Category Archives: Elderly

A CAR IN THE WOODS: #AtoZchallenge

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Prologue

AtoZ2019A A CAR IN THE WOODS

1959

An abandoned car is found in the woods, no road leading in, the dense gathering of trees surrounding it were thick, close together. Sunlight barely broke through the thick cover of leaves. The grass and bushes were stunted, starving for the light.

Nothing that size should have been in there.

Discovered by hunters, Todd Wilson and Barry Carter, who were where they should not have been. They were following an 8 point Buck which led them on a long, winding chase. The Buck kept his life that day, racing off onto Government land. They knew enough to let it go.

Todd and Barry needed to catch their breaths as their quarry bounded off. Beer from their kits took some of the edge off.  Neither spoke; they just stared off in the direction of their lost prize.  Todd was on his second beer while Barry was chugging his third. They nodded to each other, tossed the drained cans over their shoulders, and started their way back.

But something shiny caught them both in the eyes. The day had moved along just enough, as did the sunlight. Nothing should have reflected with the intensity that hit them square on. But, something did.

Following the intense gleam, they passed, and ignored, a rusted  Keep Out sign that hung crookedly on one of the trees that barred their way.  There were some tight fits, squeezes that were almost not manageable. Prickly bushes caught at their clothing, drawing enough droplets of blood and curses to go along with them.  Finally, they reached the clearing in the middle of all the towering wood. They both stopped, stared, and while Barry’s jaw dropped, Todd whistled. They both loved cars.

They loved this car, had talked about it, dreamed about, visited the dealer ten times together; eleven for Todd, by himself. Their wish list car, there before them.

A Cherry Red Thunderbird  two-door convertible! It was the model they drooled over:  a 430ci Lincoln Interceptor J-code engine, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seat and a new power top. It had Kelsey Hayes wire rims, front to back chrome accents, and it was smear and dirt free. What made it not absolutely perfect was the convertible top: stuck, half up, half down. Barry began a low round of giggles. Todd gave him the look, but laughed himself when Barry told him that it looked like it didn’t know if it was coming or going.

Nothing was found to identify the owner.  No VIN numbers,  license plate,  papers in the car. Without the VIN, they couldn’t even tell when it came off the assembly line. Todd knew that the last of these beauties were produced in August of that year. It was too pristine to be any older. He thought it might have even been the very last one made.

The inside was spotless until Todd and Barry ran their dusty, grease and dirt laden hands all over while they searched: doors, dashboard, the red vinyl seats, the white inserts, and even the hood and the finned back end. The trunk wouldn’t open, another less than perfect detail.

The realization that the forest had been dead quiet didn’t hit them until a series of clicking sounds came from behind them. Then to one side, then another. The clicking grew in volume and then stopped. They saw nothing, nothing moved as there wasn’t any wind. Total quiet surrounded the duo, and with the sun starting its descent, both made a hasty retreat.

They made it back to their truck, eventually, and sped home. Todd’s wife, Daphne, listened to them describe what they found, ice cold beers in front of them. Her arms were crossed and her right foot was tapping away. After hearing the story for the third time, she decided to put this into the hands of the sheriff.

He listened. Shrugged it off. Nothing came of it. Sheriff John Miner was too close to retirement.  If he had acted on it, he might have lived long enough to hand in his badge. He didn’t.

Todd and Barry, meanwhile, made their find profitable, earning free drinks at the Barn House Bar from folks who wanted to know all the details.  As the telling went on, the story…grew. And it spread to nearby towns, especially one where Todd and Barry went drinking.

The searching was intense. Many said they found the trees and the clearing, but no TBird. Reports were passed around: the car was glimpsed in Jeffery Hallow. No; it shone brightly at the opening of the large bear cave on Decry Hill. One group said it was by a stream, others in different parts of the forest. Never any proof; it started to slide out of their minds with each disappointment. People stopped looking for the car.

Until a group of four High School students went looking, and they did not come home.

Present Day

There was a car in the woods.

Charred. Rusted. Busted.

Picked clean. Shell just a remainder.

No road. No reason. Just there.

Not always in the same place, but there.

No one knew anything, the how or the why.

Tales grew around it.

Some said haunted. Some said the Devil parked it there. Maybe a UFO, with all the disappearances. Or not, as there were enough of the dead draped around, murder, suicide, ritual. No one was really sure. Most didn’t want to know.

I knew.

There was a car in the woods.

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Author’s Note:

Welcome to the 2019 AtoZ Blog Challenge. This is my sixth year participating, going back to 2011, the year I started Tale Spinning.

My theme this year is A Car In The Woods. First installment is above. Not every post will be this long. Length will vary. I just needed the “prologue” to set the tone.

Each time I’ve participated has been very different, from Mystery to Horror, from an Apartment Building’s residents to Road Sign drabbles. I just let the creative juices flow.

A Car In The Woods, as stands right now, will be a serialized tale with some interludes. Kind of like last year’s The Abysmal Dollhouse, but, hopefully, a bit tighter. That’s my goal. We’ll see where it goes.

Comments/Feedback is always appreciated. Check out other blogs who are taking this April’s challenge by clicking on The Master List. You’ll find a variety of blogs that you might enjoy.

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AtoZ Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

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#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

AtoZ Blogging Challenge: Theme Reveal

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

Starting Monday, April 1, 2019, the AtoZ Blog Challenge begins again.

This will be my sixth time that I am throwing my creative hat into the challenge. I have mainly produced serialized stories that work as short chapters. They have been of various successes, judging by the commentary and friendships I have developed through the challenge.

I am working on taking last year’s story line (The Abysmal Dollhouse) and re-working it into a novel. I’ve been working on it since May/June of last year. That’s why there haven’t been any TAD stories here since the end of April.

So, surprise.

I still love The Case Files of Inspector Khazarian Rovas (April 2016) and The Apartment Building: Swan Rise series (April 2012). I hope to return to both of those one day and take them  to the next step, as well as The Kitsune-Mochi Saga (not an AtoZ story).

AND NOW, THE 2019 THEME REVEAL

A CAR IN THE WOODS



1959. An abandoned car is found in the woods, not near any road, surrounded by trees that left little room for a car to wind up where this one did.

It was discovered by hunters Todd Wilson and Barry Carter. They were following an 8 point Buck for a long winding chase. The Buck kept his life that day. Todd and Barry stopped in their tracks when the sun, which could barely peek through the dense foliage, glinted off something shiny where nothing shiny should have been.

The car they found was in near pristine condition. A cherry red Thunderbird convertible with a 430ci Lincoln Interceptor J-code engine, power steering, power brakes, power windows, a power seat and a new power top.

Nothing was found to identify the owner or even how it got there. Retracing their tracks, they made it back to their truck, eventually, as they got lost once or twice,  and high tailed it to the sheriff’s office.

Inquiries were made. Nothing came of it. It was a puzzle to Sheriff John Miner for the rest of his life, which wasn’t as long lived as he had hoped it would be.

Todd and Barry, meanwhile, made their find profitable, earning free drinks at the Barn House Bar from folks who wanted to know all the details.  As the tellings went on, the story…grew. And it spread to nearby towns, especially one where Todd and Barry went drinking.

People searched for the car. They traveled the forest, thought they saw it, but didn’t. It was the talk of the county. The searching went on for a short while.

Until a group of four High School students did not come home. Neither did a couple of people from the first search party. Then a few more in the second group, looking for both the kids and the two adults who were nowhere to be found.

Then, the stories began.


I hope you return for the 26 parts of A Car In The Woods. Comments are always welcome.

If you are interested in joining the AtoZ Blog Challenge, you still have time to sign up. Just click HERE and you will be directed to their home page with all the info you will need. Good luck if you do. It’s a lot of fun. Either way, I hope you come back and see where the Car takes us, as well as visiting other blogs that have joined in the fun.

The Talisman Of Mara: #FridayFictioneers

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dales-broken-door

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

THE TALISMAN OF MARA

Stolen, traded, gifted, lost, the Talisman of Mara journeyed across the globe, across time. Many hands wielded it; many died doing so.

Naomi found it at the shul’s fundraiser. The piece of colored glazed stone drew her eyes. It wasn’t anything she’d ever buy when Seth was alive. She bought it.

Hanging it, she’d see it when she descended the stairs, turned off the lights, went out.

It was the one piece of color she claimed in a beige house.

Tumbling down the stairs, Naomi broke the glass door.

It was only the first of many nightmarish events to come.

 

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Author’s Note:  I made mention in the comments previously that when I do use names in these short pieces, they have meanings associated with the story. Some drive what I’m writing. So, if you’re curious, look them up. If not, hope you still liked this.

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 do this:

    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.

Two Left: #FridayFictioneers

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adamickes-childsboots

Copyright – Adam Ickes

TWO LEFT

I AM MAGIC!

I am the glistening burst of enchantment buzzing around your commonplace lives. In my wake, you tremble, shuddering with a longing, a cascading sense of awe, one never to be experienced again.

Unless you cross my path with fire and fury.

How your bones would shatter with just a crook of my index finger. Your breath constricts by the angle of my thumbs. Life would bleed away, words leaving my twitching lips.

I AM MAGIC!

Filled, I am, with all wonderment of the otherworldly.

All wise!

All knowing!

All powerful!

Now, where did I put my shoes?

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Author’s Note:

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 do this:

    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.

Abrupt Transition: Orangutan Space Chapter 2

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To Read Chapter 1, please click on the title: Oranutan Space

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©tend2it

Abrupt Transition

Afterwards…

The Mammala War Ships were known as the, almost, deadliest destructive force in outer space. The APEX  was juiced up to be the warship that surpassed them all. During the battle, the APEX faded into the unlit side of a large asteroid. Lurking; neither the Hominide class nor the OrbShips were aware of the danger. The APEX systems recorded the attempt and the defeat. The sole occupant really didn’t care which side won.

Felidae hated everyone.

She watched the destruction of the R.O.c.K.’s. Whoever the pilot was, they were an expert at the Zig-Zag Swing. Knowing the outcome was no deterrent from enjoying the show. Felidae was waiting for the next phase of the altercation when…an unexpected nothing happened.

The Pongo powered down it weapons array. Instead of flipping and going after their attackers, it just continued going in its original direction. Fast. She thought they were at TT levels; her AI confirmed it a moment later. It made no sense to her: the Pongo had the raised hand. The OrbShips only carried two R.O.c.K.s apiece, and even warming up their Death Dartles was futile. The Pongo was accelerating, and neither OrbShip would have the power to catch up or do any real damage with their double D’s.

This probably wasn’t their mission. Right place; wrong time. Most likely they were scavaging what minerals they could when they were alerted of the Hominidae vessel. Its path was coming closer, so they set a trap near two adjacent large asteroids. The Pardis OrbShip hid in the darkness created by the dense shade of one asteroid. The Tigris chose a more Blankenship using its masking unit.

They had the perfect opportunity to bring down their enemy. The Pongo did not have a chance one minute, then the next one the upper hand was lost. Their weapons were already active and fired enough rounds to make the captains of both OrbShips deploy their R.O.c.K.’s prematurely. The Pongo easily blasted three of the four. The fourth one came a little close, but it was just a manuever and a target lock.

The Captain and crew of the Pongo should have gone on the offensive. They should have wanted blood. They had the edge.

So, why did they run?

Felidae fired off a tracker disc, letting her ship’s AI guide it to the Hominidae.   Knowing it would attach itself, she kept her attention on the two Orbs. A non-friendly smile briefly emerged. Feidae was on the prowl. She kept  the Apex’s deflection mode on. Once the Pongo was gone Felidae went on the prowl.

Neither OrbShip were aware Felidae was in range until she dropped the deflection sheild. No matter. It was too late for them. The Pardis Orb took the full force of the Apex; it was over too soon for Felidae’s tastes. The Pardis was ripped apart. She gave it no notice. Her attention was now directed to the Tigris.

The Tigris was the larger of the two, with a few tricks not usually part of the main designs of the OrbShips. Zip Discs came churning out of the ship. If one struck the Apex its internal core would be fried. And weapons, controls, and life support. Felidae had a broad smile, ready for the challenge. She let them play variations of attack modes which all failed. The APEX was too fast for them, and Felidae proved to be a much better pilot. Boredom came upon her quickly. She had been playing with them. No more. She struck the Tigris with force blast after force blast.

Felidae ordered her AI to deploy all of the TeslaBarbs across the outside layer of the APEX. They unfolded from the ship, and the electrical vibrations and charges went to its highest mode. Felidae descended upon the Tirgis; the APEX went into spin and rolled over the OrbShip, sinking the barbs into the hull and puncturing the Orb over and over. As the barbs pierced, the electrical componants fried any systems it connected with. The Tigris was dead, and the crew knew it as all systems failed and the ship cracked apart.

Retracting the barbs and sealing them away left Felidae a Pro/Con decision to make. On one hand, there was enough scavangable debris floating around that she could use or sell off. Her credit could use a boost.

“Screw the potential credits,”she muttered under her breath. There was the potential for greater rewards. Most likely more to pounce on and destroy, and then find some credit worthy items.

“AI, Bring the tracker online and send the location path to my console and my quarters. Power down weapons, for now. Once we get near the Pongo, bring up the deflection particles.”

She sat in her pilot bag, growing angrier as time passed. The APEX would catch up with the Pongo, no doubt in her mind. They definetly had skilled operatives aboard. There were skills abely used to destroy the enemy weapons and some excellent piloting.

So, why did they run?

The question nagged at her. She’d catch them, find out the why, and then one by one she’d delete their lives.

Felidae hated everyone.

To be continued?

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His Time Capsulated: #FridayFictioneers

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russell-working

PHOTO PROMPT © Connie Gayer

His Time Capsulated

Everyone thought Russ was a gardening savant. Thought that of himself at times, but he knew the real reason why he took up this “hobby.” It wasn’t to please Connie. An excuse, embarrassed to admit he had buried a Time Capsule in his backyard when he was a teen.

Embarrassed he forgot where it was and what he buried. Forgotten all about it.

Damn getting old.

Finally finding it, he knelt, creaking. Waited a moment, hoping he’d left words of wisdom that would spread; maybe some treasured thing from the past.

Inside, just a note:

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30!”

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The above is a photo prompt challenge from Addicted to Purple by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields that she calls Friday Fictioneers . The rules for this prompt are simple:

    1. Use the photo on Addicted to Purple as your prompt.
    2. Write a 100 word story, complete with a beginning, middle, and end.
    3. Make every word count.
    4. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor of the photo credit.

A lot of people join in; the variety of the personal takes on the prompt is what makes this fun. Take a look at what the others wrote, and maybe join in on the creative fun.

Reflections of the 2018 #AtoZ Blog Challenge: The Abysmal Dollhouse

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A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

For all the information you could ever want about the AtoZ Blog Challenge, Click:  Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

This was my fifth AtoZ Blog Challenge:

The rules are simple: During the month of April, you commit to writing 26 blogs, each day based off the run ot the alphabet. Up to you how you do that. Blog hop around, read and comment on other blogs, build a community. Don’t sleep. You had to sign up through the AtoZ main page. From that, most people chose and announced their Theme (more below): I signed on late, missed that, and, well…I had no idea what I was going to do up to two days before it started.

Yes, I am that unorganized.

I actually had another idea that I thought would be funny, but when I realized the main character I wanted to use was verbotten, the idea lost all its allure. Quelle dommage. That had me in a bit of a spin; I asked on Tale Spinning if anyone wanted to see me continue some previous storylines that I liked, or should I try something new. I got two: TWO, and only two, requests. Hence, The Abysmal Dollhouse.

I have written TAD stories since 2012. Almost always positive comments. A few followers suggested I should add more to the oeuvre and publish it. Hemming and hawing, procrastinating, all my usual excuses for not committing fully added up to one fact: I didn’t.

Scared? Insecure? A rough number of years on so many levels? No motivation? Creativity and passion just drained away?  Lump them all together and I just never carried it through, letting the ideas pretty much just lay there, occasionally bursting forth. Definitely not often enough. Tale Spinning was pretty much an empty space for the last couple of years.

In actuality, boredom with my life, and myself, kicked me in the arse.

I’m what is known as a Pantser: I don’t prewrite, rarely have an outline, especially for continuing series that I like, and only have a basic idea that I use as a jumping off point. When I started off this round of TAD, I just thought I’d continue on my “Monster of the Week” stories, letting the letter of the day create my title, which then started my writing for the day.

One thing I do do (hee hee. Oh, sue me) is take a little bit of time for research. In this case, I just went online and found a whole bunch of Weird, Murder, or Haunted Houses around the world. I chose a number of places that I thought would be great prompts for every day of the challenge. Didn’t use even half of what I found, this go around.

Something happened that changed in me really early on in the process: I started creating a backstory/mythology for the series and began to drop hints and clues about the backgrounds of The Unfolding Doll and the Shopkeeper. Yes: I started to shed my pantsing and began-gasp!-planning. Not 100%, still no outline, but things were starting to gel and I got much more invested in what I was writing.

I look at it this way: X-Files had many episodes of Monster of the Week, with episodes of their mythology scattered here and there. A MOTW episode could still give us more background info on Scully & Mulder while kinda sorta avoiding the BIG story. Character development and whatnot. That’s how I was viewing all this.

Then the next change happened: I got some new readers, who commented, questioned, told me what they liked, and I felt they were really invested in what was going to happen next. I had that in 2016 with that year’s storyline (link at top of the page), but not to this extent. It kind of added to the challenge for me; it definitely altered my thinking on the storyline.

The ending may seem rushed (it was) but I had dropped hints and clues in many of the stories. It’s hard to fill in all the details when I was trying to limit the daily posts to around 1,000 words. Many people will skip a long posting, and I know I lost potential readers for that reason. Nothing I can do about that. I’m sure many will pass up this reflection for the very same reason. Quelle dommage, part two.

For those who might have missed the main posting where I dropped a lot of clues, go to the “I” posting: In The Absence Of…

A couple of more things: please bear with me.

One thing I’m “frustrated” with are the posts that I thought I was being witty with. Alas, alas, alas.  Too gimmicky? Too obtuse? Spot on? No idea: no feedback. Jabber Wonky was my attempt to play on the Jabberwocky poem in Alice in Wonderland (which gave me the reason to rhyme what goes on in The Child’s mind). I used some of the verbal tomfooleries in the piece, more as an homage; In Quoth the Riven, I think it was pretty obvious. I actually wrote following the path Poe’s poem took. One of my favorite pieces by him.; Orchestra! Curtain! Lights! was my wink to one of my favorite things-animation. It’s the opening lyrics from “The Bugs Bunny Show” theme song. My story has nothing to do with Bugs & Daffy, but Orchestra! was my jumping off point for the tale.

I did not blog hop as much as I was hopping to. I always say I’ll do more, and I did, this year, but I fall far short of others. My apologies. I did happen to come across some wonderfully written blogs along the way and picked up some new blogging friends. I’d like to thank (in no particular order): David, Debs, Sharri, Ms. Wolf, Iain, Jo, Jacqui, Varard, and Melanie. If I’ve forgotten anyone, please forgive me. As to previous readers/bloggers: thanks for sticking with me. Roy: didn’t make that many mistakes this time around, eh?

Special thanks go to Arlee Bird for starting this whole thing, and to the hosts who share the duties. It’s been a blast of a month. Next year? When the time comes, we’ll find out.

Thank you, everyone.

Yowling, It Came: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Yowling, It Came

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Separating itself from its shadowed corner faster than it ever had, the Unfolding Doll felt its prey before it saw him. He had drawn his blade from the figure on the ground. The doll noticed the Shopkeeper, having grabbed her broom, begin her finger placements. But the prey was turning towards her, too fast. Too fast. As it took it all in, the Unfolding Doll grabbed The Serpent House and flung it at the back of his head. Connecting, it slithered down in pieces.

Off balance for only a moment, the attacker, the murderer, the child turned to see who was behind him. He noticed only the Unfolding Doll’s knife, long and sharp, and bringing up his Vorpal blade, he snarled. “WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE!!”

Smashing into the display in front of him, dollhouses were jettisoned off their perches. The Unfolding Doll leaped on top of the showcase in front of it and bounded towards its quarry.  Its blade came sweeping down, going for the throat, but the Vorpal blade came up quickly, deflecting the attack.

The doll threw itself at the murderer, wrapping its linen body around him, tightening and squeezing, folding in. He struggled, trying to pry the thing off of him. Down they both went, bones cracking in him, rents being made in the doll from his blows. They tumbled over the floor, under the tables, into the displays, onto and around the soldier lying there, a growing pool of blood leaking out.

He wrestled his blade free and with a slice cut through the Unfolding Doll’s restraining left arm. He leveraged himself up by grabbing one of the display cabinets, toppling more houses to the floor.

All through this, the Shopkeeper held her broom and chanted subvocally. The air in the shoppe grew dense as she worked on eliminating this threat. Eliminating this…thing, that killed an innocent, killed what was hers, killed what she had loved. Malcanisen was suddenly at her side, guarding her. His growl was terrifying, but he gave her a needed boost. She focussed her emotional energy into her focal point, sparks flying off around her. As the killer took a step towards the Unfolding Doll, the Shopkeeper let loose a blast that took him in the side and sent him flying over the soldier’s still form and partially into the front display section.

The Unfolding Doll bent to pick up its knife with its right hand, the left arm hanging by threads. The Shopkeeper noticed that it was already beginning to mend itself; she had some power left and gave it to the doll. The arm was reforming quicker, and the various rents around its body were stitching themselves, sealed and whole once again.

Regaining his wind, the killer groaned, pain lancing through his middle where he hit the frame. He picked up his head and saw his Vorpal knife just past his hand. He raised himself enough to grab hold of it. In doing so, he noticed what else occupied the display area.

Muirhouse was there. Hated, hated house. Besides it…’NO!” he bellowed. From the dollhouse came the voice of the woman he despised more than anything. “Mine, mine, mine,” it beckoned. Standing on shaky legs, he grabbed his Vorpal knife in both hands and then crawled onto the shelf. On his knees, blade held high above Muirhouse, he yowelled out his pain, his fear, his anger, his deep, deep hatred.

The Shopkeeper yelled “NO!” as the Unfolding Doll vaulted onto the display, shoving her blade into his back as he drove his Vorpal blade into the house. The cut was deep but not fatal, and they thrashed and went after each other, trying to end the other’s existence.

The injured monster kicked the Unfolding Doll. It rolled along the parlor floor, coming too close to the flames in the fireplace. Standing just in front of the window was the hated Mrs. Harris. She had been looking out and up, but now was witness to the invaders of her home, her prison.

“Child,” she grimaced, “It is almost 4:00 pm.”

For a moment, he froze. Only a moment, where every despicable thing ever was done to him played an encore in what was left of his mind. He howled, ran over, and skewered Mrs. Harris. One jab, then a second. He pulled his Vorpal blade out, raising it out and back, and brought it through an unbroken arc. Mrs. Harris’s head slid off her neck, rolling onto the throw rug.

He had forgotten the Unfolding Doll. It had not forgotten him, watching the scene play out. Its knife, lost somewhere in the window display, reformed in its hand. It took its knife and slowly made its way along the fireplace mantel, tap, tap, tapping the blade.  He turned just as the doll plunged the blade, driving it into his shoulder.

Tripping over an ottoman, he tumbled onto the floor, the Unfolding Doll following. He was by the fireplace, losing blood along the way. Without a thought, as the doll pounced on top of him, he shoved his hand into the fire and, hand blistering, brought out a burning log of wood, knocking the flaming pile out of the fireplace. The logs rolled this way and that, setting first the rug on fire, which caught with speed. The fire spread, fast and deadly, its hissing noise an exclamation of what it was devouring.

The Shopkeeper did her best to contain the fire, Malcanisen at first trying to drag her away from the flames. The power that had waned was full again, and she used it to the shoppe’s advantage. While the window area was apart from the rest of the shoppe, the fire burned bright and hot. Flames leaped out, catching onto some shelving, cremating a few dollhouses in its way, but it did not become the tsunami of destruction it wanted to be.

Broom in hand, the Shopkeeper walked over to display window. Nothing remained of Muirhouse except for ashes and a burnt display flooring. Also gone were the Muirhouse’s woodshed and two other dollhouses she had just placed there: the Movie Palace and the Carousel Pavilion were gone as well.

She checked the soldier; he was still living, but just so. Walking towards the back of the shoppe, the area with the least amount of damage, the Shopkeeper found the Saint Michael’s Hospital dollhouse. She brought it over to the soldier, placed its entrance close to his side, and unlatched the front. The shopkeeper asked Malcanisen to turn his duty over to this man. And he did, staying by his side.

As the Shopkeeper went around the shoppe, righting a cabinet, picking up and replacing the fallen houses, the broken houses slowly faded away. One by one, new dollhouses appeared, taking the waiting spaces, placards in place with the house’s legend.

The front door and the display case, taking the worst of it, mended itself, but it was not a quick fix. The counter with spider web cracks was fusing together, and slowly the shoppe began to feel whole again. Some chirppings of “Mine, mine, mine” were starting to be heard, silent through all the altercations. The Shopkeeper just said “Hush” as she went around, putting in the finishing touches.

She waited a long time near the shadowed corner, searching for any movement, any unfolding of shadow to light. None came. By the time she gave up, the shoppe was whole again, new houses in place, debris cleaned up and gone, the door and window area immaculate, and a new door chime was in place, waiting to tinkle upon someone’s arrival.

The Shopkeeper went to her back room, turning on the light. A fresh, warm orange glazed scone was waiting for her, alongside a cup of the finest Earl Grey’s. She moved her padded chair so that she had a better view across the shoppe. She sat, nibbled her scone, sipped her tea, stared out at the shadowed corner, and cried.

“Sarah,” she grieved.

Monday April 30th: Epilogue

 

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Candy Striper: The Abysmal Dollhouse (#AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

The Candy Striper

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The old man took his time entering the store. Stooped over his cane, his face drawn and blotchy. His cap was low on his head; it was easy to tell that the only hair on his head came from his ears.  His glasses were thick, even with the progress in the eyeglass industry. The Shopkeeper took this all in, waiting for him to cross over into the shoppe. The door chime tinkled a little longer than usual.

She smiled at him. “May I offer you any assistance?”

“If it’s OK with you, I’ll just look around. Yes?” he asked. She nodded. “Good. Thank you. This is a very…interesting shop you have.”

“Thank you. Please let me know if you need any information…or help,” she offered one more time, and one more time he refused.

The Shopkeeper went to stand behind the main glass-encased counter. She had to shush a few of the Dollhouse’s pleas of “Mine, mine, mine,” excusing their desperate cries as just noise from outside when she noticed the man’s raised eyebrows.  He turned to look out the window; what he could see was the same empty street he had been ambling along. He smiled, shrugged, and began to look around.

The Shopkeeper studied him. He was gaunt, with sunken eyes, hollow cheeks. She noticed that every few steps a grimace would mar his face. He was short of breath, and occasionally he wheezed.

He examined many of the Dollhouses, reading the legends neatly handwritten on their display placards. He made a few small grunts if he bent over too far on some, a harsh rasp escaping his lips.  The Shopkeeper noticed a sharp, horrid look on his face as he stood in front of the Conservatoire d’épouvante Maison De Poupée. She hurried over to his side, grabbing her broom along the way.

The Unfolding Doll was approaching him from behind, out of the corner shadow, knife in hand. The Shopkeeper spoke a few warding words under her breath, placed her hands in a pattern on the broom handle, and brought the broom down, separating the space between the doll and the old man.  The Unfolding Doll stopped in its tracks. It canted its head to the right, button eyes focused on the Shopkeeper.  It brought the knife up to waist level, but let it drop. Gliding backward, The Unfolding Doll oragamied itself into the shadow in the corner. All this happened in the few seconds it took for the man to get his composure back.

“I would like to show you a special Dollhouse. I think this is one that would be of interest to you,” she offered to the man. This time, he allowed her help.  He followed her to the opposite wall, nearer to the front windows. She stopped him in front of a double-floored straight line designed dollhouse.  The man stared, took a step back like he wanted to retreat out the door, but The Shopkeeper went over and opened the front of the Orange County Hospice.

He stared; just…stood there and stared. The beds lined the long ward, separated with colored drapery.  Some of the beds were occupied, chairs as well. At the end was a large picture window, sectioned off by a frosted glass wall. It was exactly like the one he had just left, unsettling him so that escaping from there seemed preferable.  His aimless walking led him here.  It was sterile clean, bright and open. He hadn’t been ready-not yet-to surrender when he had left the hospice with such heaviness. This…this was different.

He noticed a young girl walking towards him, a closed book in her hands.

“May I sit with you, Charles?” she asked. “I looked for you at your bed, but John in the next bed told me you were out here in the sunroom.” She looked out the window as she sat. “Such a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Charles nodded at the Candy Striper. She was wearing her candy cane red and white striped pinafore, a natural smile on her face that continued into her eyes. He looked at the book she was holding.

Her smile broadened. “Yes, I have your favorite. I borrowed it from my brother. “She began to read; Charles found himself relaxing and settled back into the chair.

They traveled together over the clouds, hand in hand, flying with Michael, John, Peter, and Wendy…Wendy Lady. The adventure took him to Never Never Land, fighting pirates, living in a hollow tree, saving Tinkerbell’s life. He relished the reading, the escape into a world he loved, and in this… he forgot how much pain he had been in before.

Charles had nodded off at some point. A deep snore woke him up. The candy striper was still there, but the book was closed, bookmarked for a future read. Her smile was addictive, a similar one he felt beginning on his face. On the small glass-topped table in front of him was a tray of delight: baked goods, and all ones that Charles loved.  Chocolate Eclairs, Napoleons,  and a large mound of chocolate covered Rainbow Cookies that he and his father had loved. “Take what you’d like, Charles,” she said. He sampled and ate, and was more than sated. It had been a long time.

When he patted his stomach and sat back in the chair, Anne, the Candy Striper, tilted her head back to the ward. “Mr. Roman says he could beat you in a wheelchair race. Are you up for the challenge?” she asked, the excitement in her voice was evident.

“You bet. I am ready for any challenge!” he exclaimed. Anne helped Charles to his wheelchair, Mr. Roman already waiting.  They nodded at each other, wrapped their hands around the tops of the wheels.

“Ready! Set!…” called Anne.

The Shopkeeper approached the dollhouse and closed the front. She smiled as she heard laughter and friendly shouting noises from within. “Good,” she said out loud, moving back to her counter and picking up her duster. She was speaking to the shadowed far corner. “Good. This one will never be yours.”

The Unfolding Doll was surrounded by shadow. The knife in its hand glinted of its own accord. It could wait, as its wielder could wait as well. Both thirsted for the Shopkeeper but knew this was not the day. The Unfolding Doll crept from the far shadow into The Serpent House, the dollhouse closest to its corner, to play.

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

This story is an edited version of one that appeared here on October 22, 2011. If you want to read & compare the two, click on this link: Candy Stripe Ward: A Tale of the Abysmal Dollhouse. 

I rewrote this more to fit my current voice with The Abysmal Dollhouse. Not a major reworking, but one I am happier with. Hope you like it.

Keening At The Bell and Ram: The Abysmal Dollhouse (AtoZ Blog Challenge)

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** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.

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Keening At The Bell and Ram

The Abysmal Dollhouse

Disappointment did not settle long on the Shopkeeper’s shoulders. The ache inside was a sizeable force that moved her along, binding her to her duties. The sudden unfolding of that horrible memory brought to visual life, did its damage. As it had done before, and she feared it would do so again. She had lit every light, tied back or moved anything that would hinder even the slightest bit of light, all in the effort to dispel as much of shadow as she could in the shoppe. At least, for now.

The far right corner fought her. It wasn’t a lost cause, but it was a strain to contain.

For a short while, things were uneventful. She tidied and dusted, swept and mopped, moved dollhouses around, adjusted displays to her best. There were grumbling sounds coming from all around her; the commotion was a disturbance that put off the houses. They were much settled in their place. Let others come to them. The claiming was the satisfaction.

She placed dollhouse after another in the window, but nothing was feeling right. Ten times she fussed; ten times she returned them to their resting place within the shoppe. The eleventh attempt felt right. Making sure it was just so, the Shopkeeper rummaged in the cabinet underneath the display window, looking for the things that would best showcase its new charge.

Creating this display gave her a focus. A green mat, the color of fresh, healthy grass, was laid down. The piece was next, and she outfitted it with wooden benches that sat along the outside wall. She anchored a tree and some bushes to the mat, creating a path of gravel, from a jar kept for just so,  that led to its door. She fussed a bit more but felt it was right as it was. Brushing her hands together set off a small cloud of earthy dust.

With a “tsk,” she went to retrieve her duster and bin.

An old man had been watching from the street. He had been shuffling along, tan cap pulled down over his forehead, still squinting from the sunlight. The movement in the window caught his eye and slowed him down, and then to a stop when he noticed what was placed in the window. He watched as the details came together, so intent was his attention he barely noticed the Shopkeeper after the first moments.

“Well, I’ll be,” he muttered to hisself, as it all came together. “Well, I’ll be.”

He stood for awhile just staring, losing hisself in what stood before him, and what was dredged up from inside. It was the rolling in of the clouds overhead, cutting some of the sun glare, that caused him to shuffle along again, but this time into the shoppe.

“Howdedo,” he said, noticing the Shopkeeper and doffing his cap. Turning away from her, he looked at the other side of what caught his attention. “Looks like rain. It’s not raining yet. It looks like rain,” more of a mutter than a statement. No answer required.

The Shopkeeper smiled. “May I be of any assistance?” she said to his back.

“Well, I’ll be. It’s the spittin’ image of The Bell and Ram. The Bell and Ram.” He turned his head slightly towards her. “I spent a good part of my youth there.” Turning back, his entrancement caused him to forget her, the shoppe, the weather. Behind the pub is where he and his mates would sneak smokes, drain glasses of beer that were snuck out to them by Tom’s older brother. That bench is where he first kissed Jenny, she kissing him back so hard they fell off of it and laughed on the ground.

Sitting under the tree, telling all the ghost stories that slithered about the B&R: devil worship and child sacrifices. The Lady in Gray who would sip from your mug and whisk you away, keening and wailing loud enough to wake the dead, from the basement and through the walls. The stories only became chilling when they were finally old enough to be inside on storm laden nights, with the wind tearing around and down the chimney, sounding like the Lady was just waiting to sip and take.

The first peal of thunder sent him shuffling inside, more scurry than a shuffle. He had been cold and moved himself to sit near the fireplace. The old man noticed, rounded the bar, and brought him a pint.

“Looks like rain,” he said, receiving the drink with both hands. “Looks like rain, and a lot more.” He took a swallow as the keep went back to tend his station.

Staring into the roaring fire, listening to the wind’s keening,  he repeated: “Looks like rain, and a lot more.”

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The AtoZ Blog Challenge

During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.

*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.

The Ancient Ram’s Inn can be found in Gloucestershire, England. Built in 1145, it has many stories of devil worship, murders, child sacrifices, and the good old Lady in Gray.  Like anything with that age, it has a very colorful history.

A follower of this blog might recognize the old man, The Weatherman, from another AtoZ series I wrote. He just felt right for this.