Tag Archives: Flash Fiction

Writing From Prompts: Color (Orig Pub 7/10/2015)

The canary yellow scarf wrapped around the front gate seemed excessively perky. Joel scowled at it. “Don’t give me that,” he told the fluttering silk sharply. It didn’t seem to make a difference.

Joel limped up the front step. Cane down, twist hip, lift foot, stand, cane up. He made slow progress to the front door. Some wise-acre had put in a ramp that ran up the side of the house to the back door. Cane down, twist hip, lift foot, careful of the bottom of the ramp, stand, cane up. He ascended the Trex ramp past the profusion of red and purple flowers in the planters on the left side. He gripped the silver hand-rail until his fingers turned white as a wave of pain shot up his back.

After what felt like an hour, he’d made it to the back door. The six little panes of glass were decorated with little US flags and stars. Left of the door hung a mother’s flag with one gold star and two blue stars. Joel’s heart clenched a little. He touched the gold flag. “I’m gonna miss you, little sister,” he murmured.

He knocked on the back door. Time was he would have assumed that it was open, but life was very different from when he’d been a kid. The door opened slowly. The woman behind it froze. “Joel?” she whispered.

He nodded. “Hello, Mama.”

Suddenly, she was hugging him tightly. Maybe that silly yellow scarf was right. Maybe it was a good day.

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Writing from Prompts #19 Alley (Orig Pub 7/30/2014)

Another night, another alley. Princess Raspberry twisted her neck from side to side to relieve the pressure there. She stretched her arms and then settled down to wait. It wouldn’t be long before the usual prostitutes were walking the streets. Then, the real scum would follow. Not the men just looking for a night on the town. She didn’t give a damn about them.

No, she was waiting for the little fish of a drug dealer that would lead her up the chain. She’d been watching him carefully for almost a month now. He was going to be the thread that helped her unravel at least some of the tapestry of stupidity she saw every night. The first few prostitutes sauntered by. The oldest one, a ravaged addict gave her a wide-eyed stare, but kept walking. As long as she wasn’t horning in on anyone’s territory they were content to ignore her comings and goings.

Almost exactly twenty minutes later the wannabe gangsta with his bandana and velour jacket slunk by. He was still young, maybe twenty at the outside. He was a small fry, but he had a group of about six runners working for him now. Princess Raspberry stayed calm and waited for him to get about a block away. She knew where he was headed. She jumped up and accessed the fire escape that took her to the bank of roofs that lead toward his meeting spot. The buildings were jammed up against one another. She’d only had to set up a bridge on one of them. Hopefully, no one had taken it down overnight. She ghosted along the rooflines, out of sight of most of the security cameras and above the range of the streetlights.

The dealer, Ricky, kept his same swaggering pace. He was armed with a gun and a knife. He might even have more on him. But he wasn’t a trained fighter and he had a tendency to get too close with his weapons. She’d watched his tough-guy act with his runners. He’d be close to killing one of them and she’d nearly intervened, but she’d seen worse. Ricky had terrible gun control and never kept his grip steady. He liked the look of the turned weapon which meant his wrist was always canted when he had it out.

He swaggered his way past the townhouse she expected him to be going to. Raspberry’s attention sharpened. Her heart began to beat a bit faster. She scanned her surroundings. There were no signs of security. She stayed carefully in the shadows of the roofs as she moved from one to the next. There he was, turning into the last townhouse on the block. Shit, they owned more than one now. She only had enough equipment to properly watch one. He knocked on the door and waited, body jiggling with excitement. The door opened, there was a sharp pop, and he slumped to the ground. She focussed her binoculars on the scene and took as many shots of the men who stepped out to drag the body in as possible. Damn. Damn. and Double Damn. She had to find a new way into the organization.

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Writing from Prompts #18 Grass (Orig Pub 5/13/2014)

Angela shredded a piece of grass absently. The little strips of green fell haphazardly onto her stomach. The grass was cool, but not damp. The sky was a deep blue that didn’t seem real. Little puffy clouds drifted along the air currents creating strange creatures in the air. She plucked another piece and continued to stare up at the drifting clouds.

“Earth to Angela. Earth to Angela. Come in, Angela.” Her best friend made her best attempt at a megaphone sound.

Angela flipped her the bird. “Stop trying to be productive and look up at the clouds.”

“You are the worst partner for building a garden ever. You know that right?” Tara had dirt streaked across her face. Her hair was held back by a bandana as well as her braid. Her work-gloves were thick, sturdy things caked with topsoil and peat moss.

“I’ll get my part done. But it’s just too pretty to spend the whole day bent over glaring at soil mixes. Lay down and relax for a minute.”

Tara bit her lip. She glanced back at the shovel and plants. “Fine. But only for a few minutes.”

“Good girl.”

Tara laid down gingerly. She put her feet flat on the ground so that her knees were bent. She groaned. “My back is not happy.”

Angela just laughed. They drifted into companionable silence. Angela grinned as a soft snore escaped from Tara’s lips. Now this was a proper spring day. She turned onto her side to join her best friend in a well-deserved nap.


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Writing from Prompts #17 Kitchen (Orig Pub 4/17/2014)

Flour streaked the walls, the cabinets, the counters, and even the light fixtures. Milk had dribbled off the edge of the counter and formed a puddle between the counter and the fridge. Three broken eggs lay helplessly in the bottom of a glass bowl that was overturned by the back door. Two large carving knives were imbedded in that same door. A third was in the sink dripping blood onto the ceramic. A streak of blood ran from the front of the kitchen to the basement door.

“What the Hell? Rebecca?” her husband called out. Neil stood just outside the kitchen. His suit was rumpled from a day of meetings. His good shoes were in the closet and he was only wearing sock-slippers. There was no way he was wading into that mess if she didn’t need him to.

“Call for pizza!” she yelled up the basement stairs. “And get a two liter of Coke too.”

“Right.” He retreated to the den to call their favorite shop. Chore done, money set by the door, he slipped on his cleaning clothes. He got the cobweb broom from the closet and started on the fixtures first. He’d start at the top and hope that. The whir of the grinder downstairs made him wince. He needed to replace that with something quieter. The flour ended up in his hair and all over his clothes.

The pizza delivery man looked at him with a studiously blank face. “Kitchen emergency?” He held up the box. “One large pepperoni and black olive and two two-liters of Coke.”

Neil cracked up. “You could say that. Here.”

“Thanks. Have a good night.” The delivery man threw a wave behind himself as he went back to his car. Neil set the pizza in the small dining room. It was the only safe place for it until the vacuum came out to tame the flour.

“Was that the food?” Rebecca’s voice floated up from downstairs.

“Yes,” he called back.

“Can you tape over the broken back window?”

“Sure.” He hadn’t even noticed the broken pane in the back door. Well, hopefully, no one had heard that. He continued to clean up until he heard the thump of his wife’s feet on the stairs. She was obviously tired. Her apron was a mess of blood and flour. “Go wash up.”

She grimaced. “I’ll just take a couple slices down with me. This one’s taking longer than usual. I think we burned out the motor.”

“I’ll get a replacement this weekend.” He kissed her cheek in greeting. “Long day?”

“The longest. Son-of-a-biscuit broke in through the back door. He thought he’d get me.” She lifted her chin. “There’s a reason I’m the best at this game. We’ll have sausage for the rest of the year at this rate.”

“And a few pot-pies, and a roast or two?”

She smiled back. “Yes, indeed. I was trying to make the batter when he broke in. Thanks for cleaning up.”

“I’ll go get your pizza.” Life married to the best killer in the world was full of culinary adventures. “Oh, did I send you that sage meatloaf recipe?”

“Got it in my inbox this morning. Someone was supposed to be working, not trolling the Food Network for ideas.”

“I had a boring, boring day. But I convinced my boss that I could take vacation next month to join you in Russia. Just let me know what day to buy the tickets for.”

She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. “And you’ll finally get to kiss me in front of the Kremlin.”

“James Bond dreams die hard,” he told her seriously. He dipped her into a kiss. “Go on. I’ll bring it down.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.” They brushed noses and then Rebecca was off to the basement kitchen.


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Writing from Prompts #15 Beach (Orig Pub 4/15/2014)

The sand was still wet when Sam formed the bowl-like depression with her hands. She used a stick to draw the circle around her, as though it would protect her from the photographers that she could see lounging against the rocks. The tide was going out and there were crabs scrabbling in the early moonlight.

She poured the white wine into the bowl she’d created and sat on the beach. She drew her knees up to her chin and sat watching the moonlight play along the tips of the water. It was quiet here. There were no planes flying overhead, no cars close enough to the beach to be heard. The sea-birds had retired for the night. The people had abandoned the space.

She closed her eyes in relief. “Oh, Mother,” she murmured – half to the moon, half to the water. “This gift is too much for me to bear.”

Her hair was pulled back in a sensible braid and the stone tiara that she’d received in the deep forest rested on the top of her head. She couldn’t lose if she tried. It always reappeared on the wardrobe when she was ready to do her hair. She’d tried leaving it in her backpack, but it appeared in her pocket. She wasn’t that thick.

This morning had been one of the better ones. She and Mom had managed to hide away at a small apartment near the beach. It had a gate and a security system which was more than she could say for their home.

Sam buried her face against her drawn up knees. The tears that streamed down her face were from relief. There hadn’t been a single sick child on her doorstep this morning. In fact, there had only been one reporter within range of the door. She didn’t recognize the writer, but she knew the photographer with him. It was Partridge. Paul Emery Partridge. Last time she’d seen him, he’d been thirty years younger, with more hair and fewer wrinkles. She’d been looking forward to the date too.

She sniffled into the soft cotton of her pants. She didn’t have her camera with her tonight. It was just as well. She couldn’t see through the tears to take anything approaching a good picture. There was a crunch of rocks and she lifted her head. The feather that was tied into her hair tickled her behind her ear. Paul stopped at the edge of her circle. He sat down carefully. He held the camera up for her inspection.

“You’ve been using that one a long time. Do they actually still allow you to get away with putting in prints? All the bastards I’ve been submitting to want digital.” She scrubbed away some tears with the side of her hand.

Paul snorted. “I scan them in. And I use a digital for most things. But moonlight and you? There was no way that I wasn’t going to use film.” His smile quirked up. “I waited for almost a year,” he said quietly. “It took me that long to find out you weren’t going to call.”

“No my choice,” Sam said. She blinked rapidly. No more tears tonight, she told herself. “We could have been a great team.”

Paul shook his head. “Or we would have killed each other within six months.”

“Or that.” They were quiet, letting the sounds of the ocean and the slight breeze fill the space between them. “You want pictures. For who?”

“That’s my son. Goes by his mother’s last name though. James O’Rourke.”

“You and Twyla?”

“Me and Twyla.” He smiled fully then. “She put up with me moping about you for years. Jamie just wants to know what was so important about you. I don’t think I can explain it.”

Sam considered breaking the circle. It wasn’t as though she’d put a lot of power into the ceremony, but she still felt – not obligated exactly – impelled to finish it. That meant staying until the moon was directly overhead. A fresh beginning with Paul. “Friends,” she said finally. “We were friends and we might have been more, but that was a long time ago for you. And with everything that’s happened? Somehow, I don’t think you’re planning to try anything with me.”

“I didn’t actually marry Twyla.”

“So? You did have a child with her. Are you still together?”

“We are. It’s been twenty-five years now. Jamie’s twenty-six.”

“Did you pitch the article to someone? Did you tell them that we’d been friends? Or did you just try to get by on the photo-journalist angle.”

Paul laughed. It was a rolling sound of genuine amusement. “I’d forgotten how blunt you really are. This public face you’ve developed is so different.”

“I haven’t developed anything. It’s the news. It’s so different. There’s so many more people talking and I have no idea where to start.”

He bit his lip. “I’ll get you the name of a reputable PR firm. Maybe you can get someone to look out for you.”

“Right. I’m broke, Pauley. I’m dead broke. I’ve been trying to sell my photography, but people are treating them like holy relics, not like prints from a forest.” She shook her head. “But tell him to come on over. I won’t bite. I won’t even get too mad about it. At least you’re not bringing him to me dying from leukemia.” She took a shaky breath. “At least I hope you aren’t.”

“No. He’s fine. I’m fine. Twyla’s fine.” He waved his son over. The younger man jogged across the sand. His father stopped him before he tried to reach into the circle. “Jamie, that is her demarkation zone, okay. Stay on this side of it.”

James nodded. “Nice to actually meet you, Ms. King.”

“Call me Sam or Sammy.” She looked the young man up and down. They were the same age. At least, that’s what it felt like to her. It was just that their lives were so different. “Your dad tells me we’re the same age. That is just plain weird. How long have you been a journalist?”

James looked more like Twyla than Paul. His hair had tight blond curls but there was a dusky tone to his skin that indicated that he tanned better than an O’Rourke. The nose was Twyla’s though. The ears were pure Paul – sticking out a little from the sides of James’ head like Prince Charles. At least Charles was still alive. “I’ve been working on papers since high school. I’ve been freelancing for a couple years now. I started when I was still in college.”

She smiled. A happy story. No one dead or dying in the family. It was such a relief. Paul’s hands lifted automatically to take the shot and she held still for him. She wasn’t sure what someone would see. Maybe the moonlight on half or her face. Or maybe just her teeth glinting. This was one interview that wasn’t going to destroy her calm. “Thank you, Mother,” she murmured.

When she looked back at the offering bowl, the wine was gone.


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Writing from Prompts #14 Diploma (Orig Pub 4/11/2014)

The diploma on the wall was obviously a joke. According to this, Melissa had a bachelor’s in Criminal Enterprise. Joey shook his head. She was a lovely woman with a twisted sense of humor. He’d only been dating her for about a month, but he felt a real connection with her.

Her apartment was neat without feeling sterile. There was a cozy afghan over the back of the couch and her cat had claimed one of the pink throw pillows. He looked at her bookshelf while she finished changing to go out. He blinked at the Evil Overlord handbook and the Evil Genius series of electronics books. Part of why he liked her was her intelligence. There was an entire section on true crime and criminology. He hadn’t asked her about school, but maybe he should. It looked as though she were gearing up for something big.

The next section was politics. Machiavelli had a place of prominence next to a copy of Sun Tzu that looked ready to give up the ghost. He made a note to get her a new copy. Maybe that nice hardback he’d seen at the bookstore when he was stopping for coffee yesterday. There were pictures on the shelf of her and her friends. He blinked, was that actually the Congresswoman who’d just taken office with a pasted on mustache and fake black-rimmed glasses. No, he must be imagining things.

The cat, a big black and white fluffy Persian named Archie wandered over to demand attention. Joey stroked over his silky fur and then scratched right behind his ears. Archie rolled over to expose his belly for petting, but Joey new better than to take the invitation.

“Some judge of character he is,” Melissa laughed. “Joey’s not falling for your tricks, you little demon.” The cat looked singularly unimpressed.

Melissa looked wonderful. Her dress was a simple black number with a flared skirt. She wore sensible vintage heels and a necklace with a single drop of crystal. The pendant might be diamond, but he wasn’t going to assume. He held her brocade jacket for her. “You look beautiful.” She slung the small suitcase she called a purse over her shoulder.

She patted her sleekly waved blonde hair. “Thanks.” She pushed her Tortise-shell cats-eye glasses back up her nose.

He offered his arm after she locked up behind them. “Your chariot awaits.”

“Always the gentleman.”

His car was a sturdy Volvo that he’d had for years. It felt shabby next to the beauty that was now perched in the passenger’s seat. “I have reservations at the Thai place and at the Italian place, which would you like?”

Melissa considered. “Italian. As long as we can get a booth in the back near the kitchen.”

He raised his brows at that, but asked the hostess when they arrived. The DiGregorio’s an old-school Italian joint with red and white checked tablecloths and a menu that would change when the head chef died and not a minute before, and Mama wasn’t going. There was a large party on the other side of the restaurant. Melissa smiled at him. “They look happy, don’t they?”

Dinner was good. The conversation flowed from topic to topic. Melissa stopped him before he could get the check. “No, this one’s on me. You go see if you can find the car. I’m going to run to the bathroom. You get to take care of the movie. I expect popcorn.”

He laughed. When he glanced over his shoulder, she’d put cash into the little black folder. He pulled the car up to the curb and she climbed in.

When they left the movie theatre the local news was playing on the radio. “A four-alarm fire engulfed local favorite DiGregorio’s this evening. Fourteen people were killed and ten injured. The owner Nana DiGregorio was unharmed, but angry.”

“That’s a shame. I loved that place,” Joey said.

Melissa patted his arm. “We’ll find a new favorite.”

He perked up at the idea of a joint favorite restaurant.

“Your shift starts in twenty, I don’t want you to be late. Sounds as though there’s a lot to take care of. Goodnight.” She gave him a peck on the cheek before heading up to her apartment.

He grinned at her as she left for the fire station. He could still smell the accelerant on her hands, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. So what if his girl was a fire-bug? No one’s perfect.


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Writing from Prompts #13 Bus (Orig Pub 4/9/2014)

The heat inside the bus was stifling. Jenna pulled her scarf off and folded it into a rectangle before tucking it into her backpack. She stripped off her gloves and hat. She shoved the gloves into the hat and added both of them to her bag. She tugged the zipper on the bag until it closed over the bulging center section. The young man in the aisle across from her watched with a little smile. “Would you like me to put that in the overhead rack for you?” he offered.

“No thanks. I’ll want something out of it soon enough.” She laughed a little bit.

“Are you riding all the way to Topeka?”

“I am. You?”

“Close enough. I’ll probably ditch at the last food stop and walk from there. I’m headed to my parents.” He grimaced as though that were something to be avoided. Or maybe as if there were something wrong at home. Jenna bit her lip. She did a quick judge of the other people filing onto the bus. None of them were even close to her age.

“Want to sit together?”

He crossed the aisle and leaned across the seats in front of her to look at the same group. “Oh, Jesus. That’s a tour group. Yeah, let’s sit together. Do you need the window?”

Jenna shook her head. She crossed the aisle. She stripped off her jacket and shoved it into the rack over their heads next to the roll-on suitcase he’d brought. “I brought books enough to last me. Well, I think I did at least.”

Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones?” he asked wryly.

She laughed. “Mysteries mostly. And some random things that my Mom got for me for my birthday a few years ago. I’m willing to share those too. There might be some sort of fantasy there.”

“I’m Will.”


“Nice to meet you.” He settled into his seat. “You travel the busses a lot?”

“Not really.” She bit at her lip. “It was the first thing I could afford to get the Hell out of Pennsylvania.”

Will grinned at that. “I hear you.” He settled into his seat. “So, what do you think? Will be lose any of the group before Topeka?”

Jenna snorted. “If this is any indication of how well they’re organized? I’m guessing at least three by the middle of the country.”

“I’m going to catch a nap. Poke me if I start to snore, will you? I camped out at the station last night.”


He slid down in his seat and closed his eyes.

He didn’t start to snore.

And it felt just right when his head lolled to the side and landed on her shoulder.

She opened her favorite book and brushed a kiss across her husband’s bangs. “Happy Anniversary,” she whispered.


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Writing from Prompts #12 Moon (Orig Pub 4/8/2014)

The moon shone weak light over the tangled underbrush. Samantha poked at it with her walking stick. She couldn’t afford to step on some small animal or worse still a snake. She’d made it this far; she wasn’t going to get stupid now. The backpack dug into the small of her back. It was getting heavier with every step. She needed to find a safe place to bed down for the night. She had her mummy-sack. That should be enough to protect her from the weather as long as she found a place where she wouldn’t be a sitting duck for predators.

She scanned the area, eyes squinting to bring details forth on the moon-flattened terrain. She carefully stepped through the underbrush, doing her best not to disturb any of it. She wanted as few markers to her path as possible. She moved through the woods, doing her best to make no noise. She found a hollow in the roots of an ancient tree. It was too large for her to wrap her arms around. One root rose up to about waist height. She’d fit in the curve of it. She tapped the ground with her walking stick. She felt for rocks. She shifted the pack off of her back. She strung it up in the branches of a close tree after retrieving her sleeping sack.

She curled up in the sack and rested her head on the root. She was asleep almost as soon as she closed her eyes. The moon painted her with leaf shadows.

A delicate giggle sounded from nearby. It didn’t wake her, but Samantha did shift in her sleep, headed turning toward the noise. When she didn’t move again, the giggle started again, moving closer. Small fingers painted her cheeks with mud and plaited flowers into her hair. She didn’t wake. Instead, she relaxed further into the arms of the tree.

The sun warmed Samantha’s face. Her eyes flickered open to the warm red light flooding the clearing she’d found. A small chipmunk was asleep on her lap. A mother doe and her fawn were watching her from the treeline. She moved slowly, wishing she’d thought to keep her camera around her neck. The deer didn’t move. She smiled as the chipmunk scampered off. She got ready for the day.

She stretched, then put the pack back onto her back. She flipped her braid over her shoulder and paused. There were flowers in her hair. Her breath caught. She didn’t speak. She bowed formally to the tree in thanks. She continued deeper in. The tree branches spread over her head in a canopy of leaves and singing birds. There were more butterflies on her way today. They swirled around her in a maddening moving blanket of color. Her camera caught blurs of color and a few close-up pictures of wings.

She walked in silence, listening to her soft foot-falls and the shifting of small creatures in the underbrush. She held her breath as she heard something much larger than a squirrel passing by. The deer crossed her path no more than a yard in front of her. Her eyes were deep black-brown and unafraid. Her finger moved on the button of her camera of its own volition. The deer startled at the soft noise and bounded away.

Soon enough it was time for a break. She settled down on a moss-covered tree trunk that had fallen. She put her pack down on the ground by her feet and rubbed at her sore shoulders. She’d cut her supplies to the bone, but she still needed provisions for six days. She’d packed for seven, just to be safe. She sipped at her water for the day. She nibbled on the raw snacks that she’d brought with her, nuts and fruit to keep her energized. She laid down on her back to watch the skies. She didn’t even notice that she’d fallen asleep.

Small creatures scampered to finish off her meal for her. A hawk called sharply from its perch. She gathered food for herself and her children. Then, she tucked a loose feather into Samantha’s hair. And another into the top of her bag. It flew away with another cry. This one woke Samantha from her slumber.

Her mouth twitched, but she managed to stay quiet. She touched the feather reverently. She didn’t know if she’d be allowed to keep it, but she tucked it safely into the bottom of her bag in a hard-side container she’d used for her first day’s sandwich. She swung the pack back onto her back. She pressed on until she was walking up toward the top of the mountain. It would be the solstice¬†moon by the next night and she wanted to be able to appreciate it.

She crossed the creek. It accompanied her steps with burbling laughter as she started to climb. Eventually, she needed to actually reach for handholds and push off firmly to get up to the top of the rocks. She paused, considering. If she went any higher she’d need actual rock-climbing equipment. She created a small clearing for herself that was surrounded by rocks. She settled to watch and take pictures. She heard the gentle plops of fish in the water.

Small rocks skittered and jumped dislodged by animals or birds higher on the hill. The leaves moves softly in the breeze. There were smaller trees here. They had grown into the side of the mountain with tenacious roots. Samantha took off her boots and socks. She rested her weary feet against the stone. It was cool to the touch, rough and smooth. She rested her camera on her lap. She leaned her head back against the solid mountain.

High above her birds circled in the sky. The clouds moved lazily across the sky. The creek leapt and burbled, chattering to her as it crossed the rocks. The sun set in a brilliant painting of reds and oranges. The sky slowly purpled and the stars became visible. The full moon set her light across the ground. It glittered off of the water.

Samantha offered a small cup of stone some wine. The moonlight touched it, making it look black instead of red. Samantha took a mouthful for herself. She held her palms out in supplication. Still, she did not speak. She would not speak until she returned to the world outside of these woods.

She curled up to sleep in her sack. She didn’t rouse as the form of silvery smoke solidified into the form of a woman. The woman knelt beside her. She pressed a soft kiss to Samantha’s forehead. She lifted the stone cup and drank the sweet wine that had been offered. She pressed her hand to the cup and it was transformed into a tiara made of thin alabaster. She set it into Samantha’s hair.

Then, she was gone.

Samantha woke from dreams of dancing and light laughter. She prepared herself for the trip back. She followed the river down the mountain. The trees seemed the same as she passed by them, though the underbrush seemed more impassible. It was likely the lethargy that pulled at her limbs. It took her three nights of rest to reach the front of the forest.

She stepped out onto a world transformed. Her car was gone. The parking lot was still there. Still gravel lined. But there were metal gates and a new sign on the space. She stared at the memorial for Samantha King.

“Excuse me, Miss,” the ranger said. She was a tall woman with wild curly brown hair. Samantha turned. The ranger gasped. “I’m sorry, it’s just I’ve never met someone coming back from a quest.”

“Why is this sign here?”

“Samantha King went on a vision quest nearly thirty years ago. No trace of her was ever found.”


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Writing from Prompts #11 Concrete (Orig Pub 4/7/2014)

Blood glistened on the concrete like garnets. Diana sighed deeply. She stepped over the blood and continued on toward her office. The office building was bland, beige stone like every other building on the block. Her office was on the second floor. The elevator was out again. She shook her head. She checked her weapon out of habit before entering the stairwell. The light was burning brightly. Good. She looked up before she mounted the stairs.

“God damn it, Melody.”

“Oh, come on. Please?”

“You’re supposed to be in school.” Diana met her little sister at the door to the second floor. She yanked the door open and stalked through it.

“School is boring.” Her sister followed her. “I didn’t want to go to college in the first place. I wanted to go to the police academy, but someone pissed off the commissioner.”

“He deserved it. Corrupt son of a bitch.” She unlocked the door to Hernandez Investigations. “What exactly are you doing here? Are you broke again?” The door was solid metal with her name on a plate next to it. The inside was plain white walls with a few filing cabinets, a closet, and a bathroom. She hadn’t bothered to get walls in place to create a waiting room yet. The filing cabinets were spray-painted aqua to hide their dents and scratches. Travel posters were taped to one wall. Some day she’d get out of this shithole of a city.

“No, I’m helping you.” Melody’s black hair was in a mohawk now with pink accents. She had three earrings in one ear. So much for the squeaky clean look she’d been rocking for most of her life.

“Helping me?” Diana hung her coat up on the coat rack behind the door. She picked the envelope that was on the floor. Her name was on the front. She sighed. “Fine, get gloves and two respirators out of the closet. Then, open the window. I’ll get the camera.” She didn’t have a down-draft table, but she was damned if she was going to open a mysterious envelope in the middle of her office without precautions.

She photographed the envelope. It was a standard manila envelope and felt faintly puffy. If the door hadn’t had a mail slot it would never have fit under the door. She met her sister at the window. She used the camera to hold the envelope in place while they gloved up and put on their masks. She carefully unpacked the envelope, taking pictures the whole way.

She frowned at the pasted letters. It was an old-fashioned way of hiding handwriting, but a computer would have been so much easier. Someone with a lot of time on their hands. Melody was quiet. She watched with avid eyes. “I can be your secretary,” she offered suddenly. “Answer the phones, that sort of thing. Every PI needs a sidekick.”

“Mama will kill me.”

“She’s fine with it.”

Liar. “I’ll think about it.”

Melody grinned in triumph. “So, which resident of the psych ward did you piss off last?”

“This isn’t an enemy,” Diana said absently. The fragments of type were in a simple code. She recognized the cypher. She translated it in her head. “Get a pen and paper if you’re going to be my secretary,” she ordered.

Melody practically danced over to the desk. Crap, she’d need a desk and a laptop. Hopefully, the investments would pay off this month and she’d have a few protection payments coming it. No, that came out wrong. A few grateful patrons that she’d patrol every night. There, that was better. It wasn’t glamorous, but it would pay the bills. And that divorce case was coming up. She could use someone to write up that report. Mama was going to kill her. Melody was supposed to be the good daughter – college, safe job, husband, and grand-children.

Diana was not a good daughter. She’d gone into the police, only did two years of college, was definitely not having a child, and was iffy on the entire idea of marriage. It seemed that she’d infected her little sister with a similar outlook on life. Sunday dinner was going to be interesting for awhile.

Melody held the pen against the notepad with an attentive expression.

“You are cordially invited to visit the home of Master Milhouse Morton. Be prepared. Saturday, April second at seven pm. No guests.” She unraveled the next layer. “Games to begin after dinner, promptly at nine. Formal dress is expected.” She unfolded the last part of the puzzle. She frowned at it for a long moment. “It’s just the address. It’s in my book.”

“Formal dress huh? How formal is that?”

“Black pantsuit with actual flats as opposed to boots. And a shiny shirt and jewelry, I hope.” She grimaced. “I’ll have to check that etiquette book that Tia Carmen got for me when she thought she’d still make a lady out of me. I might have to wear a skirt.”

“How about long culottes or something?” Melody chewed absently on the end of her pen. “Who’s Milhouse anyway?”

“The richest man in the city who isn’t a mobster.”

“Dang, girl. You aim high.”

Diana narrowed her eyes. “If that is a matchmaking glint I see in your eye, you just quit it right now.”

Melody grinned. “So, boss, when do I get a desk?”

“As soon as we find one at the Goodwill or out back in the dumpsters.”


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Writing from Prompts #10 Sword (Orig Pub 4/5/2014)

“Again!” the sword-master ordered.

The recruits moved in fractured unison through the motions. He growled deep in his throat. “One, five, ten, fourteen, twenty-one, and thirty-two, step forward. Everyone else, one step back.” There was shuffling and muttering until the selected men and women were in front. “Again.” They went through the motions. All but one of them was in sync. “Ten, step back. Two, step forward. Again.”

He ran through six more recruits until he found his battalion. “You six, see the registrar. As a group. Leave your things here.” The two women frowned at him, but obediently left the room with nothing. Their swords were collected at the door. Two pages scurried through the room, securing the recruits things.

The sword-master chose six more and ran them through the forms until he was pleased with their unison. They were sent on. The day continued until he had six battalions being processed. He leaned against the desk in the registrar’s office. She looked at him with dark-rimmed brown eyes. “I hate you, Simpson,” she told him. The desk was polished to a smooth shine. “And I’m not just saying that. I plan to poison your beer.”

“Cruel, cruel, woman,” he chided. “At least make it my coffee so I’m not enjoying myself. Are they in barracks yet?”

“Those last six are getting sheared like the sheep they are at this point. That first group might survive this, but that last one? Send them out as cannon fodder.”

He smirked at her. “My only job is to train them now. What the brass does with them is not my issue. Any of them try to bolt?”

“Watch out for twenty-three. He seemed a little jumpy. And the woman in the fourth group, number fourteen, she seemed a little twitchy at being barracked with the boys. Might be some history there.”

This war had finally broken all of the barriers between the sexes in the military. It was still debatable as to how well the recruits were dealing with that. He’d give them a few days before intervening. He’d train his six battalions until he though they were ready to move on to formations. He rubbed at his forehead. “I’ve got schedules to get out.” The alien invasion had destroyed the majority of the electrical infrastructure. They still had it on the bases and other locations with technological help. But in general, they were set back years in weapons production. He had three sword-smiths that he’d brought with him from training movie stars.

By paper and pens and men on motorcycles and horses, they’d put out the call. Recruits came in every day. Scared, wide-eyed, hard-bitten, shy, punks, preppies, actors, and politicians, men, women, old, and young; as soon as they crossed into the recruitment center they were just recruits. The aliens hadn’t counted on the resilience and adaptability of humans.

The human race would fight those bastards into their ships. They’d display their hides as warnings. And they’d cut off their heads and mount them from every bridge and overpass that still survived the bombings.

Simpson rolled his shoulders and picked up his sword. He ran through the katas that he’d created to teach his recruits fast and dirty. Then, he started on the more formal ones he’d learned from his teachers.

This wasn’t choreography anymore. This was war.

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