Tag Archives: march2021

D. A. Ratliff: The Tell-Tale Watch

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

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

The Tell-Tale Watch

D. A. Ratliff

The breeze from the ocean brushed Ree Cannon’s cheeks, its salty aroma lingering. The soft sand beneath her bare feet was warm, gritty, connecting her with nature in a way she hadn’t experienced in many years. Pink tinges of light peeked over a band of gray morning clouds on the horizon, and except for the soft waves butting against the beach and the breakers, it was quiet.

This—this was why she came here, for the peace. She had little of that in the last several months. After resisting her parents’ insistence that she come home for a bit, breathing in the fresh salty air told Ree that her parents were right once again. Too bad she hadn’t listened to them about her choice in men.

She stood quietly soaking in the peaceful sunrise until a raucous bark from her companion, a feisty Golden Retriever, roused her from her solitude.

“Dexter, shhh—you’ll wake the neighbors. Let’s go back in the house, boy. My coffee should be ready and time for your breakfast.”

She opened the gate in the fence surrounding her grandparents’ beach house, and Dexter ran past her and up to the deck to his water bowl. “Worked up a thirst, did you? I’m thirsty too.”

Pouring a mug of coffee, she grabbed her laptop and returned to the deck, settling into a comfortable cushioned lounge chair. The sun was above the horizon, and she stared at the ocean, sparkling gold in the early morning light. Maybe she should stay here. No reason she shouldn’t—her ties to Atlanta were long gone. A simple signature on a divorce decree and freedom was hers.

However, the freedom not to work was currently unavailable. Ree opened her laptop to check her emails. As a screenwriter, she was fortunate to write from anywhere. She supplemented her income by teaching an online course in screen and playwriting and offering freelance editing. New classes didn’t start for a month. She had just sold her latest screenplay and had a backlog of editing to do. Now she had time to do it.

The sun was high in a crystal blue sky, the deck bathed in sunlight, and the air heavy with humidity when she realized that she was getting hot. She gazed at the ocean, and although it had been a long time since she had spent many days at the beach, she recognized the signs of an impending storm. Dark clouds looming in the west were closing in on the fluffy white clouds dancing along the eastern horizon, which meant thunderstorms were on the way.

“Come on, Dex. Let’s go inside and fix something to eat.” She picked up her laptop and coffee mug and led the dog indoors. While she was rummaging for something to fix for lunch, the doorbell dinged. Peering through the peephole, she saw her mother’s sister Ester standing at the door, holding several bags. Ree flung open the door as Dexter barked, his tail wagging because of visitors.

“Aunt Ester, what brings you here?” She took some of the bags from her aunt. “Please come in. I’m so happy to see you.”

After placing the bags on the dining table, Ree hugged her aunt. “I can’t believe you would drive all this way to see me.”

“Lawd, child, it’s an hour’s drive, which I can make in fifty minutes if those pesky state police boys aren’t around.”

“Are you still driving that Mustang?”

“Not giving up my Shelby for anyone, Ree Cannon.” Her aunt paused. “It is Cannon again, right?”

“Yes, had the judge change my name back to Cannon as part of the decree.”

“Good, then we are done with that fool.”

“Why are you here?”

“Well, I didn’t make the trip just for you, I am still a member of the Edisto Island Art League, and we had our monthly meeting today.” Ester turned to the bags. “I brought you a few things. Help me unpack these.”

Twenty minutes later, with the food and books tucked away, they sat down with sweet tea and chicken salad sandwiches from the food Ester brought.

“Ummm… this chicken salad is heavenly. How did you make it?”

Ester laughed. “Me, cook? Oh no, darling, Jeffery does all the cooking now. He threw me out of the kitchen when he retired early. That came from the deli I love in Charleston. You need to shop there when you come to town.”

“I’m anxious to see Grandma and Gramps. Have you heard from them?”

“Yes, actually talked to them this a.m. Your parents were off on some tour, and Momma and Daddy were at the hotel enjoying breakfast. Said to tell you they love you and will see you in a week.”

“Why didn’t you and Uncle Jeff go with them?”

“With renovating the old house, we didn’t have time to be away. You have to come by and see the place as soon as possible. We couldn’t believe we could repurchase the family house after all these years. When it came on the market, we couldn’t turn it down, but it’s taken a lot of money to fix it up. Luckily we got a local builder who loves old houses. I think he’s having more fun than we are.

“I can’t wait to see it. I remember driving by the lane when I was a little girl and wished I could live there.”

“Well, maybe someday you will. As you are the only grandchild, I think you are going rake in the goods when we all croak. Until then, I think you will be staying right here. This is where you belong.”

“Aunt Ester, stop that nonsense.”

Ester took a sip of tea, then stared into Ree’s eyes. “Allison Marie, how are you?”

“I’m fine. Took a while, but I am fine. Learning that your husband is having an affair is never easy.”

“Bastard—didn’t like him from the start.”

“I know. I should have listened to you, and mom, and well, everyone.”

“Darling, I didn’t mean that. It’s just, well… he was sly and that always made me uncomfortable.”

Dexter, who was lying at Ester’s feet, stirred, and Ester leaned over, scratching the Golden Retriever behind the ears. “Now, if Martin had been as sweet as this darling dog, we might have kept him.”

Ree sighed. She hadn’t admitted what she was about to say to anyone. “I had a revelation after the shock wore off. I hadn’t been in love with him for a long time.”

“I look at it this way. You are older and wiser, so next time you will really know what love truly is, and you will be ready for it.” Ester glanced at her watch. “Darling, I have to go. Need to stop by the house and take pictures of some molding we need to match. With storms predicted this afternoon and tonight, I need to get going. I’ll be back on the island in two days. We’ll do lunch and then go to the house.”

Ree walked her aunt to her black Shelby Mustang and smiled as she watched her drive away. Everyone should have an Ester in their life for the wisdom she offers and the joy she spreads.

She tidied up and then worked for three more hours before deciding she needed to do a couple of things before the storm hit. She checked the weather, and since high winds were in the forecast, she took the chairs and the table umbrella and stored them in the utility closet off the deck. She dragged the garbage cans into the garage next to her car and then lowered the garage door.

The sky had turned dark by then, so Ree took Dexter out for a quick run, and as they returned, thunder had begun rolling across the sky with streaks of lightning illuminating the dark clouds. She took a quick shower, dried her hair, and by then, hard rain was beginning to fall. Snuggling on the couch with Dexter next to her, she watched the thunderheads roll in, the heavy wind pushing waves onto the shore.

Dexter whimpered at a loud clap of thunder that rattled the windows. “It’s okay, boy. We’re fine. Mother Nature’s throwing a party to welcome us home.”

~~~

The sunrise brought orangey-red skies and the threat of more rain. Dexter scratched at the deck door to go out and fled into the yard to do his business. She walked out onto the deck, watching as the big dog ran along the fence line. Her grandparents had put up the fence when she was only three to keep her and their Boston terriers from running onto the beach alone. She was glad the fenced area was big enough to hold Dexter in because there was nothing the ten-month-old pup loved more than to run. She laughed—other than eating, that was.

Ree was about to turn to go inside when Dexter barked and began to paw at the sand. He backed away and barked again and then started digging in the wet sand. She went down the stairs and joined him. “What is it? What did you find?”

As he continued to dig, she saw a gold chain dulled with age. She moved Dexter out of the way and tugged on the chain. Light from the rising sun glinted on the face of a pocket watch. Dexter whimpered and jumped toward her hand, which she pulled out of the way.

“No, sorry, not a bone for you, but you certainly found something.” Raindrops struck her face. ”Come on. It’s starting to rain.”

Inside, Ree made coffee, fed Dexter, and sat at the kitchen table to examine the watch. It appeared to be an antique, but she was no expert. She wiped off the sand-encrusted case, surprised to find the watch face pristine with no evidence of wear or mildew. She suspected that the chain and case, though dulled, would gleam again after a good cleaning and polish.

Turning the case over, she read the inscription on the back of the watch. Gerald, you will always be my love. Fiona with the date, March 4, 1943, engraved underneath the words. So many years ago, but she didn’t think that the watch could have possibly been in the ground for that long.

The lights flickered as lightning flashed, and an enormous thunderclap sent Dexter diving under the table. Ree reached underneath the tabletop and scratched his ears. “You big baby, come on. Let’s go into the living room. You’ll be safe there.” She put the watch in the kitchen catch-all drawer, refilled her coffee cup, and she and Dexter headed for the couch.

~~~

At three in the morning, Ree woke abruptly in a cold sweat. She struggled for a deep breath and willed her heart rate to slow. Dexter, who woke as well, whimpered, and threw his head across her thigh. She sat up and rubbed his neck.

“Goodness, Dex, I had a bad dream, I guess.”

She got up, padded to the bathroom, and splashed water on her face. Moonlight glinted off the mirror. Thirsty, she headed to the kitchen for tea but diverted to the patio doors, drawn by the moonglow. The storm clouds had dissipated, and a nearly full moon hung over the ocean, casting its spell. For a moment, she allowed the calmness to wash over her. This. This was where she was supposed to be.

She yawned, and after getting a quick drink, she retraced her steps toward the bedroom. As she exited the kitchen area, she stopped. She could hear ticking, like a clock. She looked around, thinking there must be a wall clock that she hadn’t noticed, but she didn’t see one in the dim light. Another yawn, and she decided that she needed sleep rather than exploring for a clock.

~~~

The day passed quickly. She had spent the morning in calls with her agent, discussing a studio’s request to do a screenplay adaptation of a book, followed by more editing. She stopped at noon, took Dexter for a long walk on the beach, and ate the rest of Ester’s chicken salad for lunch. Deciding she needed a few things from the store, she changed clothes and grabbed her keys when the ticking started again.

“What the heck, Dexter? What is ticking?” She searched, and the only clock she found was the broken one on the ancient stove. Her grandmother told her the timer and clock on the stove only worked when it wanted to and that when she returned from Europe, she planned on buying a new stove.

“Well, must be from that old clock, although it doesn’t look like it’s working at all. Okay, boy, off I go. Promise to bring back treats.”

~~~

It was ten p.m., and tired from staring at her laptop for hours, Ree turned on the TV to watch a movie and promptly fell asleep. An hour later, she woke to the ticking noise. She rose from the couch and realized the ticking was coming from the kitchen, but not from the stove, from the drawer where she had put the pocket watch Dexter had found. With more trepidation than she was willing to admit, she opened the drawer.

The watch lay where she had placed it—the second hand not moving. Ree picked it up and shook it, then laughed. Well, that was foolish. Could the watch be intermittently ticking? Who knew? Next week, she was going to Charleston when her parents and grandparents returned, so she thought the smart thing to do was take the watch to a jeweler and get it cleaned and appraised. She dropped the watch back in the drawer and went to bed.

The ticking started at midnight. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Incessant. Ree lay in the dark, trying not to breathe as the steady sound rose louder and louder. She gripped the sheets, terrified, but she knew she couldn’t remain in bed. She had to rise. The watch was calling to her.

She flipped the covers back, the chilled air replacing the warmth of her bed. She forced her body to move, her heart beating in time with the tick-tock echoing in her head. Each step she took toward the kitchen drawer took more strength until she had to support herself on the kitchen counter until she could open the drawer. Her hand trembled as she grasped the handle and tugged with all her might to open the drawer. The pocket watch was glowing, the ticking becoming louder and louder until she ran screaming outside, wanting to run to the sea.

In a blink of an eye, she was standing in the sand, inside the fenced area. The sea roiled, waves crashing as streaks of lightning stabbed the inky sky. Her need to flee was strong, but she was rooted to the spot, her eyes drawn to the corner of the yard, petrified at what she saw.

Bony fingers, glowing iridescent in the lightning, pushed through the sand. As she stood transfixed, the fingers became a forearm, then a shoulder, and then a skull pushed through the sand. She screamed, but no sound escaped her. Within seconds, a skeleton stood before her.

“Finally, I made a connection. You have to tell them. He killed me. He killed me and buried me here above the tide line, thinking no one would find me. But you, you found the watch I had given him. The watch he buried with me. He wanted no reminder of me as he had a new lover. Tell them, tell them I am here. My soul has been imprisoned long enough.”

Ree’s vision blurred as the skeleton sank into the sand once more. The scream she couldn’t utter before shattered the night.

Her scream woke up Dexter, who began barking furiously. Ree nearly fell out of bed as she hurried to get up. As she left the bedroom, the agitated dog raced past her to the deck doors and began pawing at the glass. Ree, nerves shattered, checked the locks, and sank to the floor, arms around the big Golden Retriever. She glanced toward the kitchen drawer, but there was no ticking.

Burying her head in Dexter’s back, she willed her breathing to slow. “You sensed it too, didn’t you?” The dog growled, and that was enough of an answer for her. She rose and closed the drapes over the door and led Dexter back to the bedroom. Aunt Ester was coming tomorrow. She had to tell her.

~~~

“Gracious, child, what a nightmare.” Ester set her sweet tea glass down.

“Do you know anything about this history of the beach house?’

“No, but Daddy might. Let me call him, he might be eighty-four, but his mind is sharp as ever.

Nervous, Ree waited as Ester called her grandfather. From hearing only one side of the conversation, it appeared Ester had some news.

“Well, it seems that when Momma and Daddy bought the house from the old owners in the late seventies, the seller told them there was a scandal. The wife of the previous owner had disappeared sometime after WWII ended. The police suspected foul play, but they never found a body. As you know, your grandparents tore the old house down and rebuilt this one in the late nineties.”

“But no sign of a body?”

“No, but here is a funny thing. The family’s name was Baxter, Gerald and Fiona Baxter.”

Ree gasped. “The names on the watch.”

“An old family here, and my builder’s name? Gerry Baxter. Time we went to the house.”

 ~~~

Two days later, the Colleton County coroner’s office dug up the corner of Ree’s yard and discovered a female skeleton, presumed to be Fiona Baxter. Ree, Ester, and Gerry Baxter stood outside the fence watching as the coroner’s techs loaded the remains into a county van. Gerry spoke with an Edisto Island police officer, then returned to them.

“They are going to do DNA testing to make sure this was my great-aunt. Officer said it appeared cause of death was a blow to the head.” He smiled at Ree. “If your dog hadn’t found that watch, we might never have known what happened. The family loved Fiona, but my great-uncle Gerald was a scoundrel. He disappeared not long after Fiona went missing.”

“This has been the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me.”

 “From what Ester told me, you had quite the nightmare.”

“Yes, it was, and I still don’t understand.” She reached in her purse and held out the pocket watch. “This belongs to you, I believe.”

“Thank you. Never believed in ghosts until now, but hard to deny what happened. My mother was intrigued by this story. She will love to have the watch.” He paused. “You’re going to stay here?”

“Yes, my grandparents said I could live here as long as I want.”

“Good. Then let’s have dinner soon, and I’ll tell you all I know about Fiona.”

“I’d like that.”

As Gerry drove away, Ester elbowed her in the ribs. “Told you you’d be staying here. And I’m thinking that handsome young builder is remodeling a house he just might live in one day.”

Ree gave her aunt an amused side-eye, but she was thinking the same thing. 

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

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

Kenneth Lawson: The Estate

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

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

The Estate

Kenneth Lawson

The old estate had stood empty for decades. In the backyard, a children’s sandbox sat surrounded by a mass of overgrown weeds. The sand inside had managed to stave off most of the weeds, and remains of plastic toys lay half-buried in the box.

Out of curiosity, Josh Letterman took an old half-broken sand shovel and began digging around in the sand. He didn’t expect to find anything but more old broken toys. As he dug, he thought of the days when he had played in a box very much like this.

The sun beat down on his back, and the breeze blew sand in light, quick gusts as it caught the spray from the shovel. After a short time, his knees began to tell him he wasn’t ten anymore. He was about to stand to resume the work he was here for when he caught a glint of something in the sand—definitely not plastic but appeared to be a gold chain.

Josh tugged gently, and a pocket watch slid from under the sand. He stood up and held the watch by the chain. It spun. The sun’s glinting rays reflected off the gold surface.

The watch was a puzzle. There were no markings on the face other than numerals, but things seldom looked this good after having been in the ground for any length of time. So why did this watch look new?

He pocketed the watch—no time to think about that now. Renovations were going on inside the house, and the city hired him to clean up the grounds. They were planning on turning the estate into a park and event facility.

The first task was taming the expansive lawn. Josh spent a couple of hours on a bush hog as he mowed down the tall brush that covered the front yard, each pass crunching debris scattered across the grass. He found bottles, toys, cans, and remains of junk food, even pants, shirts, underwear, and shoes. He wondered who threw away clothes and why. He spent the next two hours hauling all the debris into a large portable dumpster parked by the driveway.

It was too hot to work in the sun at mid-day, and he decided to eat his brown-bag lunch in the shade on the porch steps. As he reached for a thermal jug filled with cold lemonade, Josh felt the chain in his pocket move. He pulled the watch out to look at it.

He examined it more carefully and determined it was indeed an old watch, but its condition was surprisingly good. Opening the back, he checked out the mechanical movement, which looked intact. Winding it carefully, he listened for the telltale tick of the mainspring as it began to tell time again. Shrugging, he set it with his watch.

By now, the sun had worked its way around so he could resume work on the side yards. By late afternoon he was hot, tired, and his bones hurt in places he didn’t know he had. The dumpster bin in the driveway was almost full. He called it a day.

The next day Josh was back at the old estate. After hiding the pocket watch in a sock at home, he forgot about it. Each day brought a new army of weeds and debris that he tamed. By the end of the week, the lawn looked like a lawn again.

The sandbox, now repainted, sat prominently under trees in the backyard and was filled with pristine new sand. Even though the landscapers would arrive soon to replant shrubs and flowers, he wanted to leave something pretty.

He left, his job done, and he was feeling good about it.

***

Several months later, Josh was rummaging for something in his drawer when he touched an old sock with something in it. The pocket watch. He had forgotten about it. He pulled it out of the sock drawer. He pulled it from the sock and set and rewound it.

This time he didn’t put it back in the drawer. Instead, he dressed and slid it into the vest pocket of the suit he was wearing, fastening the chain to a buttonhole in the vest like he’d seen done in the old movies his father had liked to watch. Standing in front of the mirror, he had to admit the gold chain against the black vest looked good and matched his gold ring—time to return to the estate for the party.

The city had raised donations to return the estate to its former glory. Everyone in town knew the estate’s history. It had belonged to a land developer and speculator who had made millions in the early 1920s. The family had long ago let the land go back to the city, but the Old Letterman Estate name was how everyone knew the place. While he had the same last name, he knew he wasn’t related to the family. To him, the yard cleanup had been just another job.

Josh hadn’t told anyone about finding the watch early in the process. He’d forgotten about it until tonight. He didn’t think the watch had anything to do with former owners of the estate, but it felt right to wear it tonight for some reason.

He had been invited to the estate’s official relaunching, a black-tie gala, complete with live music and catering and the finest champagne the city could buy. While his part had been relatively small, the guest list included anyone who had worked on the project. It was an excuse for a night out, so he decided to go.

He parked his old car on the driveway in the spot where the portable dumpster sat for months. The lawn looked immaculate, well manicured, and the trees trimmed. The new shrubs and flowers had taken hold nicely and appeared as if they had always been there.

The afternoon sun that had caused him problems months before now shone over several large tents, spread over the large backyard. People milled around with champagne glasses in their hands, chatting to whomever would listen. Oohs and ahs echoed at the restoration work that brought the house to its former glory.

He caught a glimpse of the house’s interior as he worked his way around the side yard to the main tents. One housed the caterers, and the smell of food wafted from the tent, luring in the guests. A bar was set up in another tent, and a table next to the bar held an ample amount of champagne already poured into glasses ready for guests to serve themselves. A bigger tent beyond held tables for six, and many seats were filled with people talking and drinking.

He felt very much out of his element.

Wandering across the yard, Josh found himself standing next to the small sandbox, happy to see that only a cover had been added to the restoration he did before he completed his job.

“They say the kids used to play here.” A voice slightly beside and behind startled him, and he swiftly turned around.

The voice belonged to a plump, matronly lady, wearing a dress out of the 1950s, with its faded flower pattern and flowing sleeves that fluttered in the breeze. In one hand, she held a champagne glass, mostly full, and in the other, a small parasol. Not that any sun could get through the big floppy hat she wore.

“You knew them?” 

“Well, no, but my great-aunt was the housekeeper here back in the day. She told me stories about those kids of theirs, and,” she flashed a sly grin, “all the family secrets.”

Josh turned and looked her over more closely. She was older than she first appeared.

“You worked on the estate?”

He shuffled his shoes in the grass, looking down for a second. “Yeah, I was one of the original crew that cleaned up the yards.”

Her face lit up. “You did a marvelous job!” Quite gleefully, she swept her arms around the yard, nearly spilling her champagne.

“Thank you,” he responded as he ducked under her parasol, which nearly poked him in the eye as she swung it wildly.

They introduced themselves. She was Margo Petrie, but she was gulping down the champagne as he said his name and she didn’t seem to be paying attention. It turned out she was distantly related to the old family. The former owners liked to give jobs to their shirttail relatives, as she called them.

No, she never met them in response to his question, but she had once met the children who once played in the sandbox. By then, they were adults and spoiled brats, and she didn’t hide her disdain for them. Trying to be polite, he made appropriate comments and nodded accordingly. He noticed she was swaying and suspected the now empty glass of champagne in her hand was the last of several glasses.

He spotted one of his fellow workers nearby and found an opening to leave her to reminisce. Excusing himself, he started to head in that direction.

“That chain, it looks familiar,” she blurted out of nowhere just as he was about to turn to leave. He stopped short and turned back to look at her.

“The chain?”

The smell of champagne on her breath drifted toward him as she approached, her face a study of concentration. She seemed to sober up quite quickly as she gave him the once over.

“You look vaguely familiar too.”

“I’m sorry?” 

“You’re from around here?”

“Yes, I’ve lived in town almost all my life, except when I was at college a few years back.”

“What’d you say your name was?”

“Letterman. Josh Letterman.”

She looked him square in the face. “Your father?”

“Everett Letterman, ma’am. Why are you asking?”

She said nothing, just continued to stare. Then she pointed to the chain. “The watch?”

He pulled it from his vest pocket. Its gold case and the white dial glistened in the sunlight. The fancy hands keeping excellent time.

She took it from him, and he fumbled as he unhooked the chain from the buttonhole on his vest.

“Do you know whose watch this is?”

“Eh, no. I just found it.” 

“You found it?”

“Yeah, the first day I was here. I was doing preliminary cleanup on the yards. It was in there.” Josh pointed to the sandbox. “Almost buried in the sand. I found it and took it home and forgot about it. I haven’t even looked at it too much until today when I decided to wear it with the suit.”

“Is there an inscription?”

“I didn’t see one.”

She handed him the empty champagne glass and pulled her glasses from a dress pocket. Squinting in the sunlight, she examined every inch of the watch and chain as he waited impatiently.

“May I? I need to show this to someone.” 

Josh watched her scurry toward a group of men who were talking. Her yellow flowing dress stood out in a sea of black suits. A few minutes later, she returned, followed by two men.

“Josh Letterman, this is Roger Lane and Derrick Krane. They’re in charge of the estate. They haven’t seen this watch since the children were here.”

“Josh Letterman? Your father is Everett Letterman?” He nodded yes.

“Mother?”

“Ellie Thornton.”

They exchanged glances, and Josh’s knees shook.

Lane nodded to the woman and motioned to him. “Come with us, please.”

“What’s this all to do with me and an old watch?”

Once inside, they sat down at a table. Josh clutched his hands together, fingers interlaced, nerves raw.

“Josh, Everett Letterman was related to the old family. A family secret as the old man liked the ladies. When one of his lady friends showed up with a kid, which turned out to be your father, he hushed it up. But certain things were written in old diaries. Names, dates, and places were recorded in his wife’s diary, possibly for her protection. However, the diaries were lost and not discovered until the restoration, hidden in a compartment in an antique desk—forgotten. We informed the city but had no idea where to look for the son mentioned in the diary.” Lane looked toward Krane, who nodded.

“We think you, as Letterman’s grandchild, might be the rightful heir to the estate. Of course, they’ll be blood tests and background checks and all of that, but if we’re right, this is yours.” He waved his arm to encompass the entire estate.

“What about the watch?”

Lane, who was still holding the watch, pulled a jeweler’s loop from a side pocket. He smiled. “I keep this to help read old documents.” He studied it for several minutes.

“It’s the old man’s, alright. The serial number matches what we had on file for the records.”

“How’d it get in a sandbox fifty-odd years later?” Josh swallowed hard, stunned.

Margo Petrie, who had been quiet, sputtered. “The only explanation I can come up with is that someone knew what was happening and knew you were doing the job that day and planted it for you to find. It is part of the estate and your inheritance.”

“How… why? This watch looks almost new.” Josh noted the confusion in his voice. He was confused.

Lane responded as he handed the watch back to Josh. “Yes, it does. That’s because until recently, it was presumed lost or stolen. Apparently, someone kept it safe.”

“What now?” Josh slipped the watch into his vest pocket and hooked the chain.

“Well, technically, you found it, so it’s yours. However, there is the matter of the will.”

“The will?”

“Yes.”

“The will.” Josh took a deep breath.

“As you know, Josh, when the old couple died, they left the estate to their children, who took their cash inheritance and went on their way. No one has seen or heard from them in decades. I’m not even sure they’re alive.”

“What does this have to do with the will and the watch?”

“Simply this. The watch was supposed to go to the oldest child, who would inherit the estate. As none have been seen or heard from in decades and are presumed dead, the inheritance goes to you. You have the watch, and once we do the testing, if you prove to have a bloodline to the family, then you inherit the estate.”

“I don’t know anything about the estate or family. It was just a job. A week’s job of clearing and cleaning.”

Roger shook his head. “You have the family watch, so you inherit the estate if all else is in place.”

“How about I just donate the watch to the estate and let it go at that?”

Derrick reached into his jacket and pulled out a large envelope. Opening it, he laid the will out on the table between them. He pointed to a passage in the document. “The will expressly states that the watch is to go to the rightful heir.”

“So there you have it. Once we get all the legal issues out of the way, the estate is yours. You may choose to allow the city to maintain the use of the estate. That is certainly your choice.”

Josh shook his head. “I still don’t understand how the watch got in the sandbox the day I was there.”

He noticed Margo shift in her seat. She gave him a knowing smile and raised a glass of champagne in a toast. “That, my dear relative, is something we will never know.”

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

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

Calliope Njo: Time Traveler

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

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

Time Traveler

Calliope Njo

The door slammed shut behind me, and I found myself walking in a load of sand. I held onto my pocket watch while moving through it. The watch had a red glow to it, which meant this was the correct point and I had to fix whatever went wrong.

A lot of noise and men yelling. A couple whistles and calls from somewhere as well. The air was hot and the wind didn’t help any.

Gigantic machines with giant metal structures told me I landed in a construction zone. That would account for the sand. The hazy sky didn’t match the weather. Of course, that could’ve been pollution.

I walked out of an open gate and onto the sidewalk. A lot of tall decorated buildings around, and one of them had a replica of the Statue of Liberty. That didn’t tell me where I was, though.

The hat on my head was still there. The 1940s dress was still in good shape. Although, there were runs on top of runs in my stockings.

A quick glance around told me I wasn’t in 1940s England anymore. A newspaper would give me a better idea what time it was. It seemed I walked around for ages and no newsstand.

A store that sold television sets and one of them faced the window. It was 3:45 PM on July 3rd, 2021. Wow. OK. Based on what I saw around me and on that TV, I needed to get new clothes.

Without money, though, that would not happen. What I had wouldn’t pay for anything. I needed to get my bearings first before I started looking.

Wait, that TV mentioned Las Vegas. The last time I was here was in 1953. I kept Marcello Caifano happy. Whatever and whenever he wanted something, I got it. That included the arson job in retaliation for being denied his pleasure. Sometimes, I hated history.

The place changed a lot since then. Well, I won’t know why I arrived for a while. How long that while lasted could vary.

The heat I could do without. The dress didn’t help any and the sand in my shoes I didn’t need. After pouring the sand out of my shoes, I went inside one building and a cool rush of air swept over me. I never felt so much relief in an instant as I did at that moment.

Dings and buzzes all around with people talking. Slot machines have become a little brighter and a little more entertaining since I last saw them. The style may have changed, but the concept didn’t.

OK, the best way to get money was to find a job. A place like this, there should be a lot of jobs available. Before I did that, though, I needed to find out why I came here.

I must’ve circled the casino floor about a hundred times and nothing. Well, it gave me a chance to cool off. Freezing cold, I walked outside only to be blasted by desert wind. It didn’t take long to defrost, so to speak.

The sun set down some, although it still burned my eyes. It didn’t help any; I didn’t have money. I think I had that thought before. Nothing could be done about it, though.

I walked up and down the sidewalk among other people while hoping I might feel something. Those high hopes plummeted because again, there was nothing. Maybe it wasn’t so much a time or a person. If not, then what could it be. A vacation? I laughed.

I walked into a big building called Treasure Island to get out of the heat and sit for a bit. A woman walked by me. She set off my radar. Not having any other choice, I followed her despite my tired and aching legs.

There had to be something. As I got closer, the more it pinged. I wouldn’t know why until I confronted her. More often than not, finding out information was easier said than done.

We ended up outside. She must’ve felt something, because she kept looking behind herself. I had to hide. I stopped between two potted plants and watched as she opened a time doorway.

I ran through and followed. The lit path was the one to take. Step outside the boundaries, and one could get lost in time for an eternity.

We returned to 1940s England. She wasn’t a Time Traveler. I was familiar with everybody, and she wasn’t one of us. If that was the case, how did she open a door?

Glad I didn’t change clothes after all, I followed behind her until she stopped in front of someone’s house. I needed a bath and to wash my clothes. Here I knew how to do that.

I didn’t know this street, but that only meant I had to walk around to find out where I ended up. I made a mental note of where I was and started looking around. The house on the corner with the green door. I had dealings with that house. That meant I could trade them a chore for an opportunity to wash up. They always needed something.

I knocked on the door, but nobody answered. I tried the doorbell and still nobody. Well, I had to push through what I wanted to what I needed and it was necessary to find out more information on that woman.

That and food would be good.

I went back to the house I knew before I left and knocked. The door opened. “Yes. May I help you?” Frank asked.

“Is there a small woman here with you?”

“No. No. No.” He shook his head and moved his left hand out in front of his stomach and pointed behind him. “Nobody here.”

Two things telling me contrary to each other. “I’m sorry. I must be mistaken. Lost American.”

He reached for me and pulled me inside before closing the door. Take off your shoes, he mouthed while he pointed at them.

I nodded and set them by the door. He pointed toward the sitting room. She’s in there, he mouthed.

I tiptoed to the room and walked behind her. “What are you and how did you get here?”

She stood from the chair and turned towards me. Eyes and mouth opened wide, she ran from the room screaming. “No. You weren’t supposed to find me. This was my only chance.” She ran up the stairs.

I caught her as she stepped onto the landing. “You can never escape a Time Traveler. It is never an if it is always a when. Explain.” I picked her up and held her against the wall.

“You wouldn’t understand.”

I stood close, but I let go. “I have heard any and every excuse anyone could ever think of. Nothing you tell me would surprise me.”

“Yeah, but… .”

“But what?” This was annoying.

“I needed to get back to my time. I made a horrible mistake. I met someone like you and he traded me. My life for his. Only problem was, he didn’t tell me how to work the watch. Since I dropped it, I don’t think it works anymore, anyway. Please, just… just drop me off at June 1, 2019 and you won’t see me anymore.”

“A he you said.” Took me a minute to remember. There would be only one. He always complained about changing times, no money, and how hard he had to work to stay alive. “Would that be Julian?”

“Yeah. That’s him. I can’t forget that weird name. He gave it to me, but he didn’t tell me how to work it. Please, you have to tell me how.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I opened them again with the inevitable in mind. “You do not control where or when you go. The watch you hold controls everything.”

She opened her eyes wide and shook her head. “No. That’s not right. You’re supposed to set the watch to where and when you want to go. He told me. He just didn’t. Please, you have to help me.”

There it was. Every rookie that became a Time Traveler went through the same thing. Being one of the more experienced crowd, it was left up to us to teach them what wasn’t taught. I hoped that this wouldn’t take long.

Here’s hoping. “The watch controls everything. It is up to you to find out the information, do what needs to be done, and move on.”

“No. No. No. You don’t understand. I have to go back.” Her face turned red with tears streaming down her cheeks. Hands spread out on either side of her body. Then the sobbing.

“I already told you. The watch controls where you go and when you go. You do not control it. It controls you.” Why couldn’t I find a nice deserted island somewhere and bury the watch?

“You don’t understand. You have to help me reset it. Please. Don’t you know how?” She brought it out of her pocket and held it out.

Oh boy and there it went. “My name is Paige by the way and I already told you. It. Is. Not. Up. To. Us. It. Is. Up. To. The. Watch.” Maybe the slower pace might help. I didn’t know anymore. I ran out of ideas.

“You can’t be. I left you and—”

The sirens blared. I grabbed her hand and pulled her behind me. Frank pointed in the direction of the backyard. After he closed the door, we went inside the buried metal structure. He closed the door.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Rose. Don’t you remember?”

Either the woman had mental issues, or suffered from an emotional trauma. I didn’t know which. I didn’t know what else to do other than wait until the sirens stopped.

Leaving memories behind was a common occurrence. The theory was that there would be too many memories to hold with too much emotion attached to them. Therefore, the mind guarded itself by not remembering certain events or people. However, I think I would’ve remembered this woman if I met her before.

Yes, she was cute. Short, petite, yellow blonde hair with sky blue eyes. Other than that, she was not… oh what was that word. Anyway, she was someone I couldn’t forget.

She stood next to me and squeezed my hand until the sirens stopped. Frank stood and opened the door. He poked his head out for a while before he turned around. “I think everything is OK.” After he left, he got up and lay down on the ground to help us out.

“I’d invite you for tea but supplies are scarce with the war and all. About all I can do is offer you some water and what they call bread. Dry, hard, and tastes like dirt I say.”

I smiled. “That’s fine. Thank you.”

I sat down at the table and Rose sat next to me. She became attached to me all of a sudden. All I had to say I’ve already said. There was nothing more. I didn’t know how to get her to understand.

After our snack, we retreated to a couch in another room. I almost felt guilty with everything that happened. I never expected it to take this long.

I bowed my head and closed my eyes in the hopes that an idea would come to mind. How do I get rid of her and get her to understand? Thank you, Julian, for giving her the wrong information. I’d slap you if I could.

I raised my head up and opened my eyes. Nothing changed. She still sat next to me. I didn’t want to have another roundabout argument.

It was time for lights out. I didn’t mind staying on the couch so I lay down. She opted to lie on top of me. I tried to push her off but she continued to crawl on top of me.

“You are not a child. Stop and find somewhere else.”

“Nuh uh.” The sniffling had to come from her.

Great. “You are not a child. I’ve said and done all I could. Unfortunately, I can’t leave until you understand that.” At least, that was the assumption that ran through my mind. Otherwise, I would’ve been gone.

“You have to help me. He said you have to set it. So you can set it.” She held up her watch in front of her face.

“If you start screaming, you’re going to wake him up and I don’t think you want that. You know my response to what Julian said.”

“Then why would he tell me that? Why would he lie?” She put down the watch and grabbed my hands. “You’re not telling me something because you love me.”

“That’s for him to answer. Not me.” I tried to push her off again and about as far as that got was her sitting on the floor.

A thump followed by more sniffling were the next noises. I laughed into the couch because it was either that or screaming.

Did I need to worry that the sniffling stopped? No, but I was curious. I looked up and she fell asleep.

My watch turned green. Five… four… three… two… I hope the next stop was a tropical island.

Those plans changed when I felt something grab me from behind. Rose must’ve run inside while the door was still open. I didn’t want to push her off the trail but she gave me no choice.

She wouldn’t be the first one or the last. I continued down the pathway until it stopped.

I heard people calling from somewhere when I walked through the door. The dim lights didn’t help much. By the sounds of it, I was still in England.

“He struck again. He struck again. One of the whores was murdered.” He grabbed my collar. “You have to help her. Do something.”

I grabbed his hands and pulled them off my collar. “If she’s already dead, there’s nothing much that can be done. If anything.”

He shook his head. “Bloody hell. Limbs and blood all over I tell you. He killed her.”

Here we go. This would be the point I either got called an idiot or something worse. “Could you tell me where I am?”

“It shook you up too. Didn’t it? I should’ve known. A fine lady like you should not see such things. This is Whitechapel. Third of April in 1888. Remember now?”

Yeah, that did sound familiar. That would be about the time and place of the mysterious murders. Jack the Ripper.

“Body parts, everywhere, I tell you.” He grabbed my collar again. “Isn’t there anything? I saw that strange door you walked through. You are with him. I know you are. You can’t play innocent. Not for long.” He ran away screaming after that.

That meant not only did I find that body and alert the authorities, but I had to find whoever it was that man saw.

I threw away my hat. One of the street beggars would find it there. In the meanwhile, see if I can trade this dress for something a little more time consistent.

I looked in the rubbish containers, like everybody else did around here, and found a few things. They stunk, plain and simple, but it was the best I could do. Maybe with the next rain, I could scrub it against something to get most of that rotten smell off.

I opened my watch to check on it and it had a yellow glow to it. If it was yellow, then something or someone messed up this time period to his or her every advantage. That also meant, not only did I have to fix whatever needed fixing, but I had to disarm and render them a non-traveler.

Maybe if I got myself arrested, I could think of it as a break. I laughed at the thought and walked around a bit longer.

Between the dim lights and the thick smelly air it was not a pleasant place to be. I had to start looking when the sun rose, until then, stop somewhere and rest.

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

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

Paula Shablo: The Last Vacation

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

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

The Last Vacation

Paula Shablo

Jenna was startled by the sound of her heel striking pavement. She’d been walking in sand for miles and had been paying no attention to the changes in the terrain. She’d been softly singing an old tune from some long-gone animated Christmas show: Something about getting home by putting one foot in front of the other foot. “Soon you’ll be walking here or there or whatever the hell and what’s this from and why in God’s name won’t it get out of my head?” She had visions of something, possibly Claymation. Was it Santa Claus? Who knew?

When she lifted her head and really got a look at where she was, she gasped.

It was a train station!

Well, she thought, the weird day gets even weirder…

***

She and Ken had started their day enjoying their first vacation in years. They’d woken up in a lovely hotel room, dressed, and gone down to the beach with a picnic breakfast.

Strawberries in cream and fresh bagels, boiled eggs and link sausages, orange juice, and coffee—all packed into a vintage basket, cozily tucked in with a checkered tablecloth, courtesy of the hotel. It was perfection.

It was short lived.

They had finished their meal and were sharing a lingering, coffee-flavored kiss when the ground beneath them suddenly heaved and bucked, violently pulling them apart and flinging them in opposite directions.

“Jenna!” Ken yelled, regaining his feet and starting to run toward her. Another shock hit the beach, and ocean water roared up and over him in a massive wave as Jenna was crawling back toward him.

“Ken! Ken!” Jenna struggled to her feet. She’d been thrown back just enough so the water didn’t reach her the first time, but the next wave took her down and then thrust her farther up the beach before receding.

When she woke up, she was surrounded by nothing but sand.

Ken was gone.

The hotel was gone. The beach was gone.

The ocean was gone.

“What the hell?” Jenna sat up, pulling her knees to her chest. She looked around. Disbelief turned her face into a reasonable facsimile of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” especially once she clasped her face in her hands. It was certainly for the best that she couldn’t see herself just then.

“Ken! Ken? KEN!!” Her screams went unheeded. Even the pesky gulls were gone.

“Am I dead?” Jenna asked aloud in spite of her solitude. “Is this hell?”

That was unreasonable; Jenna was a good person. In fact, she was a very good person. She was a person who ran back into the store if she realized she’d accidentally lifted the pen she’d signed her check with. She had even, on occasion, run in and returned pens that actually belonged to her—just in case.

She fed stray cats and sponsored hungry children in Appalachia.

Her infrequent lies amounted to, “No, your butt doesn’t look too big.”

She couldn’t be in HELL!

Less hopeful, she called again: “Ken? Ken! Where are you?”

Regaining her feet, she was hit by sudden waves of nausea. Unable to quell them, she vomited copious amounts of seawater along with her breakfast. “Ugh!”

She stood, head hanging, hands on her knees.

The sun blazed, stingingly reminding her that she was dangerously exposed to those damaging UV rays. Dressed in a tank top and shorts over her swimsuit and a pair of flimsy sandals, she wasn’t going to fare well in this great sandy expanse.

With the ocean gone and the sun directly overhead, she had no way to choose a direction. She didn’t think it wise to wait for the sun to start its western descent before moving; she needed to find shelter as soon as possible.

She looked around, desperately hoping for a sign of anything familiar. Just when she was certain there was nothing there to find, she saw the corner of the checkered tablecloth sticking up out of the sand.

She moved toward it, fearful and hopeful at the same time. Fearful that she might find Ken; hopeful that the cloth might keep her from burning up like a roasted turkey. She was afraid she would never find Ken, but she certainly didn’t want to discover him buried. She tugged and pulled until the tablecloth broke free, flinging sand everywhere. And something else—she saw it fly off to her right, glinting in the sunlight.

Absently pulling the cloth over her shoulders, she tracked the object.

There it was, half-buried in sand—Ken’s pocket watch. He’d removed it from the pocket of his shorts just before he pulled her into that last kiss, saying he couldn’t get it wet when they went in for a swim. It had belonged to his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather, and was a treasured possession.

Generations of rail men; Ken’s family had followed the railroad from east to west and back again; first building, and then engineering. The reduction of passenger train services had been a thorn in his side—they traveled by train whenever possible. Ken’s route was cargo, but he longed to someday blow the whistle of a passenger train.

“End of the line,” Jenna muttered, gently lifting the watch by its chain. She shook sand from it and held it up to her ear. It was still ticking.

It told her it was just past noon. The sudden upheaval on the beach had been nearly four hours earlier.

“It’s a wonder I’m not a crispy critter,” Jenna whispered, and carefully wound the watch. She tucked it into the bra cup of her swimsuit, near her heart.

She turned in a circle, and then she did it again. Where did everything go? Where were the people? Where was the hotel? Where was the damned ocean?

“Which way do I go?” she whined.

Did it even matter? She could discern her direction when the sun started to sink, but with no ocean, would it matter if she went west or east? North or south? All she could see was sand; everywhere, sand!

Wait! On her third revolution, she noticed what looked like a hill in the far distance.

Something to aim for, at least, she decided. She started walking.

***

As she got closer, over what had certainly been several hours, she could see that it looked like a child’s version of a sandcastle, more of a hill with bumps and ridges. She’d kept her eyes on it, and on the sun, determining that she was moving east; maybe more or less northeast.

It made no sense. She could not have been flung that far by an ocean wave—she should have been within sight of water long before her foot struck the pavement.

She looked around, wondering how she could have missed seeing signs that this was near. She realized that the tracks leading to the place came from underground, from a tunnel off to her left, and only the last few yards leading to the station were visible.

She must have been experiencing quite the case of tunnel vision, she thought. The station was very nearly right in front of her, only slightly to the left of where she’d focused her sights. Still, she’d been looking at that sandcastle shape through tears, an effervescent shimmer of brown and gold shades not so different from the color of the station, so she shrugged it off and decided not to be too hard on herself.

The station looked old; wooden planks, shutters, latched doors. She shook her head when she realized she could see the back end of a train on the other side, reflecting it must have come from the southwest.

But, no. The track ended there in a roundabout, and although the train was facing north, there was no way it could have gotten there from a southern track that did not exist. Jenna whispered, “It must have backed in.”

The pavement she’d stepped onto wasn’t pavement at all; sand-colored flat stones had been laid on this side, and she could see that the doors on this side had been locked with sliding bolts and padlocks.

She turned and walked along the side of the long building until she reached the end. She walked around the front and mounted a few steps to the board walkway. The wood creaked in some spots as she made her way to the first door.

She hesitated, then forced herself to turn and take a good look at the train.

It seemed impossible. This old, faded station and wood-and-iron track was no place for this train. It shouldn’t have ever gotten here—the track gauge was all wrong for an electric subway train. How in hell did it stay on the tracks?

She slid her hand into the front of her tank and fingered the pocket watch. “Oh, God, Kenny,” she breathed, “what is happening?” She leaned against the door and slid down until she was seated with her knees against her chest. She bowed her head and lightly thumped it against one knee. “I really think I’m dead…and this…is…hell.”

“I don’t believe so.”

The man’s voice startled a cry out of her, and she jumped to her feet.

She hadn’t noticed when the door was pushed open from within. She stood in a defensive posture, fists clenched and raised to waist height, feet apart, knees bent. Her heart was doing triple duty; she could hear her pulse-beat behind her ears, which quickened her breath.

In the doorway stood a tall young man with a purple mohawk buzz-cut and an eyebrow ring that looked like a trident, a stout older man clutching a hardback book to his chest, and a petite brunette with aquamarine, badly bloodshot and teary eyes and skin so pale it looked like skim milk.

The woman spoke. “No need for that.” She indicated Jenna’s raised fists. “We saw you through the glass.”

“Where’d you come from?” Mohawk demanded.

Jenna focused on him. He could have been anywhere between sixteen and twenty-five, but she’d bet he wasn’t old enough for a legal pint of beer. “I don’t even know how to answer that,” she admitted.

The older man snorted. “There’s a lot of that going around,” he said. “You might as well come in. Have some water.”

As soon as the word “water” was out of his mouth, Jenna was moving. She’d used the tablecloth like an umbrella but knew she’d still gotten sunburned, and she was so thirsty she was near collapse.

“I’m Rebecca,” the brunette told her.

Mohawk took Jenna by the arm, steadying her as they all backed up into the station. “Justin,” he said.

“Jenna.” She cleared her throat. “My name is Jenna.”

“Bart,” the stout man added, tucking his book under one arm and placing a hand under her elbow.

The air inside was cool, and Jenna moved into it gratefully. It was dark in there, but that was probably because she’d been in bright sunlight all day.

“Jenna,” Rebecca said, “welcome to the end of the line.”

“I looked and looked, but I couldn’t find Ken.” Jenna started to cry.

The latch clicked as the door slipped shut behind them.

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

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

Marian Wood: Sand Falling Into a New Life

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

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

Sand Falling Into a New Life

Marian Wood

Watching sand on a Tuesday afternoon

Marjorie Jacobs believed that if an employee scored thirty out of thirty in just ten minutes it showed quick thinking, necessary in her line of work. She needed someone resourceful, someone special. Watching the sand fall, she felt a warm glow seeing Ellie-Rose scribbling furiously. Noticing others chewing on pencils, or already finished, the voice in her head was screaming that her new employee would be the scribbling blonde.

******

As the sand fell, I had ten minutes as the timer counted down. Reading through the questions, digging deep into my memory for answers, why was I here? I had practiced over and over, I knew I could do this.

Wednesday morning

Checking my bank account for the hundredth time, it was still empty. With bills coming out of my ears, I glanced at my old tatty sleeping bag. I didn’t need my belongings, but I wanted to keep them. If I couldn’t pay my rent this month, I was sure my landlord, Mr. Williams, would throw me on the street. I’ve seen the sad people sleeping in the Hans Town subway, not a prospect that I was looking forward to.

Yesterday had been one interview after the other, two supermarkets, a secretary and a mystery job. I love reading books and the mystery job had sparked my imagination. The interview questions had been ominous, answering them had meant quick but clear accurate thinking. I liked to believe that I could think outside of the box. The unknown company appeared to need someone just like me. I hoped they knew that.

Filling my spoon with sugar for my morning tea, I dropped it on the counter as the loud ring interrupted my thoughts. Looking at the display my heart sank.

“Hi, Jules, what’s happening?”

“Ellie, I need you.”

“Jules, come on, really.” She was my friend but a huge drain on my time, which I didn’t have right now. My life was crashing down, I’d spent months trying to fix Jules and her problems. Hanging up the phone, the accusing voice started in my head.

Downing my tea and shoving my toast in my mouth, I grabbed my coat and keys. Racing to the car, my issues tumbled all around me. Whatever mess Jules was in, this had better be good.

A bigger problem

Letting myself in, I wondered what I was going to find. What confronted me was the last thing I expected, anything but this.

Seeing the blood splattered up the kitchen cupboard, I started shouting. I heard ringing; this was not the time for a phone call. Seeing the name flashing on the screen, I had to answer it.

“Hello.”

“Hi Miss Francis, it’s Marjorie Jacobs, are you able to come and see me today?”

“Today?” I looked around the kitchen. Where is Jules? Then checked the time. “When would you like to see me?”

“One pm?” The voice in my head screamed no.

“Okay, will see you at 1:00, thank you.”

Putting my phone in my pocket, I started shouting again at the deafening silence, blood up the cupboard, and Jules was missing. If I phoned the police, then I wouldn’t get to my meeting. Do I phone her mobile? Had the neighbours seen me enter? What was the mystery job? Why me?

Checking all her rooms, there was nobody there dead or alive. Surely all that blood meant a body somewhere.

Letting myself out of the back door, I covered my hand with my sleeve as I operated the door handle. Running across the garden, there was no evidence of a disturbance. Maybe I should report her as missing after my meeting.

Jacobs and Lees

Trying not to look flustered, I arrived at the office. This was important, and a strangely missing Jules was not going to lose me this job. Seeing Mrs. Jacobs wobbling on her high heels towards me, I could feel sweat prickling my skin.

“Afternoon Miss Francis, follow me.” Leaving the comfort of the armchair, I eased myself up. Knowing how important this was, I pushed thoughts of Jules to the back of my mind.

“So, Miss Francis, do you have any idea what this job is about?”

Observing her large sand timer, I wondered if she had a fascination with sand. Answering her I said, “I’m thinking you are needing someone who can think on their feet, I can do that.” Thinking again of Jules and her kitchen, had quick thinking made me put this job first?

“Yes, we do, how are you at working through problems?”

“Problems.” Thinking of a number of answers, I said, “I’m excellent at working through difficult issues.”

I watched Mrs. Jacobs scrape her chair back. Was this going well? As she turned around a whiteboard in the corner, my stomach took a massive lurch. Photos looking back at me, one that I recognised, what the hell was going on?

“Miss Francis, we investigate missing persons. We need someone who can search and find them.”

This was it, the hamster wheel started, missing persons. I thought of the blood again and now looked back at the photo staring back at me. Jules where the hell are you, who are you?

Missing persons

Following the meeting that day, I found a public phone box and made an anonymous call. I couldn’t get involved in Jules’s mess and I certainly didn’t want to be incriminated.

Today I had been left poring over a stack of files and found that missing Jules is actually Jane. Five missing persons and the mystery of Jane was greater due to the blood over her kitchen cupboards that matched to missing Jack Kent. Looking further into Jack Kent, I found that his story was not one his loving mother would be proud of.

The other three didn’t appear to have glowing records either. I hadn’t known Jules that long, but she had been a pain in the behind since I’d met her. I wouldn’t want to pick a man up in a bar; picking up a friend had been a mistake. Reading about her history of drugs and knife crime, I flinched. Picturing her sticking her knife into Jack, I guessed that maybe a drug deal had gone wrong.

Working as part of a private agency hired by the police force was far more than working in a supermarket. My bills were now getting paid, but this was my first case, and I was working outside normal office hours.

As the phone on my desk rang, a sharp ache smashed through my head and the world went black. Coming around to searing agony, I became aware of the men in green telling me to lie quietly. I then went into panic.

“Mrs. Jacobs, where’s Mrs. Jacobs?”

“Ellie-Rose love, just stay calm.”

“Where is Mrs. Jacobs, what’s happening?”

“She is with my colleague, we need to treat you.”

A week later

After time in hospital with a broken leg and head injury, I was relieved to be discharged. Mrs. Jacobs had been killed and CCTV had exposed the murderer as Will Franks. Appearing on CCTV had been a mistake. After the police had tracked him down, he exposed them all to help himself. Jane had attacked Jack after he had demanded favours from her. I guess a swift kick wasn’t good enough when a knife in the leg will do.

From being scared of living on the Hans Town Subway, I was now tracking people down on the subway. As sand falls through a sand timer, none of us know what the future holds in store. I’m doing something that I never imagined I would do.

Looking at more missing faces, I hoped that they were not more criminals. I am determined to be the best at putting the pieces together and finding these people. I have to be.

Please visit Marian on her blog: https://justmuddlingthroughlife.co.uk/

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

Please visit Marian on her blog: https://justmuddlingthroughlife.co.uk/

Lisa Criss Griffin: Family Time

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

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

Family Time

Lisa Criss Griffin

Rance Edwards steered the camouflaged Humvee provided by The Guardian through the desert quickly, carefully scanning the area for the shadow of the rocky overhang mostly hidden by the shifting sand. He was grateful he and his family had the good fortune of finding the shelter when they all fled the city sixteen months ago. Rage flooded his mind as he recalled the travesty perpetrated on his family, friends, and many other well-intentioned people by the vaccines mandated by the government to end the worldwide pandemic.

While his capable vehicle plowed through the desert, Rance relived the nightmare of his transformation from a pure human being into a hybrid beast. From the moment he had plucked the first translucent green scale from his leg to his complete transformation into a sentient being trapped in a hybrid form of a lizard/man, he vowed to use his scientific background in genetics to find a way to reverse the horror injected into his body. His fellow scientist Wes warned him the vaccines had not gone through the proper trials, but Rance had ignored his best friend’s advice. 

Actually, the term vaccine was an inappropriate description for what a sizable portion of the global population had been injected with in order to control the worldwide pandemic. The syringes contained experimental genetic engineering, and the result could not have been more devastating if it had been planned. At the time, his social virtue-signaling had been a higher priority for Rance than truly researching the facts for himself. 

The worst part of the entire travesty for Rance was the suffering of his unsuspecting family. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel tightly in his frustration. He had not seen his family since he made the dangerous trek through the desert to the lab where he and Wes worked. He promised his family he would come back, whether or not he and Wes could find a way to reverse the hybridization triggered by the worldwide introduction of 5G technology. 

Fortunately, their experimental treatment had been wildly successful for Rance. They easily found dozens of volunteers for trials who were whisked from the local jails by a friend in law enforcement. Horrified hybrids abruptly found themselves in custody, before being carted off to internment camps set up by the same government who had mandated their injections. Although it was true that a sizable portion of the hybrid beasts had become increasingly violent, most of the victims were merely in shock from the unthinkable transformation. 

Rance and Wes recently secured an enormous amount of funding from a wealthy underground organization known only as The Guardian, to successfully treat more victims. The Guardian insisted on moving their operation to a more secure location since the roundup and subsequent incarceration of the unfortunate hybrids was still ongoing. Rance needed to find his family before the government located them. 

The hint of a horizontal shadow by a smattering of midsized Saguaro cactus caught Rance’s eye. His heart raced in anticipation. He couldn’t wait to see Cindy, Grayson and Kaylee again! The unintentional hell he had put his wife, son, and daughter through was the reason he worked so diligently to develop a treatment to reverse the hybridization. Now, it was time to restore a semblance of their previous life back to his beloved family. 

The Humvee rolled to a stop. Rance jumped out of the vehicle, shouting the names of his wife and children while sliding down the sand into the cooler thermocline of the dark, cavernous overhang. His voice bounced off the rocky enclosure unanswered. A slow, rhythmic drip of the tiny spring located in the back corner of the shelter told him he was in the right place.

Clicking on his flashlight, Rance scoured the alcove for any sign of his family. They only brought things they would need for survival with them during their flight from the city, along with a couple of small family heirlooms. Cindy chose a small picture of their family. Kaylee brought her flute, even though it was difficult for her to play it after her transformation. Grayson insisted on bringing the pocket watch his grandfather had gifted him before he died. 

Grayson had spent many hours in his grandfather’s company, intrigued by the stories Rance’s father enjoyed telling about his own father’s daring adventures during World War II. Grayson’s great-grandfather carried the pocket watch with him during the war. It had a tender inscription from his beloved young wife engraved on it, and it was his good-luck charm. 

The beam of light illuminated only a rumpled blanket partially covered by sand. Rance pulled the blanket out of the sand slowly, dreading to the depths of his soul what he was about to uncover. His stomach twisted into a painful knot as a dark object rolled out of the beam of his light. Dropping the blanket, Rance stepped forward to retrieve the object. Something crunched under his boot. He lifted his foot, dreading what he was about to see.

It was white, linear, and had splintered into the sand. Tears stung Rance’s eyes as he leaned down, almost sure he would be touching bone. He gasped in relief as he wrapped his fingers around a small picture frame. He pulled it from the sand and turned it over. A tear slid down his cheek as he looked into the smiling faces of his family. His heart sank. Cindy would never have parted with this picture voluntarily. 

Rance ran his light across the floor of the overhang, searching for the object he had seen earlier. He stood and walked over to it. A tortured cry escaped his throat. It was Kaylee’s flute case. He snatched it up, sobs wracking his body. Where was his family? What had happened to them while he was gone? 

Skimming the light over the rest of the alcove, Rance looked for any other remnants that could tell him something about the fate of his family. There was nothing else here. His family was gone. He climbed out of the rocky alcove, the fractured picture and the flute case solidly pinned against his chest. Flinging the door to the Humvee open, Rance fell into the seat, completely undone. He carefully placed his treasures on the passenger seat before he allowed his grief to pour out of the depths of his tortured soul. 

The steering wheel took the brunt of his emotion, vibrating from the violent pummeling by Rance’s hands. He screamed his outrage. A startled collared lizard skittered away from under the Humvee to the shelter of a nearby cactus. Breathing deeply, he slowed his exhalations to calm himself. He needed to clear his head. Flexing his aching hands, Rance had a niggling sensation he was missing something. He wiped his face on his sleeve and started the Humvee.

The air above the distant desert horizon shimmered in the heat of the midday sun. The caress of cool water sliding down Rance’s raw throat was a relief. He poured a little of the liquid from the water bottle into his hands and rubbed his sweaty face. If his family had to make a run for their lives, where would they have gone? He stared blindly into the undulating horizon as he pondered the answer, savoring the cool breeze from the vehicle’s air vent. There was only one logical place they could have gone if they weren’t forcibly detained. It looked like they had been discovered and removed to an internment camp, but he had to know for sure. If there was any chance they had escaped, he knew where they would have headed.

The Humvee made good time through the desert. A flash of light reflecting off of something in the distant sky alerted Rance to the presence of military aircraft that regularly flew close to his destination. He pulled the Humvee under a mature Joshua tree and stopped, hoping the aircraft wouldn’t spot him. He held his breath as the aircraft roared above his hiding place. The overhead sounds quickly faded away towards the city. Rance exhaled slowly, reasonably certain he had not been detected. He waited a moment to be sure none of them doubled back before he resumed his journey. 

It was evening by the time Rance reached the lab where he and Wes had worked on their initial restoration treatment together. The Guardian moved their lab to a more secure location and merely used their former worksite as a supply warehouse now. This was the only safe place his family would have known to come to if they were in trouble.

Magnificent streaks of orange, maroon and purple colored the evening sky. Rance stepped out onto the concrete that led to the building. He walked towards the front door, looking for any sign his family had been here. It had been deserted long enough that the sparse landscaping appeared disheveled. Shallow ripples of sand lay scattered across the parking lot and walkways now that the building was rarely used. He walked around the lab to the employee entrance on the west side of the building. Nothing. Rance ran his tender hands through his thick, regenerated hair in frustration.

He turned to complete his perusal of the building perimeter when a golden glint in the sand caught his eye. Whatever it was, rested under a yellow trumpet bush close to the employee entrance. He would never have seen it if the setting sun had not illuminated it. Rance leaned down to see what had caught his eye.

Only about a third of the pocket watch was visible. He gently pulled it from the sand, hope springing back to life in his heart. He turned it over carefully, praying he would find an inscription on the back of the watch. Rance swept the sand from the back of the timepiece and angled it to read the engraved message revealed in the fading sunlight.

“Return to me, my beloved. 

I am waiting for you.”

It was Grayson’s pocket watch. He’d been here! Rance stepped back, shouting his son’s name. He made his way around the building, calling for Grayson. He was met by silence. Making his way back to the employee entrance, he tapped his code into the security keypad. The scientist was slightly surprised but delighted when the light turned green and he heard the tumblers unlock. He slipped inside and made his way down the dimly lit hallway towards his old office. 

He passed the picture window of the lunchroom, stopping in surprise. What a mess! The vending machines were upended, their clear front panels bashed in and broken. Tables and chairs were haphazardly scattered about the room, most resting on their sides or upside down. He opened the door and flicked on the light switch. The dishevelment was catastrophic. What the hell? The whisper of a groan rumbled from the far corner, behind an upended vending machine.

Rance’s hair stood up on end. He was not alone. Something or someone was in here with him. He picked up a butter knife on the floor by his feet, realizing it was less than an ideal weapon. He straightened up to his full height and spoke with the most authoritative, commanding voice he could muster.

“Alright. We know you are here. Come out with your hands up and visible. We are not interested in hurting you.”

A rustling sound and what could have been a groan came from behind the overturned vending machine in the corner.

“Come on. Come out right now. We won’t hurt you.”

There was a pregnant pause before the intruder spoke. The voice was deeply guttural and almost unintelligible.

“Uuuuuuuuggggh…aaaaaad. Daaaaaaad. Daaad. Dad….”

“Grayson! Grayson! Is that you?”

Rance made his way through the chaotic mess on the floor to the upended vending machine. A large, scaly green hand with massive nails was barely visible from behind the toppled metal snack dispenser.

“Dad…help meee.”

Rance pulled the crank-sided vending machine away from his son. The poor creature lying on the floor looked nothing like his son. It was obvious he was very weak and possibly injured. 

“Look at me, son.”

Grayson turned his head and rolled his eyes up to be able to see his father. His familiar eyes filled with tears of relief that quickly flowed down his iridescent green face.

“You…found…a cure.”

“Yes, son. And we have funding for it now. Can you get up? Are you hurt?”

“Uuuunn…just…weak. Need food…water. Help me…up?”

Rance steadied his hybrid son as he struggled to his feet. The two of them slowly made their way to the Humvee. Rance opened a bottle of water for Grayson and found a forgotten bag of jerky under the driver’s seat. Grayson clumsily drank his water between the pieces of jerky he stuffed in his mouth.

“What about your mother and sister, son? Where are they? What happened to them?”

“The Feds nabbed them, Dad. I was coming back from a hunt and saw them being forced into the back of a military vehicle parked by our hideaway. I finally decided to try to find you.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Not long…maybe a few weeks ago. I remembered your code, so I got in. But you weren’t here. I am sorry about the lunchroom. I was so hungry and thirsty, and I have these horrible, uncontrollable rages sometimes. Nobody ever came around until you showed up. That one machine fell on me, and I couldn’t get up. I was beginning to think I was going to die pinned under that thing.”

“You aren’t going to die, son. Let’s go get your restoration treatment started. When you become yourself again, we will go get your Mom and sister back, together. Ohhh, here. This belongs to you, Grayson.”

Rance placed the gold timepiece in his son’s scaly hand and folded his reptilian fingers around it. 

“Your Grandfather was right. That pocket watch is good luck. Your chosen family heirloom was well hidden under a bush by the employee entrance door, but the setting sun lit it up for me. It returned me back to you…while you were waiting for me, my beloved son.”

Rance smiled in delight at Grayson as he started their vehicle. One rescued, two to go. The Humvee pulled out of the deserted parking lot, heading towards a secret, undisclosed location under the cover of a dark, star-spangled sky.

Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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

Please visit Lisa on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin/

Lynn Miclea: Dimensions of Travel

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

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

Dimensions of Travel

Lynn Miclea 

I looked into Michael’s warm, brown eyes. I loved him and trusted him. But this was crazy. What he was saying couldn’t be real.

My heart pounded as Michael grabbed my hand. “Come with me, Sara. I’ll show you. I’ll prove it. You can be a witness.”

I stared at him and smirked. “You can’t be serious.” I rolled my eyes. “A parallel universe. No way.”

“Sara, I promise. It’s real. And it’s safe.”

“This is insane.” I crossed my arms defiantly. “So where is this portal? How do we get there?” I tapped my foot. Michael was a gifted research scientist and had a great imagination, but this was ludicrous.

He calmly looked into my eyes and squeezed my hand. “There’s a portal at the beach. It works.” He licked his lips. “I swear. Just let me show you.”

I shook my head and sighed. What did I have to lose? “Fine,” I stated, deciding to humor him. “Show me.”

His face lit up. “Trust me, Sara.” He leaned in and kissed me lightly on the lips. He smiled and his eyes sparkled.

He set my soul on fire, and I would do anything for him. He was the most exciting and amazing man I had ever met. But this was still absurd. I hoped he wasn’t losing his grasp of reality. But I had to believe him. “Okay. Take me.”

Twenty minutes later, we got out of the car at the beach. “There,” he said pointing. “Come with me. The portal opens at set times. The next one is in five minutes.”

I took a deep breath of the salty, tangy, ocean air, feeling it fill my lungs. Slowly releasing my breath, I looked out over the sparkling white sand, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. An empty beach with the ocean lapping up onto the shore, the whoosh of the waves intoxicating.

I did trust Michael. But this was beyond my limit of what I could comprehend and believe. I turned to him. “So this will take us to an alternate universe?”

He smiled. “Yes. We’ve done extensive research. It’s real. It’s simply shifting into a new dimension along distinct energy specifications.”

I swallowed hard, my body trembling. “Is it dangerous?”

“No.” He hesitated. “Not that we know of, anyway.” He laughed and took my hand, the warmth of his strong hand enveloping mine. “I’ve never shown this to anyone else.” His voice was soft, filled with wonder and a touch of nerves. “Are you ready?”

“Michael, I don’t see anything here. This is—”

“You can trust me. I will never hurt you, Sara.”

We walked across the soft, white sand, our feet sinking in with each step. He led me to a patch of sand that was slightly darker and set in a small depression.

It seemed ridiculous. “Are you sure this—”

“Shhh. Close your eyes.” His voice was both calm and commanding.

As I closed my eyes, I briefly saw him remove a small device from a pocket. After hearing a few clicks, a buzzing sound surrounded me, and the air felt electrified. Fear crept up my spine and my teeth started chattering. I wanted to open my eyes, but a combination of fear and a strange pressure kept them shut.

Everything slowly eased up and the pressure dissipated. I slowly opened my eyes.

Dizziness rushed over me and I felt confused. Beginning to lose my balance, I started to fall to the side, and I felt Michael’s strong hands grab me and hold me to him.

“You okay?” His voice was warm and caring and felt soothing.

I nodded and looked around. We were still on the beach, but everything was different. Instead of an empty beach, there were a few small stands where snacks, jewelry, clothes, and trinkets were being sold. About thirty people milled around on the warm sand.

It looked peaceful, but somehow strange. How could things change so much on the same beach? “Where are we?” My voice was barely audible.

He chuckled. “I’m not sure, to be honest. I believe we’re in the same spot in an alternate universe. A parallel universe.”

I looked into his eyes. “So this is all happening at the same time as our universe?”

“Yes.” He sounded excited. “There are many alternate and parallel universes, times, and spaces, all happening at once. An infinite number.”

“But … that makes no sense. Are you sure this is safe?”

“I think so. I’ve done it many times already.” He pointed down the beach. “Come, let’s get something to eat and then go back. I just wanted you to see and experience this.”

“But how is this possible?”

Michael laughed. “You mean the physics and logistics of it?” He shrugged. “It’s tuning in to a different, specific energy frequency. It’s so exciting, but there is so much that we don’t understand yet. We are just starting to explore this, and there is still so much to learn.”

We started scuffing through the soft sand, and he continued. “But we have determined that there are infinite alternate or parallel universes, all existing at the same time, and we can access them. Each one has its own energy frequency. And most of them have the same people who have made different choices in their lives, and they live out a different life in each one. But some societies developed differently as well.”

My forehead scrunched. “So we could meet ourselves here?”

He shrugged. “Possibly. If we are alive in this one and if we came to this beach at this time.”

I shuddered. “That’s a lot to think about.” Even though the scene was serene, it was too much to take in and make sense of, and my nerves felt on edge.

He squeezed my hand and his eyes searched my face. “You doing okay?”

I nodded, feeling confused and overwhelmed.

He led me down the beach to a vendor selling ice cream. “Want one?”

I smiled. I was always up for ice cream.

Michael pointed at the picture of chocolate popsicles. “Two, please,” he said to the man standing behind the cart.

The man smiled and handed Michael two wrapped popsicles. Michael paid the vendor, and I unwrapped my ice cream. Biting into the sweet treat, I let the chocolate creaminess swirl around in my mouth. It felt normal and reassuring, and I started feeling better.

“We need to get back,” I murmured, taking another bite of ice cream. “I don’t want to get stuck here.”

“We’ll be fine.” Michael checked his watch. “Ten more minutes, and the portal will open again.” He pointed to another vendor. “Let me buy you something to remember this by, and as proof that we were here.”

I hesitated, then sighed. “Okay.”

We walked to another vendor who had various pieces of jewelry and other trinkets for sale. A gold pocket watch on a chain got my eye. It brought back memories of my grandfather. He had one just like that. In fact, I remembered he told me he had gotten it on his first wedding anniversary with my grandmother. I still remember the inscription that was inside. A marriage made in heaven. William & June. The memory made me smile and I picked up the watch and held it, feeling the coolness of the metal.

Michael paid the vendor, and I started opening the watch to see if there was an inscription in this one, but Michael grabbed my hand. “Come,” he urged. “The portal will only be open a few more minutes. I don’t want to miss it.”

I quickly closed the pocket watch and we hurried back across the beach. As we scurried across the soft sand, movement got my eye. Turning toward it, I saw a tall, lumbering, hairy creature. Taking in a quick breath, I pointed. “Is that—”

Michael laughed. “Oh, that’s right. Bigfoot is in this one, a natural and accepted part of society.”

“What?” I watched a few more seconds until Michael pulled me along.

“We don’t want to miss the portal opening,” he reminded me.

We stood on the same patch of darkened sand, and Michael brought out his device and punched a few buttons. I closed my eyes as the buzzing noise started. The pressure around us increased and the air felt electrified.

As the pressure eased a couple minutes later, I took an unsteady step forward and looked around. An empty stretch of soft, white sand stretched before us. Our beach. No vendors, no people, no Bigfoot. We were home.

Feeling relieved, I let out a long breath. The whole experience was strange. Had we really been in some alternate or parallel universe? What was that place? Was it real? Was it simply some type of hallucination? It made no sense.

Something dropped from my hand, and I didn’t even realize I had been holding something. Quickly looking down, I saw the gold pocket watch in the white sand. My hand shaking, I bent down and picked up the watch. It was real. We actually had been somewhere and I brought this back. It again reminded me of my grandfather’s watch … I opened it up and saw there was an inscription inside, and I eagerly read it.

I gasped and read it again.

A marriage made in heaven. William & June.

That was impossible. How could …

I turned toward Michael. “How … how …”

He smiled. “I have so much more to show you. This is just the start.”


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

Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

Cheryl Ann Guido: A Timeless Love

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

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

A Timeless Love

Cheryl Ann Guido

September 8, 1999

Five-year-old Billy Barton put down his blue plastic shovel and stared at the partially unearthed gleaming gold object. Without another thought, he stuck his finger into the sand and fished it out. Beaming, he brushed off the sand and held his treasure up to the sunlight. The round-faced watch hung from a still shiny gold chain. Satisfied it was indeed a treasure, he held it to his ear while his nose wrinkled into a curious grimace. Hearing nothing, he shook it and placed it up against his ear again with the same result. Apparently, the watch no longer worked but for Billy, it was still a wonderful prize.

“Mommy, Mommy, look what I found!”

His short little legs kicked up swirls of sand as he dashed over to his mother who was comfortably seated in a beach chair underneath a huge umbrella. She put down the book she had been reading, removed her sunglasses and took the watch from her son.

“Where did you get this?”

“It was buried in the sand, over there.” Billy pointed to his half-built sand castle near the shoreline. “It’s broken though. It doesn’t tick anymore.”

“Well let’s see.” Billy’s mom turned the crown clockwise while holding onto the knob at the top. After a few rotations, she held the watch up to her ear and listened. A huge grin spread across her lips and she gestured to Billy to listen too. The little boy’s eyes lit up and he jumped up and down clapping his hands.

“It’s ticking! It’s ticking!” As Billy took back his prize, something etched on the back of the watch caught his eye. “What does it say, Mom?”

The sunlight bounced off of the surface making the etching difficult to read. She squinted and rubbed some ground-in sand off of the inscription.

“It says, My darling Edward, our love is timeless. Anna. There’s a date too, August 25, 1949.”

“Wow, cool! Can I keep it?”

Billy’s mother scratched her head while she thought for a moment. Ordinarily, she would have told her son that they should try to find the owner but since this watch had been beneath the sand for an unknown amount of time, there was little chance of that happening. Still, feeling she must try, she glanced up and down the beachline. Except for herself and her son, the beach was empty. Not surprising as the Labor Day holiday crowd had departed several days earlier. Since the beach closed at six pm and it was nearly that time, they should be leaving as well. Sighing, she patted the top of Billy’s head.

“Sure, keep it. But take good care of it, ok? This watch is special. Obviously, it once meant a lot to someone. Now get your things together. It’s late and we need to get back to our hotel so we can shower and have some dinner.”

“Okay, Mom, and thanks.” Billy tossed the watch into his sand pail but then thought better of it and handed it to his mother. “Can you put it in your purse? I don’t want to lose it because, you know, it’s special.”

“Of course.” She giggled slightly as she tucked it inside of her beach bag then proceeded to take down the big umbrella while Billy gathered up his toys.

From underneath the boardwalk, a lone figure silently watched the pair as they left the beach. After mother and son exited up the old wooden stairs, he stepped out of the shadows and stared absentmindedly at the incoming ocean waves. The sun had already begun to set and hung like a big red ball over the horizon, casting horizontal fiery plumes across the sky. Soon darkness would arrive and along with it, his memories.

He wandered down to the water, removed his shoes and held them by their laces as he started his nightly trek south along the shoreline. When he reached the first rock jetty, he found a smooth boulder, sat down and let his feet dangle over the side and into the cool water below.

“Oh Edward, what a wonderful night to go for a walk on the beach.”

The corners of his mouth turned up revealing an impish grin. “Yes indeed, my love, and such a special night at that.”

“Special? In what way, darling?”

Edward took a deep breath and knelt down on one knee. “It’s special because tonight I am asking you to spend the rest of your life with me.” He opened a small black velvet box revealing a large sparkling diamond surrounded by a crown of tiny diamond chips. “Anna Waters, will you marry me?”

The young woman gasped, clutching her hands to her chest. Eyes wide, she stared at him open mouthed, unable to speak. He focused his own eyes on hers expectantly while he held his breath. Finally, she nodded and grinned. “Yes, yes my love! I will marry you!”

Edward slipped the ring onto the third finger of her left hand. Touching the diamond tenderly, she lowered her head. “I thought you would never ask.” He tilted her head upward and kissed her. They remained locked in their embrace for a few moments, then Edward slipped his hands under her arms, lifted her up and twirled her around as they both squealed with joy.

Only half of the sun could be seen above sea level. He had been sitting there for quite some time. After sliding off of the rock he continued his walk.

“Edward, my hat! The wind’s taken it.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it.”

Without a thought, he raced out into the ocean fully clothed. As the hat dipped slightly above his head, he jumped up in an attempt to snatch it, but the wind was quicker and away it sailed. On the shore, Anna giggled at his valiant attempt to rescue her chapeau. Edward remained undaunted. He ducked through a wave and swam out farther into the sea. The wind, however, had other plans and once again the hat eluded his efforts. Dismayed, he watched the chiffon-draped straw bonnet dance along the breeze, then disappear farther out into the ocean in the growing darkness. He turned around and shrugged, feeling sheepish and defeated while the love of his life simply laughed and shook her head.

The memory evoked a soft chortle as he continued to the next set of rocks where the scent of Lavender began to waft up his nostrils. It was her scent. He closed his eyes and imagined the soft tinkle of her voice and another beautiful evening’s walk along the boardwalk.

“Happy Anniversary, darling! I cannot believe it’s been a year already and what a wonderful year it has been. I think I am the happiest woman alive.”

Edward blushed as Anna handed him a small white-papered package wrapped with a dark blue ribbon. “Oh Anna, you did not have to get me anything.”

“Ahh, but I did my love. Open it before I burst with excitement.”

With slightly trembling fingers, he pulled on the tail of the bow to untie it, then removed the paper wrapping revealing a small black box. After opening it, he grinned. “Is this a subtle way of telling me I’m always late?”

Anna frowned a bit as she snatched the watch away, clipped the chain to his vest pocket then placed the crown back into his hand. “Read the inscription on the back.”

My darling Edward, our love is timeless. Anna. What a beautiful sentiment.”

“It is true, my love. No matter what happens, our love will never die.”

“I—I don’t know what to say.”

Her lips brushed the edge of his ear as she whispered, “Say nothing.”

The sound of a wave crashing near the shoreline jarred away the happy memory. Exhaling, Edward continued his walk. The sand felt cool and soothed his bare toes. Directly in front of him, a large white conch shell reflected the brilliant light of the full moon. He scooped it up, held it to his ear and smiled as the roar of the ocean flooded his auditory senses triggering yet another reminiscence.

Gazing upward, Edward shaded his eyes from the blinding glare. Although the air was warm, the sun had not yet reached its zenith. He felt a sharp tug on his fingers.

“Papa, can we go swimming now?”

Edward squatted down until he was eye to eye with the little girl. She was only three but already an exceptionally intelligent child. Her tanned skin glistened in the sun while her short brown pigtails swung in the breeze. Both of her hands were firmly gripping her little hips and her lips were tightly set in a straight thin line. He swallowed a chuckle. Being a parent was not as easy as he had thought it would be. He cleared his throat and set his own lips into what he hoped was a firm expression.

“You see that, Mandy?” He pointed to the sun still trying to rise into the heavens. “When that great big yellow ball gets all the way to the top of the sky, you can go swimming.”

The little girl stamped her bare foot into the sand. “Why do I have to wait?”

“Because right now the water is freezing. Your toes will turn blue because they’ll be so cold you won’t be able to feel them. Then, you’ll walk like this.” He began to trot around in a circle, wobbling and half falling down, then picking himself up while his daughter screamed with laughter.

“Oh Papa, you’re so funny. I don’t want blue toes so I’ll wait. But is it alright if I collect some seashells?”

Edward stood upright again. “Only if I can help you.”

“Yay, let’s go!”

She wrapped her fingers in his and they skipped along the sand in search of pretty treasures from the sea. Soon her bucket was overflowing. Edward looked up and checked the sun’s position then turned to his daughter with a wry grin.

“Guess what time it is.”

“Time to go swimming?”

“Yes indeed. Let’s walk back and get your mama so she can join us.”

“Just one more shell first.” As she raced over to collect her last prize, a large conch shell, her little feet accidentally kicked some sand onto a man and woman sunbathing on a blanket. The woman grunted and the man beside her, a big burly fellow, scowled.

“Hey you, you just kicked sand all over us!”

Mandy froze, eyes wide.

“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you little girl! Come over here and apologize.”

Edward, who had waited close to the water line, jogged over to the couple. “What’s the trouble?”

“She yours?” The big man snarled as he spit the words out.

“She’s my daughter.”

“Well, your daughter just kicked sand on my wife and me. It’s all over both of us. She needs to apologize.”

“I’m terribly sorry. She didn’t do it on purpose. She’s just a small child and didn’t realize …”

“You need to teach her some manners,” the large man growled cutting Edward off. Frowning, he chomped down on his stogie and began to brush the sand away. “She shouldn’t be running on the beach anyway.”

Embarrassed, Edward gestured to his daughter to join him. “Mandy, apologize.”

“I’m sorry I kicked sand on you lady, and I’m sorry I kicked sand on you too Mister. But I don’t think it all came from me.”

Arching his brow, the big man glared at her over the top of his sunglasses. “Oh no?”

“Nope. Your blanket is too small. Your big butt is halfway off of it, see?” Mandy pointed at the man’s derriere. Rage began to color his face beet red. He rose to a standing position as he yanked his cigar out of his mouth. Edward pulled Mandy close and wrapped his arms around her protectively then nervously cleared his throat.

“I believe you have gotten your apology. We’ll be on our way now.” Edward grabbed Mandy’s hand, turned and the two exchanged amused looks and giggles as they jogged away as fast as they could, leaving the big man to stew in his anger.

When they arrived at their own blanket, Edward squatted down so he was eye to eye with his daughter. “Mandy, what you said to that man was unkind.”

“But it’s true!”

He bit his lip then continued. “It is true that he is a large man and that he was not all the way on his blanket, but pointing out his largeness as the reason for that was rude. Just because his blanket was not big enough to adequately accommodate both of them, does not mean that he was full of sand because he has a big butt. The reason is because that blanket was too small. In the future, please be more respectful, okay?” The little girl began to protest, but Edward held his finger to his lips. “Okay, Amanda?”

He used her given name. Mandy knew her father meant business. “Yes Papa.”

“Good. Now run along. Your mother is already in the water waiting for you.”

Edward had been so immersed in that particular memory he did not realize he had reached the second jetty until he stumbled over a small rock protruding up from the slimy seaweed-covered sand. The sun had fully disappeared below the horizon and darkness had descended. Time to turn around and head back.

This was the part of the walk that he dreaded. The part he did not want to remember, the part that caused so much pain. With a heavy sigh he spun around and began to trudge back across the moonlit beach as he struggled to keep the heartbreaking thought from his mind. Wading through the cold water, he forced himself to remember the happy times celebrating birthdays and Christmas trees, teaching his daughter to ride a bike and eventually, to drive a car. He had been determined to give Mandy as much of a good life as possible. He watched his daughter grow from a precocious child to a college graduate with a bright future on the horizon. Every time he gazed upon her face, his heart swelled with love and pride, but also with sadness for she looked exactly like his beloved Anna.

He squeezed his eyes shut in an effort to keep the wretched memory away. However, it was of no use. He had arrived at the spot, the place that he never wanted to visit again, yet was compelled to visit every night. Exhausted, his knees buckled. He placed his hands over his eyes and fell back onto the sand.

“What a beautiful sunrise. I think it is the most spectacular we have ever seen together.” Anna rested her head against her husband’s shoulders. “This place,” she brought her handkerchief up to her mouth covering it as the violent cough escaped her throat, “is so special, Edward. Thank you for bringing me here.”

A tear slid down his cheek as Edward took the handkerchief from her trembling hand. Seeing the blood spots that dotted the white cotton was devastating and he struggled to keep his voice from breaking. He wanted this moment to be filled with happiness not sorrow. “Yes, my love. We have spent many happy days on this beach and have so many wonderful memories.”

Anna’s breaths became raspy as she gasped for air. Edward wrapped his arms around her frail shoulders. Maybe this had not been such a good idea. “Are you ready to go back now?”

Anna shook her head violently. “No. I want to be here.”

Edward nodded as he swallowed the lump in his throat. He kissed the top of her head and rocked her gently as she struggled to speak.

“Darling, promise me you will always do what is best for Mandy.”

“Of course, I …”

“No. Hear me out, Edward. She needs to go to college. Please promise me that will happen.”

“I promise.” This time he could not stop his voice from breaking.

“Promise me that you will always be there for her, no matter what happens. I want her to grow up to be a good person.”

“She will. She already is thanks to you.” His voice became a mere whisper.

“Thank you. You’re a good father.” Anna was wheezing loudly. “I love you, Edward.” As her head trembled, she tilted it upward and kissed him. Tears streamed down both of Edward’s cheeks and he hugged his wife tighter than he had ever hugged her before. A few moments later he loosened his arms a bit as he realized the wheezing had stopped.

“Oh God, Anna, no!”

In a fit of rage, he ripped the watch chain from his pocket and threw it as hard as he could. Love was not timeless, it was dead.

A loud sob shattered the quiet of the nearly deserted beach. Apparently, he had been sitting there for hours since the sun had already started its journey upward. A young boy bounded past him and dove into a wave. After splashing about for a bit, the laughing boy sprinted out of the ocean and accidentally bumped into Edward.

“Sorry.”

Still overcome with emotion, Edward was unable to speak and continued to stare out across the water. The boy tugged at his pant leg. “Hey Mister, are you okay?”

Slowly lowering his gaze, Edward managed a weak smile. “I—yes, thank you for asking.”

The little boy brightened as he pointed toward his mother reclining in a beach chair. “That’s my mom. I’m Billy. We’re here on vacation. What’s your name?”

“Edward.”

“Edward, really? Wait here, I got something for you.” Billy ran back to his Mom who rummaged through her beach bag then handed a shiny object to her son. She waved as Billy jogged back to Edward. “Is this yours?” He placed the watch in Edward’s hands.

The old man’s heart skipped a beat as he turned the watch over and read the inscription. Smiling, he put the watch back into Billy’s hand. “It was, but you can keep it.”

“I can? Gee, thanks!”

Billy returned to his mother, leaving Edward alone at the water’s edge. Seeing that watch had reminded him that his memories should not cause pain. They were precious and he needed to hang on tight, to never forget. Because the good times and bad, the joys and tragedies were indeed what made theirs a timeless love.

{{~..~}}

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

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

Riham El-Ashry: The Golden Chain

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

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

The Golden Chain

Riham El-Ashry 

This is my testimony against time. You destroy us and ruin our dreams. I defy you. You can’t crush me and my love will last forever. 

Maryann

“Do you have the keys to the outer gate?” Mary asked her brother as they approached the old house. 

“I took all the possible keys from Mom. Don’t worry.” Michael patted his pocket and listened assuredly to the jangling of the keys. 

They walked along the bank of the Nile. It was midday and the heat of the sun helped keep the road empty of passersby. Mary and her brother had faint memories of the old mansion; the family gathering place. And though they hated the big house itself, they had loved spending a part of their vacations there every summer.

The road was crashed and bumpy. Dust flew in their faces whenever a vendor or a cart encountered them. Mary grumbled about her clothes and shoes getting dirty. 

“Why have you parked your car very far from the house? I can’t walk on this path.” 

“Same as my car!!!” 

Mary wiped her face. “How long are we supposed to spend in this village? I have to go back to Cairo. Tonight.” 

“Don’t worry. I think finding some papers in an old house won’t take long. Is that the family palace over there?” 

The chimneys of the great architectural mansion appeared not far from them. A huge facade with pillars on the sides. A Greek style though the building itself was not historical. Their great grandfather had his retiring place built in his own favorite architectural design. It was more than eighty years old, a three-story mansion of a unique style and a spacious garden. All occupied an acre and a half of land. 

“Oh! I’m so excited to see it again, after all those years, nearly twenty,” Mary exclaimed. 

“Yes, BIG sis, twenty for you,” he giggles. “When I visited the place five months ago, you know to take the photos for the advertisement on the marketing website, I was shocked at the miserable state of the building and this terrible unpaved road.” 

They stood in front of the tall, huge, ancient palace amazed and disappointed by its shabby status. The gate was a big pile of brown rusted bars. The spacious garden was only a name for a deserted yard full of weeds, dead trees except for a plumeria tree that bloomed with white flowers. 

“Here we are!!” Michael said cheerfully. “The expected fortune that will grant me an opportunity to study abroad in…” He didn’t complete his word but fell abruptly on the floor face down. 

“Oooooch!!” 

“You ifrit. Get lost,” a boy said and ran away after picking up his ball that hit Michael straight in the head. 

Mary, trying to assist her brother getting back on his feet, was bewildered. “Ifrit? What does he mean?” 

As Michael stood, feeling dizzy and running his hand on his throbbing head. “Oh! What a shot!….. They believe that the house is haunted.”

“Whatttt? You think I’m going in?” 

“Come on!! They are kids. And I think dad has appointed someone to fix the electricity. Only I hope there are light bulbs to switch on.” He laughed loudly. 

Opening the front door took almost fifteen minutes. The lock was stuck of rust and lack of usage for many years. 

“Finally, we’re in. Welcome back to our childhood memories in the enormous, prestigious mansion of Zaki Pasha.” 

Mary was trapped in a huge, silky, sticky spider web that spoiled her black hair. She looked around, few pieces of furniture were still there, remnants of the glorious past. A large hall and the stairs that led to the second floor to the rooms where they used to stay. 

“Now, where can we find the authentication papers of the house? Let’s split and search.” 

But Mary strongly objected. “We stay together! I hear scratches on the floor.” She jumped when a big rat crossed her feet. 

“Wow! You can jump really high.” 

“Silly joke!” She pointed upstairs. “I think mom said there was a room there that might contain the important papers.” 

The room was the only locked one there. It was once occupied by their great-great-aunt who led a miserable life and suffered a terrible death. Nobody knew anything about her, and nobody dared to open the door. That’s why they thought the lost papers were secured in there. 

The room, when they entered it, was lit by sunlight. Apparently, it was much different from the rest of the house. It seemed CLEAN. There was only a thin layer of dust on everything. A very neat bed in the center of the large room, elegant furniture with golden edges that resembled French furnishing design. On the wall opposite to the door hung a very fine, professional portrait of Maryann, their great-aunt, along with a painting of the Virgin Mary with her peaceful, calm face. Both looked so much alive and unharmed by the years. On Maryann’s portrait, the artist signed his name with love: E. J. Williams. 

Mary, mesmerized, gazed at the perfect work of art, trying to figure out if the painter was famous or belonged to an art group that she studied or read about. The date was also there: 1943.

“Wooh! Have you seen that white bird? Such a beauty!!” 

“What bird?! No.” Mary was so absorbed by the colors and perfection of the painting and the loving calm look in the eyes of the young woman. 

“Let’s find the papers and get out of here.” 

“Michael, there’s something about this room.” Michael felt uncomfortable too. “Look around. It is very clean. Weird!” 

Mary headed to a writing desk in the corner, while her brother searched the nightstands’ drawers but found some old papers that turned into dust when he touched them. He opened the cupboard slowly as if careful what might bounce in his face. 

“Over here,” shouted Mary, holding a black ebony box, decorated with silver lining and jewels. 

Inside the box was an old vintage chain watch, gold lead and ornamented with sophisticated structure and the name: Ramon. However, the chain and lead were stained with a dark substance. Michael held the watch and examined it carefully. 

“This is an original chain watch from the forties. It is worth a great deal of money now. Historical and a real piece of art.” 

“Look here. There is a small book too in the box.” Mary took out a diary book with Maryann’s name on it. 

“Come on! We don’t have time to read that stuff, at least now.” He went back to hunt for the precious papers, but Mary was too curious to wait. 

This is my testimony against time. You destroy us and ruin our dreams. I defy you. You can’t crush me and my love will last forever.

In the year 1942, the war was destroying the world outside, but I had my own peaceful world. I had almost no friends because I spent a great deal of my life in Paris with my mom, and unfortunately, was forced to come back to my dad here when she died. 

I enjoyed my solitude but was able to roam in Cairo’s museums and art galleries whenever I wanted. I loved all sorts of art and practiced many. 

Till that day I met William, a British artist who came to visit Egypt to do some research and study the art of the ancient civilization. His bad luck kept him from going back to Europe. He had to wait till the war ended. 

He was a real artist, so talented, and talked about art in the most fascinating way. I admired him and liked his company. I didn’t feel him as a part of the colonization as my brother Ramon did. He hated William and warned against him. 

I couldn’t agree with either my brother or my dad. And when they objected to our marriage, we agreed to flee together and get married in Alexandria. But, oh! Fate didn’t give us a chance and killed all hope. 

On that day, we were to meet at night. He would wait for me not far from the house. The day was restless. Hundreds of young men demonstrated against the British policies, and violence prevailed. Bullets scattered in the bodies and hearts of young men who only sought freedom of their country. I had no idea my Ramon was one of them till my dad entered the house, his head dangling and tears taking over his face. 

He handed me Ramon’s chain watch, the very one I gave to him on his 19th birthday a few months before. My Ramon was no more and his watch carried a part of him. His blood. 

Years had passed now. I never met or heard about William and I didn’t want to. I will wait till all hatred is abolished and time will never defeat me or my love. 

“Voila,” cheered Michael, raising his hand with some yellowish papers. “Finally, here they are. And you know something? We still can sell this watch and the box and the diary book as well.” 

“Don’t dream too far. Do you think we can get out of the house with them?” 

“Don’t be superstitious. Of course, we will.” 

“Hey! I don’t think she was smiling, the portrait.” 

Without any further word, Michael grabbed his sister’s hand and raced downstairs, out into the garden, along the dusty road. They didn’t stop until they were safely into the car.

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

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

Thom Kerr: Triangle — A Poetic Text

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

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

Triangle — A Poetic Text

Thom Kerr

Alex was a pickpocket,
a thief. He was a keeper of time,
husband to Mathilde
(who was kind, green-eyed, and fair).
Alex and Kirsten met at a neighbourhood barbeque
in the suburbs north and east of Odessa.
Kirsten was a coquette who quickly became his paramour.
 
They would sneak away for time together
She always carried a phone
to stay in touch with her mother.
He always kept a watch, a stolen timepiece that controlled time
ensuring that it ran linearly.
Until it no longer did.
 
One summer afternoon, Alex and Kirsten arranged a tryst
in a citrus grove near the river’s edge. In his haste,
he dropped his pocket watch. It fell from his waistcoat, landed on the river bank.
The clock disappeared, quickly covered in white sand
due to the lovers’ frantic coupling.
 
No one noticed for a time. Till the movement on Alex’s watch slowed and stopped,
time went awry; time ran backwards, time ran in loops, time ran in circles.
Caught herself; in a vicious, repetitious loop, Mathilde eventually spied her
husband and his consort passionately engaged.
 
Kind, unassuming Mathilde — killed them both, shoved them into the current.
She tossed the phone after them and picked the watch up from the sand.
She fastened it around her neck. Like a locket.
 
When she wound the mainspring, time eventually settled back down.
To again become linear, smooth, predictable, unavoidable.
 
Mathilde was a widow. She was the keeper of time.

Please visit Thom on his blog: https://tnkerr.wordpress.com/