Tag Archives: writers

Bastian Kurz: The Witch of the Swamp

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

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


The Witch of the Swamp

By Bastian Kurz

Baba Yaga

That was her name, she thought, as she splashed through the muddy waters of the swamp. Baba Yaga, that meant she was the witch of the swamp. She shouldn’t need to run for her life in her own swamp, her territory. 

A slimy, mossy root twined around her foot and she fell.

“Fuck,” she screamed as she fell, and after a huge splash, the water of the swamp filled her mouth, reducing her swear words to bubbles. Then, as she got herself up, the first hound reached her. Baba Yaga spit out the water of the swamp and her will manifested itself and turned the beast to ashes. She shook her head, her eyes gleaming in the dark of the night.

“I’ve run enough!” she screamed and water evaporated from her clothes as she dried at will. The root, entangled with her left foot, straightened itself and then grew to become a staff in her hand. Two other beasts, slaver dripping from their fangs, arrived and she pointed her staff at them. The two of them, their bones cracking, blood splashing, were crumbled to clods. Then her hunters arrived. The first bullet whizzed past her face and then a hailstorm of bullets broke loose. Baba Yaga, death in her eyes, was hit several times. Blood poured out of her wounds.

“I hereby maledict all of you with the curse of the Baba Yaga!” she muttered as she fell. The final curse of a dying witch unraveled and took the lives of the witch hunters.

A smirk on her face, Baba Yaga fell into the swamp waters never to be seen again.

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Please visit Bastien on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bastian.kurz.5

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Writers Unite! on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”

Join host Paul W. Reeves and Deborah Ratliff from Writers Unite! as they discuss all aspects of the writing process on “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”, Impact Radio USA!

Go to: https://www.impactradiousa.com Click on Listen Now!

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” airs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:00 am EDT pm on Impact Radio USA. (Shows repeated throughout the day.)

Paul and his sidekick Arrogant Al bring you the best in music, fun song contests, news, sports, general info, interviews (with a lot of authors) and the best… uh… worst.. no… best jokes around!

WU! Anthologies: Dimensions of Mystery

Writers Unite!’s Anthology Dimensions of Mystery will be available for presale on Amazon. com on August 15. 2019 .

Join the excellent authors from Writers Unite! as they take you through tales of murder, mystery, mayhem and well… the tale of a funny thief.

Check out Amazon. com

Presale: August 15, 2019

Published: September 1, 2019

DR. PAUL’S FAMILY TALK: Kimberly Love

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with author, editor, and radio host Kimberly Love from a show on 9-27-18.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview: https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-kim-love-9-27-18

Kim also host her own radio show, “Crushing 40”, live on Thursday at 2:00 pm EDT

(repeated seven days a week at 2:00 pm EDT)

To hear “Crushing 40” and other great shows in Impact Radio USA go to:
https://www.impactradiousa.com Click on LISTEN NOW!

Kimberly Love, an author from Windsor, Ontario, called in to discuss her latest release, “You Taste Like Whiskey and Sunshine”, as well as her upcoming projects and the creative process.

From her Amazon page, “WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK AWESOME? There’s an evil queen, a demented father, some amateur boxing and a trailer park story. Even a silver fox makes an appearance. Why wouldn’t that entice you? If you are looking for something different from the rest of the books out there, something that might make you question your sanity then you will love this book. Seriously!

The comedic and sassy perspective will make you see things differently, and you may even find yourself laughing out loud. It’s a good story and one that I truly believe needs to be told. Period. It’s dark, raw and takes you to a door that keeps all my innermost secrets. I hope that the book makes you laugh, makes you cry, and inspires you to be the best version of yourself.”

To learn more about Kimberly Love and to order her book, please visit her website at:

https://www.kimmilove.com

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Host Paul Reeves:

A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Erin Crocker

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with author and actress Erin Crocker about her writing and acting career from the radio show on 12-06-18.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview: https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-actress-erin-crocker-12-5-18

ERIN CROCKER, an author, and now an actress, too, from Virginia, will call in to tell us about her latest release, Forbidden, which will be released next Monday. In addition, Erin will update us on the success of her first two books, as well as her recent forays into the world of acting!

From her Amazon page: “Erin’s writing has placed in a variety of competitions including second place in the Sudden Denouement Divergent Literature Competition and the CN International Flash Fiction Competition, and most recently, her piece “The Final Battle” placed first in her heat in round one of the 2018 NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. In 2017, Erin was invited to sit on not only the Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer’s panel at the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival, she also sat on the YA panel. In February 2018, she joined the judging panel for the CN International Pens of Roses Flash Fiction Competition and in March, joined another author panel in Richmond, Virginia. Erin works as an editor at FunDead Publications and offers freelance editing on the side.”

For more information on Erin Crocker, and to order her books, please go to her website at:

https://authorerincrocker.com

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Host Paul Reeves:

A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Author Lynn Miclea

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”

on Impact Radio USA

While Impact Radio USA’s “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” program is on vacation, let’s listen to some of our member’s interviews from past shows.

Join host and WU! admin, Paul W. Reeves as he talks with WU! admin, Lynn Miclea about her writing from the radio show on 5-31-18.

Click to listen to the podcast of the radio show interview:

https://pod.co/impact-radio-usa/author-lynn-miclea-5-30-18

Author Lynn Miclea called in from California to discuss the many books that she has written for children, as well as her two memoirs, entitled, “Mending a Heart” and “Ruthie”.

From her Amazon page: “Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery, have received numerous five-star reviews.”

She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself.”

​To learn more about Lynn Miclea and to order her books, please visit the following website:

https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1527596222&sr=8-2-fkmr0Next EpisodeMEMORIAL DAY – Full Radio Show (5-28-18)1:00:00

Host Paul Reeves:
A product of the Detroit area, Wayne State University, and Eastern Michigan University, Paul Reeves, Ed.D, has spent over 30 years as a professional educator and musician, as well as his work as a radio talk show host and author.

IMPACT RADIO USA provides the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Launched in the spring of 2017, their goal is to keep you as the most informed Internet Radio audience. Click on the link below for the station’s complete show lineup!

http://www.impactradiousa.com
(click on the LISTEN NOW button)

Caroline Giammanco: “A World of Possibilities”

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

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

“A World of Possibilities”

By Caroline Giammanco

A sliver of sky cut through the bustling cityscape ahead of me. No matter where someone came from, blue skies, thinly veiled with clouds that wrapped us in their embrace, were universal. After a long trip, I was grateful for anything that made me feel less alone. A new city stretched before me, and at times I felt overwhelmed. 

In the middle of unfamiliar sights and sounds, my mind reeled. It didn’t seem that long ago that I was safely at home, in the quiet of our rural community, focused on my studies at the institute. Graduation day meant celebrations with friends and family, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years. My grandmother flew in, and my cousins who had been living abroad made the trip home to be there for my big day. Even my hard-to-please father admitted I’d made him proud.

Graduation also meant I was no longer a child. I now had adult responsibilities, and those included being a productive part of my community. Everyone needed a job, and after being recruited by one of the biggest headhunters in the country, I didn’t think twice about taking a job far from home. I was flattered, in fact, that they’d want me to be the leadman in their new venture.

Fitting in wasn’t going to be difficult. Not on the surface, anyway. I’d always had a knack for slipping seamlessly into whichever group I found myself. That was part of the repertoire I brought to the company. 

The question was where to start. My project was important, and my inexperience made me doubt whether I had what it took to identify even the correct starting point. As leadman, I’d already jumped ahead of some seasoned employees to have this position. Was I up to the challenge? After two days here, I had a nagging fear that I wouldn’t perform up to snuff.

The sheer number of possibilities in this place caused much of my anxiety.

Did I become an executive in one of these high rises? The excitement of infiltrating a corporate ladder intrigued me. The capitalist system revolved around making money, and the ability to wheel and deal would open a lot of doors for me.

I could become a shop owner. I’d soon hear all the local gossip and have keen insight into what made the people in this city tick. What motivated them? What did they fear? Who did they trust and distrust? This was all valuable information that my bosses wanted.

What about a taxi cab driver? They met customers from all over, and most people didn’t show discretion in their backseat conversations with others. Many loose lips sailed on those yellow ships that brought people back and forth from airports, hotels, and back-door meetings. I’d be privy to conversations meant to remain confidential, especially if they viewed me as no more than some foreigner who drove a dingy cab for a living.

Just where to start? I realized I had the ability to be flexible, but I didn’t want to waste time on fruitless efforts. If I didn’t make a good impression on the company execs, I’d find myself on the bottom of the heap sorting mail in the back room while my former classmates climbed ahead of me in the hierarchy. No, this was my chance to prove I could do something big. I had to do it right.

Just then, my phone rang.

“Michaelis, a lot is riding on this project.”

“I realize that, Sir. I arrived just two days ago and was familiarizing myself with the area.”

“Well, we aren’t paying you to sightsee. We need you to act quickly and decisively.”

“I understand that, and I apologize.”

“As venture capitalists, it’s our job to move in, use what we can, sell the rest for scrap, and move on. We can’t waste time with this. Other projects are on the burner, too.”

“I’ll start on it immediately.”

We hung up the phone as the light turned green. 

Looking in the rearview mirror of my car, I watched as my face and body completely transformed. Gone were my long green dreadlocks. My golden eyes had turned to a putrid brown common to the citizens of this area. My clothing switched from the shaala wool sweater and pants I’d been wearing to a neatly tailored Armani suit. The closely cropped black hair and a smug expression completed the look I was shooting for.

A corporate insider it was.

Once this job was complete and I’d stripped Earth of all useful resources, I’d return home for my next assignment. 

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Please visit Caroline on FB at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237 and on her website, www,booniehatbandit.com

D. A. Ratliff: A Clue

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

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

A Clue

By D. A. Ratliff

Shiny gold bars.

Clay Jenkins caught his reflection in his darkened computer monitor. His eyes falling onto the newly pinned captain’s bars adorning his uniform collar. Detective Captain Clay Jenkins. He laughed. There were fellow cops from his early days with the department who would have laughed if they knew the rookie beat cop who seemed to have two left feet ended up as the commander of the homicide division.

He would have given his chances a big fat zero back then, but he had persevered. His goal to be a homicide detective pushed him forward. But one day during his second year in the homicide division, he had been called to a crime scene that changed him forever. One that haunted him still.

His eyes trailed this time to the bottom left drawer of his desk hidden by the partially filled boxes that he bought in to clear out his desk. The file was there. Every so often, late at night, or when the squad room was deserted, he would take out the folder and pore over it. But nothing ever changed. No one knew what happened to her. He didn’t know what happened to her. He needed to know.

Lost in thought, he was startled when Chief of Police Watson spoke from the doorway to his office. “Jenkins, what are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to take the weekend off? Chandler is going be closing out things with his detectives over the weekend. Technically he doesn’t retire until Sunday at midnight, and your transfer doesn’t go into effect until Monday morning. Biggs has already replaced you as assistant commander of vice. So, go, take a three-day weekend, relax, fish, get some fresh air.”

“I should stay and get my files in order.”

“Don’t give me that. I know you have already done that. Get some R and R … you’re going to need it.” 

Knowing that he was going to lose the debate, Clay nodded. “Yes, sir. I’ll take some R and R.”

“Good.” The chief turned to leave but stopped. “Congrats, Jenkins. I have complete faith in you. This is your job.”

Clay sat at his desk for a bit, deep in thought. Was this his job? He wanted it, but he wondered now that he had it if he was up to the task. He had failed once, and that drove him from the detective division nearly ten years before.

Vice detectives, some working leads or covering the night shift, were straggling in and he decided if he was supposed to leave, he should leave. He rose, picked up his keys, then stopped. On impulse, he pushed the boxes under his desk and unlocked the drawer. Taking a deep breath, he took the thick file from its hiding place and walked out of the station. No rest and recreation for him. Time to revisit the past.

~oOo~

As he left the outskirts of the city about mid-day Friday, Clay powered down the driver’s window, allowing the fresh air of the foothills to flow into the car. He breathed in the fragrant aroma of pine and Linden trees and had to admit that he missed being outside of the city as much as he used to be. City and county services were combined under a merged government, and as a patrol officer, he had spent four years assigned to the lake region about twenty miles from the urban center. It was why he was assigned to the case when the call came that morning. He knew the area better than any of the other detectives.

As a vice detective and later assistant commander of vice, his work had rarely taken him out of the city. Maybe the chief was correct, perhaps a couple of days at a slower pace would be good for him. He had called an old friend who ran a hotel at the lake and booked a room. Dug out his fishing gear from storage in his apartment building, threw some clothes in a satchel and headed for Lake Spencer.

He glanced at the accordion file, resting on the passenger seat. He had brought along not only the file from his office but newspaper clippings and follow-up research he had done on the case. Foolish. Nothing would change, but he had never lost hope.

The hotel, a three-story white clapboard building, was located on the lake’s edge next to the marina. There was a wide veranda wrapping around three sides and a restaurant on the first floor. As he climbed the steps, memories from the day they were called to the crime scene flooded his thoughts. He had come here after the investigation to grab a bite to eat. Dave Newsome, the hotel’s owner, had known the victims. Shocked, Dave sought him out that night and provided a lot of insight into the family. But nothing that helped him discover what happened to Hannah or her father. They simply vanished.

After checking in and finding that Dave was out on an errand, he decided to get a sandwich to go. Might as well get on with what he came for — to visit the scene.

~oOo~

The house was about five miles from the marina. As he turned off the main road, he followed the dirt lane to the edge of the lake. Each click of the mileage gauge increased his tension. Get a grip, Clay. A homicide detective needs to stay focused. He scoffed. Not happening with this case.

Tall pines and flowering shrubs surrounded the two-story house. The yard sloped toward a small sandy beach and a small dock. He pulled onto the gravel drive and parked. He couldn’t move. He sat staring at the house, reliving that day.

The call had come into the detective division at 9:30 am on a Wednesday morning. Uniformed officers had been called to do a welfare check on a family because the father had not reported for work. What the officers found prompted the call to homicide. He remembered Captain Bridge’s ashen face when he sent them to the scene. A family brutally murdered.

Clay reached for the file and withdrew a photo. It was worn, not from age, but from the multitude of times he had held it, hoping to understand what he thought was a clue left behind, a child’s sand pail, pink with yellow polka dots. Yet it meant nothing. Or nothing that he could understand.

Forcing himself to exit the car, he walked along the pebbled stone path to the front door. The adult female victim’s sister had vowed to maintain the house and had done so. A caretaker saw that the grounds were mowed and trimmed, flowers thriving in containers, the inside immaculate, but no one had lived in the house since the family died. The sister had given him a key. A key he kept on his keyring as a reminder. He unlocked the door and stepped inside.

Cool air from the air conditioner flowed across him, and he stopped for a moment. While the air was clean, he could smell death. That coppery smell of congealing blood so vivid in his memory that he could taste its metallic tang. He walked to the kitchen, where the first victim was found. The wife, Holly Mason, thirty-six, was lying on her back, her throat slashed. The theory from the blood spatter was that the killer approached from behind, cut her across the neck, and spun her to the floor. 

He stepped carefully as he left the kitchen, shaking his head at his stupidity. There was no blood to step in, but he couldn’t find the courage to step where he knew it had been. Continuing toward the small family room, he paused in the doorway. Three children had been found in the room, single knife cuts across their throats. The scene still made him sick to his stomach. One of his fellow detectives had thrown up on the spot. He knew none of them would forget the sight of a two-year-old boy and two girls aged four and five lying in pools of their own blood.

While they were dealing with the scene inside, uniformed officers searching the grounds had found another body, the father, in the boat shed which sat next to the dock. The adult male victim, Brad Mason, had been brutally murdered. The coroner’s report had listed twelve stab wounds to his chest and back as well as his throat cut. Whoever killed him wanted him good and dead.

Only hours later, when they located the next of kin, did the detectives learn there was another child, an eight-year-old girl. The mother’s sister, Jane Bertram, begged them to find her. They had tried. Ten years later, she was still missing, and he was still trying.

He walked across the sloping back yard toward the boathouse. Conscious of the photo in his shirt pocket, he stopped in mid-reach for the lever door handle. The door was as it had been that day. Pale gray paint, peeling on the edges, the slatted upper door, and rusting hardware, now a bit more worn than ten years ago. What was missing was the pink pail. In the photo, it hung from the door handle. Now, it rested in a box in the evidence room.

The eight-year-old’s name was Hannah, and her aunt informed them that her biological father gave her the pail when she was two, only weeks before he and her mother divorced. The man who died was her stepfather, and from all that he had been told, Hannah was devoted to him and him to her. He pulled the photo from his pocket. What had always concerned him was why the pail was hanging on the handle? It was out of place.

He wandered out of the boat shed and sat on a wrought-iron bench on the dock. The crystal blue water sparkled in the early summer sun. He missed coming here but hadn’t returned since the case was suspended for lack of evidence. His instinct convinced him that Hannah’s biological father had committed the murders and kidnapped her, but the trail had gone cold.

Why had he come here? He had to admit he didn’t know. But for some reason, he felt anxious as if something was going to happen. Probably just anxiety about the new job. Not convinced he could lead a team of homicide detectives. After all, he couldn’t find a young girl.

Walking back to the house, he thought of what Hannah’s aunt Jane had said to him the last time they spoke.

Clay, I cannot bring myself to change a thing in this house. My sister was finally happy with a man who adored her and all their children. I need to believe I will have Hannah back someday. So, until then, and she decides what to do with her house, nothing will change.

He locked the back door, and as he turned to leave by the front door, he spotted the dog food dishes. There had been a new puppy in the household, who also disappeared. He smiled. Jane didn’t give up on Hannah or the dog. He wasn’t going to either.

Back at the marina, he took the fishing pole and tackle from the car, rented a boat and headed out onto the lake, hoping to clear his thoughts of Hannah. Three hours on the lake and he caught four bass, but Hannah was always on his mind.

He returned to the dock and took the fish to the hotel kitchen where they would clean and prepare them for his dinner. After a quick shower, he headed downstairs to find his friend. Dave Newsome was at the front desk.

“Dave, good to see you.”

“Clay, how are you?”

“Okay, caught some fish, want to have dinner with me?”

Dave agreed, and an hour later, they were finishing a fish dinner and a few beers. Dave sighed. 

“I know this place holds bad memories. You know Brad ran the boat repair shop here. Everyone liked him, loved Holly and the kids. Even after all these years, they are still missed by the regulars. Lots of times, people will ask if Hannah was ever found.”

“Not that I didn’t try. When Hannah’s biological father simply disappeared, and the case was suspended for lack of evidence, I hired a private detective to try and find him. He tried for years. Nothing.”

Dave shook his head. “Maybe it will just never be. Let’s hope she’s happy somewhere.”

After dinner, Clay sat alone on the lake’s edge, restless. Deciding that relaxing was not for him, he decided to return to the city. Time to get back to work.

~oOo~

Saturday morning, he had breakfast with Dave before loading the car and heading out. As he reached the main road, he started to turn right toward the city. But a need to return to the house kept gnawing at him. He turned left.

Nothing had changed since yesterday. The house stood silent, keeping the secret that only it knew. He walked back to the small dock and sat on the bench. He needed to face that he would never find her. He needed to let Hannah go.

A crunch of tires on gravel drifted toward him, then stopped. Seconds later, a dog barked. He stood and turned toward the house, just in time to see a black Labrador Retriever racing around the corner.

He was rooted to the spot as a young woman followed the dog. His heart thumped in his chest. She had strawberry blond hair like Hannah. As he tried to find his voice, she spoke.

“Hello. I … I … who are you?”

“I’m Clay Jenkins. May I ask your name?

 “I’m Hannah Clark … uh… Mason. Did you know my family?”

He walked toward her, desperate to gather her in his arms but didn’t for fear of scaring her.

“Hannah, do you know what happened here?”

She nodded, her shoulders trembling. “I do now. I thought they gave me to him. That they didn’t want me. That’s what he said.”

“I was one of the police officers who investigated what happened to your family. I’ve been looking for you all this time.”

Hannah ran to him and began sobbing. “I didn’t — I didn’t know what he had done. He told me that my mother didn’t want me anymore. Then a year ago, he got sick, and he died two weeks ago. I found a letter he wrote to me. In it, he confessed what he did. That he killed them all to get me. He showed up in the boathouse when I was with my dad, the man I loved as my dad. Daddy ordered me to leave, and I went outside with Buster, who was a puppy then. I heard noise from inside like they were fighting, but then my real dad came out, blood all over him and told me that we were leaving and that I couldn’t take anything with me.”

Buster, the dog, snuggled up against her. “I ran to get my pink bucket, I carried it everywhere. I wanted to take it and Buster, but he said I couldn’t have both. I couldn’t leave without Buster, so I hung the bucket on the door for my dad to find, so he’d know what happened.” Her voice cracked. “I didn’t know they were dead.”

“Where have you been living?”

“A little town in Northern California. After I found the letter, I loaded the car with what I could and came here. I needed to know what happened to them.” She gazed at the house. “I didn’t expect to find the house, but I stopped at a gas station to ask, and the clerk knew exactly where it was.”

Clay wrapped his arms around her. “You are safe now. Do you remember your aunt, Jane?” She nodded. “You aren’t alone. She has never given up hope and kept the house here for you. Would you like me to call her?”

“Yes … would you?”

He placed the call and broke the news to Hannah’s aunt. They agreed to meet at the hotel that evening. As he listened to Hannah’s excited voice as she spoke to her aunt, he realized he needed to get her pink polka-dotted pail out of evidence. 

Hannah was back.

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Please visit D. A. Ratliff’s blog, https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/ and her Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/D-A-Ratliff-594776510682937/

D. A. RAtliff: Going 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!

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

Going Home

By D. A. Ratliff

I hadn’t planned on going. Fate brought me to speak at a seminar out of state, and the fact that I was only an hour’s drive from my old homestead kept gnawing at me. I tried to push it away, but the itch was there and needed attention.

Foolish to do it. That chapter of my life had been closed for over thirty years. I had made my escape from the doldrums of country life and had never looked back. Didn’t want to look back. Memories suppressed were the best kind as far as I was concerned. But I did it anyway. I decided to go home.

A flurry of activity by my assistant secured a change in my travel plans, an extra night in the hotel, and a rental car. After a leisurely breakfast with colleagues before they caught their flights home, I set out down the state highway to the town where I once existed.

I say existed because I hated every moment there. I was born for more than the 4H Club. I hated cows and chickens and plows. And my family—they were the worst.

As I neared the small town, I was a bit surprised at the pressure building in my chest. The day I left and never looked back, I was seething with anger. That burn of hate was building again. I fought it back, no need for that anger now. I was free.

The town had changed little. A rail line cut through the center of Main Street, several shops shuttered and dilapidated. The diner I was dragged to by my father on Saturday mornings was still open. I had to chuckle, probably still serving those awful, doughy pancakes and rancid coffee. A few old codgers sat outside the courthouse, moving nothing but their eyes as they watched my luxury rental pass through. I laughed out loud. I could hear them now, Who’s that city slicker?  If they knew, they would bust a vein. If they knew.

The cotton mill on the edge of town was in ruins. My mother and grandmother had worked there. Both got brown lung from the cotton dust, and I got so tired of them hacking and spitting up mucus. Not how people should have to live. Certainly not how I had to live.

Two miles on the other side of town, I slowed down to look for the gate. I almost passed it by, but the old mailbox was still standing. Bent, broken and rusted, but it was there. I turned onto the overgrown gravel drive and drove in as far as I dared until the car was past the tree line and, hopefully, couldn’t be seen from the highway.

I got out of the car and looked down at my expensive loafers. I hadn’t planned on hiking, so I really wasn’t prepared. I’d have to be careful. This place wasn’t worth scuffing my shoes.

As I walked deeper into the now overgrown land, I had to admit that it was beautiful. The grove of trees where my parents built the house was now thick with underbrush, lush and green. Beyond the tree line were the family cotton fields. I leased those out, not stupid enough to lose money on the place. Just wanted no part of life here.

When I spotted the path, I stopped. A chill passed through me despite the building heat of a summer day in Louisiana. My mother had painstakingly dug out the path, laying steel rails across it so she could terrace the slope, something she had seen in a magazine. She had made me help her. Hour after hour, leveling each slightly raised terrace and filling it with finely ground granite. Made her feel like a queen to have such a grand path to the house. Made her look like a fool to me.

As I continued along the walkway my mother created, it was apparent that all that fine granite that had sparkled with bits of quartz in the sunlight was now nothing but dirt, the metal rails exposed, limbs fallen across her grand path. The carefully manicured edges now ragged with weeds. It was grand alright.

It was at the end of the path that I felt my first pang of regret. I shouldn’t have come here. Every cell in my body was irritated. The old hatred for how they tried to ruin my life came flaring back. They had tried, but I had won.

Where the large, white, French-style farmhouse had stood was only worn cinder blocks that were once the house’s foundation. I cracked a slight smile from a bit of morbid satisfaction. There were still marks on the blocks from the fire that raged that night. Now only a partial outline of the house remained. Vegetation filled in where rooms once existed.

If they had only listened to me, this wouldn’t have happened. But my dream to be an attorney since I was young was met with disdain and outright amusement. I had to follow in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, grow cotton and be happy about it. It was my fate in life.

No. It was not my fate. I was a brilliant student, and the local schools couldn’t keep up with my need for knowledge. Only one of my teachers recognized that and he arranged for me to get lessons through the mail from a college. I lived for those lessons. I had to rush home to get the mail before my mother got home from the mill and my father came out of the fields. He’d laughed at my crazy ideas and thrown the envelopes in my face if he got to the mailbox first. His words cut through me still. You ain’t going to college, boy. You are gonna stay right here and raise cotton.

I was nearing seventeen when I began to formulate my plan. I agreed to work for my father during the summer before my senior year in high school. He was so happy, certain that he had beaten me down. He had no idea. I saved my money and right before I started my senior year, I applied for life insurance policies on my parents from one of those companies that didn’t do medical exams. Or rather my grandmother did. She was getting sicker from the brown lung and the lack of breathing well made her lethargic and confused. She signed the applications without question. I paid the premiums in her name via money order, five-hundred-thousand-dollar policies on each of my parents, and I was the beneficiary. My parents may have been fools but I was not. I also got the key to my grandmother’s safety deposit box at the bank. Small town—who would ever doubt a loving grandson wouldn’t go to the bank for his grandmother to put something in it for her. Fools they were, but the insurance documents were safe.

During my senior year, I applied to the colleges that I wanted to attend, and with my grades, they were clamoring for me. I was offered several scholarships without my parents knowing as I had rented a post office box and kept everything secret. As the end of the school year approached, I hatched my plan.

The house was heated by an old oil furnace and cooking heat was provided by gas. I began to sabotage the furnace in February so that there would be a trail of repairs. Then the night I made my escape, I waited until my parents and grandmother were sound asleep and I blew up the furnace, which in turn caused the gas line to explode. The house was engulfed in minutes. By the time the fire department arrived, called by me seconds before I lit the oil furnace on fire, I was covered in soot, hands burned from trying to rescue my family. They believed me.

The town was in mourning for my tragic loss. I played the shocked son and allowed all the good folks to take care of me. I graduated from high school, and a month later I turned eighteen and received the settlement from the insurance company. I was out of this town as fast as I could flee and never said goodbye.

With one last look around, I decided it was time to leave. I had enough nostalgia for a lifetime. As I walked along the path toward the car, I took in the dappled sunlight streaming through the thick copse of trees. I knew I should feel remorse, but I didn’t. If I hadn’t escaped, I wouldn’t be a federal judge and wield the power I now possessed.

Better than growing cotton.

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Visit Deborah at her blog.
https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection







Stephanie Angelea: To Stand With Trees

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

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

To Stand With Trees

By Stephanie Angelea



Her name was GiAia.

She was Vietnamese and beautiful. Blind at birth, she learned to work hard at a young age, pulling her weight with the help of her devoted, twin brother, Bao, who was mischievous but a highly intelligent young man.

She was also a survivor of the underground cities. Cities built beneath the tallest forest trees, plush landscapes of beautiful Lotus flowers, the deepest and most secluded marble mountains in Ba Na.


Today marked the second anniversary since her people carefully laid by hand the first of many marble steps to build the walkways to each city. Steps that allowed them to escape the spray of bullets killing their families from a war they did not understand and knew nothing about.


In the beginning, the villages joined together constructing three interconnecting cities with sweat and blood, soon to boom with life. Self-sustaining and rich in power plus great wealth, but not of your typical paper money from before it was destroyed by Napalm. The currency of choice became seashells blown from the salt water beaches below the mountains littering the sand dunes in abundance, each contributing its own amount of worth. Daily she picked up shells in a burlap sack dropped by a friend of her people next to the forbidden step.

As the war escalated, their cities trembled but the marble walls held strong. Protection she felt only God could provide. While blood spilled into the rivers above, their rivers flowed of fresh water from springs traveling from unknown tunnels. A gift they knew only Mother Nature would provide.

The numbers of soldiers carrying guns quickly multiplied, setting up camps near the base of the mountains where she would sneak up to sit on the steps. She would stand beside the tall trees reaching as far as she could feel, hoping to reach the Heavens and kiss the Sun whose warmth she felt on her ivory cheeks.


Her ears heard the chatter of the mountain critters screaming in anger at the sounds of grenade explosions and diesel loaders digging the mass graves while the jumping spiders spun their silky webs without a care in the world. They were cities without a name, and it was forbidden for any villager to open the entrance step much less exit it into a country of war.

She and her brother knew the rules, but he was the rebel and she was the follower. While he gathered “much-needed contraband” and stole new technologies from the growing naval base of the foreigners, she sat quietly, waiting and listening to life in the woods. Their parents would be furious with them both if they knew, but her need for peace from the controlled chaos below gave her a chance to be alone and was worth any light punishment she would receive. Bao, on the other hand, would not get off so lightly.

One particular Spring day dawned and the weather was unusually cooler than normal. She sat contemplating the world, daydreaming of her longtime boyfriend, Xang, and sighed, thinking what a sweetheart he was — everything she could have wished for in a fellow — understanding and sensitive. Bao often teased her, whistling wedding bell tunes, yet something felt distant in their relationship she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Only she did know exactly the reason why. It was because of another who was not of their people and had already captured her attention and her heart long ago. A relationship more scandalous than the war itself.


Still, she daydreamed and brushed off a cobweb that had fallen to her nose. Plundering through the camouflage burlap full of seashells, she soon became annoyed at the cobweb tickling her nose and tiny spider legs running across her face.

“OK, little spider, enough! Time to leave me alone,” she desperately pleaded. Assuming it had jumped, she went about her business only to stop short with silent screams when Mr. Spider sunk its teeth into her eye. A bite that felt like huge fangs of a venomous snake.

“Never scream!” she remembered her father saying over and over. “The enemy will hear.”

“Who are our enemies, father?” GiAia replayed the question in her mind.

“Everyone, darling!” he replied.

Reminiscing helped her to cope with the excruciating pain only to repeat the scene while enduring a second bite to the other eye. GiAia’s eyes throbbed, and rubbing them only made it worse.

“Where are you brother? Hurry!” she whispered, sobbing to herself.

“GiAia! RUN!” Bao screamed running toward his sister. “Open it!”

She immediately sprang to open the first step, forgetting her pain and tears, still slapping the spider with its tiny legs crawling over her face. She had it open. The first step to their wonderful city. She could hear her brother running, one stomping foot after another, knowing then that trouble had followed.

Bao’s breath was quick and heavy but he made it to her, sadly convulsing to the ground with three bullets to the back. For a brief moment, she turned to him and they held each other tight, hugging under the step. Her tears and pain returned.

“RUN!” Bao’s pained scream rang in her ears.

“I won’t leave you!” yelled GiAia.

Without fear, she bolted, dragging her brother down the corridor. Her legs felt weak but she had to reach the foyer, set the charges, and close the boulder. It was their only hope and nothing was going to stop her. They knew this place better than anyone and she was fast.
Though the faster they ran, the sooner the enemy caught up to them and infiltrated the corridor to their city.


It confused her and she couldn’t help seeing the worst had finally come to their doorstep.
The corridor seemed to grow longer the more she ran, and she turned to see the Americans chasing them. Just a small glance for them to know she saw their faces! Their faces drew nearer yelling after them and firing machine guns, but it was not the Americans they were fleeing from but the newest enemy of their people from across the border.

People of their own nationality who decided that killing their own would bring them more power. She didn’t understand and it angered her, especially seeing how they had hurt her brother. The entrance was near and a great sense of relief overwhelmed her because they were closer to safety, but it was short lived. The enemy was upon them. GiAia gasped as Bao pushed her through the entrance where she hit the floor rolling.

“Bao!” she screamed, begging, reaching for him to get up.

“STAY! Blow them all, NOW!” he ordered.

“NO! Get up! Please!” she pleaded in tears, running to him.

The enemy continued to shoot and the bullets ricocheted off the marble walls.

“NOW, G! BLOW IT!” he screamed, his last breath, tossing a backpack to her feet.

GiAia stopped, frozen in place as the boulder closed. The corridor on the other side where her brother lay screaming was gone and he with it.

“GiAia, we have to go! He is dead!” her father yelled to her.

She fell to her knees and held the backpack close.

What was so important you would waste energy throwing a backpack instead of saving yourself? You can’t leave me! she thought, drowning out the screams of her father, then her mother.

Her eyes burned less and her surroundings were no longer pitch black. The dirt of the earth become less blurry and now she saw her father’s neatly kept hair lined with gray. The dark fog in her eyes disappeared and her mother stood before her, beautiful with red ribbons in her hair.

“GiAia, your eyes! They are clear,” GiAia’s mother said quietly, holding her tear-drenched cheeks.

She unbuckled Bao’s backpack and it was as always — “much needed contraband” for the cities. She giggled to herself plundering through it one item at a time. Deep inside in a hidden compartment was the newest information and blueprints for building machines specifically for laser surgery — eyes included.

“I can see, brother. I saw you for the first time but you will never know it,” she whispered, rubbing her eyes over the bumpy presence still clinging to her skin as she clung to the backpack and rocked with tears.

“You gave me sight, didn’t you little fella?” GiAia whispered.

Another year passed and the corridor still lay in shambles. The steps laid by hand to their secret city was destroyed. Only holes small enough for her to fit through led to an uprooted tree and was the only access to the boulder she managed to reopen. Bao was smart and he taught her a thing or two about a great many things.

Standing beside the toppled tree, she admired its hollow form — their efforts of turning it into a sight tower.

“False trees,” Bao called them. We could see out over the valleys and cities below but all anyone would see was a tree. The tallest trees in the forest.

The explosions of gunfire still rang in the distance but she was not startled for the seashells collected in the burlap sack was still left every day. The burlap sack Angel dropped off to get the latest Viet Cong intel and where they were in the forest. Thanks to her jumping friend with tiny legs, she could see for miles and had excellent vision.

The web of messages she and Mr. Spider left for the American soldiers today read fifteen southeast. That was fifteen spun knots down the center of the web and a straight line pointing southeast.

The Viet Cong enemy would never know the web held a message and they were all scared of spiders so they steered clear. Messages graciously left in the cobwebs by Mr. Spider before crawling into GiAia’s ear where he would get comfortable draping over it to watch the army creeping along the wooded jungles.

“Angel!” an American soldier hollered out.

“Yeah!” Angel responded.

“Your friend is here!” He smiled, walking away.

Angel approached with his rifle shouldered, pointing to the sack of seashells in her hand and pointing his thumb to the air.

GiAia smiled to him as she had for years holding the burlap sack he left for her daily on the pile of rubble that was once the walkway to the underground cities and the place they first met. His sack of gathered seashells strewn from the explosions of the salt water beaches below.


She smiled, waving proudly to him, grateful he spared her life and that of her brother one Spring day years ago when they first went into hiding, fleeing to their underground cities. In that moment, he ordered his men to help them reach the steps safely after they commuted their first rebellious act of defiance against their parents’ wishes and the strict rules of the newly-appointed leaders.


From that day on, he made their cities wealthy with beautiful seashells blown from the salt water beaches below, unbeknown to everyone.

“No matter. We are a people with no name and on that foundation we grew strong because of him and his American friends.” She spoke proudly. “One day, Mr. Spider, mark my words, I will lead my people and Angel will stand beside me! My name is GiAia and we will be Angels of the Lotus. We will shout louder than all the trumpets in the world to our mutual enemy — WELCOME TO OUR HELL!”

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Stephanie does not currently have an author page but you can find her on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/tjdsam

Write the Story: March 2019 Collection