re—” What did I say? Baxter died so how could that have been him plus it was lower in pitch. Maybe I needed sleep.

Changed my clothes and cleaned up a bit, and I climbed into bed with thoughts of sleep so I must’ve been tired. Something woke me up. I couldn’t quite place the noise. Something in between a hiss and a growl. I opened my eyes to see bright red eyes boring into me. It was dark but the strange thing was that I could tell a dog was staring at me. I never thought it was possible for something to be darker than dark.

No, it couldn’t be. An old story from an old man. That’s all. Get to sleep and it’ll go away. Yeah, and if I told myself that enough times, I might’ve believed it.

I could tell it was going to be an excellent day with the birds singing and the sun shining. A new day lay ahead. Whatever happened last night must’ve been something created from my loss of Baxter. 

Another day spent hiking up into the woods. A shame nobody was around. I thought it would’ve been perfect to get a fire going and roast some marshmallows with someone. “Hey, Bax—” I had to stop. Sixteen and a half years of doing the same thing. I wasn’t sure if it was a good habit or bad.

After reality reminded me, I put away the marshmallows and went into the cabin. After the fire came alive in the fireplace, I couldn’t help but see Baxter as he would beg and yelp for a marshmallow. Well, time to call it a night.

No supper but I didn’t think I was hungry either. Maybe I ate too much the night before. On the other hand, eating wasn’t so much fun anymore without my partner.

I had to shake him. Maybe that’s not right. How about trying to let him go? That would be better. Otherwise, I would’ve sounded like a cruel human.

Needed to close my eyes and think good thoughts. The trees, the birds that seemed to find me and snatch whatever food I might’ve brought with me, and the atmosphere. Clean and clear with a good breeze that blew across my face.

Where did that stench come from? Beyond description sort of smell. The need to see overrode the need for sleep and those same red eyes bored into me again. Except it wasn’t from a distance. Its nose touched mine. Back up and crawl out of bed as fast as possible and be sure to keep it in your sights or else it might strike.

I forgot all about the floor. After a hard drop, I somehow stood up and ran. It snarled as it chased after me. The bark it had told me it meant business. So any thoughts of throwing anything to distract it wouldn’t work.

Behind the couch would’ve been a good place to hide, but that thing weighed a ton. The bare cupboards in the kitchen were the only place left. I crouched under the sink and waited. It got cold, and I knew it wasn’t because of my hiding place. It had to be that monster.

It waited right outside. That growl and those eyes were clear even with the door closed. I didn’t know what to do.

I wish you were here, Baxter. I loved you buddy boy.

I heard a dog bark. Not that evil thing but a dog. It had to be Baxter. I’d know that noise anywhere.

The door opened enough for me to look and that thing turned around as well. At last, my chance to get out and run back to the room.

With the door secured, I breathed. Sounded silly but I had no idea if I did at all. That thing found me and it broke through.

I somehow broke away and climbed on top of the bed. I watched as Baxter bit the dog’s leg. The dog turned around and went after Baxter.

Baxter jumped high in the air at the same time that demon dog did. He got a hold of that demon’s throat. I screamed his name. I didn’t want him to die. Not like that.

The demon dog howled and a black substance escaped its throat. A bright light flashed and the two disappeared.

I knew what happened and that Baxter saved me. The problem was how to explain it without sounding like I lost my mind.

I sat on the bed and cried. “Oh, Baxter. Buddy boy. You saved me. Thank you and I do love you.” 

The pillow felt so good under my head. Maybe, at last, I could get some sleep.

It wasn’t time to go home yet, but it didn’t feel right staying there. The events lingered in my head as I tried to sort out the events while my heart screamed and cried. Life had to go on and so did I. Some things couldn’t be forgotten and this event would never be forgotten.

I made it back home and got around to cleaning everything and throwing away Baxter’s things. Since I didn’t have a dog, there was no sense in keeping it. I could always get new stuff when I got a new dog. That would only be right.

Oh, what was I thinking? The laundry had to be done, Baxter’s old bowls and bed needed to be thrown out and all of his hair needed to be vacuumed up.

Before I could start though, someone rang my doorbell. I opened the door. “Oh, Grandpa. I was honestly going to drop by tomorrow. I wanted to get some cleaning done before then. Come in.” I waved him in.

“Well, I’m not alone.” I didn’t notice before he brought my attention to it, but he had a dog in his arms. “I brought this little one with me. She’s a year and a half, potty trained, loves liver, and a bit of a snuggler. If it’s too soon, I understand and I’ll keep her for you. Oh and her name’s Biscuit ’cause she’s biscuit colored.” He smiled.

Oh, Baxter. You had a sister and you didn’t tell me. “Tell you what. I have to get some cleaning done. So how about if I come to pick her up on Sunday morning. It’s Friday, so by then I should have everything cleaned and all of the supplies I would need. How’s that?”

“That’s perfect. See ya then.”

“Bye, Grandpa.” I closed the door. Then that night flashed in my head. I didn’t need to bring it up with him. He might think I went bonkers. That night was between me, God, and Baxter. More cleaning to get done if I was going to make it by Sunday.

* * *

Grandpa closed the door behind him. “Biscose, do you promise to protect my granddaughter for all that you are worth? If not, I will find another to take your position. That demon will not take my family.”

Biscuit transformed into a woman. “Yes. I do. I will protect her from the demons that linger. That is my duty.”

“Good. Sunday, your duty will begin. I suggest you rest until then.”

Biscose nodded and lay on the couch.

Grandpa poured himself a brandy while he looked into the fire. “No demon will dare take away the only thing that I hold dear. I would sacrifice myself before that happened. He must find another way to satisfy his greed.” He drank his brandy and stared into the fire.

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

Stephanie Angelea: Three Pigs and a Gypsy

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

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Three Pigs and a Gypsy 

By Stephanie Angelea 

Sometimes, the richest people in the country are the poorest. They are the ones who leave their families for the fellow man devoting their lives to people they’ve never met or shaken hands with at the corner cafe. They are the ones who are courageous and brave protecting a great nation in its many battles overseas and at home. For many, it’s a career choice. For others, there was the draft. Fighting in the deepest jungles of Vietnam, for example, four men climbed the ranks from the lowly grunt man to hold important positions, and the government listened to what they had to say without question. Three squares a day with medical and an education for a trade job was a dazzling opportunity no one could pass on, drafted or not. Uncle Sam wanted them and welcomed them with open arms, promising a bright future. A reward for their strength and loyalty. A loyalty that would soon come at a price of blood and death and neglect as the enemy advanced closer, testing the wits of entire units full of soldiers armed with machine guns and knives. The men kissed their loved ones on tattered photos and wore scarves around their necks to remember their wives or girlfriends. Death was everywhere and betrayal didn’t stray far from the barracks. No one bothered to unpack because the enemy was always near to run them out. 

“Dig deep down into that black heart of yours and find that kindness button, Hanky! You need to turn it on and show some serious love for these men so we can get the Hell outta here! By god, when we reach another safe zone, I’ll beat the shit outta you myself, you cranky bastard!” yelled John Pearltree. “Barrett and Vano both are on the verge of killin’ you and I’ve thought about it. I know you to act better!” 

“I can’t help it, I got so caught up in my investigation to find the TRUTH that I forgot to be nice and coddle everyone! The VC was on our ASS, damnit! Lt. Dandry gave them our positions with his back-alley drug deals that got him killed anyhow. It took me a while to find out who was doing what to whom!” scowled Hanky Thompson. “AND, I was trying not to DIE!” 

Captain Pearltree rolled his beady eyes and punched Inspector Thompson. He fell hard to the ground, banging his head on the concrete slab in front of his office. Blood gushed from his temple. The soldiers stopped what they were doing to rush over and watch the commotion, immediately applauding their captain. “Get up you old fool! You know we admire your ass but you get that CORNCOB OUT OR ELSE!” he laughed, angrily shaking the hand of his old friend. 

“Oorah!” the soldiers hooted, stomping their feet. 

“You made me bleed!” Hanky sneered, holding a handkerchief over the wound. 

“You’ll be all right. Ain’t nothin’ harder than your head!” John replied, patting his back. 

Their voices faded and you could hear a pin drop for the briefest moment as tears rolled down their wrinkled faces. John Pearltree, Hanky Thompson, Barrett Lee, and Vano Young warmed their cold hands over the fire barrel. Barrett’s laughter broke the silence of the alleyway between Marlee’s Juicer House and the old abandoned theatre on the corner that stood every bit of ten stories tall. 

“Shhhh, you’ll wake the others, Barrett,” John fussed. 

“Sorry. That story is still funny after all these years,” Barrett softly spoke. “Those were the good ol’ days.” 

“Yeah, at my expense,” cranked Hanky, turning to Vano. “Vano, Esther didn’t come home last night. She’s not in her box and all her stuff is still there. If she were going to move on down the block, looks like she would have taken her stuff, especially with it being so cold,” he continued. 

Vano Young was not only a brave soldier but was at one time an accomplished guitarist playing in numerous bands before he was drafted for the war. As a lone Gypsy, he took a likeness to the others right off and they to him. “I’ll ask Mark to go look for her. We’ll find her, Hanky,” he assured him. 

There they stood in all their glory wearing old jackets full of medals pinned sideways and huddling around the burn barrels watching tourists drift by the narrow eye of their dark home. It was lined with large packing boxes big enough for a body to seek shelter in and tents draped over shopping carts tied to the rusted railings of the fire escapes between the buildings. 

It was early morning and the busy streets of New York were already bustling with taxis and commuters speeding to work. Snooty couples took selfies to commemorate Memorial Day, posting videos “In honor of our soldiers who have fought and are fighting for our freedom! Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts! Let’s honor them! Share this video. Hi!” They’d wave, yelling into their rectangular device. 

“If you want to honor some veterans, there’s at least sixteen of them down this alleyway here! I’ll take you to meet them and you can honor them like in your video,” snapped a tired-looking woman holding folders and a briefcase. 

“Ughhh, bitch!” the tourists scoffed, walking away. 

“You better lose that attitude! I know people!” she screamed at them. 

“Doris, why are you causing trouble so early in the morning?” a police officer asked her, leaning against his patrol car. 

“They called me a bitch, Stan! Really! Me!” she howled. 

“Well, I have known you to be a bit grouchy without your coffee,” he replied. 

“What brings you out this way. My vets in trouble?” asked Doris, breathing into her hands. 

“We received some more complaints about them from tourists and passersby.” He hesitated to proceed. “Mr. Jacobs, the owner of these buildings, is supposed to meet me here.” 

“Sorry to interrupt but I heard my name. I’m Mr. Jacobs. I own these two buildings,” he introduced himself, handing papers to Officer Stan. “I find it odd that so many people have an interest in defending my buildings against homeless people who risked their lives so their mommies and daddies could stay home with them. I mean, it wouldn’t matter if they were veterans or not. I own the buildings and I’m not complaining about them. I haven’t heard any complaints from Marlee either.” 

“I knew my ears were burning, Ted. I saw your lanky self stroll by my window pane,” Marlee sassed. 

“Morning, Marlee. How are you?” asked Ted, kissing her hand. 

“Oh fabulous!” she replied. “Doris, I made everyone their morning fruit and veggie soup plus coffee. The soup is loaded with nutrients and should keep them hydrated and full of energy. It’s so cold out but they can warm themselves by the fires and drink coffee. I packed plenty of styrofoam cups. I also brought more burn barrels for them too and had Freddie put them out. Most of them are so old.” 

“Who are you calling old, missy!” yelled Hanky. 

Horns honked around them, and pedestrians crossing the street yelled at the drivers for not yielding to them and flicked them a bird finger. The daylight was full and the sun shined bright with warmth. Barrett, Vano, and John followed Hanky to the sidewalk, curious to know why a cop and a suit were talking to Marlee and Doris. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean ‘old,’” Marlee laughed. 

“She made y’all some soup and coffee. It’s different fruit and veggie soup,” Doris said, organizing her papers. 

“Here you go, Hanky. It should be enough for everyone. I hate it’s cold soup again but it’s all I had. Fruits and veggies are becoming so scarce and expensive,” sighed Marlee. “I also made you all some morning coffee. It’s organic coffee but should help warm your core.” 

“Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. We are all grateful to eat and drink something hot. Only a few of us are awake but I want to thank you from the bottom of the heart for all of us,” said John. 

He graciously hugged Marlee and handed the soup baskets and thermos canisters of coffee to Barrett, who distributed them out to each living station, waking the occupants. 

“Miss Marlee, we will surely return all these empties tomorrow,” Vano assured her. 

“I know, sweetie. I know.” She petted him, Vano being her favorite, both being Gypsies and all. Vano would catch her watching him in the alleyway when he played his guitar, and he didn’t mind because he fancied her too. 

Doris pulled Vano aside showing him some of her papers. “I need to get more data on some in your group to put into my system so I can find shelters and apartments for everyone to go to. This data is so vital in keeping up with everyone. Is Esther and Amanda still asleep or have they already made out?” Doris asked. 

“Amanda is up but Esther didn’t come home last night. I sent Mark to look for her,” replied Vano. 

“Did I hear you mention Esther?” asked Officer Stan. “She’s actually why I’m here. I came to let you know she was killed by a car late last night. I don’t know if she was headed here or what, but she missed the curb and fell into the street. A speeding car wasn’t able to stop in time. I came to see if one of you would accompany me to the morgue for identification and so that I can give you her belongings.” 

Everyone gasped and tears began to run down Doris and Marlee’s cheeks. 

“Oh no! Poor woman,” Mr. Jacobs exclaimed. 

“The ME said it was quick so hopefully she didn’t feel anything too much,” stated Officer Stan.

“I’ll go with you,” exclaimed Vano. 

“I’ve got to get back. Denise will have my hide if I leave her alone with the customers too long. She tends to fuss at them,” Marlee snickered. 

Marlee Campbell was a spirit-filled Gypsy woman who owned her Juicer business for eleven years now, renting from Mr. Ted Jacobs. Her health declined back in 2016, so she decided to get healthy and go raw vegan with a few secret cooked meals of healthy choices. Every day, with the help of Denise, Marlee made fruit and veggie soup for the homeless veterans and coffee. Many begged to live between the two buildings but there was no more room, but Marlee and Denise would still help those who could make it to them for food and coffee. One time a day was all they could do and everyone was always grateful. At nights, the soup kitchen down the block served hot soup and cornbread, staying open for a couple of hours after Marlee’s Juicer House closed, but they were not as nice as Marlee and Denise who were always kind. 

“Marlee, may I join you?” Doris asked. “Do you have the Zinger made yet? I love that breakfast Juicer. It’s my favorite.” 

“Yes ma’am, I sure do! Come on in,” Marlee excitedly invited her. 

“Suck up!” Officer Stan hollered at Doris as he escorted Vano to the front seat of his patrol car. 

Doris laughed at him and stuck her tongue out. 

“Officer Stan, if it’s ok, I’d like to stay and talk with the veterans for a while,” Ted pleaded. 

“Sure, come by the station when you’re done,” Officer Stan replied. 

Officer Stan hustled his car into the busy streets and a couple of truck drivers urged him on ahead. No one wanted to upset a policeman. 

“Hi, my name is Mr. Jacobs. What’re your names?” he asked. 

Hanky was the first to respond. “I’m Hanky Thompson. This is Barrett Lee. This is John Pearltree. Vano Young is the veteran who went with Officer Stan. I don’t know his last name. I’ve just always heard him called Officer Stan,” Hanky continued, while everyone shook hands with Mr. Jacobs. 

“How did y’all end up here?” asked Mr. Jacobs. 

“It’s a long story, but my wife took everything I had worked for and left me for my brother. John’s family moved away and left him stranded—he’s not heard from them since. Barrett’s bunch was killed by a car bomb in front of the patio where they dined—he never recovered from it when we returned home from the war, and Vano is a lone Gypsy who kind-of took a shine to us in the war, and we’ve not been able to shake that guitar playing fool yet,” Hanky laughed. “We were all MPs but when we retired and returned home, there wasn’t much left for us here. We weren’t exactly welcomed back with open arms with a job lined up or families to come home to. Since we were police veterans, a lot of the pedestrian hoodlums called us pigs and yelled hateful stuff. They still do sometimes but we’ve been homeless for so many years now, it doesn’t bother us,” he continued. 

“My father was Derrick Jacobs. He was homeless before he married my mother and she helped him learn a trade. It was the best time in his life when he saw her beautiful smile for the first time,” Ted reminisced. 

“He was lucky to have come across her. Is he still alive?” asked John. 

“No sir. He died many years ago but he bought these buildings when he retired from stock trading. I inherited them from him,” Ted went on. “I do know that I want to help all of you, if you will allow me to.” 

“What are you going to do with this building, Mr. Ted?” asked Hanky. 

“Well, seeing that many of you on these blocks need a place to stay and Marlee’s building floors sit vacant—I know she needs help—why don’t we turn it into a shelter for all of you to manage under the supervision of one of y’all, and everyone can work together and help Marlee and Denise,” Ted excitedly offered. 

“Are you sure? It’ll be a great upfront expense,” stated Barrett. 

“I know exactly how we can generate an income so everyone can pay for themselves and maintain the upkeep of the two buildings,” John responded. 

“How in the Sam Hill are we gonna manage that!” Hanky barked. 

“He has no faith in anything. He’s a grumpy old fool! Ignore his ass!” joked John. 

“Here is my card. You get with Officer Stan and y’all let me know what all you need and we will go from there. Here is the extra set of keys I’m entrusting y’all with, and also let Marlee know what’s going on and help tend to what she needs, if that’s all right with y’all,” Ted said, giving John the keys. 

“You trust us with the keys to your building? asked Barrett. 

“It’s not like you’re going to steal it and there are at least three people who have basically vouched for you—a cop, a Juicer owner, and a government caseworker. I don’t think I need any better references than that,” Ted Jacobs laughed. “I’ve gotta run. I’m late for a meeting. I also have three more empty buildings over the next few blocks, if you would like to set those up for people and get them off the streets.” 

“Bless you Mr. Ted. How will we ever repay you?” Hanky asked, tearing up. 

“Make sure everyone is taken care of, follow your friend’s plan and trust in him, and everything will repay itself,” Ted replied, shaking their hands and disappearing into the street filled with cars, utility vehicles, and angry New Yorkers. 

Six months later: 

Spring arrived and the warmth of the evening breeze carried the scents of Jasmine and Lilies throughout the city streets. Everywhere you looked, the mood of the temperamental travelers changed as they stopped to smell the flowers blooming in the window planters outside Marlee’s Juicer House, which had closed early for the evening to celebrate the after-wedding reception next door. The patio furniture was painted white, with turquoise centerpieces on the table and an archway of red roses decorated the doorway. Barrett strung some patio lights of twinkle stars earlier in the day. 

The beauty inside the old dilapidated building from its transformation was remarkable with the first floor sporting a vegan store of microgreens, fruits and veggies, plus herbs to homemade soaps and body bars like you would buy in the country at their Spring Festivals. The rest of the floors were renovated and painted a more homey color with everyone pitching in with specific duties, making it a wonderful sleeping/communal living area. The rooftop connected to Marlee’s Juice House and both were turned into luscious gardens for the stores below. Never again would there be a shortage of fruits and veggies for their soups, nor would the coffee pot have time to empty before a fresh pot was made. 

Out of the ruins, came the gardens. Out of animosity, came love and friendship. A piece of the country that four friends brought together from stubbornness and an agricultural knowledge that only three pigs and a Gypsy could have. 

“Stan, you got yourself a handful with Miss Doris but she’s a keeper!” Ted remarked jumping up on the corner curb. 

“Yes siree, I know that for sure,” Officer Stan replied, as he danced and kissed his beautiful new bride under the starry lights. 

“By golly, I am truly amazed at what you’ve done with the place. Both of them. They definitely needed a facelift. I’m just envious too at the profit you’re turning out of it with the nature store! Kudos!” said Ted, shaking the hands of John, Barrett, and Hanky. “In a million years, I never would have guessed something like this would do so well. Awesome job guys,” he continued. 

“Thank you, Mr. Ted. Everyone pitched in and we are all employed here making the products from scratch, and we’ve shown everyone how we learned to grow food in Vietnam. The other buildings you have up the block are of the same setup. They are doing well too. Those who live in Marlee’s building help her and Denise, so that’s a huge load off Miss Marlee and she is in better health,” said John proudly. “She and Vano will wed next month.” 

“Awww, yes. The sly bugger is serenading her on the far patio with my mom’s favorite song from Gypsy Kings—Djobi Djoba. A beautiful love song,” Ted said, humming its words and grabbing the arms of a pretty blonde and spinning her around the crosswalk. 

Laughter filled the corner blocks of New York’s busy streets where the restaurant chefs raced each morning to buy the fresh produce and herbs for their daily menus. The city life finally took a shine to them, including the tourists who came from all over to see the old veterans and the others who were homeless, featuring them in their videos like part of the family and gave them hugs every day. They were homeless veterans who were stripped of their families long ago, but the faith of a few brought them new ones.

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Tanja Cilia: The Stranger at the Crossroads

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

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

The Stranger at the Crossroads

By Tanja Cilia

You know what they say about truth being stranger than fiction? Well, you can believe it’s true.

So there I was, convalescing in Rome, reading Murder on the Orient Express, while on one of those buses that have the middle like an accordion so they can go around corners. Bendy buses, I think they call them.

I was thinking that this would have been the ideal vehicle on which to kill someone — you just sit at the back, with a potential victim, when all the people are in the front half, and do the deed. Then you alight from the door serving the hind part of the vehicle, and Bob’s your uncle.

And then it happened. You know how in another book — or was it another film? — Miss Marple saw a man strangle a woman on another train, and since a body was not found the police assumed she was rambling, what with being old and all? We were just nearing Le Quattro Fontane (the Four Fountains) — that group of four Late Renaissance fountains located at the intersection of Via delle Quattro Fontane and Via del Quirinale, the most famous crossroads of the world — or so the Italians say.

Well — I happened to look out of the window and I saw a bus coming the other way, and — suddenly — I saw a woman stand up, thump a man on the head with what looked like a frying pan, and then she just rolled him out of the emergency door. I gasped and followed the body with my eyes.

Suddenly, from behind the sill of the Fountain of Diana (the only one of the four, as I recall, designed by the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona, for the rest were the work of the fortuitously-named Domenico Fontana), up jumped a man dressed in black from head to toe. He sneezed, and put his little fingers to his lips — I am assuming he whistled in that shrill chav way I hate so much. A Black Maria-like car drew up, the driver hopped out, and together they half-pulled, half-lifted the man into the back. Hecate would have been proud of them.

Our bus rounded a corner — I rang the bell but the driver did not stop. I ran to the front of the bus, but I could not make the driver understand what I wanted him to do. My Italian is patchy at the best of times, and he kept saying something like “Espresso, diretta, non posso fermarmi.” I couldn’t have cared less about his offer of coffee when we got to the terminus — I just wanted him to stop, so I said “Polizia,” and he said something that sounded like “My my my!” and I thought he was telling me I was making a fuss.

Of course, the nuns at the Convent of Saint Elisabeth, at whom I was staying, saw how shaken I was, and they understood what I was saying because a couple of them spoke almost perfect English. They explained that I had inadvertently caught the direct line that did not stop. What the driver had really said was “Mai!” which means “never.”

So they drove me to the police station where I made a report about what I had seen. They found the body a week later, when they dredged the section of the Tiber nearest the place I indicated, weighted and dumped. Later on, the full story was splashed across the papers, on all three RAI television stations and on the Mediaset ones too. The woman was an Albanian hooker, and the man she attacked had been her pimp. The man at the crossroad was her boyfriend — an ex-client who wanted to give her a better life and had hatched the plan. The pimp had been threatening to have her deported, because she was not earning him enough money, and she did not want to go back home.

I had to stay in Italy longer than I planned, but since I was a key witness I was given free board and lodging for the extra fortnight I remained; and of course, my Italian improved no end, in that short period. For a time, I was quite the media star.

This is weird, considering that I am a Maltese nun.

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Please visit Tanja on her blog: https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

Lynn Miclea – “Window to the Future”

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

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

“Window to the Future”

by Lynn Miclea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But how do I find this crystal?”

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

“What kind of crystal?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do I put this?”

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

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

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

“Is that what I was supposed to—”

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

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

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

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

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

“But who are you? Can I see you?”

You will see us soon enough.

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

She stood there for a few more minutes.

“Are you still here?”

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

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

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

We are always here.

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

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