Category Archives: fiction

Adrift

Scrolling through my Reader this morning, I found inspiration. WordPress puts out a Daily Prompt to write about–fiction, nonfiction, long, short, whatever finds it way onto your page. So here is my story based off today’s one word prompt: Adrift.

Angelique looked around the funeral.

His poker buddies on one side, leaning against each other. Work cohorts on the other, shocked looks still on their faces. In the front, where Angelique should also be, was his mother, sopping tissues in hand.

They didn’t know. None of them knew.

She had spent hours plotting his death. Each plan more elaborate than the last. Only to have it taken away from her by a random car accident. She supposed she still had a surprised look her face too.

When the cops came to the door, Angelique had felt only relief. Relief that he wouldn’t hit her again; relief that when his friends left on poker night the critique would never again start on how she was clumsy and had almost spilled beer on Tom; never have to worry about his mother complaining about the house and him taking it out on Angelique when she left.

And now she was free.

Angelique looked around again, at his friends and family. His. What was hers?

Angelique suddenly realized she had no plans. All her plans, all the ways for him to die, ended with his death. Nothing further. What would she do with her life?

Angelique burst into tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Adrift

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Door to Adventure, the fifth

This was supposed to be the last episode, however, the story  took a bit of a left turn. I am sure I have at least one reader (M) who would be most unhappy with me if I left it as is. So the story will continue–I just don’t think it will be tomorrow!

5.

The lavender door opened to reveal an expanse of flat plain, grass floating tall. In the distance a white tree glowed, even with storm clouds gathered above it. The clouds tapered out to an oddly pewter sky.

Haily glanced at Irene, expecting disappointment. Irene was staring at the storm clouds, an odd look on her face.

“We need to get to that tree, “she said.

The tree stood, tall and bright. Must be a birch, Haily thought. She sighed, then gathered her bag.  Billy grabbed one of Irene’s and they started walking.

Irene seemed driven, leading the way. As they finally reached the tree, Haily heard a rumble.

A single horseman galloped over the rise behind the tree, but he was swiftly followed by more that fanned out around Frankie, Haily and Irene. The riders blocked them from the tree. Irene made a sound of frustration.

The lead horseman sat, relaxed, watching them. His lean face made Haily think of Native Americans-tanned, with deep eyes and spiky dark hair. He reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

Irene shook off Frankie’s restraining hand. She stared at the horse in front of her, looking from it to the one next to it. She put her hand up, tentatively, almost as if she thought it might go through the horse’s face, instead of resting on soft hair. She looked wonderingly at the lead horseman, ignoring the other riders.

“How do you do it?” she asked.

The horseman looked surprised. Haily looked at intently at all the horses surrounding them, wondering what Irene saw.  That horse was brown, the other looked tan, and the last, well, Haily didn’t know anything about horses, but it was a darker brown. The riders looked similar, lean men sitting comfortably looking at them solemnly. Warriors, Haily thought, unsure why that word came to mind. But it fit.

Another man, on foot, came to stand beside the first rider; placing his hand on the rider’s knee.

“What do you see?” he asked Irene in a deep voice.

The man looked like an older version of the rider, Haily thought. In fact, she thought, her earlier thought on the rider’s familiarity rising again, they both look like—she turned to look at Irene again. Irene who always looked slightly tan, who had always hated her long rangy legs and torso, Irene who was wiping her sleek dark hair out of her face as she turned to face the new man.

“They aren’t real,” she said simply. “I don’t know how, but they aren’t really there.”

She walked past the rider in front of her. The rider made no move to stop her as she walked past, although the lead rider looked like he would jump off his horse as Irene approached the white tree. The older man restrained him, watching interestedly.

Haily went to follow Irene, who walked towards the tree with a bemused look on her face. Frankie reached out to grab her, shaking his head when Haily gave him a dirty look.

“Um, Irene? There is something you might not know,” Haily called. “Have you noticed-“

“NO,” the young rider burst out, “you must not!”

The other horse and riders disappeared. Frankie and Haily whirled, trying to figure out where they had gone.  The older man still held the rider, although he was on foot now, and struggling to reach Irene.

“Uncle, she cannot! You know this-she will be killed!”

“Frankie!” Haily screamed.

Frankie raced after Irene just as she reached out her hand. He stopped, a horrified look on his face as Irene placed both hands gently on the trunk, taking in a deep breath.

The clouds roiled, twisting upon themselves above the shining tree. They suddenly dissipated, fleeing outward in a circle towards the edge of the  pewter horizon, leaving a bright blue sky behind.

“Ah,” the older man whispered. “Blood will tell.”

*****************************************

 

 

 

 

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Doorway to Adventure, Four

 

4.

Haily raced down the tunnel, wanting to be the first one there. They hadn’t had a chance to explore any more doors because of all the graduation hoopla. She couldn’t wait to try the next door.  Her bag bumped her leg as she ran. Wouldn’t Irene be surprised, Haily was prepared today!

Haily came around the last curve and stopped, disappointed. Irene sat, her back straight against the wall as she stared at the lavender door across from her.

Haily frowned, alerted by the tension in Irene. Dropping down next to her, Haily saw the large duffel next to Irene.

“Hey,” Haily said. “You beat me.”

“That’s cuz I got ready last night and you had to pack this morning,” Irene smiled. She seemed distant, even when she leaned her head on Haily’s shoulder.

“Irene?”

“I don’t want to live in this town any more. My mom, well, she won’t even notice. You’re going to SCU, Billy only has a year left.”

“I thought that you were going with me! SCU isn’t that far away, I thought we’d be roommates off campus.”

“And do what? Serve beer to the college boys and girls? We see how well that worked for Mom. I can’t afford college.”

Haily sat, stumped. It had never occurred to her that it wouldn’t be her and Irene against the world. They had been together since first grade.

Irene was always with Haily’s family, her mom being what Haily’s mom nicely called a  “barfly.” She waitressed at the local bar, and went home with whatever man she found that night. Sometimes it lasted a month, sometimes only a weekend, but it was never good for Irene. So they had grown up together, Haily’s parents happy to bring Irene into the fold of a real family.

“So, what are you planning?”

Irene indicated her duffel and backpack. “I got everything important in there. I cashed out my account, since I wasn’t sure if my debit card will work in there. I have a pay cell, figuring if yours worked this one will too.”

Haily was stunned. Footsteps down the tunnel stopped her from saying anything. Frankie came around the corner and saw Irene’s bags and nodded.

“I thought this might be the one,” he said.

“What?? And you didn’t say anything?” Haily demanded, staring at the pale purple door as if it had the answers. “You don’t even like purple.”

Irene smiled. “I know we have one more, but this one just feels like the one.”

“Ok,” Frankie said, “lets do it.”

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Doorway to Adventure, Three

#3

Irene tapped her pencil on the desk, consciously keeping a slow tempo as her impatience mounted. She watched as Mrs. Gorgesom handed out homework assignments, then shoved everything in her bag as the bell rang. Racing out the back of the school, she entered the tunnels in less than two minutes.

Haily still beat her. Breathless, Irene dropped her books in front of the doors.

“How did you beat me?” she gasped.

“Study hall,”Haily smiled smugly. “I ducked out early. Went to the bathroom and never came back.”

Irene shook her head.  Haily never failed to surprise her, even after being friends since grade school. Hearing footsteps, she looked up, expecting to see Frankie. Instead, Greg was coming down the tunnel.

Irene and Haily immediately jumped up and ran to meet him.  It was Haily that neatly turned him before he got to the doors, scolding him for ruining a perfectly good prank they were playing on Frankie. Irene followed them back up the tunnel; nodding when necessary and hiding her smile. No one could out-talk Haily.

Frankie met them near the entrance. “Sorry, class ran late. What’s this?”

“Greg met us down in the tunnel,” Haily announced. “Irene and I had a joke for you, but I guess that is over now.”

“Sorry,” Greg said, “although, maybe you should be thanking me, Frankie. I can’t imagine any prank Haily planned would be that fun for you!”

“Good point,” Frankie agreed. “I guess we might as well head out.”

“Hey, Irene, my dad saw your mom–” Greg started.

“Oh! I left my back pack in the tunnel,” Irene broke in before turning and darting back.

When she got to the doors, she bypassed her bag and picked up the oblong stone Frankie had designated as the door-stop. Pushing the lintel stone on cherry-pink door, she went through.

****************************

Frankie and Haily found her sitting on a hillside.

Irene was tucked in on herself, arms wrapped on her shins and her head on her knees as she stared out on the vivid canopy in front of her. They sat down, bracketing her. Haily put an arm around her while Frankie leaned against her. They all sat looking out at the autumn leaves spread before them.

“I wonder where we are,” Haily finally said, reaching for her phone. Irene held out a hand to stop her.

“I don’t want to know,” she said. Haily stared at her, but put the phone away.

Irene knew she couldn’t explain it, but she just wanted to sit in this moment. The strong edges of pinecones adding structure to the waving grass, the leaves drifting down to carpet all with reds, yellows and oranges. Her dad was probably laying under just such a canopy of leaves, somewhere in the world, she thought. She’d like to know where. Frankie would understand, she knew, he would understand the mournful beauty of the bright decaying leaves covering the acorns that would seed new growth.

Haily hopped up, unable to sit still that long. “How is it fall here? It’s spring at home. I guess it must be around the world, opposite seasons. Or is it always fall here?”

Irene shrugged. “I would love it to be fall here always. I could come and sit whenever I wanted.”

Haily frowned, Irene’s answer not satisfying her. “Hey Frankie, is Lizzy still after you?”

Irene felt Frankie tense next to her.

“Could you believe it, Frankie and Lizzy? Lizzy and Frankie?  I mean, what is she thinking?” Haily wondered as she moved down the hill to inspect the trees.

“You should tell her,” Irene murmured.

Frankie hunched a shoulder. “I know.”

“She wouldn’t care.”

“Are you kidding?” Frankie whispered, “she would build me the largest damn float ever and put it in the parade! I don’t think I am ready for that.”

Irene burst out laughing, the truth of his description melting the last of her depression.  “I do love you, Frankie!”

Haily came back to see what the laughter was about. “You love Frankie?” she gasped. “Is that why he doesn’t like Lizzy?”

Irene rolled over, clutching her belly, giggling helplessly. “No, n-no,” she hiccupped. “I l-love you both!! You are my best friends ever!”

She caught her breath and sat up, extending her hands to Haily. “I think I am ready to go home now.”

 

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The Second Doorway to Adventure

2.

They met in the tunnel as planned. Each had prepared this time: rucksacks of water and snacks, ways to mark the trail back, rugged shoes and clothes for exploring. Haily practically hummed with excitement.

“Which door today?” she asked. “How do we choose?”

Irene pulled sidewalk chalk from her bag, then numbered the doors from left to right.

“I think we should just go in order,” she said. “What do you think, Frankie?”

“Why not?” He shrugged. “I guess that is as good a way as any.”

He reached up and pushed the lintel stone of the blue door Irene had labeled #1. Haily grabbed Irene’s hand as the door swung out and fresh sea filled the hallway. Once more Haily was the first one out the door, dragging Irene with her. Frankie followed, stopping to wedge a brick in the doorway.

“Nice,” Haily said admiringly.

Frankie led the way across the tall grass, stopping periodically to put markers. Haily danced around the other two, clearly wanting to run ahead. She suddenly disappeared from view, screeching.

Irene and Frankie dashed forward in time to see her rolling down the dune towards the water. She sat up as a wave splashed her face. Frankie fell down on the dune, laughing hysterically. Irene leaned against him, smiling down at her friend. Grimacing, Haily climbed back up the  sand.

“Yeah, yeah, so funny,” she groused as she came to stop besides them. Haily stiffened as she looked beyond them. “Um, guys, I can’t see the door!”

Irene and Frankie spun.

“Haily! You can’t see the door because it is over there! God, I thought I would die!” Irene exclaimed, then collapsed on the ground.

Frankie started laughing again, while Haily looked even more frustrated. Then, recovering her natural ebullience, she pulled her cell phone out of her rucksack.

“Think it will work?” she winked as she turned it on and thumbed through her apps.

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Somewhere….ah, there it is! GPS,” she announced proudly.  “We are….huh.”

“Well,” Irene demanded, “where are we?”

“Not sure, it doesn’t seem to be working properly. Maybe the leap through space confused it.”

Frankie rolled his eyes.  He got up and headed for the dune.

“Hey, where you going?” Haily demanded.

“Out there,” he pointed, “I’m pretty sure the owner of that house know where they live.”

Haily and Irene stared at the trail of stepping-stones leading to the house out on the sand spit. Haily immediately followed her brother. Irene looked back at the safety of the door, so far away, then followed the other two.

“So, what,” Haily said, “you are just going to say we have no idea what continent we are on and can they please tell us?”

“No, how about we just say we got lost? If they tell us where we are, we should be able to figure it out.”

Irene had been slowing down as they got closer to the first rock. Now she stopped.

“Wait, what if we can’t understand them? What if they don’t speak english? What if, what if they aren’t nice?” she finished on a whisper.

Frankie looked at her seriously while Haily hopped from foot to foot.

“That’s a good point,” he finally admitted. “Maybe I should go out there and you guys wait here.”

“Then what?” Haily asked. “We aren’t going home without you! What would I tell Mom? At least if we go we don’t have to worry the entire time. If they don’t understand, we will pretend to be tourists. And if they aren’t nice then we will, we will punch them! Frankie knows how. Lord knows he does it to me enough,” she finished, sticking her tongue out at her brother.

“Ok,” Frankie nodded decisively. “We probably shouldn’t be separated. I don’t want to explain that to Mom or Dad either!”

Still not reassured, Irene followed the other two, again, out onto the rocks

The rain started pouring down as Irene trailed after Haily and Frankie. Reaching in her rucksack, she tugged out an umbrella, trying unsuccessfully to squelch her laughter as the other two broke into a run. She did hurry up, not wanting them to get to the unknown house before she got there. She caught them just as they reached the path leading to the front door.

Even in the storm with granite clouds behind it, the house looked friendly and normal. Catching a glimpse of Haily’s face, Irene could see she looked disgusted. Of course, that could be because she was dripping and Irene wasn’t. Frankie went up the steps, ignoring the puddles drowning his shoes. He knocked firmly on the door.  Haily joined Irene under the umbrella and they hung back as Frankie knocked again. He waited, then shrugged as he looked at the girls.

“Don’t think anyone is here.”

“Probably a summer home or camp,” Irene said.

Haily darted towards one of the wide windows, standing on tiptoe to peek in. “Hey! I see a French magazine! Maybe we are in France. I’ve always wanted to go to France,” she said.

“Great,” Frankie answered, “now you have been. Or they just like reading French magazines,” he ended, stamping her dreams as only a brother could. “And we need to get back, it’s getting late.”

Haily flounced off, sticking her tongue out at her brother. Irene rolled her eyes, then followed Haily, with Frankie coming behind them. All three  jumped when Haily’s phone suddenly rang. Pulling it out of her bag like a live snake, Haily cautiously put it to her ear.

“Hi….Mom!….I know, I know, we are on the way home….I’m with Frankie and Irene.”

Frankie and Irene could both hear her mom’s voice calm after Haily said that.

“Yeah, be home soon……can Irene stay the night?…”Haily lowered her voice and moved away, while Frankie moved closer, standing at Irene’s shoulder. “You can call her mom….you know it doesn’t matter…”

Haily hung up and popped her phone back in her bag. “Guess we just needed a tower! Cool. And you can come home, then head to school with us in the morning, Irene.”

Frankie expertly shepherded the girls back across the sand and grass while Haily chattered at Irene. Just before they got to the door, Haily pulled her phone back out. She thumbed through her apps again.

“Hah, France,” she exclaimed triumphantly, showing the GPS on her phone to Frankie before dancing through the door.

Frankie shook his head, smiling at Irene. “You ok?”

“Yeah, sure, why wouldn’t I be?” she asked stiffly.

“Well, she kinda is dragging you to our house. That ok?”

“Oh yeah, sure, be fun,” Irene answered, relaxing and heading through the door.

“C’mon Frankie,” Haily yelled. “Mom is going to call again any minute.”

Frankie shut the door carefully,  leaving the door-stop next to door #Two.

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, after school we try this one,” he said before following the girls home.

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Doors to Adventure

#1

“Come on,” Haily urged.

Irene sighed, but followed Haily into the tunnel behind the school.

“What is so important?” she demanded.

“Frankie! Oh, I hope no teachers catch wind of this.”

Irene stopped short. “You are not dragging me down here for some fight, are you?”

“No, no, come ON.” Haily grabbed Irene and pulled her down into the cool dark.

No one really knew why the tunnel had been built. Rumors flew, of course: war armory, refugee hideaway. The favorite was that it led to another secret tunnel. Irene didn’t believe any of it.

Until they stopped next to Frankie and the open door.

“Frankie! Where did that door come from?” Irene demanded.

Frankie smirked proudly. “Remember when Mr. Forest gave that boring lecture about school history? No one really knew why this tunnel was built. Or even when. It was here when they built the school. So definitely not bomb shelter from the 60’s-”

“Frankie!!!!” Haily urged. “We don’t need another boring lecture. What is this place?”

“Ok, ok,” he threw his hands up. “I was curious, so I came down to investigate. There has to be a purpose, right? I found this door after about two weeks of searching. The mechanism to open it was really, really hidden.”

“What’s in there?” Haily asked, peering around the door.

“Don’t know, was waiting for you and Irene.”

“Well, let’s go in!”

“Hey, wait a minute!” Irene said. “We have no idea what is in there! Could be rats…huge mutant rats for all we know. Shouldn’t we get an adult? Or at least let someone know where we are going?”

Haily gave her a dismissive glance before pushing Frankie towards the door. Turning on the flashlight he carried, he led Haily  into the deep darkness, leaving Irene frustrated in the tunnel. Finally, with one last peek at the light reflecting at the end of the tunnel, she followed Frankie and Haily.

The new tunnel had a sharp bend almost immediately, Frankie and Haily were already around it. Irene could see their shadows bouncing wildly off the far wall as she turned the corner herself. They were standing silently when she joined them.

“What’s going…” Irene’s voice died off as she saw the doors arranged in the wall in front of them.

Frankie gestured at the doors, sending the shadows dancing again. There were four doors, ornately curved lintels over gleaming wood. The stone framing each door was a luminous color; pink, teal, purple, blue glowed softly in the beam from the flashlight.

“Frankie, did you find out who built this tunnel?” Irene asked quietly, staring at doors. They were so tall, and felt….unworldly. She seemed tiny next to them.

He shook his head and answered without taking his eyes off the doors. “I was going to go the town office and look up plans, see if I could get a date at least. But I found the trigger to open the door first. Haily wanted to come right down.”

“Do you think we could open them?” Haily asked excitedly.  “I mean, is there a hidden trigger here?”

Irene smiled. Haily always wanted to jump in feet first. She’d been leading Irene and Frankie around for years. Frankie was a good influence on his sister, but sometimes he followed her without thought either. Then it was up to Irene to be the voice of reason. She didn’t think they were going to listen this time.

She wasn’t going to bother. She wanted to know what was behind those doors too.

Frankie gave Irene the flashlight, then picked a door frame. He ran his hands over the light teal wood, looking for any nicks or fissures. Irene held the light on the door for him, searching with her eyes as well. Haily, not to be out done, started feeling along the cherry pink door next to Frankie.  Irene stepped back to divide the light evenly between the doors for them. That’s when she saw it.

“Uh, guys, what about that?”

Frankie straightened up, then pushed the stone on the lintel that Irene was pointing at. He and Haily jumped back as the door swished inward. Fresh air swept into the tunnel as the three stared in amazement.

“That, that isn’t possible,” Irene gasped, then grabbed Haily as she started forward.  “Tomorrow,” she said firmly. “we need to plan this out.”

Frankie agreed, and they went back up the tunnel, dragging a reluctant Haily between them.

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it was a dark and stormy night

Finally, my cliche story after everyone else has delivered:

“The night rumbled, dark and stormy. The shot echoed the thunder, and Abigail shuddered as she dropped the gun and stepped uncertainly backwards. She stared at the pool of blood forming  under the intruder. His eyes stared blankly through the mask, and Abigail crept forward slowly to pull up the mask so she could see the face of the man who had hunted, and haunted, her for the past year.  She gasped as the mask revealed….”

Clara jumped as the phone shrilled. She glanced out the window,  surprised to see the weather now mirrored the book she had been reading with such rapt attention. Dark clouds had replaced the bright sunshine she had come home in. Clara grabbed the insistently ringing phone.

Five minutes later she had swiftly changed her clothes and grabbed her purse. Gerry,  her friend having a dinner party later in the evening, had sliced his hand while preparing the roast. He hadn’t wanted to go to the ED, thinking that she could get there faster than he could get to the hospital. Thinking he was probably right, Clara directed him to wrap it in a towel, keep it above his head and not get any blood on her dinner!

The sound of thunder chased her as she ran to her car. She had always hated storms, and this one was increasing her nerves about Gerry. She pushed her little BMW she as drove down Rt 3 to Gerry’s road. She knew once she got to his twisty road she would have to go much more slowly. The late 90’s Beemer was her pride and joy, she never liked taking it down his road on the best of times. As she slewed around the corner onto Gerry’s road, she looked at the waving branches nervously. Wouldn’t like one of those to come down on her after the new paint job she and her brother had just finished the paint job on the car.

Gerry’s grandmom had just passed and left him a house out here in the woods. His brother Jamie shared it with him, but was currently at college. He sometimes came home on weekends, though, and Clara wondered if he would be home for the party tonight. She liked it better when the boys had lived in the city, she thought wryly as she navigated the narrow lane. One final turn and she would see the old farmhouse. The farm had flourished once, but that had been a long time ago; now the trees had grown up and the fields had disappeared.

Normally Clara liked the house, it was cozy and filled with family memories. Tonight she just wanted to get there.  She peered through the windshield as her wipers tried valiantly to push the slashing rain. Clara cast a wistful  glance at her purse with her book in it. Normally the only way she liked to ride out a thunderstorm was curled up with her book.

As she went around the final curve, she heard a tremendous crack of thunder with a corresponding thunk behind her. Jerking the car to a halt, Clara looked back. A large tree had come down across the road, just missing her rear bumper.

Clara sighed, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get her low slung car back over that. Sometimes she wished for a Land Rover. Hopefully the boys would be able to cut it and she could get home tonight. At least she had traded her shift for tomorrow, so she didn’t have to worry about work.

Tamping down her fear the accident had caused, Clara turned forward again and drove up to the house. The house sat in the dark; power must be out, she thought. Wonderful. Parking and grabbing her emergency care bag plus her steel Stanley flashlight, Clara went up onto the big porch and pushed open the front door.

“Gerry?” she called. “Gerry, where are you?”

When she got no answer, Clara became concerned. Had he lost enough blood to pass out? Maybe it was more serious than he let on. I should have made him go to the emergency department, she thought guiltily.  Clara rushed into kitchen, bumping into a coffee table on the way.

“Ohh, ooohh, ooh!” She mumbled, finally getting the flashlight adjusted in her full hands so she could actually see where she was going. Flashing the light around, she didn’t see Gerry anywhere, not even on the floor. Setting her bag on the kitchen island, she looked around more intently.

There was a lot of blood on the butcher block, with a trail to the refrigerator. Gerry putting dinner back, Clara surmised. Pointing the light at the refrigerator, Clara recoiled when she saw the vivid red hand print on the white appliance. A bunched up towel sat on the floor near the island. What had happened here?

Clara suddenly realized the storm had passed, leaving quiet in its wake. Quiet that allowed her to hear every creak in the old house. She was intensely aware of being alone. Gathering herself, and chastising herself for acting like the heroine of her thriller mysteries, Clara walked over to the stairs. She had to check Gerry’s room and see if he had passed out there. Besides, she reminded herself, not like she could get out anyway. She hoped Gerry didn’t need an ambulance.

Clara crept up the stairs, unable to shake her edginess. Gerry’s room was clear. A sudden noise down the hall made her jump, and ignoring the voice that said all the blondes in the horror films should not go down the hallway and neither should she, Clara went to check out Jamie’s room. Maybe Gerry had gone in there for some reason.

Pushing open the door, Clara flashed the light around the room. In the corner she saw wide glassy eyes reflecting back at her.

“Gerry!”

Clara rushed in, dropping to her knees next to the body. Reaching out for a pulse, she encountered cold smooth plastic. She backpeddled sharply, inhaling deeply before realizing that it must be one of Jamie’s models. He was a design student. And he always liked putting the models in odd places to scare everyone.  Tree limbs banged on the window, jumping her once more.

“Damn!” she cursed.

Clara ran down the stairs and out the door, panting heavily. Wind still tossed the branches, but the clouds were racing away, leaving the starry night behind. Clara leaned on the porch railing, gathering herself. As she stared out into the night, lights  flashed up the drive. Clara stared in amazement as the car parked and Gerry, Jamie and their friend Ami piled out. Gerry waved his white bandaged hand at her cheerfully.

“Hey, Clar!”

“Where have you been?” Clara demanded. “I have been here, and by myself, in the dark with the creepy noises and blood all over the kitchen and…”

“Whoa, whoa, I’m sorry!” Gerry interrupted her. “Didn’t you see the note we left you?”

“Note? What note?” Clara waved her arms. “It’s pitch black in there, you know!”

Jamie walked up the stairs and wrapped his arm around her, rubbing her shoulder. He steered her over to the porch swing and set her in it, still holding her. Clara gave up and let him pet her until she felt better.

“Ami showed up right after I called you,” Gerry explained. “Her doctor is only a few miles down Rt 3, so she took me there instead of waiting. It was pretty deep. It hurts a lot too. We did leave a note,” he ended plaintively.

“And I was cutting the tree up so I could get by when they got back, so I left my car down there and came back in Ami’s. It is still a bit rough, didn’t get all of it pulled away by myself,” Jamie said. “Not sure your car will make it out tonight.”

“Fine, fine,” Clara said. “It just wasn’t…. fun, you know.”

“Well, I think the power is out for the night, but we have a generator. We’ll get Jamie to start it and we will finish   making dinner to make up for your fright.  Although,” Gerry paused, “maybe if you didn’t read those horrifying murder books with the killers slinking around, you wouldn’t have been so scared.”

“Hey!” Clara said indignantly, “a lot of people read those. They’re entertaining.”

“But maybe not for you,” Ami finally chimed in. “Let’s face it Clar, you can overreact sometimes.”

“Let’s not worry about that right now,” Jamie said, seeing steam building in Clara again. “Let’s just get dinner going. Cutting wood is hungry work!”

Ami came up and linked her arm with Clara in apology as they all headed back into the house. Once the lights were on, Gerry and Ami started cleaning the kitchen to finish the cooking. They shooed Clara out, saying they owed her. She wandered into the living room. Seeing her purse, she pulled out her book.  Maybe they were right. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so frightening if she didn’t read this kind of fiction.

Clara put the book on the table and sat on the couch. She eyed at her book. Maybe it would be good to finish the book, just to get it out of her mind. She didn’t have to read any more scary books, Clara told herself as she reached for her book.  Snuggling into the couch, she opened the book.

……Abigail crept forward slowly to pull up the mask so she could see the face of the man who had hunted, and haunted, her for the past year.  She gasped as the mask revealed….”

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The Conversation

The chill from the air conditioning made her wish she had brought a sweater in addition to the bundle of notepads in her purse. The chill that settled into her bones as the prisoner sat across had nothing to do with the air conditioning. She met his topaz eyes briefly before pulling out her first pad and a pen. She had plenty of those too, didn’t want to chance the ink running dry before he did.

“You know why I am here?” she asked.

“You want to interview me for a research paper, I believe,” he answered.

“Yes, my Criminal Behaviour, junior level. You have been through this before?”

“It is why I haven’t been put to death, you know. So the new generations can take a gander at me and be properly scared into not leading a life of  crime.”

“Not just crimes, but murder,” she said. “You are the last murderer left alive. Of course we wish to study you. Would you rather be dead?”

“No, life is sweet so long as I get fresh air, and I would not get that if I did not cooperate you students,” he said. “Shall we get started?”

“Yes. Your name?”

“Drocker.”

She looked up, irritated. “Your full name?”

“But you know that already,” he smiled.

“You know how this works, we must start from the beginning. Now, your name?”

“Harris Fuller Drocker, you may call me Drocker for this interview.”

“Very well,” she nodded. “And why are you here, Drocker?”

“I murdered 15 people,” he said indifferently.

“Why did you murder 15 people?”

“It was my right.”

She looked up sharply. She had read all the other papers on Drocker, and many of the original reports of the cases. He had never said anything like that before.

“Your right?”

“Yes. Survival of the fittest, eh? If I can kill you, then I have the right to do so.”

“I see. So if I could kill you, it would be my right?”

“Absolutely,” he agreed indulgently. “I don’t see how you could, but yes, it would be.”

“And how did you come to this philosophy?”

“Philosophy?” Drocker laughed. “Yes, I suppose it is my philosophy. I read a great deal in my youth. Classic literature, and Darwin. Darwin encouraged natural selection. The classics, well, there was a brutality in how life was lived that appealed to me.”

“Darwin, yes, ” she wrote furiously. “What would be a classic?.”

“What are they teaching these days?”

“That we don’t need to kill anymore?”

“Literature is still literature. The exploration of the human psyche, our dark thoughts. Darwin definitely needs to be taught. If a species is survive, the weak must be culled. That’s all I was doing.  Predators take prey.”

“You consider yourself just a natural predator?”

“Yes, wolves do it for the elk and deer packs. They pick off the weak, the old.”

“You realize that there are no wild deer or wolf packs any longer, don’t you?”

“Is that your way of saying I have outlived my usefulness as well? Wait until society turns upside down, with the old and infirm draining the purses and time of the few young. At that point a few predators might be just what you need.”

“Is that why your victims got older as you progressed? You felt you were ‘culling’ the herd? It wasn’t simply because they were easier targets?”

“Are you trying to provoke me?” he asked. “Because it won’t work. I know my work was important. It needed to be done, and I was the one with the skills to do it.”

“If you were out there still, you would continue your work?”

“But of course,” he smiled reminiscently. “I enjoyed my work, you know. Not everybody can say that.”

“I have read all the case files and papers you have given to other students. None of this is in any of them.”

“No, generally I tell them what they come to hear. They want to hear that I am an aberration, that their world is safe from monsters.”

“Then why are you telling me?”

“Maybe I am getting old and wanted to tell my story properly.  Or, maybe, you seem different from the rest.”

“Different? I assure you, I am no different from the last fifty students and no different from the fifty who will follow.”

He smiled at her protestation, inclining his head. “Then it must be the first, of course.”

“Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

“No, I think you know enough.”

She got up, hand extended to shake Drocker’s. He looked surprised, not many would have wanted to touch him, she surmised.  His hand dropped suddenly and she realized she had jabbed him with the pen she still held.

“Oh, dear,” she exclaimed. “I am so sorry, is your hand ok?”

She reached out with her other hand to steady his shoulder. “Do you need the guards to look at it?”

“No, no, it’s just a pinch.” He looked at her, a strange knowing in his eyes. “I am sure I will be fine.”

*****

Maddie shook the pin back down into her palm, and tossed it in a trash disposal.  If they did find the mark on his shoulder, indications would point to a spider bite, especially as she had used black widow venom to kill him. Her grandfather would no longer have to sit for a procession silly students, eager to learn what they could never understand.

She had committed murder, she suddenly realized. And she would get away with it.  She looked around with her own topaz eyes, wondering who to share her new knowledge with.

 

 

 

 

 

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Serially Tuesday

                                                                                     The Doors
episode 6: Three teenagers, six doors. What’s the worst that could happen?

Irene tapped her pencil on the desk, consciously keeping a slow tempo as her impatience mounted. She watched as Mrs. Gorgesom handed out homework assignments, then shoved everything in her bag as the bell rang. Racing out the back of the school, she entered the tunnels in less than two minutes. Haily still beat her. Breathless, Irene dropped her books in front of the doors.

“How did you beat me?” she gasped.

“Study hall,”Haily smiled smugly. “I ducked out early. Went to the bathroom and never came back.”

Irene shook her head.  Haily never failed to surprise her, even after being friends since grade school. Hearing footsteps, she looked up, expecting to see Frankie. Instead, Greg was coming down the tunnel.

Irene and Haily immediately jumped up and ran to meet him.  It was Haily that neatly turned him before he got to the doors, scolding him for ruining a perfectly good prank they were playing on Frankie. Irene followed them back up the tunnel, nodding when necessary and hiding her smile. No one could out-talk Haily.

Frankie met them near the entrance. “Sorry, class ran late. What’s this?”

“Greg met us down in the tunnel,” Haily announced. “Irene and I had a joke for you, but I guess that is over now.”

“Sorry,” Greg said, “although, maybe you should be thanking me, Frankie. I can’t imagine any prank Haily planned would be that fun for you!”

“Good point,” Frankie agreed. “I guess we might as well head out.”

“Hey, Irene, my dad saw your mom–” Greg started.

“Oh! I left my back pack in the tunnel,” Irene broke in before turning and darting back.

When she got to the doors, she passed her bag and picked up the oblong stone Frankie had designated as the door-stop. Pushing the lintel stone on door #2, she went through.

*****************************

Frankie and Haily found her sitting on a hillside. Irene was tucked in on herself, arms wrapped on her shins and her head on her knees as she stared out on the vivid canopy in front of her. They sat next to her, bracketing her. Haily put an arm around her while Frankie leaned against her. They all sat looking out at the autumn leaves spread before them.

“I wonder where we are,” Haily finally said, reaching for her phone. Irene held out a hand to stop her.

“I don’t want to know,” she said. Haily stared at her, but put the phone away.

Irene knew she couldn’t explain it, but she just wanted to sit in this moment. The strong  edges of pinecones adding structure to the waving grass, the leaves drifting down to carpet all with reds, yellows and oranges. Her dad was probably laying under just such a canopy of leaves, somewhere in the world, she thought. She’d like to know where. Frankie would understand, she knew, he would understand the mournful beauty of the  bright decaying leaves covering the acorns that would seed new growth.

Haily hopped up, unable to sit still that long. “How is it fall here? It’s spring at home. I guess it must be around the world, opposite seasons. Or is it always fall here?”

Irene shrugged. “I would love it to be fall here always. I could come and sit whenever I wanted.”

Haily frowned, Irene’s answer not satisfying her. “Hey Frankie, is Lizzy still after you?”

Irene felt Frankie tense next to her.

“Could you believe it, Frankie and Lizzy? Lizzy and Frankie?  I mean, what is she thinking?” Haily wondered as she moved down the hill to inspect the trees.

“You should tell her,” Irene murmured.

Frankie hunched a shoulder. “I know.”

“She wouldn’t care.”

“Are you kidding?” Frankie whispered, “she would build me the largest damn float and put it in the parade! I don’t think I am ready for that.”

Irene burst out laughing, the truth of his description melting the last of her depression.  “I do love you, Frankie!”

Haily came back to see what the laughter was about. “You love Frankie?” she gasped. “Is that why he doesn’t like Lizzy?”

Irene rolled over, clutching her belly, giggling helplessly. “No, n-no,” she hiccupped. “I l-love you both!! You are my best friends ever!”

She caught her breath and sat up, extending her hands to Haily. “I think I am ready to go home now.”

 

If you would like to follow the series from the beginning:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday Post…

…a bit late. I really need to get ahead of this! I thought I would do a little post for The Writer magazine, who ran a Crime Pays contest last month. I shared this contest when I first recieved notice of it, so it seemed like a good idea to share the winners. The Writer does quite a few contests, so any aspiring writers should definitely check them out.

There were three winners, and congrats to all!!  The winning story will be in the November issue, and all three will be available in October on the website, writermag.com. I can’t wait to read them all. The following is from the Writer (I would love to have given my opinion, but I can’t yet! I will in revisit this in  October.)

Congratulations, Wendy Robertson!

wendy robertson

Wendy Robertson and her submission “A Deadly Diet” capitalizes on character and setting, bringing readers into the gluttonous world of a Scottish man whose life has been steered off-course.

Scottish-born Robertson spends most of the year in Edinburgh down the street from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthplace. This is her first published short story.

The runners up

2nd place

By the second sentence of Orrin Hanratty‘s “All Things Are Connected,” readers grasp the grim circumstances of the narrator’s life. And the way that story comes full circle will have your head spinning.

Hanratty, a machinist from Providence, Rhode Island, recently completed an MFA at Hamline University. His story began with the narrator’s voice and morphed into a crime committed out of love.

3rd place

A wayward traveler stumbles upon some old-fashioned Southern hospitality inJudith Hill‘s “And Then – This Happened,”  a story that leads the reader along quietly and then releases a zinger.

Hill, founder and director of Wildacres Writers Workshop, was inspired by, of all places, Walmart, where she saw images of 19 missing women in the area and wondered, “What kind of killer gets away with that?

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