Category Archives: Blog Challenge

Unintended Consequences

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castle consequence

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

7c293f567878d204f3613fb0926af1b4--illuminated-letters-illuminated-manuscriptnce upon a time there was a household in turmoil. One sister, one brother, and a widow who had lost the will to keep her children proper. Her husband left her with the debt of the home and the banes of her life.

illustrated Every day the siblings fought, cursed, threw fragile items at each other, stole what they could and sold those items. They wound up at the village pub drinking until oblivion took them both.

illustrated But one day the widow unexpectedly left, never to return. By the end of the first week they tore through the makings of their home. What they couldn’t sell, they bartered. They ate, drank, and took care of their baser needs.

illustrated Because of that they soon ran out of money. The sister and brother had to vacate, unable to pay the house debt. With little more than a bag of clothing each, they set off in opposite directions. The sister vowed to never to see her brother again. He felt the same.

illustrated Because of that as they traveled, taking whatever work they could find. Without the sense to save what they could, the sister and brother would find themselves penniless soon after receiving pay. What wasn’t spent on food and alcohol went to gambling. Outside of the comfort and safety of the village they grew up left them adrift. Often robbed, both suffered beatings, and sometimes worse.

illiustrated Until finally, many months later, each sibling took root in a haven. Broken to their cores by this time, they each had the chance to rebuild their lives. Both found themselves welcomed and absorbed into the communities they now called home.

illustrated E coloredver since then each found acceptance, and love, in their ways. They kept their vows: they never saw each other ever again. As to the widow, she moved in with her sister and her family in a completely different direction from her children’s wanderings. She never heard from, or saw, them again. She lived out her life in bliss.

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Author’s Notes:

  1. The above was from #FlashFiction Prompt from my friends over at Fiction Can Be Fun. This time, the prompt was just this: A case of the law of unintended consequences. Rules are simple:
  • Word count: 500 – 1,500 (ish)
    Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 11th October 2019
  • Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

The proprietors of Fiction Can Be Fun, Debs and David, are working on a shared novel that I can’t wait to read (yes, I still would love to be a Beta reader for the two of you). I met them during the AtoZ Blog Challenge in April of 2018, and I’m glad we have remained in contact. Visit their page. Lots of great stories, challenges, and essays to sink your teeth into.

2) The words in italics after the illuminated letters is from an Improv technique I’ve used for years in warmups and in my workshops and school residencies. I recently found out that the style is credited to Kenn Adams, author, educator, teaching artist, and performer. He is the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater based in Islip, New York (but they do travel across the country).

The pattern for Improv, and what I used above, is:

  • Once upon a time
  • Every Day
  • But one day
  • Because of that
  • Because of that
  • Until finally
  • Ever since then

If running this in a warm-up or as a rehearsal exercise, the amount of Because of that would increase due to how many were in attendance.

And…sorry, Debs & David, the word count is only 321.

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They Ran

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

THEY RAN

Propped up by the blasted wall, seven faced their executioners.

Each of the seven different from the other, facing seven of one kind, their weapons raised.

“This is war,” echoed in seven languages, “and you ran. No excuses. No pleas. No last words, signs, or prayers. Nothing. You ran. Others of your kind died. It would have been the same if you aimed at them yourselves and fired.”

A nod. Of the runners: three fell; one cut in half; one shattered; another fused into the wall; one vaporized.

Seven colored fluids pooled; the only mix allowed beyond the Rim worlds.

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Author’s Note: The picture above, by Shari Marshall, was a prompt posted on her page, Writing is Communication. The prompt was to use her photo, created your tale on your own blog, then post a link to your story in her comments section.  We each see what we see in the photo. This was my take.

I also did this as a Drabble (100 words exact). Beyond posting a link, and using the photo prompt, you can go anywhere with the photo.

Give it a shot.

Pun intended.

My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher: Flash Fiction (Prompt)

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ashton

FLASH FICTION PROMPT

MY HOT FLING WITH ASHTON KUTCHER

Top-down on my Shelby Mustang Convertible, white canvas snug against the red cherry finish, Ashton and I cruise along Route 1. Food was the topic of discussion, led by the intermittent growls from our stomachs. There was a stretch of road where they held a deep conversation, with each expressing a point vs. counterpoint on which fast food death-pit we were passing at the moment. Ashton and I laughed after the fifth such conversation, holding out stomachs more to quiet them down than to ease the aches.

The stereo was on 11 since we drove in the open air. Our playlist was Spotify controlled, a created loop aggregated through hours of controlled listening. Ashton skipped a couple of tunes I only heard one or two notes of, settling on Flo Rida and smiling. He had the remote and the wheel. I was fine until a K-Pop pop was “suggested.” Thus began the 1.3 mile Battle of the Remote, which I won by telling a very bad pun. I switched the playlist. Little Willie John, followed by Robert Johnson. The Blues moved us along, cool wind in our hair.

“Turn left at the next light.”

I was The Navigator on this part of our road trip. I took the role seriously, as did Ashton in his role as The Driver. The Navigator calls the shots, is always right and gets the last word in where the traveling winds up.

A gear shift and a sigh came from my left. I looked over: Ashton gave me the side-eye, which made me chuckle. He had a destination he wanted to get to; it was just without any definite time constraint. That wasn’t for the sigh. I had nowhere to be, nowhere to go, and he knew that.

“You could have let me drive, y’know,” I told him.

“Yeah, I should have. But, ” he smiled, “you are a maniac when you are aimless. So…”

“So, yeah.” I let a few blocks whiz by. “There. Turn right.” I pointed in my most Captain Obvious way. Ashton did without braking. “Good boy!”

Signs started popping up for various coastal beaches as we headed along the road. I must have let out a noise of interest because Ashton began to lightly curse under his breath. He’d seen the signs as well. They weren’t ominous signs, just ones we both knew were time killers.

I noticed something up ahead on the right that lit me up. Directing Ashton to pull over and park forestalled any argument that might have been forming. As the engine pinged down, we looked to our right. Frank’s Brick Oven. Just what our growling tummies ordered.

The driver door slammed shut, and Ashton joined me at the curb.

“You knew about this place?” he asked.

“Nope. Kismet. Synchronicity. That Old Pizza Magic. Food. Yes?”

“Yes.”

Ashton had a much longer gait and got to the door first. He stopped mid-step in. I had to squeeze by, a little shove working. I froze, too, as the aroma assailed our nostrils and sent them flaring. Laughter greeted us from a waitress who was standing in front of the counter and from the counter guy behind it. I answered their laughter with a huge smile. Ashton did as well, adding “Two, please.”

Our stomachs agreed as they gurgled in complicit harmony that sent all four of us laughing.

Debbie was our waitress, shiny and new out of High School, waiting for Freshman Year at Quinnipiac College to begin. If I said that she was smitten with Ashton, I’d hold the world’s record for understatements. She did get our orders; well, Ashton helped a bit, thereby pointing out I was sitting opposite of him. Once she unglued her eyes from him, the table for two was firmly acknowledged by Debbie. I still took that as a victory.

We placed our orders: a Keto Kale Kumbaya veggie mess for Ashton while I asked for a spicy Italian meat monster. Water was fine for both of us, but Ashton asked for slices of cucumber in his, hold the ice. Debbie sighed as she took the menus from us, more so when she took Ashton’s. “Of course, Mr. Ashton” giggles got only gigglier when he told her to just call him Ashton.

I might as well have been invisible.

Both of the pizzas sent our senses into overdrive, the smell first as Debbie approached with them and then the taste with our first bites. I got another side-eye from Ashton when my pie was put down. I had already looked askance at his. We had a few rules, and this was one of them: at the meal table, our “No Proselytizing” sign went into effect. It made our respective digestions easier and let us remain friends.

We ate. We talked. We commiserated and joked. Debbie and the counter guy, Sal, got their autographs and selfies (I even got into one, a little off to the side). As Debbie was clearing the table, I ordered two large cheese, cut into 16 slices. To go. That got me my third side-eye, although this one was straight on. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Ashton nailed it. My hands did the talking, patting the air down, as I tried to settle my face into neutral. I shrugged my shoulders. Ashton let it be.

We paid, left a generous tip, and took the steaming pies to the car. I handed them to Ashton and raced to the driver’s door. As he was getting in, he was going to put the pies behind him in what Ford laughingly called a “back seat.”

“Hey!” I blanched. “Not on the leather!”

Ashton nodded, placing the very hot pies on his legs, balanced so between hands and knees for the lesser of potential pain. He understood what the Mustang meant.

Pulling away from Frank’s wasn’t easy, but carrying the goodies we had helped. I drove down the road a few miles until I saw the next beach sign. I glanced over at Ashton: he was staring off to the right. You could just see the glint of the Sound in between the flashes of the houses and trees. He didn’t even try to be The Navigator. He knew.

We found a parking spot two and a half blocks from the beach. I took one of the pizza’s from Ashton as we made our way. As we got to the entrance path eyes started turning our way. I nodded to Ashton our destination: a rocky outlook with a slight crest that led right to the roiling waves. He was looking around, making eye contact and returning “Hi’s” and “Hello’s,” but he acknowledged where we were going.

Along the way, I opened up my pizza box, offering a slice to anyone who passed by or approached. Ashton followed suit. Once emptied, a couple of kids took the boxes off our hands. We could hear them arguing over who was going to keep Ashton’s box, even though I told them he had handled both in the car.

We sat on the rocks for a long time. Ashton finally remembered he had a destination in mind, and that I had not.

The sun was setting behind us as we got in the Mustang, turned the engine on, and let the Blues wash over us.

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Author’s Note: THIS WAS A PROMPT. Repeat: THIS WAS A PROMPT.

I have never met Mr. Kutcher, know very little about him beyond what the tabloid press and Twitter say about him, and this piece, hopefully, keeps in the spirit of what he is about. At no point was this meant to demean, start a rumor, or any of the other silly nonsense that the internet is kinda-sorta known for. Now, if it had been his wife Mila Kunis instead, I probably would have chosen that, but…ahem…well, it wouldn’t be here on Tale Spinning.

People: chill.

At one of the two (three?) writing groups I attend, we were asked to write up to FIVE story titles with the caveat being that NONE OF THE STORIES ARE TRUE. We each shared two or three of our titles and then got to choose from any (or none) of those offered.

I took “My Hot Fling With Ashton Kutcher” simply because it would have been the LAST thing ever in the whole wide world I would ever write on my own. Nothing against Mr. Kutcher: he seems like a nice guy, and I honestly respect that he went before Congress and spoke against Human Trafficking and some other humanistic ideals he espouses.

When we read our pieces to each other, the response to this was very gratifying. I’m doing much more off-line writing at the moment AND trying to organize the 20th Anniversary of Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Funny: Benefit Against Violence and Hate Crimes (more on that soon: almost done with the website, but click on the link above to go to our Facebook page).

Hope you enjoyed this. Something different from me. Comments are always welcome.

Diggin’ in the Dirt

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SpookyForest

Diggin’ In The Dirt

“Bosworth, pass the pickax, s’il vous plait?”

“Oui-oui, mon sewer,” Bosworth sniggered. He wiped a grime encrusted hand across his brow, flicking droplets of dirty sweat across Mrs. Katherine Thiswhistle’s less than pristine tombstone. The moon’s refracted light was in full display, the threatening clouds still a way off. Bosworth could make out the old lady’s name as well as the inscription that hadn’t eroded: “Just put your lips together and blow.”

He had no idea what that meant.

“Here, Alf. I hope we’re done soon. This god-awful heat and humidity are wiping me out. Can’t afford that, y’know. Daphne is waiting for me, y’know.”

Alfie accepted the pickax, taking it with a jerk out of Bosworth’s outstretched hands. He kept his tongue in check, letting his instincts to berate the youth pass. “Not worth a hell of a mountain of beans,” he muttered under his breath. In the long run, Bosworth wouldn’t have heard him: when Alfie brought the pickax swinging down a large clang rang out, filling the three-foot depth they had already made.

Pain shot through Alfie’s fingers up to his shoulders. A hard swing and a hard hit. His hands were ablaze. Alfie leaned the tool against the moist earthen wall and shook his hands out, flexing his fingers. He let out a short string of curse words; Bosworth heard them and began laughing.

He peeked over the edge of the broken ground. “What’d ya hit, Alf? Sounded a lot harder than wood on its way to rot.

“Well, get your ass down here and help me find out!”

Alfie’s filth covered face accentuated the blazing whites of his eyes as he stared up at Bosworth. He heard the gulp, as he expected, and knew a point had been understood. Finally. He reached up, grabbed a double handful of pants leg fabric, and pulled.

Bosworth’s “HEY!” ended as he landed onto the grave dirt, just missing the hard object.

“Quiet, you. We need to go quieter now. The last thing we need is Old Gal Dink to wake from her Scotch dreams. Then she’d be…”

“I know. I know. ‘… She’d be screaming her blamed head off that the Ghoulies was eating her babies.” Bosworth got off the ground, wiping his hands on his pant legs, wincing a bit when he touched where Alf had grabbed him.

“Need your arms and back, not your mouth, boy. Not your mouth. Let’s see what we have here.”

Bosworth started to say something, but he realized it would be pointless. Alfie ignored him, probing the disturbed ground with the tip of the pickax. He made a display of running the tip in a circular outline, a perfect “O,” or so he told Bosworth. He instructed the boy to take up the shovel that he had abandoned earlier. “Let’s find the depth of this thing. Gently, s’il vous plait.”

Bosworth sighed, sick of the faux French, but did as he was told. The dirt moved under their probing, filling in as soon as one or the other moved it around. The bottom edge wasn’t too deep, about two manhole covers thick; Bosworth took Alf’s word for that. He was tired, pissed, and wanted to be gone.

The light was dim, or disappearing completely, with the speed of the clouds now passing overhead. Trial and error ensued, but as they used their separate tools edges their purchase points discovered. Alf grunted approval; Bosworth smiled, hoping this would bring this night’s work to an end.

“On three?” he asked.

A cloud scooted by, enough for Bosworth to see Alf nod.

“OK,” Bosworth began, “one, two…”

And he almost fell, again, as Alfie jumped the count. Alf’s side jutted up, knocking into the spade which went into his right leg. The whole thing sent him off kilter.

“What the hell, Alf. We said three. What happened to three?”

To get the shovel off of his leg, instinctively Bosworth dug down. He pushed, levered up, and evened out.

“Lift it, B. Lift it. Now!”

Taking the order, Bosworth’s teeth clenched, sharing the weight running through his arms, shoulders, and back. As they lifted, the dirt sloughed off, leaving an opaque circle etched and ridged. It became clearer as the clouds moved off, leaving the reflective rays from the moon shine at their fullest.

Bosworth’s attention was riveted on the disc in his hands, so much so that he hadn’t realized that he was now carrying the majority of the bulk. Alfie did have hold of it, but he pushed at an angle, the face of the disc towards Bosworth.

The circle became radiant. It soaked up the diffused light, going bright and ultra-violet. Bosworth’s eyes erased in an instant. He did not see that the etches and ridges shone as distinct runic figures and symbols. He did not feel the heat sear into his blistering skin. The sting of a million light particles meant nothing to him; he did not feel the bones in his fingers crack and shatter, nor his humerus, radius, ulna, and on and on. They broke. He was gone.

Alfie had already jumped back, his eyes tightly shut, face pressed into the damp earth wall. He felt the painful sensations as they ran across his back, but he still smiled even as he howled. The disc made a distinctive thump as it hit the dirt, taking the light with it.

Alfie did a backwards duck walk to free himself. He was digging the dirt out of his nose and ears while he spat out the bits that wormed their way into his mouth. Once clear, he called out for Bosworth, but knew he’d get no answer. He stood, leaned both hands on the top of the grave, and said a quick prayer.

He was unsteady for a few moments: same as it ever was. Alfie cleared any remaining muck from around his eyes and opened them.

Alfie looked down, waited, and then sighed deeply. Nothing moved except for his antsy feet.

“Well, Katherine, summer help, eh? Next time. I’ll choose better next time.”

Three Ships, Aye

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THREE SHIPS, AYE

“Again!”

“Oh, Scotty. Really?”

“Please, Grandpa?”

Sighing, Grandpa begins…

The night brought a storm, unlike any other. The sailors of the three ships, every one of them, prayed to whatever they prayed to as they were tossed back and forth. Too many were tossed overboard by the heaving waves, men and women becoming one with the sea waters. The three captains could not spare the time to worry about any one person: they had hundreds to try to save, but it was the three ships that were their lives and it was the ships they cared for most of all.

They knew it was their fault, for setting onto the unsettled waters that night. Warned, the three ignored the then possible danger for the chances presented to them. A win is what they needed, badly, and so caution was forgotten for what could be. They paid for their single-mindedness, more than any of them thought was due.

“Grandpa?”

“Yes, Scotty?”

“Why?”

“You ask that question every single time, and the answer is always the same, kiddo. Greed, and ego, make people do some very stupid things.”

“My teacher says ‘stupid’ isn’t a good word to say.”

“That, in itself, is… sigh… never mind. People do stupid things. Ok?”

“Yup.”

“Now, the ships…”

The waves rocked up and dove down, pockets of watery walls that closed in on the three ships. Two were hit head-on, while the other crushed inwards. The screech of the metals mixed with the roar of the storm, drowning out the wails of the sailors. That it didn’t go under, then, was a miracle that no one noticed. The other ships were being battered senseless at the same time. The ocean rose and took control.

When dawn came, it was hidden by the still raging storm. There was no breaking in the skies, but only upon the roiling waters. Any left alive noticed nothing more than the buffeting, the pain, the need for it all to be over. One captain was already gone, not surviving the crushing, and one other had lost any cognizant capability. Others tied that captain to a chair on the bridge and left. That captain’s eyes glazed with dark waters.

“The third captain, Grandpa!”

“Why don’t YOU tell me? You know the story.”

“…”

“Scotty?”

“I. I like the way you tell it.”

…..

“Grandpa?”

“I love you, Scotty.”

“I love you, too.”

The third captain pushed on. There was no other way except to give up and accept what the sea and the storm demanded. This captain was seen in every part of the ship, urging, threatening, working alongside the crew. They threw themselves into a new fervor of working to save themselves and the captains’ ship. There was nothing to be done beyond their drenched space to keep going.

Finally, nature settled. From pure rage to utter stillness, the three ships were still afloat. Weak shouts went up across the bows. The sea moved the ships together, grouped in a battered trio of wounds. The sun blazed down, no clouds obscuring the burning heat.

From still day to night, the seas propelled the ships. Most on board were unable to process what was happening: none of the equipment worked, most of the crew injured, in one way or another. During the night, more died.

Come the morning, those left found themselves beached. The waters had receded, the sea water unseen, leaving all three ships sunk in sodden sand. The survivors went ship to ship, rescuing those they could, leaving those that were beyond help.

The lone captain stood, ankle deep in the wet shore, with the remaining sailors spread out. They looked at the tilted ships, renewed their prayers, and left. The captain was the last to look away but joined the others from behind as they made their ways to a life different than what they had hoped for.

“The end.”

“Grandpa…”

“Yeah, Scotty?”

“So?”

“You know, kiddo. You know. I’m getting tired. You should be, too. Time to turn off the light and get to sleep.”

“Grandpa. Please.”

——

“Please.”

“Fine.”

They followed without a thought. They went without care. Their goal was senseless, and their deaths even more so. The destruction they found were caused by being heedless of the signs, of ignoring anything but their wants. Not needs, their wants. And if they learned anything from any of this hubris-and I’ve already explained hubris to you, twice, tonight, so forget it-it did not show in any of their actions.

So, they were doomed. Doomed to do what they did, to do it again. Maybe in a different way, but still, in the end, they did it again. And again.

“Stupid.”

“Yes, stupid. Get some sleep, Scotty. Love you.”

“Love you too, Grandpa.

Grandpa?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t do anything stupid. Ok?”

“I’ll try not to.”

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Author’s Note:

The above comes from a photo prompt posted on Fiction Can Be Fun.

I have mentioned my association with Debs and David (who co-write their blog) before, having met them during the 2018 AtoZ Blog Challenge. You’d do yourself a big favor if you followed them and have the pleasure of enjoying their writing. Their WIP is going through its final stages and I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you want to join in on the writing prompt (and I strongly encourage it), here are the “rules”:

Any style, any genre, just nothing NSFW – otherwise the world is your oyster.
Tell us your tale …

Word count: 500 – 1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm GMT on Friday 12th July 2019

Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

So, join in. Write. You’ll be glad you did.

PS: if anyone cares, I wrote this while listening to The Essential Leonard Cohen. Who do you listen to while you write?

She Saw Angel Wings

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She Saw Angel Wings

Rebecca asked for realism, but got magic instead.

The sharp, stinging burn faded with the constant vibrations. Her eyes closed as the artist’s tool slid the needle in and out at a rapid-fire pace. She wanted to count in the beginning as a means of focus, but that Rebecca got to two and no further. It was her first tattoo; she had put it off long enough, way after everyone she knew were walking canvases. Nothing spoke to Rebecca, nothing said “Yes, this!”, until her soul touched her arm.

Rebecca came across the hibernating Polygona while exploring the abandoned Willes house that previous winter. She and Dale had been traveling, searching through dilapidated, seemingly forgotten structures that were left standing, or, in the case of the Willes’ house, partially leaning. They were trespassing and had enough run-ins with various law agencies to know it, but the thrill of their journey blew those concerns away. They were accruing dying testimonies of what was before the rate of erosion took it all away.

That, or the many developers who only saw money in the land.

Dale had remained below on the first floor, busy taking photos with her new Nikon Z6. Rebecca was glad she had splurged on this for Dale’s 25th. The light inside that she had fallen in love with had begun to dim over the last year, that one infidelity one too many; but this object, this thing, seemed to bring it back, sharper, keener, and much more focused.

“Becki, be careful,” lay behind her as she stalked up the slanted stairway to the second floor. Rebecca clutched her sketch pad in her left hand as she white-knuckled the stair railing with her right. Safe on the landing, she released a “yeah, yeah,” white puffs in the chill air as she walked down the hallway, three doors partly ajar, beckoning.

The ceiling molding in the second bedroom was intricate. Rebecca sat in front of the smeared window, having rubbed away enough grime to allow more sunlight into the room. She got lost duplicating the patterns, time passing as the sun moved along its path, erasing when the moving shadows changed her perspective.

Part of the ceiling had caved in, revealing part of the structure between this room and the attic. Something was there that was not wood, wallpaper, or flaking glue. Rebecca pushed her glasses up her nose with her forefinger, a smile etched on her face from Dale’s teasing of the same constant gesture. She stood and reached out with her Palomino Blackwing, reversed so the point would not break. The light wasn’t really with her.

Rebecca took out her cell and activated the flashlight. She hadn’t realized that she had made a noise until Dale came rushing into the room asking what the matter was, she had heard her gasp from below.

“Look, Dale. Angelwings!”

“What? Oh, yeah, your dad.”

“He loved butterflies.”

“Is it dead?,” she asked.

“Hibernating. They hibernate, rare in a house, but… well, there! Hold this, please.”

Rebecca gave her cell, flashlight still lit, to Dale, repositioning her arm every time she put her pencil to paper, seeing the butterfly in a new angle. A few sighs and disgruntled “Becki, C’mon” comments didn’t halt the five pages of full and partial sketches that followed.

The last exasperated puff of air over her shoulder brought Rebecca back. The pencils went back into their case and into her backpack, the sketchbook following. She took the phone from Dale, leaving the flashlight on as she realized they were now in a very dark room. Dale leaned in for a kiss and got a perfunctory one in return: movement from slightly above had recaptured Rebecca’s attention.

Wings fluttered, a slow heartbeat of one, then another. She was transfixed, staring, knowing she did not touch it, knowing it shouldn’t be awake, but Rebecca held her breath as the Angelwing took wobblily flight. It was coming towards the light in her hand, attracted like a moth, but gliding through the dust mote air.

The butterfly landed on her left arm. Rebecca couldn’t move; the butterfly didn’t. The wings were translucent, and even though she knew the coloring was wrong, this one was summer greens on her arm. Dale took a few steps back and snapped a series of shots from any angle possible as Rebecca, and her Anglewing tagged each other into statues.

A beep from the cell, battery dying, and the mood broke. Rebecca’s startled movement sent the Angelwing flying. She watched as it flew up to the crevice between the floors and disappeared. They left the house soon after: there was no safe way to get to the attic. Dale had to take Rebecca’s hand and lead her out.

They drifted apart as well, months later, spring just knocking away the frigid weather that followed. Rebecca looked for butterflies everywhere, in reality, and through her imagination. Sheer fabric became wings; cotton balls became cocoons. Clouds, mist, steam out of the kettle. All this took Dale away and into the arms of another; Rebecca saw it happen and did nothing to prevent it.

Rebecca’s obsession with butterflies overtook her. She researched mythologies, folktales, symbolism. She drew and painted and sculpted butterflies. It wasn’t enough. She reconnected with her father. He went with her on her search the following winter for the Willes house, but it had fallen sometime during that year, a mass of timber and broken glass left behind, a sign in front that stated the property was sold for development. No butterfly. No Angelwings. Not in that spot. Not in that new winter.

The following summer found Rebecca hosting a booth of her art at the state Renaissance Faire. Business was good, and she had many offers of commissions, for her art as well as her time. She was gracious with both, but her eyes searched along the fields that weren’t trampled upon for something else. They were there, flying around, hiding, resting, being chased by children, barked at by dogs, hunted by the birds.

Two booths away were the beginning of Tattoo Alley. Rebecca had been admiring the art that went on there in most of the tents, not all. One, in particular, caught her eye every time she would take her break and walk the grounds. This artist specialized in things in flight, realistic depictions as well as abstract. The presentation of a summer-long project on one of the Faire’s workers back-an angel in flight-drew massive applause from all and the full attention of Rebecca.

Bringing her sketchbooks over while there was that end of the summer lull, Rebecca and Cynthia poured over the images and discussed what could, and should (in Cynthia’s critical eye) be done: a full sleeve, left arm, from wrist to shoulder. A weaving of butterflies in flight and at rest, with the centerpiece being the Polygona, in shades of green.

It took the next month of scheduling, sketches, arguing, fussing, and agreements before Rebecca took the chair and Cynthia began her art. The sleeve was complete by the first frosts of Autumn; Rebecca made sleeveless tops her main go to, only covering up her arms when frostbite threatened (or so related Cynthia to their friends).

“They are hibernating,” she would tell others when she was covered up, keeping her arm as still as can be.  As soon as the temperature inside, or the weather outdoors, allowed, they were set free. Rebecca felt free, even when Cynthia held her.

She had asked for realism, but found magic instead.

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Author’s Note:

This was inspired by the photo at the head of this piece. I met this young woman at a dance performance and was taken by the artistry of the tattoo. The photo does not do it justice.

Before anyone gets on my case: I politely asked if I may take a photo of her arm, told her why I was doing so, and what I intended to do with it. She gave me her permission. I also showed her the photo so she could be assured that it centered on the art and nothing salicious. While we exchanged names, the names in this story are not hers, nor anything else beyond the tat.

The germ of a very different idea hit me when I viewed it. Where the story went, well, this is where it took me.

I’m glad I went this way. I hope, if she views this (gave her my card), she’s happy with it as well.

Withering Heights

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WITHERING HEIGHTS

The dawn broke in a ribbon of grays and burnt reds as Cathy stood upon the cliff, her gaze fixed on the distance, obscured by the haze of the morning refractive light. She pulled her off-white shawl tight over her shoulders, then cinched her leather tooled belt to the gasping point in an attempt to ward off the chill of the lingering night air. A shiver ran through her chest, startling her eyes to a downward glance, her teeth ground tight to prevent their chattering. A sob tried to escape, but, firmly lodged, it choked her to silence.

“It’s me. Cathy,” she whispered, near inaudible.

Far below, the sea foamed, crashing up and against the abstract of rocks jutting out of the waters. Cathy found herself taking a step back, then another. Wind whipped up with force, hitting her so that her hair became unbound, freed as if from a practiced hand. Her auburn strands danced out, up, and around, swaddling her freckled face, her eyesight obscured.

Wind and hair subsided as fast as it had thrashed up. She let her tresses lay where they fell, clenching her shawl even tighter in her too white fingers. Cathy allowed free passage of the wetness flowing down, past her nose, cheeks, and chin. Her right hand wanted to wipe them away, but it remained where it was in the folds of the once warm fabric.  She knew she was not now alone on the crags.

He was behind her. She felt he always was.

“Cathy.”

Her name drifted over the mist that surrounded her, syllables riding between the dew drops in the moving air.

“Cathy.”

Her fleshed crawled with hundreds of raised bumps, ones never derived from any goose that shat upon God’s green pastures.

“Cathy,” and her heart skipped a beat, and then another. Her eyes closed against her will, lips parting, a web of saliva breaking as the distance grew. “Cathy,” and the voice implored her, begged, rose to a controlling pitch.

“Cathy. Call me. Say my name.”

She mouthed his name without a sound.

“Please,” seeped at her back, closer than it had ever been before. “Call my name.”

Cathy tried, but, in shaking, breathless, she did as he asked.

“Cthulhu.”

“Again,” he cajoled.

“Cthulhu!”; wrung out with tears.

“Now, Cathy, Now!”

Her voice cracked, merged with the violence of the waves from below and the returned force of the winds:

“Cthulhu!

Cthulhu!

Cthulhu!”;

And she fell onto the damp moss that had lied about her feet. It cradled her body, her clothing absorbing the moisture, her shawl laden with a mixture of this water from the morn and her streaming teary emissions.

Cathy locked her arms around herself, deep within the folds of her wear. Her knees drew themselves inwards, her chin burrowed into her chest, and the reddish hue of her hair hid her face, creating a darknet around her white, white skin.

A tentacled appendage glided gently under her still form, followed by another as the first gained a secure hold. Then another, and still another, until Cthulhu’s embrace cocooned Cathy. Lifting her into the air, Cthulhu’s face burrowed into her hair. He drew his arms around her, then.

Cathy smelled the salty brine of him. Licking her lips, her tongue swirled the sea waters from below that mixed with the tang of other dimensions, repellant and inviting.
She drew them in, letting this fill her throat in a trickle of infusion.

“It is time, Cathy,” Cthulhu purred. It was what she had come here, on this cliff, on this jagged height, to hear. She gave herself over, open to the void Cthulhu offered, his expanse, his otherness.

“Come,” he said.

“Yes,” she answered. “Yes.”

The waves crashed against, and consumed, the empty precipice.
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Author’s Note:

A prompt was given at one of the writing groups I attend. In the space of 45 minutes:

“Write a story where you place a fictional character in the WRONG story.”

So, Withering Heights. Who is in the wrong story, or, is this the right story for the wrong reasons?

Obviously, well, to me, anyway, I drew on several literary reference points, as well as one literary musical place, for inspiration.  Care to break them down in the comments section?

Hope you enjoyed. BTW: this is my very first attempt at Gothic Romance/Horror. Yes? No? Maybe so? Let me know.

 

Ponderings: Sunday Stealing Questions

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PONDERINGS

Quote from Host Bev Sykes of sundaystealing.blogspot.com and the blog “Funny the World”.

Welcome to Sunday Stealing.
This feature originated and published on WTIT: The Blog. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. (Past hosts include: Our first – Judd Corizan, Mr. L, Kwizgiver and Bud) Cheers to all of us thieves!
This week’s questions were originally from: Thought Provoking Questions

1. Do you own your things or do your things own you?

I’d have to say both. There are a lot that’s “When in doubt, throw it out!” and (too many) that are “Mine! Mine! Mine!”

2. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?

Hard one. I live too much in the past, and the negatives surface way too often. New ones: that’s a fear, already, as I get older.

3. How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail?

Happened to me way too often; it’s why I prefer working for myself, but I can be a real PITA to myself as well. In the past, keep going on until I can find a way out (job; etc)

4. What do you have that you cannot live without?

Friends and family.

5. When you close your eyes what do you see?

Whatever is running through my mind at the time. Vivid thinker.

6. What sustains you on a daily basis?

Hope. Wavers way too often.

7. What are your top five personal values?

  1. Living with a positive moral value system
  2. Empathy
  3. Openness in communication, thoughts, experiences
  4. Humor
  5. Being creative

8. Why must you love someone enough to let them go?

It’s a hard thing for me: see above-living in the past. If they really need to leave, I hope it’s to their betterment, in whatever way they wanted.

9. Do you ever celebrate the green lights?

Big time. Biggest thrill is hitting a long patch of green lights while driving. Try 2nd Ave (Manhattan) in the middle of the night. I’ve made it from 91st street down to 12th without a red light.

10. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?

Having to push myself to leave the house.

11. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?

Get my work published.

12. Why are you, you?

Heart and mind. I do not think linearly, mainly non-conformist, question authority, am a bit rebellious, and I embrace my inner child and my inner darkness. Pretty sure it all comes from seeing others and going “that’s not how I want to live.”

13. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?

I assume this goes with #11. Procrastination gets in the way; fear of never achieving it. I see the problem there.

14. What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?

Hectic. Painful. Lonely.

15. Is it ever right to do the wrong thing?  Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

Both depend on who/what sets the judgment of “wrong thing/right thing.” One example: people were fined (arrested?) for cleaning national parks during the “shut down.” I think that’s a no brainer: clean up the garbage.

16. How would you describe ‘freedom’ in your own words?

Nothing left to lose. Yeah, I know.

17. What is the most important thing you could do right now in your personal life?

A mutual love, caring, sharing, enjoyable, and respectful (of each other) relationship. Oh, wrong answer. Right now, stop procrastinating. 

18. If you could ask one person, alive or dead, only one question, who would you ask and what would you ask?

My dad. “What drove you to survive through the things you experienced?”

19. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

The process of sharing fun learning experiences without needing an end product.

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the writing on the wall: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

the writing on the wall

the way i hear it the dam coming apart was what took out most people around drowned or washed away but travelers passing by or those we questioned before shooting them said it was the earth quaking and moving that did the dirty leaving me confused what to believe any more water swamping the outlier citys huricanes killer tornadoes plagues of insects rodents and more running for their lives while snatching away our lives when they had the chance it makes me sicker then I already am i have the wall behind me and a roof over my head amen

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Author’s Note: Howdy. Been a month plus. I was involved with the AtoZ Blogging Challenge which took up all of my time. 36,061 words written between 26 posts, every day of April except Sundays. Phew. If you want to check it out, it is a serialized story called A Car In The Woods.

Start from the beginning, otherwise it won’t make much sense after the fourth post. Reflection post follows.

It’s #Friday Fictioneers prompt time, as always created and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog, Addicted To Purple.

The rules are simple if you’d like to join in:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt (goes up on Wednesday).
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.
  1. Add the InLinkz button (below) so your readers can find the dozens of other bloggers who have taken up this challenge.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Head, Fingers, Knees, And…/#Flashfiction

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Image courtesy of joshsdh on Flickr

HEAD, FINGERS, KNEES, AND…

Victoria cut the power to the chemical bath. She switched off anything that had to do with the process but did not continue helping the product. The ones that did were all state of the art medical machinery.  Body temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate were holding strong and steady. Electroencephalography readouts were good, better than what she had expected. She’d already had her “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” moment.

It just wasn’t an it, though. If anyone had been able to listen into Vic’s below ground lab, they would have heard “She’s Alive! She’s Alive!” instead, most likely not really understanding the true significance of those words. “Oh, a baby has been born,” would most likely have passed through most minds. They’d be partially right, but nowhere near the exact truth.

Zora had fallen back asleep after a very brief awakening. Her vocal cords weren’t ready for any major usage yet. Once her eyes, one blue, one brown, focused on Victoria, a strangled “Hi!” came out. She tried to smile. Instead her eyes closed and she purr snored almost immediately.

If Zora had stayed awake, she would have seen tears come to Vic’s eyes, felt the back of her love’s hand softly stroke across her stitched cheek, and heard “I’ve missed you,” repeated over and over.

Victoria spent the next four hours rechecking all the vitals, monitoring for any abnormalities, changing out IV drip bags when depleted. Her back and feet ached, and the tension pressure between her eyes and above her temples made her want whiskey in the worst way. She couldn’t, and she wouldn’t. Vic had promised.

The day the bandages came off, Zora’s heart rate was elevated; Victoria’s stomach was twisted in a knot. Zora, once unraveled, stared at her new body in the mirrored wall that Vic had put up just for her. The stitching was everywhere. They ran from top to bottom at the seams of the body. In a few places, the processed collagen had already dissolved,  leaving a whisper of scarring. Some of the more invasive sections would take longer, having needed synthetic materials woven into the collagen.

A wig would cover Zora’s scalp sutures, giving it time to heal and for natural hair to grow. Her wrists would be bangled, neck scarved, with socks, long skirts, and loose blouses taking care of the rest. Victoria handed over Zora’s favorite sunglasses, from before. She put them on, still naked before her reflection, her lips forming a closed, thin line. Zora took them off and handed them back.

“My breasts hurt,” murmured to her reflection.

Victoria pressed herself lightly into Zora’s back, wrapping her arms around her waist, planting a soft kiss on her neck.

“It’ll take a little time, love. Time you now have.”

Zora’s arms crossed over Vic’s, her new fingers interlacing awkwardly. Victoria shifted hers for comfort, closing her eyes as she took in the new smell and feeling of the new body she was holding.

She missed seeing Zora’s frown, the scrunching that reached from the shudder in her lips to her puckered brow.

I didn’t feel her kiss. I don’t feel her hands,” tumbled through her old mind, new head.

Zora’s new heart seized for a moment.

It passed when she remembered to breathe.

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The above story came from a prompt on Fiction Can Be Fun. Fiction Can Be Fun is a writing project run by David @breakerofthings and Debs @debsdespatches.

The prompt & “rules”:

Imagine one morning you woke up and your fingerprints weren’t your own anymore. Why not? What happens next?

Post your story on your site and link to it on Fiction Can Be Fun in the comments , or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

Word count: no more than 1,000 words
Deadline is 2pm GMT, on 10th May 2019

Anyone can join in. Give it a go.