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Stephanie Angelea: The Courage of Lost Souls

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 Courage of Lost Souls

By Stephanie Angelea

Santa Cruz sat helpless on a park bench of the hospital, wiping the tears from her rosy cheeks. She listened to the sirens still ringing loudly from yesterday’s hurricane warning but she didn’t care. Her feelings were numb to emotion now and life would no longer see her tears. Local authorities had ordered their evacuation but her father was too sick and could not be moved. Refusing to leave, she stayed behind.

George Cruz was the best father a girl could wish for and a big-hearted Cajun man. He was the glue that held everyone together at the Hands of Salvation Ministries, spearheading food and clothing drives for the needy and seeking out shelters for the homeless. She admired his strength for all he did, but it was a strength that failed him in the end when he needed it the most.

Like now, even on his deathbed, he would have used all his strength to prevent her from challenging a deadly storm head on, whose strong winds matted her hair and whose violent sprays off the ocean waves soaked her clothes.

In one hand she held the letters of stories she had written to cheer him up in his hospital room — some being silly poems of seagulls and whales. In the other hand she carried a red, copy-paper box containing everything he owned, which wasn’t much. He was a simple man who treasured her stories the most, holding them tight when he drew his last breath barely an hour ago, before the screams of the hospital staff deafened the stairwells to the basement.

She preferred to ignore them, walking out the front door as glass shattered around her.
Still, in the end, what crushed him harder than the cancer that killed him were the painful words written on a worn postcard from St. Tammany Parish by a woman who abandoned them long ago.

It read, “I am gone. Do not wait for me. I will not return!”

The card felt rough from the dried tears of her father’s sadness. Thinking back, she remembered her cheating mother leaving them penniless on that dreary, winter’s day in January, taking everything they had, sparing them enough money in savings to buy a cheap coffee maker to caffeinate their sorrows in.

Santa, unlike her father, was happy to see her go. The woman slept with every man around and mostly fathers of teens from her school. Not a day went by she didn’t feel embarrassment hearing the whispers and hushed talk when she passed them in the hallway.

The evening darkened and the street lamps buzzed above her, illuminating the frightening weather in front of her.

“Where do I go from here?” she asked herself, choking on the raindrops.

She contemplated climbing the tallest palm tree and falling to her death, letting the waters drown her as it flooded the beaches, or letting the sharks eat her alive as they attacked, camouflaged by the raging waters.

The notion sounded completely rational to her, but then reality set in reminding her how terrified she was of heights and sharks, and that idea was immediately squashed. The climb alone would kill her, but seeing how the trees now bowed to the storm, she could just hop on the tips of them and let it slingshot her to the deepest part of the ocean to be swallowed up by the tentacles of the jellyfish who would then sting her to death. Either way, It didn’t matter anymore.

Balancing the paper box on her knees, she summoned every ounce of courage she had to open it. It was a paper box from the hospital’s front desk. The charge nurse emptied it to fill their copy machines before giving it to her for her father’s things.

The box still smelled of the Office Depot down the road. A store she visited often for her writing supplies, mentioning to them more than once that she WAS an aspiring author and it was her favorite store.

Each side of the box had written words on it from a permanent marker now smudged from the rain. It read: “Cruz — Personal Items.”

There wasn’t much for her to pack. His pocket watch was old and one her grandfather had given to him when he too passed away of prostate cancer. The box protected his wallet of pictures of her and grandma Marie plus ten dollars in ones, the old pocket watch from grandpa Willie, a new handkerchief, and a clipping from Wednesday’s newspaper with a circle around a building’s name, Penelope’s Printing House, downtown near the countryside.

She guessed she would hold onto them as long as she could. They belonged to her father and he was the only person in the world who cared about her. He was gone now and she was alone in a hurricane that was predicted to kill them all.

The rain beat down harder and she took a moment to collect her thoughts. Maybe she’d eat at the local diner later and see what underwater specials they had. Maybe she would just die of shock and never wake up.

“Whichever kills the quickest!” She sighed, thinking again of her father.

The remainder of his newspaper lay on his nightstand along with his reading glasses.

“Did he have a chance to read this?” she wondered, packing it anyway.

She could not deal with this now since the growling in her stomach became an angry roar and meaner than the noisy hurricane.

The winds grew stronger and it became more difficult for her to hold onto her father’s possessions. The lid blew off and the newspaper began to flutter around in the box.

“Blow away, you bastard!” she screamed to the newspaper at the top of her lungs. “I have no one, BLOW AWAY!”

Something dark and fuzzy scurried away from the light of the street lamps growing intensely brighter by the minute. A power surge, perhaps. Adjusting her eyes to its brightness gleaming off the wet sand, she squinted. “What’s under there?” she asked, threatening to beat it with her father’s pocket watch. “Come out!”

Slowly, it appeared out from under the handkerchief — a beautiful quill of a black feather. It spun from the newspaper, startling her, and proceeded to write words in the air of bright colors: purple, green, and gold.

“I’m gone. Do not wait for me! I will not return!”

Tears welled in her eyes and anger filled her heart.

“Why do you write HER words! I do not want to remember her, you stupid feather!” she shouted.

“I’m not writing her words for you. I’m writing her words for us.” The quill continued writing faster. “Your mom left because of sadness, your father died with sadness, and now you stare death in the face longing for more sadness. If you cannot learn to care for yourself and others, then go ahead and kill yourself and sadness will be your murderer — not life or the hurricane!”

“I have NOTHING! Do you understand? I have no job, no money, nowhere to live, AND I’m about to DIE!” Santa sobbed. “Why am I talking to an ink-tipped feather? WHY?”

The quill fought to pull the newspaper clipping from the box.

It read: “Penelope Printing House. It stands empty and is in need of a live-in janitor. Pay is minimum wage, full benefits, and weekends off. Owner has plans to renovate. If interested, please call Judy at 435-4167 between 7 & 3.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Santa shouted. “The damn storm will destroy the building. There is a HURRICANE coming!”

The quill flipped over the clipping to three words written in her dad’s handwriting.
It said: “For you, Santa.”

“Your dad still watches over you even in death.

“Live your life and follow your dream. FIGHT to survive! Do not dishonor his memory by giving up! There will always be pain and sadness.

“You’ve had a lifetime of both, maybe you should give happiness a chance for a while before your bodiless headstone reads: ‘I am gone. Do not wait for me. I will not return.’ Write your own story!” the quill concluded, disappearing into the massive spin of the hurricane walls. The air calmed, and she stood in the center of the eye watching it toy with lifeless bodies and feed on the debris of palm trees.

When the levees broke, the flow of dirty water rose high in the parishes.

Struggling to stay afloat, Santa climbed onto a pink surfboard recently treated with Sex Wax.
For the first time in days, it was quiet and only the gurgling of water splashing against the floating houses could be heard. Then the wails of screaming began and the pain of death floated around her.

“Help me, PLEASE!” shouted a severely injured woman.

“I can’t help you, I’m so sorry!” cried Santa.

A bloody dog whined in the distance gagging to breathe.

She passed a cat who meowed to her, hanging on for dear life atop a plastic hubcap.

“Come here, baby,” she gently pleaded to the cat, noticing she was not hurt. “You can hitch a ride with me.”

The farther down the parish they floated, the more dead bodies they saw, and live ones too. The injured especially could not be saved, and all she could do was manage a prayer or two for their soul to find peace.

Santa and the cat floated and waited for help that would never come. They were on their own.
The screams of the dying quietened, the horror of gunshots fired above her, and hopelessness overwhelmed her.
They would die floating in the streets of her hometown.

“Santa! Santa!” yelled a voice nearby. “I am coming. Wait for me! I will be there soon!”

Santa listened and heard the beautiful sound of a strong voice as she stroked the cat to calm her nerves. They waited for the boat coming to save them. A brave woman rescued them in a small boat, and for the first time in years, she smiled. She smiled seeing the familiar face of a mother she lost long ago.

The End

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Please visit Stephanie on Facebook!
https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection









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Lynn Miclea: First Steps of Recovery

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.)

First Steps of Recovery

by Lynn Miclea

Danielle grimaced in pain and massaged her right thigh. It was aching again, even more than usual. Both legs ached, but the right one was worse today. She wondered if she would ever stop hurting.

Rage surged through her as her mind drifted back to the accident that had left her crippled. She had been crossing the street and was in the crosswalk when some guy who was high on something came barreling down the road, driving much too fast, and hit her. She had gone flying, and both legs were shattered, along with a fracture and dislocation of a vertebra in her lower back. If only she could take that day back and have walked somewhere else instead. But she couldn’t. It happened. And she didn’t want to lose herself in the depths of anger and self-pity. She needed to move forward and not dwell on the past.

When she had first come to the hospital, the doctors had said that she may never walk again. There was the possibility of being paralyzed from the waist down. But after lumbar spinal fusion surgery, and now with plates and pins in her legs, she was getting feeling and movement in her lower limbs again. She spent many days working through the pain, going to physical therapy, and learning to walk again. It was now time to let anger go and to heal.

And finally, it was time to be discharged. Today was the day. She couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital, but at the same time, she did not feel ready. She felt safe and protected while in the hospital, and her stomach fluttered with nerves at the thought of being on her own. Was she ready to be independent yet? A lump rose in her throat. She had been dreaming of walking on the beach, but that dream now seemed distant.

“Hey, beautiful!” Miles strode into the hospital room, a big smile on his face, his light brown hair hanging over his forehead. “Today’s the day. Ready to go?”

She smiled back at her boyfriend. “I think so. I can’t wait to get out of here. But I’m nervous, Miles.”

“I know, sweetheart.” He placed a light kiss on her lips. “But you’ll be fine. And I’ll be here to help you every step of the way.”

“I know. You’ve really helped me through all of this. I could not have done this without you.”

“Hey, where do you want to go on your first day of freedom?”

Danielle’s smile grew wider. “To the beach.”

“Dani, there’s a storm coming in.” Miles’ face got serious. “The beach is not the best idea today.”

“I don’t care. It’s my first day out of this hospital, and I really want to go to the beach. Even if it’s only for five minutes.”

“Okay, sweetheart. The beach it is.” He ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. “Ready?”

Danielle nodded and pointed to her small bag. “That’s it. I’m ready.”

A young woman in a scrub suit entered the room with a wheelchair. “Okay, dear, we have to take you down in a wheelchair, it’s hospital regulations.”

Danielle checked her back brace, then carefully eased into the chair and sighed. Even sitting in the wheelchair was awkward. How would she walk on the sand? But she was determined. This was all she had thought about for the past week—walking on the beach. Especially on her first day out.

After being wheeled out of the hospital and slowly shimmying into Miles’ car, Danielle licked her lips. “I’m scared, Miles.”

“Do you really still want to go to the beach?” He leaned into the car and pointed. “Look at the weather. The wind is really strong.”

She looked through the windshield at the heavy, dark gray clouds overhead, and spoke softly. “Yes. I still want to go.”

“Okay, the beach it is.” He closed the passenger door, got in on the driver’s side, and started the car. “You doing okay?”

Danielle nodded. “I think so. I really want this.”

Miles reached over and squeezed her hand. “You got it.”

Twenty minutes later, he parked the car in the empty lot next to the desolate beach. The entire area was deserted.

Danielle giggled. “It’s beautiful.”

“What?” Miles’ gaze searched her face. “You can’t be serious. Look at it out there! The storm is crazy! It would be hard to walk out there even if you were in great shape.”

“I know,” she whispered. “It’s fresh and real and raw and exciting. Nothing like the hospital.” She returned Miles’ gaze. “I have to do this.”

She put her hand on the car door and hesitated. What if she couldn’t walk here on the soft sand? She wasn’t sure she had the strength yet. This was probably a bad idea. She bit her lip and gazed out at the storm whipping the waves as whirlwinds of sand blew across the beach.

Miles reached out and touched her cheek. “You don’t have to do this today.”

“Yes, I do.” She quickly wiped a tear that ran down her cheek. “I have to do this.”

“I’m here for you, sweetheart. I believe in you.”

Danielle looked up into his eyes. “Miles, I’m not sure I can.”

“Sure you can. I know you, Dani. Let’s go. Show me. I’ll be with you.”

She took in a deep breath. “You’re right. I have to. If I don’t do this today, I’ll regret it. I don’t care what the weather is. I won’t let anything get in my way—not a hurricane, a tornado, or a downpour. Nothing will stop me. This is my day. My first day of freedom and recovery.”

“I’m here. I will walk beside you no matter what.”

“Okay, here I go.” Danielle opened the car door and swung her legs out. The wind wrenched the door open and she gasped. She slowly stepped out of the car, grabbing for the door. Her hair whipped across her face and up in the air as she slammed the door shut. She squinted against the wind as tears formed in her eyes. It didn’t matter. This was her time.

Miles ran to her side. “Dani, you got this. You will be fine.” His fingers brushed her hair back. “You hear me?”

Danielle nodded, as tears ran down her cheeks.

She stepped off the pavement and took two steps forward in the sand, feeling the gale-force wind buffet her, almost knocking her over. She took a few more steps. A powerful gust of wind threw her off balance, and Miles grabbed her. Two more steps.

Fat drops of rain splattered down from the heavy, dark clouds. Danielle laughed, threw her arms out to the side and spun in a slow circle.

A brilliant flash of lightning split the sky.

Danielle glanced at Miles. “Okay, maybe it’s time to go.”

Miles nodded and helped her back to the car. Once inside, she turned to him. “Thank you. This really meant a lot to me. Even just a few steps.”

He nodded. “I know this was important to you.”

“All those days in the hospital I dreamed of this day. My first day being free. The start of my independence and recovery.” She wiped the raindrops off her face. “I feel on top of the world now. I know I’ll be okay.”

Miles looked at her, his eyes misty. “Dani, you’ll be more than okay. You amaze me. You can do anything.”

“Well, I don’t know about that, but I know I’ll walk again. And I feel great.”

Another flash of lightning lit up the sky, and a powerful crash of thunder immediately followed. Rain pelted and splattered on the windshield in huge drops, making it hard to see.

“Okay,” Danielle said with a laugh. “That was enough. I think it’s time to go home.”

“You got it,” Miles said, driving out of the empty, wet parking lot and back onto the road. “You doing okay?”

Danielle sighed. “Yeah, I’m achy and sore, but I’m glad I did this.” She leaned her head back on the headrest. “And now I’m exhausted and I can’t wait to get home. I need to rest for a while. It’s been a big day.”

Miles nodded. “But you did it.”

“Yeah, I did it. After all I’ve been through, I walked on the beach.” Danielle smiled. “I am no longer a victim. Now my recovery can really begin. I am free.”

Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection









Kelli J. GAvin: Anywhere I Wish

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.)

Anywhere I Wish

By Kelli J Gavin

I watched the waters approach the shore. They seemed to get higher and closer by the hour. I asked when we were leaving at least every fifteen minutes. The answer was always—soon. Soon turned into too late. And too late quickly turned into panic. I was informed we would have to stay and wait out the storm. I felt irritated and inconvenienced before I became sick with fear of our pending fate.

I stood on top of the bed when waters rushed in through our first-floor sliding door that opened up onto a private patio. My husband quickly moved me to the dresser when the mattress became soaked as I felt I would fall into the rising waters. I screamed when the dresser drawers opened from the weight of the current. My husband kept telling me we would be fine, but he sounded more irate with the fact that I was in a panic. He finally agreed to head upstairs to the second floor of the hotel. He picked me up and grabbed our one bag which contained a change of clothing for each of us, his wallet, and my purse. When we got to the hallway, he quickly set off to the right where the closest stairway was located. By the time he had reached the sixth stair, the water sloshed below. He set me down on the stairs and I caught the look in his eyes. He long believed that we would be fine.

A large group of other hotel guests congregated at the top of the stairway. They took my hand and my husband’s hand and acted as if they were pulling us to safety, out of harm’s way. I smiled at the first woman who greeted me. She embraced me tightly, I believe more so to comfort herself. There were twelve of us. We would wait out this storm together on the second floor of The Waterfront Plaza. The waterfront was no longer, as the majority of the sand, ornamental rocks and tall pampas grasses that were seen on the shoreline the night before, had now taken up residence in the first floor of the Plaza.

As we made our way toward the hotel rooms of guests that had their doors open, my husband turned quickly as we all heard screaming coming from the bottom of the staircase. He ran to the top of the stairs and most of us followed quickly behind. A young man who I recognized from the dining room the night before clumsily made his way up the stairs as my husband and another gentleman grabbed his armpits to pull him out of the turbulent waters. He was carrying a large laundry bin over his head trying to avoid dropping the contents in the water. He was greeted and told everyone thank you for helping him. He proceeded to share with us that he had swum from the far side of the hotel where the kitchen was located. He said he grabbed as much food as he could carry. He knew there weren’t very many guests staying at the Plaza as hurricane season was known to hit hard in this region. But he knew most of them were already on the second floor. He was surprised to find that all six couples staying during the week at the Plaza were all present and accounted for. He began to step out of his shoes.

I went to the bin and tried to see if anything needed refrigeration. I pulled all the ham and turkey and chicken and cheese and handed it to waiting hands next to me. I then made an assessment of everything else in the laundry bin. Two loaves of bread, two large packages of cookies, one large box of crackers. Three bags of chips, two bags of hard candies. And in the bottom, I found a sheet pan filled with freshly-cooked fish. I removed the entire contents to get at the fish and handed to pan up to let the other women figure out how to store it. I saw my husband talking with other gentlemen. They were filling bathtubs with water, gathering all of the towels they could find and pulling the drapes on every room that had an open door.

There was no more discussion of leaving the Plaza. Only discussions of safety, food rations, and what we would do when the electricity failed us. All of the lights in the Plaza went dim ten minutes later. Candles and matches and a few lanterns with extra batteries were located in the Housekeeping closet near the top of the stairs. The wind began to howl even louder and we heard the crashing of window panes below us on the first floor. I didn’t want to be anywhere near the glass. My husband and I took shelter on the floor in the hallway along with the ten other guests and the hotel employee. Pillows and blankets were brought out to us and even more pillows were taken from unoccupied rooms. Mattresses were then pulled in the hallway when we realized that is where we would all be the safest.

I wasn’t sure sleep was possible that night. But somehow, exhaustion took hold. I woke with a start when I realized how quiet it had become. My husband snored quietly next to me on the mattress in the hallway. I sat up quickly, rubbing my eyes as I looked around. The young man from the dining room remained silent but waved to me and motioned to me to join him. He smiled and handed me four crackers and a slice of ham. I nodded in thanks but remained silent as not to wake the other guests.

I heard noise from below and walked in between the scattered mattresses and blankets in the hallway. As I looked down the stairway, I saw a man beaming up at me. He was floating with an oar in his hand in the brightest neon green kayak I had ever seen. He hollered at me as if I was hard of hearing. He asked how many people were up there with me. I told him twelve. Well, twelve guests including myself and the young man from the dining room. He informed me that he couldn’t help right away, but would send help in boats in the next few hours to evacuate all of us farther inland. He asked if anyone was hurt, had any medical needs, or if anyone was pregnant. All no, he smiled and promised we will see you soon. I stopped him to ask his name. Jorge. I was so very glad to see Jorge so early that morning.

I decided to let people sleep as long as they could. When people started to rise about a half hour later, the news that we would soon be rescued quickly circulated throughout our group. Rejoicing and hugging all around. Our rejoicing and hugging was short lived when we parted the drapes covering the inland facing windows. Buildings were destroyed, and all of the cars had been either covered by the excessive amount of water or swept away. I could see people in the distance standing on rooftops and waving their arms out of upper-story windows, waiting to be rescued. Devastation continued for as far as my eyes could see.

Being taken to dry land by a fishing boat was bittersweet. I said a silent prayer for those that had lost loved ones and those that still were in need of rescue. I prayed for the local people who would need to rebuild their lives. I shed tears for the families that were separated as the waters destroyed all that they knew and held dear.

We were back in the United States and home in our own beds three days later. My husband was given the chance to retrieve the few belongings that still remained in our waterfront hotel room once the waters had receded a bit. There wasn’t much left. But that was okay. Clothing, trinkets, things could be replaced. Our lives could not.

I am not the same person I was before our Waterfront Plaza stay. Neither is my husband. That is probably a good thing. I now think more about others. I now pray more for others. We won’t return to the Waterfront Plaza. Not because we do not want to, but because the owners have chosen not to rebuild. To rebuild seemed futile, as they had been forced to already do so twice in the last seven years due to the ravishing effects of previous hurricanes and tropical storms. My husband said it had been rumored the owners were thinking about an inland restaurant.

Recently, my husband asked where we should vacation next spring. I knew what I wanted to do. Somewhere surrounded by mountains and snow. Possibly skiing. He smiled as he pulled me closer and said we can go anywhere I wish.

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Please visit Kelli’s blog and follow her: https://kellijgavin.blogspot.com

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection








Paula Shablo: April Showers

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.)

April Showers

By Paula Shablo

For Shane, there was never a question of if the spring storms would come. They would come; they always came.

The only question was: when?

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. The other question was whether he’d have enough advance notice to batten down the hatches—so to speak.

Year after year, it was the same: Summer, Fall, and Winter devoted to repair and replace; Spring, watch it all be beaten, battered, and destroyed.

Start over.

Every. Single. Year.

It seemed his every penny earned went into putting back together what Spring storms tore apart. Time after time, he’d have to try to explain his thinking to parents, lovers, children.

Why? Why did he stay?

He’d stand on the shoreline, looking at his house, and ask himself that question every year. He’d resolve to repair quickly, sell the place and move inland—far enough from the shores to avoid this annual mess, but still close enough to come to the beach on a regular basis.

But—”Look at that view!” he’d exclaim. The house and deck, by this time intact and looking good again, fairly sparkled in the sun. Autumn, year after year, brought him a sense of accomplishment. The roof looked great, the siding was new, the deck was stained and sealed. Sitting outdoors, with whomever had posed the, “Why not get out now?” question, Shane would look out at the ocean, ever-changing as the water rolled in to meet the white sand, and marvel.

There was nothing to marvel at today, however. You could only repair a house if enough of it was left standing to work with.

Shane stood with his back to the ocean, tears obscured by pelting rain, and stared at the remains of his home—a home that had been through over a decade’s worth of devastating storms, new roofing, new siding, new windows, new decks, sometimes new interior walls, and twice entire new rooms.

Flattened. A bedroom wall here, a bathroom door there; the refrigerator on its side; the stove upside-down on top of what looked to be the remains of the kitchen island. A lone door—perhaps the one to the master bedroom—stood in its frame as if a sentry looking over its fallen comrades.

A search of the beach and surrounding areas would probably turn up beds, televisions and the like. There were no signs of those things here. Shane supposed they might also be buried under wood and aluminum.

Oddly enough, the deck was almost entirely intact. “The mighty oak,” Shane whispered, then snorted a bitter laugh.

Hearing the “slap, slap” of running feet hitting saturated sand, Shane turned and saw his son approaching. “Landon,” he said, his voice rough with grief.

Landon stopped running when he reached his father, bent at the waist to grasp his knees and coughed. “Jesus, Dad,” he choked. “What are you doing still out in this shit?”

Shane sighed deeply, staring at the deck. “Lan,” he said, “I think I’ll buy a motorhome and park it right there along the deck.”

“Dad—!”

“And when the storms are coming, I’ll just drive away…” Shane’s voiced hitched, and he tried to stifle the sob in his throat before his son could tell he was crying.

Landon, who was nothing if not a good son, ignored the obvious. His father had a right to his grief, even if they had all begged and pleaded with him for years to, “Move, for God’s sake, move away!”

He draped an arm around Shane’s shoulder and turned him away. “It’s past time you learned to come in from the rain,” he joked lightly. “Come on, Dad, there’s a hot coffee in the car with your name on it.”

Shane sighed again. “April showers,” he said. “No May flowers this time, I reckon.”

“You’ll get your flowers,” Landon told him. “We’ll put ’em on the deck in soda cans. You can drive them around in your motorhome.”

Shane grunted in surprise. “Really?”

Landon grinned, pushing his father along to the car. “Why not?” he said. “We’d all feel better knowing you could just drive off before the next storm hits. Melissa will love helping you shop for it. And think of the money you’ll save next year when you only have to rebuild a deck.”

“I was kidding,” Shane protested.

“Too late.” Landon opened the car door and gave Shane am encouraging shove. Shane got in, and Landon shut the door.

As promised, there was coffee. Shane grabbed up the cup and sipped the steaming brew.

Landon got into the driver’s seat, shut the door, and started the engine. “Listen, Dad. If you do that—buy a motor home—you’ll still have that same great view.”

True.

Shane smiled gratefully at his son. “Still,” he said, “there’s a lot of work to do.”

“After the storm, Pop.”

And Shane nodded. “Yes. After the April shower.”

_______________________________________________________________________

***For Shane Thompson

People go through a lot for their beautiful views. It’s worth it to them, even if others can’t understand why they do what they do.

I knew a Shane who never gave up his view. I miss that guy. He was a good one.

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Please visit Paula’s blog and follow her! https://pshablo.blogspot.com

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection








E.C. Fisher: On Reflection

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.)

On Reflection

By: E.C. Fisher

On the surface, I reflect the calm still waters

I glide across the surface with poise and dignity

My exterior glistens brightly as the reflected sun

On the surface, I present you with a lie

Underneath the stillness of the water, my feet are rapidly kicking

Struggling to keep my body afloat as I slowly move forward against the raging currents

The storm blows through me, the crashing waves beating against my will

In the inside, a clash of forces unseen rages, unbeknownst to all

On the surface, the skies have darkened, yet I remain vigil in my presentation

I lower my head against the violent winds and torrential rains

My exterior reflects the agony of my plight, but ‘I am fine’

On the surface, I present you with a lie

Underneath the cresting waves, I fight against the current that pulls me under

My body is heavy and exhaustion overtakes me as the black merciless sea embraces me

My will is broken; I give in and let myself go to it

Underneath the Deep Sea of Depression; I should have spoken

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Visit E. C. ‘s author page on Facebook and give him a like!www.facebook.com/ecfisherauthor

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection








Caroline Giammanco: Paradise Ends

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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Paradise Ends

By Caroline Giammanco

My life is the crashing waves, the howling wind, and the pelting sand of Hurricane Ana. Her fury mirrors the turmoil within my heart and soul, and in this moment I refuse to think about the devastation and the aftermath. I will worry about that later. I should hide, I suppose, but I am drawn to the view outside my window. I feel comfortable for the first time in weeks because this world makes sense to me.

Ana’s early this season. Spring breakers frolicked along this beach less than a month ago. June hasn’t arrived, but Ana is here in all her glory. She proves that nothing stops the kind of destruction that strikes when we least expect it. Just as my own life appeared perfect for a time, the tranquil beaches now under storm-surge warnings are in chaos. Their placid days in the sun are a memory within the onslaught. Neither they nor I will ever be the same. Perhaps we will rebuild, but we will know we are different. Ana’s early arrival reminds me of the premature end to my hopes and dreams.

Chad and I chose this time of year and place to marry and honeymoon because rates are cheap and the weather is traditionally good in May. The rates are not as cheap as his promises. My life has spun out of control, just like Ana. The only difference between us is that she has power. I have none. I am the fury, but I am also the crumbled ruin that will remain when the gentle tides return to lap these tortured beaches.

The lies were obvious for longer than I care to admit. The time spent trapped in this hotel room gives me the chance to reflect on my ruination—and on the role I played in it. I knew in my mind that Chad’s charm, his stability, was too good to be true. Things didn’t add up. The late-night calls, the sudden cash, the unexplained receipts in his car all pointed to a life he led that didn’t include me. He is to blame for his lies and manipulations. I am to blame for being a willing participant in the fairy tale. I wanted a Prince Charming. I wanted the happily-ever-after. I didn’t want to believe the nagging doubts that stabbed at my happiness. I can’t blame Chad for my own gullibility. He’s guilty for his sins. I’m guilty for mine.

Why travel here after the wedding and my make-believe life disappeared? The easy answer, the one I fall back on, is that the trip is already paid for. That’s the excuse I give others because it’s easier than breaking down the truth. The more difficult answer is that I want a few more weeks to hide from what awaits me back in Houston. I don’t want to read the headlines or to be hounded by reporters. I don’t want to be asked questions I have yet to answer myself. What do you do when your life falls apart in the flashing red and blue of police lights? How do you look your friends and family in the eye when you are duped and the world knows it? I have so much to figure out in the next two weeks, and the winds of Ana keep me at a safe distance from anyone who could get in the way of me reconciling my losses.

The hotel is deserted except for a few employees and myself. Occasionally I hear the clang of a tray or the ring of a telephone. There are fewer than one hundred people left on this side of the island. The last thing on my mind when I flew here was watching a weather report. I’ve developed a knack for being blindsided. Sitting in the path of a Category 5 hurricane may seem foolhardy, but if Chad can’t kill me, I don’t think Ana can either. I’m going to live in this moment. It makes more sense to me than the past two years do.

I watch the hurricane ravage the once-serene beach outside my hotel, and a strange peace envelopes my soul. I understand Ana and her wrath. I understand the weary piers. I feel the loss of the palms and the pain of the boardwalk. This is what it feels like when paradise ends.

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Please visit Caroline’s author fan page and follow her!
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Write the Story: March 2019 Collection







Write the STory: April 2019 Prompt


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***** Write the Story April 2019 Prompt ****

Here’s the plan:

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

Send the story and link to the site via Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.

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

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

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

The April prompt is below… write the story!

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder.

DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption.

If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments.

Thank you.

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D. A. RAtliff: Going Home

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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Going Home

By D. A. Ratliff

I hadn’t planned on going. Fate brought me to speak at a seminar out of state, and the fact that I was only an hour’s drive from my old homestead kept gnawing at me. I tried to push it away, but the itch was there and needed attention.

Foolish to do it. That chapter of my life had been closed for over thirty years. I had made my escape from the doldrums of country life and had never looked back. Didn’t want to look back. Memories suppressed were the best kind as far as I was concerned. But I did it anyway. I decided to go home.

A flurry of activity by my assistant secured a change in my travel plans, an extra night in the hotel, and a rental car. After a leisurely breakfast with colleagues before they caught their flights home, I set out down the state highway to the town where I once existed.

I say existed because I hated every moment there. I was born for more than the 4H Club. I hated cows and chickens and plows. And my family—they were the worst.

As I neared the small town, I was a bit surprised at the pressure building in my chest. The day I left and never looked back, I was seething with anger. That burn of hate was building again. I fought it back, no need for that anger now. I was free.

The town had changed little. A rail line cut through the center of Main Street, several shops shuttered and dilapidated. The diner I was dragged to by my father on Saturday mornings was still open. I had to chuckle, probably still serving those awful, doughy pancakes and rancid coffee. A few old codgers sat outside the courthouse, moving nothing but their eyes as they watched my luxury rental pass through. I laughed out loud. I could hear them now, Who’s that city slicker?  If they knew, they would bust a vein. If they knew.

The cotton mill on the edge of town was in ruins. My mother and grandmother had worked there. Both got brown lung from the cotton dust, and I got so tired of them hacking and spitting up mucus. Not how people should have to live. Certainly not how I had to live.

Two miles on the other side of town, I slowed down to look for the gate. I almost passed it by, but the old mailbox was still standing. Bent, broken and rusted, but it was there. I turned onto the overgrown gravel drive and drove in as far as I dared until the car was past the tree line and, hopefully, couldn’t be seen from the highway.

I got out of the car and looked down at my expensive loafers. I hadn’t planned on hiking, so I really wasn’t prepared. I’d have to be careful. This place wasn’t worth scuffing my shoes.

As I walked deeper into the now overgrown land, I had to admit that it was beautiful. The grove of trees where my parents built the house was now thick with underbrush, lush and green. Beyond the tree line were the family cotton fields. I leased those out, not stupid enough to lose money on the place. Just wanted no part of life here.

When I spotted the path, I stopped. A chill passed through me despite the building heat of a summer day in Louisiana. My mother had painstakingly dug out the path, laying steel rails across it so she could terrace the slope, something she had seen in a magazine. She had made me help her. Hour after hour, leveling each slightly raised terrace and filling it with finely ground granite. Made her feel like a queen to have such a grand path to the house. Made her look like a fool to me.

As I continued along the walkway my mother created, it was apparent that all that fine granite that had sparkled with bits of quartz in the sunlight was now nothing but dirt, the metal rails exposed, limbs fallen across her grand path. The carefully manicured edges now ragged with weeds. It was grand alright.

It was at the end of the path that I felt my first pang of regret. I shouldn’t have come here. Every cell in my body was irritated. The old hatred for how they tried to ruin my life came flaring back. They had tried, but I had won.

Where the large, white, French-style farmhouse had stood was only worn cinder blocks that were once the house’s foundation. I cracked a slight smile from a bit of morbid satisfaction. There were still marks on the blocks from the fire that raged that night. Now only a partial outline of the house remained. Vegetation filled in where rooms once existed.

If they had only listened to me, this wouldn’t have happened. But my dream to be an attorney since I was young was met with disdain and outright amusement. I had to follow in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, grow cotton and be happy about it. It was my fate in life.

No. It was not my fate. I was a brilliant student, and the local schools couldn’t keep up with my need for knowledge. Only one of my teachers recognized that and he arranged for me to get lessons through the mail from a college. I lived for those lessons. I had to rush home to get the mail before my mother got home from the mill and my father came out of the fields. He’d laughed at my crazy ideas and thrown the envelopes in my face if he got to the mailbox first. His words cut through me still. You ain’t going to college, boy. You are gonna stay right here and raise cotton.

I was nearing seventeen when I began to formulate my plan. I agreed to work for my father during the summer before my senior year in high school. He was so happy, certain that he had beaten me down. He had no idea. I saved my money and right before I started my senior year, I applied for life insurance policies on my parents from one of those companies that didn’t do medical exams. Or rather my grandmother did. She was getting sicker from the brown lung and the lack of breathing well made her lethargic and confused. She signed the applications without question. I paid the premiums in her name via money order, five-hundred-thousand-dollar policies on each of my parents, and I was the beneficiary. My parents may have been fools but I was not. I also got the key to my grandmother’s safety deposit box at the bank. Small town—who would ever doubt a loving grandson wouldn’t go to the bank for his grandmother to put something in it for her. Fools they were, but the insurance documents were safe.

During my senior year, I applied to the colleges that I wanted to attend, and with my grades, they were clamoring for me. I was offered several scholarships without my parents knowing as I had rented a post office box and kept everything secret. As the end of the school year approached, I hatched my plan.

The house was heated by an old oil furnace and cooking heat was provided by gas. I began to sabotage the furnace in February so that there would be a trail of repairs. Then the night I made my escape, I waited until my parents and grandmother were sound asleep and I blew up the furnace, which in turn caused the gas line to explode. The house was engulfed in minutes. By the time the fire department arrived, called by me seconds before I lit the oil furnace on fire, I was covered in soot, hands burned from trying to rescue my family. They believed me.

The town was in mourning for my tragic loss. I played the shocked son and allowed all the good folks to take care of me. I graduated from high school, and a month later I turned eighteen and received the settlement from the insurance company. I was out of this town as fast as I could flee and never said goodbye.

With one last look around, I decided it was time to leave. I had enough nostalgia for a lifetime. As I walked along the path toward the car, I took in the dappled sunlight streaming through the thick copse of trees. I knew I should feel remorse, but I didn’t. If I hadn’t escaped, I wouldn’t be a federal judge and wield the power I now possessed.

Better than growing cotton.

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Visit Deborah at her blog.
https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection







Stephanie Angelea: To Stand With Trees

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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To Stand With Trees

By Stephanie Angelea



Her name was GiAia.

She was Vietnamese and beautiful. Blind at birth, she learned to work hard at a young age, pulling her weight with the help of her devoted, twin brother, Bao, who was mischievous but a highly intelligent young man.

She was also a survivor of the underground cities. Cities built beneath the tallest forest trees, plush landscapes of beautiful Lotus flowers, the deepest and most secluded marble mountains in Ba Na.


Today marked the second anniversary since her people carefully laid by hand the first of many marble steps to build the walkways to each city. Steps that allowed them to escape the spray of bullets killing their families from a war they did not understand and knew nothing about.


In the beginning, the villages joined together constructing three interconnecting cities with sweat and blood, soon to boom with life. Self-sustaining and rich in power plus great wealth, but not of your typical paper money from before it was destroyed by Napalm. The currency of choice became seashells blown from the salt water beaches below the mountains littering the sand dunes in abundance, each contributing its own amount of worth. Daily she picked up shells in a burlap sack dropped by a friend of her people next to the forbidden step.

As the war escalated, their cities trembled but the marble walls held strong. Protection she felt only God could provide. While blood spilled into the rivers above, their rivers flowed of fresh water from springs traveling from unknown tunnels. A gift they knew only Mother Nature would provide.

The numbers of soldiers carrying guns quickly multiplied, setting up camps near the base of the mountains where she would sneak up to sit on the steps. She would stand beside the tall trees reaching as far as she could feel, hoping to reach the Heavens and kiss the Sun whose warmth she felt on her ivory cheeks.


Her ears heard the chatter of the mountain critters screaming in anger at the sounds of grenade explosions and diesel loaders digging the mass graves while the jumping spiders spun their silky webs without a care in the world. They were cities without a name, and it was forbidden for any villager to open the entrance step much less exit it into a country of war.

She and her brother knew the rules, but he was the rebel and she was the follower. While he gathered “much-needed contraband” and stole new technologies from the growing naval base of the foreigners, she sat quietly, waiting and listening to life in the woods. Their parents would be furious with them both if they knew, but her need for peace from the controlled chaos below gave her a chance to be alone and was worth any light punishment she would receive. Bao, on the other hand, would not get off so lightly.

One particular Spring day dawned and the weather was unusually cooler than normal. She sat contemplating the world, daydreaming of her longtime boyfriend, Xang, and sighed, thinking what a sweetheart he was — everything she could have wished for in a fellow — understanding and sensitive. Bao often teased her, whistling wedding bell tunes, yet something felt distant in their relationship she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Only she did know exactly the reason why. It was because of another who was not of their people and had already captured her attention and her heart long ago. A relationship more scandalous than the war itself.


Still, she daydreamed and brushed off a cobweb that had fallen to her nose. Plundering through the camouflage burlap full of seashells, she soon became annoyed at the cobweb tickling her nose and tiny spider legs running across her face.

“OK, little spider, enough! Time to leave me alone,” she desperately pleaded. Assuming it had jumped, she went about her business only to stop short with silent screams when Mr. Spider sunk its teeth into her eye. A bite that felt like huge fangs of a venomous snake.

“Never scream!” she remembered her father saying over and over. “The enemy will hear.”

“Who are our enemies, father?” GiAia replayed the question in her mind.

“Everyone, darling!” he replied.

Reminiscing helped her to cope with the excruciating pain only to repeat the scene while enduring a second bite to the other eye. GiAia’s eyes throbbed, and rubbing them only made it worse.

“Where are you brother? Hurry!” she whispered, sobbing to herself.

“GiAia! RUN!” Bao screamed running toward his sister. “Open it!”

She immediately sprang to open the first step, forgetting her pain and tears, still slapping the spider with its tiny legs crawling over her face. She had it open. The first step to their wonderful city. She could hear her brother running, one stomping foot after another, knowing then that trouble had followed.

Bao’s breath was quick and heavy but he made it to her, sadly convulsing to the ground with three bullets to the back. For a brief moment, she turned to him and they held each other tight, hugging under the step. Her tears and pain returned.

“RUN!” Bao’s pained scream rang in her ears.

“I won’t leave you!” yelled GiAia.

Without fear, she bolted, dragging her brother down the corridor. Her legs felt weak but she had to reach the foyer, set the charges, and close the boulder. It was their only hope and nothing was going to stop her. They knew this place better than anyone and she was fast.
Though the faster they ran, the sooner the enemy caught up to them and infiltrated the corridor to their city.


It confused her and she couldn’t help seeing the worst had finally come to their doorstep.
The corridor seemed to grow longer the more she ran, and she turned to see the Americans chasing them. Just a small glance for them to know she saw their faces! Their faces drew nearer yelling after them and firing machine guns, but it was not the Americans they were fleeing from but the newest enemy of their people from across the border.

People of their own nationality who decided that killing their own would bring them more power. She didn’t understand and it angered her, especially seeing how they had hurt her brother. The entrance was near and a great sense of relief overwhelmed her because they were closer to safety, but it was short lived. The enemy was upon them. GiAia gasped as Bao pushed her through the entrance where she hit the floor rolling.

“Bao!” she screamed, begging, reaching for him to get up.

“STAY! Blow them all, NOW!” he ordered.

“NO! Get up! Please!” she pleaded in tears, running to him.

The enemy continued to shoot and the bullets ricocheted off the marble walls.

“NOW, G! BLOW IT!” he screamed, his last breath, tossing a backpack to her feet.

GiAia stopped, frozen in place as the boulder closed. The corridor on the other side where her brother lay screaming was gone and he with it.

“GiAia, we have to go! He is dead!” her father yelled to her.

She fell to her knees and held the backpack close.

What was so important you would waste energy throwing a backpack instead of saving yourself? You can’t leave me! she thought, drowning out the screams of her father, then her mother.

Her eyes burned less and her surroundings were no longer pitch black. The dirt of the earth become less blurry and now she saw her father’s neatly kept hair lined with gray. The dark fog in her eyes disappeared and her mother stood before her, beautiful with red ribbons in her hair.

“GiAia, your eyes! They are clear,” GiAia’s mother said quietly, holding her tear-drenched cheeks.

She unbuckled Bao’s backpack and it was as always — “much needed contraband” for the cities. She giggled to herself plundering through it one item at a time. Deep inside in a hidden compartment was the newest information and blueprints for building machines specifically for laser surgery — eyes included.

“I can see, brother. I saw you for the first time but you will never know it,” she whispered, rubbing her eyes over the bumpy presence still clinging to her skin as she clung to the backpack and rocked with tears.

“You gave me sight, didn’t you little fella?” GiAia whispered.

Another year passed and the corridor still lay in shambles. The steps laid by hand to their secret city was destroyed. Only holes small enough for her to fit through led to an uprooted tree and was the only access to the boulder she managed to reopen. Bao was smart and he taught her a thing or two about a great many things.

Standing beside the toppled tree, she admired its hollow form — their efforts of turning it into a sight tower.

“False trees,” Bao called them. We could see out over the valleys and cities below but all anyone would see was a tree. The tallest trees in the forest.

The explosions of gunfire still rang in the distance but she was not startled for the seashells collected in the burlap sack was still left every day. The burlap sack Angel dropped off to get the latest Viet Cong intel and where they were in the forest. Thanks to her jumping friend with tiny legs, she could see for miles and had excellent vision.

The web of messages she and Mr. Spider left for the American soldiers today read fifteen southeast. That was fifteen spun knots down the center of the web and a straight line pointing southeast.

The Viet Cong enemy would never know the web held a message and they were all scared of spiders so they steered clear. Messages graciously left in the cobwebs by Mr. Spider before crawling into GiAia’s ear where he would get comfortable draping over it to watch the army creeping along the wooded jungles.

“Angel!” an American soldier hollered out.

“Yeah!” Angel responded.

“Your friend is here!” He smiled, walking away.

Angel approached with his rifle shouldered, pointing to the sack of seashells in her hand and pointing his thumb to the air.

GiAia smiled to him as she had for years holding the burlap sack he left for her daily on the pile of rubble that was once the walkway to the underground cities and the place they first met. His sack of gathered seashells strewn from the explosions of the salt water beaches below.


She smiled, waving proudly to him, grateful he spared her life and that of her brother one Spring day years ago when they first went into hiding, fleeing to their underground cities. In that moment, he ordered his men to help them reach the steps safely after they commuted their first rebellious act of defiance against their parents’ wishes and the strict rules of the newly-appointed leaders.


From that day on, he made their cities wealthy with beautiful seashells blown from the salt water beaches below, unbeknown to everyone.

“No matter. We are a people with no name and on that foundation we grew strong because of him and his American friends.” She spoke proudly. “One day, Mr. Spider, mark my words, I will lead my people and Angel will stand beside me! My name is GiAia and we will be Angels of the Lotus. We will shout louder than all the trumpets in the world to our mutual enemy — WELCOME TO OUR HELL!”

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Stephanie does not currently have an author page but you can find her on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection






Lynn Miclea: escape

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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Escape

by Lynn Miclea

The slap stung her face and brought tears to her eyes. She had to find a way to get out of there and away from that man.

“Now don’t you give me a problem, girl. You’re mine now. I can do anything I want with you.” His sour breath washed over her as his eyes frantically looked around the small room. “Don’t you even think of escaping or it will be even worse for you, I promise.” He backed up and reached the doorway. “You just sit tight now and don’t move. I’m gonna go get some rope and I’ll be right back. Don’t you dare try to get out of here. If you try to leave, I’ll kill you. You hear me?”

Heather nodded, her lips pursed tightly, trying not to let the tears fall. Her face still stung from the slap, and she felt nauseous with fear.

Just this morning, she had been walking the six blocks to high school like she did every day. And this man had pulled up next to her in his car. He had gotten out, said his name was Karl, and he asked for directions. She had hesitated, taking in his old clothes and foul breath. Then he had quickly grabbed her and forced her into his car before she even realized what was happening. But she couldn’t think about that now. It didn’t even matter anymore. Now she just had to somehow get away.

Karl left the room and she heard him lock the door from the other side. She was trapped. She jumped up, desperate. There had to be a way out. She ran to the door and listened. She heard footsteps that seemed to be retreating, and then silence. She tried the doorknob. Locked.

Her eyes searched the room. There was one window, old and dirty. She tried to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. That seemed to be the only way out. Anxiety clawed at her, and she felt frantic. She pulled her shirt sleeve over her elbow and rammed the back of her arm into the window. Nothing. Again. A small crack. She had to get out!

One more time, harder. The glass splintered. She broke more of the window and pulled out as many shards of glass as she could. Time was running out. She didn’t know when he would be back.

Heather looked out the window. Many tall trees surrounded the cabin. But no Karl in sight. She hoisted herself up on the window sill and scrambled forward, the remaining glass scratching her as she pushed herself through. She dropped to the dirt floor outside. She quickly crouched down, froze, and listened. Nothing.

She took off, running blindly through the woods, her heart thundering in her chest. Roots and small branches reached out to trip her, but she managed to keep her balance and run. A few minutes later a larger root snagged her foot, and she crashed down to the dirt floor. A whimper escaped her with the impact. Filled with terror, she listened. She could hear him stomping through the woods, but she was not sure how far away he was. She got up, stumbled, and ran again.

A path showed up ahead. It would be easier to run on that, but she would also be more visible. She stayed in the woods and ran parallel to the path. Her heart was pounding. It was hard to breathe.

“Hey, you bitch!” Karl’s voice reached her. “Where are you? I’m gonna find you, and you won’t be happy when I do.”

She stopped running and scrambled behind a larger tree trunk. Her breathing was heavy and ragged. Could he hear it? Where was he?

After a few minutes, she didn’t hear him anymore and she ran farther into the woods, away from the cabin. The underbrush was tedious to run through, but she kept going until her chest ached. She stopped, breathing hard, her heart thundering.

“You miserable piece of shit, I’m gonna find you!” Karl’s voice was menacing and it sounded closer now. “Where are you, bitch?”

Heather took off again, sweat and fear drenching her as she ran.

Laughter up ahead got her attention. She looked down the path. A young man and woman were walking toward her, hand in hand, talking and laughing.

Heather ran out onto the path. “Excuse me,” she called out to them.

The couple stopped, and their eyes grew wide with concern. “Are you okay?” the man asked.

“No, I’m not. Do you have a phone? Can you call 9-1-1? Please. Hurry.”

“Sure.” The man took out his phone and looked down at it. “What is wrong?”

“There you are, you bitch. You won’t get away from me.” Karl stepped onto the path, his eyes wild. “And you,” he blared at the young couple, “you two stay out of this. This is none of your business. She’s mine.” He narrowed his eyes at them. “But if you interfere, I won’t hesitate to kill all three of you. You hear me?” He took out a switchblade and waved it in the air. “Enough of this. C’mon, little girl, you’re coming back with me where you belong.”

“No!” Heather stepped closer to the couple. Would they help her? Or would they not want to get involved and risk injury themselves? Had they even had time to call 9-1-1? She wasn’t sure.

Karl took a few steps forward. “C’mon, bitch. Don’t make things worse. You’re coming with me.”

“No,” she muttered. “No.” Terror filled her, and her breathing came fast and shallow.

The young man on the path pulled Heather next to him. “Hey, leave her alone,” he called out.

“All of you are going to die for this.” Karl glared at them, his eyes spitting fire. “Mark my words, you will be sorry.” His venomous gaze narrowed on Heather. “And you, little girl, you will pay for this. And I will have fun making you pay.” He licked his lips.

“No, please, leave me alone.” Her voice was shaky.

“I will not be stopped. And you will be—”

“STOP! POLICE! DROP YOUR WEAPON!” a voice thundered behind Karl.

Karl glanced over his shoulder and then lunged at the group, his knife thrust forward, his eyes wild with hatred and venom.

Heather screamed and backed up. The young man grabbed his girlfriend and took a few steps backward, next to Heather.

“You will die, bitch. All three of you will die!” Karl was ten feet away. He rushed at them.

Shots rang out. The man staggered and took one more step. Another shot split the air and his body jerked. One foot came forward, and then he dropped to the ground, two feet in front of Heather.

One of the two cops rushed to Heather, while the other stopped next to the fallen man, his weapon trained on the body.

The cop who reached Heather looked serious but kind. “Are you okay?” She read the name on his uniform—the name printed was Julian Michaels.

“He … he … he kidnapped me.” She felt woozy.

“We know who he is. We’ve been searching for this guy for months now.” The cop’s face looked grim. “Where did he take you?”

“Back … back there,” she said, pointing in the direction of the cabin.

“We’ll check it out. Your call to 9-1-1 just saved your life. Dispatch contacted us and we happened to be just down the street. You were lucky.” Michaels glanced at his partner who was speaking into his radio. He looked back at Heather. “We’re calling for backup now. Are you injured? Do you need medical help?” He pointed to her arms. “You’re bleeding.”

Heather shook her head. “I cut myself on the window while escaping.”

“You were lucky to get away. Many others didn’t.” The officer shook his head. “We have a lot of questions to ask you.”

Heather gestured to the couple. “They helped me.”

The young man next to her nodded. “I’m sure glad we were here. But to tell you the truth, I was scared myself.”

Heather gave a quick nod and bit her lip as silent tears rolled down her cheeks.

Sirens blared in the distance, getting closer. The cop’s eyes scanned the woods and then looked at the three of them. “We’ll need to talk to all of you.”

“Yes, of course.” Heather shivered and swallowed, a hard lump in the back of her throat. She glanced at Karl’s body and saw a small pool of blood forming in the dirt around him.

Michaels gestured at Karl. “You helped us catch him and bring him down. We are really glad this ended here. And you can rest assured he will not hurt anyone again.” He glanced down the path. “Backup is here. It’s over now. You’re safe.”

“I need to sit down,” she murmured, easing herself down to the dirt path.

“We’ll have paramedics look you over,” Michaels said. “We need to make sure you’re okay.”

“That was too close,” she whispered. “Way too close.”

“I know.” The officer sat down next to her. “I have a daughter your age.” He looked at her, his eyes wet with tears. “Had. My daughter didn’t have a chance to escape. She didn’t make it.”

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Write the Story: March 2019 Collection