Category Archives: Literacy

Shirem Far Mrim: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

SHIREM FAR MRIM

The Carpetbag of Extraordinarious rested on the wall, alone but not abandoned. Waiting. A new owner was needed; time for the mantle to be passed on. The carpetbag always remained the same, but a new umbrella would call the next Mary.

Preloved umbrellas were splayed among the rafters, in honor of those who had deftly used them. The levels were as endless as the Marys’. Each was distinctive, wondrous in their magical glows.

The Parrot-Headed one gave a squawk. All the other handles turned.

A double layered, inverted umbrella brought the new Poppins.

She adjusted her hat. “Spit spot. Ready!”

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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.

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Orangutan Space

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Orangutan Space

The DTGA Pongo maneuvered through space in their combat-proven zig-zag swinging style, trying to outrun the R.O.c.K.’s that were heading their way. If even one hit the ship they were finished. Alpha Leader 1 scrunched on the command deck, giving orders to all stations in quick, short Long Calls His pack blew up three, but the fourth one was still hanging on their tail. It was getting too close for comfort.

He looked around, proud of the assemblage of Bornean and Sumatran tribes. They worked well together even though he had been warned the mixing would not work. He was glad that his superiors in DTGA were wrong. He wanted to bring his space boat home and rub their faces in the mud. Taunt him? “They don’t know the meaning of taunt,” he kept to himself.

Beta Follower 1 and 2 were at the weapons relay, trying to get a fix on the last Rapacious Omni Combative Killer. They were both chittering away, trying out by the book plans at first and finally got down to what works: Pantsing the Controls. They were good at it, and AL1 gave them space to prove it. He just needed them to make something work, and fast.

“Bring Lens Hood Rear, increase to Pi magnification. Put it on the big screen,” he barked out, still focussed on his two weapons masters and the screen above their shaggy heads.

The Opticals brightened the images he was looking for. Yes, the Panthera ORBShips were hanging back; they were recharging their weapons. “Speed level TT. NOW! Optics: set focus to normal.”

The thrust sent the crews hair up and back as the Pongo leaped to obey.

“We got it,” came, in unison, from BF 1& 2. BF1 corrected a Pathfinder while BF 2 fired their own version of the enemies R.O.c.K.’s. Their Howl Boom was flung at the R.O.c.K. in climb mode, then did a dead drop onto the incoming death behind them.

They all watched the HB blast the R.O.c.K. into pebble size pieces. Gamma Pilot 1 avoided the rubble, knowing it could still do damage to the Pongo. All the tension dropped when Ze, GP1,  announced their safety. Much chest bumps and playful taps ensued. Al1 was tempted to order Ze to flip the ship and face the two Panthera class OrbShips and giving the go to BF1 & BF2 to power up their weapons. His mission was not that; it was just bad juju that they encountered the enemy.

“AL1,” the Gamma Pilot asked. “Original destination, or…” knowing what they all wanted: take out the two Pantera ships.

“No ‘or’, Ze. Back to base. Original directive. Get us back, but all eyes on hiding spots. They caught us this time. I don’t want a second.”

“Understood,” the Gamma Pilot responded. Ze set the controls and they zipped towards base.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

The AL1 was back in his nest, having turned over command to AL2. His mate, Fear of Fire, was cuddling him after a rigorous session. Their uniforms were on the floor and they rested seven HandSpans above the mess.

He was on the point of falling asleep until he heard her say his name.

“Person of the Forest…” She was swirling her fingers through his massive chest hair.

“Hmmm?”

“We have to make a decision before we get to base.”

“FoF, we’ve talked about this before. I can not go back to Taiga with you. My position is too important, the mission is too important.” He turned over to look at her. “I would like you to stay, be a full member on this boat.”

She removed her hand from his chest.”I have no place among the crew. A Fracture Explorer would be useless on Pongo. I study the soil of the planets we go to.  I’ve had to broaden my knowledge into liquids of the world, and what effects the winds have on all of this” She raised her hand between them, stopping him from interrupting. “Yes, I know, I can do my job of worlds you visit or get abducted to, rescue as many alien races you can when their sun is its death throes. But in between? There is nothing for me to do past analyzing my samples and recording them. There is so much time you are in space, flying here and there, fighting the Pantera fleet or just wandering aimlessly.”

“I don’t wander…”

“Yes, you do.

There was an uncomfortable silence that lasted a second too long.

“I like wandering, ok? It’s in my nature. Pongo is my home, this crew has become my family.” He paused. “I would like for us to be family.”

She sighed. He sighed. It was going to be a long cycle off.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Time passed slowly on their way back. FoF moved back into her nest, for now, and Person had other things to contend with. A restlessness that had been a small thing, that he thought he had shut down, started to become a mess. As AL1, he had to control the situation and shut it down. Fast.

He was waiting for the three Arbitrators to arrive at the Discussion Module. He kept sighing & grimacing while he sat there. This was what the superiors at the DTG were antsy about. He had gotten his way by a squeaky inch. The mixture of the three groupings of their people was a global challenge that he wanted to win. Finally getting permission, he assembled the best at their jobs, no matter what they were: the Fringed, male and female, and the Unfringed. Ze fell into that group and was lusted over by the some of the Fringed groups, and taunted…hell…hated by the rest.

Each grouping held 1/3 of the crew population. The Zir third originally stuck together, fearful of the bias that had gone on for so long on Taiga. Shunned, the closed minded resorting to violence whenever they thought they were safe, Zir became their own crusade. He remembered the many slogans that incited some riots: “Armed Unhinged, You Can’t Toss Us Aside” was the most incendiary. Things got hot for a bit, then cooled down as real discourse began. It ended with Zir truly becoming part of the whole. A ban on the violence took a little bit more to creep into the empty-headed. The repercussions harsh.

Things changed. At least on the outside.

The three arrived together, late, but together. That was a hopeful sign, he thought. He put the part of him that was Person of the Forest and resumed his role as the AL1 for the meeting. Nodded at the AL1, and the Fringed representatives Long Called for him. The Unfringed represntative  did not say anything: the two Fringe waited. The tension rose in the room, but The Unfringed Zir finally let a lackluster “Hoot.”AL1 sighed. This was going to be a long meeting.

Until the Klaxon went ballistic.

“Fire in the Cargo Hold. Fire. This is not a drill. The Cargo Hold is losing pressure. Repeat: Fire. Cargo Hold. Pressure Loss.” The ships’ AI was at her loudest, not trusting the crew to respond with the urgency. AL1 heard her like this at the worse of times.

“Acknowledged, GALDI+!3. Normal level, please. Contact all non-responders to leave their level. AL1 out.”

Bolting out of his platform, AL1 got on the emergency wave. “Damage Control. Every one of you! To the hold. NOW!”

As he raced through Pongo, one thought hit him: did Ze miss part of the Orb that we exploded? Too much time had passed, but, if he thought it, he could bet his last piece of fruit that other Fringed thought so as well.

The mess could turn uglier. Might. Would. He wished he could have gotten the meeting started at least. He hoped there would be time after this became controlled.

He hooted if anyone was in his way in the corridors. Fixing the problem in the hold was the paramount priority. He’ll see what can be accomplished after that, hoping things did not escalate.

If it did, and Ze or another Unfringed had a paw in this, his superiors at the DTG-the Don’t Tough Ground-would roast him alive.

Letting out a huge sigh, AL1 raced as fast as he could to get to the hold.

If this wasn’t an accident,” he thought, “then who set it?”

To Be Continued?

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Author’s Note:

1) The To Be Continued? is really up to the readers. I mainly get comments and likes on the drabbles from another prompt challenge, Friday Fictioneers. My other posts, close to nothing. If it’s critical feedback, I’m open for it. Can’t improve (if it needs it) if no one brings it up. It also helps make writing worthwhile. So, do you want to see the next chapter of Orangutan Space, please let me know. Thanks.

2) So, a pondering on Tweeter led me to the above story. Even though it was a ponder, I saw it as a prompt challenge. In David’s words:

Thought for the day: the world could do with more genre fiction. Imagine: orangutan detective noir; orangutan steampunk; orangutan space opera. The world would, I suggest, be a happier place,

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(This wasn’t the inital photo prompt. I just liked it.)

3) It also fit another prompt from Fiction Can Be Fun, the shared website that David and Debs write alongside each other.

Here are the rules from Fiction Can Be Fun, if you want to take their prompt challenge:

Write about a colony on another planet or in space. Bonus points for building in the theme of the classical elements (earth, wind, fire, water) and/or for approaching it from the perspective of an alien species. The photo above is also a prompt piece to use or not use.

500-1,000 words
Deadline: 2pm on Friday 10th August 2018

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below. If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line.

 

A Night Without: #FridayFictioneers

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

A Night Without

The lights drew them on.

From bars to clubs to private parties, the three had been on the go since sundown. The long night brought pleasure, debauchery, and fear. The three thrived through all of it.

Pre-dawn left the streets barren in front of them, wasteland behind them.

It had been a good night. They just wanted to make it last as long as they could. It was in their nature, and it was a shared revelry.

Still craving more, they searched for new pleasures. The lights attracted them. Then the laughter and music.

Their night would end, well sated.

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Author’s Notes: (Edited)

Hi. I was going for subtle, and I probably went way too far. Only a few picked up on the key words: “the long night brought pleasure, debauchary, and FEAR.”; the streets behind them were a “wasteland.”; their night would end with them being “sated.”

To me, I tried to say “Danger” without saying “Vampires.” Lesson learned: too subtle doesn’t work.

As to the title A Night Without, I went for the symbolism of Night. From Sparknotes:

God’s first act is to create light and dispel this darkness. Darkness and night therefore symbolize a world without God’s presence. In Night, Wiesel exploits this allusion. Night always occurs when suffering is worst, and its presence reflects Eliezer’s belief that he lives in a world without God.

So, A Night Without is a night without God. Probably should have just put the word in. Again, live and learn.

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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.

Hippie Snowflake Revolution: by Blast Thunderpunch ( Stuart Nager)

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@Richard_Kadrey Prompt

Hippie Snowflake Revolution

by Blast Thunderpunch (aka Stuart Nager)

Prologue

~~~

Comrade Aleksandr “Moskali” Joneski broke the news just days before the revolution went live. It was first hand, no sources. He ran with what he knew, and it was a doozy.

He had infiltrated a Starbucks, ordering a Double Mocha Lite Latte with extra foam. His face contorted, teeth grinding away, he fixed his fake Millenial beard. It had been slipping off. The heat from the day was making him sweat balls, and it didn’t help that  the waiting line reached outside the hated cofevee place. He had already discarded the Man Bun part of his disguise; with nothing on top to hold it in place, he gave up after 22 tries.

Finally, his drink was ready. They got the fake name wrong, noticing this as he walked away to put ten packets of sugar in it.  He told the wench up front his name was Gerard. She wrote “Jerk.”

He slipped into the tail end seat of the communal table (“Ha!”, he thought) and sat. And sat, and drank. Sat and drank…and listened. Eventually, he had to use the restroom. When he came back his seat was gone. So he wandered, jockeying around for another spot. Towards the front of the store,  he heard the inflammatory words:

“So, what are you doing on July 4th?”

Pushing his way onto a stool, facing to the window, Aleks tuned into the discussion that was going on behind him.

“Oh, you know,” the pregnant tramp with the “Baby Bump: Drive Slowly” tee shirt said. “Food, drinks…fireworks!”

Aleks almost fell off the stool. This was it! Confirmation. He almost jumped up and yelled “J’Accuse!”, but he wouldn’t give the gay frogs the satisfaction. Instead, he hunkered down, taking a notepad and pen out of his shoulder slung Man Bag.

The bearded pot smoking revolutionary, who sat opposite the slut, leaned forward. Aleks saw this in the reflection from the windows. “Yeah, yeah. Fireworks, naturally. There’s gonna be a huge crowd. Best to get there early.” He paused.  “Is Alexandria going to be there?”

“Mayyybeee,” she said. Aleks saw a huge grin on her hateful face. “I know you have a thing. Does she know you have a thing?”

The libtard only shook his head back and forth, looking down into his large (not Trente! Large!) cup of iced treason. “Well, um, I don’t know. It might do more harm than good.”

Aleks was lapping it all up. Taking a sip of what remained of his drink, he spit it out. It was cold. As cold as their hearts, their allegiance to this great country. He was furiously writing everything down.

The trollop let out a piercing bark of a laugh. “Well, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll come along with us. Be loaded for bear: you’re not the only one with sights on her.”

He had to stifle the giggles that wanted to break free. “I knew it! I knew it!” he thought. “I would have pegged him for a godless gay; maybe this hippie chick isn’t a chick at all. Maybe she’s a…a he! An affront to my God. My god!”

She levered herself up; her coconspirator stood up with her. Aleks noticed they gave each other what he could only assume was a coded body message: they hugged, and then she patted him on the arm three times. Pat. Pat. Pat.

“You better be there,” she said to him, pointing her finger. “Time to man up and fight for what you want.”

“Fireworks. Food. Alexandria. Fight for it. Got it.”

Aleks put his pad and pen back into the Man Bag and started to follow them out of the store. He noticed they went left onto Lexington, and then were turning left onto Concord.

“Hey, man, it’d help if you cleaned up after yourself. People here aren’t your slaves, you know.” The so-called man he had sat next to during all this piped up as he was trying to leave. Probably a Jew.

“Not yet they aren’t. Not yet.”

BREAKING: Democrats Plan To Launch Civil War On July 4th

 

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Author’s Note:

Fairly recently, author Richard Kadrey has been posting, on Twitter, reworked/photoshopped covers of old pulp(ish) novels, changing them to show off his  brand of humor. The above pic is one of them. I just thought it’d be fun to write the above from Mr. Kadrey’s posting: so, yes, this is my writing, not Mr. Kadrey’s.

Richard Kadrey is a writer, photographer, comic book writer, and an all-around interesting guy. His fiction straddles the Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Cyberpunk worlds, and he’s pretty darn good with it all. I fell in love with his writing starting with his first Sandman Slim novels. Gritty, sometimes violent, often full of whimsey, worth reading. He’s not just another pretty face.

You can check out more fun covers by following him on Twitter @Richard_Kadrey.

To get into his body of work, visit him at his website: Richard Kadrey

Hence, the Exorcists

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Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus, omnis satanica potestas, et secta diabolica…
The exorcism was conducted three times by three priests: two blessed by Rome, one who got his degree online. Exhausted, the three stood, facing the evil abode. It looked down on them with disdained amusement.

The Arbor of Solomon they constructed trapped and halted the spread of its demonic ways. Before they came, it got the Weeping Willows, red droplets pooling around the roots. Mrs. Alto’s Victory Garden ate her dog, three cats, and the mailman’s left leg. Shrubbery wilted, foundations cracked, and Vampiric chipmunks invaded. Subverting the Women’s Weekly Book Club was the step too far; hence, the Exorcists.

After a quick call to the Vatican, all three packed up their bags and began to leave. The Online Priest pulled a sign from his bag, driving the stake into the thorn-laden lawn.

“House for Sale. Terms Negotiable.”

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The above little bit is from a Prompt Contest that was created (and is run by) Jo at A Creative PTSD Gal.  I “met” her during the AtoZ Blog Challenge. The rules are simple: the photo, above, is your prompt. Limit your story to 150 words exactly. This is a contest: if you decide to join in, there is a form provided by way of the link above. Jo says: “This could be in any genre you like, non-fiction, fiction or what strikes your fancy…”

You have until May 30 2018 to enter; she’ll post the winner(s?) soon after.

I just had fun with this. Originally wrote 188 words and had to edit it down. People who know me know I hate to edit, but I do follow rules. Usually. For the most part. When they make sense to me.

 

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.

Take Care: The Abysmal Dollhouse (Reblog Sunday)

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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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Take Care

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The storm clouds had moved along with the wind, leaving behind a still, grey day. The heavy downpour had come down on a slant, washing the dusty windows of the shoppe. The glass glistened as the headlights of passing cars fractured off the puddles, the brief flashing of light creating a strobe effect on the items on display. Dollhouses littered the shelving: Victorian, Tudor, Colonial, Craftsman, and an Abbey. All stood at a slant, showing the open side, the rooms, staircases, floors. The placement also allowed the outside features to shine, the gables, balconies, bay windows, and wrap-around porches, adorned with miniature plants, rocking chairs, and welcome mats.

The bright reflective bursts caught the eye of Mark, who was passing by but at a slow steady pace. His head had been turned to the ground, hands in his pants pockets, shoulders taught. The light drew his eye to the display, and his feet followed. He studied each house, taking in the details, admiring the color scheme of some, others the aesthetic beauty of the architecture. Mark’s wandering eyes and feet led him to the door to the shop. It was a plain glass door, wooden frame, with nothing to announce the name of the place of business. He found his hand reaching for the door handle, but he really couldn’t figure out why.

Behind the glass, behind the dollhouses, The Shopkeeper had been watching Mark as he viewed her safe houses, appraising him, the way he observed, his slow steady examination of her wares. She checked the dark corners of the shoppe and let out a wistful sigh. Some of the houses hungered, and she wished them appeasement, yet this man was not for them. The Shopkeeper shushed them before Mark had completed turning the door handle and entered, the action causing the hanging doorbell to sound.

The Shopkeeper took in his appearance, which through the window gave him a yellow/sepia hue. Inside, things did not change all that drastically. While he took a few steps in, looking around, she observed his color choices were dull, and his clothing, while well kept, was far from being stylish. He looked lived in and comfortable in what he wore, but his body language suggested more.

“May I help you?”, she asked.

Mark looked up from the Carriage House he was staring at. “No, thank you. I…I’m just looking, I guess.” He paused, his shoulders frowning, turning his head to the left, away from the Shopkeeper. “I’m not even sure why I came in. Dollhouses,” he swept his arms, palms up, around the room, “are not really an interest of mine. My ex was into it, and my daughter. Mom, too.” Mark shrugged his shoulders. “Sorry. Not sure why I’m telling you any of this. Is it OK if I just look around?”

The Shopkeeper nodded, picking up her duster, for there was always dust in the shop. The flakes swirled in the sunbeams as they slanted through the windows. Today, they weren’t visible…until it settled down on top of the many surfaces. Mark brought in his own dust trail, and he was leaving it around the shop as he went from dollhouse to dollhouse. She followed him out of the corner of her eyes, marking where she had to concentrate on dusting, later.

She heard him stop walking. His shoes had been making a tap,tap, tapping as he walked; when he stood still to look, and he bent down, the shoes gave a little squeak, adjusting to the new stance. This time, it was a full stop. No noise from his shoes. No “hmmm” or “huh?” or just regular breathing. Stillness. The Shopkeeper turned and looked at Mark.

He was frozen in front of a traditional style dollhouse. Two floors, an attic with dormer, wide porch, shutters on the windows, wood detailing, the front door with two windows on either side and five windows on top, with the middle window directly above the door. The house in pristine white paint. Mark was staring hard. He gasped for air, realizing he had been holding his breath.

Turning the house around, he let out another slight gasp. “My house. This…is my house.” He stood up, looked around, found The Shopkeeper. “How? This is my house.”

The Shopkeeper walked over to stand by his side. He followed her as she bent down to look inside the house, adjusting it so they faced it squarely on. Mark began to point out some of the details to her. The layout was the same. The decor, the same: paneling in the dining room, the soft blue scalloped floral pattern wallpaper that ran from the front door to the kitchen, up the stairway to the halls on the second floor, the wood floors with its various rugs and runners. The tables, chairs, sofa: same as it ever was.

Mark forced himself to look at the bedrooms, the ones on the second floor, and the den that had been converted to one on the first floor. He reached into his room, stopping to look at The Shopkeeper, waiting for permission. She stood, did a light dusting sweep of the houses’ roof, and moved back to the front of the shop. Mark bent back down and touched the bed. It felt soft and inviting.

His eyes and hands traversed through each room, taking in the memories each invoked. The kid’s room, converted from the guest room after his divorce, was as they had left it after they both stopped coming, college then marriages, ending their obligations to be there, to be with him weekly. His parent’s bedroom, full of his mothers’ things, which she valued above anything else most of the time. The walk-in closet crammed with her clothing, shoes, pocketbooks, hats. Her cane leaning against the nightstand.

Mark kept his eye on the cane for a short while. He started to reach in but stopped, closing his eyes, his right hand locked just outside of the room. He breathed in deeply, letting the air escape slowly. Three times. Opening his eyes, he moved his arm.

Piece by piece, Mark removed items from her room, placing them down on the side of the dollhouse shelf. The dressers, the rocking chair, footstool, pictures hanging on the walls, the bed, night table, the cane. He emptied the closet of all the clothing, making neat piles on the shelf next to the furniture. He was looking at an empty room, save for the wallpaper she loved. Mark stripped that off carefully, leaving the white walls underneath without blemish as best he could.

The kid’s bedroom was next. It was easier to strip away everything in there, things that would never be used again. Removing everything on the second floor, leaving his room alone. Marks’ excavation, of digging down to the basis of the home, continued downstairs. He methodically removed the items and decor from the living room, foyers, kitchen.

The bedroom nee den stopped Mark dead in his tracks. His eyes got blurry, wet, forcing him to wipe his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. Leaning against the back wall was another cane, next to a walker, next to a wheelchair, next to an oxygen tank. The hospital bed was in the center of the room, which had been denuded, sterilized down to its bare bones.

Mark knelt on the floor, slightly rocking back and forth on his heels. “Sorry, Dad,” he whispered, as he cleansed the room as he had done with the others. When he finally took the hospital bed out of the room, he held it up, examined it, had trouble putting it down, but he eventually did.

While this last task was going on, he had faintly heard The Shopkeeper moving around him. Looking down once the room was emptied, he noticed that all of the familial life pieces had been removed. In their place was new furniture, the stuff one fills a house and makes it a home. Mark wasn’t too surprised to see that it all was in his tastes, design, and color.

He filled up the house quickly. Mark moved his things into his parents’ room, adding a few new things that he found left for him. The kid’s room was returned to guest room status, and he transformed his own room into a second. He moved to the first floor, laying down wall to wall carpeting, then bringing in the chairs, tables, sofa, big comfy chairs with big comfy pillows, large screen TV and fixings.

Mark took his time when it came to refurbishing the bottom bedroom back into a den. Executive office chair, desk, computer, stuffed full bookcases and shelving. It was comfortable, and he finally relaxed.

The doorbell rang. Mark got up from the padded chair, walking towards it in his socks only, not wanting to mar the new carpeting. As he got closer to the door, he noticed a familiar face peering in through the left side window at the door. Mark stopped short. He hadn’t seen her in years, lost touch with her, missed her all this time.

He reached out and opened the door.

“Donna.”

She smiled at him, bottom teeth still slightly crooked, head tilted to her right, eyes shining. She had on the red dress and white stockings with red hearts on them, the same as she wore that one Valentines Day.

“Are you going to invite me in?” she asked.

Mark did, watched her walk a few steps down the hall and into the living room.

“I really like what you did with the place,” she said, whirling around. “Feels like home.”

Mark smiled deeply and went to join her.

The Shopkeeper turned the dollhouse around, the front facade facing out towards the aisle. She gave them the privacy they both deserved.

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Author’s note: I thought this would be a nice piece to put after yesterday’s Y post for the AtoZ Blog Challenge.

Monday, April 30th, brings the final post, Z, which will serve as an epilogue.

On May 7th, all of the participants of the AtoZ Challenge are asked to post a reflection on the month’s process: afterthoughts, explanations, frustrations/elations, and whatever else may come to mind.

****After you read the Z post on Monday, April 30th, I will be asking YOU for questions, ponderings, or suggestions you might still have. I found a number of editorial mistakes when I copied and pasted the stories into a Word file (thank you, Grammarly) and already did some (minor) editing. So, if you’ve been with me all along, or just finding your way into The Abysmal Dollhouse, April 30th will be a good time to pose what’s on your mind. I will do my best to answer/address all on the reflection (mentioned above). Any queries must be posted by Friday, March 2nd. 

As to what happens next with Tale Spinning &/or The Abysmal Dollhouse…time will tell.

Thanks for reading along.

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.

3566616

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.

Xanthippe’s Rage: 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.

Doll

Xanthippe’s Rage

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The soldier had been tireless in his tracking. He had moved beyond the area where the girl (Mary) had been attacked. Weeks had passed since the incident and he knew more. One of the EMT’s had been in country, same tour, different times, but they bonded on the way to the hospital, bumping into each other while the soldier looked over Mary. The EMT had connections with some of the street cops. Sightings got passed down the line; the soldier followed them up, often going further when the police stopped.

One lead took him to an abandoned campsite. Stacks of wood had been piled up by a fire pit made of stones. The ash remains were old, dry and cold, and much of the wood was green, hacked up in a haphazard way. He knew he was in the right place, or a right place, because the immediate area had a heavy smell of burnt wood. It was thick, leaving a sour taste to the air around the pit. The soldier had set up a nest, bivouaced, but a day turned days; frustration set in deep after a week. No one returned. Not kids. Not hunters. Not the attacker. The soldier left, went back to the hospital, hoping some new info would be available.

There was. He moved on it ASAP!

*** *** ***

The Shopkeeper went around the shoppe, dusting, sweeping, moving one dollhouse here, one there. An older dollhouse would leave, a new one taking its place. People were drawn in. Only a very few left. It was all as usual.

The droning from the Muirhouse grew irritating the longer it went on. Nothing had come of it, and the energy of the house was draining away. The Shopkeeper had continued to steer potentials away from it, having placed the dollhouse in the display window, far enough from the pulling in; hoping that its calls of “Child, come!” would travel easier, grab its prey, and bring the monster to them.

It was all as usual, except the Unfolding Doll was spending less time in its shadowed corner and more time visiting the expanse of dollhouses. The Shopkeeper tried to stop this escalation, but the best she could do was lower its frequency, if not the manic drive. The Shopkeeper thought only one thing had changed in her favor: the Unfolding Doll had ceased trying to attack her. She knew it was only for the time being, but she was relieved by the respite.

*** ***

They chased, they chased, and still she bawled
"Child, come! Child, come!"; Oh, he'd heed that call. 
Wiffling through briar and cement
His Vorpal blade would cause lament!

It's close, so close, that hated voice
He had to come; he had no choice. 
He'd send the blade through and through
Make him come; Oh, how they'd rue...

***

“HE’S COME! HE’S COME!”

The cry from the Muirhouse, so piercing it shook the Shopkeeper, just as she had hung up her duster. The door to the shoppe smashed open, the doorbell flew off, tinkling off-key as it skittered across the floor.

His smell hit her first, foul and acrid before he bounded over and backhanded her with his left hand. The Shopkeeper fell back, hitting her counter, causing the glass to grow spider web cracks. He stood glaring at her, eyes wide open, his mouth open revealing rotted and blackened teeth, what ones were still in place.

“You! You called me!” He advanced, knocking over two dollhouses that crashed to the floor. “You…no. Not you.” He stopped, having grabbed the Shopkeeper by her arm, preventing her any space to grab her broom.

“No, I know that hated voice. Where. Is. She?”

In his free hand, he reached into his left side coat pocket and drew out a short sword. The Shopkeeper took in its polish, knew, without doubt, its sharpness. The tip so pointed, looming closer.

“WHERE IS SHE?” he shouted, raising the sword high.

The Soldier hurtled through the broken doorway, tackling the attacker and away from the Shopkeeper. The smell was intense this close, but he needed to get the sword away from this madman. He had been so damn close to catching him out on the street, but the bastard had noticed him in a store window. The soldier gave chase for three blocks before finally…

The hilt of the sword battered into the Soldier’s skull, stunning him. The murderer kicked the soldier off of him and gained his feet. With space, so did the Soldier. As did the Shopkeeper.

She, aching and bloodied, went for her broom. She reached out with her right hand to grip the handle, but it slid out of her grasp, slick with the blood running down her arm. She went for it again and succeeded. Turning to face the fray…turning to face…if the handle hadn’t slipped…

The sharp pointed tip of the blade, the honed edges, the gleaming strong metal, pierced the soldier, deep. The soldier choked as he fell to his knees. Mouth opened in a shout that did not come, eyes popping wide, the soldier tried to grasp the blade with his right hand, losing the mirror fingers of his left.

The Shopkeeper screamed “NO!” as she leveled up her broom, the murderer turning his attention back to her.

As the soldier fell to the floor, as his blood dripped off the Vorpal blade, as the Shopkeeper made her stand…

The Unfolding Doll, knife in hand, burst out of its shadowed corner.

To be continued…

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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.

Author’s note: ASAP in civilian life means “As soon as possible”. In military lingo, it means “IMMEDIATELY.” Just thought I’d let ya know before someone thinks the soldier wouldn’t move with haste in this case.

White Plague: 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.

waverly-hills-sanatorium

White Plague

The Abysmal Dollhouse

The screaming came from the dark end fo the body chute. Victoria stopped dead in her tracks. She clutched her head with both hands and screamed; a counterbalance to the wailing coming up the passageway. She collapses, wracked with fear, tears pouring one the floor that was pressed against her face. Victoria continued screaming until her vocal cords gave out, leaving only a rasping sound. The shrieking echoed up the body chute until it, too, faded away.

Panting on the floor, Victoria’s mind was in a vortex of thoughts and emotions. Pain overwhelmed her, body and mind. The scream came first to her, scrambling around until she began to fixate on being afraid. Fear turned to hatred. Hatred morphed into Victor, then anger, then pity, then loneliness, then anger again. Fear hit her hard, sending her head slamming into the floor. Fear. Slam. Escape. Slam. Victor. Slam. Knives. Slam. Pain. Slam. Hatred. Slam. Victor. Fear. Slam. Victor. Victor. Victor.

Slam. Slam. Slam.

Woozily, she staggered to her feet. Victoria had to wipe away the blood that was dripping into her eyes; the drool that was escaping from her open mouth. She wanted to cry, to scream. Instead, bouts of coughing shook her, hurting her throat even more. As they subsided, she stood, listening. With a sudden jerk to the left, she heard the sound that had been chasing her. That damned thing…still after her. Still that tap, tap, tapping.

Victoria ran. The coughing resumed.

The Unfolding Doll, knife in hand, moved down the hallways of the sanitorium. It passed the many wraiths that wafted around, in and out of rooms, through floors and ceilings. The doll went after the woman with the bleeding wrists, but it pulled away through the floor. Its knife flashed out in front of it as a leather ball came flying toward its head. The Unfolding Doll lashed out. The ball went through the knife, losing velocity, and fell to the floor behind the doll. Turning, it saw the outline of a child pick up the ball and take off down the hallway, only to pass through one of the closed doors.

These were not the things to pursue. The Unfolding Doll had other prey. Continuing down the hall, floor to floor, it tapped it’s blade, announcing its passing. Knife on the walls. Tap. Kife on doors. Tap. Knife on everything that came its way. Tap, tap, tapping.

It approached room 502 and stopped. The doll did not tap on or near this door. It moved away to the other side of the hall, button eyes fixed on the closed door. Giving it a wide berth, the Unfolding Doll made its way to the staircase, black plastic eyes locked onto room 502 until it couldn’t be seen anymore.

Bleeding badly from the head laceration, Victoria’s strength was ebbing as her voice had. Her throat was even rawer from the constant hacking coughing.  She had tried to staunch the blood flow, tearing part of her hospital gown to make a bandage, but the blood seeped through. When she wasn’t coughing, she heard the tap, tap, tapping as it grew closer. Door after door was locked. There was nothing she could find to jimmy open a lock, no keys to be found.

Victoria went down a side hallway, through a pair of swinging doors. Ahead there was a nurses station, fixed in place. Rounding a corner, Victoria searched the drawers and cabinets for anything she could use: for the blood or for protection, whatever. The station was emptied. Not even dust.

The thing that killed Victor, that drew into this horrible place, was close. She could hear it. Near, too fucking near. She shoved her mouth full of the sleeve of her gown to muffle the coughing. Crouching, she went into the space where a chair would be pushed into. She made herself as small as she could, tried to blend into the shadow underneath. Tried to calm her cough.

Tap, tap, tap. On the top of the station desk.

Tap, tap, tap. Running down the counter.

Tap, tap, tap. Rounding the corner.

Victoria, fetal position, turned her head slightly, enough for one eye to see beyond. There, at the edge, were two black shoes. White linen legs, stitches running up and down. The edge of the knife, glinting in the darkness.

One step forward. Then another. Then…

The Unfolding Doll’s head snapped up and out. It twirled its knife back and forth, rising it towards the ceiling. An inner thrumming sang through its linen body. No decisions were to be made. One moment it wanted Victoria to dance with its blade. The next, it stepped into a shadowed corner and was gone.

Relief washed over Victoria when she realized she was alone. Pulling the material out of her mouth, she gasped for air, reawakening the whooping cough. Spent, she slipped down, laying on the cold tile floor. As she was drifting away, she heard the screaming, again. It was coming from the body chute.

To be continued…

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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 Waverly Hill Sanatorium is in Kentucky. Built in 1910, 40 to 50 patients were supposed to be housed there to deal with the White Plague: Turberculosis. Many people died there of all ages. The link will give you more info on the hauntings and stories surrounding the building. The body chute is one of the more disturbing aspects of the place. For some of the more gruesome facts, click HERE.