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Lynn Miclea: Hide and Seek

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

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

Hide and Seek

by Lynn Miclea

Benjie kept his eyes covered as he sang out. “… 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10. Ready or not, here I come!” He dropped his hands and opened his eyes, taking in the back yard. His eyes roamed over the swing set, the picnic table, the big oak tree with the tree house, and a few smaller trees. But no Stevie. Where did he go?

Benjie knew he didn’t hear Stevie climb the ladder to the tree house, but maybe he’d check anyway. He ran to the oak tree and climbed up the ladder. At the top, he leaned forward and peeked into the small, square, wooden room. A few coloring books, a box of crayons, and two juice boxes. But no Stevie.

He climbed back down. Where did his friend go? He ran around the back yard. “Stevie?” No answer.

A creaking sound made him turn toward the back of the yard. The gate was open. Did Stevie leave and go into the woods?

He knew they weren’t supposed to leave the yard, as they were only six years old, but maybe that’s where his friend went. He glanced back at the house. No one was visible. He knew his mom was inside making dinner. He wouldn’t be gone long. A quick look and then he’d be back.

Benjie pushed open the squeaky gate and walked into the wild brush that grew up above his knees. Was it safe out here? He felt a little nervous. He had never been back here by himself. But he wouldn’t go far.

“Stevie?” He looked at the tall trees. Maybe his friend was just a little farther in, behind one of the trees. “Hey, Stevie, answer me.”

He nervously glanced behind him. He wasn’t too far from home. He’d be okay. He’d find Stevie, they’d laugh, and then they’d go home.

He walked farther into the woods. A path became visible on his left. Maybe he’d follow the path for a bit. Maybe that’s where Stevie went.

Benjie walked for a while, looking at the trees and listening to the chirping birds. A sudden cold wind cut through his thin t-shirt and he shivered. How far had he walked? Where was he?

He turned in a circle. He was on a path surrounded by tall trees and thick underbrush. How long had he been walking? He felt cold and hungry. His mom would be mad at him. Leaves rustled behind him and he jumped. He heard a thump. What was that?

Shivering with fear and the cold, he ran off the path and hid behind a tree. Silence settled around him, but his belly churned with fear. His hands shook. Panic rose in his chest and he tried not to cry. Where was he? Which way was home? He wasn’t even sure which way he had been walking anymore.

He sat down in the dirt near a bush covered in thick leaves and shivered. Looking up, he saw the sky getting dark. How would he get home?

“Mommy?” he called out into the trees. He started to cry and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Then he broke down in choking sobs.

Footsteps and men’s voices startled him. What if they were bad guys? What if they killed him? His mom would never find him.

The heavy panting of an animal filled the air, and he heard the pounding of running paws on the ground. Benjie gasped and pulled in closer under the leafy bush. No!

The men’s voices got closer. “Abby!” a man’s voice called out.

“There she is,” another voice said.

Benjie’s eyes grew wide as the animal crashed through the trees and stopped next to him. A large German Shepherd sat down in front of him and barked. “Woof!”

“Good girl, Abby!” Two policemen stepped off the trail and stood next to the dog.

One of the cops peeked under the bush. “Are you Benjie?” he asked.

Benjie nodded and wiped tears off his cheeks.

“Benjie, we’re cops, and we’re here to help you get back home. I’m Sam, and that’s Mike.” The boy stared back at them, shaking. “Your mom called us. She’s really worried about you.”

Benjie sniffed and turned to look at the German Shepherd.

Sam kneeled down next to Benjie. “And I see you’ve met Abby.” He stroked the dog’s fur. “This is Officer Abigail, our K-9 officer who helped find you.” He looked at the dog. “Good girl, Abby,” he added and pulled a dog biscuit out of his pocket, holding it out to the pooch. Abby wagged her tail and took the treat, chewing noisily.

Sam looked back at the boy. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

Benjie’s eyes met Sam’s, and he shook his head. “I’m okay,” he whispered. “I’m cold.”

Sam spoke softly. “Let’s get you home. Can you get up okay? Can you walk?”

Benjie nodded and stood up, brushing dirt and leaves off his dungarees. “Is my mom mad at me?”

“She’s worried about you. We’re gonna call in and let your mom know we found you and that you’re safe, so she won’t worry anymore. Then we’ll take you home. Okay?”

***

Benjie ran up the steps to the front porch of his home and rushed into his mother’s arms, crying. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he choked out.

She scooped him up and hugged him tightly, rocking back and forth. “It’s okay, pumpkin. I’m glad you’re home and you’re safe.” She kissed his head, breathing in his scent. “Where were you?”

“Out in the woods.”

“You know you’re not supposed to leave the yard.”

I … I know,” he stammered. “I was looking for Stevie and couldn’t find him. Where was he?”

“Stevie was hiding behind a trash can on the side of the house. Then he got worried when you didn’t find him, and he came inside and got me. We searched the yard, found the back gate open, and I called the police.”

Benjie sniffed. “Their dog Abby found me. She’s a good dog.”

His mother turned to the officers who were waiting patiently on the porch. “Thank you, officers. I really appreciate all your help.”

“Our pleasure, ma’am. We’re glad this one had a happy ending.”

“Me too.” Her voice caught in her throat. “Oh God, me too.”

The officers and the K-9 turned and walked to their squad car. Benjie looked up at his mom. “Mommy?”

“Yes, pumpkin?”

“I like Abby. Can we get a dog?”

His mom laughed. “That’s not a bad idea. A dog might help keep you safe.” She kissed Benjie’s cheek. “Are you hungry? Let’s go in and have dinner.”

“Okay. I’d really like a dog. And I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

“What, pumpkin?”

“A policeman. Just like those nice men. And I’ll have a big dog just like Abby.”

“That sounds nice. Now go wash your hands for dinner and we can talk about it, okay?”

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Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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

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

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection





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Doug Blackford: Traces

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

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

Traces

By Doug Blackford

Memory is an odd beast. I intentionally use the word beast. You never truly know what to expect from it. You may understand its basic nature, but you can’t always predict its behavior. It often stalks you, on the edge of your conscious mind, darting from shadow to shadow, but never quite showing itself. It just as often surprises you, jumping into you face first, teeth bared, without warning or any desire on your part. It might get triggered by a photo or a song, though often a scent summons it forth like a wolf suddenly appearing out of nowhere. You can control it to some degree, but it’s more of a wild animal than a pet. Thus, it’s a beast.

You would think I’d have better things to do right now than to create an analogy for memory, but I really don’t. As I lie here, basking in the haze of a drug-induced euphoria, my memory has been gnawing at me for days now. I think it’s been days. I’m pretty sure it’s drugs, though it’s been a while since any have had much effect on me. I can’t talk. I can’t move. Most of the time, I’m uncertain whether I’m lucid, hallucinating, or dreaming. I can hardly tell the difference anymore — they all seem equally real. Hell, at this point, who’s to say they’re not? So yeah, I really don’t have anything better to do.

Gnawing at me like a dog at a bone. Yeah, worrying at me like a bothersome terrier — too damn quick to grab hold of, and more annoying because of it. Back and forth. Back and forth. I grab for it. It darts away. Repeat. I’ve even tried the old trick of thinking about something else, but no dice. Like that damn terrier, the memory stays just beyond my grasp, teasing me — laughing at my inability to catch it.

It starts the same way each time. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried remembering it, nor why I keep going back to it. I remember a path, but little more than that. I can’t recall its significance or where I saw it. I can feel its importance, and that’s what really drives me bonkers. I know it’s important to me, but I don’t know why. You ever feel that way — when you know something with absolute certainty, but you can’t explain how you know? Not personal opinions or political views or any of those things that may or may not change with time and knowledge and experience. I’m talking the kind of knowing that is in your core — is part of who and what you are. A pure truth. Yeah, like that.

The path leads into a forest. The forest seems like one of those rain forests you find in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. There are several types of conifers and ferns, but virtually no deciduous trees. It’s not quite cold, but it’s definitely cool. My ears feel tighter than I’m used to, so it’s a high elevation. No snow, but damp, so it feels like late May, maybe June. The path appears well maintained with partially-buried supports spaced fairly regularly to help prevent erosion. A national park trail maybe? I can smell the green, which reinforces the seasonal feel. Small scurrying sounds in the underbrush along each side indicate to me that people use the trail pretty regularly. The animals aren’t surprised by my presence. I can hear birds too, but I don’t see anyone. It seems like I’ve been on the path for hours, but I haven’t seen a single person. All I do is walk, endlessly, without end. It’s infuriating.


Dr. Fender keyed the transmitter for the small microphone attached to his lab coat’s lapel. “He’s on the forest trail again.”

It took less than a minute for a woman dressed in military uniform to come striding in with a pair of full birds riding her shoulders, wearing a name tag that read Rafferty. She studied the monitor for a moment. The resolution was pretty low and it was black and white only, but it was good enough to display an image of the subject’s audiovisual processes. It looked like a trail to her. She could even hear … birds? She had no real idea how it did what it did, but that the contraption worked at all was good enough for her.

“We’ve tried letting it play for the past three days, doctor. It hasn’t worked and neither have your audio cues. You have a new approach?”

“Yes, Colonel. It’s called projection.”

Colonel Rafferty wasn’t unintelligent, but this neuroscience stuff was a bit beyond her. “Do tell.”

Dr. Fender was what many would call a borderline genius — it was sometimes hard to tell which side of the border he was on between genius and insane. There was no denying, however, that he was brilliant. He also had many years of experience in breaking concepts down into simple enough language for others to understand the basics of what he was trying to communicate.

“I won’t bore you with the complex implementation, but the essential concept is actually pretty simple. The machine will create a bridge that allows my mind to enter the subject’s mind so that I can experience and influence it. The subject will be aware of me. It can create other scenarios as well, but that is the one we are going to explore.”

“Whatever works. You’re the expert.”


I hear a voice. I’ve heard it before. I almost recognize it, but can’t quite place it. It’s one of the pieces that gnaws at me. It’s up ahead on the trail. When I see him just past the curve, he seems familiar, but not. I hate that. Everything is a tease. It’s like my memory is playing a game with me and I don’t know the rules.

The guy waves and smiles with teeth too white. “Hello! Nice day, eh?”

He seems dressed a little light for the temp, not even a light jacket, but who am I to judge. Some people run hotter than others, and it’s easy to warm up by walking.

“Yeah, not too bad. I like it like this, just before the season opens. Too many people after. What brings you out? You know it’s illegal to be out here, right?”

That was new. He was, too. I didn’t quite remember him, but I remembered the trail now. For the past ten years, I had come here each year just before it opened for the season to the public. I was allowed because I worked the park and had to make sure things were ready and safe. This guy didn’t belong here.

He smiled again and gave me a wink. “I won’t tell if you don’t.” I didn’t smile back.

“Dude, really. You’re not supposed to be here. The trails haven’t all been cleared yet and if you get hurt out here, you’re screwed. Won’t nobody know to come looking for you.”

The guy just shrugged at me. “It’s fine. I can handle it.” From out of nowhere, or at least what looked like nowhere, but was probably just a pocket or something I hadn’t noticed, the guy pulled out a multi-channel two-way radio. It was a good one, too. One of those government issue types. Must have been attached to the back of his belt. “I can just call for help if I get in a bind.”

I returned his shrug with one of my own. “If you say so. Still, you need to stay with me while I check the rest of this trail. It’s only another two clicks or so before it joins back up to the main.”

“If you insist, Ranger Rick!”

A quick nod and a too-easy smile set my teeth on edge about this guy. There was something about him that just didn’t feel right.

“I insist.” I had stopped walking when I reached the guy, but I now resumed what I had been doing. It felt different somehow.

“Name’s Erak, not Rick. And you are?”

The guy fell into step next to me and remained entirely too cheerful for my taste. There were several reasons I worked this job. Chief among them was to get away from people.

Gotcha, you annoying mutt! Well, I got some of it. Even a little was progress, though. I could feel more on the edges.

“You can call me Finn. Are you an Eric with a c or an Erik with a k?”

Great. Cheerful and inquisitive. A killer combination. “E-r-a-k. It’s short for Veracity. My mother picked it. I figured out how to live with it.”

My mother. When was the last time I had thought of her? Ten years? Twenty? She had died. Fifty years gone now. Fifty-two, actually. I was decades past the age now that she had been when she passed. A peaceful death in her sleep. She had deserved at least that much. My father, too, got the death he deserved, abusive bastard that he was.

Ahhhhh, there it was! It all came back to me in a rush. Why the trail was important. Where it was. Why the memories were elusive. Everything.

I finally gave the guy a smile and nodded my chin at a spot just ahead on the trail.

“Can you wait right there for a minute? I need to take a leak.” I had already headed off-trail and into the woods. The damp woods. The woods that went suddenly silent around me as I invaded non-human territory.

“Sure thing, boss. I promise not to peek.” He almost made the slight chuckle sound real, but I knew him now. There was nothing sincere about him.

I did my business, ‘cause I really did need to go. I knew this was a dream or memory or something and that in the real world I was pissing into a catheter right now, but the drugs they had me on made this feel just as real as real itself — the drugs and whatever kind of neural interface they had me hooked into. I didn’t understand how it worked exactly, but I’d read enough science fiction in my youth to have an inkling of what was going on. That, and I now remembered things from when I was conscious.

I worked my way back toward Finn, but quietly. The damp ground made that almost too easy. A shovel appeared in my grip as I sneaked up behind him and caved in the back of his skull without a sound. He crumpled to the ground like a puppet that had just had its strings cut, but he didn’t disappear. That meant Finn was still connected to whatever had us connected. Seemed likely, anyway. What that meant in the real world, I could only guess at right now.

“You have been peeking.”

I hoisted Finn’s body over my shoulder, which was made considerably easier by the fact that I knew it wasn’t real. It wouldn’t have been all that difficult in the real world either. Having a forever thirty-something body was a definite plus. Becoming immortal in a frail ninety-something body would have sucked. I knew just the place to bury the body, but then realized it didn’t matter here. It wasn’t real.

“Finn, huh? Quite clever, Dr. Fender. Almost had me, but I’m not ready to give up my secrets.”

I dropped the shovel and let Finn’s body roll off my shoulder and thud to the ground. It certainly sounded real. This was amazing — consciously aware of myself inside my own mind.

“If you can hear me, whoever you are that is, or was, pulling Fender’s strings … oh, that’s funny. Fender’s strings. Get it? Never mind. Whoever you are playing puppet master, bite me. You can’t kill me. Well, not for long anyway. I know this is my mind, so you can’t trick me forever, either.”

I contemplated burying Fender’s proxy anyway. There was a certain satisfaction in burying a body. Not all of them, of course. It hurt when it was someone close, or even a casual friend. I never got used to that. A hundred and twenty plus years now, and it always hurt. I guess it made me human, though a lot of people thought I had stopped being human decades ago.

When it was those who had earned a Final Truth, though, that was different. I wasn’t a god. I did not claim rights of judgment. Someone else carried that burden. I wasn’t even a demigod, though I knew more than one. I was just a base-class immortal — self-healing and unaging, like a hundred others in the world. Unlike many of them, I had discovered a purpose. I am the deliverer of Truth — for some, the last truth they will ever hear as a mortal.

“I will never tell you my secrets, and I will eventually become immune to your drugs. When that happens, I will get loose and I will make sure your body is never found. Maybe it’ll end up in some place like this, or maybe I’ll dispose of it in a desert. No wait, one of those bayous or swamps down south and let the gators take care of you.”

I had a talent for learning things — any things. Now that I knew what was going on, I would soon find my way out to the real world. In the meantime, I would explore the many possibilities of what I could do within my own mind. I closed my eyes as a surge of drugs overwhelmed my system. I’d get started as soon as I woke up. Right after.


Colonel Rafferty looked at the unseeing eyes of Dr. Fender gazing back at her from under the induction helmet, then at the youngish man all wired up and restrained in the experimental chair next to him. A quick pulse check confirmed that Fender was still alive, but he had obviously suffered some kind of mental trauma. The audiovisual display was dark and silent now, but she felt a little unnerved by what she had just witnessed. The attack on Dr. Fender didn’t bother her that much, even though he seemed effectively brain-dead. The self-aware mind of Veracity James is what bothered her. He shouldn’t have been able to beat all of the drugs in his system, but he was obviously doing it … somehow.

Her sources claimed that he admitted to being immortal. Was he really immortal, or just that delusional? It was true he healed at a theoretically impossible rate, but that was more likely some sort of mutation. It wouldn’t be the first inexplainable mutation they had encountered. Such a mutation could be useful, except that her scientists had been unable to replicate the ability. Every time they took a tissue sample, it degraded into useless goo within an hour. They kept trying, hoping they could find a way to stabilize it or glean some useful information before it degraded, but nothing yet.

That alone would have justified to her what they were doing to Mr. James, but that was just something to give her superiors. What was it he seemed fond of saying?

Truth doesn’t care about your feelings.

Well, neither did she. He had information she needed to know. It was virtually impossible to trace anything concrete back to him, but she knew in her bones that Mr. James was a serial killer. Multiple sources indicated as much, though none could confirm it. He wasn’t just any serial killer, though. He was the one suspected of killing her older brother.

She leaned over Erak’s face and whispered with true hatred in her voice.

“You will give up your secrets and then your body will be spread all over like butter on toast. Let’s see you heal that, you bastard.”

It only took a moment longer for her to stand back upright and compose herself as a military colonel should present herself.

She called out loud enough to be heard. “He did something to Fender. I hit his drug button to put him back under. Call me when someone has something new.”

She then turned and walked out. An almost imperceptible smile quirked one corner of Erak’s lips.

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Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Larry Stephens: Binnacue, Pennsylvania: Jamal

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

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

You may remember Larry’s earlier story, Binnacue, Pennsylvania which was posted on March 4. This story is a sequel. You can find the first story here: https://bit.ly/2JlYLeA

Binnacue, Pennsylvania: Jamal

By Larry Stephens

Sheriff Gerry Harp, aka ‘Harpo’ to his friends and just about everybody else in Binnacue, sipped from a plastic cup of boiling hot coffee that smelled far better than it tasted. Rain pattered the roof of his service vehicle — the only police car in Binnacue, and it showed because it seemed like it was patched together with spit and duct tape.

But the engine — all eight cylinders — throbbed and purred with pleasantly masked muscle that felt absolutely wonderful beneath Harpo’s butt. Rain, snow, sun, sleet, tornados, freaking hurricanes be damned, Harpo’s ‘Horse’ was a fun buggy and there wasn’t a single ride within 300 miles of Binnacue that could pace her.

Not only was Harpo the lone law enforcement in Binnacue, he was a gifted mechanic, which is often a much more valuable talent to have.

Harpo scowled at the coffee. He was not a fan, by any stretch. Horton’s was certainly welcome in Binnacue — Lord knows new businesses sprouting up in town were few and far between — but their product was, in Harpo’s esteemed opinion, unmitigated crapola. He powered down the window of his cruiser and dumped the coffee onto the glistening blacktop.

Mid-May in Binnacue; raining like a double-peckered bull pissing on a flat rock. What else is new? Harpo sighed, slipped the Horse into drive and eased off the curb, gliding forward through the shower like a shroud, determined to get back to his little cop-shop for some real coffee! Nothing much else going on anyway.

Harpo thumbed the mic on his radio. “Harpo, heading in. ETA in 7.”

The response was immediate. “Roger, Harpo. I’ll have a pot on for ya.”

God love that woman!

^^

Jamal darted into a stall in the boy’s bathroom, one of two such facilities in the cinder-block bomb shelter otherwise known as Binnacue High, Home of the Fighting Binnacue Bears. He slammed the stall door, threw the bolt and jumped up on the open seat of the commode, effectively hiding his feet.

Jamal had problems. Fourteen, a freshman, skinny, with a big mouth and a wry, biting bit of snark to him, but that wasn’t what drew all the negative attention in his crappy existence.

Jamal was different. His last name was Schmidt. Jamal Schmidt, and he was as much a mixed breed as a mongrel nosing around trash cans for scraps of food, although Jamal did not pick through trash.

Being DIFFERENT made him a target for every bully in existence; being a skinny little runt didn’t help, and being a skinny little runt with a sassy tongue just made things at Binnacue High an absolute living hell for Jamal.

Every day, and the abuse came from anywhere and everywhere. On today’s list of festivities were the Vittman brothers — sophomore twins who were probably eighteen years old and sporting outrageous mullets in hot pursuit, and for the life of Jamal, he couldn’t figure out what he did to earn this good time today.

Jamal was angry, furious at himself, furious at his fear of getting the bejeebers beaten out of him again. And so here he hid, hoping unreasonably that the sloping-foreheaded Vittmans would not have the intelligence to look in like the most obvious place in the world for Jamal to hide.

The door to the boy’s bathroom suddenly slammed open, hammering the tiled wall, and Jamal tried to shrink further into himself while holding his breath so as not to be heard.

^^

The rains finally let up for the moment, though clouds gathered in the northwest as though a horde awaiting a final command to resume their moist onslaught on the little town. Harpo stared out the smeared front window of the Binnacue cop-shop distantly, taking in the colliding vista of sparkling blue skies to the east and bulbous clouds threatening to take over from the west. Temperatures plummeted a good twenty degrees in the last ninety minutes, not uncommon in the Appalachias. Regardless, Harpo was glad to be inside rather than out.

“More coffee?” Harpo spun his chair around to face Bev Wainwright, Binnacue’s fire, police, EMT dispatcher and 9-1-1 operator, standing in front of his heavily-papered desk, stained glass-like pot dangling from her hand. The contents didn’t really look like coffee. More like hoisin sauce. Harpo shook his head and stood.

He grabbed his jacket and moved to the door. “I should do another round.”

“Well, yeah you should, bub! You ain’t bein’ paid to sit around on your skinny keester.”

Harpo opened the door, paused. “You gonna be okay here for a bit, Bev?”

“Go on now,” she said over her shoulder as she moved to the coffee station, and Harpo was suddenly out in the gusty afternoon, replete with tiny spits of moisture. He sped to the Horse and buckled himself in, cranking the ignition and flipping on the power switch for the radio. The car surged to life, vibrating sexily. Harpo loved to listen to that engine!

He eased down Mistletoe, noting that Jack’s of All Trades was doing pretty good business this afternoon — likely because of the weather that was kicking up. Harpo spun a left and eased up Clause Street, slowly passing The Wood and giving the entrance a watchful eye.

Ever since Mabel was found dead in there, The Wood freaked Harpo out. ‘Freaked’ might be too strong of a word, but it did illicit a chill and caused him to be more watchful. Harpo’s guts told him something was a little ‘off’ about that expanse of forest plopped down right in the middle of Binnacue, and if Harpo ever learned anything about being in law enforcement, it was to listen to his guts (except after eating spicy Italian sausage!).

He shrugged and moved up to Pine Way, which circled The Wood, leading to the shire on the other side of The Wood. Where Mabel and her husband Carl lived. Had lived. Carl was putting the place up for sale.

Harpo shook his head unconsciously at the memory of Carl at his wife’s funeral, smashed out of his mind. After the few attendees left, Carl decided to just lay his drunken tukas down on top of the fresh dirt of his wife’s new grave and pass out. Harpo left him there.

The snap and crackle of the radio jolted Harpo out of his reverie; he yanked the mic to his face. “Yeah Bev, what’s up?”

“Got a 201 Harpo. Just got a call from Leesha Schmidt. She sez Jamal is missing. Over.”

Jamal Schmidt… The name rung a bell. Then the memory burst in his mind, the memory of a call some three months back, before Mabel died in The Wood.

Small kid, about fourteen, mixed race, was seriously terrorized by a bunch of older kids at the high school, and one day it went too far. It was the bus driver that made the call to Bev, and Harpo raced to where the school bus was parked on a side street.

The driver, Tan Ngh, threw open the door at Harpo’s approach, rifling out rapid-fire Vietnamese just before he pushed himself off the bus in apparent rage. Harpo stepped inside the bus, eyes scanning.

Several kids — most he recognized (small-town life), and most eyes looking at their shoes or the floor. Harpo heard sobbing and his eyes followed his ears to land on Jamal Schmidt near the back of the bus, shoulders quaking; Harpo’s heart leapt at the boy’s apparent distress. Harpo went to him, glancing at the two rows of big guys taking up the back two seats of the bus. They met his glance, some with a sneer, some with a smirk. Harpo took a seat next to the sobbing boy.

“Hey hey, what’s going on, Jamal?” Harpo tried to wrap his arm around the boy’s shoulders, but he quailed and flinched away. Harpo settled on taking his hand. Jamal looked at him, eyes wet and leaking. His voice was soft and shaking. “Them…” His gaze darted to the seats behind him.

Suddenly the incident bloomed in Harpo’s mind; this kid had been bullied something fierce. Harpo stood, glared at the back seat. “I’ll be back to deal with you dopes shortly. And don’t think of running off; I know who you are and where you live.” With that he led Jamal off the bus.

Harpo remembered being appalled at how those guys abused Jamal. On this fine feckless day, they decided to use his head, neck and shoulders as a drum, and took to him viciously with their sticks in a crap attempt to play “WipeOut.” Harpo recalled having to bite back a major case of rage.

Those six guys were all charged with battery, and a few other charges as well and, even though they were technically minors, Harpo got a few good pokes in as well, making the Resisting Arrest charge have credence. Don’t tell anyone.

They spent a night in the pen and were tried two weeks later in District Juvie Court, and their families were all levied with big fat fines, and the boys were hit with hundreds of hours of community service.

Harpo thumbed the mic again. “Where is Leesha, Bev. I need to see her.”


^^

“Last I saw him was yesterday morning. I was at my mom’s last night. She’s sick and can’t take care of herself.”

Harpo nodded. “What about Mr. Schmidt?”

She was in a frantic rush, barely able to contain her panic. “What if those boys—”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

“Edwin said he had some kind of emergency at the Clinic.”

“Did he leave a note for Jamal or you?”

“No,” she snapped. “We need to get to the school.”

“Fair enough, Mrs. Schmidt; that’s as good a place to start as any.”

Jamal ran. His feet fairly flew over the cinders and logs on the path that sliced through The Wood; backpack jostling crazily; breathing rasping in and out of his bloodied nose as he struggled mightily to be quiet.

He battled tears. What those Vittman bastards did… Fury, rage, blinding pain and frustration blew whatever rational thought Jamal was capable of to oblivion. He was reaching his end; couldn’t take any more of this…

He staggered and the cinders betrayed his footing and he fell headlong, hands outstretched; being raked mercilessly by those very same cinders until his slide came to a painful end. He laid his face down, exhausted, not caring if dirt, cinders or bugs crawled on his broken and wounded mouth and nose. He poked his tongue at where there recently were teeth to feel sharp, broken stubs.

My God, they beat him like a pro beats a ping-pong ball during practice, and his mind spun in momentary confusion. When his thoughts cleared, sheer, utter, absolute depression washed over him and through him, stealing any and all power to just get… to… his… feet. He cried loudly and miserably. Then…

“There ya are, mutt.”

Terror exploded in Jamal and he rolled to his back, sitting up to stare at the Vittman brothers strolling along the path, getting closer to him. A wave of dizziness caused him to lean, but he caught himself and sat up straight.

“I don’t care what you do anymore. You can’t make me hurt any worse than I do now, so piss off.”

The two stopped, glanced at each other. “Little punk’s got a mouth on him, yeah?”

“Hells ya. Wanna fix it?”

“Sounds like a plan.” And the two advanced. Then…

“You two just stop right where you are! Down on your knees, NOW!” Jamal turned to see the sheriff and his mom fifteen feet away. Hope bloomed, until another wave of dizziness slammed Jamal, causing him to teeter over and slump to the cinders.

His hand landed on something smooth, cool; a wooden handle that just seemed to fit right into the palm of his hand as if it was meant to be there all his life. Jamal had no awareness of the passage of time or of any of the drama that was playing out as he opened his battered and bruised eyes to see a sharp glitter of sunlight reflected from a shiny blade; a blade that was stubby, curved into a kind of hook shape that came to a wicked point, and Jamal was fascinated by that blade. A blade that sang to his battered, confused, and weary mind.

He pushed himself to his knees, facing the sheriff and his mom. He swayed, he may have smiled, but he felt suddenly free; completely liberated, and he whipped that sparkling blade across his throat in one smooth motion.

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Visit Larry on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Paula Shablo: When You Loved Me

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

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

When You Loved Me

by Paula Shablo

When you loved me, it never mattered that I couldn’t face the sun. You agreed to drive us to the top of the mountain so we could descend it from East to West in the early morning.

When you loved me, it never bothered you that even so, I was covered from head to toe to protect myself from the penetrating light. Huge floppy hat, long sleeves, and gloves in the summer heat never phased you; you sought my eyes behind the dark, dark lenses, and smiled.

You were a man who loved the sunshine, but you spent so much of your time with me in the darkness—moonlit picnics, midnight walks on the beach, dancing on the patio once the sun had set.

The morning on the mountain was one I faced in fear, but I can never forget the beauty of the day.

The sun burned through the back of my shirt until you figured out just where to walk so I could remain in your shadow as we moved down the path. I longed to hold your hand, but that was impossible; I had to walk ahead and in shadows to finish the hike unscathed. When you loved me, you never minded walking behind.

Birds sang, and sunlight filtered through the ever-moving leaves on the trees, creating a dazzling display of dancing sparkles on the dew-wet grass and flowers. The dense growth of trees on either side of the path further protected me from any onslaught of damaging rays, and even through the dark lenses of my sunglasses, I reveled in the beauty of shifting patterns of light and shadow.

When you loved me, I dared to walk in daylight. When you loved me, it was worth the risk.

When you loved me, you found ways to include me in a life that had previously been filled with outdoor work and sports. You built shelters; you hunted for gigantic umbrellas; you bought the best sunscreens and sunglasses. When you loved me, you found ways to keep me safe.

When you loved me, I sat in screen tents wearing one or the other of the many huge and floppy hats you found for me, watching you play baseball or soccer. I slathered on enormous amounts of sunscreen and dressed in clothing meant for the coldest of winters and covered my head and carried ridiculously huge umbrellas to get from the house to the car, and from the car to the club.

When you loved me, it was easy to carry another set of clothing to wear once we were indoors. Your friends may have wondered why you bothered at all with such a troublesome woman. I saw how they watched my transformations with curious eyes; saw them bite back the questions they longed to ask. When you loved me, you never noticed that at all.

When you loved me, you went out of your way to schedule most of our outings at night, even when you would have rather been out in the sunlight.

That was the reason I suggested the hike. When you loved me, it seemed to me you gave up so much of what made you who you were. I was afraid to give up much myself—who I am is not negotiable, and accommodating a daylight lifestyle is not an easy thing for me. But I wanted so much for you to know that when you loved me, it was reciprocated. I know loving me is not an easy thing.

And so, we drove to the top of the mountain, and we hiked down. I led the way, and your shadow protected me, much like you always protected me in my vulnerable times. I breathed in the rich odors of earth and pine, flowers and wood. I laughed at the antics of the squirrels and stared in amazement at the deer and rabbits that crossed our path.

When you loved me, it was my greatest pleasure to hear your rich baritone voice raised in joyful song while we walked. Even while you walked away from the sun, instead of up the mountain and into its brilliant glow, you were happy to be with me.

I will never regret the risks. I will never regret the beautiful day—the marvelous path, man-made, but so natural, the birdsong, the wildlife. I will always remember your brilliant smile, your song, your sweet, sweet kisses and the strength of your arms as you held me tightly. Time passed too quickly while we waited for Ignacio to bring the van.

Back inside, back to the darkness, back to the night. Being in your arms was never sweeter.

I made my decision while you slept. It was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make.

To one who lives for the night, morning always comes too soon, but it was cruelly quick in coming the day after the hike. Kissing you goodbye was worse than dying.

I know that pain all too well. Believe me. Kissing you goodbye was worse.

I knew I could never take you away from daylight.

Even when you loved me, I knew I must take flight while you were away.

I could have made you what I am—a creature of the night. I could have kept you with me forever. Perhaps you would have grown to love the darkness.

No!

Reputation would lead most to believe me selfish. Perhaps I am, but … no.

I know who you are. I know you are meant for the sun. When you look up into the sky, your face glows with appreciation. Your skin is kissed by the light, and I don’t ever wish to see it grow pale, washed out by night.

When you loved me, really loved me, even knowing what I am … I knew it would have to end this way.

Because, you see, I really loved you, too.

___________________________________________________________________________

This is probably as close as I will ever come to writing a vampire story. It’s not that I don’t like vampire stories; Barnabas Collins gave my seven-year-old self such chills that no other vampire can ever take his place in my heart! No, the genre lives on, and I do enjoy it, but until today, I never was inspired to go down that path. Heck, I’ve barely gone down it now.

She didn’t even mention blood.

Oh, well. Love is weird.

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Visit Paula at her blog and follow her! https://pshablo.blogspot.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Erin Crocker: We all Fall Down

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

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

We All Fall Down

By Erin Crocker

“Ashes, ashes! Ashes, ashes! Ashes!”

Little Serenity’s shrill voice carried with ease through the living room and into the narrow kitchen of the two-bedroom home. Ed rubbed his wrinkled forehead and added more vodka to the mug of orange juice that sat alongside piles of neglected plates and glasses that lined the countertop.

“We all fall down!”

Ed guzzled the alcohol-infused mixture until it was empty.

Serenity entered the kitchen, arms spread wide. “No, all of us fall. I’m the queen. I command you!” She turned her large light blue eyes to Ed. “Daddy, you too. Fall down!”

“No, no. Not today,” he managed.

Serenity’s foot was this narrow, tiny thing, but that day it could’ve been the foot of a velociraptor as she slammed it against the white tile floor. “Fall down!”

Ed’s nose flared. “I’ve had about enough of you, girl.” He pointed to the fragile screen door that separated the kitchen from the neglected backyard. “Out with ya.”

Her arms folded across her stomach in a pout. “Fine. Stupid Daddy.” The words faded as she exited. “Stupid Daddy. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

When Ed’s eyes caught sight of a fresh presentation of chocolate-chip-sized deposits trailed across the floor, he grumbled. “Damn things, back again.” A saucer fell and broke as he reached past a pile of plates to grab the box of rat poison. He shook it just to make sure there’d be enough to kill the sickening invaders.

***

Serenity hopped around the yard and eventually settled at her mother’s garden. Flowers blooming in spring, well, they’re a sign of new life, Serenity’s mom had told her daughter the prior year while rubbing her growing belly.

“Like your baby?” Serenity had asked.

“Our baby.”

But the small girl in her jean overalls and fairy princess shirt had never thought of the intruder as someone to be included. Worse yet, as her mom’s belly got bigger, she could no longer play games. Fall down, Serenity had demanded.

“I just can’t, baby.”

Soon after that afternoon, the young girl’s mom had fallen down, along with her unborn baby brother who her parents were going to name George. Serenity’s mother and George had both fallen down, for good.

Serenity skipped around the square flower box. “Water them, care for them, show them a lot of love, and in early spring they’ll grow with help from sun from above.” Her thin lips curled into a smile as she continued her song. “Sing to them, talk to them, they’re safely in their beds. Then, silently, quietly, rip off their little heads.” Her fingers ripped off the white bloom of a daisy, and a familiar buzz filled her stomach.

The sun that escaped the barrier of trees and branches that lined an old path through the forest caught the girl’s attention. She dropped the dying flower and used her ripped up Sketcher to kick it into the dirt. “Time to go see Maria. She’ll play with me.”

The bumps along the unsure path reminded Serenity of the weary sidewalk outside of her aunt Gerry’s home. Serenity never knew why her mom had decided to send her away, but she was awfully glad her dad picked her up just days before her mom fell for the final time.

As she continued through the opening, the trees thickened and imprisoned the sun. Serenity appreciated the darkness as much as she appreciated seeing the mix of purple and black that circled Justine Harrelson’s left eye. The stupid little thing had approached Serenity on the playground, flipping her shiny blonde hair, displaying her marshmallow white teeth, like a hungry lion, a stupid little hungry lion. Weirdo. The girl let out this merciless laugh before continuing. I heard your mom died. Your mom is dead. Your mom is dea—”

Justine didn’t have a chance to do much more after that but scream. Students from all corners of the playground ran toward the chilling cries for help just to witness Serenity’s little hand come up with a fist full of hair before charging back down to the girl’s face. The next time, her hand came up covered in blood. She’d managed to do a number on Justine before a teacher arrived to stop the scene.

Remembering that darkness excited Serenity in a way she’d only known one other time. She took careful steps along the surrounded path until she came upon warm lights that glowed and outlined a mobile home. Serenity grinned and approached the front door.

“Hold on, hold on.” Maria peered out the door. “Oh, it’s you.”

Serenity took note of the rollers.

She motioned for the little girl to come on inside. “I’m not busy, just settin’ my hair.”

Serenity crinkled her nose and ran her fingers through her own short, black hair. “Sitting on it?”

“I put it up in these rollers here. It stays rolled up for a week. I got it off one of those mailing catalogs. Don’t know if you all see the mail truck comin’ out here.”

Serenity shook her head and took a seat on the couch and swatted away a line of cigarette smoke.

“What are you up to today?” Maria shuffled into the kitchen area and stirred a deep pot before covering it. “I’m making up some stew here. When I finish, you can take some back for you and your pa. How’s that?”

“Thanks.” Serenity took in a noseful of meat and spices she hadn’t noticed when she’d first arrived. “I want to play ashes, ashes, let’s fall down.” Her little eyes flickered and lit brighter than the flame on Maria’s lighter as the woman flicked the spark wheel to light another cigarette.

“Can’t today, button.” She gestured to her head. “Gotta keep these suckers still.”

Serenity huffed. Her face reddened and burned and the fire seared her stomach all the way to the bottoms of her feet. The girl balled her hands into threatening fists as she tried to put out the flames.

“Tell you what. Why don’t you go out and look for frogs in my yard? I’ve seen lots of those things out lately.”

***

Ed poured more orange juice in the navy mug and filled it the rest of the way with vodka. The powder trail of poison blurred and danced when he studied it. “Dumb little shits,” he grumbled. “That oughta do it.”

It had done it for Laurel and his unborn son. Done it to the point the cops had hauled his ass down to the station until he proved he hadn’t been home the night his wife had poisoned herself. When the dumb fucks released him, they’d said, “Darn lucky the little girl didn’t eat them cookies.”

Ed had agreed at the time. At least he had his little girl, the porcelain, innocent face with wide almond eyes. He was damn fucking lucky. After a few weeks, he noticed how loud she was. She never shut the hell up, ever. Talk, talk, talk, talk, sing, sing, sing. She was Laurel’s job.

He took another sip; he could’ve put her in that dress. That one dress, the navy one with bright yellow sunflowers and those dirty, white saddle shoes. He could’ve polished them up real nice. Paired them with white frill socks from the dime store and a big poof of a hair bow. He could’ve appreciated the little girl then. Her still, slim body resting, motionless in a shiny, wooden box, her doll-like hands sleeping against her chest. He could’ve cried, kissed her forehead, and said a prayer before sending her to a silent sleep.

The bottle of vodka was empty. Ed reached for the Jim Beam.

***

A sharp cry caught Serenity’s attention. She walked toward the noise and saw a fragile creature. “Hey there,” she cooed at the baby sparrow. “I guess you lost your mommy.”

She reached for the bird and cupped her hands to cradle it. It sat still, beak opening ever so often to elicit another squeak. She studied its wide, black eyes. A few feathers had started to grow. The thing’s desperate screech irritated Serenity when she tugged at one of the attached feathers. She pressed the top and bottom of its infantile beak together and noticed how its eyes widened with fear. Her stomach twisted and tumbled, so familiar. The thrilling satisfaction nearly doused the fire.

“Here you go.” She sat the little creature on a bed of grass and grabbed a nearby rock. “We all fall down.” Her hum was peaceful as she tossed the stone and watched it crush the infant’s fragile skull.

“Serenity?”

She hadn’t noticed Maria open the trailer door.

“Over here.” Serenity stood and moved away from the dead bird.

“Soup’s ready. Bring the bowl back.”

“I’ll return it full of cookies just like me and my momma used to make.”

Maria extended the plastic tub to Serenity, purplish-red painted lips stretched into a smile. “I’d like that very much.”

***

Ed had enjoyed Maria’s soup. It’d been a long time since a woman cooked him a meal. A long time, indeed. And then, to follow it up, Serenity had left him with a plate of cookies before rinsing the tub and returning to their neighbor with a few cookies inside.

Maybe she was doing better than he thought. His hand shook as he reached for the bottle of Wild Turkey and took a drink. “Time to bait those fuckers again,” he mumbled and grabbed the box of rat poison from the table. He shook the container. Had he used that much a couple of days ago? Maybe. Hell, he couldn’t remember. Ed bit into a still-warm cookie.

***

Serenity skipped up the uneven path. Even the trees that lined the walkway seemed lighter that day. She sang her favorite song, the one her mom had taught her. This is our song. It will always be our game. Nothing will ever come between us. But something did.

Liar, Serenity thought. “We all fall down. We all fall down. We all fall down. All fall down.”

***

“I don’t know how he did it, but that sick bastard did it.”

That’s what Sheriff McAllister had said when police had finally arrived on scene and found Ed’s body surrounded in an eruption of fluids that ranged from frothy vile around his mouth to moist stools near his waist and feet.

Thank God that little girl didn’t eat any. See if the neighbor lady heard or saw anything.

Maria was nowhere to be found.

Her property sat in silent isolation for days until buzzards started to circle the roof of her trailer. Their never-ending honks caught McAllister’s attention. Hours later, they hauled Maria’s body from the residence.

McAllister glanced at the sun that danced through the forest’s branches. He thought of the innocent tears that had plagued little Serenity’s face. “She is the sunshine in all of this,” he’d said. That trash of a father she had. It’s a wonder the little girl is as stable as she is.

***

The years weren’t kind to Serenity. The trail of death that seemed to stalk her reminded her of the dark, uneven path of her old home. As soon as she reached adulthood, she moved back to that home. She needed familiarity.

And it was while she was clipping a rosebush that a head of light blond hair appeared at the end of that old path. “What you doing?”

Serenity took in the little boy’s cheeks that had not yet shed their baby fat. He was in red shorts and a blue and white striped top. A strand of hair fell down his forehead and his lips exposed his white teeth when he gave her a chubby smile. She motioned for him to come over and spent the morning explaining all of her flowers to the boy.

“Go home. I go home,” he finally said.

“Did you just move in?”

“Me, sissy, Momma, and Dada. Just move up there.” His chunky finger pointed at the trail.

“That’s so wonderful.” That feeling surfaced in Serenity’s stomach. It tossed and tumbled through her body with freedom. “Run along home, now. Tell your mommy to have coffee ready. I’ll stop by with sugar cookies.” Serenity’s excited grin made the boy chuckle. “You like sugar cookies?”

He nodded his head.

“Okay, run on home. I’ll be over soon. I promise.”

Serenity’s eyes followed the boy as he toddled up the path and disappeared in the clutches of its darkness. Her grin spread wider across her face. She sang, “We all fall down.”

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Visit Erin’s website and check out her fantastic writing… https://authorerincrocker.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




Caroline Giammanco: This is It

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

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

This Is It

By Caroline Giammanco

The rain beating down on Carter McDowell’s windshield made a perfect metaphor for the pounding his emotions had taken over the past year. One loss after another pummeled his heart and mind to the point that he was ready to give up. The isolation of his car, without the need to speak to another human being, was the only thing holding him together tonight.

I can’t take anymore.

Carter lowered his speed as he squinted through the blinding rain. Darkness fell, making conditions even more hazardous. He’d been on the road since daybreak, and his body was as fatigued as his spirit. His mind drifted to the events of the past year as he willed himself to stay awake.

Some years are better than others, and this one held little that was positive. A job loss, a breakup with his longtime girlfriend, and the loss of his mother threw Carter into an emotional abyss. Even minor setbacks now seemed like major ones. A missed bus, a spilled cup of coffee, or a cross word from the checkout girl at Hudson’s Grocery, were exaggerated in Carter’s depression. Each slight or stumble equated another failure in his mind, and he’d lost hope.

He hadn’t always been this way.

I can remember being happy, I just don’t remember how that felt.

To ask his friends, he was the life of the party. Jokes flew easily from his lips, and that smile of his charmed nearly everyone who met him. Carter thought about the reaction his friends would have if they knew the truth.

I’m dying inside, and they don’t even know it. Would they care? What if these people knew who I really ama fraud? For a year, I’ve been living a lie.

Carter had only a vague sense of where he was going. He remembered his father taking him to a cabin in the woods when he was a boy. The mountain lake contained rainbow trout, and his father taught him to fly-fish there. He breathed in … and could almost smell the pine and earthy goodness that the mountains held.

For a week he’d checked and double-checked his supplies. A tent, a few dozen packages of freeze-dried meals, a fishing pole, a gun, ammunition, all-weather clothing. I think I have it all. Carter glanced at the mounds of gear heaped in the backseat of his vehicle.

Fatigue wore away at him like a toothache, and finally he needed sleep. A sign said the rest area was five miles away. The clock on his dash said 1:23 in the morning.

Today, well yesterday, went by in a haze. How far have I driven?

He looked at his odometer, but his mind was too foggy to do the math. Dreading the company of other people, he forewent the exit to the rest area. Instead, he found a nondescript dirt road and turned right.

No one will bother me here.

During the night, the torrential rain ended, washing away the summer dust that covered everything the day before. Carter awoke to the sound of singing birds and saw the world was fresh and new. The pines and earth set loose their aromas, and for the first time in months, Carter felt young and alive.

Pulling out his pack and supplies, he ventured a quarter mile down the dirt road where a wooden sign caught his eye: Hiking Trail.

This is it.

Unsure whether his time in the woods would last days or forever, Carter stared down the canopied path ahead of him and breathed in the soothing redolent air.

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Check out Caroline’s website! http://www.booniehatbandit.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection




E. C. Fisher: Beep Beep Beep

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

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

Beep Beep Beep

by: E.C. Fisher

The pain has taken hold, it binds me in my body

Beep beep beep

Medicine is pumped into my veins

Beep beep beep

Family and friends surround me, I barely hear their cries and woeful condolences

Beep beep beep

My body feels heavy and yet light as my mind falls asleep

Beep beep beep

My vision blurs as the darkness closes in

BEEEEeeeeeep

My senses dwindle, emptiness, the agony is gone, darkness surrounds me

The need to open my eyes overwhelms me, a ray of light shines through the darkness, the sensation of the wind caresses my cheek, the scent of pine tickles my nose

I walk through a well-lit forest, the earthy path is worn and well traveled, many have followed it to the end

I hear the chirping of birds and buzzing of insects, and the rustling of the leaves as the breeze sweeps by

Peacefulness wraps me in its tight embrace, a tranquil peace that I have never experienced

My body moves without a thought, the light grows brighter as I walk up the gentle slope

An invisible wall halts my progress, my body jerks, my chest hurts, pain once again assaults my senses

The chirping of the birds and buzzing of the insects scatter as my body is pulled backward from the serene light

Beep. Beep. Beep.

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Please visit E. C.’s Facebook page ! www.facebook.com/ecfisherauthor

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection



Kenneth Lawson: When the Memories Return

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

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

Kenneth wrote a story for the February prompt and he has continued the story using this month’s prompt. The first story is here.

https://writersuniteweb.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/kenneth-lawson-things-best-left-forgotten/

When the Memories Return

By Kenneth Lawson

The winds whispered through the trees.

The sounds they made reminded me of the secrets I was carrying in the back of my soul.

I caught sight of the sun just as I almost tripped on one of the logs that had fallen across the path. Judging from the rot and decay, it had been there for decades. My foot easily went through the outer bark into the porous soil that had once been a tree standing proud and tall in the forest.

But now it lay along with dozens of others on the forest floor. Slowly feeding the next generation of trees that were protecting it from the morning sun. But I quickly pulled my thoughts away from the fate of trees long dead. My more immediate concern was the cabin at the end of the trail. I hoped against hope that it was still there. The chances of the small log cabin still standing after the decades of being forgotten were slim, but I had to try. If I was right, she was there.

I reached the clearing where the cabin still stood. The weeds had long ago taken over the landscape, and the pond behind it was now green with the scum that often took over when fish and wildlife died. In fact, the whole place was falling apart.

But I really didn’t come to see the dying cabin.

She was there.

“Charlene.”

“You came…?”

“I said I would.”

“But you swore you’d never come back again.”

“Yeah, I did at that, didn’t I?”

I bowed my head looking over the top of my glasses. “I lied.” I paused. “And I found Grandpa’s money.”

Charlene seemed to light up at the mention of the money. “You what? Where? How?” She came running toward me.

“Right where you left it.” I pulled the revolver from under my jacket.

She stopped in mid-step.

“What…?”

“I still haven’t worked everything out yet, but you knew where he buried the money before he died. How I don’t know, but somehow you knew. Why you had me going through the bullshit with the pills, try to remember, I don’t know. No matter, the jig is up. And now you’re going to pay for killing my grandpa. He would have never had that heart attack if you hadn’t helped it along with the pills you were sneaking into his coffee and beer.”

She tried to look shocked and confused.

“I was only sixteen at the time, but I knew something was bothering him. He would never say that, but it got me thinking. And your insistence that I try to remember something I didn’t know. I still don’t know what that was about. But I’ve done some checking, and you knew him. All too well. You knew what no one else knew—he had a soft spot for young girls. Girls that liked to show a little too much skin and teased a bit too much. No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was my grandpa, and I loved him.”

“But you love me,” she pleaded.

“I did. Once, when I was spellbound by your body and your charms, but that wore off a long time ago.” I took a step closer to her. “Now—now I see you for what you are, a gold digger and a slut. You used your charm and body to get to Grandpa because you knew he was well off, and you wanted what you couldn’t earn on your own. How many other men in the city did you con and use, and ruin their lives for sex and money?”

She stared at me. I could see the wheels in her mind working.

I leveled my gun at her, drawing back the hammer on the revolver.

“You never loved him. Hell, you never loved any of them, not even me. I woke up about six months ago. Started digging into your past. Found out about the police records sealed because you were a minor, talked to families all over the county and found out the truth. Saw the pictures of you with the old men. Saw it all, Charlene, I saw the truth. You didn’t just ‘run into me’ at the diner that day, you stalked me and targeted me because you knew who I was.”

I took a deep breath, bile rising in my throat. “And I fell for it. The whole thing, even married you. But it’s over now. Yeah, Grandpa was an SOB, but he was an honest SOB, and he never cheated or killed anyone. I count at least three old men who you killed, but no one can prove it.” I shifted positions, to get a better shot at her. The gun was getting heavy in my hand. I needed to end this soon.

“You said you found the money. We can go away together and forget all of this.”

“How dumb do you think I am? I’m not going anywhere with you. The money was here alright, but not where he hid it. You flashed your boobs at him, or worse, and got him to tell you where it was, but then you took it, re-hid it, hoping to come back for it. But it was easier to con me into finding it. It would look better if I found it and no one connected you to it. You made up the bit with the pills and remembering. The only problem is I remembered.” I waved the gun in the air. “Remembered it all, how I had seen you sneaking out the back of the house a few times, right before he died.”

“That wasn’t me. You’re crazy, I wouldn’t do that.”

Laughter gurgled from my throat. “I didn’t tell you all I remembered. Then I found the pictures. And the letters. That’s right. I found out the whole ugly truth.” She began to back up as I continued. “Grandma never knew. It would have broken her heart and killed her. It did kill her. Because she died right after he did of a broken heart.”

She was breathing hard. “Now what?”

“Now I do what needs to be done.”

With that, I touched the trigger on the revolver. The gun bucked in my hand.

The recoil sent it upward as the barrel went up ever so slightly as the shot fired, and I saw Charlene slowly fall to the ground just past the end of the barrel.

The shot echoed in the woods. She never heard it. The sound of the birds and the woods slowly returned as the echo died off in the distance. But I heard it. I could still hear the ringing in my ears for several hours after. A constant reminder of what I’d done, but this too would pass.

It was late by the time I had buried her.

I had had it all planned out. Exactly what I was going to say to her. Hell, I didn’t say half of what I wanted to, but I decided it didn’t matter in the end. She knew I knew exactly what she’d done, and why she had to die. That’s was what mattered.

As I slowly drove from the end of the trail back toward the main road, I thought it had gone perfectly. I had avenged my grandpa’s murder and found the money he had stolen from the bank decades ago. Yeah, she never knew the money was from ill-gotten gains, but I’d found that out too.

Turning onto the main road, I smiled. Now I could live my life in peace and luxury.

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Please visit Kenneth’s blog and follow him. http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection



Kelli J Gavin: Well Lit

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

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

Well Lit


By: Kelli J Gavin



Sarah and Maddie had been walking for quite some time. Sarah was about twenty feet ahead when she turned and noticed Maddie wasn’t keeping up with her anymore.

“Maddie! Let’s get a move on! I want to get home for dinner and soon the sun will start to set.” Sarah originally was pleased when her best friend agreed to tag along for an outdoor adventure. Maddie had in recent months become a bit distant and aloof. She no longer enjoyed going to the movies together. She didn’t care when new music was released. She barely engaged in conversation with Sarah anymore and she altogether ignored all of their mutual friends. Sarah at first tried as hard as she could to figure out what may have caused these sudden changes in Maddie. But try as she might, Sarah was at a loss. Maddie was quiet, sullen and just chose to do her own thing.

“Girl, I am trying. I can’t keep up with you. Your stupid long legs make you take steps like a giraffe. I thought this was supposed to be a leisurely walk. Not a race to see who could get there first.” Maddie didn’t even make eye contact with Sarah as she continued her complaints. “What is so special about these stupid wildflowers you are searching for?”

“They only bloom for about two weeks every summer. I should have started checking on them about two weeks ago, but my summer job has taken over most of my daylight hours. They are so beautiful. I love placing them in vases throughout the house. I would hate to miss them this year,” Sarah explained.

“How long do they last once you have picked them?” Maddie asked, wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead.

“Usually about five or six days and then they wilt a bit and the edges turn brown.” Sarah’s expression changed as the memory of last year’s wilting flowers came to mind.

“Seems like a waste of time if they are just going to die right away.” Maddie, as always, was continuing on her negative streak.

“Do you hear yourself? I am sick of this Maddie. For the last few months, you have been a mess. You argue with anyone who disagrees with you. You turn down almost all invitations. You complain and complain and complain until I kinda want to punch you. The last time I asked you what was wrong and what was going on, you glared and me and told me to stop asking. You glared at me. I am your best friend. What is the problem?” Sarah sputtered as she finally spoke about her grievances directed at Maddie.

Silence. Actual silence. Sarah stopped in her tracks and waited for Maddie to stop next to her. Maddie looked up into Sarah’s eyes. Tears began forming and Maddie gulped for air.

“Sarah. My dad is sick. Like really sick. He has cancer, and surgery and chemo aren’t an option. The doctor has given him another couple of months. That’s it. Done. Just like that.” Maddie cried.

Sarah couldn’t believe what Maddie was explaining to her. All those times Sarah tried to stop over and Maddie wouldn’t let her in the front door. All those times Sarah said that her parents wanted to have Maddie’s parents over for dinner and Maddie said they were busy. All this crazy mean talk and complaining that seemed to be boiling over all the time. Maddie’s dad was dying. Sarah’s eyes filled with tears. She reached for Maddie to embrace her, not knowing if Maddie would even let her. Maddie’s shoulders fell. And she began to sob. Her entire body collapsed into Sarah’s loving arms.

“Oh Maddie. I am so sorry. And I am sorry that you didn’t tell me. I could have been praying for you. Supporting you. Loving you during this time. All I wanted to do was punch you because you were being so hateful and mean and standoffish.” Sarah wiped her own tears as she massaged Maddie’s heaving shoulders.

“It was almost as if I couldn’t. If I told you, if I said it out loud, that would make it real. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell you about it. It hurts so much.” Maddie sat down on a fallen log to catch her breath and wipe her tears.

“I understand and I am sorry. My sweet friend, I love you. Thank you for telling me. I want to help you in any way that I can. You tell me how, and I will do it.”

“Take me to see these flowers. Today is a fine day for beauty.” Maddie smiled as well as she could to enable Sarah to know that she meant it.

“Flowers here we come.” Sarah pulled on Maddie’s hand and brought her to her feet. She hugged Maddie tightly and pulled a tissue from her pocket. Sarah helped Maddie fix her eyes and then tucked Maddie’s willing arm into hers.

The girls increased their speed. No longer shuffling behind, Maddie kept in step with Sarah. Maddie and Sarah. Just like it had always been. Friends since the first day of kindergarten. Friends until the end. The path narrowed a bit and the sun shone through the tall treetops. The breeze increased which helped the girls cool down a bit from their brisk walk in the woods.

“There! There they are!” Sarah announced as she bolted forward into the opening in the woods. Pink and purple, yellow and blue and red. So many colors of wild flowers! An absolutely beautiful sight. Pure and simple. Natural beauty in God’s creation.

Maddie smiled at Sarah. A smile of thanks. She lay down in the middle of the opening. Surrounded by wildflowers, the gentle breeze, and the sound of birds speaking to each other. “Sarah. Thank you for bringing me to see your special flowers. This time with you has been so wonderful. Thank you for helping me smile today.”

Sarah was kneeling and gently cutting flowers and placing them in a pile. “I will cut a few extra for you. You will want a vase also I think.” Sarah smiled at her treasured friend.

The path home was well lit by the sun that would be setting soon. The girls walked arm in arm back to their neighborhood. When they exited the woods and turned to admire the sunset, both girls did nothing other than hug each other. Not a word was exchanged. Sarah handed Maddie an armful of flowers to bring home to her father.

That evening, Maddie and her father sat on the couch admiring the vase of flowers on the mantle above the fireplace. “Dad, Sarah cut those for me today. Aren’t they beautiful?”

Maddie’s dad smiled at her. “Beautiful, just like my baby girl.”

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Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection


Larry Stephens: Binnacue, Pennsylvania

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

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

Binnacue, Pennsylvania

By Larry Stephens


A stunning morning in May in the deep, rolling hills of Pennsylvania; temperatures already holding at around 60 or so, with little puffballs zipping around on crests of swirling, late-spring winds.

Mabel — as she has done every day for the last 23 years of her life — wobbles shakily from the simple two-bedroom cape-cod she calls home and makes her way tenuously up a steep, evergreen-lined blacktop.

She’s not feeling well; head pounding and her tongue feels like a huge slab of raw meat stuffed in her mouth, causing her to occasionally gag. She halts in her progress to dab her left eye, which is tender and leaking and will likely be sporting a nice, deep bruise by mid-afternoon. She sighs deeply, turns a venomous glare back to the little house she stepped from, rolls her aged shoulders, lowers her head and pushes onward.

The graded blacktop gets steeper — it always gives Mabel trouble in her knees and she feels more rickety than she’s ever felt before. Mabel wonders if she’ll be able to die soon or if this will go on and on forever, as if this were her hell and she was already dead and God consigned her withered shell to Satan’s treadmill.

One step in front of the other, she tells herself.

But dear God am I tired.

Not tired. Weary.

Mabel pushes on, knees protesting, but determined to crest the hill where she’ll stop for a nice long series of deep breaths and flip her middle finger first at Satan and then her husband, Carl.

Carl of the Foul Temper. Carl, whose fists were sudden, furious and painfully hard. Carl, who has a penchant for pounding the crap out of Mabel without leaving any noticeable marks. That is, except for this morning when Mabel poured his stinky Iron City beer down the drain.

Hence the left eye issue.

Finally! Mabel takes that last step up — and it’s a doozy for sure — and grants herself a little smile in victory. Gotta take ’em when ya can get ’em. She slowly hoists her right hand to eye-height and cranks up that middle finger with a “That’s for you Satan, ya filthy bastard!”

She turns around slowly (lest she lose her balance and take a nasty tumble, although breaking a hip might not be such a bad idea) and pushes that raised middle finger emphatically toward her tiny cape-cod. “That’s for you Carl. Die already.” Mabel is pretty certain Carl didn’t hear her.

She turns and steps off the blacktop, which comes to an unceremonious end at a small plot of grass growing wild. At the other end of the grass lies the entrance to The Wood, and Mabel feels a longing to be in The Wood. She walks across the spongy grass that’s high enough to tickle her bare calves and the entrance to The Wood looms. Mabel darts into its deep embrace, belying her age and seeming decrepitude.


Her anxiety immediately fades, evaporating from her soul as she accepts and is accepted by The Wood. Her eyes close gently and she inhales the fragrance of The Wood with a longing akin to nothing she’s ever felt outside The Wood. Ever. She holds the breath and the aromas within before exhaling slowly, all the way down to the pit of her ancient belly.

Mabel steps on the cinder path that cuts like a great scar through The Wood and laments the sheer ugliness of it as she reaches deep into the folds of her bulky cardigan and extracts a chrome flask, which she’d filled shortly after Carl popped her and before taking her leave. The lid comes off easily and quickly, and she upends the glittering vessel, gulping its contents greedily, the sudden sear of Dewar’s scotch fries its way down her gullet to thump into her guts.

She burps, then chuckles at the burp, telling herself, “that was a good one!” and then pulls a pack of Marlboro reds out of another pocket of her clunky cardigan, made for her by some sanctimonious bitches at church. (They always seemed to be praying for Mabel and yet, nothing changes! So why bother?)

She lights up, drawing deeply, then pounds another swig of crap-scotch and begins making her way along the cinders, carefully avoiding the small logs that section off the cinders. Mabel — for maybe the millionth time in her miserable life — contemplates the reasoning or the logic behind those stupid logs. To keep the cinders in place? Maybe they’ve got something to do with the torrential rains that battered this little Appalachian mountain dump-of-a-town.

Another swig, and Mabel begins to lose interest in discovering the reasons for the regularly-spaced logs, striving instead to keep her footing amid the twitchy cinders.

Mabel has some really good shoes for this kind of walking. Doc Martin’s or Doc Marteen’s or Doc Dicken’s or Doc Dickeedoo or something-or-the-other; damned things take a licking and keep on ticking and it’s unbelievable just how much Mabel … Hates … Carl!

She stops at the sheer intensity of that last thought, surprised. She knocks back another Big Gulp then realizes that she’d best pace her consumption or she’ll be out before she gets to where she’s going. She finishes her cigarette, drops it then grinds it out with her heel, then stoops precariously to retrieve it, smiling as she resumes an upright position and continues her stroll through The Wood. That used and reeking ciggy butt always looks really fine in Carl’s meatloaf or pot pie, which gives Mabel joy.

Evergreens grow deeply here; their piney scent overlaying a slight smell of decay that accompanies millennia-old woods, and the silence vastly deep. Mabel glances back, then around her at the endless evergreens, ascertaining her progress through The Wood. About halfway.

She tips her flask again and is rewarded with just a few drops. She scowls in disgust, but then brightens and hurries forward several yards where she spies a small, mossy fir with a small down-facing arrow etched in the trunk and she smiles to herself. She crouches down and brushes moss and leaves aside to reveal an unopened fifth of Dewars, and Mabel is quite suddenly elated at the find. (She sort-of, kind-of remembered that she’d planted it there on an earlier run, although she’s not entirely sure which run.)

She sits on the damp earth and can feel moisture seeping through her frumpy black dress and soaking her ass, and cares not a whit as she refills the shiny flask, careful not to waste a drop of the amber love-liquid. Task complete, she caps the flask, takes a long pull from the bottle, reseals and replants it, then stumbles to her feet, deciding that it’s time for Carl to die.

Huh?

Mabel sets off along the cinder path a bit more wobbly than before, ruminating over the sudden inspiration. She rolls it over and over in her mind. Carl must die. Now. Today.

Her footsteps seem to take on greater purpose and Mabel feels that she’s actually striding, passing through The Wood like a timeless, old, frumpy wraith.

The Wood lay squarely between the tiny shire where her cape-cod sits, and the main town of Binnacue, and it takes about an hour to walk from one end to the other. Mabel makes it her singular venture each and every day while Carl sleeps off his latest binge and pants-pissing party (stinking up the house something awful, cuz the stench of sour beer and fermenting piss is enough to peel frigging paint).

Mabel would never have to deal with that shit after today, no siree. She applies flame behind her gnarled, leathery shaking hand to a smoke that bobbles between her lips. Yep, I’m about two sheets to the wind right about now. Just cognizant enough to buy what’s gotta be bought to do the job…

Of killing Carl.

Linoleum knife. One quick horizontal motion across the old buzzard’s grizzled throat and see ya bitch! Sayanara shit-heel! You’ve belted me for the last time.

Jack’s of All Trades Hardware on the corner of Mistletoe and Clause streets in Binnacue would have just what Mabel needed. (What city-planning douche thought it would be a good idea to name the town’s streets after Christmas stuff anyway?)

Another belt of scotch, another burned butt, and Mabel steps from The Wood, across another plot of lawn (this one neatly groomed, thank you), calculating the stops and amount of money she’d need to spend.

Liquor store. Convenience store for smokes. Jack’s of All Trades for one wood-handled linoleum knife with a sweet, curved blade, a nasty point, and sharp enough to shave old whiskers all neat and clean.

^^

Bags rustling in her arthritic fist, Mabel strides determinedly into The Wood; her mind entirely focused on her Mission. To kill Carl. Deaders. Finito. One. Dead. Assface.

A sense of melancholy suddenly washes over her that was completely unbidden and a total surprise. Would I miss him, she wonders. Nah. Well, maybe. Or not. And Mabel tries to remember ever being happy with him. Nothing comes to mind. Nothing, and she feels barren, empty, devoid of anything but sadness and a grim sense of purpose.

She shakes her head angrily, takes a healthy pull from the flask and then fires up another smoke. Fury rides shotgun behind her eyes, giving her an immediate headache. But oh how the rage seethes, and for the first time in the 23 years she’s been making this trek through these woods, she flings her still-lit ciggy away angrily, then stops and wonders why in the hell she just did that.

Because you’re about to kill your husband, you dip-shit.

She wobbles, unsteady on her feet, as she slowly comes to understand just how shitfaced she is. And then she laughs. Out loud, competing with the repetitive, happy splash of a near-distant stream for the ears of the bunched firs.

And she laughs louder, uproarious as the thought of calling herself a dip-shit trundles around in her soggy brain. She thinks, my liver’s gotta be a bag of crap by now, and that makes her laugh even harder, but the laughs suddenly turn into coughs, and the coughing hurts something gawdawful!

They rip through Mabel and she feels like something is uber-wrong, doubling her over. She drops to her knees, unmindful of the uncaring cinders gouging the tender flesh of her knees as wave after wave of spasms hammer her. The flask tumbles from her grip as another, more powerful coughing fit wracks her and she feels something deep inside her tear loose with a sudden, blinding pain and work its way up her esophagus, causing her to gag even more.

Tears stream from her eyes, her face reddens, and snot pours from both nostrils as whatever it is that shook itself loose sloshes out of her mouth to plop in the dirt. Mabel turns away, not wanting to see whatever it was; terror washes over her as she’s suddenly unable to breathe and a deep, throbbing pain blooms to totality.

Gasping, she sags to the ground, her face turning blue, frustration and rage exploding in her mind even as the lights gradually dim and then fade to a pinprick of gleaming light that might have been a spear of glorious sunlight reflecting off the blade of that wonderful linoleum knife.

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

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection