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Lisa Criss Griffin: The Beaver War

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! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay
Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

The Beaver War

Lisa Criss Griffin

The faint aroma of blooming honeysuckle flavored the evening air wafting through the secluded valley. Steve and Lori breathed in the delightful fragrance from the comfortable wooden bench overlooking the lake by their home. Their gravel drive glistened brightly in the light as it crossed the top of the newly refurbished dam. The couple had spent all their extra savings on the dam repair last year, having almost lost the only road to their house from unprecedented flooding the previous autumn. 

It was now spring, and the new dam had survived the latest challenge of the worst flooding experienced in their area in recent history. Regional newscasters on the radio and TV issued urgent warnings for people living in flood prone areas to seek higher ground immediately, only hours before the storm arrived. 

The roar of the water from the drainage tubes the night of the torrential storm was deafening, and caused Lori to investigate after the bulk of the storm passed by their home. She watched the water screaming straight out of the tubes, disappearing into the darkness beyond the reach of her flashlight that night. The incredible power behind the propelled water would not be evident until the sun came up the next morning. Fortunately, the only damage to their property was the impressive erosion of a forested bank, forty feet beyond the massive drainage tubes extending from the backside of the dam. 

Lori sighed with delight, enjoying the white blooms of clover blanketing the sloping banks of the emerald green lake. She had spent many hours fortifying the banks of the dam with gravel, dirt and seeding it with the clover last fall. Her project had turned out beautifully, and she was thankful they both could finally relax and enjoy their private lake at the end of their workday.

The clouds turned pink, hinting of the approaching sunset. The light banter between the couple abruptly stopped as a large furry head with teddy bear ears glided past them in the water, unconcerned by their presence. The audacious rodent paraded back and forth in front of them, unafraid, as if it was proclaiming ownership of the lake. Steve and Lori watched it swim by them slowly in disbelief.

“What IS that thing, Steve?”

“Hmmmm, it is either a beaver or a huge muskrat.”

“Are you serious? Those things will destroy the banks of the lake!”

“Yep. They are destructive creatures.”

“Eeeeew. Beavers pollute the water with giardia parasites too, which infect people with a nasty diarrhea. That varmint is kind of cute…but Lordy, it has to go!”

“I don’t think we have just one, Lori.”

Another brown head popped up out of the water, carrying a small branch with leaves farther down the lake.

“Oh no! And it is spring. Everything is reproducing right now…including beavers. We have to call a trapper!”

Steve leaned back on the bench, studying the lake.

“Or I can shoot them.”

“Yeah, you could certainly do that until we can get a trapper out here. We can’t afford to wait very long though, Steve. I know you are an expert shot, but who knows how many of those creatures are in there?”

“More than we can see, most likely. I’ll try to locate a trapper tomorrow. In the meantime, I can start picking them off. But, it is getting too dark to hunt tonight. I can start this weekend.”

“Oh Steve, I hate this so much, but we do have to get rid of them! They carry a serious disease and will destroy the new dam.”

“Yeah, baby. They have to go…one way or another.”

The big beaver slid silently through the water by the couple once again, eyeing the drain pipes with more than a passing interest. There was no turning back. The beaver war had begun.

Two days later, any sympathy Lori had for the beavers disappeared. She was weed eating the small, flat peninsula adjacent to the drainage tubes when something unusual caught her eye. She clicked the machine off, laying it in the freshly cut clover. Something was caught in the drainage tubes.

The larger tube had an assortment of tree limbs wedged in the front entrance. Water was still flowing through the tube, but barely. In addition, there was a sturdy wall of branches, leaves and mud built halfway up the entrance of the second, smaller tube. More tree limbs were visible in the low light of the smaller tube, behind the mud dam. 

Lori muttered some choice expletives to herself as she realized the lake level was at least a foot higher than it had been the other day. To make things worse, the forecast was calling for rain later that night. She trekked up the hill to put away the weed eater. Grabbing her work gloves, a rake and a shovel, she made her way back down to the drainage tubes of the lake, still muttering her displeasure out loud. 

A large beaver met her disapproving glare before quickly ducking below the smooth surface of the water. If looks could kill, the beaver would have been instantly incinerated. Lori wished she could vaporize the intruding varmint with a single glance. It would have been quite gratifying.

She began the removal of the limbs from the larger drainage tube. The ends of several of the larger limbs were freshly gnawed. Lori realized they were actually small trees, recently felled by big, naughty beaver teeth. She dragged them all, one at a time, up the side of the dam and thrust them into the gaping maw of the eroded bank forty feet beyond the dam. The dratted rodents had also shoved a significant amount of mud into the waterway leading to the larger tube. Lori raked the dark, rich mud from the channel, filling in uneven spots in the small peninsula by the drainage tubes. It was hard work, but thankfully shade from nearby trees overlooking the lake had crept into her work area.

She stopped, satisfied the larger tube was clear. Leaning against her rake, Lori watched in relief as the rush of water flowed freely through the long length of the construction-grade black plastic tube, spilling onto the concrete pad and down the huge rocks on the far side of the dam. The sound of the re-established waterfall behind the dam was a delight to her ears, and a balm to her soul.

It was now late afternoon, and clouds were beginning to cover the sky. Lori realized she wouldn’t have time to unplug the smaller drainage pipe before dark, so she climbed up the side of the dam and leaned her tools against the large trunk of a cedar tree close to the road. She walked to where the bench overlooked the lake, loath to sit down on it since she was covered in mud and gunk. Her gaze ran across the surface of the lake, immediately locating her nemesis gliding through the water. She glared at it in frustration as it passed her on its way to the other bank. Lori put her hands on her hips defiantly. She had worked too long and too hard on this project to hand it over to a bunch of destructive rodents who had suddenly moved in. The dratted squatters. They had gone too far! This was now a war for their lake. The beavers must die!

And that was how Steve found his bride of many years…hands on her hips, covered in mud and softly chanting something about beavers dying. He smiled to himself, knowing he was about to grant her fervent wish. He knew she didn’t mind getting dirty while working outside, but she sure was a sight this evening. His curiosity stoked, he probed gently for answers.

“Hey, babe. Whatcha doing?”

“Trying to incinerate beavers with a single glance.”

“Oh? Something happen to incur such wrath from my favorite…erm…mud covered Mama?”

“The danged beavers plugged up our drainage tubes, Steve! I spent the last couple of hours unplugging the largest tube. Those varmints stuffed small trees in there, tangling them all together. The beavers actually cut down small trees around our lake somewhere, and floated them down here to clog up our big pipe! I also had to dig out the channel to the big tube since they filled it up with mud. The smaller drainage tube is still completely blocked off with branches, leaves, sticks and mud. I don’t have time to try and clear it before the rain moves in tonight. This is war, Steve! They have got to go!”

The large beaver nonchalantly swam by the couple, unimpressed by Lori’s tirade against his clan’s handiwork. Lori’s eyes narrowed, getting the impression the blasted rodent was mocking her. Another beaver crossed the lake beyond the large rodent, silently dragging a limb with green leaves through the water. 

Lori whirled towards Steve in frustration, stopping short when she saw what he was carrying. Steve smiled at his highly disheveled wife, delighted to join forces with her. He carefully leaned his rifle against the wooden bench and pulled some highly capable looking bullets from his pocket. 

“Why don’t you go in, change clothes and get something to drink while I pick off a few destructive varmints for you, my sweet?”

“Oh, thank you, babe! Thank you!”

“No problem. Happy to be of service.”

Steve loaded his gun, checked the safety and put in his hearing protection. Lori wasn’t even to the front door when he dispatched the big beaver. BOOM! He took a second shot to be sure it died quickly. BOOM! The other beaver ducked under the water, leaving the branch floating in the lake. He sat still, watching for the other beaver. It didn’t reappear that evening.

Lori returned with a couple of drinks, having changed into clean work clothes. 

“Did you get one, Steve? I heard a couple of shots before I could get to the house!”

“Sure did. It is over there by the bank.”

“Oh. I’ve never seen a real beaver up close before. And we probably shouldn’t leave it in the lake if we can get it out. It will just get gross, stinky and plain nasty.”

“I’m done shooting tonight anyway. If you can get it out of the water, I’ll put it in the back of the farm truck and take it up to the Man Field. The coyotes will have a treat tonight. Or something sure will.”

Lori smiled as she retrieved her rake from the cedar tree. The Man Field was her husband’s version of his Man Cave. He did almost all his hunting there. It was surrounded by forest on two sides, and all kinds of wildlife frequented the area. Including major predators. 

The big beaver was floating in the water next to the bank. Lori slid the hefty tines of the metal rake under the body and slid it onto the bank. She was surprised at how heavy the rodent felt as she lifted it into the clover with the rake. 

It had huge, elongated teeth, and short front legs with claws. The back feet were tapered and appeared to be webbed…perfect for swimming. What really interested her was the tail. It was fairly flat, oblong and about a third of the length of the entire rodent. She knew beaver fur was prized, but she didn’t have the skills or the interest to skin and tan the beaver hide. Especially tonight.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as Steve pulled the farm truck down the roadway crossing the dam. He grabbed the beaver by a back leg, carried it up the bank and hefted it into the truck bed. He removed his work gloves, gazing at Lori as she continued to peruse their adversary.

“That thing is huge, Steve.”

“Yeah, I’d say about forty pounds of naughty rodent is going for a ride. I still haven’t heard back from the trapper, so I suppose I’ll come back out here tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Want to join me?”

“Absolutely. I will need to deconstruct that dam across the smaller drainage tube tomorrow in case we have more bad storms.”

Another rumble of thunder sent Lori to the house and Steve on a quick trip to the Man Field. The overnight rain was gentle, and merely washed the pollen from the surface of the lake. Lori spent most of the following afternoon clearing the smaller drainage tube of the beaver build. It was something she didn’t ever want to have to redo. After her shower that evening, she rejoined Steve on the bench, her earplugs and binoculars clasped in her hand. It was less than an hour before Steve was able to dispatch another varmint. 

Their evenings on the bench became a standing date. A trapper promised to come the previous week, but never showed up. The enemy had gotten wise to where the bullets were coming from, and had moved down the lake, away from the dam. Lori was still having to remove branches and mud from the drainpipes. 

Steve decided to erect a blind and began hunting the varmints at the break of dawn. That was successful for a while. He then decided to move to a site farther down the lake, while Lori scouted for swimming rodents from the bench. He was able to take out a couple more from his new site. The amount of material placed by the surviving rodents in the tubing was dwindling significantly. 

The couple sat on their bench, watching for any further signs of the aquatic beasts. It had been several days since Lori had to clear a drainpipe. They were hoping the beaver war was finally over. The sun was beginning to set when Steve spied a rodent head cutting through the water at the far end of the lake.

“I’m going to sneak down there and see if I can get him. Stay here so I know where you are if I fire my gun.”

Lori watched Steve stealthily make his way up the road, crossing the dam and into the forest by the lake. She eventually lost sight of him. She could see the beaver cruising through the water in her binoculars. Dratted things. She hoped the varmints hadn’t caused a lot of damage to the forested lake banks with their burrows. She couldn’t imagine having to deal with a large floating tree in the water from a collapsed bank.

BOOM! The beaver she was watching through the binoculars jerked and flew up out of the water as the liquid around it sprayed in grandiose waves from the power of the bullet. It immediately sank, never to be seen again. Steve picked off one more varmint the following evening. 

The water level of the emerald-hued lake finally stabilized. Any noticeable attempts to plug up the drainage tubes ended. Steve and Lori still keep their regular rendezvous on the wooden bench overlooking their beautiful lake, listening to the soothing sound of the small waterfall beyond the dam. Interestingly, since the beginning of the beaver war, nobody stops by to visit the couple…unannounced. Soon, and hopefully, very soon, Steve and Lori will be able to officially declare the beaver war over. For this year, anyway.

Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin

All rights reserved

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Stephen Oliver: Anthologies & Genres

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Anthologies & Genres

Stephen Oliver

I’ve decided to talk about two different subjects this time, although they are connected.

Anthologies

Here’s a strange situation.

I’ve written, revised, and edited an episodic novel and three anthologies of dark urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with more than one genre and sub-genres often blended into a single story. I have another five collections I’m still working on.

The thing is, publishers and agents, keep telling me that anthologies and story collections are on the way out; no one is interested in either publishing them or reading them, they say. In fact, I ended up writing a space opera novel in an attempt to break into the publishing market. I’m still trying to find an agent or a publisher for that, too.

And yet, I have had eight short stories accepted for seven different anthologies (plus one for a podcast) in the past nine months. Six of them have been accepted in the past four months.

As I see it, there are several advantages of anthologies:

  1. They allow multiple writers to present their work to the public. Getting your name out there can be very difficult for people starting in their writing careers. Anthologies from publishers can be a great way of getting yourself noticed. Writing and publishing credits are extremely useful for showing agents and publishers that you are serious and that you can write.
  2. Even if the anthology has a single author, each story can be an experiment in changing style, viewpoint, structure, etc., allowing the writer to entertain in various ways. From drabbles (100-word stories) to novellas, each story is complete, even though they can also be part of an overarching tale. Think of A Game of Thrones, the first volume of the all-embracing storyline of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  3. They can be specific, where the subject matter of all the stories has a common thread: Cthulhu, Mermaids, Lesbian Ninja Cats, whatever. This “limitation” can be a source of great creativity, I’ve found.
  4. For the writer, it means that you can narrate a story without having to expend huge amounts of thought, time, and effort on plot and character development. You can concentrate on a single event or series of connected events, telling a simpler story. The characters might never appear again, or they could make cameo appearances in other stories, or even be the Main Characters in most or all of the stories.
  5. For the reader, a shorter read can be a great experience. When you’re commuting (remember doing that?), a quick 10-15-minute read is exactly what you want. You don’t have to remember where you are in a novel, and you needn’t go back to the previous paragraph or page to get back into the flow of the story. And you have the satisfaction of reaching the end of the story and experiencing its resolution.

So please don’t tell me that anthologies are on the decline.

Genres

The second theme is what I consider to be the limitations of genres.

Many agents and publishers insist that stories stick within the framework of a specific genre and even a specific sub-genre. And this is where I have a problem.

I write self-help, science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children’s stories. I sometimes blend more than one into a single story.

For instance, I have a story with a police detective (detective fiction) who is both a psychic and magician (paranormal/urban fantasy) and a cyborg (science fiction). In which genre should it be pigeonholed? Especially since the preceding story is a noir/magical realism blend and the following one an urban fantasy/action blend.

And all of them are part of an urban fantasy/horror/science fiction episodic novel (again, think A Song of Ice and Fire), which also has flashes of horror, humour, and straight fantasy.

How am I supposed to define the novel-length book? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Something else?

A humorous children’s science fiction story? Done it. Lovecraftian humour? Written that, too. A twisted fairytale with a Carollian quirkiness? Yep! These are all from anthologies based in the same narrative universe as the novel.

And, as all of us know, life isn’t neatly sliced into categories. It’s messy and overlaps, blending and merging, splitting apart and diversifying. There are no blacks or whites, merely uncounted shades of colour and grey.

And then there are the crossovers and mixes; Twilight has vampires and shifters (werewolves), for example, which I’ve been told repeatedly are two genres to be kept distinct from one another. People love stories that blend and blur, no matter what the agents and publishers try to sell us.

And that is how I write.

To get around this, I focused on a single sub-genre and wrote the YA space opera science fiction novel I mentioned earlier. Even there, the genre-loving agents and publishers bite me in the backside. One said that my language was too adult for the proposed audience, while another told me that it was too young and infantile a few days later. Go figure.

And remember, these genre divisions are artificial, devised to allow agents and publishers to pigeonhole things so that they can determine whether they will make any money from them.

Sorry if I sound as if I’m ranting, but I’ve just received my 189th rejection since the beginning of this year, from a total of 287 submissions sent during the same period. That’s a rejection rate of 65.9%. It’s only that low because 92 submissions are too recent to have been rejected.

Mind you, as I said at the beginning, I’ve also had two short stories published last year, and another six have been accepted in the past four months. I’m getting noticed, just not as quickly or extensively as I would like.

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

About Stephen Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paula Shablo: His Time Machine

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! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

His Time Machine

Paula Shablo 

Dan was never the sort of man who discarded items just because they were out of style. The radio worked fine, and so it stayed on the nightstand on his side of the bed throughout many years of our marriage.

It wasn’t the radio that finally gave out—it was the electrical cord. Dan took it to his electrician friend, Salvador, who laughed kindly and gave him a friendly pat on the back before recommending that he replace the old relic. “It would cost more for me to try to replace this—with no guarantee it would work—than it would for you to get a new radio.”

Dan came home with the radio, dejected. “I’ve had this since boot camp,” he told me. “The first time I danced with you, this was playing the music.”

My heart gave a little flutter at that—it was a sweet memory that I had tucked away myself and assumed he had forgotten. It was nice to know he hadn’t.

“It’s not like we don’t have the money,” I told him. “If you want to try…”

“No, it’s okay. I’ll put it in the bookcase with the other time machines.”

I smiled. There were items we’d accumulated over the years that were just, frankly, too pretty to throw away, even when they were no longer useful. Dan called them “time machines” because looking at them took us back to the days when they’d been working parts of our household.

The shelf in question was currently home to an old mixer that had belonged to my mother. It was a pastel blue shade popular in the 1940s, and was displayed with its blades and bowls. It, too, had fallen victim to the dreaded worn-out electrical cord.

Also featured was my old portable record player. It had belonged to my father, who gave it to me. My daughter used it for several years. Finally, it began to overheat and smell—to be honest—dangerous when in use; the turntable no longer spun quite fast enough, causing a dragging drone in the songs she was playing. Dan confiscated it, declaring it a fire hazard and relegating it to the “Time Machine” shelves.

She got a new one as a gift—I forget if it was a birthday or Christmas. That was a long time ago.

As I watched him make a space for his beloved player of music and news, I felt bad for Dan. I determined that I would find him a new radio, one that would be simultaneously serviceable and nostalgic.

It was a bit of a search, but before Father’s Day I received a package containing a vintage-look AM/FM radio. The speakers resembled an old automobile grill. The volume and tuning knobs looked like tail lights. The dial display looked like an old-fashioned odometer.

Personally, I found the looks somewhat marred by the headphone jack—there were no radio headphones in 1955. But overall, I was satisfied with the purchase.

Dan was delighted with his Father’s Day gift. He gave it place-of-honor status by sitting it on the night table on his side of the bed. He plugged it in. “Let’s see how she sounds,” he said, and turned it on.

Hank Williams was singing, his slightly twang-y voice belting out “Hey, Good Lookin’,” much to our delight. There wasn’t much room between the foot of our bed and the chest of drawers, but we managed a dance, anyway.

After listening to a few oldies but goodies, Dan said, “I’ve never heard this station before. It must be new. It’s almost time for the news, though, so I guess I’ll tune in the local guys.”

He turned the dial. Elvis Presley’s rich voice crooned, “Love Me Tender.” Another turn of the dial, and Patsy Cline was walking after midnight.

Dan looked at me. I looked back at him. We looked at the radio. “That’s weird,” Dan said.

Every turn of the dial brought forth songs from the past. Jim Reeves, Eddie Arnold, Perry Como, Loretta Lynn.

“What’s going on here?” I asked.

“Well, honey,” Dan said, “I think you actually found me a real time machine!”

I don’t know about that—we never left the current world. But every night, before going to bed, we danced to the songs of our youth as they floated from the speakers of that radio.

Never once did a song recorded past 1970 play on any station of that radio. No matter the time of day or night, it played our songs.

Time passed, as it always had. Dan became ill and frail. But he loved listening to that radio. When he became mostly bedridden, it played softly, day and night.

Each song held a memory. We talked for hours. We remembered all the good things. Even the harder memories were discussed and let go.

The music played on.

We were listening together the night Dan drew his last breath.

The radio stopped when he did.

A few days later, I unplugged it, believing it was broken.

That was a year ago. Today I took it to Salvador, just to see if it was worth fixing.

He plugged it in.

Switched it on—static. He twisted the tuning dial.

Lady Gaga was belting out “Applause.” The tone was perfect.

“Julia, there’s nothing wrong with this radio,” Salvador told me, frowning.

“That’s what you think,” I replied sadly.

Maybe my daughter would like a new radio. I can’t bear to keep it now.

I’ll be content with the one from boot camp. The one we listened to the first time we danced together. The one on the “Time Machine” shelf.

It won’t play anything now—but I have great memories.

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

Enzo Stephens: The Healing Show with Doctor Joe

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! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

The Healing Show with Doctor Joe

Enzo Stephens 

“Good evening America! This is Doctor Joe, and we have finally gone national! So I say again, Hello America, and welcome to the show.

“Some business to get out of the way before we dive in tonight.

“I am Doctor Joe, board certified in psychiatry. However, please understand that I will not dispense clinical diagnoses on our show. That’s not what our time together is about.

“This show is to give you, the Listener, a forum to open your heart anonymously. Most of the time you’ll hear compassion, but yes, there are times when some Tough Love is needed, and I do not shy away from delivering that message.

“You pledge to accept that as a possibility when you call in.

“Now, if we’re all square, let’s pay the bills for a minute and then we can get this show on the road. This is The Healing Show with Doctor Joe, on WAMO radio, and I’ll be right back.”

Butler smacked the ceramic jar out of his hands, and it shattered on the gleaming tiled floor. Mom’s ashes were strewn everywhere amid jagged shards of pottery that bit into the flesh of his massive hands as he tried to gather Mother’s remains; to preserve her, to hold onto her, even if only for just another moment or two. But she was lost, sifting through his splayed sausage-sized fingers with chipped and bitten nails, though some of her ashes mixed with pinpricks of blood that gathered from the wounds inflicted by the unworthy vessel.

Tears flowed freely, also mingling with her ashes as he came to the realization that she was gone. Forever. The one person in this life who loved him despite his fearsome appearance.

He was on his knees, heart utterly shattered as the tears and snot dribbled ceaselessly down his face while the crowd of teenagers stood in stunned silence. Then Butler’s girl Karen Wilkerson tittered nervously, which opened a flood of laughter from the kids. They were entertained for a few more centuries before they turned away; Eggsy and his obliterated soul just a fading memory.

A stream of crimson ants churned their way toward the struggling, tightly-bound teens, and Edgar smirked in the humid morning light as he climbed into his land-yacht. “I hope this hurts you as much as you hurt me, pricks.”

The land-yacht roared to life, and slewed and slung its way toward the curving blacktop that intersected the gravel trail leading to the remote lake. Edgar thought he heard a scream. Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, but he cherished it nonetheless.

“Our first call tonight comes from Minneapolis. Good evening, Ed. How’s the weather out there?”

“Good evening, Doctor. It’s always cloudy in Minnesota.”

“Is that true about Minnesota or about your current disposition?”

A glutinous chuckle was the response to Doctor Joe’s perceptive question, which immediately set the good doctor on edge. That infamous ‘Little Voice’ — or perhaps it was some kind of sixth sense — began murmuring. “So, what’s on your noodle tonight, Ed?”

“I’m facing a bit of an emotional conundrum.”

“Well, by all means Ed, we are listening.” But it just might be a better idea to stop listening; to shut this guy down before he kicked off his looney-tune festivities for the night. 

Dude was nothing if not a shitload of bad vibes.

“Some teenagers did something to me that was pretty heinous.”

“Kids will be kids. What did they do, TP your house?”

“No Doc. They destroyed my mother.”

For the first time in Joseph Bettis’ recent memory, a caller caused him to be speechless. As Ed’s words sunk in with sledgehammer impact, Doc Joe’s autopilot kicked in. “What do you mean, ‘destroyed your mother’?”

“Her ashes were in an urn. They destroyed the urn.”

Doctor Joe Bettis paused, waiting for Ed to fill in the blanks; dish on the deets, but he offered nada-empanada. The silence was thunderous. “Your mother was in an urn?”

“Ayuh.”

From somewhere in Maine and living in Minneapolis. Okay, that piece of data found its way to Joe’s memory as he continued. “So she was cremated I presume?”

“That’s a fine piece of deductive reasoning, Doc.”

“Want to tell us about it?”

“Sure, but that’s just the back-story. But what the hell…

“A big football type of guy; a bully if truth be told, gathered up his posse and rushed me and shattered the urn. It’s just the kind of crappy thing a black-hearted bully would do, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Well it’s been my exper—”

“A bully is a bully, Doc! You know it as well as I do. And what stops a bully in their tracks?”

“Standing up to them. But it’s HOW one stands up to them that results in either escalation or de-escalation.”

“Yeah.”

“Understanding what motivates a person to engage in that kind of behavior gives one the ability to level the playing field, figuratively speaking.”

Ed might have blown a raspberry at that point in the conversation. “I’ll tell you what levels the playing field, Doc. Here’s the ultimate in de-escalation…”

“Please Ed, I’m sure many of our listeners would love to know how you’ve dealt with this situation.”

“Easy-peezy, Doc. I killed him. And I killed his dumb-as-a-shoelace, wind-me-up-do-me-doll too.”

Twice in one phone call was the good Doctor Joe Bettis struck speechless. His first thought was that this was a crank call; some off-the-rocker crackpot calling to blow off steam, but then he recalled that boogery, glutinous chuckle earlier, and the case of heebie-jeebies this whack-bird gave him, and, well, maybe the dude wasn’t a crank call after all.

Maybe. God I hope I’m wrong; I do NOT need this shit tonight!

“I tell ya, puffing on some superb ganja certainly makes the medicine go down, ya know. Helps to keep a healthy perspective. There’s times when killing someone is damned hard work. That’s not for me, dontchaknow. I want things to go down like a bowl of fine vanilla low-fat yogurt. Smooth as butter. Slick as dog-snot on a doorknob.”

“Good God man, are you serious?”

“Would a bear rip your doink off if you chose to have sexual relations with a jar of honey out in the woods?”

Okay, no question about it, Doctor Joe was losing control of this call. He looked into the production booth to see the engineer making frantic circling motions. Keep the call going

Message received, damnit.

“Okay Ed, I think we’ve ascertained how serious—”

“I’ve got some gold kush right at this very point in time, Doc. All loaded up in my special peace pipe, which, by-the-bye, is chock full of ice and mint leaves to make the puff-a-roni go down nice ’n easy.”

“Ed, you’re smoking marijuana while talking to America this evening?” 

Deep inhalation followed by a protracted exhalation that felt like cobwebs wafting across Joe’s mind. This was surreal.

Hello Master of Understatement!

“Actually I really don’t know if this is gold kush. Could be skunk-weed for all I know. But it’s putting me in the mood for some French toast slathered in dark karo.”

“Look Ed, as entertaining as it may seem to you, I don’t think America’s idea of compelling radio consists of listening to you smoking weed.”

Silence for a second. Then two. Then, “Dead air.”

“What?”

“What’s a sure-fire way to kill a radio station, Doctor?”

“Oh, right. Dead air. We can’t have that going. Of course if that’s what you want to do, we’ll just end the call, Ed. In fact—”

“In fact hell, Doc. You end this call and this young lady here bites it.”

Joe stilled his tongue forcibly, demanding calm before he opened up his pipes. Motion caught his eye. The producer, gesticulating, his mouth moving. Joe was certain that sounds, maybe even actual words were coming out of the guy’s mouth, but it was distant, and Doc Joe simply wasn’t picking up what the guy was laying down.

There was Doc Joe, the headset, and a lunatic on the other end of the call.

“Ed? Do you have someone with you?” Joe felt his voice quiver.

“Doc, I have this… this thing in my heart, man, and it hurts. It hurts me bad.”

Now we’re getting down to the core. “Tell me about that, Ed. That thing you’re talking about.”

A sob. Just one, followed by an abrupt sniffle. “I dunno, Doc. It’s like this… this vacuum inside me; maybe in my heart, maybe in my soul. Maybe like a black hole or something, like in space where it sucks everything inside and no one has any idea where all that stuff goes. But it’s just gone.”

Good Doc Joe felt compassion, even though this guy kind of scared the hair on his back straight. “Ed, did you feel like this at all before that incident with your mother?”

“Bastard!” 

Fumbling, rustling noises, as if the phone became a hot potato against Ed’s ear. A muffled scream, then Ed, suddenly savage and snarling, “I’ll kill you bitch!”

“ED! Ed? Calm down Ed, talk to me, please. Don’t hurt her!”

Heavy breathing, sounds of a girl with a hunk of sock or something stuffed in her mouth.

The producer was seated at his console, staring at Joe with dinner plates for eyes. Joe snared a black Sharpie and scribbled on a notepad, then held it up for the producer to see. It said:

Call 9-1-1.

Google his phone number

Right. As if THAT would work.

“Ed?”

“Yeah, I’m here, Doc. Getting harder and harder to keep that under control. But I’ve got to, right. Losing one’s temper makes one… sloppy. And that’s a damned good way to get caught, which is not my idea of a cuppa chamomile, if you know what I’m saying.”

“Ed, let me ask you again; do you have someone there with you?”

“Ayuh Doc, I do.”

“Is it a girl, Ed? A woman?”

“Durn tootin she is, Doc. But if you want, I can turn her upside down to be sure. She is wearing a skirt—”

“That’s not necessary, Ed, I’ll take your word on that. Now Ed…”

“Go for it, Doc.”

“Is she with you of her own volition?”

“Well, she kinda is, Doc. I mean, she fell asleep on me. Of course the sleeper choke I put on her sort of induced that response.”

Joe was struck by Ed’s earlier admission of some kind of thing inside him that felt like a black hole in his soul, and while that did not sound like a good thing at all, at least Ed could be salvaged. Even though he said he killed before, for some reason that didn’t seem true…

“Ed, what’s the girl’s name?”

“How would I know?”

“Tell us what she’s wearing, Ed.” Joe knew that he had to make his captive more than just a captive, he had to personalize her to Ed. That’s how the girl would live past this night. Or—”

“She’s dressed like a cheerleader, Joe. You’d like her too. Blond, willowy. Nice and young and firm. I personally think she’s a little underdressed for the weather, but you know how kids today are.

“If I was into meaningless boinking, she’d be dancing with me by now.”

Jeez.

“Why, Ed? Why are you doing this?” 

“She knows, Joe. You can see it in her eyes. She was one of them that laughed.

“Wanna know what she’s wearing, Joe? Well this might sound pretty bad, but what the hay. I’ll tell everyone anyway. She’s wearing a bear-trap, Joe.”

“Wha—”

“Hells bells yes. It’s a Duke number 16 offset — that’s where the teeth are offset from each other. Didja know that, Joe? Did you pick any of that valuable info up in your board certifications?”

That’s it! This call needs to—

“So here’s the deal, Joe. If you go to a commercial break. SNAP! If you hang up this call. SNAP! If you piss me off…”

“Snap?”

“Ayuh. Now you’re jing-jing-jingling along with the program, Doc.”

“Ed. Tell me what you want.” Joe was walking a tightrope here and he felt it as he struggled to modulate his voice.

“Well, honestly, I’m feeling a strong urge to do some confessing, but if I do that very thing that just might make my soul feel even a smidge better, well that would be like giving the keys to the candy store away to the kiddies.

“There’s a whole bunch of super-smart folks working police investigations, and me dropping a name or a location or two, well those fine folk would put two and two together and before you know it, I’d be on the run. The lam. It sounds a whole lot better than it is, Joe. Can you dig what I’m feeding you here?”

Just gotta keep him talking; distracted. The producer was making those circling motions again, but truth be told, this exchange, this little foray into Whackoville was exhausting. 

He stopped with the circular motions and held up a notepad of his own, upon which was written,

Cops are coming. Keep him on the line.

“Joe? Doc?”

“Yeah, yeah.” 

“That Duke number 16 is resting across her shoulders; clavicle to clavicle. It looks like when it snaps shut, it should go into her neck just below the jaw. She’s got a long neck.”

“No, Ed, don’t. Just talk to me—”

“—That’s the tooth on the front. Should penetrate above the esophagus, which is bad enough. I mean, if that were all there was, it would be pretty bad for her. Can you imagine the damage? It just might kill her in and of itself!”

“Ed, please. There’s no reason for that girl to die. All life is precious.”

“But remember I said this is an offset trap? The opposing teeth are off to either side of that front one. Both would slice through the sides of her neck and she’d bleed out pretty fast. We don’t want that.”

“Ed?”

“Do we?”

“ED?”

“No, she needs to go slowly; needs to feel the HURT—”

“ED!!! STOP!”

“DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU SUNOFA—”

SNAP

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Lynn Miclea: Beyond Static

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! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Beyond Static

Lynn Miclea

Startled, Olivia jerked her head up and looked toward the kitchen. What was that? Having been deeply asleep and suddenly jarred awake from a nap she desperately needed, she frowned in confusion and struggled to stand up from the recliner she had been dozing in.

She focused and listened for any possible sound coming from the kitchen. What had she heard? What woke her up? Then she heard it again — static coming from the kitchen.

Hesitant, she slowly approached the kitchen and peered in. It was empty.

She wished Douglas were still there to help her. Recovering from her husband’s death three years earlier was the hardest thing she had ever been through, and it had devastated her. Depths of grief had threatened to destroy her, but she slowly made it through. Douglas was the love of her life, and the loss still overwhelmed her. Times like this when she was scared were incredibly difficult, and she needed him. How could she face this alone? She blinked back the tears and stepped into the kitchen.

Static again cut through the air, then went quiet. Olivia’s eyes zeroed in on the radio sitting on the counter. The radio’s large, luminous dial lit up and then went dark. What the —

Her heart pounding in her chest, Olivia slowly stepped farther into the kitchen and gingerly approached the counter, her eyes glued to the radio. It lit up again, and static emanated from it. This time the dial stayed lit.

Her hand trembling, she slowly reached toward it.

She jumped as a burst of static came from the radio. It went quiet again, and the dial light went off.

Tentatively, she pushed the power button. The radio lit up as it always did, and a song from the ’80s emanated from the speakers. Good. That was normal, and it was a favorite song of hers. “I love this song,” she murmured. She pushed the power button again, and the radio went off. Quiet and peace settled in the kitchen, and she let out her breath slowly.

Olivia shook her head. She must have imagined it. It made no sense.

As she turned to leave the kitchen, the sound of static made her hair stand up on end. Eyes wide with fright, she turned back and stared at the radio. The dial was again lit up. It had clearly turned on by itself.

Strange whispers filled the air. The light in the radio dial flickered, and static cut through the air. Then more eerie whispers.

She sucked in a breath and felt her throat close as an icy tentacle of terror crept up her spine. This was impossible.

The whispers coalesced into discernible words.

“GET OUT!”

Olivia gasped as goosebumps rose on her arms.

The voice grew louder and clearer. “GET OUT!”

She froze for a few seconds and could barely breathe. Then terror flooded her body, and she turned and ran from the house. Confused and panicked, she tripped over the step down to the porch, but quickly caught her balance. Her heart pounding, she broke out in a cold sweat. Her breath came in quick, shallow gasps, and she rushed down the driveway to the sidewalk, then turned and looked back at the house.

Movement got her attention, and Olivia watched as her next-door neighbor’s tree started leaning toward her house. It suddenly picked up speed, and a loud crash shook the ground as the tree crashed through the roof of her house. Her mouth opened in shock as she stared at the ruined structure of her once beautiful home.

“Nooo,” she whispered as she stared.

Trembling slightly, she went to the front door, opened it, and looked inside. The tree had destroyed much of her home. She gasped as she glanced in her living room. The tree had landed next to the recliner where she had been napping, with one sharp branch embedded in the back of the recliner. If she had still been there sleeping, she would have been impaled.

Her throat tight, she walked into the kitchen. The radio sat on the counter as though nothing had happened.

She stepped close to the radio and put her hand on it. “Thank you,” she whispered to it.

The dial lit up briefly and then faded, and one small chirp could be heard. Whoever or whatever it was, it clearly heard her and acknowledged her words.

She let out a long breath, knowing she needed to deal with home insurance, the neighbor, and fixing the house. She would take pictures and she knew who to contact. She trusted things would work out and she would take care of what needed to be done, but she would deal with that soon enough.

She chewed on her lower lip. Instead of fear, she now felt protected, and her lips curled up in a small smile. Whatever spirit was in the radio, it was not trying to hurt her — it wanted to help her.

Despite having to deal with the mess, Olivia felt a warm rush of relief. Something or someone was watching out for her. And having someone look after her and protect her gave her a sense of peace. Maybe staying in the house would work out, even without Douglas.

As she turned to go back to the living room, the radio dial lit up and the radio turned on. That same ’80s song was playing — the one she liked. She started singing along and then abruptly stopped. Was that song put on deliberately by the spirit? Was that song playing because she had said she liked it? Was the spirit trying to please her?

As the song ended, the announcer’s voice filled the air. “Again, that was dedicated to Olivia from Douglas. And now, a word from one of our …” The radio turned off and was silent.

Olivia stared at the radio. What? Did she hear that right? To her from Douglas? That was impossible and too coincidental. Was Douglas here with her, helping her? Was he the spirit in the radio? Was it her sweet husband who warned her and saved her life?

Her eyes burned and a tear slid down one cheek. “Thank you, Douglas, my love,” she whispered.

The dial lit up, the radio made a small chirp, and then it turned off.

Olivia placed her hand on the radio and choked back a sob.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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

D. A. Ratliff: Aunt Estelle

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! 

Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

Aunt Estelle

D. A. Ratliff

My earliest recollection of Aunt Estelle was in the summer of my sixth year. My parents took my younger and annoying brother and me to visit our grandparents in a small south Georgia town.

We lived in Los Angeles, and the trip was memorable as it was my first time on an airplane. My grandparents had visited us until then so that my parents didn’t have to lug two small children—did I mention my four-year-old brother was annoying—through airports. Or so I overheard them saying.

Cameron and I—I’m Samantha—were excited about being on the plane. Although Cam did get scared on takeoff and cried, I loved how the plane went faster and faster until it lifted from the ground. Seeing the trees and roads and tall buildings of LA get smaller until I could no longer see them was exciting.

The flight was long, and Cam became fussy, but the captain came to the passenger cabin and calmed him. Our father was an Air Force pilot, and he and the captain had served together. Cam and I finally fell asleep a couple of hours from the Atlanta airport, and it was dark when my parents woke us. As we walked through the nearly deserted airport, I wondered if we had arrived in another world. Funny how that thought would come back to haunt me.

My dad rented a car, and off we headed to my grandparents’ farm. Cam and I fell asleep again, and I vaguely remember arriving at the farm a few hours later and my grandfather carrying me into the house. He smelled of Aqua Velva aftershave, and I felt safe in his arms.

The following morning my grandma cooked the biggest breakfast I ever had, and afterward, we headed outside to play in the yard with Nutter, my granddad’s Labrador Retriever. That big black dog was only about a year old then and became our best playmate over the years. As I write this, Nutter’s great-great-grandson, Sirius, is lying on the deck beside me. And no—I named him after the star and not a wizard from a fiction story.

Later that morning, we were playing, under the watchful eye of our father, on a trampoline that grandpa had put up for us when our great-aunt Estelle arrived carrying a basketful of something that smelled quite tasty. We stopped jumping as she approached. Holding out the basket, she removed a cloth napkin, revealing a pile of cookies. She had our attention.

She hugged my father and then us. “Children, I am your great-aunt Estelle. Let’s go inside and have some milk and cookies.”

We needed no further prompt. Cam and I climbed down from the trampoline with our father’s help and followed her into the kitchen. It’s funny now, thinking back on those days. We knew so little then and now—well, now it’s only my story to tell.

We spent two weeks on the farm, wandering the peanut fields, pecan groves, and the acres of watermelon and cantaloupe. Cam and I feasted each day on a watermelon that our grandpa would pick for us. He always whispered to me in the morning after breakfast, want to pick something pink and green? That phrase became one he whispered to me until he died. Cam’s favorite treat was grandma’s soda biscuits with butter and honey from beehives on the farm. I liked watermelon better.

Aunt Estelle was my grandfather’s sister, and she lived in a cottage just a stone’s throw from our grandparents’ home. The path to her house led from my grandma’s flower garden to a wrought iron gate set in a hedge and into a flower garden in Aunt Estelle’s yard. At six and for many years later, I imagined I was walking through the world of the fairies when I visited her, and we would imagine fairies in the garden and tell each other stories.

We spent a lot of afternoons at Aunt Estelle’s house during that first visit and later ones. She loved to play games with us and taught us to make kites. We would take the balsa and silk kites to the peanut fields and run between rows to watch our colorful creations fly. She took us walking through nearby groves of trees and taught us about plants and birds, and over the years, Cam and I became quite the ornithologists and botanists. And did I mention, she made the best cookies ever.

There was, however, one item in her house that always intrigued me. On a cabinet in her living room sat an old-time radio. My mother called it an art deco piece which I didn’t understand then, and she marveled at how beautiful the radio was. It was shiny black with gold trim and in pristine condition as if she had never turned it on. She once asked Aunt Estelle if it was a reproduction and my aunt just smiled. “Oh no, my dear, it’s an original.”

It wasn’t until my tenth year that I felt something was amiss. We had come for another summer visit, and it was the first time Aunt Estelle did not meet us with a basket of cookies. We didn’t see her until the third day after we arrived. My grandma said Estelle was traveling, as I had learned she often did. When she came to see us, she was carrying two large boxes wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons and a basket full of chocolate chip cookies, our favorites.

“Children, I am so sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived. However, I have a surprise. I was in Germany, and I brought each of you a present.”

Excited, we opened our gifts. Now eight, Cameron was the proud owner of a tree fort with tiny platforms, branches, a staircase, ladder, a bridge, elf-like figurines, and a crow’s nest on top. After seeing his gift, I was anxious to see my own but carefully untied the ribbon and peeled away the paper. Inside the box was a miniature fairy village. There were five houses, patterned like an acorn, honeycomb, tulip, pinecone, and mushroom, along with five fairy girls and five fairy boys.

“Aunt Estelle, I love it. I have just the place in my room for this.” I hugged her, and she squeezed me tightly.

“My darling, I wanted something for you to treasure and remember me and our fairy walks by in years to come.” 

Her eyes glittered as she looked into mine. I would remember that look as even then I realized there was more to Aunt Estelle than I knew.

Wonderful memories filled the years to come. When I was fourteen, I begged my parents to spend my school vacation in Georgia. With Cam going to camp, my parents allowed me to spend my summer at the farm. Looking back, it was the best summer of my life.

My grandmother, Aunt Estelle, and I made jams and jellies, relishes, baked cakes and cookies, and tended the personal garden. Thank goodness I had taken up running, or I would have gained a hundred pounds. We wandered the countryside, visiting antique shops, and had lunch at quaint little cafes. I fell in love with the area and the two women sharing the experience with me.

One week, in late July, my grandparents traveled to Chicago for the wedding of a close friend’s grandchild, and they decided I would spend the days they were gone with Estelle. That was the week my journey to my present life began.

The first evening, Aunt Estelle, after dinner and yes, cookies, took me outside. There were no security lights in the area, and the sky was midnight blue and sprinkled with glittering stars. We settled into reclining lawn chairs, and while sipping peach tea, Estelle took me on a tour of the Milky Way spanning the sky above them.

She spoke of the constellations Sagittarius, Scorpius, Ophiuchus, and Scutum and the wandering comets glistened with ice in the reflected light of distant nebulas. She described them as if she had seen them with her own eyes, and her words filled me with wonder.

I had always had an affinity for space and excelled in science as Cam did. Now, listening to my aunt, I felt a growing need to learn more about space and the wonders it contained. It wasn’t until the second night that I discovered a secret about my aunt, and that secret sealed my fate.

We had remained outside until nearly one a.m., and then Aunt Estelle shooed me to bed. I was too excited to sleep, and thoughts of my future spun in my head. I sat, legs beneath me, on the window seat in my room, staring out at the night sky. When I heard a whining sound, I worried my aunt was in trouble. I rushed from my room and down the stairs stopping on the landing to see into the living room. Estelle stood before the radio with only dim light from a single lamp illuminated the room. She wore a pale green gossamer scarf over her head and held a small metal disk in her hands.

I knelt on the landing, peering through the banister, afraid to move. My body became rigid, and all I could do was watch.

Aunt Estelle touched a dial on the radio, and it began to glow. Within seconds, a voice spoke from the radio. Unlike any I had heard before, a voice spoke in a sing-song language as though it was part music and part speaking. Stunned, I watched as Estelle spoke into the metal disc using the same language. The conversation went on for several minutes before Estelle touched the dial again, and the amber light faded. It was then that Estelle turned toward me, and the room went black. I wouldn’t remember the radio incident from that night for a long time until she allowed me to remember.

My high-school years were a blur. I only saw my grandparents on the holidays as I spent my summers in science camp. My attention was solely on science and my desire to attend the Air Force Academy and become a pilot or an astronaut. The day I received my acceptance letter from the Academy, I called Aunt Estelle after I celebrated with my parents and my still annoying brother. She was as excited as I was.

“My darling Sam, I felt your connection to the stars from our nights gazing at the sky. I had a feeling you would want to visit the Milky Way.”

“You instilled that desire in me long ago when we sat in your front yard under the stars.”

“I did, didn’t I? And for a good reason, it is where you belong.”

I ended the call full of wonder and something else, an awareness of Aunt Estelle’s sing-song voice. I wondered why I had never noticed it until that day.

Five years later, I was an Air Force Academy graduate with a physics and aeronautical engineering degree, and I could fly aircraft. I had just come off a training mission when word came that Aunt Estelle had died. My heart shattered as my family and I left for Georgia.

We spent sad days there, as so much had changed. My grandfather had suffered a minor stroke only a few months before Estelle died. After the funeral, my parents talked him into selling the farm and my grandparents moving to California with my parents, including two handsome dogs that were the late Nutter’s offspring.

The day before I left to return to Nellis Air Force Base, my grandmother told me that something was waiting for me in Aunt Estelle’s cottage. I walked the path between the gardens, now lusher than when I was a child. Memories of fairies and twinkling stars fill me with nostalgia.

I walked into her home for likely the last time, and tears streamed down my face. I loved all of my family, but Aunt Estelle filled a piece of my heart that I knew would now remain empty. I found a package wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons. My heart pounding, I sat on the couch and opened the box.

I gasped at what was inside and, with trembling fingers, lifted the beautiful clock from the box, along with a strange metal disk and a letter. Day turned into night as I sat in Estelle’s home, processing what she had written.

Now, years later, I pulled the letter from a zippered pocket on my uniform and read it once again—my heart both breaking and full of love simultaneously.

My dear Samantha:

  First, I must tell you. I am not dead. The body I left behind was a non-animated clone. I knew this day was coming from the moment I met you, and I will admit I refused recall until you graduated from the Academy and your future set. You see, Sam, I am not truly your aunt. I am not from Earth. I am from a solar system that your planet has yet to discover. Our sun is much like yours, and my planet is very similar to Earth.

  We have visited Earth for many generations, but we are not little gray beings, as we look very similar to you, only requiring minor alterations. We observe your species by becoming part of your family for a while. Then we leave and erase the memories of our existence from those we interacted with but not with you. I petitioned for the right to remain in contact with you as I was certain that you would reach for the stars one day.

  You will not be able to discuss me with your family as they will no longer remember me. In a matter of days, they will not remember me at all—but you will. As you might have guessed, the radio is a communications device, and the metal disk is how to operate it. There will come a time when we talk again.

  The one thing I did leave with you was the fairy village, as the myths of fairies are common in your world. They are also common in mine. A love that we shared from our childhood.

  Samantha, whatever life brings you, remember I will be with you. And we will meet again when you are among the stars.

  Aunt Estelle.

I wiped the tears spilling from my eyes. As Estelle faded from my family’s memory, it was so difficult not to scream she was here, she was real, but it was futile. I gazed across the cramped captain’s office where the fairy village sat on a shelf, the radio on the shelf below. I had refused to leave Earth without either item or Sirius. Earth Space Command had given in, they wanted me, and I wanted Sirius and Estelle with me.

The comm crackled. “Captain, helm informs me that we are about to cross the boundary of our solar system.”

“Thank you, Commander.”

I scratched Sirius’s head and rose. Before I stepped onto the bridge, I touched the radio, still shiny and new. “Don’t worry, Estelle. I will be calling soon.”

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

Write the Story June 2021 Prompt

Welcome to Write the Story!

We leave the beach after some creative, entertaining, and interesting stories from the May prompt. Now for June… enjoy and looking forward to what you create!!

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

Write the Story! June 2021 Prompt

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Here’s the plan:

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

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Calliope Njo: Big Plans

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! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Steve Bidmead of Pixabay.

Big Plans

Calliope Njo

Summer was here at last. No more masks and no more school. I wished I could get rid of Christine. No luck there though. Father would never bail me out of jail if I killed her, so yeah, I got stuck with her.

Dear Mother always told me that the bond between sisters must remain forever sacred. I would’ve been perfect with only me, but no, they wanted another child. I hated them for that decision. There was never a need for her.

I locked my door. Nothing was going to get between me and going to our private island. Great-Grandfather bought it as a gift for Great-Grandmother. A sort of getaway place during the holidays. There was always the option of flying somewhere but it was always our island.

Christine banged on the door. I ignored it and packed for the summer. There was nothing more appealing than spending time on our island. Enough of school. Enough of that stupid plague, pandemic thing. It was perfect studying at home. I locked myself in my room and did the work I was supposed to. Of course after that, I vid chatted with everyone.

The school board thought it would be best to have summer school. Of course, it was a nay vote. Who would agree to that? Summer was for fun and excitement while traveling and shopping.

Father went to Vietnam to negotiate a deal with a big company over there. Mother went to Manhattan to visit her sister. It seemed my precious cousin got sick with something. So it was only me. Christine didn’t count.

I woke up the morning of my big plans. Go there and invite everyone who was anyone to party all night long. No parents meant we could do whatever we wanted.

I grabbed my bag and opened my door. That turned out to be a big mistake. I wanted to swing my suitcase and knock her down so hard. That was when I heard Father in my head. Gee, thanks, dear ol’ Father.

“You know. You need to decompress. Let go of all of your stress. Then maybe you wouldn’t be so hostile. Studies have shown—”

I didn’t knock her down, only a slight nudge. OK, it was hard enough for her head to clunk on the floor. Big deal. There were plans to fulfill.

I pulled my suitcase after me and got in my car. A quick trip to our dock to get on our boat. I smiled when I turned the engine on. Paradise, here I come.

One hour and forty-five minutes later, I arrived. Took care of the boat and got my stuff before leaving, after that, only a matter of a brief hike up the hill. There was nothing as beautiful as the sight before me.

Two-story thirteen-hundred-square-foot house with white siding. If no one could picture the size, I always thought it was the perfect little house for the setting. Of course, nobody needed to know that.

While everyone was busy doing their own thing, I came here to prepare to party. I didn’t miss a thing. Built-in speakers so didn’t need a DJ.

Food of all kinds and I knew how to grill so that wasn’t a biggie. The drinks took skill to get, after all, nobody realized who I was so that took some doing. The guest bungalow was clean and prepared. I sent everyone an electronic invitation complete with instructions. With the party the very next day, there was time to relax and get some sun.

A little sunscreen, didn’t need the wrinkles or that sunburn, and my pink g-string and I made it out to the beach. If it weren’t for those damn birds who wanted nothing else than looking for food, then things would’ve been ultra perfect. As it was, things were eh.

When the air turned cool, I got up and went back to the house. A good long hot shower was what it took. Being all by my—

“Brielle, are you here? That wasn’t very nice. You know, I could have brain damage. You’re my older sister. You’re supposed to take care of me and nurture me when Mother isn’t around.” She stood in my doorway.

She didn’t die after all. Pity. Needed to try harder next time around. “You know, Christine. You are nothing but a waste of space. You take up too much precious air for my liking.” I stood in front of her and watched her eyes bulge open. “I could very easily do you in. So why haven’t I? The answer to that is simple.” I put my hand around her neck and felt the urge to squeeze. “You serve a purpose.” That and I’m too much of a coward to do anything. I lowered my hand. “So right now, you have one of two choices. You don’t choose, I’ll make the choice for you.” She ran away.

I shook my head. She thought she could reason with me so she could have fun along with me. Never going to happen.

She returned. I looked behind me. “Still haven’t learned.”

“Why is it you try so hard to be mean? How come? You’re not mean. I’ve seen you with your friends. To have friends you can’t be. It’s just not possible. Yet, you threaten me with everything. I don’t understand. That’s why I told you, you need to decompress. Sort of clear your thoughts and relax.”

“It won’t take anything for me to strangle you to death.”

“Of course it would. You would lose everything. If you really intended for me to die, you would have done it a long time ago. So let’s go have something to eat, then we can sit down and talk.”

“Christine, it was never my intention for you to be here. I don’t care if you live or die. I really don’t.” I came towards her but she didn’t move. She thought I lied. “You don’t leave…”

“And then what? Besides that, I know your secret. Things just come to you without any work involved. It could be from animals or people. It doesn’t matter. I know because I have the same thing as you. I accepted it. How come you can’t?”

Things got freaky from that point. Nobody was supposed to know. I didn’t even know but she did. How could that be? “I’m not some freak out of one of those side shows they used to have. I am the one who everybody looks to for fashion sense. Guys wait to find out if I’m available.”

“Nobody said you were from a freak show. I’m not a freak show. I’m only saying I know what you’re going through. I told Mother and Father about it. Father smiled at me and ruffled my hair. Mother kissed my forehead and told me I needed to go to the salon. You might get a different reaction.”

Oh, I wish those birds would go away. This was never their property. “Why would I announce to everyone what happens to me? You know how embarrassing that would be? I refuse to become society’s laughing stock.”

“Brielle, you are the most stubborn girl. You know that? How would you be the laughing stock if nobody knows about it? Hello. And you call me an empty-headed bird brain.” She straightened her arms and smirked.

“I would if I told Mother. Wouldn’t I? She would tell Marjorie, and from there, everybody in the neighborhood would know.”

“Like I said. And you call me an empty-headed bird brain. You counteract that by telling everybody Marjorie’s daughter didn’t make it into Fashion University. She flunked the entrance exam by a hemline.” She shook her head. “Just calm down and relax. The party or get together or whatever it is you’re planning may be a good idea. You can spend the rest of the time relaxing. Find yourself. You’ve got the entire summer. Well, from now until about mid-August anyway.”

“There was no way you would find out. I only told one person and that one person would never speak.”

“Do I need to make a list of who Michelle told?”

“You’re guessing.” I reached to slam the door in her face but she reached out and held it.

“She’s not exactly trustworthy. That’s how everybody knew of your secret crush. I even knew about it.” She put her hands on her waist. “Let’s get back to the subject at hand. OK? So it’s getting late. Get some sleep. We’ll continue tomorrow.” She reached out and closed the door.

Maybe if I bribe a judge he could let me off without prison time.

“You wouldn’t really want to do that.” She said that loud enough for me to hear it through the door.

I sat on my bed. My perfect weekend. Shot to hell. God, I hated life. Maybe all I needed was a good night’s sleep before the weekend-long party.

Nine o’clock was not a time to sleep. It was a time to talk and have fun. That was the reason I couldn’t fall asleep at all. It was a good thing I had the foresight not to let anyone arrive until noon.

Sure enough, my people didn’t arrive until twelve-thirty. I got the food going, Michelle poured the drinks, and everybody partied. Christine stayed inside to read. Why would anybody read if school was not in session?

A hint of disbelief lingered about Michelle, so I came up with a way to test her. David was there as somebody’s guest. Not mine, because I had no interest in him because he was short without any muscles. His only interest was computers.

I grabbed Michelle’s hand and pulled her over by the grill. “Do you see David over there?”

“You mean Mr. Nobody over there. Yeah. So?”

I smiled. “He may be a Mr. Nobody, but there’s something about him. Something I can’t explain.” The lengths I had to go through to prove something. Bleck.

She spit out her drink. “You like him? Tell me you’re using him for test purposes and I can walk away happy.”

I shook my head. “By the time school starts, I would have been with him and made his blood boil so hard.”

She gasped.

“Don’t say anything. This is between you and me for now.”

“Of course not. Ew.” She walked away.

If Christine was right, the entire party should know by the end of the night or at least him.

With food served, and everybody buzzed, I started guiding people to the guest house. Sleeping bags had been put out for everybody to sleep on. I walked away taking note of Michelle and David.

At about noon the next day, I walked outside to start picking up. Heaven forbid the birds should find it distasteful. A few of them found some leftovers to eat.

A few squirrels joined them in the feast. I shooed all the animals away before picking up everything.

“I was wondering if you were ever going to get out here,” Christine said.

I turned my head around. She was concerned. Not that I believed it.

With a garbage bag in my hand, all of the used cups, half-eaten food, and various other stuff got picked up. Christine tugged on the bag with thoughts of getting the trash. I scrunched my eyes together.

“You get the furniture. I get the trash and other stuff.” She smiled. “In the end, you’ll be the one hurting. Ha.”

Too tired to think anything about it, I took her suggestion and picked up everything else.

A few hours later, people started vacating the guest house, leaving to go home. David smiled at me. Then he made this weird face with his eyes scrunched together and pursed lips.

He walked towards me. “Hi. Uh. I’m David. You know that already. Uh. So…”

“Hi, David. Are you leaving?”

“Yeah. Uh. In a bit. Uhm. What I wanted to ask was if you wanted to go to the Comp Cafe this weekend?”

Did Michelle tell him? “Why would you be asking that? We have absolutely zero in common. You’re all of what? Five-four? Don’t play sports?”

“Yeah but, I thought you were supposed to like me. I was going to teach you some programming.”

“Maybe another time. Like when the Earth turns into a feather.” I walked away to find out if Michelle left yet or not.

She wasn’t there. All of the rooms were empty, which meant she left with someone while I wasn’t looking. That didn’t matter. I’ll have my revenge when I get back, and I won’t forget.

I stood in the middle of the living room with the knowledge that things changed. For the worse or the better I had no idea. I stood there because it was what I did. Thinking about everything that was said and done.

What I wanted was to change and go down to the beach. What I needed to do was to clean. I wanted to come here. I needed to take responsibility for it. Mid-August couldn’t get here soon enough.

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

S.McC: The Chest 2

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

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The Chest 2

S.McC

Marc got to his feet on wobbly legs and walked over toward the chest. The deep gashes that marred its wooden frame showed a metallic object within. He looked at the chest in disgust. This old thing wasn’t worth his life. And yet if he hadn’t have gotten it he’d be dead, anyway. The Core’s captain would make sure of that. 

“Sir, not to interrupt your musings with the chest, but what are we going to do now?” 

“We’ll just have to take the consequences, Hubert.” 

“I don’t like the thought of that,” the ship’s AI said. 

“Neither do I, but what choice do we have?”

The thought of bringing the Captain a broken chest filled him with dread. 

With a sigh, Marc muttered, “May as well see what’s in this.” 

His hand reached out to lift its lid. The splintered wood threatened to poke holes in his spacesuit. 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Sir.”

“If we know what’s in it, we might be able to replace it.” 

“For once you may be right.” 

Marc rolled his eyes. His hand lifted the broken lid, and the wood crumbled to dust in his hands. He coughed as the dust swirled around him. When it settled, Marc’s eyes landed on the small metallic box the size of a dinner plate that the chest had hidden. His hand brushed the dust off the top of the box and revealed a small rectangle mechanism on its surface.

“Was it supposed to do that?” 

Marc ignored the AI. A chest wouldn’t be hard to find. But the metal box drew him in. His grey eyes were glued to the slight scratches that looked like an ancient form of writing. His finger poked at the darker metal plate where they were, and he found it moved beneath him. 

He stared and turned the dial up and down, revealing more of the scratches that slotted into a hole in the frame on which they sat. 

“I wonder what these are for?” 

“I believe, Sir, that they are an ancient locking mechanism from the times of the great wars.” 

“From the great wars?”

Marc knew little about the wars, only that they were bloody and had lasted a generation of human lives. To him, it was unfathomable that something could have lasted so long.

Many planets had died and were uninhabited because of it. Much like Zothria. It was only by a strange miracle that the planet where he found the box had breathable air, for many in the great wars were uninhabitable.

He shook his head at the thoughts of wars. He had enough of them in his own lifetime where his own planet was concerned, and concentrated on the task at hand. 

His eyes roamed the rest of the box. It was a smooth silver metal, with no other cracks or obvious places that he could open it from. No ports or places where he could install Hubert’s computer to it.

He ran a hand over his face. Why couldn’t things be simple?

“There’s no way to know if whatever is inside is broken, Hubert.” 

“If it’s something from the old wars, we will know soon enough.” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Magic, Sir. The old people fought over it.” 

“But it’s gone from all worlds. There is no magic left in the galaxy.” 

“Maybe there is some left.” 

“What do you mean by that, Hubert?”

“I’m just saying some people may have buried their magic.”

“And you would know this, why?”

“They built me a long time ago, Sir.”

“Surely not that long ago?”

“Maybe…”

Now the AI was being mysterious, Marc thought. He shrugged. Hubert was old, and Marc hadn’t had the chance to go through all of his data yet. It was extensive. Far more than the Captain’s ship. But he had to be wrong about this. Didn’t he?

Marc heard Hubert’s camera zoom into the box. He tilted his head and stared at the metallic object. Magic? Real? Nah, it couldn’t be, Marc thought, and ran a black gloved hand through his sandy mohawk. 

He lifted the metallic object and shoved the box in one of the many shelves in the cargo hold of the ship. He turned toward the cockpit. They would need to get the chest first before they could take the object to their captain, otherwise they would be in big trouble.

“Take us to Verlon, Hubert,” Marc said as he walked along the corridor. 

A painting caught his eye. The folded blue and white chairs sat along a beach and he stared. If only things were as simple as back then. Where the voices of children and the rush of waves on the small white beaches brought happier memories back. He had played with his sister on them. The smell of salt in the air as they made sandcastles while his parents relaxed in chairs.

But they hadn’t been simple for a long time. Ever since they had taken him from his planet. He tore his gaze away from it, afraid of the flood of memories and how they would make him feel. He shoved the lump in his throat down and kept walking through the metal corridor. The sound of his boots on the grate clanked in his ears.

The cockpit door hissed open, and he slid into one of the three chairs. His gaze moved over the many screens. Hubert had plotted their map for Verlon, and he looked at the time it would take for him to get there and back to the captain’s ship.

“If we have no hiccups along the way, we should arrive back in the allocated time,” he muttered.

“About that, Sir.”

Marc sighed. “What is it, Hubert?”

“The Rams are tailing us.”

“How can they see through the stealth mode?”

“I don’t know, Sir. A new tech perhaps.”

“Perhaps. Pull them up on the monitor.”

Hubert pulled up two tiny red dots close to his own ship. Marc scrutinised them. Too close for comfort. Maybe half a day behind him, but by his speed and theirs, he guessed they would overtake him in a few hours. 

Marc tapped his fingers on the console and debated what to do. Maybe if he upped the amps of the stealth box, he would have a momentary burst to come in behind them before it gave out. It was a gamble, but he saw no other way out of the situation that he found himself in. With this thought in mind, he got up out of the chair. 

As he took his first step out of the cockpit, a wave of nausea took control of his body. His mind buzzed with a loud ringing, and he stumbled. His hand reached out to the wall to catch himself. Before his finger felt the cool surface of the metal wall, an explosion erupted around him. The force threw him off of his feet.

He fell to the ground. The taste of blood dripped down his throat, and he licked his busted lip. They’d caught up faster than he thought.

“Hubert! Evasive manoeuvres!” 

“But Sir, we are not under attack.” 

“We’re not?” 

Marc, confused, and feeling sicker than he had moments ago, pushed up on his arms from the floor. What had that explosion been, then? 

But before he got his feet under him, his vision blurred. Shadows danced across it. They pulled his soul and whispered strange words into his ears. The same scratch marks from the box throbbed across his sightless eyes before his vision dimmed and pulled him under. 

His head sank to the cold ground. The fight to stay awake left him.

“Sir, what should I do? Sir?” 

But Marc could no longer hear, and there was nothing he could do.

“Oh, no. It was Magic,” the AI said.

Marc’s head hit the floor, and darkness took him into its depths.

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Lynn Miclea: Shimmer

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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Shimmer

Lynn Miclea

Ryan laughed and punched Scott affectionately on the arm as they trudged along the beach, their feet sinking into the soft sand. Getting away for the day and going to the beach was the best idea. And going with his best friend was even better. Now fifteen years old, they had been best friends since grade school, and they loved walking along the beach and talking about everything and nothing. Living in walking distance of the beach was the best thing.

Scott guffawed and pushed back at Ryan.

As they made their way down the sand toward the water’s edge, Ryan suddenly stopped and sucked in a breath.

Scott glanced over at his friend. “What?”

“Look.” Ryan pointed in front of them.

“Where? I don’t see …” Scott’s eyes grew large. “What the …”

Ryan glanced around. The rest of the beach was empty — there were no other people around. Just the one bizarre scene in front of them that he could not comprehend. He stared at four empty beach chairs — normal, blued-striped beach chairs. Beach chairs which had slowly risen about six inches into the air.

He smacked Scott. “Do you see that?”

Scott nodded, then quietly answered. “Yes, I see it. But how is that possible?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe it’s just an illusion.”

Ryan licked his dry lips. “If it is, it’s a hell of an illusion.”

As they watched, the chairs rose higher and now hovered about one foot off the ground. The space between the chairs seemed shimmery, as though a soft haze of light settled in the air where the chairs floated.

Scott bent down and picked something off the ground. “I want to try something,” he said quietly. He bounced a small rock in his hand a few times and then threw it into the shimmer between the chairs.

The rock disappeared with a soft fizzle. Ryan’s mouth fell open. “Did you see that? It disappeared.”

Scott nodded. “I know — it didn’t land anywhere or come out the other side, it just disappeared. It’s like some kind of vortex.”

Ryan gestured toward the sand and spoke with quiet intensity. “Throw another one.”

Scott found another small rock, picked it up, and bounced it in his hand a couple times. Then he threw it into the strange vortex.

Both boys gasped and jumped backward as a scaly claw reached out of the shimmer, caught the rock, and pulled back, quickly disappearing.

Ryan felt his throat close up. “What the …”

Scott grabbed Ryan’s arm. “We gotta get out of here.”

“But what was that?”

Scott’s voice shook. “I don’t know, and I don’t wanna know. We need to go.”

“Wait. Let me try.” Ryan looked around. Spotting a small, round stone, he picked it up and felt its weight, shaking it in his hand a few times. Taking a step forward, he lobbed the stone into the vortex.

A scaly claw reached out of the shimmer and grabbed the stone, but this time did not pull back. A gray scaly face materialized in the vortex, piercing black eyes staring at them. A sense of malevolence and evil permeated the area. The claw made a quick flicking movement, and the stone was thrown back at them, with such velocity that they heard it whiz past their heads and slam into a tree fifty yards away.

Yelping and whining, the two boys quickly turned and ran back across the beach to the trees and parking area, tripping over their feet and gasping for breath. As they reached the edge of the tree area, they turned and looked back over the beach.

The four blue-striped beach chairs abruptly fell back to the sand. Two small rocks appeared in the air and fell. A diffused glow glimmered in the air a few seconds and then vanished.

The beach now looked pristine, as though nothing had happened. Four blue-striped beach chairs sat in the sand, facing the water, appearing innocent and safe. A few seagulls glided by as though it were an ordinary day.

Scott turned to Ryan. “Did that just happen? You saw all that too, right?”

Ryan nodded. “Yes. Unless we both experienced some type of hallucination.”

“No. Look.” Scott pointed to one of the trees.

Ryan turned and leaned in to see better. A fresh sliver in the bark was clearly visible, and on the ground below it sat the smooth stone he had earlier tossed into the vortex and which had been swiftly thrown back. It was real.

A soft luminescence shimmered around the stone.

Scott and Ryan grabbed at each other, turned, and ran through the parking area and into the street. Sweating and breathing heavily, they walked toward their homes, not saying a word.

Finally arriving at Scott’s house, Ryan looked at him. “I have no idea what that was and I’m freaking out.”

Scott nodded, his face pale. “I don’t think I want to go back to the beach for a while.”

“Me neither. Maybe we can just walk down by the park next time.”

“Maybe. If my heart will ever slow down again.”

Ryan gave a small laugh. “Yep, you and me both.”

“And we don’t tell anyone what happened, right?”

Ryan shook his head. “No one would believe us anyway. We would just sound crazy. I wouldn’t believe it myself if someone told me any of this. So yeah, we can’t tell anyone.” He took a deep breath. “But one day I’d like to know what actually happened out there.”

Scott chuckled. “I don’t think I want to know. And I hope we never find out.”

“What? You really don’t want to know?”

Scott shook his head. “No. Because the only way to find out would be to have more substantial contact with … with … whatever that was. And I’m not sure any of us would survive that.”

Ryan let out a long breath. “Good point. You’re right. Let’s hope it was a freak of nature and it never comes back. And I agree. I don’t think I ever want to know what happened out there.”

After saying goodbye, Ryan turned and headed home. Almost at his house, he stopped and stamped his feet to remove the excess sand. As he turned up the driveway, something got his attention, and he glanced behind him and gasped.

Some of the sand, now on the sidewalk, shimmered with a soft glow.

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Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

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