Writing Prompt: The Portal

Today’s a Nick Drake kinda day–a day when you take long walks, languidly pick up that hobby you promised yourself you were going to finish, catch up with loved ones over a nice, warm drink…and read pleasant little stories inspired by gorgeous, surreal imagery.

I’m a little overdue since posting my last writer’s prompt. I hope you read and enjoy, and have a wonderful Sunday!

Image credit: Pinterest.

The Portal

three-blue-portals“This is it.”  Dr. Ralph Kenon doubled the knot on the rope around his waist, ignoring the flash of the sapphire-lit sky above them.  “If there is any time to test the portal, it’s now.”

June stood, watching him with a wariness that she had always held.  She knew the cost of this trip–for months, they had traversed the cragged landscape, seeking the stone doorways that might–oh, Sera, might–bring them back home.  The portal that had brought them there–golden and glittering with the promise of abundance, riches–had been nothing more than a ploy of cruel universal physics.  Gold does not mean promise, or peace. How she wished she had been one of those companions who’d had enough wherewithal to provide Ralph counsel!

But no.  She was but his secretary: his faithful, devoted secretary who had been sure–absolutely sure–that what they had stumbled upon in the basement ruins of a demolished bank vault, would save them from the financial ruin that his previous perils and excavations had put them through.  Now, look at them. Look at them!

The others who had followed them were all gone.  The Tigmas–first George, then Pauline, and last their twelve-year-old son, Kris.  The policeman Mr. Myron Johnson had sacrificed himself to the beast who had found their resting spot that first night.  The newlyweds, Berturde and Guy, had succumbed to the Hunger Roots a couple of weeks after, just before they’d reached the City of Promise.  By then, it was only three of them left: Dr. Kenon, herself…and Sera.

June doubled her fists.  Dr. Kenon was inching towards the edge of the cliff; any second, the invisible field would snag him into its atmosphere, and he would no longer have a choice of remain or return.

Wildly, he threw his head back to stare at her.  His eyes distorted by those silly aviator goggles he’d always kept with him.  A momento of his mother, he’d said, on her final flight around the world. Everyone thought Amelia had been the only one, but Laura Kenon–oh, she had been glorious.  There just hadn’t been the press or the public attention to watch another woman make a grave mistake.

Under the front of living as a physician, Dr. Ralph Kenon had studied the energies of the universe, the hidden dimensions that were but a hair’s width away.  In the depth of the ocean, in the threshold of Egyption huts–June had been his longest-tenured secretary, and she had seen him in his more focused and his most psychotic episodes.

There was no proof as to where this portal would take them.  In the depths of Promise, its residents spoke of a multi-lensed “doorway” that flickered on the outskirts of the country.  “Oh, sure,” said one barkeep, tossing a spheroid glass to his counterpart across the room without spilling a drop of the iridescent liquid inside, “it’s always been there.  But no one ever goes there.  It’s just one of those things, like breath.  A lyric in a song.”

“But we sing songs where we come from,” Dr. Kenon responded.  The second barkeep bowed reproachfully but said nothing. He was built for expression only, a silent, judgemental sentient being with a purple trunk and soft, rounded shoulders meant to lie your mournful head between.  It was the first barkeep took orders and gathered regular stories so that passing strangers could understand the flow of the time in that sad, sweet city.

A city where what you wanted was guaranteed to be at your beck and call, if you only learned about it before it had already moved on.

Sera had remained generally present those first couple of nights in town.  Still, June could already tell that she was losing her when the young woman chose to look at everything else in the city but her.  At first, June blamed it on the illusion of the crystalline skyscrapers, the gloss of the marble-like sidewalks. Even the native citizens walked as if elongated by grace, striding with an elegance that made you want to lift your neck to meet them.  Even the streetwalkers, who spun around corner lights and giggled as they cuddled the thick metal poles, felt heightened in status. June kept her hand tightly around Sera’s, but the shine was too much for either of them. They parted that first night, just for an hour.  Then, in the morning, for two–June to find their houses of literature, Sera to explore the artful fountains that seem to shoot strawberry lemonade instead of water.

Every second was a spin of luck, every moment a chance to laugh for the first time since arriving in this barren world.  She and Sera raced around like children, finding more and more and comparing notes later and later in the day. Finally, it was only when they curled into a single bed at night, just before slumber took them over, did they have but seconds to learn who’d had more to share.  In the end, June would spend many hours waiting, head drooping as she squinted at the illuminated web in the window that represented their clock. On the moments she did rise early enough to see Sera slipping out the hotel room door, she tried to stop her, to ask if maybe they could meet for lunch.  “Too dependent,” was what she heard, just before the door snapped shut once.

Only Dr. Kenon stayed rigid during that week, collecting the necessary supplies and verifying the stories of the three stone rings and the night that would arise and give them a chance for home.  When he had pinpointed the day they would activate, he hastily gathered the ladies as they were about to steal away towards their separate agents and told them the good news. June immediately looked to meet Sera’s eye, as they always had when they were both parties to Ralph’s excitable nature.

But Sera was smiling at a mother and her son as the latter chased a cubold drifting down a waterspout’s sparkling stream, beside a marblesque sidewalk, along a picketed lane.

The night before they were to part, Sera suddenly demanded they spend the evening exploring together—”Just you and me,” she told June.

She dragged June through alleys and under fences, and demonstrated that you watched the best music there, not heard it.  The accidental dropping of crystal marbles by an elderly gentleman upon glass steps lingered in June’s mind as they climbed to the peak of a pyramidal park.  The sound reminded her of her brother, and she began to cry, doubling over at the wretchedness of the memories. Sera’d turned away and waited until June had wiped her eyes and risen to her feet, shaken out her skirt and tightened her low bun.  Then, they’d fed on juicy buns and jumped over light stones with other festival-goers in one of the city’s cobbled squares. June thought this showed hope, that maybe she’d been imagining the distance between them all this time.

The morning that Dr. Kenon woke June up, Sera was already gone.  The second bed in their room (which Sera had taken to lying in so as not to rouse June in the middle of the night) was made, and what few articles of personal belongings she’d bought and collected had disappeared as well.  Only a note lay on her pillow, and in that note too few words: “I’m sorry. Good luck.”

Dr. Kenon pushed June from the room as if it had always just been them.  “We have three days to get to the portal before it shuts down,” he said gruffly, and waved down the cab that would take them to the outermost limits of town.

Now, the waves of return lifted Dr. Kenon’s feet from the crumbling cliffside floor.  His rope snapped behind him but remained tied to the iron stake he had drilled into the ground yards away.  Behind it June squatted, holding her coat still against the wind. Even from the distance, she could see the fright in Dr. Kenon’s bug eyes.  Soon, he was no longer over the cliff’s edge, and drifted aloft by some instinctual force that lured him towards the rippling lenses. The portals were doing their job.

“Go,” June called, and hugged herself.  They had played Rochambeau to determine who would go first.  Dr. Kenon had attempted chivalry, but what best displayed the proper gentlemanly nature here?  Go first, and potentially plummet through an unstable set of energy fields into internal implosion and your death.  Stay behind, and risk abandonment, solitude.

Dr. Kenon became a silhouette, then a dot.  The pools of rope strung out into a single line.  It was one of his biggest weaknesses, depth perception.  It always had been. When he had been measuring out the amount of rope they’d need to reach the portals, he’d asked her to check his math.  He always had. It was the afternoon before they’d left, just before Sera had burst into the courtyard and enticed her with pastries and an evening of togetherness.

June had looked at the math, taken but a glance, before pushing the pad back to him and turning away to smile.

Dr. Kenon was still a good couple of meters when the rope started to strain, but June was quick.  One pull on the loose end, and he never even felt the jerkback as he plunged into the first sheet of energy.  It converted him to light and thrust him into the second portal, which transferred into an as-yet-undiscovered equation that passed him through a world of dimensions, choices, and opportunities.  Only the strength of his will would determine whether it would lead him home.

On the cliff’s edge, June rose to her feet as the lightning dissipated, and the sky began to clear.  An uncertain calm resonated in the breeze, leaving her arms free to dangle as she stared through the rings to the mountain range far beyond them.  She spoke but one word, as the perimeter of the first portal began to disintegrate, and the second crumbled like the shell of dried meringue.



5 Literary Classics Under 200 Pages

[Reposting an old favorite. Read and enjoy!]
Original post date: October 2013

Months and months and months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Jen about how short Mitch Albom’s novels are.  “I don’t know how he manages to put so much emotion into so little space,” she said, and I agreed, awed—and maybe just a smidgen jealous.

The day after that conversation, I had an interesting discussion about Ray Bradbury with a coworker, what with it being the anniversary of his death at the time.  I noted how my favorite book of his (okay, the only one I’d read so far) was Fahrenheit 451.  When I looked up the book later, I was shocked to discover that it, too, was well under the 200-page mark.

So, I got to thinking—just how many other classics/bestsellers have also managed to keep their masterpieces so short, yet imbued each page, each line, each word with so much life?

The list I developed—albeit far from complete—was kind of surprising when I took a step back to review.

Note:  the page numbers listed below are based on copies of books that I have in normal print.

(All books are available on Amazon.com. Go check them out!)

Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury)

Book Length:  179 pages

Imagine a future where firemen create fires instead of dousing them; where literature is outlawed and shunned for full-scale entertainment systems; and where the superficial is celebrated and the knowledgable is literally chased out of society.  That, pretty much, is Fahrenheit 451.  It’s  a truly cerebral literary piece that, when I reread it as an adult, had me wonder just how Mr. Bradbury managed to get me so worked up over the stupidity that could possibly occur in the world, and the hope he left in its ruined entrails.  Good stuff.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Book Length:  128 pages

First of all, the title itself is brilliant.  (Okay, brief fangirling over.)  Seriously, what title better sums up just what its story is about?  (Okay, now it’s really over.)  We enter the book knowing full well that a man has been murdered.  For the rest of the book, we listen to accounts throughout town as nearly everyone claims they could have stopped the murder—but they didn’t.  Was it through malice?  Not really—and that’s where the brilliancy of the story lies.  No one could have done it better. 

Five People You Meet In Heaven (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  192 pages

This man has literally made a career of writing novels approximately 200 pages and still maintaining the integrity and reality of the human spirit.  In this story, a despondent, aging man gives his life to save a little girl and, in doing so, embarks upon a journey where several personal “landmarks” lead him through the choices he made and how he indeed made a difference.  It’s not many books that make me tear up and treat each page turn like a commercial break. 

Night (by Elie Wiesel)

Book Length:  109 pages

I’ve only read this book once, and that was over 15 years ago in high school.  That was all I needed.  In this true account of Mr. Wiesel’s horrid confinement in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, every event stayed with me and to this day makes me cringe.  From the image of a prisoner so hungry, he risks crawling towards an unguarded pot of stew while bombs fall around him; to the hanging of a man so small, he is forced into a squirming, desperate, prolonged death; it all remains fresh in my mind.  It’s a haunting, amazing work that I highly encourage everyone to read at least once. 

The Time Machine (by H.G. Wells)

Book Length:  125 pages

Consider the franchise behind this book.  Consider the movies, the action figures, the spinoffs, the TV shows, the third-party sequels, the scientific concepts, the everything that resulted from this book—and look at that book length again.  Remove this book from the equation of the world, and you remove an entire universe of imagination.  Though a simple enough plot—a man recounts at a present-day dinner party about how he traveled through time to spy into the evolution of the human race—it continues to spark conversations as the decades pass.  Score two for scifi. 

The End of Eternity (by Isaac Asimov)

Book Length:  191 pages

What the hey—score three for scifi.

Isaac Asimov may not be as universally well-known as H.G. Wells in terms of a household name, but he is no less influential.  If you watched Data on Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Bicentennial Man, or I, Robot, you are viewing the art of Dr. Asimov, one of Mr. Well’s direct successors as the next-generation Father of Science Fiction.  (Okay, the fangirl is back all the way.)

In The End of Eternity, a “Time Keeper” from the future discovers that his existence and the existence of the world in which he lives may just be what has destroyed the potential of what could have truly occurred in the past.  He even has time to fall in love during this plight.  A wallop of work in under 200 pages, and a wonderful way to end this list.

For now!

Honorable Mentions

For One More Day (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  208 pages

A man gets one more chance to see his departed mother while reevaluating the importance of their relationship.  Very poignant, very heart-ripping.  I might have cried again.

The Great Gatsby (By F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Book Length:  208 pages

A “modern-day” tragedy detailing that, just because you have everything you wanted in life, it doesn’t mean you’re happy.  Also a tragedy detailing that, just because you get money, it doesn’t mean you can get everything you want.  “Great” Gatsby, indeed.

Heart of Darkness (By Joseph Conrad)

Book Length:  96 pages

Warning:  Ending Spoiler!

I know, I know.  Why didn’t I include this book up in the “under 200 pages” list?  Well, it’s quite simple:  I hate this book.  I’ve read it two and a half times, and it still doesn’t make any more sense than it did in high school.  It’s a book about going out into a jungle to find an important man who moans “The horror.  The horror!” as he dies, only pages after you find him.  I got that—but unfortunately, that’s all I got.

To those who love this book, I applaud you and encourage you to place it at the top of your list.  Unfortunately, while this didn’t even peak at 100 sheets, it may as well have surpassed 400, for all the work it took me to make it through.

I’m sorry…I’m a bad classics lover.

Are there any books under 200 that you have loved and didn’t see on the list?  If so, please feel free to share below! 

Writing Prompt: The Password

Writing Prompt:  As a kid, you made a “time travel password” as a joke if your future self ever tried to contact you.  You had forgotten all about it until today — when you received an email with it as the subject line.

😁 Enjoy!

Subject:  Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

I can’t write your name.  You know who I am. You made this up 27 years ago.  We promised that if anything were to happen — and I mean THAT thing — this would be the code for you to believe.

I don’t have much time — and, neither do you.  You have ten minutes to get out of the house. Take only what you need.  Lock your front door. Turn on the security system. Leave your garage door open.  Get in your car and drive north on 75 for two hours, then off the exit at timestamp until you see a little town with a church with a yellow steeple.  Park behind the church, in front of the tree with the red circle on the trunk. Enter the back door and through the kitchen, into the pew. Sitting on the playing organ’s bench is someone who will be able to help you.

There is no guarantee that doing this will change the future.  But we have no other choice. We are more important than we could have ever realized.  Someone is coming to your house. If you are caught, they will kill you. And everyone and everything that you know will be gone.

Please, for all you know, LEAVE.  You have ten minutes.

When I was eight years old, I read my mother’s doctorate thesis on temporal causality, and how forcing the past to repeat itself could be achieved if the proper action was sent back in time.  In this case, the action was the future telling the past what to do to create that same, identical future.

Say that your future self was kidnapped.  Your abductors knew that you were important to the fate of the world, yet you were so brilliant, so cunning, or just so off the radar, they would never find you or capture you (or even know who you were in the first place) with their skillsets or technologies alone.  If they used violence to weed you out, they would waste too many resources and still be unsure of who they actually needed to obtain. They only have one option:

You would have to come to them.

How would they know that?

Because that’s what happened the first time.

Can a causality loop be stopped?  My mother’s thesis answered this question.


What we see happening over and over again, she hypothesized, is not in fact a perfect loop.  It is, in fact, a spiral.

Each cut of the spiral is a parallel universe, each with a future you and a past you.  To keep the spiral going , the future you reaches out to the past you — but not behind itself to the past you in the same spiral cut.  Instead, it reaches forward into the spiral cut of the next universe–to the past you directly in front of it. The new past you follows through to become the future you of the same universe, then begins the cycle again.

My mother’s thesis went on to say that the spiral could go on through multiple universes.  In the case of my example above, if abductors tortured the future self that walked right into their camp, that future self might weaken enough to convince its past self to walk into the abductors’ trap by receiving a message that could have only been sent by her future self.

They would demand proof that the future self wasn’t warning herself.  How, then, does the past self know that the message was sent by a future self?

After I read my mother’s thesis, I made myself a promise.  I would never get caught in a causality loop. Even if I wouldn’t remember it or see any proof of such a catastrophe, I didn’t want myself or other universe me’s to repeat the same thing over and over again for the rest of time.  I–present me–would be the one to break the cycle. Somehow, I wouldn’t be the one to fail.

So, I created a password that only I knew.  I shared it with no one, not even my beloved Mr. Nekko-man, my stuffed rabbit.  I wrote it on a piece of paper, burned the note on the gas stove while chanting the phrase, sang it to myself, danced to its tune, mumbled it backward when the teacher called on me in class.  No one, not anyone, could ever get this password back to me — except myself.

Then, I turned 10.  I threw all the silliness of childhood out of my mind.  After all, I was an adult now.

Torture could be cruel.  It could make people say or do things nothing could ever make them do otherwise.  It could resort you back to the fun, harmless times of your childhood, make you go to the sweet, safe inner sanctum where you were truly happy and carefree.  It could make you remember things thrown away carelessly after a year or two of simple thinking.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

What if the abductors are telling you what to write?  What if they’re looking over your shoulder, making sure you’re transcribing exactly what they’re telling you?  What if they said, Write this, or we’ll kill you and everyone you love?

You tell them the password.  They watch you write it. They tell you exactly what to say to continue the loop.  You have no choice.

But what if the password wasn’t just a stamp for recognizing yourself?  What if it stood for something else, too?

What if you made more than one password?

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

I loved rabbits.  Mr. Nekko-man was my best friend, even after I stopped being a child.  When I was sick, or sad, my mother would make Mr. Nekko-man talk and make me feel better.  I always listened to Mr. Nekko-man. He always loved me, always made me feel good about myself.  If he told me what I should or should not do, I would listen to him. Things always turned about better when he was near me.

One night, my father and some friends watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Fatal Attraction as part of a strange, surreal movie marathon.  I remember peeking around the corner into the living room and loathing how he cracked up at the rabbit scenes.  He laughed even harder when the Holy Hand Grenade blew the bunny into bits, or the camera just did a tight close-up on the rabbit in the boiling pot.  I had left Mr. Nekko-man on the couch, and one of my father’s friends grabbed it and chucked it at him. Mr. Nekko-man cracked my father in the head, but it was an accident.  He didn’t mean to, and I’m sure he would have explained himself if my mother had been around.

My father scowled at Mr. Nekko-man and threw him at the wall; I heard him hit the wooden paneling with a sickening thump.  Mr. Nekko-man never moved on his own, but this time, he moved even less.

My father was a hunter.  He thought he was the perfect marksman if he could nail a rabbit between its eyes.  He killed one once and laughed as he dangled it by one bloody, half-torn back leg right in my face.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rainbows

When my father laughed, foam would spittle down his mouth, frothy and putrid like from a wild dog.  Just hearing him would make me want to close my eyes and plug my ears and stay as far away from him as possible, just so I didn’t have to hear him laugh.  It made me want to erase him, stay away from him at all costs. He wasn’t fun, really, not to me or my mom.

Suit juicer is another name for rabbit rabid rainbows

What captor would think that an 8-year-old would have not one, but two passwords to call out to their selves of the past?  Who would care when she’d said the password aloud? After all, they both sounded pretty much the same when you spoke them.

Suit juicer is another name for rabid rainbows

In one of the spiral cuts, the old future me finally got smart.  She knows the abductors have no idea where past self lives. So she can follow their instructions to the letter.  When they execute her–because that was always going to happen–they’ll lose their chance. Because now–finally–past self knows what happened in the future of the previous cut.  And she will know what to do to avoid it in her own.

Patting the matted head of Mr. Nekko-man, I archive the email, then rise from my desk and head downstairs for a cup of tea.


Writing Prompt: City of God

It’s been a while since I dropped some fiction on my blog.  This year hasn’t been my best when it comes to writing and editing the work that I want to publish.  However, while I am trying to rebuild my internal creativity, I’ll continue using writing prompts to keep my mind clear of the cobwebs.

So, without further ado, here is my latest installments from the writing  prompt based simply on the featured image to this post.  Enjoy!

Buddy awoke to the sound of metal crashing above his head.  He jumped up, right into the wide-eyed embrace of Mr. Lewis.  Though his science teacher had been with him since the start of his journey, he was disoriented, and his head hurt.

“Buddy!”  Mr. Lewis scrambled to hold him still, pinning the hysterical boy’s arms to his sides.  “Buddy.” At last he stilled, panting and staring back into his eyes. They stayed that way for a second or two, until Mr. Lewis knew that the boy would finally comprehend what he was about to say.  “You did it.”

Buddy blinked.  He had been searching, traveling so long, struggling through so much, it was sometimes hard to remember what he had done that was good, or important, or real.

Mr. Lewis smiled.  He was one of those adults that 50 and 60-year adults would call young, but to Buddy he was an adult, and so he was old enough.  “You did it,” he said again, and looked over his own shoulder.

Buddy looked over his shoulder, too.  They were still in the alley that the horde of Goers had chased them into, but all of the demonic crones were now gone.  The darkness of the night was also gone. Instead, there was nothing but light–the warm, sweet light of the morning.

But the more Buddy focused, the more he realized that the light wasn’t from the morning.  Behind his own back, as he twisted to check, was the shadows of night. He could even see the headlights of cars as they honked their horns and maneuvered unforgivingly on the narrow downtown road beyond the alley in which he stood.  In front of him only, beyond Mr. Lewis, the alley broke into a large doorway of sunlight. Beyond that opening, down a steep slope and spreading across the landscape as far as the eye could see, were what seemed to be a new, grander town of strange, rural buildings.  Each dwelling was small but artistic and ran all the way into the distant horizons. Even further back, behind the city, majestic mountains framed the borders.

But it was what was in the center of the town and caught Buddy’s breath in his throat.  Standing proud, a column of pure golden light streaking from its peak into the sky and separating the clouds, was a pyramid.

A pyramid.  In the middle of Indiana.

Buddy’s eyes welled with tears that gushed down his cheeks without his needing to blink.  He tried to speak, failed, tried again, and only managed a pantomime of the words he wanted to say.  “House,” he squawked, and saw Mr. Lewis’s chin tremble. “The House of God.”

He could feel the spirit within the very center of the pyramid radiating to him, touching his mind and answering every question and thought before Buddy himself could let his wonders finish processing.  He felt his heart drain of all negativity–the anger of being abandoned, the hatred towards the Goers, the annoyance of being hungry after traveling for so long. None of it mattered anymore. Here, there was only truth, and love.

He was walking towards the city before he realized it and stopped at the mouth of the alleyway.  He felt the cool breeze on his back and turned suddenly, looking for his teacher. Mr. Lewis had remained where he had touched Buddy awake, smiling still but shaking his head.

“This is no longer my journey, Buddy Boy.” Mr. Lewis was the only other adult–aside from his father–that Buddy allowed to call him that.  He had fought it for a while, but after Mr. Lewis had saved his life five or eight times, Buddy had…given up the fight.

Mr. Lewis nodded at the pyramid.  “I think you know the way from here.”

But Buddy, who would be ten in a week and had pumped and paid for his dad’s gas since he was seven, hesitated.  When the Goers had learned what he had discovered and tried to take him in, he had been alone and unsure of who could help him–who would believe him.  He had run to his school, which had been locked and chained up tight for the summer season.  But then, the science classroom’s window had been open, and Buddy had seen Mr. Lewis at a lab table.  Then, Mr. Lewis had seen Buddy–and the Goers behind him.

He had not asked questions.

Now, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, and looking more like an excited new country singer than an elementary teacher, Mr. Lewis urged him away.  “My job was to get you here, not walk you in. You’ll be fine.” He added, as a sort of joke, “I hear He’s nice.”


Mr. Lewis’s eyes sparkled, just for a moment.  Buddy, from his distance in the light, didn’t see it.  “You think you’re the only one who had an impossible wish?”  He spoke low; maybe Buddy heard him, maybe not. “You don’t forfeit everything you know for a chance unless you really, really want it.”  In another lifetime, he would have punctuated that statement with a flap of his light, iridescent wings. But that was decades ago, worlds away. Now, he merely ran a thumb over the smooth, worn gold of the band on his left hand. A sweet memento of the life he’d lived for nearly 20 years, the one he would be returning to once Buddy was gone.

Buddy stood, unsure, frightened, and at last Mr. Lewis said the thing he knew would help Buddy make the choice.  “They’ll be proud of you, Buddy Boy!” he yelled.

The euphoria of a fantasy about to come true welled in Buddy’s chest.  He spun to face the city once more; it dazzled and beckoned to him, but it did not entrance.  To enter and remain in that city would always be a free choice.

Delicately, like a cat using his paw to test the depth of a puddle, Buddy called out into the dawn.  “Mom? Dad?” The words hung soft and promising in the air. “Jake? Dylan?”

And in that way, Mr. Lewis watched as Buddy, the first living human ever to cross over into Heaven, shuffled his way down the steep hill straight through the city to the massive pyramid where his family awaited him.

Writing Prompt 4 – The Flooded Basement

Welp, it’s another light week, which means it’s time for a nice, pleasant writing prompt.  This one is presented with only a photo of a flooded basement.  Enjoy!

I meet Cesca in the hallway as I shut the door to the basement.  Usually, she doesn’t care to stop when she sees me, but I guess I must have looked pretty harried this time.  She pauses in her pompous, perpetually Valley Girl way, chewing a wad of gum and waiting for me to explain my panic.

I choose ignorance.  “Sup.”

Her grip on my arm stings.  She must have just returned from the beauty salon, because her curly, unruly mess of hair is properly defined and highlighted; her eyebrows freshly drawn, her lips lined dark and filled nude, and her nails — her lovely, healthy, lacquered nails — have been filed to points.

“Do you want me to tell Dad you were in the basement again?” she sneers.  “I keep letting you off, only cuz I’m bored of watching you get punished.”

Yeah right, I think, but I wrench my arm free and rub it while I consider the consequences if — who am I kidding? when — I tell her the truth.  What’s happened has happened, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Scratch that.  They can run.

Cesca gets bored and reaches out behind me for the doorknob.  I’ve made my decision anyway, so I step aside to give her room.  She pauses, obviously thrown by how quickly I’ve yielded, but curiosity ultimately leads her to open the door.

The sound from within, Cesca slamming the door shut and locking it with a speed I’ve never seen before — all of it makes my throat dump into the core of my chest.  For some reason, it’s worse seeing the terror on someone else than feeling it myself. I’ve spent my entire life emulating the reactions of others, and I sometimes forget what should be my actual response in times of terror.  At least now, I know I was correct.

Cesca backs away from the door, her hands pressed to her mouth.  Her eyes, lined and mascara’d immaculately, are wide and glittering with unshed tears.  If we were true sisters — and not just the tragic stepsisters we were — I know one of my first instincts would be to embrace her.  Ah, woulda coulda shoulda.

Finally, she whispers under her palms.  “Is that—?”

I grit my teeth in a grimace.  It’s all I really can do—that and say, “Yeah.”

“But—”  Now that she’s spoken, she’s chattering in a sort of stutter.  “But–but, that’s a—”

“Oh, I know what it is.”

“But, how did it get there?  Why is it here?”

“I don’t know!  You think I went down there to ask it?”

“It’s got—its eyes.  It tried to—”

“Yeah.  They’ll do that.”

It’s one sass too far.  Fear drains from her face and instead floods with rage and suspicion as she glowers at me.  “You did it, didn’t you?”

“Did what?”

She points at me again, venom in her eyes.  “You did this. You know Dad just got the pool cleaned.  He is gonna kill you!”

I was in a state of disbelief.  “How do I even have the resources to that?  Dad took away my phone; I’m not allowed to leave the house after noon.  I’m not even allowed to open the front door to strangers!”

“Because of you pulling crap like this!”  With inhuman, sinister glee, she lunges for me, her manicured mandibles stretching for my arm again.  “Oh, he is gonna send you away for good now! This time, you won’t be able to talk your way back.”

It all happens faster than I can register.  The counter steps I take that throw her off-balance; my free hand twisting the basement door knob; Cesca’s face as she stumbles through the open threshold; her screams garbling and failing under its screams.  My own screams as I hold the door shut, struggling in vain until I remember that it has a push lock right under my sweating thumb.

When Dad comes home, he looks around.  “Where’s Cesca?”

I shrug.  If he wasn’t distracted, he probably would have gotten me for my sass.  I decide to play on the safe side and actually answer. “She said she was going to a friend’s house.  I don’t know how long, though.”

He sighs heavily.  “You could’ve gone with her.  At least I wouldn’t have to look at you.”

A hideous thought slithers into my mind.  I bite down on my lips.

“Cop an attitude again, you’ll end up like your mother.”  He pulls off his jacket and throws it towards the back of the couch but misses.  “You know what? I think I’ll go for a swim. I didn’t put your college money to good use for no reason.”

I bite down harder but muster enough control to simply utter, “Have fun.”  When he’s three steps beyond the threshold, I slink silently to my feet and wait for him to pass further into the darkness, before slamming and locking the door behind him.

Writing Prompt 3 – “We Shouldn’t Be Here”

Hello, all!  I’m keeping it light this week with another writing prompt!  Trying to keep the writing fresh while I edit my current novel.  I hope you enjoy!

The actual writing prompt?  The first two lines of dialogue start the fun.  🙂

“We shouldn’t be here.”

“No,  you shouldn’t be here.  I, on the other hand, have to.  That’s what happens when you give your life to serving the kingdom.”

Hershal’s uppity attitude irked me.  He always did this, leaned on the scales to make our roles as petty thieves and liars seem a noble necessity.  I’m mean, sure, he was bleeding through the bandages under his tunic from wounds he had received instead of the king, but that had not been from “giving his life.”  “Please keep in mind that I was there, too. And I helped.”

“Ah, but did you give your life?”

“You’re.  Not.  Dead,” I reminded him.  “You tripped off the wall above the king’s head and conveniently fell in front of him just as an assassin came at him with a poisoned dagger.”

He waved that off.  “Semantics mixed with a strong helping of divine intervention!  Perhaps I meant to trip.”

“You didn’t.  Trust me–you didn’t.”  Nor had I.  I’d landed right on the head of the dumbstruck would-be killer–a scrawny, young lad.  It apparently didn’t take much more than a full-bodied, confused interloper to knock him unconscious.  A touch amateur, I must admit, but a complete breakfast would allay such maladies.

Removing my attentions from my partner for the moment, I once more took a scan of our surroundings.  I had to say, we could have been in worse confinements within the castle. They had taken us to a spare bedroom in one of the main towers, a room with two luxurious beds, ceiling-to-floor curtains, golden intricacies, jewel-encrusted things, and polished wood stuff.  I felt like I was inside a fancy jewel box; all that was missing was the pithering gears of the built-in lullaby.

But a prison, I fear, was a prison.  The grand double doors leading in had been locked and bolted, and the windows were reinforced.  This was, I’d overheard as the guards had been gathering us from our “sacrifice,” the room that royal traitors were detained within until they were led to the guillotine.

So.  Not precisely honey and baubles just yet.

Sighing, I returned to Hershal.  He was bracing a hand against his shoulder, but his face glowed like that of a martyr as he gazed beyond the iron bars of the window.  “I wonder if they’ll hold a parade for me.”

I hated when he did that.  “We’re not out of the clear, you know.  Yes, we saved the king from death and harm. We were also caught red-handed with about half of his wife’s jewelry collection.  The crime of thievery on the streets is losing your hand. Do you even want to imagine what we’re set to lose in here?”

For a splash, Hershal dropped the pompous act.  Whipping his head about, he snapped, “Stop lumping us together.  I saved his majesty’s life!  I sacrificed myself for the kingdom.  You are just a clumsy oaf I’ve been forced to shack up with since I found you starving in the lower quarters!”

That stung–partially because it wasn’t fully exaggerated.

But Hershal continued before I could interject.  “I’ve done all I can for you. I’m sorry, dear friend, but these are the dividers that have been built.”  Taking in a deep breath, he rose to his full, erect, absolutely regular height. “If they had intended to kill me, they would not have extracted the poison from my wounds, nor tended to them so carefully.  My fate has been set, as has yours. Here, our paths diverge.” Thus said, he rose from the foot stool we’d been sitting on, strolled over to the chair that flanked a gorgeous writer’s desk, and lowered himself imperiously.

Indeed, I thought, watching him as the sound of heavy footsteps ascending stairs reached my ears.  Indeed–our paths, in many more ways than one, have fully diverged.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any favorite writing prompt or writing prompt sites that you frequent, please let me know!

Writing Prompt 2 – “Open Your Eyes. Come back.”

I love writing prompts.  Every now and then, I find one in the the bottomless depths of Pinterest that plants a driving seed within me.  One that must be watered, and nourished, and…

Well, just plain written.

Here is one of my latest attempts.  The prompt itself, in this case, is the quoted paragraph in blue below.  From then on…it’s open season.  Enjoy!

“You’re okay.  Breathe. Just breathe.  Open your eyes. Come back.  It’s okay.  It’s all over now. You’re okay.  Wake up. Please wake up. Don’t do this to me.  Don’t do this to me. Don’t do this to me. I love you so fucking much.  Come back.”

I stopped.

Funny; I thought I heard a voice, something longing and lasting and desperately beautiful calling to me.  But that was a silly thing to think, wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it?

My spirit guide had stopped, too, right beside me.  Her robes drifted in the nonexistent breeze, as fluttering in curiosity.

“Didn’t you have a friend?” she began, then hesitated.  She had no reason to pause; she had kept me strong through everything.  The head-on collision, the rising panic as I felt the blood leak from the inside to the outside of my body, the numbness that spread through my screaming wounds like a forgiving heat.  Then, the coma, and the promise that when the time came, she would walk me out, and I wouldn’t feel a damn thing. And she had been right; the separation had been glorious. I felt lighter and clearer-headed than I ever thought possible.

I stood beside her, waiting until she was ready to go on.  In front of us, the end of the tunnel. She’d promised me temples, buildings with golden and silver and pearlescent domes.  Walkways of diamonds and glass. Fruit trees with succulent treats that sparkled under the eternal sun. And the fashion! Everyone was young and beautiful, and music filled everyone’s hearts so fully, so robustly, that every pulse was a harmony.

She met my eyes.  “This isn’t delusion,” she said.  “We’re not here to drag you into the end.  We’ll always be here.” I didn’t have to ask her what she was talking about.  Like this, I knew.

Fifteen years we’d known each other, he and I.  We met in kung fu training, where he was already loved and respected.  I pretended not to notice him, and he initially appreciated my deceit. He was also already engaged.  I trained hard, became an instructor and his rival for attention. People loved and respected me, too.  He married, to a beautiful, predictable bride. He became busy, and brought her to class in her free time.  She met me and started visiting the studio when he wasn’t there. But I was.

In time, he learned to hate me.  I’d perfected my own ire years before.  His wife was not fooled, by either of us.  Soon, he left the school. I stayed. My job moved.  We ended up working in the same building, ran into each other at lunch.  Found out that we were more similar than we’d allowed each other to know.  It became harder to hate, more painful to avoid. So I stopped the pain. I got another job, in another building.  I told him I would never talk to him again.

And then, the accident.

In that tunnel, I knew everything.  I remembered everything. I relived everything.  It only had to matter to me if I wanted it to. His life was open to me.  His wife had been threatening to leave him for years; finally, he called her bluff and signed the papers she’d faxed to his job.  He’d resented her since the wedding, when she’d confessed that she had never been pregnant to begin with.

Come back.  Come back to me.  Please don’t leave.  I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.  I shouldn’t have waited. I’ll stay.  I’ll help you. Please come back to me.  Please. Please. Please. Please.

He had been in the hospital almost every day.  He left me flowers at first, then trinkets, then cards, then letters from the kung fu kids.  Brought changes of clothes for me, for himself. Turned off his phone and held my unresponsive hand for hours.  Lost weight. Took leave from work. Braced his head on my hip and let his tears soak the sterile, over-starched bed sheets.

The damage I had taken was not permanent, but it would take some time–a very long time–before the headaches would stop and my emotions would stabilize.  The seizures would leave me disoriented, and I would soil myself on more than one occasion. I would always have a limp (stupid shattered kneecap), and in my old age, it would be impossible to sit for long and short periods of time.  He would get upset, scared, angry, hurt, confused.

But he would stay.  I would love him forever for that.

I looked at my spirit guide for confirmation.  “Oh, yes,” she said. “He will stay. Because he wants to.”

I smiled.  Behind me, only a few steps away, I could feel the milky sweetness of eternity parting to welcome me in.  It was ardent and refreshing, a taste I would remember until my final days.

I would tell him all about it when I woke up.


The Girl and the Goddesses–an Original Folktale

Let me preface this post by saying, I adore a good folktale.  From the timeless Aesop’s Fables to the sinister Grimm’s Fairy Tales, to stories passed on in countries around the world, I’ve always been fascinated by their style and their structure.  There’s something both lovely and intrinsic about how beneath a simple, seemingly straightforward tale lies wisdom and knowledge that we can still learn from today.

That, and they had no problem plucking out people’s eyes, carving out hearts, drowning people…Basically driving the hard lesson home with a slight, necessary touch of grotesque truth.

But I digress.

I wanted to try my hand at writing a folktale.  Just as the scribes of olde probably had their own trouble expressing themselves, I think a folktale will fit my needs perfectly.  Enjoy!

The Girl and the Goddesses

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a great and prosperous kingdom.  The girl was not wealthy, but she was comfortable and made her living on her small farm selling goats’ milk and making medicine. 

Now, the girl’s kingdom was so huge, it was divided into four quadrants and ruled by four monarchs.  The monarchs were revered and renowned for their exceptional beauty, grace, charm, and militant prowess.  In fact, they were so revered that their citizens and enemies alike had determined that they must be goddesses.

Of course, no one revered the goddesses more than the medicine girl.  It was their decree only a year ago that had allowed her, an unmarried girl living alone with no dowry, to sell her medicines respectfully.

One day, while gathering herbs and roots for her daily medicine making, the girl accidentally ran into the goddesses’ caravan as they returned from an extended campaign.

The captain of the caravan pushed the girl aside rudely.  As she staggered back, she noticed the caravan driver’s son, who was sitting beside his father, coughing fitfully.  So, too, were several of the guards who rode behind him. The girl knew of the illness they were displaying; it was highly contagious and, were it allowed to take its course, the entire procession would be dead by morning.

Bravely, the girl called to the caravan driver and asked that she may treat his son, noting his symptoms as she ran to keep up.  The captain left his post to kick the girl away again, but the girl stayed nimble and persistent.

This disruption passed like a wave through the procession until at its depth, the goddesses overheard of the captain shirking his duties to play with some “shrill little toy.”  The goddesses climbed out of their carriage and traveled the length of their train on foot, until they overheard the girl’s cries that she could save them.

“Save us from what?”  The North Goddess said.  She was as calm and as chill as a winter breeze, but she moved as smoothly as water.

The girl turned and was immediately awed.  She fell to her knees and prostrated herself before the four monarchs.  “Oh, great Goddess! Forgive me for disturbing your travels.”

“Oh, stop that,” said the South Goddess.  She was grounded, like her Northern counterpart, but could appear cool like a crisp autumn afternoon.  “What were you saying about saving us?”

The girl lifted her head.  “That is, my ladies, I have seen that some of your companions are sick.  I know this illness well, and I would like to provide the treatment, that you may all live on peacefully.”

The East Goddess clapped her hands.  She was bright and pleasant as springtime, but she could be a bit flighty.  “How strangely she talks, but how sweet! So what’s the problem? Give them the cure.”

Once more the girl lowered her face to the ground.  “I cannot. That is, your captain has forbidden me to administer the dosage.”

The West Goddess glared so hard at the captain, he flinched.  The heat in her eyes, usually bestowing summer warmth, bespoke of her fiery temper when her patience was low.  “I understand your concern, captain, but shouldn’t we test her theory if it is right? After all, you don’t want to be the reason we all die.

“I mean–that is, of course not, your grace,” stammered the captain.  “But who should test it to be sure it isn’t poison?”

The girl did not hesitate.  “I will test it, of course,” she cried, and immediate ate a double dose of the medicine.  The goddesses, the captain, and the caravan driver all watched her nervously. Minutes passed, then an hour.

Finally, bored out of her mind, the East Goddess exclaimed, “Well, if she was to die, I think she would at least be twitching now.  Let us distribute the medicine.”

The captain could refuse no longer, and the girl tended to the caravan driver’s son at once.  Within half an hour, his coughing fit subsided, and his eyes had cleared. All others who were inflicted also quickly recovered.

Once it had been confirmed that all of the afflicted were well away from death’s clutches, the caravan made camp for the night.  The goddesses summoned the girl after she had made her final round to her patients. “We wish to thank you for your help, dear girl,” said the South Goddess.  “Without you, many innocents would have died.”

The girl was still quite nervous around the goddesses, but she did her best to hide it.  “It was my pleasure, my ladies. It is the least I can do to repay my gratitude.”

“Gratitude?” the South Goddess asked.

“For the decree that you passed last year.”  The goddesses stared at her blankly, and the girl straightened up.

Since the decree was announced in her town last year, the girl had dreamt of a magical, near-impossible day when she could tell the goddesses herself just how grateful she was for the freedom and allowance she had received.  The scorn and disgust in her fellow villagers’ eyes as she had attempted to give credence to her trade had made business-building tough. Without a father, brother, or husband to vouch for her, she had been  nothing more than a foolish waif daring to ignore the system.

“The one about allowing unmarried women to lead their own businesses.  It has given me much regard in my town now. Women everywhere in the kingdom, whether married or no, with children or no, can create their own destinies with the talents of their hands and the brilliance of their minds!”

“Really?  That was a thing?” said the North Goddess.

“Which one of us was in charge of business license decree approvals last year?” asked the South Goddess.  North and West Goddess pointed to East Goddess.

The East Goddess shrugged.  “I guess I approved it.  Oh, I had to sign so many things last year.  I didn’t feel like going through each of them, so I just signed them all. I guess that decree was one of them.”

The West Goddess laughed long and loud.  “Well, wasn’t that lucky for us? Looks like we saved our own lives.”

The goddesses began to tease East Goddess mercilessly and talk so happily among themselves; they completely forgot that the girl was present.  After a minute or two, she bowed to the goddesses and retired through the shadows of the forest to her own humble house not too far away.

She had missed a full day’s work tending to the goddesses’ caravan and had not even received payment for her services.  Still, that was a small price to pay knowing the goddesses were alive and well. In her small way, maybe the girl had helped keep the kingdom in balance.  If any of the goddesses had even become partially ill, the entire country would fall into chaos.

The goddesses were as marvelous and as radiant as she had always expected them to be.  To know that she’d spoken to them–in real life, not in a dream!–made her shiver and shake with the revelation of it all.  And how approachable! They’d seemed to have no trouble addressing and engaging her.  For a blink, an observer might have seen them all as casual acquaintances.  At least, they would have if she was wearing a wealthier cut of clothing.

It didn’t matter that they hadn’t even know that they’d signed the business decree.  It didn’t matter that they hadn’t realized the impact of such a simple action. It simply mattered that they did it.  For it is less important as to the purpose of the action, than it is that the action has been fulfilled to complete satisfaction.

Isn’t it?

The End