Category Archives: Blogs

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.”

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I’ll Hold You In My Heart

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fire

I’ll hold you in my heart

Pump you from chamber to chamber

Pour breath through valves

Squeeze and contract you

Keep you deep inside.

I’ll hold you in my heart

And send you plummeting through clogged passages

You’ll be sent careening along the way

Until

When you’re wrong for my heart and form a clot;

Ooze instead of flow, constrict and damage,

And if I’m lucky

If I’m lucky

I’ll push you from my heart

Allow the arteries to work again

Jettison you from my chambers

Where I will tear the vein out of my wrist

And let you drip out on the floor

 

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?

Forgotten Way (Part One)

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Forgotten Way

Part One

A dark, dirt road that led upwards, vanishing into untamed bramble, caught my eye as a Ford F-150 screeched to a stop. My chest tightened in a quick, sharp snap, the thought of being T-boned by that monster coming too close to reality. I remembered to breathe, not realizing I had stopped, as my foot pressed the accelerator down. A sign darted by as I sped along, naming the road.

Forgotten Way.

As I drove down Route 9, I found my concentration waver: I wasn’t sure at the moment if it was the near miss of the truck or the near miss of that road. My hands grew clammy, and a buildup of saliva sent me into a small coughing fit as I choked upon swallowing it.

A mile passed in less than a minute. It was a good thing there were no police on the road at the time.

Once I reached my destination, other things took my attention: Kelly, the woman I came to meet, beat me to the picnic grounds. She was waiting by her car. Her purple summer dress clung to her, which drew my eyes at first. The tilt of her head and her half smile brought me closer. “Men,” she said, her smile broadening until it disappeared with the kiss that she laid on me. We stood like that until a woman walking by harrumphed us. Our foreheads met as our lips parted. Eyes closed, I began to smile, but lost it as a stray thought hit me.

Forgotten Way.

She could feel me tense, asking me what just happened. I laughed it off, blaming it on the “harumpher” and her puritanical ways. That got a small smack on my upper arm, another kiss, this one a peck, and we broke apart to get the food she had brought and the blanket and wine I had in my car. Hand in hand, we left the parking lot and traveled into the park for the night’s entertainment.

The music was wonderful, the company more so. We had decided earlier that we’d end our evening here instead of going to one of our places for the night. She was leaving extra early on a business trip the next morning and made the time and effort to at least spend this time with me, for us. I agreed, reluctantly, saying I also had tons to do the next day and also had an early start.

I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure she knew I was fabricating it all. She let it lie, and I appreciated it. Nothing was going on, and nothing had been going on for way too long until she had entered my life. The last thing I wanted to do was to blow it this early in what I hoped would be a relationship.

Stowing away the blanket and picnic ware, we leaned against her car in a Goodnight kiss. She was beginning to waver in her decision to go home alone: I was long past wavering, having mentally abandoned that choice after our first kiss that evening. But, again, I didn’t want to blow things. You know when you can tell there is something really special about the other? She was it, for me, and while I pressed a little bit, I rode evening out as planned.

Her biting my lip with our last kiss did not help in that decision.

She took off first. I idled a little, thinking, adjusting myself, and turned on the car stereo system. Static filled the cabin, and I had to tune around to find something I wanted to hear. At that point, the night’s music was enough in my head, so I turned off the system, put the car in reverse, and almost hit the walking “harumpher” who was passing right behind me.

She screeched, and a stream of well laid curses and obscenities spewed forth. My heart did a quick skip: for that moment, I was back with the almost T-bone, back at Forgotten Way. Then reality hit me as she smacked her hand on the trunk of my car and shambled off. I left the grounds without any further incident and made my way back along Route 9.

A twenty-four-hour gas station/mini-mart was my first destination. I needed the facilities, and a snack would be welcome. The kid at the counter was a familiar face. I’d stopped here a couple of times in the past month, ever since Kelly and I had met cute. He said, “howdy,” I said, “hi,” and he scanned my snack and soda.

Outside, a semi whooshed by, tooting its air horn, and it brought me back to earlier in the evening. I asked the kid about Forgotten Way. It wasn’t that far down the road from the station. He looked at me, bagged my loot, scratched at a pimple on his nose, and shrugged.

“Never heard of it,” he finally answered.

There was nothing to push with the teen. I thanked him and left the mart. Getting in my car, I felt that tightness in my chest again. Taking a swig of my soda, and then popping open the bag of chips and munching a few, did nothing to alleviate the pressure inside of me. Turning the car over, I sat.

There were two ways to get out of the area, the quickest being the road I was already on. I debated for a few moments, feeling silly in the end over my indecision. Part of me wanted to call Kelly, or head over and “surprise” her, but I didn’t.

Checking behind me very carefully-I wasn’t sure The Harumpher wouldn’t have been waiting for me-I backed out of the spot, came to the exit of the lot, and turned right onto Route 9. Towards home. Towards Forgotten Way.

I should have gone the other way home.

 

To be continued

 

 

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.

Sonnet: Dance

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Dedication Anew, to the Pilobolus crew

Tale Spinning

Dance, she said, as if nothing else mattered

Undulating to an inner rythem

The soles of her feet bleeding and tattered

Never once off beat, no movement schism.

Twirling and drops, all new levels she found

Jeté off the floor, with a mighty leap

Cascading in the air; swirling around

Then crumble to the ground, sprawling heap.

But, if the knees gave way and the bones creak

If the supple muscles give to decay

If the energy wanes leaving her weak

What happens to her if dance goes away?

She must dance to the end, freely flowing

The movements leave her breathless and glowing

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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.

 

Unseasonable Conditions: Prompting Shakespeare

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Unseasonable Conditions

Prompting Shakespeare #2

“Now is the Winter of our discontent,” Gloucester began but was interrupted in the harshest of ways.

As he cleaned the soggy tomato remains off of his face, he heard from the side of the groundling’s pit where the fetid fruit was tossed from, these chilling words: “It ain’t Winter, you daft foot-licker. We are in Spring, ain’t we?”

From the other side, another tomato was flung, but it missed its mark by a toadstool. Mumbles of agreement, noddings of heads, and a robust “Here! Here!” egged the tosser’s taunting on.

“We had our Winter. Not too harsh, no, not like the good old days.” More mumbled agreements met that statement. “Used to be piles and piles of the shite, big enough to toss a body under and scurry away. Bodies popping up all over the place come Spring. Not, um, like I would know anything about that.”

Another groundling piped up: “When we used to have us a real Spring, not this sodden mess we ‘ave been soaked with. The muck we trudge through on a normal day is bad enough without all this rain!”

A chorus of agreement sounded out. At the tail end of rabble’s babble, a lone voice could be heard from the back of the pit, close to the stalls. “Verily! Verily!” He was beaten to unconsciousness with a flurry of sausages on sticks.

Gloucester, aghast, was being nudged to go, make a good show of it.

He cleared his voice loud enough to draw attention back to the stage. The jumping up and down helped. The audience guffawed loudly, except for the few who were enjoying the sausage whipping they maintained on the “Verily” clotpole.

Taking his royal stance, https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/About.aspx once again tried to get his soliloquies started. He got as far as “Now is the…” before a shower of rotten tomatoes spread around, and on, him.

Breaking character, he stomped to the near edge of the raised platform. Tossing his arms up, he yelled: “Now, wait, you bloody wankers!”

Near quiet settled over the crowd. Before Gloucester continued, he eyed one snaggled-toothed crone by the stage. She was brandishing a reasonably large summer squash. Glaring at her, the squash slowly sank out of site.

“Cease and desist this vexing behavior. This is a play. We are merely the vehicles to voice the words of a true master of playwrights. The history we represent is our shared histories. This…”

“Is boring, is what it is,” yelled the first tomato flinger. A cheer went up from the crowds, both groundlings and those in the stalls. A tawdry red-haired wench was now at his side, snuggling up close, drawn by the attention this one was receiving from the crowd.

“Enough! Enough! If you lot would stop with the insults. And the rotten fruit hurling,” Gloucester noticed that the summer squash had reappeared. “And other propulsive objects, then the entire point of our play would show itself. We don’t always need sword fights and constant mayhem.”

The second pipper-upper bellowed out: “But we like them. Why we come. A little blood action on stage boils me own blood!”

Cheers rang out even more raucously around the domeless arena. The PU wound up with a devastating kiss, delivered by the pre-mentioned red-headed wench, who had wound her way towards him upon hearing “boiling blood.” They left in an abrupt hurry.

As they made their way, those left in the pit began a growing war chant: “Fight! Fight! Fight!” It grew in intensity. All the actors knew the stage was lost. Gloucester was last, dragging his feet. He picked up his pace as the summer squash rolled by.

Turning once more in the desperate hope of changing their minds, Gloucester could only fixate on the malicious grin from the hag in the front. He bolted offstage. A hideous cackle followed him.

The stage manager looked at him askance, then hurried off. It was a lonely walk back to the dressing closet. Gloucester didn’t notice, nor care, that the bear and its baiter passed him by. The boisterous cheers let him know; the battle was lost. The stage was theirs.

Shedding the bits and pieces of his costume, and character, sighing heavily with the removal of each piece, William was falling into a dark place. The remaining looked at each other, finally pushing Young Tim on.

“Master Shakespeare, they were just a bunch of ruffians. Huge uneducated ones at that, not hearing the poetry of your words before them.”

“But, the histories…”

Old Tim sauntered over.

“Willie,” he said, slapping his leader on the back. “This is good for the Royals. This bunch? They want fun and depravity. Come, let’s get out of here and put some beer into you.”

Half-heartedly, the company of players left to get malt-wormed.

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Author’s Note:

Another prompt from a different writers group was the word “Unseasoned.” Make of it what you will and write. So, ten of us went to task. The above was my take. Stumped, the line from Richard III flitted through my noggin, and here we are.

For those who don’t know, Shakespeare did more than write his plays. He hit the stage with his troupes, as well as taking on several other roles. From what I’ve read, his level of performance was rated from “better stick to writing” to “he gave a good showing.” Make of that what you will for Will.

Click on the link for more facts on The Globe Theater, the groundlings, the stalls, and more.

A site I just found, and now love, is SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS, created in 2018 by David and Ben Crystal. If you are not familiar with some of the words in my tale, this site is an excellent place to find their meanings and much more.

One last thing: Shakespeare’s plays are BEST when you see a heartfelt performance. Reading them, as well, is vital for scholarly pursuits, other educational sharing, and all involved in putting on a production.

Remember: the play’s the thing.

The Fault of Underlings: Prompting Shakespeare

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THE FAULT OF UNDERLINGS

Prompting Shakespere #1

The wall, the big, honking wall, blocked their way. This troupe of merry wanderers, The Misfit Players, Inc., was mightily perplexed. Their GPS systems failed them, one and all, as they came to a stop, looking agape at the deterrent before them.

“Odds Bodkins,” Nick Bottom, vexed, said as he removed himself from the VW Microbus that he shared with Peter Quince and Robin Starveling.  Quince had to remind Bottom to turn the engine off and headlights.  With a low whistle and a moan, Peter left the van.  Robin followed on his heels. Reaching Bottom, all three stared at the wall in front of them.

“Tom Snout! Get your earth-vexing, fool-born, rank tush over here.” Bottom looked back, grimacing as he noticed the three still sitting in that gleeking, weather-beaten Caravan that only gets 19 MPG. “Now, Tom!”

Tom turned to look at Snug, who sat beside him and then at Francis Flute in the back. Huffing a jarring huff, Tom nodded to them as he creaked the door open and stepped out. The others left the vehicle, careful not to slam any of the doors. Flute and Snug fell in behind Tom.

“Uh, look, um, Bottom. This maggot-pie of a wall was not here the last time we, um, passed this way.”

Nick Bottom glared icy death at him. Tom could only shrug his shoulders, the second time higher and fell with dead weight precision, drawing out a sigh that came from his toes. He scratched his head and chin, looking beyond Bottom and Quince and up at the wall.

The other Misfits followed his gaze up, then swiveling their noggins in all directions. None saw an end to this ungainly wall; the height of it was bewildering. Most felt their reasoning mind begin to fritz out. Diverting their eyes to anywhere else but the wall was in order.

They were all dumb-founded and verklempt. This once merry band of performers, one and all, turned their attention to Peter Quince.

His face was redder than any one of them had ever seen before; or when they were honest with themselves, since their last performance of “Thisbe loves Pyramis.” And, truth be told, the one before that. And, so on.

As Quince’s gaze fell upon Tom, he felt it was a good idea to retreat as best he could. He took two steps back. “No yelling. Good,” he thought and resumed his retreat. With a snap of his fingers and a motion to the other, Robin and Snug, who were behind him, halted his running away progress. The three others came closer, creating a circle around Tom. He gulped three times three as his body went cold and sticky.

Muttering, but loud enough for his fellow misfits to hear, spoke: “Something wicked this way comes.” Hands shaking, Tom needed a way to hide the motions. His left hand went into his tunic’s pocket, but his right hand…o, his right…raised itself to Tom’s mouth. Without realizing, Tom Snout bit his thumb at the same time he locked eyes with red-faced Quince.

“You dare bite your thumb at me, Tom Snout?”

“No, um, no, no, Peter. Uh, it is not you I bite my thumb, at or for.”

Snug growled. “Then who do you bite that thumb at?”

Francis complimented Snug on a most fierce growl, and added: “Or for, Tom?”

“Look, brave and stalwart friends, um, I just booked the gig, got the info…”

“And forgot to get the deposit for said gig!” Quince growled even more fiercely.

Robin whispered to Francis: “If anyone in our audience heard a growl of that magnitude, they would grow afeared and most likely faint.”

Francis just nodded,

“Yeah, uh, sorry about that, Peter Quince. Um, well, we were rehearsing most diligently. Then Nick started going on and on as usual…” Tom was interrupted by the sound of Bottom’s fist hitting his other unclenched hand. The withering glare did not, for once, deter him from finishing: “Um, as usual, braying like an ass.”

Tom broke the eye contact and turned to Quince.

“And you, Petey, were nowhere to be found.” Tom Snout stopped biting his thumb, lowering his arm from his face only to cross it across his chest, joined by his other arm. “And I did haggle us a handsome fee for this appointment.”

“An outstanding and just fee, Peter Quince,” added Francis Flute. The daggers that flew out of Quince’s eyes sent Flute to take refuge behind Snug, a sharp squeak sounding out.

Before any other word, growl, or threatening look was tossed out, this ruffled merry band of gentlemen was startled by what fell before them.  A growing luminescence broke through a chink in the wall that none had noticed before.

“What light through yonder chink breaks?” Bottom pondered obtusely. The sniggering behind him stopped as he twirled to face them.

Peter patted Bottom on his shoulder.

“Nick, I say this for truth, as we all know we are facing East.”

Robing Starveling chimed in., “And the man in the moon is fading away, away towards the West.”

Snug cried out. “Look!”

The opulence of the growing light spread before them. The moods that had fallen on them all we lightened as if a veil of cobwebs were lifted and dispersed to the cloudless sky. No one heard the muffled guffaws from the copse of trees off to their side.

Tom threw his arms out wide and grinned, turning to his fellow thespians.

“See? We can still make the performance with time to spare if we hasten.” Turning to look back at the pathway that was now evident thanks to the morning sun. “This night’s troubles have been much to do about nothing.”

Everyone cheered — even Bottom.

“To your vehicles, my stout and sturdy fellows. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; before this lane close to the wall is strewn with rush hour traffic.”

Tom Snout took the driver’s seat of his Caravan, Snug taking the passenger seat, Flute resting across the back in comfort.

As Tom started the engine and began following the VW, Francis began to sing. Snug and Tom joined in wholeheartedly in this roundel of a Fairy song.

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Author’s Notes:

If you are even a passing fan of Shakespearean fare, the above is a mashup, of sorts. I “stole,” and played with, the following plays:

    1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    2. Hamlet
    3. The Scottish Play
    4. Henry V
    5. Romeo and Juliet
    6. Much Ado About Nothing

If you click on the links, they will take you to the full script. The Complete Works of William Shakesapeare is a wonderful source to find all of his plays. Free of charge. If you want just the cliff notes, every play has a Wiki page. 

The above characters are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are the comic relief, the “mechanicals,” who perform the play-within-the-play of Pyramus and Thisbe. These men are laborers (tinker, weaver, carpenter, etc.) who are looking for their big break: to perform at the Royal Wedding and receive money and a name for themselves.

Most of The Fault of Underlings is grounded in AMND. Some dialogue I tweaked from the plays listed above. As to some of the words used, you can thank Master William himself. If you’re not familiar with them you can use Google.  It’s good to learn something new every day.

The Big Honking Wall has NOTHING to do with Game of Thrones.  In AMND, Tom Snout plays the Wall with a Crannied Hole or Chink in it so Thisbe and Pyramus can speak to each other, and maybe steal a kiss. This all happens in Act 5 during the play within the play. The following are Tom’s lines as the wall:

Snout. In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.

You’ll notice there is a discrepency with Thisby’s name. In searching, it’s Thisbe. In the above monologue, it’s Thisby. I just went the former route.

This came about from a prompt at a weekly writer’s group I attend. Our mission was to use secondary characters as the leads, going wherever our writer’s minds would take us. We share what we wrote with the others in the group.

They laughed. I hope you do as well.

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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