Tag Archives: october2021

Calliope Njo: Old Cedar Road

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

Old Cedar Road

Calliope Njo

Well, with it being fall, I had to go up to Grammy’s house to help her decorate for the holidays. Festivities would start in the middle of October and not finish until about the middle of January.

It would take a series of trips between her house and my apartment in the middle of the city. She was Grandma, so it never came to mind how many times it would take before my car collapsed. After all, it had been several years since Grammy and I spent any time together.

I bought the car dirt cheap, knowing a new car would replace the hunk of junk. Except I got too used to it, so the thought of replacing it never came up. I even named him Oliver. It seemed like a proper old-fashioned name. Something needed to get fixed every other month, but I didn’t care—at least until he clunked out on me the weekend before Halloween.

I was on my way to Grammy’s when that happened. We were supposed to go to a pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins to set up for decorations. I heard somewhere that if the car doesn’t start the first time, don’t try to force it. Accept the situation and move on, so that’s what I did. However, the next problem was how to get to where I was supposed to go. I got out my cell phone, turned it on, and tried to dial for help. Nothing happened—no signal.

Purse in hand, I exited Oliver and got on my way. Where, though, I didn’t know. I looked around and laughed at the Old Cedar Road sign. An all-too-familiar street sign from all of those scary movies I watched. I wondered if it was an omen. The sun was still out, so that helped a little. However, with the way the branches formed a ceiling on top, the only light that shone came from straight ahead.

These things could’ve been a product of my imagination. Mom always told me it would get the best of me, but the trees came alive. Not as in they had green leaves, and their trunk looked healthy. As in, they seemed to move towards me. The branches wiggled as if they were trying to reach for me. Somewhere, something whispered with the wind to keep going.

I ran to the end of the road. At least I assumed it was. The street stopped at that point, and dirt was on the ground the rest of the way. Dad always told me to bring along a flashlight. I resisted because I didn’t see why, so he got me a small flashlight instead of having a go-around argument.

I took it out in case I needed it. The wind died down, and the only noise was me walking on the dirt. There was something in the air, a sort of indescribable smell. It wasn’t a stench. It hung there to let anybody know something wasn’t right.

Scarecrows lined the street. The heads looked almost human even though they were carved pumpkins. Crows sometimes rested on them as a sort of teaser. I thought they weren’t even there. The farther along I progressed, the more things went from bizarre to scary. I should’ve turned around at that point, but I didn’t. Oliver couldn’t even run.

I kept going until I found a long line of people moving slowly along the road. Old and young were there, and I stepped behind them. We kept going. I tapped the shoulder of someone in front of me, but they didn’t respond. “Hey. Hey.” That didn’t work either.

At last, we stopped. The ground rumbled as a void opened up. Out came a giant scarecrow, about as tall as the barn behind it.

“Greetings,” it said. “All have gathered here to pay homage to our prominent leader. When the moon has risen to its highest, we shall see Kukamaroo.” It laughed.

I ran out of there when it had its back turned. I had forgotten the exact route we took. We turned here, there, and everywhere, so it was whatever route was open. I ended up at a house with a pumpkin patch out front. I shone my flashlight on them and saw there were slits on the front. About to poke them, the slits became eyes and a mouth. I ran up to the house and banged on the door.

A woman in a tall, pointy hat opened the door. “Yes, my dear?”

I pointed towards the pumpkin patch. “Your pumpkins. They… they—”

“Oh good, they’re ready then.” She laughed. “Would you mind picking them for me? There’s a potion I must finish.” She reached into her sleeve and pulled out a knife. “There you are, dear.”

My eyes opened wide. “You want me to pick one? Oh, no. I’m not doing that. Not even if you could give me a million dollars. Nuh-uh.” I ran out of there.

As odd as it sounded, she cackled like the ones in the old movies used to do. The pumpkins tried to chomp me to pieces as I ran by them. I stopped when I didn’t hear them anymore. Street lanterns came from somewhere and lit the road. I must’ve dropped my flashlight somewhere because I didn’t have it on me. My purse was gone too. I didn’t notice them until that moment. I took a deep breath in and let it all out as I tried to control how scared I became.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Dad always told me to put markers along the route I took or make a mental note of landmarks so I could find my way back. Of course, I didn’t listen because Dad told me, but I thought I came to the same road that I was on before. The scarecrows looked familiar.

The streetlights helped keep me from tripping over the dividing line between the asphalt and the dirt. There was no way to tell which way to go or even how far without a light. I turned around and wondered if anyone back the other way would be willing to give me a flashlight. They weren’t that expensive, and if they wanted it, I could give them my contact info to get the money or flashlight back.

There wasn’t a choice, was there? There was, but I wanted to get to Grammy’s, and I couldn’t do that. So, on I went.

Streetlights stayed lit even before you moved under them. These, though, they only lit when I walked by them. A weird sort of blue light shone around a cemetery. I didn’t dare go in there with bats the size of cats and full-size pumpkins hanging from the trees. Would’ve been interesting though. Maybe.

An old two-story house stood at the end of the road. Didn’t I think that before when all of this started? I shook my head and kept going. Maybe they had a working phone, and I could call Grammy.

A ghost, vampire, and a witch stood at the door with their backs to me. They held up something and stood in front of it. I got behind them, and all of them turned towards me. They didn’t have eyes—as in none. As in, they were pits.

I ran out of there, down the hill, and I somehow ended where Oliver was parked. Once inside, I slammed the door shut, but without my purse, I didn’t have a key.

“Oh, Oliver, I wish you had a push-button or something to get you started. I wanna get outta here.”

Oliver started on his own and drove me to Grammy’s house. I thought I screamed, but I didn’t know. I never did that before. Once at Grammy’s, I ran into the house. “Grammy!”

“Oh. There you are.” She hugged me, then held me at arm’s length. “You were on Old Cedar Road, weren’t you?”

“Uhm. Yeah.”

“You get yourself cleaned up, then come into the kitchen, and I’ll tell you the story of Old Cedar Road. Don’t worry. Strange things only happen once a year, and you’re here now.” She patted my shoulder and walked into the kitchen.

I looked at my feet to sort of will them to move, but they were stuck. A deep breath in and out, and I made myself do as she said.

Grammy set two cups with steam coming from them onto the table. “It’s hot cocoa. Anyway, you remember what it was like. It never smelled good, even without the wind, but we did have some good people. They raised Holsteins, Angus, Half-bloods, Morgans, etc., along with the pumpkin patches.”

I nodded. “Yeah. I remember. After high school, I went away to college so that I couldn’t visit. What happened?”

“In a word, trouble. The market didn’t dry up, but people weren’t as interested in animals with things changing. The ranchers sold everything and moved to the big city or out of state. That was when trouble came but never left.”

“You keep saying trouble. What kind? Gangs?”

“Gangs of a sort. These were people who practiced dirty magic and believed in evil things. They scared most of the population out of here, but those of us who are still here… well… anyway, they didn’t take everything along with them.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ve seen it. What more needs to be said?”

I took a sip of my cocoa and watched as Grammy’s eyes flashed. She never did that before. I wondered what was up with that but didn’t ask.

A ring of brown stuff clung to the bottom of my cup. I looked up at Grammy again, and she held her cup and looked at me. I smiled back.

“You didn’t name your car, did you?” Grammy asked.

“Yeah. Oliver. I had a professor named Oliver.”

“Then I suggest you find another way home.”

I couldn’t leave him here, but I started second guessing that thought with the way I got here. “I’ll just take a Bible along with me.”

Grammy nodded and left the table. She came back a minute later with a Bible. “That was Gramps’.”

I nodded and held it. Out of curiosity, I opened the front page and stopped at the writing, To Oliver from Father Richards. All this time, I thought his name was Olly. I never thought about it being a nickname.

Could he—no. TV uses that for entertainment. It couldn’t be real. Yet, I experienced it firsthand.

Grammy had gone to her room, so I went outside to test my theory. I stood in front of my car. “OK. I have here a book. The Bible. King James Version Bible. In it, it mentions the name Oliver. Now, if that’s you, do something to tell me you’re here.” I waited. Of course, I didn’t consider the fact that I talked to and expected a reply from a car.

My car flashed its headlights. So then, now what? I couldn’t do anything other than go in and go home. What about Grammy?

I got to my car and pulled the handle. It wouldn’t open. Maybe I forgot to unlock the car, but no key. Now what? I couldn’t believe the thought had even entered my brain. “Do you expect me to stay?”

The headlights flashed once. I laughed. Granted, I could’ve stood there and asked twenty questions, but what would be the point.

Not knowing what else to do, I went back inside. Grammy’s room door was locked. I knocked, but she didn’t answer. She could have fallen asleep. It was six-thirty at night, which was a little early. On the other hand, Grammy never slept regular hours after Gramps died.

Well, that left going back up to Old Cedar Road, on foot if I had to. I started walking in that direction when I heard a car behind me. I turned around, and sure enough. Since Oliver opened his door, I accepted the offer and got in.

Back where everything started, I went up the same road I came back from. No more streetlights, but I didn’t need any light. Something bright shone from the top, and the closer I got, the more I got a good look at it. The biggest Jack O’Lantern I ever did see. About the size of a two-story house. Its eyes and mouth were wide open. Not sure if that was an invitation or not. I didn’t go in.

“Oh, come now. You know you want to.”

There was nobody else here. At least nobody is stupid enough to follow along with me. That left the pumpkin.

“Yeah, but I’ve got a job and a grandmother to take care of. Why would I go in?” Of all the stupid questions.

“Yeah, but. I’ve got a job and a grandmother to take care of. Why would I go in?” Of all the stupid questions.

“Tisk. Tisk. Tonight of all nights, you are supposed to let yourself have fun and enjoy the day. You don’t believe in the old stories, do you? Hmm? Besides, they were thought up years ago. They’re not real.”

Strange noises came from around me. I turned my head to see an army of skeletons marching off the property. How?

If it’s not real, then why did I hear your voice? “I’ll just go.” I started walking until I stopped. My whole body wouldn’t move.

“I’m just a little ol’ government employee. Why would you need me?” 

It laughed and I moved backward. It didn’t matter how hard I tried nothing worked. Why didn’t I bring that Bible along with me?

About the only thing that came to mind was Amazing Grace. I knew that by heart because we sang it every Christmas. About the third go around, I stopped. I turned around and watched as it popped here and there. The once army of skeletons shattered and clanked to the ground. I ran for the closest bush I could find and hid behind it. 

Pop, pop, pop, pop everywhere until it exploded. When that happened, I ran all the way down the road and heard screams, explosions, and saw light emanating where it didn’t before. 

All the way to Oliver and got inside. I didn’t expect him to start up so I stayed inside and hoped I wouldn’t get sucked in. He started on his own though and made it to Grammy’s house before it puttered out on the driveway. It fell apart at that point.

I ran inside. Salvation and safety at last. It had to be the end. Grammy came out, and as if things couldn’t get any weirder, she floated up off the floor. Wings sprouted and she laughed.

“Grammy!”

She said a bunch of stuff I couldn’t repeat and didn’t understand. A bright yellow glow emanated from her. 

“What the hell is going on? All I want is for everything to get back to normal. Whatever that means.”

Grammy fell to the floor and all was silent. I went to her and held her. “I love you. A little late. I’m sorry. Leave it to me to bring trouble.”

“Oh. Tell me it worked?” Grammy asked.

“Did what work?”

“Oh. OK.” She stood up and walked to the door.

I followed her curious as to what she was talking about. Oliver was a car again. I kept following Grammy back up to Old Cedar Road. I was never so happy to smell stockyard animals. 

“There now you see.” She put her hands on my shoulders. “That’ll last a little while until they get enough energy to do the same thing all over again. Halloween brings out the best of them. Now, come morning we need to get some pumpkins.”

Did I miss something? “Huh?”

“You remember. That big orange thing we cut up and decorate every year. Either that or turn it into pie.”

“Yeah. But…” I pointed down the road.

“Oh him? I’ll just fight him again when the time is right. Leave it up to visitors to get into something they don’t understand.”

It felt like I missed an entire movie. The plot escaped me for some reason. All of those unexplainable things and she said that visitors did it? 

I followed Grammy back to the house and got ready for bed. Of course, I didn’t sleep. How could anyone sleep after that? 

That was the longest night of my life. If I told anyone about this, they would throw me into an insane asylum and throw away the key. 

I made a mental note of all the phone calls I had to make. The only thing scarier would be going to the DMV to get my driver’s license and explaining what happened.

Happy Halloween!

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

Kenneth Lawson: Ghost Story

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

Ghost Story

Kenneth Lawson

All that Jason saw were the trees and the narrow road that ran between them. The gnarly trees covered the road so thoroughly that the sky wasn’t visible beyond them. Fog covered everything, making the trees even darker. A cool breeze made him shiver, adding to his sense of dread.

Two turns ago, he had been on the main road. Having followed directions, he found himself looking at a road that seemed to go nowhere. He took a deep breath and thought about how he had arrived there.

Jason had run across her several times. Each time she seemed distant as if she were in her world. To a certain extent, we all live in our own world, but she carried it further than most. Everyone called her the Crazy Lady because she was always talking to herself, and that was the least of it from what he had been told. The consensus was something had happened years ago to push her into her own head.

Jason took what she told him with several large grains of salt, making appropriate comments and nodding as needed. He usually ignored her ramblings.

She told him she knew how his Laura had died. That got his attention.

She had died mysteriously several years ago, and the authorities never discovered what killed her. The sheriff found her body on this road, frozen with a look of fear on her face.

Rumors had filled the small town ever since then, including the most popular one that Jason had killed her. The police cleared him when witnesses and the GPS confirmed his alibi that he was across town.

One rumor was that Laura had been seeing someone, but he tended to doubt it. The most popular rumor was that something unnatural had scared her to death. That was impossible to prove either way, but it hung around the longest—either way, he needed to know who and why she died. When the town’s Crazy Lady told him she knew what happened, he listened.

Crazy Lady told him to meet her outside of town on the old County Road 695 at dusk that night, and all would be revealed. The road wasn’t on his GPS, and it took several maps before he found it. The road was abandoned and no longer maintained. However, using her directions, he found it.

Jason edged his car down into the depths of trees and shadows slowly, stopping every few feet to look around some, but all he saw were trees, leaves, and shadows. He shivered. The road looked like it was out of a scene from a horror movie. No wonder they stopped using this road. It was enough to scare even a horror fan.

Several hundred feet deep in the woods, he thought he saw movement. Stopping the car, Jason turned off the engine.

Jason looked around the old road, lined with gnarly trees, orange light drifting through the branches. He was drawn to the spot where the police found Laura’s body. The forest was eerie, but nothing had changed since he arrived, other than the presence of something or someone nearby.

He heard the rustling of leaves and the movement of air behind him. He spun around to find the Crazy Lady standing not far from him. He felt blood drain from his face as he realized Laura was standing beside her, alive.

“Laura…?”

His Laura spoke. “I’m no longer the Laura you knew, but her ghost. You killed her when you told the ghost to haunt her.”

“I did no such thing. I never talked to any ghost.”

Crazy Lady cackled, “Who did you think you were talking to at the bar that night?”

“Some old bum that was bombed out of his mind and is probably dead by now.”

Laura shook her head. “That bum was a ghost, trolling for someone to haunt. You told him how you wanted me to die so you could inherit my family’s money and business.”

“I was joking and making conversation. Just killing time and dreaming about how I’d handle the business if it were mine. I didn’t mean a word of it.”

“Then why say it to a stranger?”

“It was a bad joke.” The winds blew harder and the air got colder as the trees appeared to bend closer to the ground. Jason shivered as if he were in a freezer.

“You’re telling me that he believed me and killed you because I asked him to do it?”

Laura’s ghost approached him.

“Yes, he did. And now it’s time for you to pay for your transgressions.”

The last thing he remembered was a wave of frigid air hitting him and Laura floating above him and hearing the Crazy Lady’s frenzied laughter.

Hikers found Jason’s body frozen with a look of fear on his face. Just like Laura’s body had been.

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

Lisa Criss Griffin: The Forest of The Forgotten

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

The Forest of The Forgotten

Lisa Criss Griffin

The tall man’s leather cloak billowed around his muscular body as he stood to add another log to his campfire. The wind had picked up, carrying the hint of a damp mist to his campsite by the edge of the long abandoned mountain town. Remnants of the old wood-framed buildings were charred, splintered and rotted.

Even though he had spent his early childhood here, the area was almost unrecognizable. His last memory of this place was a jumble of horrific screams, choking smoke, flames from multiple fires, and an unforgettable cackle of wicked, bone chilling laughter. Even after all these years, the absolute evil inherent in that laughter still had the ability to raise the hair on the back of his neck.

Nicholas felt the familiar prickle of goosebumps as he reluctantly relived his childhood trauma before being swept up from the chaos into the Elder’s arms. The two of them gingerly dodged both the seen and unseen dangers intent on destroying their community. It was nothing less than a miracle that they escaped the carnage that spirited away everyone and everything familiar from his young life.

It was that same night the Elder became mute. It was also the night the young boy began to hear The Voice. The Voice was kind, yet firm, and guided them to safety through the dark woods to a hidden cave, deep in the mountains. Nicholas and the Elder remained hidden in the cave for years, keenly aware of the evil entities that still prowled the area regularly.

To pass the time, the Elder schooled the boy in historical and spiritual matters from a holy book he had rescued from his personal library before their escape. Sometimes The Voice asked questions of Nicholas. The growing boy came to realize that the Elder also heard The Voice, even though he could no longer speak. As Nicholas grew up, he became very familiar with the teachings and wisdom of the book. The Voice answered his more complicated questions as the Elder nodded approvingly from his corner in the cave.

When he was older, Nicholas began to experience visions. At first, they scared the young man, but eventually he began to view the visions as a gift. Sometimes he would see incidents from the past. He also found himself observing future events. The young Prophet asked The Voice about the visions, and he usually understood the instruction. But not always. The Voice revealed what the budding Prophet could absorb, then asked him for his trust with the rest of it.

Late one autumn afternoon, Nicholas had a vision revealing what had happened to his people. The depth of what had happened to his community and the tremendous evil behind it became clear. Tears welled up in the Elder’s eyes and spilled down his leathery cheeks as the young Prophet shared his understanding of the fate of their fellow townspeople. The Elder nodded sadly. He reached out to the tall, young man, gripping his muscular arm with surprising strength for an old man. His elderly rescuer scratched a couple of words with his wooden staff into the dirt of the cave floor, his body shaking with the effort.

“Free them!”

Nicholas looked up, surprised, yet not surprised. Their gazes interlocked, sharing an understanding of what had to be done. The intensity in the Elder’s faded eyes solidified the young man’s resolve.

“Yes, I think I can do it.”

The Elder shook his head, tapped the dirt by the words with an unusual vigor and placed the tip of his staff onto Nicholas’ chest over his heart. The elderly man trembled, fiery conviction emanating from his wizened face. The Elder shoved his staff into the young Prophet’s arms. His entire body shook violently as he struggled to rasp what would become his final words.

“You…must…free…them!!!”

The Elder sank back against the stone wall. He moaned and shuddered slightly. His last breath wheezed as it slowly left his lips, then his hoary head lolled to one side. A slight breeze ruffled the Prophet’s hair as the Elder’s spirit left his aged body. Nicholas immediately felt the loss of his mentor’s presence, deeply grieving the loss of the only father he had really known.

Eventually the young man accepted his mentor’s death, and the time came to honor the Elder’s last request. The arduous trip out of the mountains was uneventful until he reached the woods. Traveling through The Forest of The Forgotten under the light of a rising full moon was an eye-opening and emotional experience for Nicholas. As he strode forward on the path through The Forest, he swore there were faces in the tree trunks. Branches became gnarled arms reaching out to him when the crisp mountain breeze moved the wooden limbs. Whispers of forgotten voices from his childhood drifted past him on the wind.

“Whooooooooooooooo?”

The plaintive call stopped the Prophet in his tracks.

“Whoooooooo? Youuuuuuu? Whooooooooooooo?”

Nicholas looked around, shocked to see the faces of his childhood friends and townsfolk peering out at him from the trunks of the twisted trees in the bright moonlight. He stood rooted to the ground in shock. Everything he had learned from the Elder and The Voice was absolutely true!

“Whoooooooo?! Whoooooooo!!”

The mournful wailing intensified as more voices joined in. Tears stung Nicholas’ eyes as he forced himself to continue through The Forest of The Forgotten amid the poignant cries. The despondent keening faded behind him as he made his way to the edge of the old town to wait.

Orange sparks sprayed into the night sky as Nicholas poked his campfire to revive the flames. The gravity of his quest weighed heavily on his shoulders. The Voice had been eerily silent since the Elder died. He had never felt more alone.

The Prophet knew they were coming for him. It was only a matter of time. The evil ones would not be able to resist the opportunity to torment and ensnare an unsuspecting newcomer. His ace in the hole was that he wasn’t a newcomer, and he knew their ways. He knew about their leader, and could almost hear her demonic laughter. He knew things about that hideous creature that could be helpful. He had been an excellent student, and he had a plan. The question was… would it be enough?

The tall man pulled his long leather cloak more closely around his body and flipped his deep hood over his head to ward off the chill of the night. Dark clouds skittered across the face of the full moon, causing shadows to scamper across the dim landscape. The sound of autumn leaves rustled restlessly as the breeze whirled them across the ground and through the derelict remains of the dead town.

The Prophet jerked his head up, realizing he had dozed off. An unusual vibration of the ground beneath him had awakened him. The moon had disappeared from the horizon, replaced by scattered spiderwebs of lightning flashing overhead. Thunder rumbled ominously. The burgeoning wind carried a hint of that unforgettably wicked cackle. The hair on the back of his neck stood straight up. They were coming for him.

He stood as they came, raising the Elder’s staff straight into the sky. They came, an army of dark, malevolent shadows creeping across the dried grass and boulders leading from The Forest of The Forgotten. The approaching growls, hisses and putrid smells triggered his childhood horror of the evil creatures. A bolt of lightning hit and sizzled nearby, the electricity in the air skittering across the Prophet’s body in an ethereal display.

“Woe! Woe to all you creatures of damnation!” the Prophet’s deep voice boomed authoritatively. “Woe to those who have chosen evil over good! For tonight your reign of terror ends… says the servant of the Almighty One!”

Nicholas pointed the tip of the now glowing staff towards the approaching creatures. An intense beam of blue light shot out of the end of the staff. The turgid air rocked with the sound of explosions as the laser cut down and destroyed the oncoming beasts. Eerie screams of dismay mingled with the demonic screams of fury from their evil leader. And so it continued, until only the Prophet and the wicked leader remained standing.

“What you have done is unacceptable and your time is also over! Repent, or face your judgement, wicked one!”

The evil creature threw her head back and cackled maniacally. A shiver of revulsion ran through Nicholas’ body.

“Repent? Repent?! NEVER!”

She rose to her full height and began to stretch her hands out towards him. Her overgrown fingernails glistened blood red in the lightning crawling across the swirling clouds overhead. Strands of her long, white hair slithered around her withered face like the snakes of Medusa in the whipping wind.

She was poised to conjure the end of the determined Prophet before her. He braced himself, steeling his belief in the power of good over this malignant vessel of darkness and evil.

“Your disobedience has sealed your fate, evil one!”

The Prophet hit the dirt with the Elder’s staff in a powerful motion. Thunder shook the ground. A bright bolt of lightning slammed the site where the wicked creature stood defiantly. The Prophet watched in horror as she caught on fire briefly before she was completely incinerated. A haze of putrid smoke arose from the blackened spot where the odious entity had been standing, the sound of her stunned scream of outrage and disbelief still ringing in his ears.

The tall man stood alone, every nerve in his body twanging with energy. He turned his gaze towards The Forest of The Forgotten. Everything was eerily silent as he walked slowly towards the trees. He was almost to the edge of the woods when he came to a stop. A covey of doves flew up, startled and twittering softly. Shining glints of gold crested the eastern horizon, casting hints of pink morning light across the fleeting purple clouds.

The Prophet’s deep voice throbbed with emotion as he began to sing, his arms outstretched towards the distorted trees within The Forest of The Forgotten.

“The sound of rising has begun,

Your freedom has finally come.

Arise and shine, for the light has come!

At last, the darkness is undone!

The battle has been fought and won,

Come on out my people, and run,

Arise and shine, for the dark is done!

Come running out into the sun!

Your freedom has finally come!

Your freedom has finally come!”

Soft plops of falling bodies began to accelerate as the townsfolk found themselves released from their bondage within the twisted trunks. The trees groaned in relief as they straightened, no longer burdened with their unnatural prisoners. The warmth of the sun penetrated the woods, casting cheerful beams of golden light through the branches. Colorful birds flitted through The Forest, singing and chirping excitedly.

The Prophet smiled, watching the tearful reunions of his beloved people as they made their way out of the tangled tree line. He clutched the Elder’s staff reverently. It was the dawn of a glorious time to be alive.

***

Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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

D. A. Ratliff: The Road

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

The Road

D. A. Ratliff

We were lost.

And I mean lost as in no idea where we were. I was responsible for a school bus carrying a high-school science debate team, and they were not happy, but not because we were lost. Oh no. They were unhappy because no one had cell service, including the GPS on the bus. Lost was fine—no social media, a disaster.

We were on our way to a debate at two o’clock in the afternoon with a school in our region, followed by a Halloween party, when the substitute bus driver took a wrong turn. Then another thirty minutes later, we were hopelessly lost and, yes, no cell service. Did I mention it was Halloween Eve, and the debate teams had decided that it would be fun to dress in costume while debating a serious topic? So, here they were, dressed in all manner of costumes, lost.

I leaned forward from the bench behind the driver. “Dexter, do you have a clue where we are?”

Dexter Crane shook his head. “Nope, but I think I should turn at the next road.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’ll put us back in the right direction. No worries.”

But I was worried. This was my first year of teaching at Hampton High, and all I needed to do was get lost with twelve of my students. I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes. A tap on my shoulder caused me to turn around—and scream.

“David, good heavens. You scared the heck out of me.”

“Ms. Spenser, I thought you loved my Beetlejuice costume.”

“I do, I just forgot, and when I turned around, you startled me. Did you need something?”

“I was wondering if you recognize where we are. I’ve been to Fairmont High many times for debates and sports. This isn’t the way.”

“I know. The driver is a sub, and he took a wrong turn. Says he’s going to turn at the next road, and we’ll be back in the right direction.”

“Okay, ma’am. Just doesn’t look like any place I’ve been around here.”

“Ms. Spenser, are we going to be late?”

“Constance, I hope not. As soon as we get a signal again, I will call Fairmont and let them know what’s happened. I’m sure we’ll get there in time for the debate to happen.”

Constance’s floppy bunny ears wiggled as she nodded, but I knew she didn’t believe me. Constance was my most determined debater and didn’t like losing. It was going to be a long afternoon.

The bus slowed, and I spotted a road branching off to the right. Dexter glanced in the interior mirror at me. “That’s the road. It will take us where we need to go.”

As he turned, I worried even the small bus would have trouble making the sharp narrow turn. The terrain was the same as the road we just left. Yet, the road ahead seemed darker. A chill trickled down my spine—something seemed wrong.

As the minutes ticked by, the foreboding sense creeping into my thoughts intensified. I rose and walked a few rows back to where David sat. A gorilla, better known as Stan, gave me his seat.

I kept my voice low. “Do any of you recognize where we are?”

A chorus of noes did not give me a lot of confidence.

Stan pulled off his gorilla head. “Ms. Spenser, who is that driver? As part of the engineering program, I work a few hours a week in the bus garage, learning about engines. I’ve met most of the drivers when they return their buses. I don’t remember him.”

The question was one I had as well. I had not met Dexter before, but he had the proper credentials. I checked. Now I feared I might be incorrect. I walked to the front of the bus.

“Dexter, don’t you think it would be wise to turn around and just retrace our steps back to Hampton? At this rate, we are going to be late anyway. Better to forfeit than be lost.”

He turned his head and grinned. “No worries, we will be off this road soon.” He turned his gaze toward the road again without another word.

Now I was beginning to get scared.

I noticed my students checking their phones, and I looked at mine… zero bars. We were on a path somewhere and had no way to call for help. I had to do something, but I had no idea what. I could try to commandeer the bus from Dexter with the help of the students, but was I putting them in more danger? I pushed rising panic down as I had to keep control. I couldn’t put these teens in any more danger than they were in—if they were in danger. I may have been overreacting, so I decided to wait to see how this played out.

As we drove along the narrow road, I could swear the trees were closing in on us. I looked farther ahead. The tree limbs curved lower and lower toward the ground, and I worried if the bus could pass under them.

Jennie, who was sitting across the aisle from me, uttered a little whimper. “Ma’am, why is the sky getting this weird glow… it’s orange and scary.”

“Might be dust in the air. That can cause the sky to get yellowish.” The best I could do, but it appeased her. It sure didn’t me. The sky was a color that I had never seen before. It was orange and scary.

The bus managed to clear the gnarled limbs dipping toward the road. The farther we went, the darker it became, the orange glow barely filtering through the vegetation. As we rounded a curve and the forest seemed to be closing in on us, I had had enough and was about to demand the driver stop when the engine sputtered, then died.

“Why did we stop?”

Dexter stood. “Sorry, we ran out of gas.”

“Out of gas? We’re stuck here?”

“Yes, ma’am, for now.” He opened the bus door. “There is a house nearby, and the people there are friendly. Going to go there for help. Stay here—you’ll be safe.”

Before I could react, Dexter was out the door and walked down the road until he disappeared around the next curve. I was stunned. What did we do now? Well, that was up to me. I certainly wasn’t going to take my students on a walk through this wilderness, not the field trip we were supposed to take—time to rally the troops.

“Okay, looks like we are going to be here for a while. So, let’s make the best of it. We can practice.”

As soon as I said that, I realized the kids were not in the mood.

Aaron, sitting sprawled across the back seat, raised his hand. “Ms. Spenser, it’s been a while since we were at school. I need to go into the woods, if you get my meaning.”

“Oh… yes… uh… yes. Okay, if anyone needs to take a trip outside, please do so. I insist you go in pairs and stay talking to each other there and don’t stay long.”

A few students hurried off the bus, and I stepped outside to stay close. It was quiet, too quiet. Other than the students’ murmurs, there were no sounds, no wind, no rustling of leaves, no birds, or animal sounds. The eeriness was overwhelming, and that annoying shiver trailed down my spine again. I wanted the kids back on the bus as soon as possible.

Once we were inside, one of the girls played music offline, which helped their mood. It dawned on me they might be hungry.

“Hey, are you getting hungry?”

Stan, who played football, was half-lying across a seat but popped up at food. “I am,” which brought laughter and a ‘when isn’t he hungry?’ from more than one student.

“All of you brought food for the party at Fairmont, didn’t you?” A chorus of yeses greeted my question, and they dug into the coolers containing the food.

“Man, David. Your mom made brownies.” Stan was happy.

I always had water for the kids, often parched after a hearty debate. “You know where I stash the water.” One of the girls brought me a brownie and two cookies, along with cheese and crackers, and we ate, listened to music, and tried to ignore what was happening. That didn’t last long.

Constance looked at me, and I pushed back a gasp as I realized she was tearing up. “We’re stranded here, aren’t we? The driver’s not coming back, and it’s past four. It’ll be dark soon.”

I thought quickly. What I said next would scare them or reassure them and do the same for me. “Dexter said he knows this area and that there is a house nearby where he has gone for help. I know it is scary because we can’t contact anyone, but when we didn’t arrive at Fairmont, I am certain they called the school, and the police are looking for us. We’ll be fine. We just need to be patient.”

They accepted my words, but their apprehension was palpable. As it got darker and thunder rumbled in the distance, I steered them into a conversation about school and their future goals and football, all of us trying to remain calm. We were laughing at Stan’s stories about the football team when David stood up abruptly.

“Someone’s coming.”

I whirled around and, through the windshield, saw a couple walking toward us. They waved and walked toward the bus door. I didn’t want to open the door, so I opened the driver’s window and called to them.

“Hello. We didn’t think there was anyone around.”

“Oh yes, my dear. I am Ethan Chalon, and this is my wife, Charlese. We live just around the curve. Your driver arrived and told us about your situation. We sent him on with one of our staff to get help, but a terrible storm is coming, and this area is susceptible to flash floods. We need to get you to our estate where you will be safe.”

My heart was pounding. Do I trust these two? As I tried to think, a streak of lightning illuminated the road, followed by a loud clap of thunder. If the roads did flood, the bus could get caught in raging water. We could be in trouble. The safety of my students came first, but where were they safest? They would be safest in a structure, not a bus. Decision made.

I turned to my students. “I believe if there is a bad storm that we’ll be safer at the Chalon’s home. Are you all okay with going there?”

They agreed, but the fear in their eyes reflected my own. I turned to the Chalons. “My name is Alexia Spenser. Mr. and Mrs. Chalon, we are grateful for your assistance.”

As the students started to get off the bus, Mrs. Chalon squealed in delight. “Oh, the children are dressed for Halloween—how delightful. We are having a party tonight to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve. What fun this will be. And please call us Ethan and Charlese.”

“Sounds like fun.”

We walked along the road, and the deeper into the forest we traveled, the more ominous it felt. The storm was closer, and each lightning bolt left the air charged with electricity. We came to a tall wrought iron gate, and Chalon announced, “We are here.” He opened the gate, and we walked up the sloping path. An imposing house stood at the top of the lane—at least three stories with a taller tower and gargoyles around the roofline.

David, who was walking beside me, whispered, “You think the Addams family lives here?”

I laughed, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure.

We arrived at the house as the rain began. The door opened, and an older man in formal attire, morning coat and tails to be precise, greeted us. Charlese brushed past me and walked inside.

“Jarvis, please see to our guests. They will be staying overnight. And as you can see, they will be attending the party.”

In a resonant voice, Jarvis responded, “Yes, Milady.”

After announcing that dinner was at eight, we were shown to individual bedrooms and told to rest. Walking down a long corridor on the third floor, I thought I heard whispering and laughter behind the closed doors.

My room proved to be as opulent as the rest of the house. Deep golden flocked wallpaper, heavy brocade draperies, and a canopy bed draped in burgundy silk. The plush pillows on the bed drew me to them as drowsiness overcame me. I sank into the luxurious feather bed and fell asleep.

A soft voice woke me. I opened my eyes to find Charlese standing by the bed holding a beautiful gown. “My dear, dinner is in a half-hour, and I noticed you were not wearing a costume. This is my favorite dress of Empress Josephine’s, and with your dark hair and classic features, it is perfect for you. There is jewelry on the dresser. Please get dressed and come downstairs when you are ready.”

I didn’t question her. I did as she told me. I felt wonderful but detached as though I floated in the air. I put on the gown made of cream silk with an empire waist. The bodice was encrusted with jewels and the hemline as well. It fit me like a glove. The jewels sparkled, and as I put them on, I felt like an Empress.

Descending the stairs, some of my students joined me. They were dressed in their costumes and looked happy. The others were already in the dining hall. I didn’t know what else to call the room. A massive table set for forty people, silver and crystal glinting in the light from the three enormous chandeliers that hung from a vaulted ceiling of stained glass, sat in the center of the vast hall.

There were others there, in costume as well, most in period costumes spanning decades. There were soldiers, Roman and otherwise, Vikings, Native Americans, a surreal sight.

Ethan and Charlese entered the hall last, dressed as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Charlese was resplendent in a blue silk gown, with ornate decorations and panniers to widen the skirt. My students were enthralled and couldn’t stop staring at her. No one could.

We sat down to a dinner of several courses served by waiters in white tie and tails. Each course morphed into another, chatter vibrant, and wine flowing freely. I knew my students shouldn’t be drinking wine, but I could not stop them. A feeling of euphoria swept over me. My vision was fuzzy, tricking me into thinking the Chalon’s guests at times appeared transparent.

When dinner was over, we retired to a large ballroom. Lightning flashed through the tall windows as heavy rain pelted the glass. The vibrating strings of a harpsichord resonated through the air, and the dancing began.

The evening was a blur. I danced and danced, enjoying myself with these people I did not know. More importantly, my students were enjoying themselves. Their costumes were the hit of the party, and the guests held a contest for the best costume, won by David dressed as Beetlejuice. Images of dinner and costumes, lightning flashing, and the sounds of tinkling music mixed with thunder swirled in my head, and I am unclear how long the evening lasted. I remember becoming very drowsy and drifting to sleep.

~~~

My head was pounding. At least, it sounded like pounding. I opened my eyes, startled as the first thing I saw was Stan asleep, his head resting on the fake gorilla head. I shook my head, trying to loosen the cobwebs, when one of the girls shouted. “Ms. Spenser, the police.”

I turned to look out of my window and into the face of an officer. “Ma’am, open the door.”

As I hurried to get the door open, I yelled for the kids to wake up and stepped out of the bus.

“Ma’am, is everyone okay?”

“I think so.” He pulled me out of the way as my students rushed to exit the bus. The officer asked them the same question, and they all answered that they were fine.

I was shocked to find we were on a rural road, fields on either side, and not the deep forest. Constance was standing beside me. “Ms. Spenser, how did we get here?”

“I don’t know.”

Sirens echoed in the distance, and within moments, fire/rescue and ambulances were on the scene, followed by a regular school bus. My principal, Wayne Taylor, the superintendent, and the school security director rushed off the bus.

“Alex, thank goodness, you and the kids are safe. What happened, the bus driver said he arrived, and the bus was gone?”

“Gone? Mr. Taylor, no, the driver arrived, showed his badge and credentials, and we left. His name was Dexter Crane. Was he not the bus driver?”

“We don’t have a bus driver by that name.”

My students joined me, and David spoke for them. “Mr. Taylor, the driver introduced himself as Dexter Crane.”

“How did you find us?” I trembled as I tried to understand what was happening.

“About an hour ago, all the messages you and the kids left yesterday showed up on our phones.”

“We must have gotten a signal. We didn’t have a signal in those trees.”

The police officer stepped in. “We are going to take everyone’s statement and description of this man, but first we want to get you and the kids checked out at the hospital and reunited with their parents. Kids go with the paramedics but do not discuss the last twenty-four hours.”

The paramedics led the students away, but the police officer stopped me. “Ms. Spenser, what happened here?”

“I don’t know. The driver took a wrong turn, and we ended up on this very narrow road with huge trees hanging over us. Then he ran out of gas and said there was a house nearby, and he left to get help.” I stopped. I couldn’t remember anything after that. Why couldn’t I remember? The officer must have realized I was close to panic.

“Take your time. What happened after the driver left for help?”

“I don’t know.”

~~~

The passage of time wasn’t helping. It had been a week since the incident, as the police called it, and an uneasiness stayed with me. My students had adjusted well, but they remained haunted by the night we lost and could not remember. The police continued to look for Dexter, but I could tell they didn’t expect to find him or discover his motive. They did suspect he had plans for us, but something spooked him, and he fled. As for the road, it didn’t exist anywhere in the area.

Me? I am trying to focus on my students and classes and put the ‘incident’ behind me. I could relax if only I could get the annoying sound of a harpsichord out of my head.

***

Happy Halloween!

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

Cheryl Ann Guido: Urban Legend

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

URBAN LEGEND

Cheryl Ann Guido 

Twenty-one-year-old Katie and her twenty-four-year-old husband John sat inside the old VW Beetle. The vintage car had run out of gas miles away from a gas station on a back road overgrown with tall twisted and bending oaks. In fact, the ancient trees had been across the road from each other for so long that in the night darkness, their branches seemed to reach out toward one another forming a woody canopy over the black macadam street. 

John looked up from the screen of his cell phone. “Okay, the road service says they will be here within an hour.”

“Are you sure they’ll find us way out here in the middle of nowhere?” Katie rolled her eyes.

“Stop worrying. They have GPS. As soon as they get here, we’ll be able to get going. We’ll be home before midnight.”

Grabbing her own cell phone in an attempt to mask her annoyance, Katie pulled up one of her social media accounts and began to scroll. “They better. Those stupid trees are creepy.”

In an attempt to lighten the mood, John grabbed a flashlight from the glove box, and shined it upward from under his chin. “Whooo!”

“Not funny, John.”

“Aww c’mon, honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of here. You’re just letting your inner child take over.”

A sudden loud thud somewhere outside of the vehicle made Katie’s head jerk up. “What was that?”

Chuckling, John wrapped his arm around Katie’s shoulder. “Probably just some wild animal. They do live in the woods, you know.”

Pouting, Katie brushed his arm away. “Don’t coddle me, John. Whatever that was could attack us or … or … something.”

“Nothing is going to attack us, sweetie.”

“Oh no? Haven’t you ever heard the story of The Hook?”

Unable to contain himself, John burst into uproarious laughter. “Oh Katie, this is why I love you. You are so innocent and naïve sometimes. That story is just an urban legend. Nobody with a hook ever attacked anyone stranded in a car, there is no Heartbeat Road and no street where your car rolls backward uphill by itself. You are so gullible sometimes.”

“Right, I’m gullible. Well, I don’t want to take any chances so please go outside and check.”

Sighing, John picked up the flashlight and opened the car door. “Alright, if it makes you feel better, I’ll go see if I can find out what made that sound.”

“Thank you.”

After her husband exited the car, she locked the door. After accessing one of her social media accounts, she made the decision to livestream just in case something happened. At least her friends would be watching, which she found strangely comforting. Turning the camera toward her face she began to speak in a tone just above a whisper.

“So, John and I ran out of gas on this dark creepy road. There aren’t any streetlights or even road reflectors and all I can see on either side are these huge weird trees with finger-like branches. They look kind of haunted.” She turned the camera so it shot a frame outside the front window illuminated by the Beetle’s headlights. “Look! Scary, huh?”

Katie then turned the camera back toward her own face. “John’s been gone longer than a few minutes. I’m getting worried now.” A scraping sound on the outside of the door startled her and her eyes bulged. “Oh my God! What the hell was that?” Instinctively she slid down a bit in the car seat. After a moment, with her heart still pounding wildly, she slowly raised her head so her eyes were just above the threshold where the side window rose from the car door. After visually searching the blackness, she spoke again to her livestream audience. This time she could not muster more than a whisper.

“Damn, something’s out there.” Panic began to rise from deep inside of her chest causing her voice to shake and begin to rise into a shriek. “I’m so scared! Where’s John?”

Panting, Katie became aware of a vibration coming from underneath the car. “Can you hear that, guys?” She closed her eyes, focusing on the sound, trying to identify it. Suddenly her eyes flew open in horror as she realized exactly what she was hearing. “Oh my God! It’s a heartbeat, a heartbeat! What the hell? This can’t be happening!”

Her friends began to reply to her livestream with rapid frantic messages. @balletgirl wrote: ‘R U K?’ Another from @spaceguy asked: ‘Where’s John?’ Then a third from @momoftwodogs cautioned: ‘U need to get the hell outta there gurl, now!’

Terrified, Katie began to cry. Low moans escaped her diaphragm as her chest heaved with each sob. Closing her eyes, she began to pray. She had never considered herself as being religious, in fact, she had stopped going to church long ago, but now seemed to be a good time for prayers. “Dear God, please let John be okay. Help him. Help me. I promise if we get out of here alive, I will go to church every Sunday and raise our future kids to be good Christians.” She brought her palms together and bowed her head while tears streamed down her cheeks. “Hail Mary, full of grace …” 

Her prayer was cut short by another odd movement. Katie gasped as she felt the Beetle begin to slowly roll backward. Eyes wide, she turned on her cell phone flashlight and shined it through the windshield. Horrified, she stifled a scream and dove under the dashboard. In the process, her phone slid under the car seat, leaving her friends to continue their concerning messages on her livestream with no response from their friend.

***

“Where am I?” Through her drugged fog, Katie could make out a man and a woman dressed in white lab coats standing beside her bed. The male doctor had shoved his hands inside his pockets while he waited for the female to conduct her examination.

He smiled. It was a kind smile. “You’re in Heart of Florida hospital.”

Katie tried to lift her head but the effect of the sedatives made it feel like it weighed a thousand pounds and it fell back to the pillow as she moaned softly. “What? What happened?”

The woman removed a stethoscope from around her neck. She turned down the blanket covering Katie’s body and opened the top tie of her hospital gown, then placed the head of her medical instrument on the young woman’s chest. “Take a deep breath.” 

“No. I want to know what is going on here?”

“Stay calm and just breathe deeply.”

Thinking that if she cooperated, she probably would be able to get more information, Katie sucked in air then blew it out. The doctor moved the head of the stethoscope to another part of Katie’s chest. “Again.” The procedure was repeated two more times, then the doctor replaced the stethoscope around her neck. “Alright Doctor. She’s all yours.”

He nodded as the female doctor left the room. The man sat down on the edge of Katie’s bed. Sensing something more than the fact that she had ended up in a hospital was terribly wrong, Katie frowned. “Please, tell me what’s going on. Where is my husband?”

“Now Katie, we’ve been through this way too many times. You don’t have a husband.”

“Yes, I most certainly do have a husband. His name is John. Now, where is he? Is he okay?”

The doctor sighed. “Katie, you had another psychotic break. I don’t know how, but somehow you managed to get out of your locked room, break into and steal my secretary’s Volkswagen Beetle, then ended up, out of gas, on Lover’s Lane just over the borderline of Lake County. Lucky for you, my secretary left her phone in the car and she activated the ‘find my phone’ feature. We tracked it and found you cowering under the passenger side dashboard. 

Unfortunately, you hit your head on the door frame as you started to climb out of the car. Knocked you out cold. Being as we were closest to the Heart of Florida, we transported you here. You’ve been out for six hours, but Dr. Brandon just gave you a clean bill of health so I’m ready to take you back.”

“Take me back, where?”

“Florida State.”

“The mental institution? You must be joking.”

“No, Katie. I’m not joking. Florida State has been your home for the past three years. Don’t you remember? You came to us after you slit your wrists trying to kill yourself. Good thing your mom found you or you would have succeeded.” He stood up and tossed her shorts and top onto the bed. “Now, get dressed. I’ll wait outside.”

“Wait. I’m still trying to process all this. You’re telling me that I’m not married, that I’ve been in a mental institution for three years, and that I escaped and … and … you tracked me to some out-of-the-way road where I hit my head and passed out?”

“That is correct. When we didn’t see you at first, we thought you had abandoned the car and fled into the woods. A tow truck driver accidentally scraped the outside of the door in the process of hooking it up. It left a deep scratch and my secretary is not too happy about that, but our insurance will take care of the repair cost. Anyway, the tow guy started rolling your car backward a bit in order to attach the chain and your head popped up. We were quite happy to find you unharmed.”

“Hmm, well that explains the scraping sound I heard but I also heard a heart beating. It was so loud that I could actually feel the vibration.”

“A heart you say? That probably was your own heart, my dear. Now get dressed. We have a bit of a drive ahead of us.”

Katie sat up then dropped her head into the palms of her hands. “No. This isn’t right. It can’t be right. I have a husband. We took a drive and ran out of gas on a dark road with creepy trees. I even live-streamed it. Wait, did you find my phone?”

The doctor exhaled. “You don’t have a phone. Look, Katie, I’m starting to lose my patience now and you really don’t want me to do that, do you?”

He removed his other hand from the pocket of his lab coat and Katie’s hands flew to her mouth, stifling a scream. Instead of fingers, a blood-covered hook protruded from his wrist.

Happy Halloween!

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

Lynn Miclea: Sacrifice

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

Sacrifice

Lynn Miclea 

The crisp, cool, fresh air invigorated Derek as he hiked through Briar Oaks Woods. He enjoyed hiking and he loved trees, and autumn, when the leaves turned beautiful shades of red, orange, and gold, was the most spectacular time of year to hike.

After an hour of hiking, he headed back down the main trail and stopped for a couple of minutes to rest and drink water. As he was about to put his backpack back on and continue walking, a chill ran up his spine. Something felt off, but he wasn’t sure what.

It seemed a bit darker than it should for this time of day. Still mid-afternoon, it seemed like dusk was falling too early. It should not be this dark or cloudy so early. He shrugged it off and resumed walking down the dirt path. A cold wind suddenly blew through the trees, rustling the leaves. There were no storms predicted, and the change in temperature made no sense. He looked around, a tinge of worry running through his mind.

Whispers seemed to float in the air and a terrifying eeriness penetrated into his bones. As he listened, a strange howl sounded, raising goosebumps on his arms. Were there animals in these woods? Nervously looking around, he saw nothing. As he turned to go back, he heard leaves crunching behind him.

Quickly spinning around, muscles tense, he surveyed the area. Nothing moved or seemed out of place. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. Something was definitely wrong.

Whatever it was, he didn’t like it. He walked a little faster, wanting to get out of the woods as fast as possible. As he walked, a dark gray cloud floated on the path and veered into the trees, seeming to move deliberately. How was that possible? Maybe he was just seeing things because he was spooked.

He hurried down the path, glancing into the woods around him as he went.

A strange wail sounded, followed by a sob. It sounded human. He turned toward the sound and peered through the trees. Then it sounded again — clearly a woman’s cry.

Without thinking, he left the path and hiked through the trees toward the sound. Another sob reached him — a frantic, terrified cry.

“Hello?” he called out. “Is someone there?”

“Yes, yes,” a woman’s voice answered, sounding desperate. “Please help me.”

“I’m coming,” he answered, picking up his pace.

After another minute, he noticed a flutter of white cloth in front of a tree, and he moved forward. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he gasped. A woman in a white blouse and jeans was tied to a large tree, and he rushed forward to help her.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

The young woman sobbed and choked. “Please … please … cut me loose. They are trying to kill me.”

Derek checked the rope at the back of the tree and worked at untying her. “Who are they? Why do they want to kill you?”

Her voice hitched. “Two men. They are offering me as a sacrifice.”

“What?” He finished untying the rope and pulled it away, releasing her. “I’m Derek. What is your name?” He looked at her face and felt a rush of concern. “Are you injured?”

She rubbed her skin where the rope had held her, and then her hand rose to her reddened cheek. “I’m Anna. One of them slapped me when I tried to get away. But I’m okay. We need to get out of here. They will be back.”

“Can you walk okay?” She nodded and he motioned with his arm. “Good, follow me.”

He led the way back to the dirt path, glancing back every few seconds to make sure she was following. “Just a couple miles down this way and we’ll get to the parking lot.” He glanced at her as they walked down the trail. “You are shaking.”

Anna breathed rapidly and choked on her words. “There is something eerie in these woods. I don’t know what it is, but there is something bizarre and strange here. And these guys are involved with it. They are conducting some kind of business with … something alien … something evil.” She swallowed hard and then continued. “I saw …” She gasped and grabbed his arm.

“What?” Derek looked around. Menacing dark gray misty clouds seemed to congeal among the trees, dipping down to the ground. The clouds appeared to be looking at them as though the clouds were alive and sentient. Derek shivered as a sharp prickle of fear ran up his spine. “Are those …”

She answered quickly. “Yes. Those are them. There are many of them. The two men thought if they offered me as a sacrifice to those things, they would be left alone.”

Derek stared at her. “What? They were offering you as a sacrifice to these … these strange creatures?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Why?”

“They had equipment the creatures wanted. And I think the creatures wanted the men as well. They thought if they tied me to a tree and put the equipment at my feet, the creatures would take me along with the equipment instead of them. That was their plan, anyway.”

Derek felt his chest constrict. “We need to get out of here.” He looked around. The sky had darkened and an icy cold wind blew down the dirt path. The howling and whispers increased. He took her hand and they walked faster.

Men’s voices drifted to them from farther down the path.

“That’s them,” Anna whispered.

Derek led her off the trail, and they hid behind a tree and waited.

Two large men walked past them, about ten feet from where Derek and Anna were hidden. They stayed hidden in place and waited another minute. Then they quietly stepped back to the main path and hurried forward.

A minute later, a man’s voice shouted. “Hey, where is she?”

“I don’t know,” another man’s voice answered. “How could she have gotten away?”

“Someone must have untied her. She couldn’t have done it herself. I tied it good and tight.”

“C’mon. She can’t be far. Let’s find her.”

A strange howling pierced the air and Derek shivered.

Large, ominous gray clouds floated in between the trees, moved into their path, looked up and down the trail, and then moved on.

Anna whimpered.

“Hey!” one of the men behind them shouted, sounding closer. “She probably went this way. Wait — there she is! She’s down here. Hey, girl, you’re not getting away. We’re gonna —” His words were cut off by a rush of wind and dark clouds rushing down the path toward him. Then he shouted again. “No! Don’t! We have what you asked for!”

Derek pulled Anna off the path and they scooted behind another tree, peering back into the dim light, straining to see.

The other man shouted. “What the —”

The whispers and howling grew louder, and eerie wails echoed through the trees.

Anna sucked in a breath and grabbed Derek’s arm.

Large dark gray clouds moved quickly down the trail toward the men’s voices.

One of the men shouted. “No, no, we had a girl for you. You don’t want us.” Then he yelped and screamed.

The other man called out. “No! We’ll get the girl back! And we have your equipment! Stop!”

Derek pulled Anna back onto the trail and they ran down the dirt path toward the parking lot. She suddenly grabbed him as she tripped on a loose rock, and he reached out and steadied her. Then he glanced around, took her hand, and they raced down the path together.

Within ten minutes they reached the parking lot, and they turned around and peered down the dirt trail behind them.

A huge, foreboding, smoky-black cloud hovered over the trees, and the bodies of the two men, limp and lifeless, floated up toward the cloud.

Anna stared. “That’s them.” Then she added, “That would have been me.” Her voice was weak and raspy.

Derek squeezed her hand. “I don’t like any of this, and I don’t trust those creatures. We need to leave. My car’s over there.” He pointed to a silver Ford Expedition.

She nodded and they rushed to the SUV. Stopping at the vehicle, they turned and looked back. The two men drifted higher, their bodies limp, until they disappeared into the ominous, dark cloud hovering above the trees.

Derek unlocked the doors and they quickly climbed into the vehicle. As they looked around, a few remaining dark clouds scooted along the path and among the trees.

Derek nervously looked up into the sky. “Whatever that is, it wanted those two men. But there are more creatures still here.”

Anna nodded, her face pale. “There was a third man, too. A man with a strange accent who helped those two — he grabbed me and threw me into their car.”

“Who are they?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. I was walking home from the corner market and they … one of them grabbed me and threw me into a vehicle. That one there.” She pointed to a dented beige Chevy Blazer. “Then the two men got in and drove me here and talked about giving some machine to some creatures and sacrificing me. They said the entity would leave them alone if they offered me as a sacrifice instead. I didn’t understand what they meant.”

“It sounds like the entity wanted that machine and also the two men.”

“Yes. And they somehow thought the entity would take me instead of them.”

Derek started the Expedition and drove out of the parking lot. “And if you were still tied to the tree and the entity took the men, you would have been left there to die.”

Anna shuddered. “You’re right.”

“Can I drive you back home? Will you be okay?”

She shook her head. “No. I can’t go home yet. I don’t want to be alone right now. I’m sorry. Can we just go somewhere where there are people? I need to calm down.”

“How about a coffee shop? Can I get you something to eat?”

Anna gave a weak smile. “I’m not sure I could eat right now, but that would be nice. Thank you.”

As he pulled onto the main road, he turned on the radio and heard an urgent message being broadcast. “… repeat, do not go into Briar Oaks Woods. Two dangerous men are on the loose who broke into a science lab and stole top-secret equipment. They may be turning it over to someone and the police are investigating. We must get this equipment back, and these men were last seen going into the woods. They may be armed and should be considered armed and dangerous. There has been suspicious activity reported in this area, and we ask everyone to avoid those woods. If you see those men or anything suspicious, do not engage. Please contact the police. Repeat: keep a distance, do not engage, and contact the police. We now return you to your regular programming …” Derek turned off the radio.

He glanced at Anna. “I bet those are the same men.”

She nodded. “I think so. The men had mentioned some kind of equipment. None of it made sense to me.”

“We need to tell the police what you know.”

She stared out the side window and then looked at Derek. “I think you’re right. But first, please, I really need to just sit for a bit and calm down. I’m really freaked out right now. Then we can go to the police. Is that okay?”

“Sure, we can do that.” He turned onto a wider road leading back to town.

As he drove, a vibration rattled the car and a loud humming filled the air. Derek looked up and pointed at the sky. “Look.”

A mass of dark gray clouds rose in the air, hovered, and churned around the largest smoky-black cloud. A few dark clouds then lowered, returned to the ground, and rushed into the woods, as though searching.

Derek stared. “Did you see that?”

“They’re not done,” she whispered.

“I wonder if they got the science equipment.”

“Maybe that’s what they’re looking for. It was in the back of their SUV. I remember them talking about going back to get it for the creatures when they were tying me to the tree. They were going to place the equipment at my feet to draw the creatures to me. Or maybe they’re looking for that third man, but he wasn’t in the woods.”

Sirens pierced the air and flashing lights approached on the road. Derek pulled to the side and stopped. As they waited, five police vehicles sped by, rushing toward the woods.

After the vehicles passed, he resumed driving toward town. “We need to tell the police what you know as soon as possible. Especially while they are there and can investigate.”

Anna let out a long breath. “You’re right. This is important. Let’s go back. Then afterward we can go sit somewhere so I can unwind.”

Derek turned the SUV around and headed back to the woods. “That’s smart. Let’s first go talk to the police. Then I’ll take you anywhere you want and you can get a good meal.”

Anna reached over and squeezed his arm. “Thank you for helping me. Both then and now.”

“My pleasure.” Derek sped up and hurried after the cops.

As Derek pulled into the parking lot at Briar Oaks Woods, the police quickly approached his vehicle. One of the officers waved at him to stop. “This area is closed. You can’t stay here.”

“I know,” Derek answered. “But she was here —”

“Sorry, sir, you need to leave now. We are doing an official investigation here, and we —”

A loud howling and strange whispers cut him off, and he glanced back at the source of the noise.

A large dark cloud hovered over the officers, and it seemed to focus on one of the men.

“Hey! What do you want with me?” one officer shouted while staring at the cloud. His voice twanged and had a strange inflection. “No! I was not part of that. You don’t want me! Get away from me!” The officer glared at the large dark gray cloud which hovered over him as the other officers backed up and some drew their weapons.

“I know him,” Anna whispered with intensity. “That’s the third man who had grabbed me and threw me into the vehicle. I recognize that voice. It’s him.”

Derek glanced at her. “Which cop?”

“The one talking to the creature. I know that voice — I’m sure of it. He’s a bad guy.”

Without hesitation, Anna opened the car door and jumped out, staring at the cop. Derek opened the driver’s door, got out, and joined her.

The cop with the accent turned to Anna and his eyes opened wide. “You!” he shouted at her. “How … how … you should be …”

The cloud above the cop darkened menacingly and hovered lower, almost touching him.

As they watched, the cop looked up and yelled frantically at the cloud. “No! You don’t understand! I was not involved. You’re making a mistake. It’s the other two —” His body suddenly went limp and was lifted up into the dark cloud. The other officers got behind their squad cars for cover and watched. Some had their hands on their weapons, and a few had their weapons drawn, but no one wanted to fire and risk injuring their fellow officer.

As the cop disappeared inside the gray cloud, the cloud churned and a low moaning sound reverberated in the area. The cloud then rose over the trees, taking the cop with it.

The howling intensified and then died out, as a flurry of smaller dark clouds rushed back and forth on the ground, spun around the parking lot, and then lifted into the air.

Derek stared at the sky and watched as the smaller clouds merged into one large smoky-black cloud which churned and bubbled. With a loud whine, it suddenly congealed into a more solid mass that lifted higher and hovered there, as though watching and waiting.

Anna slowly approached the cops.

One of the cops turned to them. “Hey, you two need to leave. Now. This is a crime scene.”

Anna spoke up. “I know what happened here. I was kidnapped and brought here by the two men. This is their vehicle.” She pointed to the Chevy Blazer. “I can help you.”

The police officer walked up to her, asked her what she knew, and started taking notes.

As Derek looked up into the sky, the smoky-black cloud rose along with a few other dark clouds. They drifted up and merged into one larger darker cloud that had been waiting. It then rose higher in the sky and wobbled.

Derek glanced at Anna, who was now talking animatedly to three of the police officers.

He jumped and his heart thudded as a loud boom sounded, and he looked up and watched as the smoky cloud fractured into more than fifty smaller dark clouds, which quickly spread across the sky in a regimented and deliberate manner. They seemed driven, as if they knew what they were doing.

He shivered as he realized this was not yet over. In fact, it might be just the beginning.

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Copyright © 2021 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Matt Dunlap: The Painting

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

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

The Painting

Matt Dunlap

(A story told in dialogue only)

“Hi”

“Oh, you startled me.”

“I’m so sorry, I saw you looking at this painting and I realize I shouldn’t have interrupted you.”

“That’s okay, I was just trying to figure out who the artist is for this painting. It seems they didn’t sign the painting and there isn’t a card stating the artist and the name of the painting.”

“Well, I hear that some artists like to sign the back of the painting instead of possibly detracting from the painting when they sign the front.”

“I’ve never heard of that before, but that still doesn’t answer why there isn’t a card.”

“My guess is that since this painting is at the very back of the gallery, they might have forgotten it. So what do you think of the painting?”

“Well, I’m no art connoisseur, but I generally know when I like a painting or not. The thing is, I’m of two minds about this piece.”

“Really? How so?”

“At first glance, I immediately dismissed this painting as something I don’t care for, but the more I look, the more intrigued I am.”

“It does look like an interesting piece. What do you like about it?”

“That’s the thing, I don’t know.”

“How about you tell me what you don’t like about it?

“It seems tacky. What I mean is that this is obviously a Halloween picture and I’ve always been of the opinion that paintings should be able to be enjoyed year round and not trotted out just for a certain holiday.”

“Tacky? Harumph!”

“Wait? Are you the artist for this piece?”

“Yes.”

“I apologize, I think this is a wonderful painting and I would love to have it hanging on my walls year round.”

“Tch, now you insult me as I can tell you are lying.”

“Again, I apologize, I never meant to insult you. What can I do to make it up to you?”

“Hmm, why don’t you go ahead and tell me honestly what you think of this piece and don’t try lying as I’ll know and feel even more insulted.”

“Oh boy, I can see you are passionate about this piece. Maybe I should just go now.”

“Again you insult me by trying to brush me off.”

“Ma’am, you are being a bit pushy and that is making me nervous. If you will excuse me, I think I will go now.”

“No, you are right, I have been, as you say, a bit pushy. If you will do me one little favor, I promise I will make it up to you.”

“Favor? Um, what kind of favor are you talking about?”

“Simple favor actually. I would like you to take another look at the painting, but this time take a close look, a real close look and then tell me what you think of the piece.”

“Okay, I guess I’ll take a quick look, but then I have to go. Is this close enough?”

“Closer.”

“I’m practically touching it now, what am I supposed to see? OH MY GOSH! Is that? No, it can’t be.”

“What do you see?”

“I’m not sure, but I swear I just saw a hand come from behind the tree on the left and then go back around the tree.”

“Now you are messing with me.”

“No, really I’m not. There was a hand and it was right there.”

“Where, I don’t see a hand and I know I didn’t paint any hand in that piece.”

“Look, right there! It came out again!”

“I still don’t see the hand. Why don’t you touch the picture where you supposedly saw the hand.”

“I don’t know, I’m not sure about touching the painting, I might mess it up.”

“It’s okay, it’s my painting, and I give you permission. Besides, there isn’t anyone here but us two.”

“All right then, the hand was right here and AAAACK! The hand has my finger, it’s pulling me into the painting. HELP ME!!!!”

“Hehe, another addition to my future masterpiece. By the way, my good sir, let this be a lesson to you. Never insult a witch!”

The End

Author Note: The idea for using dialogue only was inspired by Seriously Just Saying

Please visit Matt on WordPress: https://cancerwriting.wordpress.com/2021/10/06/the-painting/

WRITE THE STORY October 2021 PROMPT!


Welcome to Write the Story!

Those tiny buildings from the September prompt spurred wonderful stories. Thanks to all who wrote a story and those who read and supported the authors.

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

Write the Story! October 2021 Prompt

Images are free-use and do not require attribution. Image modified from Pixabay.com

Here’s the plan:

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

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

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.

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