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Ray Taylor: Road to Nowhere

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.

Road to Nowhere

Ray Taylor

Road closed, the sign said. Road closed. Why? Thought Dolan. He could see no road works, no earthquake damage, no other reason why the road should be closed. Hell! Somebody just put it there for a prank. He was not about to turn around. It would add a good 60 miles or more to his journey if he had to head back to the freeway. No, it was no good, he was going to take a walk beyond the barrier to see what was up.

Leaving the Cadillac by the roadside, he stepped out of the comfortably air-conditioned hire-car into the searing desert heat. He loosened his collar and then reached into the rear seat for his newly acquired Stetson hat. He needed the shade to keep the burning naked sun from roasting his lightly covered scalp. Shutting the door, he placed the hat with the brim low over his eyes. He never wore shades but, in the fierce sunshine, he regretted he had not bought any at the airport when he came through.

“Be sure to protect yourself from the sun,” his mother had said, when he told her of his plan to take a road trip across Arizona. Wise words, as his skin was very fair and tended to burn. His hair was rapidly thinning, too, leaving patches of unprotected skin, as delicate as a baby’s, his mum had said. So, he made sure he packed two bottles of factor 50 sunscreen with his clothes, bought at Heathrow as an afterthought just before he left. He had packed them in his main bag, knowing that no liquids would be allowed in hand luggage.

That was four days ago. Since then he had arrived at Tucson, where he collected his hire-car. 

“It seems you qualify for an upgrade, sir,” the Hertz assistant said. “For just $3.99 a day you could take our top-of-the-range Cadillac.”

Dolan, easily persuaded, took the keys to the Cadillac and, luxuriating in the wide, padded driver’s seat, set off for Phoenix. 

A couple more days and he was headed north on Route 93, stopped off at Kingman, where he bought the Stetson, then continued north past a town with the strange name of Chloride. The next place he arrived at he just had to stop and take some photos. His mum would never believe this. Heading off the main route, he stumbled across a place called Dolan Springs. Stopping for fuel, he took a stroll around, fascinated by the wooden buildings, many painted with native imagery. The ground was completely arid, dusty, and scattered with cactus and scrub plants. He strolled away from the car, hoping to see a rattlesnake behind a bush or a rock but he saw none.

Ever the adventurer, Dolan decided he had had enough of driving the main route and determined to head off up the beaten track. The tourist map he had brought with him showed a mountain pass with a likely looking trail winding north through it. Why not, he thought. It was as good a way as any. 

“Which way you headed,” asked the storekeeper when he picked up some more bottled water and some snacks for the rest of the day’s drive. The man had skin the colour of burnt oak and of a rugged texture to match. Dolan wondered if he was Navajo or one of the other nations he was hoping to meet on his road trip through wild country. 

“Las Vegas, eventually,” he replied. “But I thought I would take a detour through the pass that runs north from here.” 

As Dolan was thinking of a polite way to ask about the storekeeper’s ethnicity, he noticed that the man looked thoughtful, or possibly angry. Was it something he said?

“Don’t go that way,” the man said, in a toneless voice that startled Dolan, before turning right around, and without another word, disappearing into the room out back. 

What on Earth could he mean? Was it a bad choice of route or something? Dolan wondered if he should head back to the main route but had set his heart on taking a ride across country, so decided to stick to his plan. He dismissed the bizarre outburst as that of a local eccentric. If there had been anything wrong with the route he had chosen, he felt sure that the man would have explained.

By the time he headed out on the pass, Dolan had forgotten all about it. That is, until he had come across the ‘road closed’ sign. 

Stepping past the sign, he carried on for a few more paces before he realised the problem. The road was covered in sand. Perhaps this is what the storekeeper meant, thought Dolan, as he wondered if he should have taken the man’s advice. Too late now. The sand must have blown across from the dunes at the edge of the road. And yet it wasn’t that deep. Surely it was passable? He walked up the gentle incline of the dune covering the road with its soft, white, powdery sand, slipping a little as he walked. Reaching the top, he took the hat from his head to wipe away the sweat with his sleeve.

Looking out to the north, he could see the road winding away to the horizon. It looked like a good road all the way, so he wondered if he could drive over the sand dune and continue on this way. He looked back to where the Cadillac stood to the side of the road, behind the barrier. He could just make out the badge at the front of the car, pointing directly at him, though at that distance he could not discern the individual colour tiles and could only just make out the bright, shiny circle of metal surrounding it. 

At that instant, a bright flash of dazzling light and heat hit his eyes and, instinctively, he covered them with his arm. It must have been the sun reflecting off the polished metal of the badge, the radiator or the fender. He felt a searing pain behind his eyes and staggered a little down the sand dune towards the parked car, still shielding his eyes. He also noticed that the top of his head was baking hot and so replaced the Stetson and thought he had better get back to the car, take a seat and have a drink of water. The sun must be much stronger than he had thought. 

He continued down the gentle slope, sliding, shuffling, blinking his eyes so that he could see where he was going. As he reached the edge of the sand and felt the solid road beneath his feet, Dolan looked up to see the car. Dolan pulled up short, not quite believing what he saw. There was the Cadillac, pointing away from him, and it was on the same side of the barrier that he was. 

How could that be? He looked behind him and could see his footsteps, in two rows, one leading away to the top of the dune, the other leading to where he now stood at the bottom. He knew he had left the car on the other side of the barrier, and he had only just been looking at the front fender and radiator and the multi-coloured Cadillac emblem. Now they were pointing in the other direction. 

His head whirled and he could not understand what had happened. Had he walked around the barrier without realizing it and was now back on the Dolan Springs side? He looked behind him again, but could no longer see the sand dune, just the open road leading back the way he had come.

By now, Dolan was starting to get scared. Maybe he had been hit by a touch of heatstroke. He walked quickly to the car and, getting in the driver’s side, he reached for a bottle of water. As he gulped down mouthfuls of refreshing, if lukewarm, mineral water, he started the engine and switched the aircon to full, lowest temperature setting. Sitting back in the cooling air, he continued to drink his fill and, closing his eyes, drifted off into a peaceful slumber. 

As he awoke, feeling the now cool breeze soothing his forehead, Dolan could see the red and white striped barrier directly in front of him.

Road closed, the sign said. Road closed. Why? thought Dolan. He could see no road works, no earthquake damage, no other reason why the road should be closed. Hell! Somebody just put it there for a prank. He was not about to turn around. It would add a good 60 miles or more to his journey if he had to head back to the freeway. No, it was no good, he was going to take a walk beyond the barrier to see what was up.

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Please visit Ray on his Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Raymond.G.Taylor.author/

Write the Story! November 2020

Write the Story! November 2020

We have tucked the ghost and goblins back in the attic and now time for November’s Write the Story! prompt.

Writers Unite! started this project to assist all of us to gain followers to our blogs, websites, and author pages and to gain experience as writers. We didn’t do this for accolades or critique but for enjoyment and to share our work with others. Now in the second year of WTS!, we thank all writers who have participated and all who have read and supported the authors. The admins appreciate the positive support you have given the authors.

November 2020 Prompt!

Here’s the plan:

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

Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message. You may also email your story to writersunite16@gmail.comWU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We do ask that you share the link to your WU! Write the Story! post so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers. The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder. DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption. If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments. Thank you.

(Please note: all images used are free-use images that do not require attribution.)

Calliope Njo: The House on the Hill

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 House on the Hill

Calliope Njo

I laughed when I saw the house. It had to be a joke. I turned around and returned home. As soon as I got in, I emailed Ashley: Call back. Too complicated for texting.

Sure enough, she called back. “So?”

“Ash, you got to be kidding me. You want me to stay in that house for the weekend? The roof is in shambles, no windows whatsoever. Well the prior owner did, but what they left of them would not be considered as such. I don’t even know if they have plumbing. Unless you have a million dollars that you can give freely, I am not doing it.”

She laughed. That meant she was up to something, but I didn’t care. She was going to pay me back for this.

“I know something you don’t know.” She laughed.

So you want to play, huh? “Not unless it involves math, history, and how to write that stupid report in English, most likely you don’t. I can sit here and tell you everything about anyone.”

“Oh. Well, then I guess you’re just not interested in joining the Rose Bowl.”

“You want me to play football? Are you crazy? In case you’ve lost your mind, I’m not playing. I am on my way to become a lady. Ladies don’t play football. And unless you’ve already been there, and can prove you were in that house without a doubt, there’s no reason I even need to be.” Give her a minute to think. I’ve known her since kindergarten.

“I’m not talking about sports. I know you would never and you don’t know everything.”

Could I have missed something? Oh wait, she’s not — “You’re talking about the Red Rose Porringer Society. There’s an enormous difference, and only the elite can join. You must be invited in by a fellow member. They would never send any of their members into a place so disgusting. Never in a million centuries.”

She cleared her throat and went silent. I got her. Nobody can beat me for knowing something. A lot of people tried and failed.

“OK. Look. I made a bet with Beth Whatshername. Can you just help me out? Please? Honest. I told her if I could get you to go into that house, she would introduce me to Brian Mayhew. Huh? You know I’ve been after him since school started. Please? Pretty please? I’ll write your history paper for you.”

“Are you talking about that disgusting Beth Anderson? The one that’s always smiling and swings her bleach blonde hair so big it hits everybody standing around her? The one whose mother works for that dime store and whose father is a used-car sales agent? Her?”


“Ashley, I told you about her. She never wears anything in style and any guy worth anything never pays attention to her. She’s getting something extra out of this or she wouldn’t have said that or agreed. Are you that stupid?”

“Well, no. Please?”

I grumbled. If anybody else asked, I would’ve flat out told them no. This was Ashley. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. What choice did I have?

“You better have a slice of triple chocolate mousse tart, a salmon burger with dill cream sauce, truffle fries, and a glass of homemade ginger beer ready and waiting. You have connections, so I am expecting perfection. Along with that, I want one week of salon treatments of my choosing. You hear me or I’m not doing it.”

“It’s a deal. Thanks. You know you’re my sister from another mother. Love ya lots. Toodles.”

A little too easy-peasy. She was up to something. A deal is a deal until otherwise proven. Oh yeah, cover story. Email Ash: When my parents call you, I’m staying at your house for the weekend.

She texted me back: Oh NP Love ya.

This better be worth it. I hated it that she used text language. She was never going to get any better if she didn’t practice, but oh well. Why would I care? She’d got me so confused. I needed to stay focused.

Well, lucky for me, it was simple to sneak out of the house. I wished Mom would think of a better alarm code than her birthday. Please. Everybody knew. As for the super annoying beeps, she turned those off because it interrupted her meditating.

Once out, I took out my cell and turned the alarm back on. OK, I walked to the bus stop and got on the ultra disgusting bus. Ew, I needed to get decontaminated the first chance I had. It was the only way I could guarantee me getting away with this. They would never believe I needed to drive to Ash’s house since she lives right next door.

According to the bit of digging that I did, it turns out it was once owned by a widow who died of a heart attack. It kept getting bought and sold until everybody lost interest in it. Too many rumors about demons or some such nonsense. The city took it after that.

I got out my flashlight and looked at it again. I would never buy this house. Never. It looked too weird with a long roof and super skinny side with a super weird line. Anyway, I had a huge favor to fulfill.

If I died, Ash was so paying for it. Clouds of dirt swirled around me. I had planned to make a sleeping area on the floor, but from the looks of it, that would not happen. Holey couches and chairs on top of that.

I thought about going upstairs, but they fell apart about halfway up. Then a light turned on. I spun around to the source and a big fire sparked in the fireplace.

A doll stood in the middle of the mantel. A velvet dark green dress with a laced collar and shoes to match. Her brown hair was wavy with a green flower, and a pearl in the middle was clipped on the side. She seemed to smile at me. I closed my eyes and shook my head, and I wasn’t imagining anything.

“Good evening. My name is Louise. Ann named me as if I was her daughter. She cared for me as such. It is a bit late for you to be out and about.”

Did that doll talk to me? I ran around the first floor to search for someone to explain. I didn’t find anyone. “No. It can’t be. You’re so far beyond any pre-programmed doll I’ve seen. This has gotta be a joke.”

She laughed. “Yes, it was me. Be careful. He lurks around in search of victims to bring back to his domain. Do not let him fool you.”

I had no reason to be there, so I tried to leave. All the doors slammed shut at the same time. Either a sudden blast of wind blew through or it was a horror story come to life. The fireplace blew out only to come back to life again. I touched nothing.

“OK. Whoever is playing games, I am done playing. Do you hear me? I do not appreciate this whatsoever.” I walked to the door and it wouldn’t open. “What is this? What do you want? Ashley, I am done playing.”

Music played. Where did it come from? I searched the entire floor and no source of music around.

They didn’t appear all at once. Music started before they even showed themselves. First a violin, second a viola, and the last thing was a cello. Unless I missed my guess, it was a Waltz by Frederic Chopin. Afternoon tea with the Senior Women’s League taught me a lot.

A man took my hand, and we danced around the room which changed. Stone pillars and marble walls, long pea-green velvet curtains draped the windows, and no statues or other decorations.

As we danced, I glanced at the others. There were other women dressed like me. I tried to get somebody’s attention, but they continued to dance as if they noticed nothing.

“Calm down, my sweet little princess,” he said. “Nothing will happen. That I promise you.” He kissed my cheek.

“Uh…” I needed to get my mind working again. I could not look stupid. I refused to appear as such. “I do apologize. I wasn’t invited so I thought the best thing would be to go home. That’s all.”

“You are home. I am Lucien. You?”

Right. Introductions. “I’m Melissa.”

“You wouldn’t happen to be Melissa Auclair?”

“Yes. It seems strange you know who I am.” Rather creepy too.

“A young lady of such refinement would be well known.” He brought my hand up and kissed it. It didn’t feel romantic.

Refinement? “Look, I’m just trying to get home. It’s been a long day.” I also need to have a serious discussion with someone. “If you could point me towards the door, I would greatly appreciate it.” That and you’re giving me the creeps.

“The night is not done yet, my sweet.” He kissed my hand again. “A couple more dances perhaps. Yes? Then something to soothe the savage beast that resides within.”

What was it they said about hitting a man where it hurt? It would be rather obvious but it wasn’t as if anybody was watching.

The end of the song came, at last. I brought my knee up while I had the chance and he didn’t do anything. No reaction. So now what?

“Do you have a problem?”

“Oh, uh, leg cramp.” I smiled as if that was believable. Not.

“Hmm. Perhaps it would be time to freshen up a bit then.” He smiled as he grabbed my hand.

I tried to wiggle out of his grasp but that didn’t work either. He didn’t squeeze my hand but it was tight. We went down a hallway and stopped at a door.

He pointed to it. “Through that door, you will find everything you need. I will be waiting.”

I smiled while I prayed there was a window. I went inside and no window. Out of desperation, I looked for an explosive. No luck there either. About five different brushes, an entire line of Pearl Essence cosmetics, not to mention a man waiting by the door. A bit extreme for a public venue.

I came outside and he held out his hand. He grasped mine again as we returned to the room. “It seems your face has been smeared by someone’s finger. You should have redone yourself while you had the opportunity. You must always represent perfection.”

I wanted to get out of there and he was worried about my makeup? Men. I shouldn’t have expected anything else.

My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. “It’s fine. Look, the sun is almost up. My parents would be worried sick. You know how parents are?”

“Surely such a mature woman would be more concerned about her appearance. Maybe to appear refined. Dignified.”

Why would I be worried about that? He was irritating. I tried to wiggle free again but he only grasped tighter.

Louise appeared in the doorway except she was lifelike and not a doll. Either somebody slipped me something or I got caught in the worst nightmare.

I couldn’t move us towards her so I tried to motion for her to come over. She must’ve gotten the hint. She danced with a man around us.

“He will challenge you until the rising sun. Always lead with your heart, then with your head.” She disappeared.

I didn’t even have a chance to ask her what she meant by that.

The sun shone through the windows. A cacophony of sound took over from the Waltz. The people around us shed to reveal skeletons that danced around the room.

I looked at Lucien and he grew wings. He had long black hair in a ponytail. He smiled as he swept his hand through the air. Everything disappeared.

Talk about a gorgeous bod. What was I thinking? I needed to get out.

“No no no, darling. You are mine now. You were promised to me by another.”

“You were promised to me by — Ashley.” 

So that was it. “Whatever it is, was, whatever, will not be fulfilled. You would have to kill me to keep me here. I’m not staying. Either let me out of here or I swear to you —”

“You were supposed to be mine.” His voice got deeper and he growled. “For I am Lucien.”

Lucien, yeah he said that before. Something about all of this seemed too familiar. Almost as if I heard the story. Couldn’t think of it.

“I am the best of all in all things. You should be at my feet begging to be by my side. Not begging to leave.”

What was it with this guy? He was so… so… that’s it. “You’re Lucien. The demon who steals all things loving and kind.” It took me a while. “Unless someone promises another to you, you can’t take them.” There was something else. I hated it when my brain refused to function.

I had to remember. All those stories during Sunday brunch over and over again. How come I couldn’t? “On top of that, you want me to stay here with you? You’re nothing but a butt ugly teeny weeny little boy. Look at you, I bet you don’t even have a driver’s license, don’t drink, or even had sex yet.”

His face turned tomato red and steam escaped his ears. He screamed and the next thing I knew I was in my room. More like it.

I looked at the time and it was nine o’clock at night. Too early for bed but I was exhausted. I stripped and dropped my head onto my pillow. That was it. He only had from sundown to sunup to lure someone into his domain. Why couldn’t I remember that when it counted?

I got up, avoided the parents, and went over to Ashley’s. If I told her once, I told her a million times to not put the key in the roses. A little too obvious. After a groan, I got into her house and all the way upstairs in her room.

Wall-to-wall pictures and posters of herself in various poses. He said I was vain? Yeah. He never saw this.

I pinched her nose and waited until she woke up. “Oh. Surprised to see me? That I’m still here? That I even still exist in this plane of existence? Huh? You think you could get rid of me that easy? You’re not just a nobody. You’re an idiot. And to think I considered you an equal. You are so pathetic. From this day forward, we are not even.” I turned around to leave.

Ashley rubbed her nose. “He promised me an endless life if I delivered the most beautiful girl I knew. Of course, that had to be you.”

I knew she was desperate, but please. “What do you think I am?” I asked. “Huh? Just forget it. I hope you are so happy with yourself. Oh and don’t be surprised if the entire school knows how you pick your clothes from the second-hand store.”

She opened her mouth wide. “I never. You don’t know what it’s like. Oh, there goes Melissa’s friend. Oh, you’re Melissa’s friend. My name is Ashley Sorrenson.”

“Hmm, well that just proves which one is the better one. Oh and, Brain Mayhew will be mine now. Ta ta.” I blew her a kiss.

She screamed so loud it woke her parents up. I waved to them as I left. I got back home and made myself some breakfast. It was time to think about all of what happened.

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

D. A. Ratliff: All Hallows Lane

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.

All Hallows Lane

D. A. Ratliff

Remus James Worthington was excited.

He turned sixteen years old precisely one day before October arrived. A milestone for many, but it meant he could visit his grandparents for the entire month. Visits had always been a week at most, but October was magical. Pumpkin patches covered the farm where his father’s parents lived, and the month-long celebration held there drew hundreds of eager families looking for pumpkins, baked goods, apple cider, and hayrides.

The twinkling morning stars were fading into daylight as Remus’s father, Alvin Worthington, pulled up in front of the All Hallows Lane General Store. Warm lights spilled from the windows overlooking a wide veranda covered with fodder shocks and carved and whole pumpkins. Wooden rocking chairs sat scattered along the wooden planks waiting for tired guests to take a rest.

Remus opened the car door, and the aroma of pies, loaves of bread, and cookies wafted from the store’s bakery. He smiled at his dad. “Think Grandma might let me sample what they are baking?”

Alvin grinned. “She might. Grammy Liza let me, but I couldn’t tell anyone.” His father’s tone changed. “Big day today, Remy. Remember every moment of it.” He smiled again. “Now, get inside, do what grandpa tells you and do it well. Mom and I will see you for dinner.”

As his dad pulled away, Remy shivered. His dad had gotten serious, and he wondered why. Just because he’d turned sixteen wasn’t a big deal. It only meant that he was old enough to work the entire month for the festival. It was about time he could help. Besides, the real fun began when he turned seventeen, and he could drive without anyone in the car with him. Now that was something to smile about, he thought.

Breakfast had surpassed his dreams, fresh-baked apple cinnamon bread, scrambled eggs, and bacon, all served at his grandparents’ home, nestled in the tall pines behind the General Store. His twin cousins Meri and Edgar were there. They were nineteen and now old hands at the festival where they were in charge of teaching Remy his tasks. He suspected it would be magical. It wasn’t.

Remy spent the first day of the festival helping line the hayride trail with ghosts, goblins, and witches hiding in the trees, hundreds of scary pumpkins were having flickering lights placed inside, and a sound company was there to add eerie sounds and music. By lunchtime, he had discovered muscles existed in his body that he had never met before that morning. Putting on the festival was more demanding work than he had imagined. Edgar, who had duties elsewhere, picked him up in their grandfather’s antique cherry red pickup for lunch. He was more than willing to go.

The crisp chill of the morning was burning off, but the warmth of his grandmother’s kitchen felt wonderful, not to mention the waft of her homemade vegetable soup as he entered. Grandma Dinah grinned broadly as her three grandchildren entered.

“Now, you young’uns sit down, and I will serve you some hot soup.”

Remy was taking a bite of freshly baked bread when his grandfather arrived. A portly man with thinning gray hair, but his amber eyes twinkled in the midday sun streaming through the large windows. He stopped to kiss Meri on the top of her head, then sat down.

“Remy, good to have you at the table finally.”

“Good to be here, Grandpa.”

“Now let him eat, Marsden. Boy’s been working hard this morning.”

His grandfather grinned and glanced at his cousins before he spoke. “Well, that hayride route is an important one of the main attractions that the guests enjoy. But I think this afternoon, he’s going help me grade ’em. Now, eat up—lots of work to do. As busy as we are today, this is nothing to later in the month. Work hard this first week, and we will have it easier when the crowds are here.”

Grandma Dinah sat down. “Now, let these children eat.”

After lunch, as they left the house, something caught Remy’s eye as he walked toward the front door. In the living room was a painting of an old rickety house with a sharp-pointed roof surrounded by woods. A huge silvery moon hung in the sky. He had seen the image all his life but, for some reason, felt drawn to it. He was standing in front of it when his grandfather spoke, startling him.

“Interesting old place, eh?”

Remy nodded. “Yeah, don’t know why but I thought I saw something move. Must have been the sun hitting it just right.”

Marsden squeezed his grandson’s shoulder. “Light can play tricks on you. Let’s go. Got work to do.”

Remy had showered and dressed for dinner when he heard his parents arrive. He bounded down the stairs to find them in the foyer.

“Where’s Cary?”

His mother answered as his dad handed him a suitcase. “She’s staying at Frannie’s tonight. It’s Frannie’s twelfth birthday, so they are having a party.”

Following behind his parents was his dad’s brother Albert and his wife Chloe, Meri, and Edgar’s parents, who were with them. Grandpa and Grandma joined them.

Marsden gestured toward the living room. “Let’s go in here. Remy, we have something to show you.” He walked across the room to the painting. “Alvin, Clarise, you’d be proud. Your son is strong. He sensed the power in the painting.”

Remy looked at his dad, who was grinning broadly. “Dad, what’s he talking about?”

Alvin put his arm around his son. “I told you this morning that you should remember every moment of this day. It is time you learned the family secret.”

“What—what are you talking about?”

Marsden nodded toward the painting. “Have another look.”

Apprehension flooded Remy as he approached the painting. He sucked in a breath as he saw the trees were bending to a light wind, flowers swaying. The pointed roof, so rickety before, was becoming straight and sturdy, the tall grass retreating into a manicured lawn. Lights began to flicker in the windows, and when the door opened, and a man stepped onto the stoop and waved, Remy staggered backward.

“Mom, Dad…” His eyes wide as saucers, he pointed to the painting. “That’s—that’s Gramps.”

His mother, Clarise, slipped beside him. “Yes, it is, and he is inviting us to join him for dinner. I know this will be difficult for you at first, but we are not from this dimension originally. We are from a world called Cubita.”

She pulled him away from the painting as Marsden began to chant. Remy uttered a small yelp when a shimmering, swirling portal of light appeared in front of the painting. “Come, son, I want you to meet your people.”

As he passed through the light, his skin warmed, and his body became weightless. The house formed from nothingness in front of him, and with a gentle stop, he was standing on the lawn, his family surrounding him.

His mother hurried to the ruddy-faced man with a golden beard who had appeared in the image. “Dad, so good to be home.”

“Gramps? You live here?”

“I do.”

In a whirlwind of moments, Remy met family and friends. The others tended to dinner, a feast in the backyard, while his parents and grandparents ushered him into a room filled with lighted candles and celestial objects. Bookcases lined the walls, but Remy’s attention fell on a pedestal standing before a portrait of a man in flowing green robes. A large book with a heavily tooled leather cover, encrusted with jewels and gold.

Marsden spoke first. “Remy, we are deeply sorry we needed to keep you in the dark for so long, but it was for your protection. You see, we are all from this dimension. We long suspected there were many more dimensions and discovered a portal into the world where you lived many eons ago.”

Rollin stepped toward him. “Remy, your father’s family descended from those of our kind who chose to live in the new world. The adults maintained their powers but discovered that their offspring did not manifest full power in the new dimension until puberty. As some children exhibited some prowess, they were unable to control the magic. We cast a spell on all children to suppress their powers. A spell that we could not reverse until age sixteen.”

“Powers? What powers?” Remy looked toward his parents. His mother smiled and answered, her voice soft.

“Remus, we are the Magicis, the magicals. We are warlocks and witches.”

Remy stumbled backward. Only his dad’s strong arms kept him from falling. He took a breath and muttered, “Warlocks…witches?”

Alvin hugged his son. “Yes, there are seven tribes of witches, and Gramps is the Elder of the Council of Seven.”

Rollin blew out a deep breath. “We couldn’t let you know because some youngsters exhibited a few magical skills quite early and, without the control an adult possessed, became easy prey.”

“Prey?” Remy wondered if his voice sounded as shaky to the others as it did to him.

Marsden answered. “We have enemies in the magical world. The Omenians are a sect of evil wizards who practice dark magic. They learned how to access the dimensional portal and sought to steal children from Magicis parents and turn them to the darkness.”

Remy’s father interrupted. “There is time for him to learn of the darkness, but tonight he becomes a warlock, and that is cause for celebration. Let’s join the others.”

Before they left the office, Remy spotted a portrait of a raven-haired woman that looked like his mother. He called for her. “Mom, is that you?”

Tears welled in her eyes. “No, that is your grandmother, Octavia. She died saving several children from the Omenians.”

“I thought she died in a car wreck.”

“No, only a story to cover the truth. She is a hero to our people. Come, let’s eat.”

Dinner was a festive occasion. Rollin decorated his backyard with colorful streamers, candles, and tiny twinkling lights flitted around the yard, piquing Remy’s curiosity. He waited for one of the small lights to approach, then stumbled backward, stunned as the little glow became a full-sized human woman. Rollin noticed and hurried over.

“I am sorry, Remy, we should have explained. This is Ilea, a member of the fairy realm and our allies. They are humans who can assume a minuscule size to travel.”

The lovely green-haired woman with pale skin smiled. “And to spy. Marsden, we need to chat.”

“After the ceremony, Ilea.”

Just as he spoke, Rollin announced to the gatherers, “Let the Feast of Awakening begin.”

Remy, overcome with emotion, watched the events unfold with the eyes of an astonished child, not those of his mature sixteen-year-old self—candles floated in mid-air, sparklers spontaneously sparkled, streamers danced ballet in thin air. How could this be his family, his people? He was from a small town in Vermont, not a strange dimension called Cubita. The grass was green as at home, the air smelled of crisp leaves. There seemed to be few differences other than the dirty dishes scurrying off to the kitchen for washing. All right, perhaps a substantial difference.

As dinner concluded, his grandfather rose, and his father joined them, motioning for him to come with them. In his grandfather’s study, his father handed him a black cloak to wear as the others donned theirs, along with tall, pointed hats encrusted with jewels.

Rollin took the Tome of Magic from the pedestal and led them outside again, where six other wizards dressed in the same manner awaited. He turned to Remy. “As Elder Wizard of the Seven Tribes of Magicis Council, I hereby summon you to the Ceremony of Acquisition. Please follow me.”

They marched into a field beyond the backyard where an enormous bonfire was burning. The guests had gathered there, and all but the youngest of children wore cloaks and hats. Rollin stood before the bonfire, directing Remy to stand in front of him. Alvin stood at his son’s side. The council formed a semi-circle behind him.

A gong sounded, and Rollin began to chant. The Tome of Magic opened by itself… gold sparkles rising from the pages. His father began to chant with Rollin, and then the other council wizards joined in.

Remy shivered, despite the roaring bonfire. The language spoken was unfamiliar, and the ceremony overwhelming. His grandfather, chanting, approached him with wand raised. Shards of electricity raced along his nerves.

Holding his wand above Remy’s head, the Elder Wizard spoke. “Remus James Worthington, in nocturnum sexti decimi anni, et virtutes, quæ in vobis est reditus Magicis sit plenum.

The sensation was light at first—a slight pressure built in his head, a warmth spreading from his core, through his limbs to his fingertips and toes. Strength flowed through him, and his skin became hot. A roar came from those gathered as the Elder took a hat from a councilmember and placed it on his head. His father handed him a wand.

Rollin placed his hands upon Remy’s shoulders. “Welcome to the Magicis.”

His mother and the rest of the family ran to him, and after hugs, his grandmother announced that it was time for cake.

Remy sat with Meri and Edgar as they ate cake. Edgar mumbled with a mouth full of cake. “Was waiting for this day. Tough not to tell you after we went through this.”

Meri shook her head. “Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

She turned to Remy, but before she could say a word, the fairies began to transform into their small size and surrounded the guests. Ilea popped into full size next to Rollin. “I tried to warn you that we heard rumors they would come. They are here. Protect the innocents.”

They were too late. The Omenians began popping in, grabbing a child, and popping out. The fairies, witches, and wizards fought hard, disabling many of the evil wizards, but the surprise element was too much. The children were disappearing before their eyes.

A child of three ran crying toward Remy. He picked her up as an Omenian raised his wand. His mother screamed as she watched. “Remy, revertetur innocentes.” Her words faded as Remy vanished.

Remy materialized in a large room. The walls covered with tapestries, a fireplace filled with glowing embers, and candles scattered about provided the only illumination. The cries of the children brought their plight into focus. There were twelve of them. He spotted one of the Magicis, Evette, who he had just met. She was fifteen. He hurried to her.

“Evette, try to get them calm.” He pointed toward the door. “I’m going to see if I can get us out of here.”

He was two feet from the door when it opened, and an imposing wizard entered, followed by a witch. Remy didn’t know much about witches, but he was fairly sure that he didn’t like this one. She was tall, thin, her wild hair spilling from under her hat.

The wizard pushed Remy back hard. “Do not think you will escape. You will not. You and the little ones now belong to us.”

“Velo, is this the new little Earth wizard?”

He nodded. “Yes, my dear, Mirande, quite the prize for us. New powers, and he does not know how to use them. A blank slate for us to mold as we wish.”

Remy was quaking so that the wand tucked in his cloak was shaking. “Let us go. These kids need to be with their families.”

Velo shrugged his shoulders. “They are with us now.”

The children, who had quieted, began to cry loudly.

Mirande screamed at them. “Quiet, you will learn to keep that crying to yourself.”

“Come, my dear, I want to let our benefactor know we have quite the haul tonight. He will be pleased.” With a sweep of their capes, they left the room.

The little girl he had grabbed tugged on his sleeve. He picked her up.

“I am Brina. Can we go home?”

He looked at Evette, who was comforting another crying child. “Yes, we can. We will.”

They managed to soothe the smallest children enough to nap and the older to settle. A sullen witch had brought them food, but they wouldn’t eat but did give fruit juice to the others.

Evette sat on a bench. “Quite the night for you.”

He sat down beside her. “I have no words for this day.” He sighed. He was no longer the innocent kid who showed up to work at the Halloween festival. The weight of the world, his new world, pressed on his shoulders. Innocent. The word his mother yelled at him sounded like innocent.

“Evette, do you know what…” He struggled to remember the exact words “reverletor innocentes means?”

She smiled. “It’s revertetur innocentes. It means to return the innocent. It is a powerful spell cast only by skilled wizards.”

“My mother yelled these words at me before I vanished.”

“You just got your powers restored. I don’t think you could do it.”

Remy’s brows creased as he sat quietly. “Could we together?”


“Yeah, I have an idea.”

A few hours passed as Remy put his plan into action. When he felt that the children were ready, he was about to cast the spell when Velo returned.

“What is this, choir practice?” He swept his arm toward the crowd. The children were in a tight circle around Remy and Evette, arms linked.

“No, an escape. Now.”

In unison, the children led by Remy yelled the spell his mother gave him. “Revertetur innocentes.”

They vanished.

It was daylight when they appeared in the backyard where they had left. Some tables toppled over, and uneaten cake and broken plates lay scattered across the lawn.

The children were crying once more, but this time for joy. A squeal from the house preceded the sound of a door slamming hard into an outside wall as excited witches and wizards hurried to their returned children.

Surrounded by their families, Evette was beaming as she reached for his hand. “Brilliant! Combining our voices gave us enough power to cast the spell. Brilliant!”

Clarise hugged her son tightly. “Your grandfather said it had been a long time since they had felt the intensity of your power as you regained your skills. I was hoping you would figure out what to do. I am so proud of you.”

“Thanks, Mom. You saved us.”

As the celebration continued, Remy glanced over at his grandfather and his dad. There was more to the Omenians than they were telling him and they were far more dangerous. Velo had reported to someone called the benefactor.

Remy’s only thought—it was time to find the benefactor.

Authors Note: I took several years of Latin, a bit ago, and forgotten most of it. I relied on an English to Latin translation program to translate the acquisition spell. My apologies for any inaccuracies.

Latin: in nocturnum sexti decimi anni, et potestatibus in Magicis enim omnis venditio redit ad te plena.

Translation: on your sixteenth year, let the powers of the Magicis be returned to you in full.

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

Marian Wood: History of the Old Crooked House

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.

History of the Old Crooked House

Marian Wood

November 26th, 2019

The crooked house hid many secrets, as young teens Billy and I spent many hours there. Hiding in the cellar and exploring its cavernous rooms, we were having too much fun to be afraid. Maybe the house enjoyed the shrieks of happy children, but those happy children grew up, from playing hide and seek to families and pursuing careers. It’s now in my thirties that I sit in horror reading the danger that we were once in.

As an Estate Agent, it is my job to sell the old crooked house. Developers had painted the front, put in a new kitchen, and updated it inside. Walking around, it’s a lovely family home, but I always needed to wrap my coat around me. Even when sunny outside, I felt I wanted my scarf and woolly hat. It’s only now as I feel my skin tingling that I know why. Any moment I knew the phone was going to ring loudly disturbing my morning coffee. This was the story of the week, maybe month or year.

A Body

Reading the Newland Gazette, journalist Hans Lee’s had written of an unidentifiable girl’s body found in a pit in the cellar with a Snoopy watch lying next to her. We had spent many hours in the house; I could feel icy sweat crawling over me like ants crawling up my arms. I thought of pretty redheaded Marie. She had vanished twenty years ago, and the police had decided that she had been kidnapped or murdered. She had never been found.

Jumping at my mobile, Billy’s name flashed across the screen.

“Jane, you seen the paper?”

“Yes, just reading it and I can’t believe it.”

“She might be unidentifiable, but Marie always wore her Snoopy watch. It can only be her, she was never found.”

“Do you think she fell when playing?”

“When she vanished, we had been playing together a while earlier. We thought she’d gone home.”

I could see her now, a happy child shrieking and whooping with the rest of us. Any one of us could have fallen into that pit. Feeling sick, I wondered why we hadn’t heard her. Maybe she had banged her head and couldn’t shout.

“Jane, you still there?”

“Yes, sorry Billy, what now? Her family moved away, should we offer to identify the watch?”

“Yes, I’m going to ring the crime line. I’m assuming the police must have a contact for the family on their records. They will have to reopen their cold case.”

“Yes, but this could have just been an accident.”

“Jane, I know you are trying to sell the house, but what else do you know about it?”

“Not much, it’s old and it’s crooked.”


“Research its history. I haven’t liked to say, but for the hours we played there, I think the spirits were happy having us there.”

I laughed. “Spirits, what Spirits?”

“I’m saying no more, but there’s an old theory about redheads as well. It’s a shame thing’s hadn’t been recorded twenty years ago.”

“They probably were but things weren’t so easily accessible back then. Now we just ask Google.”

“Jane, have a read, it will make you shudder. I’m going to phone the crime line, will talk later.”

She hung up the phone as I opened my laptop, now bombarded by frantic emails. That house was certainly not going to sell to a normal buyer now.

Searching the internet, I found the story, the reason why the crooked house had been empty for so long. I read how in 1985 the owners had gone missing. Leonard Brown was later found guilty of murder in a village miles away. His wife was never found, and relatives had told how they had been desperate for children. Was his wife haunting the property now? Had she captured Marie? I don’t usually believe in the supernatural, but the house doesn’t have a welcoming feeling about it. No, this place will not sell now.

A Phone Call

As my desk phone rang, I expected a journalist on the other end.

“Hello, is that Hills Estates?”

“Err, yes it is.”

“Hello, this is Marjorie from the BBC. We are filming ‘Ghost Hunters’ and would love to come and visit the possibly haunted house that you are selling.”

Their researchers were quick, I’d only just found out.

“You will need to talk to the police first. I’m sure you know about the body.”

“Yes, we aren’t filming for a few weeks but need to book the job in. We will come to a deal over payment and will contact the police station, but will you let us film?”

Maybe this could be good publicity and we were getting paid.

“I’ll check with my boss, can I take your details?”

Present day

Appearing on ‘Ghost Hunters’ with the BBC was not something I ever thought would appear on my CV. Here I am, now knowing that ghosts really do exist as I watch the film crew with their equipment.

Since finding Marie, the police excavators had found bodies of a man and a woman in the cellar. Evidence had been found to support the idea that Mrs. Rosie Brown had been having an affair with local postman Bobby Rogers. Husband Leonard Brown had reacted badly and murdered them. Ghosts Rosie and Bobby liked hearing us playing. but they had wanted to keep redheaded Marie. A seance had revealed this information and was the strangest experience of my life.

There are now conversations about promoting it as a haunted house or trying to help Rosie and Bobby leave the house and cross over to the other side. It’s my job to market it, but I don’t see a family wanting to buy it, especially one with a redheaded child.

The story of the crooked house has led to teens breaking in to spend the night, scary bets between friends. Many have been asked to leave. Only time will tell what happens to the house now. From what I’ve been told, Rosie and Bobby are happy where they are. A haunted house and place of interest it might stay.

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

Chiman Salih: Moon Struck

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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Moon Struck

Chiman Salih

Adam was in his early thirties, with a defined body, calm face, and deep-set eyes. He ran a small, auto-accessory shop. Most of the time, he skimmed through different magazines and books while waiting for customers. 

At nighttime, he would gaze at the moon, so he could escape people contact. Those around him considered this normal behavior. He loved to stay alone most of the time, yet he was a precise observer of life’s happenings.

Obviously, he was a sort of selenophile; he would sit for hours on the scratched concrete bench at the corner of the park behind his home, only to gaze at the sky with bare eyes. Sometimes, he sat there until midnight. 

When he was preoccupied beholding the moon, like looking at a lover, he would narrow his shiny silver eyes to look more precisely and enjoy the spread of light reflecting off his face. Every time was like the first time he had stared at the moon. He continued this hobby even after he married Luna.

Her name had first attracted him, and their relationship had developed to love and then marriage. Luna loved him for his pure heart and his transparency. 

He had wanted a new spot to sit and gaze at the moon and other celestial glowing objects. He had limited his scouting missions only to a few nights of the full moon every month. This place was the farthest corner of the graveyard located in the southeast part of the city, just below the visible peaks of the mountain range which towered over the small city. A thick forest and a small abandoned cottage sat inside the left-hand part of the forest. Adam thought about using it when the weather turned cold and windy. 

During the full moon cycle every month, the moon appeared more radiant and closer to Earth. It gave a fancy spectacle to the city, especially when it’s situated behind a row of peaks. The stars resembled shiny pieces of gold poured over the peaks and sparkled throughout the extended sky. Together they comprised a magic blend and beautified the nocturnal scenery. During these few days every month, Adam was the closest human to the spectacle, and the sight blended his spirit and body until he met an acquaintance there.

He was alone at the graveyard on one of these nights, a cool breeze caressing his cheeks. He was warming up against a tall pine tree when the hiccup of a strange-looking man drew his attention behind him. The tall and stocky man wore aviator glasses and a big hat.

The man approached Adam and sat on a big stone beside him. They chitchatted about the beauty of tonight’s moon. 

To Adam’s astonishment, the man alleged to be from the moon. 

“That moon?” Adam pointed to the shining moon, wholeheartedly believing the man’s claim. He asked many questions about who lives on the moon.

The man startled Adam with his bizarre answers. He said the residents of the moon live for seven hundred to a thousand years. The man was now one hundred and fifty years old but was still considered a teenager.

Adam laughed, thinking about how he was talking to the oldest person he’d ever met, and yet the man was just a teenager. Adam asked if he knew anybody from Earth.

He answered that he knows Armstrong, an American astronaut, and he’d recently met a Chinese yǔ háng yuán. 

“So, you are really from the moon!” 

The man told Adam to leave because he would return in a special movement that required him to be alone. “Earth dwellers shouldn’t be there.” 

The moon resembled a shiny orange plate as it lowered behind the highest peaks. Its light sparkled over the whole city. It appeared just a stone’s throw from Earth, prepared for someone to embark on it.

Adam didn’t want to leave this spectacle, but he had no choice; it was late, and his wife had been calling him—besides, the man had ordered him. When he set to depart, he was confused and could not remember the right direction.

The man told him to take the opposite direction. “I was exiting from there when I was alive.”

Adam took the road. He hurried to arrive home and tell Luna the night’s awesome story. While reciting the events to Luna, everything sounded natural to him, until he recounted when the man had said, “When I was alive.” Fear gripped Adam as he repeated the man’s last phrase.

It seemed he hadn’t paid attention to the man’s speech at the graveyard, when he said “alive,” which meant he was dead at the moment he met Adam. 

Luna’s biggest concern now was why her husband was terrified by a supposedly dead person, but not by a man who claimed he was from the moon!

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Please visit Chiman on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/ChimanNSalih/

Enzo Stephens: Oasis

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.


Enzo Stephens

Windy’s — aka., Battle Mountain Bar, was tucked neatly between the Broadway Deli and the Roadway Inn & Suites, Battle Mountain North, which pissed old Jackson Wind off to no end whatsoever.

Because along came some newfangled piece-of-shit joint called the Electrify America Charging Station. Whoop-de-do. Some do-gooder thought it would be a good idea for all the mining equipment in the area to run on batteries. 


Probably Chinese.

The constant parade of heavy vehicles that rumbled past the clapboarded Windy’s, shaking and vibrating the living shit out of the place to ‘plug-in’ became a very good reason for telling the 12-step program to take a fucking hike.

Jackson Wind was pure Shoshone; no stranger to either rotgut or some of the finer legal drugs available. And Jackson Wind needed very little excuse to self-medicate (as the tree-huggers called it. DUDE! It’s called ALCOHOLISM.).

Jackson knocked back a few fingers (who the fuck is counting?) of some MaCallen’s 18, then whacked the thick glass on the surface of the glossy bartop and belched. Two-thirty in the afternoon on a fuck-o-Thursday in the middle of fuck-tober in the year of Our Lord twenty-fuckamo-something-or-the-other was just a fine time to start mashing the liver for the day.

He glanced outside the permanently dusty windows as a clump of sagebrush trundled along at the urging of the constant baking wind, cursed at it then wandered to the back of the long, narrow barroom to a badly abused pinball machine, wishing for another drink.

The front door was thrust open letting in a blast of soul-sucking air. “Shut the fuckin’ door!” The visitor obliged, clicking the door in the latch.

“Hey Windy.”

“Schmitty. Rum and coke?”

“Does your ma bang the Battle Mountain football team?”

Windy grunted as he moved behind the mahogany bar. “She’d screw them before doing your skanky ass, whitey. Now whatchoo doin’ here so early?”

Schmitty stepped up and onto a stool at the bar. Albert Manassas Schmidt yanked his ball cap off and dropped it on the bar; his blond curls were matted to the sides of his head with sweat. “Got a bidness meetin’.”

Windy snorted. “Yeah, right. Who da fuck do bidness in this shithole?”

“Welp,” and he paused to take a rip of the RNC, smacking his lips. “Some crazy rich muckety-muck is wantin’ to build hisself a big-assed mansion right here in Battle Mountain.”

“No shit?” Windy rested his round forearms on the bar.

“I shit you not. And if this little pow-wow goes right, I’m thinkin’ the Battle Mountain Bar is gonna be hoppin’ a whole lot over the next little bit.”

Windy ambled out from behind the bar with four more fingers of MaCallen’s and perched beside Schmidt. “Well, I ain’t never turned away good bidness, mind ya. So is this a big contract for ya?”

Schmidt took a sip, savoring the bite of the rum and the sweetness of the coke. Did the fucker slake a man’s thirst? Nope. But who the hell cares? Schmitty glanced at Windy. “It is a big one, for sure, but like I said, this rich muckety-muck is a weird one.”

“Whatcha mean?”

“Dude’s all pissed off at his kids, sayin’ they’re like vultures that would skin a man while he’s still alive. Said they tried to clean him out of his dough; did a hostile takeover or some shit over his company; killed off his sugar-baby—”

“Man, there’s some fucked-up people in this world.”

“Ya think?” He slapped his glass down and asked Windy to just plop that bottle of Calico Jack 100 right up there on the bar, along with a couple cans of coke and bucket of ice, just as he fished a crumpled Benjamin out of his dusty jeans. Windy saw this as an opportunity to reload his fine self with a heapin’ helpin’.

“So anyway, all my help is local—”

“You tellin’ me them Mezkins are local, Schmitty?”

“Not them, douche-puppet. It’s off-season, so those boys lit outta here.”

“Not the worst of ideas.”

“We make our bread where we can, my friend. And mine is here.” Which was true, because while Battle Mountain’s citizenry numbered just under 4,000, you’d best bet that Schmidt worked a house for just about each and every one of them. The number of forty-niner mine-shacks he’d renovated and updated (gentrified if you wanna know the truth) was just a touch below the 100 percentile.

Windy shook his head, nipping at his scotch. “Ain’t that a fuck-all? Ya got a big job and ya got nobody to do it.”

“Well, not quite.”

“Whatcha mean?”

“I’m gonna sub the deal to some out-of-towner. Great rep, especially for builds like what this whacko wants. He should be here any minute.”

“Oh, so THAT’s the bidness meeting!”

The door that served to keep out the constantly roiling scirocco swung wide, drawing four eyes immediately. A short man with a buzz-cut stood for a moment, staring at the whipping sands, then shut the door. He strode into the diffuse light of the bar, marching straight up to Schmidt. “Hello. Are you Mister Schmidt?”

Schmidt stood up, towering over the buzz-cut dude. “I am. And you are…?”

“I am Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein. You may call me ‘Bart’.”

Schmitty motioned to Windy to bring drinks to a small, pockmarked table along a bare adobe wall. “Well, okay there, Bart, let’s take a seat over here.” As he led Bart to the table, he caught the eye of Windy, who was shaking his head with vigor, his mouth forming the word ‘NO.’

Bart pulled a chair out and took a seat. He was in a black three-piece suit with a bright (and odd) perfectly perched red bow tie. Schmidt glanced at his shoes, noting the high polish, and the oddly strange lack of the ever-present desert dust.

Windy placed two clean glasses and a pitcher of ice water before the two men and made haste behind the safety of his bar, watching, his eyes huge.

Schmidt sat down across from the man and saw that he placed a business card on the table. Schmidt took it up and promptly dropped it. It felt… oily to the touch. Slimy. Like picking up a piece of snail snot. He pushed the card around to read it:

‘Leinstein’s Happy Home Building Company’ embossed in glossy black cursive. “Mister Leinstein—”

“Bart, please.”

“Okay then, Bart. This is going to be a tough build in a lot of ways, and we don’t have a lot of calendar to get it done. Desert conditions, high winds, freezing temps at night, and—”

“We are just fine working in the desert, Mr. Schmidt. My company just finished a home in Abu Dhabi for a sultan. An oil baron, if you will.”

Bart’s deep, sonorous voice was disarming. Smooth, silky; it resonated with Schmidt in an odd way. “Noted, Bart. But there’s something more.”

“Do tell sir.”

Schmidt took a deep breath and blew it out, chasing that with a hefty swig of water. He scowled quickly, reminding himself to get on Windy’s ass about changing the water filter. “Sure. The client we’re doing this job for says, and I quote here, that we are to build a house for his two full-grown children to live in. The house must be Enticing, Mysterious, and Esoteric.”

Schmidt leaned back in his chair to study Leinstein’s reaction and was disappointed when the man seemed to not react at all. He just stared at Schmidt through — and I shit you not, a freaking pince nez (like where the hell did that come from?). “I see, Mister Schmidt. By this request, I am to assume that there are no set number of bedrooms or bathrooms or other rooms in the house?”

Schmidt nodded.

“And the usual spaces, such as kitchens, common rooms, all other interior spaces are to be left up to our designs?”

Schmidt gulped. Turning control of a job like this, with a payday like this, to a man who looked like a USMC version of Pee Wee Herman was dicey as hell. He glanced toward the bar where Windy was staring bullets at him. Windy shook his head slowly and Schmidt looked back to Bart, his gut and anus severely clenched.

Again, Schmidt nodded, and Bart smiled, and damn if that smile didn’t look like something out of the movie Hellboy. The first one, not the shitty sequel.

“Very well then, Mister Schmidt. I have the contracts with me. Now tell me, when does the house need to be finished?”

I’m in it to win it, I’m in it to win it, I’m in it…

“We have two months before he inspects.”

“Do not fret, Mister Schmidt. We will make that schedule just fine.”

The two men huddled together for the next few hours and hammered out a deal along with site location and preliminary architectural plans, and that was that. Bart was out the door and into the desert evening like a fart in the wind.

Schmitty moved his weary butt to his favorite stool and bade Windy to reload him with a double RNC. Windy pushed the tall glass across to Schmidt. “Dude?”

“Yeah, Windy?”

“That dude was bad news.”

“I don’t give a damn if he’s the king of fuckdom! As long as he gets the shit built on time and the buyer likes it, whatever.”


Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein strode into the desert night; swirling, gusting winds not affecting the man nor his clothing. He stepped off the hard-packed tarmac across from Windy’s and into desert nothingness. When he was sure he was out of sight of the bar, he turned and smiled.


Galena, NV. Pop.: 0

Twenty-five miles southeast of Battle Mountain stood a collection of scattered piles of rotted timber that was home to a myriad of denizens of the hostile climate that holed themselves up for the night in little cubbies and ratholes; some digesting their prey while others waited for theirs.

Galena, Nevada. An old mining town that went through a couple of half-assed renovation attempts since its heyday in the 1880s but was now nothing but whispers of the past and ancient planks groaning at the constant abuse of the wind.

It was here at the main junction of Galena where Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein stood, impervious to the blustering sands and the glittering night sky, talking to a massive triangle he etched in the sand around him.

His language was unrecognizable, if there were anyone to hear it. But it rang forth from him with sonorous power, reverberating and throbbing in the night, and the triangle in the sand began to glow with a putrid greenish light.

“Come!” And they came, boiling up from the sands like erupting pustules vomiting forth wretchedly amorphous and writhing shapes that whipped and cavorted in the chilled, dry air, all around Bart, and Bart was thrilled, as he was always thrilled when they came at his call.

Bart hacked up a glob of snot and spat it out with great force, where it was snatched by a gale-force blast of wind. “Come as well and join your brothers!” 

The air was suddenly rent with the thunder of hundreds of massive, flapping leathery wings whose shapes wove in and out of their wildly cavorting brethren from the dirt, and Bart laughed, long and loud. The insane troupe of beings joined with him, and the cacophony rocked the remnants of long-dead and dilapidated shelters.

Others came from a myriad of directions to join in the obscene orgy, and the numbers swelled and swarmed.

“HOLD!” And the horde of insanity froze, despite a thrumming undercurrent of protest.

Bart seemed to grow taller, more commanding, and he radiated power. “HEAR ME NOW, BROTHERS, AND YOU WILL FEAST!”

The horde throbbed with excitement, and as Bart spoke, groups and clusters of the horde split off from the others, vanishing into the night, until finally only one remained. One of the first who rose from the dirt. It grinned and leered at Bart, insanely tottering and twisting before him, waiting. Bart issued one more set of instructions and, with a vomit-inducing pop, the being was gone.

Bart turned away from Galena and strode in a northerly direction, back to the Battle Mountain Bar. There was an old Shoshone boozing windbag of a monkey that needed Bart’s unique brand of attitude adjustment.


Albert Manassas Schmidt, at one time in his long-lost days, was a roughneck, having worked oil rigs on the Atlantic, where outrageous tragedy struck without warning, and just about on a daily basis because the Atlantic is a completely fickle bitch that doesn’t like people.

Every day, it was, ‘who’s gonna go next?’ Every night after pulling a ten-er, some idiotic Okie-chump would hand over a beat-up Polaroid with a plump broad and a couple of cherubic kids and ask Schmitty to ‘please get word to my family in case I don’t make it tomorrow.’

Schmitty kept a cigar box for just such mementos, but when his last tour finished, he got the hell off that rig as fast as he could, and so the cigar box stayed behind.

Less than a week later that rig scored a geyser that was so powerful that it blew the damned rig apart and wiped out every man on it.

Atlantic. Fickle bitch.

Point is, Schmitty saw men bite it in so many ways — outright drowning, being swept off by sudden storms never to be seen again, death by sea creature (which utterly terrified the fuck out of him), equipment mishaps, etcetera, etcetera.

Hell, a dude standing less than three feet away from him was incinerated by a lightning strike.

But as he stared at the smoking hole in the desert floor where Windy’s once stood, Schmitty reasoned that a) Windy was in there when the bitch went up, and b) he probably didn’t go gently into the night.

Nevada State Troopers clumped themselves up out of the fluttering ash pit, followed by a couple of EMTs hauling a wheeled gurney with a white sheet covering an oddly shaped lump. Schmitty knew in his heart that it was Windy.

Well, who the hell else would it be, dumbass?

Only three days ago, Schmitty and Windy sat their butts on roughly padded barstools and talked about how things just might be looking up for both men. “Hah!”

He kicked at a hunk of sagebrush that bonked against his booted ankle, climbed in his old Bronco and took off, shedding a tear for his friend.

Not for the first time, Schmitty wondered just how the new build was going, or if it was going at all. But the way he was feeling, the new build just didn’t seem all that important to Schmitty now.


Schmitty lay on a very uncomfortable bed, propped to a 45-degree angle in the Battle Mountain Medical Center, furious at the jackass that put insipid daytime teevee on and turned the fucker up loud enough to wake the dead.

He barked a laugh at that one, a laugh that turned into a gut-wrenching, churning series of coughs that wrought waves of pain that cascaded over him. He sagged weakly into his pillow. He thumbed the dispenser for pain meds, another fruitless exercise as he exhausted those at least an hour ago. 

Long enough to wake the dead. I’m just counting the hours now until I get to test that theory.

“Hello, Mister Schmidt.”

Sonorous baritone that seemed to soothe his ears. He turned his head creakingly to see that buzz-cut Marine Corps version of PeeWee Herman standing at his side. Schmitty did not hear the creepy fucker come in, and he said so in a croaking whisper.

“The cancer has you in its grip, Mister Schmidt. Are you in pain?”

“Stupid… question. Does a… a scorpion hide in… your boot?”

“It is good to see that you still have your sense of humor, despite your impending demise. Ah, but that’s the way of things with you… monkeys, isn’t it?”

“Fuck… are you… talking about?”

Bart touched his perfectly tied bow tie and for the first time, Schmitty noticed the length and the filth that seemed to live beneath the surface of the guy’s fingernail. “Mister Schmidt, the house is complete.”

“Ahh, I… I forgot about that.”

“Myself and my crew did not, sir. The job is done, and we believe the person who ordered the house will be quite pleased.”

Confusion wracked Schmitty, but then the cobwebs cleared, despite the incessant, bludgeoning pain. “I can’t… pay—”

“There is payment and there is payment, monkey, and I will be paid soon enough.” 

There goes that Hellboy smile again. All Schmitty could do was stare at Bart.

“I so like being there for when one of you monkeys pass, especially when you haven’t figured things out yet. So let me share a doozy for you, Schmitty. This one’s going to kick you in the shorts, I do believe.” He stepped closer to the bedside. “Guess I don’t need to tell you to sit down, eh?”

“Not fun—”

“Think about my name, monkey. Remember my card? Oh, you didn’t like that at all, did you? Remember?”

And yes indeed, Schitty did remember the disgusting feel of the thing. “Bart…”

“Yes. Bartholomew Aldred Atkinson Leinstein. You don’t have long now, monkey, so I’ll give you a tip. Think about the initials.”


“B. A. A. L. Get it? Ba’al! That’s me, in the flesh, so to speak.”

Schmitty, last breath wheezed out of him like a flaccid balloon with a puff or two remaining, yet his eyes remained open in horror.


Becky and Ryan Carbondale fairly leapt from their late-model Honda minivan they parked in a luxurious-yet-overgrown governor’s driveway before a sprawling two-story home that sparkled in the riveting morning desert sun. Their twin sons managed to unbuckle themselves with surprising dexterity that caused Becky to seriously suspect that the boys had decoded car seats sometime in the past when neither she nor her hubby were looking.

Ryan popped open the rear lift to free their four-year-old Labrador Retriever, Boz, but Boz was having none of it. He lay on the floor in the back of the van with a whimper and his tail curled tight against his body. “Suit yourself, pooch.”

Ryan left the door open and joined his family as they ooh-ed and ahh-ed the lushness of the grass and the flowering hedges and bushes that crowded the house. “What do you think the water bill would be here?”

Ryan pulled the two boys close to him as he stared upward at the house looming over him. There was a feeling…


“Oh shit, yeah. No idea babe, but it can’t be cheap.”

“It was so wonderful that your Grandpa Milford just gave us this place. It’s… spectacular!”

And as the four stood before their new home, the desert winds whipped in all directions and then focused in several spots behind the young family, and it seemed as though the sand rose to greet the winds, creating a number of whirling, silently cavorting dust-devils.

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S.McC: The Shadow Queen

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 Shadow Queen


A slim-heeled foot stepped upon the hallowed ground, sending ripples out to the decrepit cottage buried in the surrounding forest, awakening magic long forgotten.

‘Are you sure we are in the right place?’ Cindy teased her husband as he got out of the other side of their sleek black BMW jeep.

Lucas grabbed the brochure from the inside pocket of thHe black door and lifted it towards his face. He frowned at it and then squinted towards the half-buried cottage. ‘It kind of looks like it if you squint.’ He said and shrugged, trying to make the best of it.

This would be an overdue break away for both of them and much needed, as they worked obscene hours. Between that and the three children growing it was beginning to get harder to find time for each other, but they were as happy as they could be in their life.

They walked unhurriedly, linking arms, towards the love cottage, that was more of a two-story spooky shack. It supported a crooked roof, with several tiles missing, and plaster was falling from the once white walls, that was now caked with dirt from years gone by. The window upstairs was broken and the chimney was barely holding on with bricks missing from several places.

They looked at it with plastered smiles on both of their faces, as their eyes roamed and worried at what might be out there within the woods. Or even worse, at what they might find inside, for horror films were their favourite to watch, and the cottage looked like it was straight out of one of them.

‘Where did the travel agent say that the key was?’ she asked as they reached the crooked wooden door.

‘Under the mat,’ Lucas replied, as he looked around in search of one, upon the broken floorboards of the porch.

‘I don’t know about you, Hunny, but I only see a plant pot,’ Cindy replied. ‘A dead plant in it at that,’ she mumbled under her breath, wrinkling her nose at the brown sapling that was bent over within. Lucas lifted the pot and found the big rusty key underneath.

‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ he asked, glancing again at the blackened windows with their hanging frames.


He put the key into the lock and twisted. It clicked, and he tried to push the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. He grew frustrated and tried slamming into it with a shoulder. ‘You’re going to hurt yourself!’ Cindy sighed in annoyance at him.

She stepped in front of him so that he couldn’t see what she was doing as she rubbed two of her fingers together. A soft glow came from the key and another click was heard. ‘You didn’t turn it enough, silly,’ she said as she rattled the key a little to hide her tracks and opened the door with ease.

‘Hmmm,’ Lucas grumbled and followed her into the cottage. ‘Cindy…What?’ he said as he smashed into the back of her.

‘Oh my gosh! Lucas, look!’ Cindy said excitedly, her voice gaining a pitch.

‘What?’ he began but stopped as he noticed that the cottage was as luxuriously furnished as the brochure had said, and it was clean too he noted, at the sparkling polished wooden floors. Maybe they would have their romantic weekend away, he thought, wiggling his eyebrows. Hugging Cindy from behind, he kissed her gently on the cheek.

She squirmed within his grasp and wriggled free facing him. ‘Before any more thoughts of that,’ she wriggled her fair eyebrows back at him, ‘we need the luggage.’

‘Aww.’ A little dismayed, ‘Really?’ he asked.

She nodded and quickly moved out of reach as he smiled and hung his head. He turned around slowly and walked back towards the car. She watched him until he was nearly there and more occupied with grabbing the luggage before going over towards the brick fireplace.

Before her, she found a bucket of coal and a few logs with some sticks. Bending quickly down she arranged them before rubbing her fingers again and starting a fire. She sat back and watched it brighten.

‘Good idea.’ Lucas’s voice made her jump as he stumbled in, half rolling half dragging the suitcase behind him. ‘Where do you want this?’

‘Bedroom please.’

‘Where is that?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said, gazing around and finding another door off of the kitchen. ‘You will have to find it.’ She nodded towards it.

‘Yes ma’am,’ Lucas replied teasingly, as he rolled the case away into a room beyond the open kitchen. Cindy squinted at the door to the kitchen and rubbed her fingers, forcing it to close softly behind him. There, that would give her some sort of warning at least.

She inched as close to the fire as she could without burning herself and looked deep within the flames before chanting. ‘Tyd I mi tan bach, fy chwaer.’ She rubbed both her hands as she sat crossed legged gazing in at the leaping flames.

Within moments a head appeared. It was not the head of someone who she had been expecting, and she thought it very odd. ‘I am here, sister.’ The head spoke the usual druid response, regardless of man or woman, and it calmed her a little.

‘Where’s Betty?’

‘Betty is busy.’ The figure in the fire hesitated whilst replying; something was wrong. Betty had never been busy before, and she was meant to give her last-minute instructions on the item she was to gather here.

‘OK,’ she replied wearily. ‘Any other instructions I need?’

‘No, nothing to worry about, did you find it yet?’


‘Hmmm. Does the husband suspect anything?’

‘No, he has no reason to believe that I am not his wife,’ she replied whilst touching the charm upon her chest.

‘Then find it, child, and hurry,’ the head said as a faint rustling came from the direction of the kitchen. 

Cindy waved towards the flames and whispered, ‘Hwyl fawr.’

She quickly rubbed her fingers as faint shouts of, ‘Cindy, I don’t think the house wants us to be together.’

‘It isn’t wrong,’ Cindy mumbled before he managed to open the door, and came sauntering into the room. She plastered a smile onto her face as she turned toward him. ‘Did you find one?’

‘Yes, and it’s just as luxurious as this place is,’ he said, waving his arms at the sitting room and kitchen.

‘Hungry?’ she asked, walking through to the kitchen.

‘Yes,’ he said enthusiastically. ‘I brought the cool box in, while you were busy making the fire. What do you have in it, rocks?’

‘Something like that,’ she laughed, whilst turning around and pulling a face. She hoped he didn’t suspect, as she walked over to the cool box and popped the lid open. ‘Spring rolls?’ she suggested as she got the small box out.

He nodded and grabbed two plates. She divided the spring rolls, trying to keep her calm composure at all costs, even though she was shaking inside. He sat and waited for her to do the same. ‘Can’t forget the wine, hunny,’ she said as she turned back into the kitchen to grab a bottle, hoping that he would start eating the rolls. She couldn’t afford to eat one nibble of them herself, as they were laced with a sleeping spell.

Thankfully for her, he did. ‘These are lovely,’ he said, scoffing them as quickly as he could into his mouth. ‘Do we have any more?’

‘You can have mine,’ she said, smiling happily at him.

‘Then what will you eat?’ he asked her. ‘You don’t need to lose any more weight, you look gorgeous just the way you are,’ he said, looking appreciatively at her curvy figure. She wasn’t slim by any means, with thunderous thighs and wobbly arms, she looked every bit the mommy figure that she was.

Her hair of rich golden blonde framed bright blue eyes, and to Lucas, she was amazingly beautiful in every way. ‘You’re sexy, you know that,’ he said, giving her a wobbly smile, as the last of the rolls went down to his stomach.

He yawned. ‘I feel very tired.’ She hadn’t thought that they would work so quickly but was glad of it.

‘Want to go to bed?’ She wiggled her eyebrows at him. He sat up a little straighter at that and made his way over to her. His dark brown hair rubbed against her cheek as he tried to kiss her but missed. He was barely taller than her and as skinny as a string bean.

Cindy wondered what the wife saw within him as he hugged her, whilst trying to make his wobbly legs lead them to the bedroom. He stumbled over to the giant four-poster bed still holding her hand. Wow, Cindy thought, he hadn’t been lying when he said it was luxurious.

A thick carpet was under her feet and she could see another fireplace alongside the wall. She felt a little bad about tricking him, but she had a task at hand and needed to complete it. He was pulling off his black shoes, weaving drunkenly as he did so. She sat beside him and pulled him down using her arm that was wrapped around his shoulders. He yawned again.

His head hit the pillow and he was softly snoring within the blink of an eye. Cindy gently tugged her arm free and got up, hastily pulling the cardigan back around her. Now where to look. It wasn’t a large object and her sister had said that she would know what it would be when she saw it.

She walked back into the kitchen and grabbed her equipment. A bowl of gold and a needle. She looked around whilst she waited for the drug to properly kick in. There didn’t seem to be anything calling out to her around the kitchen or the sitting room whose fire still crackled in the hearth.

Considering it enough time, she quickly went back to Lucas and heard his snores before she saw him. Eugh, she thought, how could anyone sleep next to that. Pulling her needle out of its pouch, she quickly jabbed him in the arm, where a nice blue vein was running. She withdrew his blood.

‘I hope this works,’ she murmured, not caring if he heard or not. The sleeping drug would not wear off for several hours. She placed the golden bowl upon the floor and placed the blood inside of it, chanting, ‘Uffern waedelyd tyd I mi yr brehnin syn cysgu.’

The blood swirled within the goblet of its own accord and Cindy gasped. It was working. She lifted it off the ground and stood up within the room. It stopped swirling and reset against one side of the goblet as if leading her in a direction. She followed its direction out of the bedroom and stopped at the only other door in the house.

She tried to open it but no luck. Frowning, she looked at the door; it didn’t appear to have a lock. It also didn’t appear to be any different from any other ordinary wooden door. She waved her hand across and said, ‘Dangos.’

A part of the door brightened and words formed upon it. ‘Only the souls of the damned lie beyond.’ She didn’t like the sound of that as she looked at the bowl again, but she had no choice. If she wanted to become a full-fledged member of the druids, she would have to complete the task which they gave her.

She sighed and looked at the door again. ‘Agor,’ she said as she waved at the handle. It clicked open and the air around her got colder, turning her blood to ice. Her gut was warning her against going down those dark steps into the blackness below.

She hesitated at the top of the doorway, torn. Did she want this? She gulped and pulled herself together, yes more than anything, she thought, as she took the first step. She rubbed her fingers. ‘Golau,’ and a small ball of orange light appeared in front of her.

It led her down and down the many wooden steps. Some of them half torn with age and most were slippery under her feet. The blood within the bowl led her down past several doors that were buried within the sides of the stone wall. Each time she reached a door, the hairs on the back of her neck stood further and further out, and a sinking feeling grew within her stomach.

She nearly fled back up the wooden stairs. Each time, however, she was reminded of the promises they had made to her, for help with healing her sister, and she tried to make herself braver. Inside, however, she was shaking like a leaf. The blood within the bowl was threatening to spill as her hands betrayed her.

She reached the last step and found herself inside a cavern. The walls around her were smooth and made of a stone that she didn’t recognise. Its blackness was eating away at her small light.

In the middle, there seemed to be a shadowy figure, clasped in chains of silver running down from each of the walls. Cindy blinked, and as she did so, the chamber changed and before her eyes lay a black stone clasped tightly by silver, sitting upon a pedestal. It seemed to glow slightly with its own light.

Shaking her head and closing her eyes again, she couldn’t get the image of the shadowy figure out of her mind. Had she just dreamt of that or had that been real? She was feeling a little tired from the use of magic, but she hadn’t thought she was that tired that she would be seeing things.

She closed her eyes once more, but the shadow never appeared, and so she shrugged off the image, placing the bowl of blood upon the floor, and walked quickly towards the black stone on the pedestal. Her heart quickened with each step. This was it, she thought her way in, all she had to do was get it back to the druids and she would be one of them.

Her hand, however, hesitated over it. Something about taking it from here didn’t sit well with her. It oozed magic that felt wrong and unfamiliar to her own. ‘They need this, and I need them,’ she whispered as she plucked it gently from its silver clasps, thinking only of her sister.

It felt cold to the touch, almost freezing, and she wished that she had something to wrap it in.

Placing the cool stone in her mouth so as not to lose it and wishing that female clothing came with better pockets, she took off her cardigan. Before she got an arm out of the sleeve, the stone started burning her lips. It started snaking its way down her throat as if it were alive.

Her eyes widened as she started pulling upon it. It would not come loose, her energy lagged and her light flickered before finally going out, leaving her fighting the stone within the blackness of the cavern. She feared what was happening as inch by inch it hit the back of her throat and turned slowly into a liquid made of fire as it made its way towards her heart.

She wanted to scream in pain. The agony of the fiery liquid made her claw at herself. She slumped to her knees. Terror took over as her breathing was cut off. Holding her throat, gasping for breath, her blue eyes rolled into the back of her head.

The black stone, now a liquid, merged with her blood. Her veins turned black as it was pumped around by her beating heart. Her hair, once blonde and vibrant, dulled to the richest of blacks. Hands touched the cold floor, as the liquid turned her veins black, making them stand out against her pale skin. Her eyes rolled back and forward, as black and as lifeless as the cavern in front of her.

The body stood up off of the floor and stretched each of the limbs. Taking its time to feel all the muscles that lay within. Muscles that it had been deprived of for so long.

She was no longer Cindy. Cindy had gone, and in her place, unlocked from the silver chains that had imprisoned her for centuries, stood The Shadow Queen.

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Lisa Criss Griffin: No Place Like Home

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

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

No Place Like Home

Lisa Criss Griffin

The voices outside her house had returned. Hilda wrung her gnarled hands in despair, her anxiety playing across her wrinkled face. She fled upstairs to the attic to peer out the small window into the overgrown yard. The evening light was fading, but the brightly hued blooms of the flowers around her quaint little cottage still gleamed with color. She couldn’t see anyone, but the voices were still there.

Hilda turned towards the stairs in horror as her front door opened, creaking in protest. The voices were louder. They were in her house! This had never happened until her beloved husband Lars passed away. His recent death had crushed her, and she had no desire to see anyone. It seemed people had lost all sense of decency since Lars died. Why couldn’t folks allow her to grieve his loss in peace? This was still her home! 

The first time, the intruders simply walked in her front door and completely ignored her indignant protests during their unannounced visit. Hilda scolded them as they walked through her home, touching things and admiring her cottage. They never really bothered anything though. After several similar invasions, the choice to hide rather than confront the interlopers when they invaded her home seemed to be her best option.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen often, and was less frequent now that the weather was turning cooler. She had sent a letter of complaint to the local authorities earlier. The officials had never been proactive, so she doubted they would do anything about the trespassing. Hilda lived outside of a sleepy, rural village where nothing much ever happened. She and Lars liked their privacy, and had enjoyed a lifetime of delightful solitude in their country home.

An exasperated sigh escaped Hilda’s lips as the voices traveled past the stairwell in her home. She looked down and realized her fists were clenched in frustration. This was going to have to stop. She took a deep breath and moved to the top of the stairs. Hilda bravely started down the steps. The front door slammed shut, the voices disappearing into the front yard. By the time she made her way downstairs, the trespassers were gone. Like every other time, nothing had been disturbed.

Hilda stepped outside, reveling in the subtle fragrances of the fresh night air. The moon was full, illuminating her familiar but overgrown yard. Lars had always taken care of the yard. He hired someone to do it after he got sick, but they stopped coming after his death. It would frost soon, so she decided not to concern herself with it. 

She took a short stroll to the edge of the vegetable garden, admiring the brilliant orange color of the fat pumpkins dotting the ground between the towering stalks of corn. The garden had done well this year. Lars had always been so proud of his garden. Her throat constricted as she teared up, her grief over Lars’ glaring absence overwhelming her. She held onto a sturdy cornstalk while she had a good cry, the depth of her loneliness escaping in a pitiful wail.

Something soft rubbed against her ankles. She looked down to find her beloved cat looking up at her with his glowing golden eyes. They had a special bond, and Hilda fancied he understood everything she said to him.

“Hi there, Claus. I’m mighty glad to see you.”

Claus smiled and swirled his fluffy black tail around her legs lovingly.

“I suppose those people scared you too. I’m glad you came back.”

Claus purred as she picked him up, cradling him in her arms while she returned to the quaint cottage Lars had built for them so many years ago. She lit a fire and the two of them basked in the gentle warmth and crackling of the flames, enjoying each other’s company in the well worn rocker by the hearth. 

Sunlight was sparkling through the leaded glass windows of the cottage when Claus jumped from Hilda’s lap and padded silently towards the front door. The sound of a car door slamming outside in the driveway disturbed Hilda’s rest. She rose from the rocker. A key rattled in the lock of the front door. Claus hissed and arched his back, skittering sideways as the door swung open. A young couple walked inside, closing the door behind them. The young woman looked around in delight, then embraced her beaming husband.

“Oh Fritz! I can’t believe this lovely old cottage is finally ours! I think we will always be happy here. I love it so!”

“Yes. There is something special about this place, Marta. I love it too!”

“WHAT? This is MY house, you young fools. You can’t just waltz in here and claim an old lady’s home! What is wrong with you young people nowadays?”

The couple shared an intimate kiss, ignoring Hilda. A low growl emanated from Claus, who had returned to the safety of Hilda’s protective stance. Hilda hurled a teacup sitting on the small table next to her rocker, against the wall behind the amorous couple. It crashed and fell to the floor, shattering into jagged shards of china. 

Fritz and Marta jumped apart in surprise, exchanging looks of disbelief.

“The realtor said this place was haunted, but I never believed it, Marta.”

“We got it for almost nothing, Fritz. We could never find another place like this on our budget. What are we going to do???”

“Maybe it wasn’t what we thought. Maybe it just fell by itself. I confess my interests were elsewhere.”

Hilda grasped the saucer, ready to smash it against the wall too. Wait a minute. Why couldn’t they see or hear her? They thought she was a ghost? Marta was already picking up the pieces of the teacup, her face etched with sadness. Hilda released the saucer and picked up Claus, holding him closely as she watched the couple.

“What happened to that darling elderly couple that owned this cottage before us, Fritz? Did the realtor give you any more information?

“Yes, he knew quite a bit about them. Lars Jansen built this lovely cottage for his beautiful wife, Hilda, when they were first married, a very long time ago. They were crazy in love and kept to themselves for most of their lives, except to worship God at the church in town. The minister revealed the couple used to help their fellow citizens anonymously through the church, and were adamant that nobody know who was doing all the good deeds during their lifetimes. They were well liked and friendly…people thought they just enjoyed the solitude of this place. They didn’t have children. The realtor confided to me that Lars never got over Hilda’s tragic disappearance during the flash flooding last spring. They finally found her clutching her beloved cat, both drowned, downstream in the river that runs through the edge of this property. Lars grieved and grieved. He was overheard begging Hilda not to leave him and their home. He came down with pneumonia shortly after her death and died a few months ago. I think Lars missed his precious Hilda so much, he just died of a broken heart.”

“Oh, how very sad! I pray they are together now. I hope we will have their blessing to take care of their beautiful cottage and love it as much as they did!”

Hilda held Claus closer, shocked by this revelation. She was…a ghost? Maybe that was why nobody seemed to notice her? How could she find Lars? She wanted Lars! Where could he be? 

Hilda bolted out the back door and made her way down to the river. There was an old tree by the river that bore their names from the time they first bought their land. Lars had proposed to her there, and it was one of their favorite places. Hilda reached out and traced the heart around their names, carved into the large tree so long ago.

“Lars loves Hilda 


“Oh Lars…where are you?!”

A sudden breeze stirred the branches of the ancient tree, causing colorful maroon leaves to slowly cascade like large confetti around Hilda and Claus. A strapping young man stepped out from behind the tree. 

“Hilda. My lovely Hilda. I was wondering when you would come! You are as beautiful as ever, my love. Claus, you look wonderful too!”

Hilda looked at her hands as Claus jumped down and rubbed contentedly against Lars’ legs. They were no longer gnarled and misshapen. In fact, they were the hands of her youth. She felt her face. It was smooth and firm. She gasped in delight and threw herself into Lars’ awaiting arms, her mind reeling in amazement.

“What now, Lars?”

“I have a surprise for you and Claus. We have a new home. You will love it! Trust me? Trust God?”

“Yes, you know we do!”

Lars picked up Claus and nodded to an angel, who folded his gorgeous wings around the little family. A golden glow shimmered around the three of them. Their true home and sanctuary, beautiful beyond their wildest dreams, was already built and awaiting their impending arrival beyond the ornate Gates of Heaven.

Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin

All rights reserved

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Paula Shablo: Coming Home

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Coming Home

Paula Shablo

Gramma always said the house had “character.”

I didn’t remember ever being to the place as an adult. I’m not a young person anymore, so I may be wrong, but it does seem to me that I couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve the last time I laid eyes on the place.

I also didn’t remember it as being so… crooked.

We were still quite a way out from it when we were first able to catch sight of it. It wasn’t a particularly big house, although my grandmother had raised seven children there. The roof was swaybacked as an aged mare, and the whole house seemed to lean.

Madge sat up straighter in her seat and stared until we lost sight of the house. The roads leading to the place twisted and turned, and so for the next few miles we’d only get glimpses. “Is that it?” she gasped. I could tell she was less than impressed.


“Um…it looks a bit…”

“It’s an old house, Madge.” I sighed. “It’s also a free house.”

“How long has it been since anyone lived there?” Madge demanded.

“Oh…let me see. Gramma moved in with Mom when I left for college, so—”

“Oh dear God!”

I threw a scathing glare at my love. “That sounded suspiciously like you were saying, ‘But you’re so OLD, Liv!’ Which,” I added, “I am.”

“Not at all,” Madge remarked mildly. “But that’s a very long time for a house to stand empty.”

“Mom never wanted to live there,” I said. “After Gramma died, she actually tried to sell it. But, it being so far out of town, she never got any offers.”

“And now, it’s passed down to you.”


Madge stared at the cottage as it once more came into view. “You called the county and had the power turned on?”


Under her breath, she muttered, “Surprised the power surge didn’t blow the place up.”

“I heard that,” I informed her haughtily.

“Do you suppose it actually works?”

I sighed again, and didn’t bother to answer. I wasn’t sure of anything.

The cottage disappeared into the trees as I took the next curve at a slower pace. Madge was fidgeting in her seat, and I was nearly holding my breath, waiting for her next words. I knew what they’d be, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow when she said, “Are you sure it was a good idea to give up our lease?”

I wanted to stop the car, but I drove on with some determination. “Madge, you know as well as I we were close to getting an eviction order. This economy—”

“I know.”

“The house is mine. The land around it, too. Free and clear—the property taxes are paid out of Gramma’s trust, and that continues until the family line—” I stopped abruptly. The family line ended with me.

There were cousins, of course. Mother had siblings. But the house had been left to her and her descendants. I was it, and I had never had children.

I could leave the house to one of the others, but the trust that funded the property taxes and other minor expenses would be done with.

Madge stared at her hands, neatly folded in her lap. We had discussed children; of course we had, and if we’d been of another generation we might have gone further than a discussion. But we’d both been in our thirties when we met and fell in love—not exactly a great age to be having babies, not with all the hoops we would have had to leap through to accomplish it.

I took a deep breath. “That doesn’t matter, because we can deal with who next gets the house later. For now, the place is home.”

“Home…” Madge let the word drawl on, thoughtfully.

“Our home.”

The cottage popped back into view. I frowned. It looked…straighter. The roof line appeared less swaybacked.

Madge leaned forward in her seat, gasping. “Do you see that?”

“Uh…” I blinked hard. “It must be some trick of the light.”

“Maybe it was just a distance perspective that—”

“Made it look like it was falling over? I—I don’t know.”

We had a straight stretch of road to traverse, and would soon be arriving at the house. As we got closer, it looked even better.

“A fresh coat of paint, and it will be downright cute,” Madge declared.

“I’m sure there will be some roofing issues, and the porch might need some work,” I said. “But with no other expenses besides utilities, we should be able to swing it on our pensions.”

“Is it—is it already painted?” Madge asked. As we arrived, it appeared to have been painted a buttery yellow. There were no chips or faded spots that we could see.

Madge turned to me as I parked and shut off the ignition. “Did you send someone ’round to paint?”

“What, in the last half hour?” I couldn’t take my eyes off the house. It really did appear to be freshly painted, and it was a color both of us loved—warm and sweet, like early morning sunshine.

We got out of the car. Walking a complete circle around the cottage, it was clear that there were no repairs needed. The porch floor was intact. Every shingle on the roof was perfectly in place. No window was broken.

Madge stared at the house, then placed hands on hips and stared at me. “When did you have time to—?”

“I didn’t!” I protested. “I would have, of course; I planned to! I—I wanted to see it first, but—” I stared back at her, and shrugged. “My flabber is gasted, Madge, what can I say?”

Open-mouthed, she studied me intently. She knew I wasn’t lying. “Well,” she said, “I don’t know whether to be amazed or terrified.”

I knew what she meant.

We had both seen the house before we arrived; we’d been seeing it off and on for miles. We hadn’t imagined the dilapidation.

Determinedly, I took out the key and marched up to the door. “Well,” I said, “I’m going to go with amazed. I’m sure there will be work to do inside, and we’ll do it. And it will all be amazing once we’ve moved in and made it our own.”

Inside, we discovered vague shapes under dust-covered sheets, and this was more like it—more like what one would expect of a house that had stood alone for a long time.

We lifted the sheets off carefully and took them outside for a good shaking, trying not to leave too much heavy dust in the house.

Under the sheets we found furniture that was perfectly intact and charming. Madge shook her head in disbelief. “Look at this beautiful chair!” She ran a hand lovingly over the tapestry. “I’ve always dreamed of having a chair like this.” She sank into a seat and sighed contentedly.

My grandmother had apparently been a fan of Queen Ann style; the table and chairs, the small sofa and the chair, a couple of occasional tables and a china hutch all reflected a time ages past. It was all in wonderful condition and beautiful, and I couldn’t believe our good luck.

We had rented a small furnished flat in the city for years, and had never owned much in the way of furniture. The moving van that was scheduled to arrive the next day had our clothes, musical instruments and books, and not much else.

“Let’s look at the bedrooms,” I suggested. “See what size bed we’ll be needing.”

The flat had featured a Murphy bed. “Ahh,” Madge sighed. “No more shoving the bed up into the wall! Joy, joy!”

We went upstairs. Furniture was covered with sheets in the bedrooms. The larger room held two full-size beds and two big chests of drawers. The smaller room held a queen-size bed, a wardrobe, a dresser and a chest of drawers. Neither room had a closet, but there was still plenty of storage space.

“How many kids?” Madge asked.

“Seven.” I grinned. “My mother was the youngest.”

“Wow. Close quarters.”

“We’ll have to clean up all this dust, but—I think we have everything we need!” I still couldn’t believe it. I flipped light switches. The power was on and working.

“I can’t believe no one wanted this house,” I continued as we went back down stairs that exhibited not a hint of a loose board or even a creak. “I think it’s charming!”

Sure, we were going to have to get a modern refrigerator and a washer and dryer, but those things seemed trivial now. I had anticipated a daunting job of repair and restoration, and now…

It was perfect, really. Anything else was going to be icing on the cake.

Madge slipped out the door and came back inside with my purse. “I think it’s time you read the letters your mother and grandmother left for you,” she said. “Maybe there’s some sort of explanation.”

“Like a caretaker or something?” I asked. “Okay.”

We sat at the table.

I read out loud. “My dearest Olivia.” I looked up at Madge and grinned. “Gramma never would call me ‘Liv.’ She said I had a beautiful name and I should insist on using the whole thing.”

Madge smiled. “She wasn’t wrong, Olivia.”

“Stop it.” I looked back at the neatly scripted letter in my hands. “I have prayed for the day when someone would love my little house enough to make it a home again. I miss it so, but your mother insisted that I should not be alone, and she didn’t want to live so far away.

“I agreed to live out my days with you and your mother, not because I was alone, but because you were. When your father died, I was afraid June might come to wish she could join him; they loved each other fiercely, and it was a great blow to her.

“I know now she will not return to her childhood home, and none of my children are interested in it either. I have left instructions that it will go to you.

“You need to know that the house is special. It has great character. If it is loved, it returns the love. If love dwells within its walls, it thrives. If you call it home, it will be restored.”

Madge gasped, and I felt my jaw drop as I looked up at her. “She meant that literally, didn’t she?” Madge asked. She didn’t need or expect an answer, and so I just smiled.

I opened the letter from my mother. “Livvy,” I read, and grinned. She wasn’t adverse to nicknames. “What Gramma said. Ha ha ha!

“I want you to know I did love that house. We all did. But we had to balance that with the need for schools close by and other things that we thought were so important at the time.

“I’ve gotten wiser in my old age, and wish I’d done differently. But I wanted things for you…

“Well. You’ve done good things with your life, and you deserve all the best, and this house will be the best thing for you. I feel that.

“At this stage of your life, you and Madge are free to live as you like, where you like in your retirement years, and I know you will make the house your beloved home.

“And it will love you back. Believe it.”

I could feel the tears slipping down my cheeks. I smiled at Madge and she smiled back. “I do believe it,” I said. “I do love it, too.”

“So do I,” Madge agreed. “Coming home is the best thing we’ve ever done.”

“It is.”

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