Running With a Ghost

You start training to run a marathon. Things are going well and you’ve developed a route that you like to run. One day you notice someone peeking out the window of one of the houses you pass, though you think nothing of it. But then the next day the peeper is back again. And the next day. Finally you decide to confront the peeper and knock on the door. But when the door opens, you are shocked to find out it’s someone from your past—who you thought was dead.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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372 thoughts on “Running With a Ghost

  1. kanato11

    Running With a Ghost

    My name is Ohanzee Lovato. Recently, my family and I moved to a home in the country. There are many open fields and forests. There is a large graveyard nearby as well. I haven’t seen it myself, since I would have to go a distance behind my house. Moving here has done some good for me. My passion is running, and living in the open country gives me plenty of trails to jog along. Lately, I’ve taken to running a certain route that goes out around ten miles past my home. When I run, I do come across some old buildings. They are all dilapidated and abandoned though. One of my favorites is an old mansion, stained black and brown from decay. I’ve never gone in, however. You don’t know what kinds of creatures could be crawling within the floors and walls. Also, there is the distinct possibility that I could fall through the floors and injure myself. If that happened, no one would ever find me. Mostly because people scarcely come by this trail, and I do not tell my parents where I go when I run. I do not want them to worry about my well-being whenever I leave to run. Aside from that, a particular topic must be brought to attention. Something strange has been occurring when I run by the old mansion. It started one month ago.
    Setting off for an evening run, I took a swig of water from my pack. ‘Gotta stay hydrated’ I thought to myself. Around seven miles in, I was jogging past the aging mansion and noticed something as I sped by. Stopping suddenly, I turned and looked. You see, the object in my peripheral vision looked like a face. ‘Now come on, you don’t need to stop, it could be a squatter, a druggie, some homeless person staying there,’ I reasoned. Gazing up at the highest window, I saw it. Yeah, definitely not any of those people I listed. Firstly, even through the grime coating the window, the person was stark white. Even seemed to be glowing, if that was possible. Then again, the glowing could’ve been caused by the setting sun which cast brilliant rays of fiery red, yellow, orange, and pink across the sky. Shaking my head, I started to run again, picking up the pace as for some inexplicable reason, I felt nervous. Glancing back one last time, the figure in the window turned to follow my retreating form, and then vanished.

  2. hankjonesproject

    “Harry?!” I cry out in amazement. “Harry Jensen?! You’re alive?”

    “No,” replies Harry, who I last saw sometime yesterday afternoon, and then he just kind of… disappeared. Well, we were just at my apartment, having a beer, and then he said he needed to go home. And so he did. And I never saw him again. Until now. At his house. “And neither are you.”

    “Whaaaa???” I say, as this new shocking revelation begins to sink in. Me? Dead? Preposterous! But deep down, deep inside my ascending colon and about halfway through my sigmoid colon, I know the truth.

    “Think about it Randall,” says Harry, in that style in which Harry often says things. “All along, you’ve known this. All along, no one in your entire life has noticed you or said anything to you. No one has ever associated with you in any manner.”

    Part of me wants to shout at him NO! No no no no! That’s impossible!

    “But what about that girl I took out on a date last week?” I reply. “You know, Stacy Hutchinson! I thought we had a really good time!”

    Harry smiles, lowers his eyes to the ground, and shakes his head.

    “Randall, Randall, Randall,” he says. “Didn’t you notice that she was actually talking to another man the entire date? I know it sounds crazy… but there was another guy, right behind you, the whole date. I know the guy, he works down at Lipperman Draperies, a real nice guy. But you only thought she was on date with you. She was actually on a date with him!”

    “Okay, well, what about that job interview I went to a few days ago?” I reply. “I was the only one in the room there besides CEO Jimmy McBranahan! We had a conversation! He asked me about my family, about my past experience, really specific things actually. You’re not telling me there’s some crazy explanation for that, are you?”

    “Oh, there’s definitely an explanation!” replies Harry, and he immediately reaches up and pulls off his face, revealing… no… it couldn’t be…

    “CEO Jimmy McBranahan?!” I cry.

    “Yes, Randall,” he says, and puts his hand upon my shoulder, giving it one nice squeeze. “It was me all along.”

    “Boy, this is one crazy turn of events!” I yell. “Well, better finish my marathon training!”

    “Yes,” he replies, with a twinkle of his eye and a tip of his hat. Hey, where did he get that hat anyway? “Go forth Randall. Finish your marathon training. Then we’ll get coffee.”

    “Oh boy!” I cry, and I’m actually crying this time, tears of the most intense joy, because… well… coffee?! With CEO Jimmy McBranahan? None of my marathon friends are gonna believe this!

    The End

  3. writer_sk

    Running With a Ghost Prompt:
    The time to run or exercise was after the two younger kids were asleep. It was at that time of day when evening had given way to night and sadness seeped in. To run was to breathe again. Now that Tommy was sixteen, Catherine felt it acceptable to leave him to his homework while she tied her Nikes on, hooked her phone to her earbuds and kissed his forehead, all in one smooth motion. Tommy put the pen behind his ear while looking up from his notes and laptop and smiled. The twins had been asleep since eight, snuggled in their bunk bed, the business of the second grade behind them for the day.

    The problem of grief still tugged at Catherine’s heart but was dealt with and pushed down with each stride, swallowed with each gulp of fresh air. Sadness was washed away when she ran and her loss felt lighter when she exercised. She had dreamt of Dave again last night. After a glass of wine and her casual date the evening before with Evan, in which she’d felt decidedly guilty, melancholy and detached, the warm familiar voice of Dave broke into her dream. He was out at sea in an impossible tube. He called her name. Plunging into the cool sea, she felt wonderful. She felt free, her heaviness cleansed. She did reach Dave and as his fingertips touched hers she awoke.

    Tonight was damp. The smell of rain was still heavy in the mid-September air though Fall threatened with cooler breezes.

    Sometimes, while she was running, Cate let herself totally let go and think about Dave. She would re-live some of the conversations they had had over the years. He’d insist the eighties pop and new wave category of music wasn’t legitimate music and she would predictably laugh and list off all the groups and songs from that very era she loved. She thought of how they always revisited the time she embarked on the disastrous trip to a Phish concert for two days with he and his brother. She had hid in the tent the second day. She thought about their romantic vacation in Hawaii. She remembered when Dave had punished the twins when they were four and she had to go in the backyard and cry where they wouldn’t see her. She thought of when they lost power and huddled together with the children on the couch shoveling popcorn in their mouths and laughing hysterically at Daddy’s imitations. They’d all slept there in sleeping bags when the candles died out.

    Catherine stopped then, weary for no reason. Normally she would’ve sped up at the corner of Apple Lane but her legs felt leaden and immovable. Her sneakers were beyond heavy. Practically dragging her own legs, Catherine had no choice but to sit on the front steps of the old church. The church was set to be demolished that summer.

    The moment she clutched the cold railing she heard Dave’s voice – distinct and clear: “Catherine.”

    Cate froze. Her eyes squeezed shut and she now turned to open the church door. No, that wouldn’t be a good idea, but yet, she had to.

    Dave looked so handsome sitting in the pew and he looked up then and smiled at her.

    “Catherine.”

    “I thought you’d gone.” was all she could manage, tiny pools forming at her tear ducts only to spill over and add to the vast ocean she had already cried since his death.

    “Gone?”

    “Yes,” she said.

    “I’ve missed you,” he said.

    She went to him.

    Dave’s strong arms wrapped around her and then he was gone.

    The church’s yellow lights became apparent to her and she spun around, whipping and lashing her ponytail as she looked to the rafters and back for her dead husband.

    What was happening? Just as she’d gotten the courage to go on the date with Evan she’d seen Dave’s ghost.

    Anger took her. Cate sprinted down the steps, leaving the church behind. The cold shards of rain felt good stabbing her bare shoulders and the back of her neck. The puddles she stomped in splashed up mud and satisfied her.

    As she rounded the corner, the delicate gold chain with a single sapphire that Dave had given her came loose and fell right off.

    She crumbled to the gravel and cement sidewalk where the roots of the old sugar maple had pushed the tar patches up and broken through. The necklace was there, it was still unbroken. She could still keep it and hang it around her neck, close to her heart.

    1. ForgetYourTroubles

      I grabbed my phone off the counter as I headed out the door.
      I sped up into a jog, zooming through the maze of streets in the neighborhood. After rounding two blocks, I noticed the house on the corner was missing its “For Sale” sign. A dog had his front paws lain on the windowsill, barking at a the squirrel invading his territory. The squirrel then jumped off the fence, scampering away. I felt a strange sense of familiarity, like I knew that dog.
      Perhaps I did.

      The TV sat in front of me, as it had for the past hour. I decided it would be in my interest to take a jog. I’d be running a marathon in a few weeks, and legs don’t train themselves.
      This time around, a moving truck was parked in the driveway of the house. “Where should this box go?”
      Then, a woman’s voice. “Right there’ll do.”
      I gasped and stumbled backwards at the familiarity with which this voice held.

      When I was in first grade, I met my best friend, Jenifer. She was silly, and happy, an overall great individual. She stuck by my side for the rest of our childhood, through thick and thin.
      Her dog, Jackpot, was very silly. Dare I mention “SQUIRREL!”?
      Five years ago, Jenifer was rammed by a truck. She was twenty three years of age at the time. Didn’t see it coning. I thought she had died. I thought-

      Tears pleaded to flow, but alas I had them back, marching up the steps. My heartbeat traveled to my eardrums. I grew dizzy, taking a deep breath before knocking on the door. Barking, then “Jackpot, calm down.”
      A woman answered the door. “Hello?” in that same familiar voice.
      “J-jenifer, is that you?”
      She gasped. “Alison!”

  4. Tylea

    I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do. I can’t move. I don’t think I can move but I feel like I am. I couldn’t even check to see if I was trembling. All I could do is stare directly at him, my younger brother. I don’t know if I should be happy at what I’m seeing or if I’m terrified. I can’t tell. This is something I’ve wanted. I’ve prayed for. But, seeing it before my eyes like this, it’s just so unexpected. I don’t know what to think.

    I step back, but he steps forward and grabs my hand. I can feel it. Why can I feel it? He’s a ghost. Ghost are spiritual creatures. Why can I feel his hand?

    “Come in, Annabelle,” his voice was so soft and husky. It’s just like my brother. He gently pulled me closer inside the home. “Let’s talk, please.” I nodded and continued with him. My body’s chilled but my heart’s burning. I want to cry, but I want to smile. I don’t know what to feel. Should I be scared? Should I run? Or should I accept this?

    “I know what you’re thinking,” he stopped in the living room and stared at a framed picture on the coffee table. “It’s kind of creepy of me to be staring at you. Why didn’t I just tell you before hand? But actually, it’s more complicated than that. You have to come to me. You have to think of me. If you don’t, I’m not allowed to exist, or to even be around you. I have to stay in this house. I don’t even know who lives here, but they’ve been protecting me from the daylight.”

    I walked closer to him. I attempted to put my hand over his shoulder. It went through. “Why can’t I-”

    “Feelings are the reason I can touch you, and you can touch me. You must not feel the same as you did previously. The stronger we both feel, the more likely we’re able to connect physically.” Tyler looked into my eyes.

    I see it.

    The pain.

    He feels alone and empty. I would feel the same. He’s by himself in an abandoned house. He has no one anymore. It’s darkness. When he died, he was all I left of the family. I felt the same, but I could at least see my friends every day. He’s by himself.

    “Tyler, is there anyway you could live with me? I don’t want you alone here,” I tried to grab his hand and it worked. I was holding it. “I want to be there for you. Again.”

    “Annabelle, I can’t,” he removed his hand and backed away. “I just wanted to see you and hear your voice. I just wanted to talk to you one last time. I can’t stay. I have to go. Your home will be infiltrated by demons and ghosts if I stay. I’m sorry.”

    “I don’t care. I don’t want you to be alone,” I step closer to him. He’s my brother. I can see him. He’s here. He’s here. He’s alone, but I have the option to be with him again. I don’t care about demons. Just to be with him, I’m willing to do anything if it means being with him. He’s my little brother. I can’t lose him. I didn’t want to lose him. And I can’t lose him again.

    “Annabelle.” Wild wind started breezing throughout the area. Papers flew everywhere. My hair flew into my eyes. I tried tucking it back, “Tyler!” I could barely see Tyler. The strength of the wind increased. It was harder to move, but I scantily perimetered the house searching for him, “Please, stay with me! I don’t want you to be alone.”

    “I’m sorry, Annabelle.” I heard a voice. I couldn’t find him but I turned my head everywhere searching for where it would be. “I love you,” the voice faded as the wind stopped. I dropped to the floor. No. Not again. My brother’s gone. Again. My heart hurt. It felt like it was on fire. Yet my body felt cold. My head. I didn’t feel in control of it. I couldn’t stop the water flow in my eyes. Snot poured down my nose. I started finding it harder to breathe. I tried to gasp for air, but I couldn’t. My heart race increased. My head lost complete control of itself. I fainted.

  5. SkyFox

    I have played with the prompt a bit. Shes inside the house. Enjoy. Critique. Rinse and repeat. 🙂

    “Hello lady!”
    A tiny child is kneeling on the cracked floorvoards. Shes adorable in every way, with her blond hair and gap toothed smile. I glance around and try to see where her parents are. I kneel down and smile at her.
    “Where are your parents?”
    She smiles at me and sings softly.
    “My parents have gone, gone,gone away!” “They have gone,gone,gone away!”
    I frown at her. But then I notice her dress. Its like a costume really. Like shes dressed up from the 17th century. I can’t leave her here. Shes probably just wandered away from a party, if you would have a party on a deserted running track.
    I reach out my hand but it stops halfway in the air, completely frozen. I grunt and push harder but it wont move.
    She smiles at me and shakes her head.
    “Silly! You cant come in here you silly!”
    I try and take my hand back but its stuck, hovering in the air. I hear the creak of rusted hinges and the door slams shut behind me. Ghostly light flickers through the room, casting shadows on the peeling paint on the walls and dancing across the child’s face.
    Letters form in the air, made out of pale white smoke.
    “Kill her or the whole world dies”
    My hand spams and a long handled dagger appears in my hand, shining and sharp.My hand twirls it and it fits exactly into my palm.
    The little girl is still singing softly.
    “My parents are gone, gone, gone!”
    Spots appears on my vision, swallowing everything.
    I blink and two ghostly white skeletons appear on the floor, dressed in the same clothes as the girl.
    More and more appear, each of them with the same dagger deep in their chest.
    I try and scream, to let anyone know that I am here but something clamps my mouth shut.
    The letters reform, shifting in the air.
    “Decide now or you die.”
    My hand starts to move, twitching and shaking and the dagger gets closer,closer to my chest.
    My knees thud to the ground and I am kneeling in front of the girl.
    She looks at me still singing, her innocent eyes beseeching.
    Slowly my hand turns and levels the blade at the girl’s heart.
    Her song quavers and she looks at me frightened, scared. The knife twists, eager to hit its target.
    And it plunges into the little girls heart.
    Her eyes widen and blood blooms around her costume. She slumps forward at my feet, twitches and then goes still.
    My hand removes the dagger from her chest and pins it to the floor.
    I sob and shake, cradling the girl in my one arm, scratching at my hand, trying to get the blood off like cleaning it can erase what I have done.
    I take her hand and close her eyes. Except I feel her hand twitch.
    Her spine snaps against my chest and she grabs the dagger off the ground. She swivels to me and starts singing again. Except her songs changed.
    “You are gone,gone,gone!”
    I try move but somethings pinned me to the floor. She holds the dagger to my chest and stares into my eyes.
    Her eyes are full of flame,full of death and horror.
    I am screaming, shaking but I feel like I am watching me from the outside like I am no longer in my body.
    My eyes start to roll and the little girl slams the dagger into my chest.
    My blood…
    “You will be gone,gone gone!” “You will be gone…GONE…GONE!”

    Later when no one is watching the girl cleans up the body. She kneels back inside the circle. The ghostly light flickers and dies. She waits. Days later she hears someone coming up the steps. She looks at the door.
    And she smiles.

  6. SkyFox

    Hi guys! I am reposting another idea I have on this post. Enjoy. Also please critique.

    She’s running along beside me. Her blond hair flashing in the wind and her laugh echoing across the track. We sprint around bends and hurdle over tree trunks as if we can fly, like we use to. Except she runs right through them.
    It’s been twelve weeks since she died. But I still see her every day.
    She turns her head towards me and smiles, panting through her teeth, “Can’t keep up Em?”I grin at her and run faster, until I am flying across the grass, until all my worries fall behind me.
    I can hear her laughing but the roar of the wind strips the meaning from her words rendering them useless.
    But I can’t keep this pace up. I slow, like a bird slowly drifting towards the ground, and then finally land.
    She catches up to me and punches me lightly on the solider, “Made me eat your dust!” I smirk at her and bend down to tie my shoelace.
    She grabs at my drink bottle and pours it down her throat. Except the dead can’t drink. It splatters against the cracked and dusty ground. I try and put my hand on her shoulder, forgetting that I can’t touch her. But every single time I still try. Drips of silver run down her cheeks, carving a track in her face and her form shivers for a moment, becoming a ghostly wisp and she wavers in the breeze.
    I reach out to her, to try and hold onto her, hold on to anything.
    She smiles at me for the last time
    I crumple onto the ground, sobbing, rocking back and forth, back and forth. I am gasping, heaving, trying to breathe. Until I realize that I really don’t want to anymore.
    That I really don’t want to live without her.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is wonderfully poetic, SkyFox, and definitely worthy of being enjoyed. You did a great job with the rainfall of short impressions creating the image and sense of the loved shared between your MC (Em?) and her. I get the feeling the bond of love between the two, whom I assume are both female, is stronger than friendship: either sisters (filios) or lovers (eros). Either way the story packs a punch, and is only tarnished slightly by some werpos. 🙂

      [FYI the four classical modes of love: filios (brotherhood/sisterhood), eros (romantic/sexual), agape (of one’s children or of the whole world), and caritas (love and sympathy for those in need]

      1. SkyFox

        I was trying to go for the lovers feel. I usually write love between a female and a male but I thought that I might stretch outside of my comfort zone. Thanks for the lovely comments.
        [FYI there is a Greek Leegend that humans use to have four arms and legs. The god thought they were to powerful and spilt them into men and women and since then people have been looking for their other half :)]

  7. Observer Tim

    THE ONTOLOGICAL PARADOX

    This story ties in to something I’m working on right now. I wanted to see if I could make it fit the prompt.

    When you’re on the run it’s important to stay in shape, and what better way than running? It was ironic, but it gave me a cover for scouting out the house. When people asked why I was out there I told them I was practicing for a marathon.

    The green two-storey house with the gaps in its roof shingles and the cracked but unbroken windows caked with dust was one of the regular sights of my journey. It was also held in my Mom’s name before she was kidnapped by Chrysalis, which was why I wanted to check it out.

    On my fourth trip by I saw the shadow of a movement in an upper window. I was being watched!

    I continued to the end of the block and then sneaked back up the alley. Luckily the deadbolt on the back door was long-broken, so I was able to get in quietly. I went up the stairs carefully, keeping my weight to the edges so they wouldn’t creak. As I climbed I could hear voices.

    “Okay Cass, you were right.”

    “Now you know why I said check all the anomalous readings. One of them is here.”

    I nearly fainted on the stairs; that was Mom’s voice! And Cass –Cassandra Brixton– was my mother in everything except biology.

    “You don’t have to rub it in; now how did it get here?”

    “I don’t know. I’d love to get some readings on it, if we can without giving away our presence.”

    I reached the top of the stairs; the room door was open and I could see Mom and a man I didn’t know, both dressed in pale grey coveralls with the Chrysalis Corporation logo on them. It was weird, but Mom somehow looked younger than when I’d last seen her.

    “Mom?”

    Both of them got that deer-in-the-headlights look for just a second as they saw me. I started running toward them and they bolted. I got to the room just as the closet door slammed and a sweep of red light came through the cracks around it, ceiling to floor.

    When I opened the closet there was nothing but an empty closet with the lingering tang of ozone. Just like the last time. I slammed my fist against the doorframe.

    “Mom, what the heck is going on?”

    This was the third time someone had disappeared but this time it was Mom, looking like she did in my baby pictures. Why was she avoiding me?

    I searched the room, expecting the usual non-clues. This time I was surprised.

    It was a plastic rectangle, about the size of a credit card. When I picked it up a picture appeared on it: it was my face, but I was getting used to that by now. It spoke.

    “Greetings, sister. Doctors Brixton and Creighton are suspected of working against us. Apprehend, but do not harm. They are crucial to unraveling the Ontological Paradox.”

    That bloody Ontological Paradox again; what on earth was going on?

    1. thejim

      I liked the premise a lot. There were aspects that kept me tied in, the lights from around the door/ escape route. I was lost for a second with the – was my mother in everything except biology. I had to really read into it. – and was his mom there when he said – “Mom, what the heck is going on?”- or did he say that to the empty closet. Again I had to read into it further. Of which I normally prefer, so that my little brain had to think a bit. So if that is what you wanted good job. I think though it has just enough intrigue to push you along and to want to find out what is going on and not to much to push you over. I do like it! and I want more.

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, theJim. This is my current “big writing” project: the story of Nancy Bellarmine (Brixton), who has found herself neck deep in something that she doesn’t understand. This is further down my outline than it is down the story so far, so the event may never happen. Which is entirely possible in a story where the Ontological Paradox is involved. 😉

        1. Kerry Charlton

          You are one complex writer, I love to read. I do think he was talking to an empty closet. Boy, if this is a novel, get on with it so I can read it. Even my money is available to buy it. How far along are you?

          1. Observer Tim

            Nancy is indeed talking to an empty closet.

            I am currently working on Segment (chapter) Four, where Nancy is still trying to get her bearings after her mother disappeared.

        2. thejim

          Things get tuff with time travel the Achronal time is always an issue. Did the past really cause the present? Then because there is no past to effect the present did the past in fact become the present and we are now running at the same time? I love time travel and the various paradoxes that could manifest and rear it’s ugly head. I enjoy combining 2 paradoxes together to get even more dilemmas! Yikes!

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      You’re onto tackling quite a beast here, Tim. Ontological Paradox, huh? Questioning the very essence of existence? It’s inevitably gripping and thrilling, given that I love complex theories in sci-fi novels. As for this particular scene, you nailed it. With all the lacking background of the story, I still know who’s who and kind of understand what the whole fuss is all about. And paraphrasing your last line, What was going on on earth?)

      1. Observer Tim

        Thanks, Bez. Given that one of the themes of the larger story is contemplating one’s origins, it fits. I love time travel stories, especially ones that have to deal with paradoxes. This just happens to be a “teen on the run” adventure story as well…

    3. regisundertow

      This story does pose a whole bunch of questions, for which I have no doubt you hold the answers. It shows that the story is based on a much larger narrative. It’s a little different in style than your normal work, but no less intriguing. Really looking forward to reading the continuation.

    4. JosephFazzone

      This just pulls you in right away. It’s so well done. When her mom vanished, I was like “nooooo”. Now we have to stay tuned and find out what happens. To be honest, this piece gives so much so well, that I immediately settled in to read and read and read. Unfortunately, for now, we have to wait for the next installment. But I love the premise! I love the mystery! I love this story! The way the prompt ties is very clever. Awesome job, Tim!

    5. Critique

      This definitely leaves me wanting more. You’ve set up an intriguing prologue for Chapter One in my opinion.
      In response to a comment, I think she was talking to an empty closet.

    6. writer_sk

      chrysalis corp is intriguing. Plus, I would be interested to read the beginning or more info about where in time the main character is.

      I enjoyed it.

  8. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    Enough is enough. I wipe the sweaty locks off my face and jog up the stairs. My knock on the door is stronger than I intended it to be, showing my determination and revealing my anger. The sound of heavy steps is getting closer. I take a step back for no reason – the door opens to the inside, – and as it does, I take two more and lose the ground, my arms flailing. Before I can even get scared to hit the cement stairs and probably die, I’m lifted by the strong arms of the house owner. There’s no mistake. It’s Kai.

    “Taken you a while,” he says.

    My self-preservation instinct kicks in, as I wriggle out of his arms, yelling, “Put me down now! You can’t be near me, let alone touch. I’m calling the police!”

    “You’re welcome for saving your life, and yeah, you might need to call the cops. But we talk first.” Tired of my kicking and screaming, he flings me over his shoulder and carries me inside the house.

    The moment my feet touch the ground, I dart for the door.

    “Liv, come on!” He grabs me by my waist with one hand and covers my mouth with the other, muffling my scream for help. “Please, give me one minute, I’m not gonna hurt you. You know, I won’t. One minute, Liv, please.” I stop screaming and stay desperately still, panting with anger. “I’m gonna let you go now, okay?.. Okay?”

    I nod and feel his grip on me loosen. He carefully removes his hand off my mouth and steps away behind me.

    “Liv…”

    “You promised.” I turn around to catch his guilty look. “You said I’d never see you again.”

    Kai’s silent. I take in his huge muscular torso; a mixture of desire and fear surges over me. My body aches at every single place where he’s ever left a bruise, now healed. All I wanted was to be free from him. I could have endured the pain, maybe to the point where I was no longer alive. My love for him was excruciating and poisonous. I guess, I wanted to be free from myself.

    “I never hurt you more than you wanted.” He straightens his back, the old posture of expectance, and I know all it takes is for me to nod yes and he’d sweep me up and bring me down, plunge me into the pleasure and the hell of the addiction. My personal life-size heroine syringe is expecting me to take a shot of him, but the agony of withdrawal was too much to be in vain.

    “You have one minute to talk.” I cross my arms. “Then I’m gone.”

    A look of disappointment lingers but a split second on his face, and he beckons me into the room to his right. “There’s something you’d want to see.”

    I wait for him to enter and follow. The walls of the small dim-lit room are covered in pictures of me. My hairstyle is different in some of them, so I gather they’ve been taken over a period of a year or so. A man lies face down on the floor with a gun barrel sticking from under his shoulder.

    “Is he–“ I gasp.

    “Breathing.”

    “And is that–“

    “A sniper rifle.”

    The room swings a little, and the walls start to press on me.

    “So, Liv,” Kai steps over the unconscious man and examines the pictures on the wall. “Still gonna call the cops or tell me first why someone might want to kill you?”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What a roller coaster ride you’v written here. Reads like the start of a novel or novella. Certainly grips the reader with a total interest. Loved the description of Kai especially and the description of physical pain Liv endured.

    2. Observer Tim

      That was a twist; the ending caught me totally off guard. This story begs to have a novel stuck on the end of it, Bez, and it’s one I’d read. You managed in just a short space to get me caught up in the world you created and interested enough in the characters to make me want more. Fantastic! 🙂

      P.S. Welcome back! Again… 😉

      1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

        Thank you Tim. It does smells several shades of grey, doesn’t it?)) Not sure I’m up for such type of novels, but it’s been fun, and I’m overjoyed that you are among those who liked it)

        P.S. thx, I am indeed on and off here, but as you can see, one can’t stay away from WD for long 😉

    3. gamingtheblues

      Well well. This was quite enjoyable to read and fall into. The flow of your sentences could use a teensy bit of fine tuning and I am unsure if I felt that the body aching sentence was necessary. You conveyed a nice sense of the relationship between Kai and Liv nicely without it, and you would leave your readers some intriguing questions as to the full nature of what happened between them. The twist at the end was written simple and to the point enough to avoid sounding cliche. All in all good job!

      1. SkyFox

        Lovely story. I like how you describe her pain. However one tiny issue-for me anyway- is that sentence ‘I guess,I wanted to be free of myself’. It makes it drag on for me. Maybe something along the lines of “I wanted to be free’ or something shorter may have been better. However everything else is amazing especially the cliff hanger at the end!
        I have an idea why there is a sniper… shes fallen back into her old habits and is a drug lord and some one is trying assassinate her. :O. Amazing read. PLEASE PLEASE KEEP POSTING IF YOU WRITE LIKE THAT!

    4. Critique

      I get the picture clearly of Liv and Kai’s toxic relationship. The twist at the end amps up the storyline.
      A suggestion: I would mention tha man lying on the floor in a separate paragraph – for a moment I was confused and thought he was one of the pictures on the wall.
      I enjoyed this and wonder what happens next?

  9. cosi van tutte

    And one last one….Just because. 🙂

    ***

    I killed Jeremy Asthan three months ago.

    It wasn’t easy. It hurt me more than it hurt him. Well. That’s kind of a weird thing to say. After all, he’s dead and I am not. But it still hurt me a lot to do the foul deed.

    Jeremy was my constant companion on long, lonely car rides. And when I’d go for walks, yeah. He was right there beside me.

    But he had to die.

    It was right.

    It was time.

    It was inevitable.

    And so…I killed him. He’s buried deep in the London rock quarry where no one will ever find him. Not even his green-eyed lackey named Jorge. Jorge is terribly good at finding things, but no. Not even he will find him.

    I won’t let him.

    So there.

    I’ve taken up jogging to help clear my head. I never realized what a toll killing someone takes on one’s psyche.

    So, here I am, jogging along, minding my own business, contemplating my next course of action. I might have to kill someone else and I think I know who it will be: little Darla Mooney. I don’t want to do it. It’s a horrible thing to even consider. Darla is everything a little girl should be: sweet, obedient, just dog-gone precious. She even has that cute little girl lisp.

    But she just has to go.

    But…what if I killed her—

    I stop in the middle of my driveway. I see a silhouette on my bedroom curtains. That wouldn’t be a big deal if I were still living at home with my three thousand sisters and brothers. But I live alone.

    I decide to do the rational thing, since I am a rational (albeit murderously inclined) individual. I pull out my cell phone. Oh, of course, it’s off. I press the End button and wait for it to turn on.

    My curtains ruffle and flutter as someone messes around with them. I have no idea what they’re doing up there, but they are so going to get their tails kicked by the cops.

    My phone chimes a magical trrrring sound as it brings up the main screen.

    I’m all ready to call 911, but then my curtains swoosh open in a big, dramatic reveal. And I see him looking down at me.

    Jeremy Asthan is in my bedroom, which is shocking enough, but darn it all! He’s still alive! I shut my phone down and storm my own castle.

    I rush up to my bedroom and yank the door open. “You!”

    Jeremy smiles at me. “Oh, hello. I imagine that you are surprised to see me.”

    “Surprised is not the word I was going to use. You are supposed to be dead.”

    “Mmm, yes. Yes, I was. But then I realized that no. No. No. No. I cannot die just yet. I have too much to live for. I have adventures that I still need to go on. I need to protect poor little Darla Mooney and help her find her circus performer parents. I have women that I still need to wine and dine. I have—”

    “Shut up.” I stop and shake my head. “This is too weird. You aren’t even real. How can you be here talking to me?” I gasp. “Am I having a psychotic moment?”

    “No. I am really here.”

    “Maybe I need to spend more time with real people.”

    “And I…”

    He keeps on talking, but I tune him out. “Hmm. If this is really happening—”

    “Hey! I’m talking. Quit ignoring me.”

    “—-if I kill anyone else off, would they come and haunt me too? Wait.” I look up at him. “Are you a ghost?”

    He strolls over to me and kisses me before I can start to object. “Well?” His face is very close to mine. “What do you think? Am I a ghost?”

    There are many ways a person could and should react to being kissed by someone like him. I can tell be the look on his face that he expects me to fall madly in love with him and kiss him in a wild, passionate frenzy.

    Oh, he just doesn’t know me well enough.

    My mind is racing with ideas. “Yes. I think I will make you a ghost.”

    “What?”

    I smile. “I’ll have you haunt Darla. Oh, the possibilities! Darla might actually become an interesting character. So, I won’t have to kill her off. Yay!”

    “Wait. What?”

    I sit down at my desk and turn on my computer.

    “I am not a ghost.”

    “Not yet.” My computer goes through the whole loading process. As soon as my main screen appears, I click into my story “The Mambo Jambo Experiment”. I page down to the bottom of my story and snigger in a most menacing way. “Go on back to your parallel dimension or universe or wherever you came from. I got a story to write.”

    “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stand right here.”

    “Okay. Have fun.” I rub my hands with glee. “I sure will. Mwa-hahahahaha!”

    1. Observer Tim

      Kill your darlings, Cosi. This is wonderful and fun and clever in all the good ways! I know how hard it is to truly knock off a beloved character, and it’s been harder ever since Conan Doyle decided even death could fall prey to a clever literary trick. Weirdly enough I’ve been thinking about fictional character mortality lately, and this dovetailed into it wonderfully. Also, I have to say that dying seems to have brought new life to Jeremy… 🙂

    2. gamingtheblues

      You certainly had me guessing there for a few minutes… I knew there was a twist from the way it was written but you fooled me. I thought the story was going to be about a dog you had to put down…. Very interesting read.

    3. Solid Shadow

      Love the twist, cosi. You, Observer Tim, Beebles, Reaver, etc are all incredibly inspiring. I haven’t left any posts of my own stories since I showed up too late for the One Shot prompt my Lit instructor assigned, but I’ve been a fan of all of you since. You guys never disappoint.

  10. Reaper

    That Imaginary Line

    I’ve never been good at spending my time doing nothing. I guess that’s why I started training for a marathon. Which is kind of stupid, since I’m not very fit, much less a runner. I think I was mostly trying to distract myself. Some thoughts live deep in the brain, in that forgetting place. They like to travel though, don’t they? I knew even then that some of those were trying to visit the land of my upper mind. Being the kind of thoughts you forget I didn’t know what they were, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to either.

    You’re supposed to run half the marathon, and you work up to it. Unfortunately there was a block, one I couldn’t seem to cross. I reached that imaginary line, at Mason Ave and Dixon St, and pain bloomed in the middle of my brain. Like an inferno burning to life in the dry, gray tinder that rested there.

    Seven days, the same number as the ones I watched from down the street. Seven days from reaching my wall at that intersection. That’s when I saw the curtains twitch. I ignored it, just somebody watching. Weird though, because nobody ever looked at me. Not even the ones on the street.

    The next day I saw a face, and eyes staring. No big deal though. Just someone curious about my run. Maybe about why I kept pulling up short at the end of their block. They’d get bored of it soon. Then another seven days pass, and they were still watching.

    I stopped, like I always did, looking at the vacant lot, kitty-corner to where my feet cemented themselves to the ground. I saw the curtains move, like they were rustled by the wind. The anger my people are known for bloomed in my mind; a desert rose in the flames burning there. I crossed the street.

    My hands clenched into fists and the fire burned brighter. I didn’t know why, but this person had no business watching me. I knew it was a woman, because as I pounded on the door, I smelled her perfume. It had that faint patina of roses, like hers always did.

    When Leesa opened the door, my jaw dropped. There was no way. She…

    “You’re dead.”

    “You’re so sure?”

    “When the accelerant took, you were on the wrong side. The building… it was a building right? A church.”

    “Go on, you are almost there.”

    “The building burned to the ground. Everyone inside was to die, a sacrifice to the cause. You were in there with them. You were supposed to be with me as I ran out but you weren’t. There’s no way you survived.”

    “John, dear John. Nobody survived.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This was a true ghost story. As soon as I finished reading I went right back to reread because so many things then made sense, like Mason and Dixon and the use of fire images. I think John is now deep into the forgetting part of his brain. Great job.

    2. Observer Tim

      This story has Reaper written all over it. Others have taken the “you’re dead” trope, but you’ve done it with your usual incredible finesse. Even though John is a terrorist of the worst sort, I still find myself feeling for him. The overall effect is beautiful. 🙂

    3. gamingtheblues

      I was going to scold you for the first paragraph…it felt disjointed and a little too…ephemeral. Foolish me! I should have known better. Very well written, as your protag achieved clarity, so too did the writing mimic his journey. Solid Reaper.

    4. Critique

      There’s background to this story that leaves me wondering: ‘anger my people are known for’, sacrifice to the cause’. Who are ‘my people’ and what is ‘the cause’? The ending is chilling. Nice analogy using Mason Dixon.

  11. UnclePizza

    It’s interesting to see what’s changed on this side of town since I moved – a new coffee shop on that corner, a hot tub show room where the pool hall was, stuff like that. As I jog past the gas station I can see the Foothills Club up the road on the left. I’m sure it hasn’t changed; I doubt it ever will. The parking lot is empty this time of day, as opposed to in the evenings when I used to drive here for a meeting. The big windows in front are dark, and just for kicks I decide to jog through the parking lot and peek inside.

    I slow my pace as I pass, and it’s a bit of a surprise to see him standing there in the dark, just watching me. I stop, not even doing the jog-in-place thing. We both smile, though it feels like there’s a touch of…something. Irony? Sadness? I can’t quite put my finger on it, other than to say that these are not joyful smiles.

    “You look surprised,” he says; I can hear him clearly through the glass.

    “I am,” I reply, though I hope my voice doesn’t betray just how much.

    “You thought I was dead, didn’t you?”

    “I won’t lie,” I tell him. “I did. At least I hoped you were.”

    “I remember you saying so. Right here, what, a year ago now?”

    “Yeah, in fact it’s been one year to the day.”

    “Amazing,” he smiles. “Who would have guessed? Neither of us, that’s for sure. I’m still here though. And I’ve been watching you for a while.”

    “Well, all I can say is that I honestly wish you’d never been in my life. I’d appreciate it if you just went away.”

    “Oh, I’m never going away,” he chuckles. “And I’m stronger now than I ever was. You know that, right? Isn’t that what they tell you in those meetings? That I’m a progressive disease? That I keep getting worse even when you’re not drinking or using?”

    They do, but I still had to learn the lesson myself. A long time ago, and after twenty years of addiction, I actually managed to get clean and sober for exactly one year, but then immediately relapsed. Sure enough, within days I was in far worse shape than I’d been on the day that I stopped. It’s taken over a dozen years and countless tries to finally string together another year of recovery, one day at a time.

    “Yeah,” I tell him. “But I don’t need to hear it from anyone else. You convinced me of that yourself a long time ago. So yeah, I still want you dead, today more than ever. ”

    “And I still want you dead. You know that too, right? But first I want everything that means anything to you, including your self-respect. I had it for a while. It was fun watching you in those days. And, you know what else? I’ll always be here. You can’t kill me, no matter how much you’d like to. But I can kill you. And I’ll be with you until the day you die, so I can be patient. All I need is just one chance. You run along now; I’ll be waiting.”

    There was no point responding – he was right and we both knew it. So I just turned away and started running again, leaving him to keep waiting, one day at a time.

    1. Observer Tim

      And your MC’s choice is the only way to beat it. I have been living the “every day is a day I don’t wake up dead” for almost eight years now (health not addiction, thank God), and I know this ghost all too well. You did an excellent job with the presentation, to the point where you didn’t need to even identify the villain. Good one, Uncle. 🙂

    2. gamingtheblues

      This was a surprisingly poignant piece, completely different than what I was expecting at the start of the story. You handle the subject matter with a measure of finesse. Not completely subtle, not completely blatant, but a nice place in the middle that speaks to a resigned determination. I especially appreciated the overall message and intent. Well done.

  12. Critique

    Anna’s legs pumped rhythmically as she ran towards the lane that led to the track field – sweat trickling past the headband, stinging her eyes. Checking her watch she noticed her time had improved. Three months to go before the marathon. She could do this.

    Reaching the lane she shot a glance up to the second floor balcony of the clapboard house on the corner. Unease tightened her chest and her breath puffed out in little white clouds as she noticed the figure again, standing in the shadows of the awning – this time with binoculars.

    Three days in a row he had been there.

    Anna felt a shiver of fear. It was time to change up her route. She sprinted across to the field, uncomfortable with the knowledge someone watched her – up close and personal. Once out of his sight she pulled out all stops and raced for her apartment building – relieved to be inside with the door locked behind her.

    “Today he had binoculars.” Anna told her friend Carla on the phone that evening. “Freaked me out but also makes me mad.”

    “Even I’m freaked out.” Carla said. “I could ask Dennis to go to the house and confront him?” Dennis was Carla’s husband and a police officer.

    Without hesitating Anna said. “I’d like to be there too if Dennis agrees.”

    The next evening Anna struggled to focus on her pacing as she ran the familiar route. Nearing the clapboard house she peeked up at the balcony and stumbled – almost falling when she saw the man lift the binoculars and focus them on her.

    Instead of turning down the lane Anna kept to the alley, reached the end and hidden by the houses, sprinted to where Dennis waited in an unmarked police car.

    They pulled up in front of the clapboard minutes later.

    “Stay behind me.” Dennis ordered. He pushed the doorbell several times.

    The door opened to a large fair-haired man leaning on crutches, an ugly scar twisting down the side of his face. He looked startled at the sight of the police officer.

    “Are you the owner of this house?” Dennis asked before the man could say a word.

    Anna leaned around Dennis to get a look.

    She gasped.

    The blond giant’s eyes landed on her and he grinned, the scar pulling at his mouth.

    “Anna. Little Anna Leman? You’ve grown up.” The man lifted a crutch to move forward.

    “Stay where you are sir?” Dennis held up his hand. “We’ve received a complaint….”

    Anna white faced, interrupted in shocked tones. “Wade. How… is that you?”

    “You know this man Anna?” Dennis looked from one to the other.

    “I noticed you running past my place. I wasn’t sure at first.” Wade said. “But yesterday – I recognized you.”

    “Dennis, this man was – is – my brother’s best friend. They were both killed in action a year ago.” Anna’s voice trailed off.

    “The entire battalion perished except me.” Wade explained. “Blew my leg apart. Wrecked my face. They didn’t know who I was for weeks.”

    Much later Anna still sat in the living room of the clapboard talking with Wade.

    “I don’t get out much.” Wade gestured towards his leg. “Physio every day hopefully will change that.”

    ”I apologize again for creeping you with the binoculars. I do a lot of bird watching to pass the time and noticed you running.” Something flickered in his eyes. “You’re all grown up. A woman now. Brad would be so proud. Training for a marathon and all.”

    “Apology accepted.” Anna laughed and stood up to go. “I’m still in shock. You’re alive.”

    Wade held the front door open and looked down at her.

    Anna leaned in suddenly and put her arms around Wade. With his free arm he pulled her close.

    Tears in her eyes she looked up and said. “I miss Brad so much and it’s been so wonderful to see you Wade. I’d like to talk again – soon.”

    “Little Anna. I miss him too.” Wade whispered. “If you’re okay spending time with a housebound cripple like me, I’m available.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      This was such a rewarding read, and a reminder that things aren’t always as they first appear. I think more good things are going to happen here.

    2. Kerry Charlton

      A very poignant story, Critique. It has all the earmarks of a continuation. The reader does not want to.left here. But then, we can finish it ourselves and maybe that’s more satisfying
      Your story grabs from the first sentence and holds the reader nicely.

    3. gamingtheblues

      This was actually a bit of an emotional roller coaster lite for me. The bounce from creeper to shared grief and loss is a not always the easiest to make, but I have a good sense of who the characters are. One question I have is that I would really like to know the age difference between the two, as he calls her little Anna but the battle was only a year ago. I would like to know if there is a romantic interest here or just a friendship.

      1. Critique

        Dang, if I’d changed the time frame to 3 or 4 years it wouldn’t need an explanation. On the other hand expanding the story could include Wade hadn’t seen Little Anna for some years and suddenly he sees her differently- she’s not his best friends little sister anymore but has grown into a lovely young woman. I think they are destined to be together in a romantic relationship 🙂
        Thank you for your comments.

  13. cosi van tutte

    This is a long one and kind of on the edge of the prompt.

    ****

    Andora closed her eyes and reveled in the warmth of the sunlight and the smell of the sweet sea grass. Sandpipers skittered about the shore, piping softly to themselves. The sea hemmed and hawed in loud roars.

    Altogether, it was another beautiful day. Just like any other day.

    Andora had never known a truly bad day. Even rainy days were lovely for her. She would sit out in the rain for hours. It would fall gentle and kind on her and sing out soft music as it hit the ground.

    She opened her eyes and looked up at the clear blue sky. Although she lived alone, she was happy. She had never known pain or loneliness or loss.

    And yet…

    She frowned. It was an unfamiliar expression for her, but, at that moment, it was the only one to make. Something wasn’t right and she didn’t know why.

    “Andora…”

    “It is undoubtedly Keeper.” She rose to her feet and glanced around.

    He was nowhere in sight.

    “Andora…”

    She followed his voice, without hesitation or fear, across the shoreline and into the green woods. Friendly birds chirped and sang to her. But she paid them no heed.

    “Andora…”

    She followed his voice to the far southern edge of the green woods and stopped.

    A black metal bridge arced over a rushing, frothing stream. The night woods loomed on the opposite side.

    She backed away. “I must have made a mistake. Keeper told me to never come here. Surely, he would never call me into these woods.”

    “Andora…”

    “But it sounds so like his voice. Keeper? Is that you?”

    “Come to me, child.”

    “But…” She had never questioned his orders before. For he was wise and kind.

    She would not question him now.

    She walked across the metal bridge. It was nothing like the soft sand nor the leaf covered trails that she was accustomed to. It was hard and hot and cold. But she was unafraid. “Keeper is on the other side.” That is what she said and what she firmly believed.

    Andora stepped off the bridge and entered the night woods.

    It was nothing like the green woods.

    The night woods were dark. Creatures with yellow eyes watched her, only to dart away when she tried to look at them. Pointed rocks and sharp sticks littered the path. Roots jutted out of the ground. The air smelled of harsh spices and cold mud.

    But she remained unafraid. “Keeper is here. He will show himself. I must be patient.”

    The path curved downwards and devolved into loose stones and crumbly dirt. She struggled to keep her footing.

    “Andora…”

    But she kept her footing and she kept walking forward.

    ***to be continued***

    1. cosi van tutte

      ***Continuation/Conclusion***

      A sickly green light broke through the darkness.

      “It is he!” she cried with relief. “It is Keeper.” She ran to the light. “Keeper! It is I!”

      She stopped.

      The light flickered in a black metal lantern, which hung outside a rickety wooden house.

      “Keeper? Are you there?”

      “Come inside.”

      She hesitated. It had sounded like him before, but now…”Are you Keeper?”

      The voice didn’t reply.

      “Ah, but who else could it be?” She approached the front door, opened it, and entered the house.

      A large metal crate sat a couple of feet before her.

      “The crate is yours.” said the voice. “Open it and claim its contents.”

      “You are not Keeper.” She knew it without a doubt. “Keeper would never—”

      “I am not Keeper. I am…an old friend of his. And I am giving you a gift. Take it, child. It is yours.”

      “An old friend of Keeper. He has never spoken of you.”

      “There is much he has not spoken of. All of that knowledge is inside that box.”

      She hesitated.

      “It is knowledge he will never give you. But I, on the other hand, give it to you freely. Out of the kindness and love inside my heart, I give all of that knowledge to you.”

      “Keeper is good and kind. If he has kept any knowledge from me, I’m sure it is all for my own good.”

      “No, dear child. He keeps it from you to keep you ignorant of many truths. Is that what you want? Ignorance? Knowledge, my dear child, is bliss.”

      She walked up to the crate and touched it. She let out a startled gasp. It felt beautiful – soft as new fur, warm as the sunlit sand. “Why would he keep such a thing from me?”

      “Open it and see.”

      She tore it open, hungry for the lost knowledge.

      A creature with glowing eyes and jagged teeth jumped out at her and slashed her arm with its claws.

      For the first time in her life, Andora felt pain and fear. Her blood trailed down her arm. She opened her mouth wide and screamed.

      The creature snarled at her, spread its wings wide, and flew out the door.

      Words filled her mind. So many questions. But the pain was too much for her. She could not speak.

      A white, blue, and purple light twirled into one appeared before her. “Andora.” His voice was as gentle as the sleeping sea.

      “Keeper.” She looked up at him. Tears spilled down her face.

      “You have disobeyed my command and set pain and ignorance loose upon my world.”

      “It wasn’t my fault. I was tricked. He told me…” Bitter sorrow stole her words.

      “But you chose to obey him.”

      “Who?”

      It was an incomplete question, but Keeper understood. “He was one who would have been my highest, but he wanted more. He is my enemy now and wishes to steal all from me.”

      “My arm…Something’s wrong with it. It feels all wrong.”

      “It hurts. Many things will hurt you now. Oh, my dear child. Everything will be different when you leave this house. Pain. Sorrows. Loneliness. Work. Death. You will no longer live in the green woods nor walk across the soft beach. You will never more see me nor hear my voice.”

      “Ah! You will abandon me?”

      “Never. Look once more into the crate.”

      She obeyed him. A strange shape made out of wood lay inside. She pulled it out and looked it over. “What is it?”

      “It is my hope that I give to you.”

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        My goodness, Cosi, you’ve given us an opening like a Disney movie, I could hear the birds chirping, then Pandora’s Box, and finished with a fantastic retelling of Genesis. And, I savored every word. Wonderful, wonderful!

      2. Observer Tim

        Fantastic allegory, Cosi. I sort of got Pandora from it, but more like the temptation of Eve. This is a wonderful update of a classic morality fable, done in a truly enjoyable mythic style. Absolutely great! 🙂

  14. KMenehan

    “You just had to find out what was in here, didn’t you?” Danny said, shaking his head and opening the door a couple of inches wider. “Always so damn curious, man!”

    I hadn’t moved from the welcome mat, where I stood paralyzed. All I felt was an electrifying panic that had begun in my bowel and had glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth. A thought began rattling around my cranium: I shouldn’t be so curious.

    The door opened another inch. “Well,” Danny said, shaking his head in way he had that meant he was putting on an air of reluctance, but there was gonna be no holds barred—whether we were following a group of pretty girls at the mall or tapping a keg at a beach party, or getting ready for a cross-country meet. No holds barred, no limits, man, let’s do this!—that was Danny, all the way.

    He looked up at me with one blue eye and smiled, although his smile was much, much more crooked than it had ever been.

    A police siren shrieked through the early-morning fog. I gasped and grabbed the door jamb to keep from fainting.

    “Danny,” I said on the exhale. “Why…..?”

    My mind then, was loosened. Thoughts of setting out on a hike with Danny and his girlfriend of three years, Donna, and her friend, Anne. Memories of a hot summer day, a bottle of wine, a shortcut, vibration, running, a whistle that turned into a bloody scream so loud I heard it for months afterward, in every bone of my body. The first newspaper article, “Teens Killed by Train in McCrarey Tunnel,” and then the tributes and obituaries. The funeral, where Danny’s mom had collapsed on his coffin and had to be pried off by his brother and dad. Another funeral for Anne.

    Danny should have made it out. He was always faster than me, ever since we met running track in junior high school. He had just made State, and we all knew he would make it to college on a scholarship.

    But Anne had fallen as the train’s headlight swung around the last bend in the tunnel, and Danny had gone back. Tennis shoes slipping on thick chunks of gray gravel. Another trip, and that’s all it took for Anne to be pulverized by the train and for Danny to lose the right side of his face, his right arm, and most of his intestines, right there in McCrarey Tunnel.

    Me? I had kept running, right past Anne and Danny as the vibration and shriek of train-wheel metal on track gave me the best 100-yard time I would ever have.

    “Come on in, man,” Danny said, one tooth waggling toward me as he wheezed and ground the words out through his mangled mouth. And then with a cackle as the door swung wide open, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very, very good. For some reason the reference to the welcome mat sent a powerful message. I’m not certain if Danny is a ghost or not, but it doesn’t matter, his description is the stuff of horror movies.

    2. regisundertow

      Now, how could this invitation end well? This is an interesting story, the metaphorical ghost of past cowardice appearing to confront the MC in the form of his mangled friend. There’s so much room for survivor’s guilt here, so much potential for expanding the story.

    3. Observer Tim

      Very nice ghost (ish) story, KMenehan. I love the tone of it and the sense of inevitability, and the way you were able to portray the grotesqueness of the injuries and the accident without making it gruesome or gory. All in all a masterful piece of writing. 🙂

    4. gamingtheblues

      This is the first time I have read your work on here, and I have to say that I am not disappointed. There was one spot that I felt could have been slimmed down a little; the spot where you mention the no holds barred look was a different enough tone that it pulled me from the story briefly, and my mind even went back to it after reading the excellent conclusion. The rest of the piece though was gripping and haunting.

  15. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Girl Returns
    1960
    (470 words)

    “You get the hog jowl?”

    “Yes, mam, I got ever thing.” I folded the grocery sacks real good and put ’em ‘tween the stove and the Kelvinator. Granny don’t think I can grocery shop by myself. “You give me a list, how’m I gonna forget? ‘Specially since you gonna fix blackeyed peas tomorrow.”

    “What’s that bag you tryin’ to hide behind the door?” My granny’s some sharp. “What’d you buy not on my list.”

    “Oh, Granny, I jest had to have me some oranges. Miz Tuggle’s got her stand set up in front of her tourist cabins. Look here, Granny.” I handed her the bag. “Got me some navels and some bloods and…” Granny started laughing.

    “Know what yore mama shoulda named you? Shoulda called you Satsuma, or maybe Tangelo. How’d you like that?” Granny was laughing so hard her teeth was moving all around. Maybe this was a good time.

    “Granny, guess I best tell you what else I done.” She stopped laughing and wiped her eyes with her apron.

    “I went by the house, the house where you was born. I know I ain’t s’posed to, but…”

    “Girl, Girl, Girl. Why’d you go and do that for? Me an yore mama done tole you and tole you.”

    “I know, Granny, but today it was like I jest had to and Granny, somethin’ you gotta know. It ain’t run down no more, it’s all painted up and there’s a big ole sign board by the street.” Granny stopped her laughing.

    “A sign? What’d it say?”

    “I don’t rightly know what it means but it says, Future Home of the Sue Ann and Horace Hightower House Museum.”

    “Lord, Lord, Lord.” Granny pulled her apron up over her head. “Lord help us, it’s a startin’.”

    “Granny, that ain’t all. I was lookin’ up at one a them high winders and I seen somebody standin’ there lookin’ down at me, a girl ’bout as old as me. I waved at her, but Granny, she didn’t wave back, she jest motioned with her hands like she was tellin’ me to go away.”

    “Oh, Girl…”

    “A shiver come over me, like when the red haints come in the night. Then a woman come out the front door, her mouth all squinched up like she was suckin’ on a lemon. I was so scared I jest run all the way to Setzers.” I went over to Granny and patted her head. “I’m sorry I went there, Granny. But, I jest had to, like I was bein’ pulled.”

    Granny smoothed out her apron and stood up.

    “Won’t be long now, Girl, we gonna have us some comp’ny. I ‘spect yore cousin’ll be here soon. We better get to cookin’. Think she likes Hoppin’ John and collards much as you do?”

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks so much. The Girl has been with me since my first post, January of last year. I think there are 30 or so stories I’m now trying to pull together, linking stories from 1906 to 1960 to 1970, the final chapter. This venue has been a great place to experiment and to get feedback. Plus, I get to read fantastic things every week.

        1. writer_sk

          Reatha-

          I love the voice and dialect you’ve given to the girl. It’s really well done and I can picture her. I can tell you have fleshed out the character and are familiar with her. Interesting.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks. In some ways The Girl is a bit slow for 15 (I think!) in 1960, but she’ll soon come into her own. Some things I write are creepy to me, also.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I was in a dream state as I.read this, like I was part of the story. You have a best.mystery seller when you weave it together
          Those parts that don’t.fit.set aside. Or.take pieces from. You might have enough now. I would start building your.novel and continue.writing parts.you don,’t.have.

          .

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Kerry, thanks so very much. I’m actually working on gathering the stories right now. I’m toning down the supernatural elements that some prompts required. I estimate I have about 20,000 words and the basic outline to flesh out. I’ll have some “down time” forced upon me starting mid-May, so I’m hoping I can get lots accomplished. Thanks again. I think a few weeks ago you wrote that posting and getting comments here keep you going. I so identify with that.

    1. regisundertow

      I’ve been reading some Faulkner lately and it just struck me how much DNA your language shares with that of his characters. Not that you’d be sharing turns of phrases and such, but I could easily see the Bundrens inhabiting the same universe as that of the Girl. I really do like your work that much, Reatha.

      Part of the benefit from jumping back and forth in narrative time is that the reader is aware how some characters end up and what events such as this one here mean for the future. This is the original definition of tragedy right there, having all this knowledge as a reader and watching the characters move inexorably towards their fate. It leads to some interesting feelings towards your characters and sets up the basis for lots of drama.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you so much for these words. I understand the universe you reference. Yep, there are connections. The shifts in chronology, while trying to use the prompts, has made me keep the characters and story always on my mind. On long car rides I’ll suddenly say to my husband, I think The Girl will do this or that. Fortunately, he also keeps up with her. Thanks again.

    2. Critique

      Reatha, I enjoyed your writing proficiency with the accent – it was realistic. I think I’m going to go back and read some of your ‘girl’ stories again.
      I agree with you on the fun of reading amazing stories here every week! Yours are some of my favorites 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you so very much. I’ve said before, I just record what I hear my characters saying. Perhaps they’ve become too real! And from week to week I feel as if I’m in a workshop and can hardly wait to read what’s posted. I’m so glad I found this place.

    3. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      Just so you know, I really enjoy your The Girl stories: the dialect, the characters, the character interactions. It’s all a joy to read. And this one was no exception. Can’t wait to see what happens next. 😀

    4. Observer Tim

      Wow.

      You came back to the girl with strength and passion, and a voice that says she was just patiently standing by waiting for the next installment. Again you’ve captured the southern charm (not manor houses but in the back of the plantations) that helped me fall in love with these stories in the first place.

      And I love a good haunted/supernatural/psychic yarn, which this most definitely is. I don’t know how you keep pulling out winners, but excello! 🙂

    5. gamingtheblues

      Oh Reatha. My first week on here in a few months or so, and I come back to “The Girl” and am I sure glad that I did. No matter if the story has supernatural elements, jilted lovers or inner family workings, they are always a pleasure, and always well written.

  16. Amaria

    A poetic take on the prompt:

    “running with a ghost”

    no matter how fast or far
    I try to run you always find me
    among these winding streets
    I try to outrun your shadow
    but I fail miserably every time
    your haunting steps trailing me
    and cold breath against my neck
    I do not have the nerve to stop
    and face those familiar old eyes
    a reminder of what I used to be
    an image I sometime cleave to
    maybe that’s why I can’t stop running

    1. gamingtheblues

      I bet others have tried poetry here before, but this is the first time I have seen it. This was beautiful. I am a strong believer that poetry should follow its own form and function and to hell with classic rules. While I have not read all the prompts (yet) this was one of my favorites.

  17. JosephFazzone

    “You’ve got to speed up!”

    You think I don’t know that?

    “If you know that, why are you so behind?”

    I stop, wheezing with exhaustion. My hands are on my hips, and I feel as if I’m trying to suck in air through a stirring straw.

    “You just gonna stand there?”

    I’m tired. Four kids, two jobs, every ounce of energy to find the time to do everything at once. My foot still hurts from that stupid Lego on the floor, got me right in the arch. I can feel a bruise.

    “You whine.”

    Carry me then.

    “I can’t. I could, but I didn’t. I’m…”

    Now who is whining? You missed your chance. I was your sunshine and made you happy when the skies were grey. Funny thing I remember about that song is I truly never got to know how much you loved me.

    “Don’t be me.”

    Yeah, that’s my motivation. Somehow I have to do that plus forgive you for not being what so many others could be.

    “I could be.”

    You didn’t do the work, pal.

    “I’m not your pal. I’m your…”

    Past, you’re just my past. I take a deep breath. I feel the even flow of air in my lungs. They aren’t burning anymore.

    “You ready to keep going?”

    I don’t suppose you could just go. I’m pretty sure I can do this on my own. I’ve always had to.

    “I’m here now.”

    Yeah, it’s a scant comfort, just so you know. Let me tighten my shoelaces. I stretch, and tighten them up. The increased pressure massages my feet briefly, a small respite. Two bicyclists fly by on my right. I watch them chew up the road. Maybe I should compete in a centurion. Running is so rough on my knees.

    “Are we going?”

    Are you in some kind of hurry?

    “No, you are.”

    He’s right. Five minutes more, and then it’s time to be Dada.

    “You’re chasing your dreams. It’s something I never did.”

    Were you happy?

    “You don’t think I was?”

    I shake my head. I think you were resigned to your fate. I don’t think you realized what you could have had. Any man can make a good hand out of a bad hand, but drinking themselves to death isn’t the best way to do it. I’ve always heard that abandoning your children renders one’s chances of happiness to a big fat zero.

    “Time to get going.”

    How you skirt the subject, head in the sand. Yes, let’s get going. I’m going to buy a bike when I get home.

    “Why?”

    I resume my run down the long lonely highway. I don’t answer his question. He wasn’t asking anyway. I was. Lucky for me I’ve never heard a tale about a ghost on a bike plus my foot, and my knees are really killing me. I think I will just train on my own from now on.

    Like I always have.

    1. regisundertow

      Huh, this is an interesting story, Joseph. The interplay between your MC and his regrets is well done and it captures wonderfully the internal monologues that runners tend to have during all the time it takes to complete their routes. I liked the minimal description and the emphasis on the internalization. Good stuff.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is very well-done, Joey. I can’t quite tell whether he’s arguing with himself, the personification of the things he needs, or the ghost of his father. However, that ambiguity only adds to the mystery and the beauty of the introspection. Great job! 🙂

      1. JosephFazzone

        Tim, ahh you are the man! Yes, it was between the MC and his father, but it was all in his head. I was beginning to worry that it was too subtle to notice. This piece was very personal to me since it was my father I was speaking to. He died when I was 9 and was a bad father before that. Writing is very therapeutic, as I found out when I first started writing, and I wanted to write the ghost from the prompt as more of a figment of his own troubled past. So glad you enjoyed it!

    3. gamingtheblues

      As observer Tim also “observed” 😉 I too caught the fact that he was speaking to his father. Subtle but not too subtle. Just about right really. You left the reveal to the end as it should be. The tells were the drinking to death and abandoning children line. I could feel the resent and regret, from his relationship to his father, and over his own aging, yet with a solid measure of hope and determination. This was a deep and thoughtful piece.

    4. Critique

      I enjoyed this. Self- talk and self- questioning can often bring clarity to a situation – that’s if you’re not insane 🙂 -something I do at times and find helpful 🙂

  18. regisundertow

    It’s been a couple of slow weeks demanding focus away from writing and I can feel it. This isn’t the best story I’ve written, but I hope you enjoy regardless.

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

    CRONOS

    I’ve been staring at the ceiling since I laid down to sleep. The spot where the light fixture used to be has been shifting colors, slowly turning to various shades of pre-dawn reds for some time now. My eyes have been tracing the cracks in the plaster spidering away from that dark circle all night. Minuscule gorges, hairline fractures. It almost feels like meditation, but it doesn’t help me sleep. These past couple of days, with the scenery along the road becoming more familiar the closer I got to my destination, my thoughts have been like black smoke trapped in a windowless room. I try to disperse it, but it only floats away, reshapes and goes deep below the floorboards. Then comes the point when I quit trying, then comes the point when I give up on getting any sleep tonight. I sit up, still in my traveling clothes, wide awake. It’s always been more difficult falling asleep in a new place. I thought coming back home would finally let me rest.

    The pair of running sneakers I found two days back feel good on my feet. The night air is perfumed with the scent of the forest surrounding the town. Not cold at all. Looking up, the stars are taking their leave already in the East. A few minutes of stretches and I start jogging down the street with my hoodie up. I’d love to have some music playing in my ears, but batteries are precious. It doesn’t matter, I want to pay attention to my surroundings, get to know this place again. A few years ago, back when planes still crossed the sky, Vanessa and I went on a running tour through Paris. It’s the best way to truly take in a new city. I remember the stench of piss on every corner and rotten eggs from the Seine once it got hot, but I also remember balconies sagging under the weight of flower pots and every single brightly painted door we passed by. This town isn’t Paris, it isn’t much of anything, but its details are even more important to me now.

    Left foot, breath in. Right foot, breath out. Take the pressure off the liver. Just a couple of blocks and the streets make sense again. How they connect to each other, where they lead, it’s like someone blows the dust off an old map, a palimpsest coming through. There’s a certain feeling you’d know if you came from a small town and escaped before it was too late. Churches, bars, playgrounds…old haunts. They change and something inside you feels like a minor chord, disappointment over your home reshaping without your knowledge. Like facing an old friend after his plastic surgery. That’s the good scenario. The bad scenario is not seeing any change at all. Coming back to exactly the same place you left, only more faded and grimy, a bleached out photograph. The same broken glass on the streets, the same gaping holes on boarded up shop windows staring out like empty eye sockets. The graffiti praying for the town’s soul.

    There’s faces flashing through upper story windows. I didn’t notice them when I entered the town yesterday, but I’m sure they were there then too. I’ve only seen one every three blocks so far. They glance at me with suspicion before dashing back out of sight. I make it a point to let them know I’ve seen them and that I’m not going to do anything about it. They have to come to me. I wonder if it’s someone I know. Someone who might have ill feelings against me for saving myself from this. But, no. They’d understand. They’d give anything for half a chance too, a shot at leaving this hellhole that eats its children.

    This was never a decent place to live in. It didn’t have the crime of big cities, but the fiber of the people was rotten. Like cells exposed to carcinogens, they pulled those around them down an inescapable hole of alcohol and poverty. Bitterness kept us together, even as we worked side by side at the lead smelter under the shadow of the mountain. You left early or you died here. Even the ground slowly choked by our presence. The water got poisoned and the trees shed leaves heavy with corruption. Every generation bred fewer children. No one saw that as a bad thing.

    Why am I even here?

    The building facades start blurring and I realize there’s tears streaming down my face. This was a mistake, but what else was I supposed to do? Where else was I supposed to go? Where do you return when the world goes under but home?

    The main square is up ahead and already I get an idea of the scene that waits for me. I’ve seen it in every small town I’ve passed through on my way here. It isn’t dogma, just people being people. Dumpsters rolled on their sides. Official cars with their windows smashed out blocking the streets. Tires stacked up and then fallen over once the flames did their job, the smell of burned rubber still emanating from the scorched asphalt. Empty shoes. There’s always a pair of empty shoes lying in the gutter half-covered in rotten leaves, as if their owner decided outrunning the end would be easier without them. Faster. Or maybe he took them off in a moment of delirium, followed by a shirt, followed by sanity on the way to the pyre.

    The pyre…The black shapeless mound sits right in the square’s center. There’s the impression of arm bones, lower jaws, spines jutting through the heap. I squeeze my eyes shut and open them again and they have shuffled, changed positions. It becomes a picture that only makes sense if you stare at it for too long. The benches closest to the mass resemble charcoal drawings and the ground is covered by a thin layer or coarse ash, my sneakers leaving prints in it. I prod at the mass, wondering if those I knew were burned here when the flu took them or whether most of them lay dead in their beds, no one daring to carry their melting bodies.

    I hear shuffling steps behind me, coming from many different directions. I stand up slowly, keeping my arms at my sides. Even when I decided to hike my way out of the city and brave it through the countryside, I never dared imagine finding someone alive here. To be fair, I thought wolves would have gotten to me first, but it seems the smelter killed those off too. Four revenants stand before me now, covered in soot, their eyes like lighthouses shining through. They don’t ask me anything, still I answer, This is my hometown. I belong here. I’m home.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      regis, this is blood curdling in it’s description of a world that has been lost to either war or ‘I don’t give a damn what happens’. It is a launching pad for a book or a novella. The reader doesn’t want it to stop here, in dismal horror. What a punch response to the prompt. Your descriptive powers show in every paragraph. Will you consider expanding it?

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks, Kerry. It’s a very peripheral story to this book I’m working on, but it’s heavily inspired by visiting my hometown after several years (mass funereal pyre notwithstanding).

        Sure, I’ll give it a shot at expanding it.

    2. Beebles

      Intense piece Regis, with that meticulous detailed description we’ve come to know … and love and admire of course. I liked the threaded inference of disaster woven into the story in increasingly robust warp and weft – and the use of the word revenants. If I receive a dinner invitation for wherever it is, remind me to reply that I am washing my hair that evening. Good show, a most rewarding read.

    3. JosephFazzone

      The remnants of the city, and the sad state of affairs you so aptly describe lend itself to such a zombie apocalyptic feeling! The world is in shambles, and you described it so beautiful which feels wrong to say since it’s so ugly out there! Palimpsest! Great word, had to look it up. I never knew they had a word for that. Learning is fun! The story is fantastic, and the ending begs for it to continue on. Hopefully with a battle with the revenants!

      1. regisundertow

        Thanks, Joseph, glad you liked it. I’m using the word “revenants” is a more metaphorical manner as opposed to actual ghosts. They are vicious people who’ve lived their entire lives like the walking dead. I’ll expand on a follow-up.

    4. regisundertow

      CRONOS – PART II

      I remember everything, every second from my childhood all the way to the moment I got on the bus heading out of town. They say that particular age is the most confusing time in a person’s life, but for me everything was painfully clear. I had no misconceptions about where I was, no misunderstandings. No doubt about having to get as far away from here as possible.

      The sun never reaches the town directly. This is because of a trick of geography. Thompson Ridge rises abruptly in the East through the valley floor and reaches such heights that a permanent rolling cloud licks its peak, crashes down its side like the surf of a wave, and turns into a perpetual mist that only breaks in the summer months. By the time the sun rays clear these rocks, the sun is in the wrong place in the sky. We get light, but those born and raised here grow up without ever feeling truly warm, spending their lives in the mountain’s shadow, the lead smelter echoing through the valley and adding its own fumes to the town’s air. And the cloud keeps rolling over the peak in perpetuity. When I was a kid, I thought it looked like a giant crawling on his belly, pulling himself over the cliffs, coming for us. A big skeletal beast, all maws and bottomless mouths, a blind idiot creature that knew nothing but hunger, the noise from the smelter his desperate moans as he tried to find its children and eat them.

      The four revenants stand in front of me, covered in soot and glaring with their lighthouse eyes. I’ve felt those stares so many times when I lived here, their sting should feel familiar. I feel the ground sighing beneath their feet and the air refusing to move around them, as if their corruption affects nature itself. Are you sick? The older one asks. I nod no. A stupid question. Were I sick, I’d have died in the forest long ago, the shivers rattling my bones and the fever claiming me instantly in those humid woods. The wolves would have finished the job. I’ve seen people succumb to the disease in less than a day, burning up like a roman candle before falling into a coma they never wake out of. I size them up and ask, Are you the only ones left? As if in answer, heads appear in windows all around us.

      There’s something you got to understand about this town. Drinking alcohol was prohibited here back in the late-70s. People got into too much trouble with each other without them needing to get drunk. Too many guns, too many tempers. Too much spite. No one ever gave two shits about the rules, one way or the other. No one can tell a roughneck breathing lead fumes all day what he can or can’t drink. If you didn’t want to be attacked, you stayed in after dark. Those were the unspoken rules. Being out in the open after the smelter closed for the day made you a fair target. And those people were vicious. Gouged eyes out. Cut fingers off. Shattered bones. The people of this town went out of their way to cripple each other, cause as much permanent damage and suffering as they could. In such a small community, family feuds quickly erupted into neighborhood wars that spilled into the smelter. Like mad dogs, going for the jugular. Usually, an “industrial accident” would put an end to a feud and everything would go back to normal until the next time the shadow of the mountain drove someone crazy.

      Some people succumbed to this town and took matters in their own hands. Plenty of low-hanging fir branches to hang a rope from in the forest. A man would walk in there and would be found days later on his knees leaning away from a tree, the rope biting into his neck. The end of the school year marked the beginning of the suicide season. The local Catholic priest always ran the same sermon. How could such young bright members of the community take their own lives like that, how could they despair so? That was never a question asked by the rest of us. In this town, you got out early or you didn’t get out at all. Not everyone was as fortunate as me.

      The people of this town hated it as much as they hated themselves. Still, I remember a certain scene from when I was 12, one that has burned itself in my mind. It was deep in the heart of summer and a single lightning was all it took to start a fire up on the mountain. The fire raged for a day, not really going anywhere, trapped within the cliffs, when the wind picked up and moved it towards the town. As the flames started throwing shadows up the walls of buildings, the townsfolk came out of their houses and stood in the central square, watching the fire together, watched it approach the town’s edge, none of them moving. None of them panicked, yet none of them prepared to fight the approaching deluge. They simply stood, side by side, staring at the wall of destruction that was about to claim their home. The houses at the edge of town gave themselves to the funereal pyre and still no one reacted, the heat reflected off their faces and stinging their eyes. They only left when the rain came over the mountain and quenched the blaze.

      The older revenant approaches me. There’s something familiar in his face, in his eyes, although I can’t tell who he is. I tell him, I left town when I was 18. I never returned until now. There’s a shock of white in his collar, fighting to pop out from under the soot. He merely puts a hand on my shoulder and whispers, Welcome home, son.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        regis, when I read part 1, I immediately thought of another of your stories, but didn’t have time to go back to find it until this morning and then found this continuation. To me this story has a similar feel as your Letter to an Author, Dead Ships, one. Both are so darkly beautiful, both take place in ruined cities, both reference walls, and while Cronos is more evident here, he’s eating his young in both worlds. Your word and phrase choices are powerful and moving. Your descriptions often frighten me because they are so real. There are so many great stories each week here, and a quite a few stick with me, yours almost always. You are truly a fantastic writer, I do hope you get your book/books finished and published.

        A note to anyone reading. I was reminded when looking for regis’ previous story of something I discovered when copying some of my earlier ones. For almost every prompt there are some really good stories that are posted days and even weeks after most of us have gone on to the next prompt. It is a shame that so many stories go unnoticed. Now I’ll get down from my soap box.

        1. regisundertow

          Truly appreciate your comments, Reatha.

          It’s funny you’d compare it to Dead Ships, as that story is narrated three generations after this one here. They’re both taking place in the same universe, it’s the same event that led to the ruin of both cities. They also feed into the book I’m currently working on, just peripheral stories fleshing out the universe.

      2. Observer Tim

        What Reatha said, except I didn’t have to go back and look because she did. The atmosphere in this piece is even thicker than the toxic mist from the lead smelter, and that is a lot of its strength. Once again you’ve painted a bleak and disturbing picture of hopelessness. I’m hoping that somewhere in this dark future there’s a ray or two of sunshine. Incredible job, Regis. 🙂

        1. regisundertow

          Thank you for your comments, Tim. Such places do exist and tend to be rotten from the inside, although a big enough shock can normally change a community for the better. I’ve seen it happen before and it’s definitely in my plans to show this in future stories.

      3. gamingtheblues

        Shame on you Regis for describing this as not one of your best stories. Such self criticism is indulgent and beneath you. Granted, I have not read any of your recent work. but this is brilliantly written. Your sentence structure and flow are perfect, with rich details, excellent word choice and a slow burn of a pace.

        With that, you must break those paragraphs up. Even with just a double space in between some of the sentences. That many words lumped together in the format we have here forces me to skim read the paragraphs a few times to get the full effect and while that works with action pieces, such beautifully written prose should be absorbed in small doses so as not to over saturate the imagination.

        I am torn between if I would rather have had it end with or without the very last paragraph. My favorite Line ” It didn’t have the crime of big cities, but the fiber of the people was rotten.” Reminds me of a book I read as a child where the twisted apples were actually good on the inside while the beautiful apples were filled with worms.

        Truly excellent job.

  19. rle

    Boy, it’s hard to believe it’s been over four months since I’ve posted. Thought I’d better give this one a whirl.

    ________________

    Gary Jennings had reached what he considered, a delicate tipping point in his life. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something he looked at through a different lens than he ever had before. These days, when he caught a glimpse of his reflection, it was evident that more years lay in the rear view mirror than in the windshield. It seemed that in the blink of an eye, thirty years had whizzed by since he was a man in his prime. Although each year his doctor gave him a clean bill of health at his annual check up, Gary was keenly aware that he suffered from an ailment that no medication could treat, a condition for which there would never be a cure. He was getting old.

    Gary had lived a good life. He’d done everything right and had been rewarded handsomely. He’d been blessed with a beautiful family, a successful career, and all of the benefits that came along with each. He was currently at a place in his life where he no longer needed validation. He didn’t have anything to prove to anyone, except himself.

    Gary had never been the athletic type, so it came as something of a shock to his family and friends when at the ripe age of sixty-six, he announced he would begin training for the annual Labor Day half marathon. That had been four months ago.

    ***

    Gary checked his watch. He was having a stellar workout. At this pace he’d be nearly a full minute quicker than yesterday. Soon, he approached the dreaded Rosewood Hill. If he lost any time, it would be here.

    He could have easily chosen a number of less cumbersome routes, but over time he’d come to thoroughly enjoy the trek through one of the oldest neighborhoods in town. It’s tree lined streets and stately, turn of the century homes always reminded him of a time that most others had forgotten.

    Early on in his training, one house in particular had caught his attention. Each day as he made his way past the giant two story Victorian, the curtains that hung from one of the first floor windows would part ever so slightly and a wrinkled old face would appear and curiously watch him run by. The house sat far enough back from the street, that Gary could never discern for sure whether it was a man or a woman who watched him pass, but oddly each time he approached, be it morning, noon, or night, the old face appeared at the window.

    Today as he neared the house in question, he started to feel a cramp building in his side. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but as his body had strengthened, they’d become far less frequent. Finally, he had to give in to the sharp pain in his side and stop. He’d resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t beat yesterdays time after all.

    He paused just short of the long sidewalk leading to the front door of the tidy home. As he looked up, sure enough, the old face peered out at him.

    Knowing that he’d already botched any chance of running a decent time, Gary made the decision that it was time to introduce himself to the inquisitive stranger. After all, maybe it was just a lonely widow or widower who would be enthralled at the prospect of a little company.

    As he mounted the porch and prepared to knock, the door slowly opened as if the stranger were expecting him. The figure that appeared behind it rendered Gary speechless. It was his grandfather.

    A million fond memories of his grand pappy overloaded his brain. His grandfather had played a huge role in molding Gary into the fine man he’d become. Gary tried in vain to make sense of what was standing before him. Finally, he summoned up the courage to speak. “Gran…Grandpa,” he stammered, “I…I thought you were dead.”

    The feeble old man stepped out toward Gary. He placed a warm wavering hand on his shoulder. A single tear leaked form the corner of one eye. He smiled, “Gary, I thought you were alive.”

    1. jhowe

      That was great. If I had to come up with a solid example of what a short story should emulate, it would be this one. You have some pretty good skills with the written word.

      Anyone over the age of fifty can easily relate to that first part, I know I can.

    2. regisundertow

      Welcome back, you’ve been missed.

      That last line is so fitting. The entire story can be found within those few words. Nice, short and punchy.

    3. Observer Tim

      Good one, RLE. I kind of knew what was coming when the 66-year old MC saw his grandfather, but you portrayed the sense of life so wonderfully. And that last line was the perfect confirmation of the ghost story. 🙂

    4. gamingtheblues

      I will reiterate what the others have already said. This was an excellent example of the perfect short story. The pacing was superb, the exposition and backstory well written, not clunky or awkward at all. A sadly sweet reminder of mortality. Welcome back!

  20. Amaria

    Sorry for the length (over 700 words) and if you squint you may see a hint of this prompt.

    Ginger – Part 10 and conclusion

    Dr. Leveque sat back in her chair. “Well, that is quite a story.”

    Ginger replied, “Yeah I suppose.”

    “I can also see why you said that this may be our last session.”

    Ginger shrugged. “It may be a bit awkward with everything out in the open now. I broke my promise to my mom by telling you all this, but with doctor-client privacy, it’s all safe. Isn’t it?”

    Dr. Leveque nodded, “Your secrets are safe me. Now that you have uncovered the truth, how do you feel?”

    “I’m not sure. I mean, I’m glad to know the truth after all this time, but …”

    “You still have questions?” Dr. Leveque added.

    “Yeah like why did mom keep those letters? It doesn’t make sense. I’m sure keeping that kind of secret hidden for so long isn’t easy.”

    “Have you asked your mother these questions?”

    “I have. Mom said she would tell me, but it hasn’t happen yet. The other day when mom invited me over for Sunday dinner, I thought we would talk then. But it turn out to be just our typical Sunday dinner with family and mom being the best hostess. Then she announces during dinner that she’s going on a weekend getaway to clear her mind. Molly wasn’t too please since she’s in the midst of wedding planning.”

    “Perhaps the getaway will be good for your mom. She may be more inclined to talk when she returns.”

    Ginger replied, “Perhaps. I want to thank you doctor for helping me through this. But there is something I want to ask. It’s about your sister, Bridgette. Mom mentioned she died and I was wondering what happened to her. I’m sorry if I’m overstepping boundaries here.”

    Dr. Leveque just smiled. “I think we all have overstep boundaries.”

    There was a moment of silence before Dr. Leveque began. “Bridgette was my oldest sister. I was about sixteen at the time. She told me she had a boyfriend, but I didn’t learn too much about him until she came home during spring break. Bridgette was always a cheerful person, but I noticed she was unusually quiet that week. I knew something was wrong. She did finally confess to me one night that her “boyfriend” was actually her married professor who was under investigation for misconduct with female students. The school had questioned Bridgette, but she lied and said nothing was going on. She was afraid that eventually the truth would come out. When your dad died, Bridgette became even more distraught. As she feared, rumors starting flying around school about her and your dad. She started failing classes and drinking. I felt so hopeless. I wanted to help her, but I didn’t know what to do. One day she decided she didn’t want live anymore.”

    Ginger whispered, “Oh, I am sorry.”

    “It’s not your fault Ginger.”

    “No, but my dad was involved. He was having an affair with your sister.”

    “I don’t blame you and I don’t hold it against you or your family. You know, when you told me about your dad dying in a car accident, I thought about my sister and her married lover. I just thought it was a mere coincidence.”

    “Until I showed you the letter I found in the attic,” Ginger said.

    Dr. Leveque sighed and said, “Yeah, then I knew.”

    “Yet you still treated me and even saw my mother. Why?”

    “When my sister died, I was angry that I couldn’t do anything. I was angry at everyone, including your dad and Bridgette. For a long time I had dreams about her. I would be out running and Bridgette’s ghost would be following me with these cold eyes. When I was in college, I decided I wanted to help people like Bridgette. So I got my degree and became a therapist. In time, I forgave everyone, including your dad and my sister. I knew carrying such resentment would never bring Bridgette back. So, I let it go. I hope one day Ginger, you can find it in your heart to let go and move on.”

    “Well I think you’re a good therapist and you helped me see myself in a whole new way. I think I can move on now, one step at a time.”

    “Good. Well I believe our time is up now.”

    “Thanks again Dr. Leveque.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    Ginger stood up and walked towards the door when Dr. Leveque called out, “Ginger!”

    Ginger turned around.

    Dr. Leveque smiled and said, “I just want you to know that my door is always open.”

    1. Amaria

      I just want to thank those who’s been following this story. I decided to keep an open end in case I want to revisit these characters. They were a lot of fun to write about. 🙂

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Amaria!

      This was an excellent conclusion! I love the warmth in that last line. In a contrary way, I also like that, even after Ginger’s mom spilled all of those beans about the father’s dalliances and such, she still is a bit of a clam about answering questions. It’s kind of a “no matter how many things change, some things stay the same” sort of thing. 🙂

    3. JosephFazzone

      Oh see? I knew I liked Dr. Leveque! This just confirms it! Great story, and yes please keep it open. The characters are so believable and likeable. If I were Ginger, I would stay with the Dr. Who else knows enough to be of any use? Wonderful story!

    4. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Amaria; this is wonderful and heartfelt. You did a good job writing a tale where things go horribly wrong, yet somehow nobody is really a “bad guy” (except maybe the mechanic boyfriend). The story is human in all the good senses of the word. 🙂

    5. gamingtheblues

      I have not read the other parts of this story, but perhaps that is for the best. This was an excellent stand alone short story. You left enough information for me to know what happened before, find it intriguing, and most important of all, I actually felt real emotion and investment in characters I have only known for less than 2 minutes. That speaks volumes to your writing ability. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  21. Beebles

    It is a world of perspective. One man’s saint is another man’s sinner. A boat is either full of refugees or terrorists. A woman’s hanging basket is just something a man knocks his head on when he comes out the door every morning to go for a run. It is who we are. We see what we want to see.

    So I wanted to see her.

    She loved hanging baskets, well we didn’t have much of a garden. I Loved running first thing. I would ease out from under the covers and she would roll over and tell me to f**k off and have a good run. It made me laugh, and then she would, and flick the Vs, pretending to snore.

    London was a joy in the early morning, whether in the spring, when the breeze swept between the stately high rise offices, sifting the evening’s detritus along the gutters, or in the fist of winter, street lights playing in the puddles, orange balls tossed from one to another; still quiet, virginal. To see another soul was to feel cuckolded.

    I would run, through the plethora of city smells and colours, my thoughts compressed into the steady rhythm of my breathing; in pursuit of a goal twelve months and twenty six miles ahead. She would welcome me home with a kiss, a laugh on her salty lips, and piece of toast.

    When she was gone, it changed. Suddenly the streets were drained, stripped of their empathy, just a tunnel that stretched mile after mile, as if I was fighting my way down the throat of a silent scream. I was going to stop, that first morning. The smoked glass offices now reflected only my solitary, tortured figure, struggling alone along sedimented streets.

    Then I saw her.

    She was standing in the window on the third floor of the Prudential building. As I passed, her image leapt from pane to pane, then was gone before I could stop. Panting hard, hands on hips, I reversed and looked up. There she was, in her summer frock, the flower print. I bit the back of my hand to stem the waves of grief, and circled in the street. I waited and watched. When it became too much I took one last look and ran on, harder now, as if the wind would exfoliate the pain.

    Day two, she was there. I lingered a few moments, crammed with memory. Then ran on.

    Day three, I blew a tearful kiss as I passed, and every time after that.

    Day ten, I was late. As I entered Tooley Street, the over-ground train was shrieking into London Bridge station above. At the Prudential I looked up. I saw her, and the train behind her. I whipped my head round to look up to the viaduct on the opposite side of the street. Had she been there all along, reflected in the glass? I looked and my breath caught.

    Then I laughed. I threw my head back and roared. On the station platform was a lamp post, covered in hanging baskets. Through tears of mirth, I looked back at the office windows. I could see it now.

    I ran the marathon that April, a good time too. When I finished, I took the train to London Bridge station. A coffee in one hand, a piece of toast in the other, I leaned on the parapet, under the flowers, to watch the last of the runners plod by below.

    1. UnclePizza

      I like this Beebles. Good tale of grief, encouragement, achievement, moving on. You got a lot into a short story without making it crowded. Thanks for a good read.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Reatha stated the one word that describes your story, ‘magic’. So full of emotion, turmoil, desperation and then hope, understanding and love. One of your very best, Beeples.

    2. Observer Tim

      This is a beautiful story of love and loss, and the inspiration that can come of it. This deserves to be made into a short movie for an artistic film festival. It was a great way to come back from my Easter break. 🙂

  22. ShamelessHack

    Puff, puff, puff. Run, run, run.
    Not easy, but I love this route, especially at this hour of the morning when no one is around.
    Hmm…I wonder if the peeper is there at that window again? Here comes that house. Hmm…YEP! There’s she is again, her face peeking out the window from behind a drape.
    I’ll just keep running, though my curiosity is raging.
    Run, run. Puff, puff, pu…
    No, this is the day! I have to meet her. I’ll turn back.
    OK, now I’ll just go up to the door here…
    Should I? Yes, I guess so. But I’m not going to ring the doorbell.
    I’ll just make a tapping sound. Just…like…this.
    Hmm. Nothing. No wait! She heard it! I hear footsteps coming down a staircase.
    Now she’s tapping back to me from the other side of the door. Oh, man, how do I look? I want to look good but there’s nowhere I can check out my reflection.
    Is she still on the other side of the door? I’ll go walk over here and—oh! She’s right here inside this window—and she’s absolutely gorgeous! Those eyes! That hair! I have to meet her. Wait, where did she go?
    I’ll just go around to the back of the house and…the back door: it has one of those things that you can…oh, god, she’s coming through and…
    “Huhh ro.”
    Her voice! It’s so beautiful!
    “Huhh ro. Who rrrr you?” I ask. I can’t take my eyes off her hers.
    “I’m Rady.”
    “You crrrrtainry are. I’m Trammmp.”
    “Rrrrr.”
    “Rrrrr, rrrr,” I reply, and know that from now on everything has changed.
    Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Miss Kitty and I really enjoyed this, Larry. I love dog stories, having grown uo with Lassie and Elizabeth Taylor. However, if I had to make a choice between them, it would have been a fast decision. You’re at your best here.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice shaggy dog story, Hack. I had this dread sense of Scooby-Doo when you started with the voices; thank God you took a higher road. This brought back memories of childhood, when Disney knew what the word “original” meant. Great one! 🙂

  23. Mittens1326

    One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.

    Everything feels good today. Footfalls are even, pace is steady. My breath finds an easy loop from my lips to my lungs. My legs are gliding like both knees are attached to greased cranks on a carousel. Today I’m daring Heartbreak Hill to try me.

    Today I’m flying.

    Until I reach the faded colonial staring me down from the pocket of the cul-de-sac where I make my turn for home and spot that same flurry of a shadow, the same curtain yanked back into place. Until I break my stride and end up on the porch with my knuckles smashing against the door so hard the peeling paint flakes off and all I can think is this pervert better not wreck my time.

    But when the door cracks open a stout woman with heavy bangs peers at me sheepishly like she knows I’ve seen her lurking in that picture window for the past three days. Her face is familiar somehow, but the memory hovers out of reach.

    “Can I help you?” Her voice is shaky, like she’s afraid of me, and when she leans forward I see black mascara rivers trailing down her cheeks.

    My fury wilts to confusion and I can’t think of anything to say so I say the first thing that comes out of my mouth in heaving gasps, heart still slamming against my ribs.

    “I thought you might need some… help… or something. It seemed like you were looking for something.” Her face reddens. “I’m sure you’re fine, though. Just thought I’d check.” I turn to go. “I’m sure you’re fine.”

    “Are you running the marathon?” Her tone spins me around.

    “Yes.”

    “I figured you must be. I always see the runners this time of year.”

    “Does it bother you that I run past your house?” I ask stupidly.

    “No,” she shakes her head. “No, dear.”

    “Oh.” I stand there sweating at the bottom of her steps and I feel like there’s something else. And then she says it.

    “I’m glad people still run. After what happened.”

    I look into her face, that solemn face, and I know where I’ve seen her before: on the news, in the hospital room sitting between her two sons. I remember the story––how they both lost legs, the shrapnel, the surgeries. I remember lunging for the remote because I couldn’t stand to see her face. The one I’m looking into now.

    I want to tell her I’m sorry. To apologize for pounding on her door. Some part of me wants to kneel down on the concrete and beg her to forgive me for changing the channel that day––for being glad it wasn’t me. I want to tell her I waited three years to run, just to be safe. But I can’t manage to say any of that.

    Instead I stare up at her in the doorway of her little gray house––a sentinel keeping watch over the road––and I nod.

    “People still run.”

    1. regisundertow

      I love it when running is used as a metaphor for perseverance. Anyone who’s done endurance events knows the hardest thing is to simply put one leg in front of the other until your mind wants to quit and then continuing regardless. People still run and will continue running despite the hardships, because what else are they going to do? Beautiful story Mittens.

  24. UnclePizza

    There, up ahead. The house on the left. That curtain – it moved again. It’s the same house as yesterday, and the day before. She’s sure of it. This time, though, she decides that enough is enough. If someone is getting their kicks by watching her jog up the road in her shorts, then they’re about to get a lesson in manners.

    She has her black belt in Judo, so she’s not really worried about what she might run into. Plus, training for this marathon has her in pretty damn good shape, so even if she does have to run, well, she’s not worried about that either. Still, just in case, she unsheathes her can of mace and releases the safety pin as she strides purposefully up the short driveway, past the tulips in neat rows by the walk, up the two brick steps, and onto the painted wooden porch.

    The curtain slowly closes as she approaches the front door. “Chicken-shit creep,” she mutters as she knocks loudly.

    No answer. “I know you’re in there,” she says loudly and she knocks again. The curtain parts, just a little, and she can see someone looking out. She glares back, her eyebrows, shoulders, and palm raising together in the universal gesture for “Well?!”

    The curtain closes and after a moment she hears the door unlocking. Thumb still hovering over the red button atop her mace can, she watches the door open, looks squarely into her father’s eyes…and faints, collapsing in his arms.

    She wakes up a few minutes later, and realizes that she’s laying on an old brown sofa. She looks around the room – old panel walls, cheap furniture, worn blue carpet, a few random knick-knacks on the small coffee table. Low budget decorating, but it’s all clean. And well lit. Then, still looking around to get her bearings, she sees him sitting in a faded wingback chair: her father is patiently smiling at her.

    “Dad?!”, she jumps up? “Is that really you?”

    “You just had a start, Mimi,” he drawls in that way she always remembered. “You may want to set back down.”

    His voice sooths, but just a little, and she starts pacing off the adrenaline. “I…is this a…but…”. She paces to the front door and back, planting herself squarely in front of him, gazing into his face for a clue. He just smiles, beams in fact, his gray eyes sparkling.

    “I know this is unexpected, Mimi,” his smile just getting bigger. “But I’ve got to tell you I’m tickled to see you nonetheless.”

    “But Dad!”, her voice slowing as the initial adrenaline rush fades. “You died ten years ago! How…”

    The sight of the large black Lab walking into the room stops her mid-sentence. She stands stock-still, dumbfounded, as the Lab walks up, licks her hand, and starts wagging its tail excitedly.

    “Um, Dad? What’s Ruby doing here? Isn’t she dead too?”

    Before her father can answer, an older white-haired woman in a plain dress walks slowly into the room, and stands by the wingback chair. She’s beautiful, just like she always was. “Mimi, sweetheart, I’m overjoyed to see you again!”

    “Grandma? Dad, what’s going on? What are you all doing here when you’re all, um…dead?”

    “Mimi, dear”, says Grandma. “Perhaps you should sit down.”

    She turns back to the couch because, yes, she does feel a bit weak in the knees, and sitting would feel good. On her way she glances out the window and notices the flashing lights. Taking a closer look, she watches as the EMTs lay a young woman in jogging clothes onto a gurney before covering her with a sheet.

    “Daddy?”

    “Please do sit down, honey. I’m afraid this may come as a bit of a shock to you.”

      1. UnclePizza

        Thanks Cosi (and OT). My wife does many of my pre-reads and is always telling me “he would never say that” or “she would never do that”. I anticipated her comment about how a young woman would never go up to a stranger’s door like that, but since the prompt demanded it I figured I’d at least be proactive and have Mimi be well prepared. Glad to hear that it worked!

    1. Observer Tim

      Bravo. The story is a classic, and you did such a wonderful job slowly pulling it out that the reveal still managed to be a gentle surprise. I got a real sense of being there. Like Cosi, I love the way your MC was prepared for nearly anything. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A beatiful story of faith, love and purpose. I did get emotional reading it, especially because it’s Good Friday today. Excellent prose Uncle.

  25. Witt.Stanton

    The red, oak door loomed over me as I jogged up the steps to the Caspian Mansion. Even though I’d ran past the place hundreds of times, it still felt wrong to be here again, standing in front of it after so many years.

    A while back, some rich guy had bought it out. All of it. They said he’d fully renovated the grounds, and even some of the mansion itself,, but I couldn’t help but wish they’d just left it alone. Many of the locals agreed with me; this place had a history. A cool breeze blew against my sweaty back, and I shivered. It wasn’t a history to be proud of.

    I pulled on the bronze knocker, trying to ignore the gaping lion’s maw just above my fingers, and let it fall. Silence. I cursed myself, but couldn’t help but try again. I felt like one of the town’s kiddies, trying to find the ghosts.

    Let’s get something straight. There was dozens of different ghost stories surrounding the estate– ranging from a murderous wife to a devious butler– but one name was synonymous with the place itself; Casper.

    That was my fault.

    Way back when, I’d been a student at the Uni just a few blocks from here. We were the ones who’d started the Casper’s Ghost rumor. I have to admit, I regret it now. The nickname spread like wildfire, partly, I think, because everyone had been looking for a new something to rename the rundown mansion with.

    Anyhow, there had been this friend of mine, Casper, who’d always been pulling pranks and making the school a living nightmare for the staff. He’d found this mansion, sitting unoccupied in the middle of the town, growing spiderwebs and dust bunnies, and made it his headquarters.

    I joined him, more often than not covering his tracks. No one suspected the great and wonderful Oz to be Cas, and we liked it that way. To keep our base private, we pretended to haunt it, making all of the rumors we spread come to life.

    I’d love to say that his antics ended happily, that he’s moved on from his pranks and is living somewhere nice, but to say that would be a lie. Cas disappeared the week before we were to graduate, and they found his body a few days after the fact, tucked away in a corner of the mansion.

    They say that he’d killed himself, but you know never to trust the rumors around here. They’re full of lies.

    As I waited on the steps, looking up at the familiar brick balustrades that lined the roof and balcony above my head, the door creaked open, just enough for me to slip in. I felt like I should be surprised, but I wasn’t . I’d always had my suspicions.

    Brushing past the door, I stepped into the gloom. I closed the door gently behind me, pressing my back against it as I always had. Cas stood in front of me, grinning like a maniac.

    “Well, you took your time getting here.” He looked the same as he always had: slight build, wind-blown hair, and mischievous eyes that shone with excitement. “What’d I miss?”

    I couldn’t help but laugh. “Everything important. Our graduation, my last four birthday parties. . .” As I began to list them on my fingers, I could feel the smile vanishing from my face. I didn’t have the strength to keep it up. “I even sent you cards.”

    Cas noticed the change in mood. He gritted his teeth, looked away, and finally sighed. Classic Casper. Never willing to admit when he made a mistake. “You know I’m not good at apologies.”

    “I know.”

    He seemed to flicker for a movement, though to this day I blame the lighting. A haunting grin played across the corners of his mouth as Cas looked over at me with those pale eyes of his and said, “I’m sorry.”

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Witt!

      This story fascinated me. Especially this line: “He seemed to flicker for a movement, though to this day I blame the lighting.” It made me wonder if your MC had a supreme case of denial about Casper’s death. And it made me wonder what happened next. 🙂

    2. Observer Tim

      I thought you were going to head in the direction of the Friendly Ghost here, Witt; great job switching it up. You also did a great job building atmosphere and a sense that Casper might still be alive. Or not. Great way to leave us wondering. I can see this starting either a story of renewed pranks or a really nasty supernatural thriller. Great job. 🙂

    3. regisundertow

      There’s no ambivalence in my mind about the end, but it still gets the MC’s willingness to believe Casper is alive across. I think this is the greatest part of the story, that your MC probably knows better than that deep down, but is willing to suspend disbelief and just be with his friend for a bit. Great story.

  26. MikeGill

    Run for Life

    Last month I moved back to the old neighborhood. I hadn’t been back since just after the accident. Maybe that’s why I became a lawyer—to find some sense of justice for myself or someone else. Who knows? Maybe that’s why I felt a need to return to Toledo when the opportunity arose. Maybe that’s why I wanted to find a house in this neighborhood, even though it’s far from the fashionable part of town, far from where my colleagues at the firm thought I should live. It’s not a bad neighborhood, but definitely one where I ran with a small pistol in my fanny pack along with my wallet and ID.

    There weren’t many runners here either. Mostly, the blue-collar residents came home too tired from the factories for an evening jog. I got used to drawing attention from people sitting on porches or looking through living room windows. But the house with the handicap ramp three blocks from mine stood out. I caught the shadow at the curtain at first. Lately there had been a twitch of the curtain, a fragment of a face. I wondered about the person behind the curtain. Why did they continue to look at me when everyone else seemed to see me as background by now? Maybe it was someone from a dozen years ago, someone who recognized me.

    I reversed my route so the house would come early in my run, before I was tired, hot, and sweaty. Today was the day I would knock and find out. I hoped it was someone who could tell me what had happened to all my old friends, someone who knew where everyone I remembered had gone.

    I slowed as I started up the block. The front room of the small, one-story brick ranch was lit up as I neared. Taking a deep breath I turned up the walk. When I got to the porch, I paused, almost talking myself out of it. But I rapped on the door anyway.

    I heard the locks being undone after what felt like hours. The door was thrown open and through the thin screen door I saw a man in a wheelchair roll into the opening. After a moment, I realized I knew him. “Todd?” I gasped.

    “Jordan?” He replied.

    “I thought you died!” I exclaimed.

    Most of my brain started screaming at me to run. The strongest urge to flee that I ever experienced in my life gripped me. Right in front of me was one of the kids who was in the car with me that night—one of my three best friends whom I thought I killed in the car accident.

    A smile split Todd’s face, but I noticed it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I almost did.” After a second or two of looking at each other through the screen door, he rolled his chair back a bit and said, “Come on in.”

    As we sat in his living room and talked, I learned that Mikey and Paul had died at the scene, thrown from the car. Todd had is legs crushed by the dash of the old ’84 Escort after I had hit the tree. He too had been in a medically induced coma but they kept him at UT’s hospital. I was worse off so I was life flighted to U of M. My parents had been misinformed about Todd and must have never thought of finding out. Before I got out of the hospital, Dad had transferred to a plant outside Detroit and the family moved. Better, they thought, if I didn’t have to be reminded of it all every day.

    “I hated you for the longest time afterward.” Todd confessed with the same smile he had at the door.

    “I hated me too.” I admitted. “I even tried to kill myself a couple of times over the years. “

    “I couldn’t believe it was you on the old streets again. Remember our training runs through the neighborhood during the summers? We had to stay in shape for track when it started up in the fall.”

    “I loved those days. The four of us running like the world was chasing us.” We both smiled and laughed. This time, the smile took up all of Todd’s face. The tension between us eased a little. “Some day’s running is all that kept me going.” I said. “How about you? You still run?” I realized my mistake as soon as I said it.

    “Not anymore.” Todd said cooly, looking down at where is legs used to be.

    “I mean. “ I stumbled. “Do you race with your wheels?”

    “Never thought about it.” He replied, the frost thickening in the room. “I guess I lost the thrill of it.”

    “You should come out with me some day. You know, like old times. We can race through the neighborhood again.” I said, still trying to dig myself out.

    “Yeh, maybe.”

    We sat in an awkward silence for a while. Todd rolled his chair back a little and said, “Well, if you ever need a drink at the end of your run, feel free to knock.”

    We shook hands at the door and I continued on my run. I ran that day like my past was chasing me.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Mike!

      This was a very well-written story. I mentally cringed for your MC when he asked Todd, “You still run?” and just when they were starting to break that ice. 🙁

      1. MikeGill

        Thanks. I appreciate your kind words. When I first typed the question in, I was a little shocked too. I kept wanting to take it out. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

        1. cosi van tutte

          If it’s any consolation, I’ve had a couple of characters in my off-line stories say things that make me wince from their blunt horribleness. But it usually feels right for the character to say it. So, I just leave it in and see what happens next. 😀

    2. Observer Tim

      Sure it’s long, but it makes up for it by being heartfelt. You did a great job portraying the two lives and a realistic vision of how they impacted each other when they met again. Very nice, Mike. 🙂

      And yes, thank you for the paragraphing. It made the story easier to read from an eyeball standpoint.

      1. MikeGill

        Thanks, Tim. In short flash fiction like this I keep finding myself concentrating on who the people are–like I want to make them as real as possible.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      I’m not certain, but I don’t think Jordan should stop by again, I don’t trust Todd. Good job, I could feel the tension in that room.

    4. regisundertow

      Not long at all, it feels just the right length actually.

      I really did enjoy that cringe-worthy moment, it was a funny slice of humanity and gets your MC’s nervousness across well. People aren’t perfect and your story did a good job of showing that. There’s perhaps room for a much longer story here, exploring the interaction between the two friends and how the split between the pre- and post-accident era affects them.

  27. cosi van tutte

    I stole the Cheetos from jhowe’s story. I might have to apologize… 😆 Fair warning, this is kind of a weird one.

    ***

    I duck down by the window and peek just a little over the window sill.

    I wait.

    My stomach grumbles. So, I open my bag of Cheetos Hot Spring Curli Q’s. I grab a handful of that artificial cheese powder and grease loveliness and cram it into my mouth.

    He’ll come.

    He always comes.

    He won’t disappoint me.

    Not today.

    I hope.

    Hoping like that burns a lot of energy. I grab another handful.

    As I munch it down in loud, messy munches, I see him. I raise my head just a little. Hopefully, he doesn’t notice. He hasn’t yet.

    He runs past my house with long, measured strides. Oh, it’s a beautiful thing! I could watch him always, but then he turns past the yew hedge.

    And he is gone.

    I drag my Cheetos bag to the middle of the room and systematically clean the yellow-orange powder off my fingers. No matter how many I eat, even if it is only one or two, that powder just gets all over my hands. I suck the powder off my thumb.

    It is a mystery.

    I stop and consider an awful thought. What if I let him see me? Oh, but it would ruin everything. All of my lovely, leisurely fun.

    But…

    I want him to see me.

    I turn my hand over and lick it. Over and over.

    It doesn’t make sense. Not really. My whole existence has been devoted to not being noticed, to not being seen.

    But I have a strong feeling about him. I don’t know what that feeling is, but my! It’s pretty powerful.

    I want him to see me. I want him to talk to me. I want him to sit in the middle of my empty living room and eat Cheetos with me.

    If he doesn’t like me.

    If he runs away.

    I pick one more Cheeto out of the bag and pop it into my mouth.

    He won’t run away. He will like me. I’m sure of it.

    Cleaning my hands is long, hard work. I must sleep now.

    I curl up into a tight ball and close my eyes and smile as I fall asleep.

    I’ll catch him tomorrow.

    1. Observer Tim

      Why do I get the feeling this ghost looks like Chester Cheetah? This story is as much a love story to the orange cheezy snack as it is a response to the prompt. Nice reversal, Cosi; as usual you did a great job getting us inside your MC’s head. 🙂

    2. jhowe

      The Cheeto eating ghost with the yellow powdered fingers. Cool concept. I loved this POV. I kept picturing the Casper movie, when the bad ghosts gorged themselves on food and it fell right through them onto the floor, and Casper had to sweep it up.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Not weird at all, our “ghost” is named Lacey. Don’t know how she’d do with Cheetos, but she’s been known to drag crackers off the counter. Her passion is lawn maintainence crew, not runners.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Iloved the reversal prompt, the ‘ode to Cheetos’, a love story all in it’s own. This could be called ‘Junk Food Love’. Great as always, Cosi.

    4. JosephFazzone

      This is just simply fun to read. The pace, the flow, and the humor. But with all the humor, the MC you paint is so sad and lonely, and addicted to some true artificial cheesy nastiness! I really love how quickly you begin to understand the MC, her current problem, her and her shortcomings! I also love when the perspective is flipped. Nice job!

  28. Kerry Charlton

    BABE

    Robert Princeton left his Texas hill country house at dawn and hit county road 512 for his daily practice run. At the top of a rise, a modest farm house cuddled under an ancient oak. In the bay window, he caught a girl gaze his way as he passed. ’I never noticed her, wonder why not?’ On the fourth day of his practice, she was at the window as she had been for the previous three days.

    He stopped, went to her front door and knocked. She was slender as a stalk of wild grass, had flashing gray eyes that traveled along with a broad grin,

    “I see you noticed me. I watch you run each day and I miss my running days.”

    “Would you like to join me?” ‘I wonder if she could keep up for 12 miles.’

    “I‘d love to, wait a minute and I‘ll change.”

    ‘I wonder who she is, her face looks so familiar, like off an old sports page.’

    “I’m ready,” she said. “How longs the run?”

    “Half marathon, you sure you want to go?”

    “Piece of cake, see if you can keep up. My name‘s Babe.”

    “I‘m Bob Princeton. Your nick name?”

    “Maybe”

    She ran in sync for the first six miles, a well oiled machine. He marveled at her rhythm.. As they approached a pasture with a four foot rail fence, she ran toward it and jumped like a deer, ran beside for a few yards and sailed back over. Bob came to a dead stop holding pace,

    “Who are you? You’re a marvelous athlete.”

    “You wouldn‘t believe me if I told you. Let’s leave it at that.”

    The two runners turned back at six miles and ran without speaking. As Bob watched her run, he realized she was pacing him not her best speed. At a mile before the cottage she asked,

    “Let‘s see what you‘ve got Bob. Race you to my house. She burst off in speed, he tried to keep up but ended at her cottage thirty seconds behind her. Gasping for breath, he watched her even breathing as she paced before him.

    “You know, you’re a really good runner, she said. You’re in for a lot of improvement if you’d let me show you a few tricks. “

    Babe invited Bob inside,

    “How about a glass of tea and some shortbread?”

    Bob studied the small kitchen off the parlor and remembered his grandmother’s kitchen from many years ago Wood burning porcelain stove, wood counters and square green tile for counter back splash and a linoleum floor.

    “I‘d like that Babe, I’ll wait in here.”

    Above the small mantle in her parlor hung two gold and one silver Olympic metals
    inscribed 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

    As Babe came back into the parlor she realized Bob knew,

    ‘Please don’t spoil the day. I’ve had a wonderful time running today. I don’t get much of a chance these days.”

    The two spun their time with small talk for a few hours. Bob couldn’t take his eyes away from her. When he started to leave, she kissed him on the cheek.

    “Our little secret?”

    “Of course. Will you be here tomorrow to show me a few pointers?”

    “Only if you don’t tell. No one would believe you anyway.”

    “Okay, will you run a full marathon with me.?”

    “If it pleases you I will. See you tomorrow.”

    “Till tomorrow Babe.”

    .
    . .

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Kerry!

      Just so you know, I really like this sentence: “At the top of a rise, a modest farm house cuddled under an ancient oak.” I can just picture it. 🙂

      And, out of curiosity, I looked up Babe. She was an amazing person.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks cosi, Babe was one of a kind as far as an athlete. Five foot seven, 115 pounds of a perfect athlete. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I like to set stories in the Texas hill country. A heaven on earth in our state. Stretches for hundreds of miles through central Texas. Bluebonnets festivals in April, can’t wait.

    2. Observer Tim

      I had to Google Babe Didrikson, and so once again learned a piece of American and history. Too bad her life wasn’t as much of a fairy tail, and that she had to die young. This is classic Kerry in every way – you’re getting another favourable Twain comparison for this one, mostly due to its sense of heart. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Tim, you need to stop the Twain references, I can’t fit into any hat I own now. I’m glad you liked it. It was an easy write for me, the prompt fit nicely.

    3. jhowe

      This prompt smacked right into your writing strengths. It allowed you to combine modern ‘slice of life’ with historical fiction and you did it well. Very enjoyable read.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks John, I’m happy you enjoyed it. When I was a kid, I would read about Babe in the sports pages, she was always front and center in sports, an amazing woman, especially for her day.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, you should already know I loved this story. Brought to mind the TV movie from decades back. I should see if that’s available.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha. If you find any information on the movie, I would love to have a copy. I’ll trey researching myself to see what comes up.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          In 1975, the film Babe, based on Zaharias’ life, was released, with Susan Clark playing the lead role (for which Clark would win an Emmy Award). Alex Karras played George Zaharias. Clark and Karras met while making the picture and later married.[18]

          Kerry, I found this via Wikipedia, I’ll see if it’s available someplace. I forgot Susan Clark played her, I think Karras died recently. Should have checked that before posting this.

    5. JosephFazzone

      I love that all your stories come from an incredible story. In its own right, your story is beautifully written. The way the run becomes a race, and your descriptions that pop off the page! I looked up Babe as well. I love that you give us an imaginative story told with in an incredible true story. Such a cool perspective to draw from. Very cool!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Joseph, this story is haunting me, I can’t think of anything else and why? It’s my own story. I’m trying to blend fiction with history as often as I can because, well, I am history. Gad!

    6. regisundertow

      We need a new term for this type of historic reportage-fictional dramatization writing that you do so well, Kerry. You’ve used it before, always with success.

      I too checked out Babe, what an amazing athlete.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Regis, I glad you liked it. As first, I thought no one would have any idea who I was writing about. Well, anyone can be wrong, especially myself.

    7. Critique

      I had never heard of Babe Didrikson – googled her. You’re ability to incorporate history into such an entertaining story is wonderful Kerry and I enjoy how I’m often learning something I didn’t know before 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Critique, what is amazing about this site, is we all learn each week. It never ceases to amaze me, when I read the stories here each week.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Lucretia, it always pleases me when sometimes I might hit the mark I aim for. There are so mny times I miss it and not by a small part, but on the wrong side of the universe. You have no idea the wait I go through to burst from the gate, like an old plow horse, when a new prompt appears. Ther are benefits from age but so far, I haven’t found any.

  29. jhowe

    I’m so damn out of shape, it’s pathetic. Beanbag legs, blistered feet, inhaling and exhaling like an out of tune harmonica. A hundred knives stab into my lower back every time I take a step. A woman walking a poodle passes me. “On your left,” she says, a smirk in her voice. Seventy five pounds for starters, the doctor told me. A change in diet, a little exercise, a big fat no on the drinking, shit. Or I can opt for the surgery. Medically assisted weight loss. Gastric bypass. My brother had gastric bypass. Lost a hundred and thirty six pounds. He gained it back though, and then some, north of three eighty when he had the big one in January. Forty one years old.

    Once again, I see Robert; obscured, faded. He’s sitting on the porch of our parent’s old Cape Cod. They’re dead now. First Dad, an aneurism in 2010, then Mom, a heart attack last May. Neither Robert nor I could afford to keep the house, so we put it up for sale. Linoleum floors, one bathroom, nicotine stained ceilings, out of date electrical wiring. It’s in foreclosure now, a bank sign stuck in the weedy lawn. Robert watches me struggle, shaking his head. I pretend I don’t see him. I always do. He’s probably drinking a beer and eating Cheetos again, like he was yesterday. Probably smoking a cigarette, spewing his cloud into the breeze.

    It’s different this time. He rises. He’s thin, like he was eight months after the surgery; before he started drinking again, and eating; small portions of high carb junk were all he could manage, many times a day. He walks to the end of the porch, our eyes meet. His features dance in and out of focus. He raises a hand and salutes with a bottle of Evian. And then, he’s gone.

    I stand on the sidewalk. My breathing fast, labored. I don’t know how, but I’m certain I’ll never see him again. I take a step, and then another, swing my arms. I quicken my pace. The lady with the poodle is ahead, half way down the block. I set my sights and start to reel her in.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, jhowe!

      I liked how Robert’s ghost was able to inspire his brother without saying a word. And, Just so you know, I really liked the vividness of this description: “…inhaling and exhaling like an out of tune harmonica.” 😀

      1. Kerry Charlton

        As powerful a story as I’ve ever read from you. The irony of his family’s self destruction was vividly exposed in your prose. The description of the Cape Cod cottage was dead on. An inspired response, giving hope to all that are past the 200 mark and still climbing. ! was at two thirty fifteen years age, changed my life style of eating and have been at a mean 180 since and still hungry, but what the hay, I like the sunrise every morning.

    2. JosephFazzone

      This is a beautiful piece. It describes the arduous task of trying to get back into shape, and it really shows the mettle of your MC! I love how he sets his little goal of catching up to the lady, and her dog. It’s really that simple to set such small goals, and just keep pushing forward. Just an honest and inspiring story! Amazing!

    3. regisundertow

      Sometimes, you just have to say no to what’s in store for you, go against all obvious predictions. People who want to change their lives around should have our greatest respect, as their path is their hardest. A beautiful piece of narrative in just a few lines Jhowe.

  30. Pete

    Figured I’d just rip off the Sixth Sense here….

    Running sucks. Bad. Grueling miles of self-torture that I must have enjoyed in a past life. I slog through the city, past the sagging houses near the bus station and up the hills because they can’t stop me. I’m invisible to the elements, locked in my own brain. I feel the wind moving through me, with me, filling my body and becoming a part of me.

    Patches of green grass, brick walkways as the city struggles to revamp the old part of town. I don’t know why I even bother running past it—the old townhouse of my old life, the shutters are cockeyed and the tin roof is beginning to rust. But my steps slow. The tulips are breaking through, green stalks piercing the beige of winter.

    The curtains move in front window. Fran, with a head full of brown hair. She’s so big now that I have to stop, clutch my knees and spit. A train bellows in passing. A light mist on my back.

    I remind myself that she’s not there. Or that she is but I’m not. No one is anywhere anymore. Nothing is shit, just keep running.

    A FOR SALE sign still rests in the weeds. Foreclosure on top like it’s some sort of prize. But the tulips we planted just keep coming back through it all. The other houses look the same: various stages of disrepair. The goal was to fix up ours then maybe buy the next one. Plenty of time for that, until a knife finds your abdomen.

    I’m tired of running. I kick the sign and creep up those steps. The last one still bends, validating my existence in this world.

    I’m knocked back with horror when Fran sees me. She giggles and hides when I turn to face her. She has Joanne’s eyes, maybe my nose. Dear God I need to go. Hop off the steps and take off, anything but this. Anything as I waltz right up and turn the handle.

    Joanne is at the stove. Singing. I trip over her shoes in front of the door. She turns and looks right into my eyes and smiles real big. That smile that turns up her whole face. A marathon of hope churns through my brain.

    “Fran baby, dinner’s almost ready.”

    Fran stands barefoot, her arms at her sides, staring at me wide with wonder. She’s tall, a little person now, and I have to catch my breath as she slides over and hugs my leg. I touch her hair.

    “Daddy.”

    I’m not sure how she knows. Remembers? I nod. Put a finger to my lips, blinking away the tears because I’ve never heard my daughter’s voice. Joanne peeks in and concern grabs her smile, shakes her voice.

    “Fran, sweetie?”

    Fran smiles at me. Then she lets go and races away and into her mother’s arms.

    “Mommy Mommy. Daddy’s here.”

    This was a bad idea. I’m interfering, prolonging, being selfish. Joanne bends down and hugs our daughter, presses kisses into her head. “Oh Franny. He’s always with us.”

    Franny points, her finger finding me.

    “He’s in there.”

    Joanne eyes glaze right into me. I shake my head. My clothes are bloody and torn. I cry and scream and apologize. I tell her how much I love her through the filter of death.

    Then I leave. I bust out of the front door and run.

    1. jhowe

      Nice Pete. You’re hitting on all eight cylinders here. I don’t see this as a rip-off, maybe just a little borrowing here and there. Really cool story.

    2. Observer Tim

      Call it an homage, Pete; this story is too well done to be called a rip-off. We all take ideas now and then (and over there, and part of that one, …); the trick of being a writer is what we do with them. Consider Pyramus and Thisbe, a.k.a. Romeo and Juliet, a.k.a. West Side Story. Different lenses showing the same truth. You did this one really well, and did a nice job creating the story of the family and making it your own. Now next time don’t telegraph it up front and let me soak in the pleasure of the reveal. 🙂

    3. regisundertow

      I liked it. It’s not really ripping the Sixth Sense off, as you more or less make it clear the MC is dead from the beginning. A good move, in my opinion, as the Sixth Sense isn’t a very good story aside from the twist. Yours is emotionally charged from the beginning and becomes more so with every word. A really good story, Pete.

  31. johncamm

    This is my first short story and first time doing a writing prompt. sorry, about 1000 words.

    My heart was bounding. I could barely breath and my muscles where burning. I pushed harder, nothing would stop me this time. I could see my goal. I was training for the St Washington marathon and I was determined to have a trophy reading William Carpeza III. I had attempted it last year but was only able to complete the half marathon due to knee pain. I had a steady route that I enjoyed running and now I was running every day. On my long days I got to run down into St Washington’s historic district.
    I was approaching the corner of Bull street and W Main, I always caught this light and sometimes had to jog in place and repeatedly hit the “walk” button until it was clear to walk. It was such a nuisance to add two minutes to my run time at this corner. This corner is surrounded by old Victorian style houses from the early 1930’s. One house in particular caught my attention. I noticed one day a young woman staring at me out her window. As I do to many passersby’s I offered a smile and waved but the woman never changed her expression, it was as if she was made of stone. Normally I would just assume she was rude but the strange thing is that every time I pass by she is there. Staring. Every day, morning, midday, and evenings. It’s as if she knew my running schedule.
    Today was no different and I decided to speak with the woman. As I jogged toward the house I made eye contact and turned toward her yard making it very apparent I was coming up to her door.
    Before I even got a chance to ring the bell she answered the door. Even in person she was a statue. “ma’am” I began, “I hate to intrude…” I was cut off.
    “please. Come in.” she said and turned without giving me a chance to continue.
    I walked in the house and realized everything was original, I’d have to guess early 1920’s. The wallpaper, brass accents, and creaky hard wood floors. Even the woman herself looked like something out of an old movie. She had beautiful percaline skin, excellent posture and her hair was curled and perfectly to one side. Something about this woman was familiar but I was certain remember her if we had meet before.
    “Ma’am, I’m sorry to intrude but I noticed you’re always in front of your window. I always wave but you never wave back. I just wanted to ask, is everything was okay?”
    “Billy” she knew my name “everything is fine; I just wish you wouldn’t train so hard”. I was set back, how did this woman know my name.
    “I’m sorry, have we meet before” I asked?
    She ignored me “you really should take a break from your training tomorrow “. I was a little freaked out, how did this lady know my name and what was her concern about my training I thought.
    “look lady I don’t know what’s going on but I how do you know my name”?
    “I know more about you then just your name Billy, I’ve been watching you sometime. Now please promise me you’ll take a rest day tomorrow., after all you don’t want another injury do you’? I was stunned. “next time it might be worse than a sprained knee”.
    My stomach turned, and I was starting to get scared. It was as if this woman was staring right through me. How could she know so much about me? My hands began to tremble. I backed up for the door and said “look lady, just leave me alone”. I managed to turn and get out of the house without any further confrontation. I was so creeped out I didn’t even finish the route, I jogged home immediately.
    The next day I debated for quite some time about going on a run, I decided that I wasn’t going to let some young woman scare me away from my run. As I started to approach the mysterious woman’s house I began to slow down. I could see her standing on the porch, with a look of anger. As I got closer I saw her walk towards the road then start running. She was obviously on a collision course with me. Not wanting to run into and hurt the woman I slowed down. “ma’am what are you doing”?
    No sooner did I finish my sentence did she plow right into me. She was tiny but it felt like I was hit by a car. I had braced myself for the impact and half expected her small frame to bounce right off of mine, but in fact she sent me head over heels into a neighbor’s holly bushes.
    “What the hell lady” I shouted as I jumped up. “What on earth…” I began to question her but she was nowhere to be found. I spun around to look in the bush thinking maybe she had toppled over with me but she was nowhere to be found. I looked back at the street and froze with fear. The woman was standing inside her house looking out her window smiling at me. It wasn’t possible! Not 5 seconds ago she slammed into me, know she was back across the street inside her house without a hair out of place. She just smiled and pointed towards the corner.
    Before I could fully turn my head I heard a loud screeching sound and caught the final moment before a car slammed into the back of the electrical pole at the corner! My pole! The one I’m caught at every time I run this route. The car came from east and I always turn west at this corner. I’d have been killed had I been standing there. I looked back at the woman but she had vanished.
    I quickly ran over to the house and banged on the door. “I know you’re in there” I yelled “open up”. The door gently swung open. To my surprise the house was completely different than it had been yesterday. There walls where bare and the wallpaper was peeling, there was only a chair in the room and it was covered with a sheet, and a layer of dust blanketed the room completely. I walked around in utter confusion.
    The only other furniture I could find was some old pictures on the fireplace mantle. Old black and white photos of people that must have lived here years ago. There was only one photo of the woman among them. It wasn’t even in a frame; it was a wallet sized photo stuck into the corner of another frame. I pulled it out. It was the woman, a man, and a baby.
    I turned the photo over and read the caption:
    1922
    The Carpeza Family. William, Mariam, and William Jr.
    The woman was my grandmother, she had passed away 40 years ago.

    1. jhowe

      Welcome to the writing prompt community johncamm. I like your story line, though it was a little long. That’s ok though, a lot of us go long sometimes. I noticed a few areas where you could easily cut some fluff. For instance, when you described the house interior: early 20s, realized it was original… You could have just went with the latter descriptions you included, of the wall paper, the brass accents, the creaky wood floors… that says the same thing, making the first part unnecessary. Plus you’d already indicated the surrounding houses were Victorian. I find that description is best used sparingly, especially in flash fiction, but that’s just my opinion.

      I liked the grandmother and her guardian angel role. You did a nice job developing her character. There were a few mechanical issues with your dialog tags, parentheses, capitalization, etc. when you write the dialog. Make sure you go over those areas well before you post. Also, it helps if you include a space between paragraphs. It makes it easier to read and easier for you to spot mistakes.

      Overall, an intriguing story with a really cool outcome. Good job.

    2. UnclePizza

      Welcome johncamm! I agree with jhowe’s tips and will just share a trick of my own. When I need to trim the word count down I read everything and ask myself “does this add to my story?”. If the answer is Not really, then I cut it. It’s amazing how I can get to half the word count and still tell the same story.

      You tell a good story, so like the folks in another group that I belong to like to say, “Keep coming back!”

    3. Observer Tim

      This is a lovely and gentle ghost story, JohnCamm. You did a great job building up the atmosphere and the haunting style. Welcome aboard; this may be long but it’s also very entertaining. 🙂

      John (jhowe) and UnclePizza have provided some good advice on how to shorten the story, so I’ll throw my two cents in as well. If you find a section that is long but not pushing things forward, push it into the character’s memory. The downside is that you lose the immediacy of the moment, but the upside is a shorter, punchier piece. But the big thing to remember is that the word limit is artificial; write to your chosen length and save it; when trimming down, trim down a copy.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great story, and to add to other comments on 500 words, I find trying to keep close to that goal forces me to read very closely to make certain every word is necessary. This is a great place to both write and learn from the others here.

  32. Trevor

    Word Count: 646

    Escaping The Past

    Those blue eyes. Those sparkling blue eyes resembled two pools of the purest aqua water. Those eyes were greeted me every time I reached the corner of Strateman Boulevard and Douglas Lane. I would reach the street signs and there those blue ovals would be, peeking out through the blinds of what was otherwise an average suburban house.

    The first time I saw them, I didn’t give them much though. It had to be someone who just happened to be looking outside when I reached the corner. But every day that week, when I arrived at that corner, I found those eyes would always be watching me, as if knowing I would soon be there. It intrigued and concerned me at the same time. I kept waiting for the day when the person watching me jog by would come out to explain themselves, but the day never arrived. They just stayed at the window, staring at me like a specimen under a microscope.

    Finally, one day, I decided to figure out once and for all what this mysterious neighbor wanted. As I approached the familiar corner, I crossed the street before I was in the view of the bay window and went up to the front door of the house. I rang the doorbell and heard a slight gasp coming from inside. The voice was distinctly feminine, but I had already come to the conclusion that was the gender of my admirer. Light footsteps rushed to the door and, after two locks were undone, I was seeing the face that the vivid blue eyes belonged to.

    Annabelle Washington.

    It had been years since I’d seen this woman. I remember the day I first met her. It was back when I was 122 pounds lighter and I was a new trainer at a workout studio in upstate New York. I made many friends among my clientele, but Annabelle was special. She was young, beautiful…and in trouble. I could tell from the bruises she hid beneath her workout clothes that she was trapped in a bad relationship. After months of seeing nothing but glimpses of blackened skin, she finally disclosed to me that her husband was abusing her. I tried to convince her to leave, but she felt she couldn’t. She didn’t have the money and she felt that, even if she could escape, he’d find her-and she dreaded the consequences that would come with being found by that monster.

    One warm spring day, Annabelle didn’t show up for class. After her absence extended from a day to a month, I came to the tragic conclusion that her husband had let his abuse go too far. I didn’t know any of her friends or family, so I had no way to knowing what had happened. But at that moment, I knew what she had done: She had escaped and started a new life free of fear and pain.

    Annabelle invited me in and we talked over coffee. She detailed how she had saved up enough money to buy a bus ticket to Arizona, where she temporarily lived with her cousin. She went back to college, something she never had the chance to do when she was younger, and soon after began work at a consulting firm. There were rough patches in the road, but it was heavenly compared to the miserable life she had had with Douglas. She was happy for her new life….

    And even happier that she had moved in near me.

    After that day, Annabelle stopped watching me jog from afar and joined me in my morning ritual. We went out to movies, dinner, and even took a trip back to New York for a Broadway show. Our friendship blossomed now that it had been cut free of the dark roots Douglas’s abuse had formed.

    We’ve escaped the past and are running toward the future.

    1. jhowe

      Good one Trevor. A nice story with lots of tension and a feel-good ending. I wondered about the MCs 122 pound weight gain and what caused it…. just poor choices I guess.

    2. Observer Tim

      I love your message here, Trevor, and the slow build made it even more satisfying. I’ve said before that “falling in love” stories are one of my faves, and this is a wonderful example. I also like the subtle way you included the changes in the MC and that they didn’t matter because he was at least somewhat content with himself. Great job, Trevor! 🙂

      My red pencil noticed a number of typos and werpos that could be repaired on an extra editing pass.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Nicely done, another with a happy ending. I also did wonder about the 122 pounds, perhaps that reference isn’t necessary to this story.

  33. Teserk

    Here’s my first post to a writing prompt on the site. All comments welcome.
    ——————————————————————-

    The evening had descended into dusk as my path once again approached the little bungalow. My curiosity got the best of me, and I slowed, hoping to get a better look at the face behind the curtains.

    Yes! It was there, barely visible through the deepening shadows. I stopped and squinted, trying to get a better look. The figure disappeared, apparently disliking my scrutiny. Who was this person watching me?

    As I toyed with the idea of simply mounting the steps and knocking, the door opened a crack. There was no light on in the house; all I saw was darkness.

    “Thomas Lindahl?”

    The woman–the voice was definitely female–knew my name. How…?

    “You ARE Thomas Lindahl?”

    The voice was familiar. It tickled at my mind. Was this someone I knew?

    “Sorry, have we met?”

    “I know you from Creek’s Crossing. Come in.”

    The door opened wider, and a woman’s figure became visible, though it was too dark to make out her features. I fingered the blade sheathed at the small of my back. It was never a good idea to enter a strange house; I of all people should know that. But the circumstance intrigued me, and I had my blade.

    A few quick strides up the steps and I was inside the house. The woman had moved away from the door. Her perfume lingered in the air, and I was struck by a sudden memory. Dark brown hair. Hazel eyes. A slender, curving neck.

    “Close the door. You’ll let in a chill.”

    I felt a chill, but it had nothing to do with the crisp autumn air. It couldn’t be. My right hand closed on the handle of my blade as my left gently pushed the door closed. I found and flipped the light switch on the wall. The light sprang into being, illuminating a living impossibility.

    “Allison Harper. This…this can’t be. You’re dead. I…I killed you.”

    More memories flashed through my mind. Allison Harper, screaming as I tied her to my exam table. Allison Harper, sobbing, pleading as I caressed her skin with my blade. Allison Harper, delirious as I taught her the meaning of pain. It had been glorious.

    I had been thorough. I had dismembered the body, buried the pieces in multiple locations. I had killed her.

    And yet, here she stood before me. As beautiful as the day I had invited her into my home.

    I realized with a start that Allison was pointing a gun at me. I stood frozen as she pulled the trigger.

    Pain exploded in my chest. I fell, my blade lost as my body hit the floor. Allison’s face loomed over me. “It’s not possible,” I managed through lips that refused to work properly. “I killed you, Allison.”

    Allison sneered. “My name is Lena. Allison was my sister. You killed my sister, you son of a b****, and now you get what’s coming to you.”

    The gun roared, once twice, three times, and then all went black.

    1. jhowe

      Ok, Teserk, you entered our little community with a bang. She reeled him in and took care of business. Very well done. I look forward to reading more of your stuff. Oh, and you can say bitch on here.

    2. Observer Tim

      Your MC got about a quarter of what he deserved; chalk it up to Lena’s mercy. You did a good job making me go from identifying with your MC to loathing him, which went quickly enough that there was just a bit of shock left at his death. Really well done, Teserk. 🙂

      And welcome to the site; I really hope we’ll be seeing more of your work.

  34. thejim

    The small note on the door frame said – Please Knock – Doorbell Broken – The house seamed plain enough a standard brick ranch, cement stoop and a worn out WELCOME mat were a consistent wiping of shoes removed the E and M.

    I knocked.

    The door opened a crack only enough for me to see an eyeball peering out.

    “You can’t come in,” said the voice belonging to the eyeball.

    “I saw someone, I thought I knew, looking out the window each day as I run past,” I said as I stared into the eye.

    “You can’t come in,” he reiterated.

    “I was wondering if I could”…“You can’t come in,” he interrupted.

    The door shut sharply and from behind the sealed door a muffled voice said, “You can’t come in!”

    I could hear people discussing something behind the door. The door opened up abruptly and a different voice said “Go around back,” and the door shut again.

    I made my way to the back of the brick house to the sliding doors. I could hear numerous people talking, almost like a low key party. I slide open the door and walked in like a belonged there.

    Sitting at the table drinking what appeared to be tea was John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln are having a deep discussion about the direction he wanted the United States to take.

    There was a small group of people circled around a Roman man they were also discussing the same thing as Abraham Lincoln.

    I almost passed out from confusion when a firm hand held me upright. I turned to see my old friend Brett.

    “Brett, but you’re de…”

    “Yes I am, Jack, we have much to discuss there are some very important steps you need take, and I am not referring to your marathon,” Brett said in a smooth soft voice as he lead me into the living room ti sit on the couch.

    After an hour of discussion, Brett stood and said, “So what do you think,” as he motion across the room.

    “This is it, the device? It looks so small and simple.” I said as I approached the Timescope.

    “It just a refraction of light within a lens. It diverts light and time by creating gaps with in the light. Then the light within the gaps begin to scatter and breaks apart, then it slows down the light waves and within any particular gap there is the ability to move, or pass through, the gaps in-between the light. This then allows you to move out of absolute time and into relative time,” said a voice from a grey haired man smoking a pipe and sitting reading the sports page of the Daily Times. “But more confusing than that is this, Fantasy Football, I cannot understand how it works, there are no real teams, but the players are real?”

    I looked at Brett, “Man, it was so good to see you I have missed you since you disappeared back in 96.”

    “Well if everything goes as planned, we will be seeing a lot more of each other, you know what you have to do? Brett asked as we walked to the door.

    “Yes, I believe so,” I said as we shook hands and he shut the door.

    I stepped outside and took a deep breath of fresh air. There was a lady walking her three children along the road. The little girl looked over and said, Mommy, that man is in his underwear.”

    I looked down at my running shorts and tee shirt I thought, I better find something more appropriate since it is now 1963.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Great take on the prompt. I really appreciated the attention to detail in the descriptions. I’ve often wondered how history might be changed.

    2. Observer Tim

      Hee hee! This is a clever concept theJim, and executed very well. I love the mix of historical name-dropping and time travel, and how you painted people with just a few word-strokes. The first line brought to mind Frank Morgan at the gate of the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz, and primed the pump for the sense of fun that followed. The last sequence was a killer, too; goodness from end to end. 🙂

      1. thejim

        I had to chuckle too at him and maybe the little girl in a soft pink dress pointing, and the mother with that shocked look covering the little girls eyes. Thanks OT

    3. jhowe

      Cool story. I liked the description of how the light refraction worked and for some reason, I really liked the broken doorbell sign. So this is how Mr. Ruby came to be in the right place at the right time….

      1. thejim

        Why, thank you – I have a habit of looking at it as if it was a movie or film and then I look around and seeing what’s around and just write it down – and most of the time I don’t even know things are there until I see it in my minds movie and I laugh and say to myself – Hey look at that – That’s why I like 500 words makes you pick out of the scene the best eye catching things.

    4. JosephFazzone

      Great story! You set the stage for an even larger story of epic proportion! Time travelling stories are always wonderful, and this was a very unique play on that theme. So fun to read! Great job! Those last two lines are hilarious!

  35. dustymayjane

    When I turned thirty I felt old. That day was the day I pledged to run a marathon. Maybe I’d finally lose the extra pounds. Those pounds had crept up on me and I was certain that’s why Jason turned to the young, thin Ashley. Single again, I felt alone and unlovable. My self talk turned ugly and self deprecating. Just as it had those few years back.

    After seeing the woman’s face several days in a row, I began to wonder who she was and why she peeked through her lace curtains as I pass by everyday during my daily run. Perhaps she’s just being nosy, scoping out the comings and going of her neighbors. I had a strange feeling it was something all together different. Maybe it was the pale blue of her eyes or the salt and pepper of her once black hair, but she looked familiar and I was curious.

    I made my way to the door and knocked. When the door opened it was like looking into a mirror to my future. I felt the ground beneath my feet rise up and the world went dark.

    I woke to pale light filtering through lace curtain. I tried to focus on a voice above me.

    “It’s going to be alright, I promise.”

    “What happened? Who are you?”

    “Who do I look like?”

    “Ah…you look like me. Twenty years from now!” The time, the place, was surreal.

    “I am, or will be. But only if you promise.” Her smile, her eyes. So kind and patient.

    “But how? Promise what?” I closed my eyes, hoping to open them to something that made sense.

    “The how is not important. The promise is all that matters.”

    “What does that mean?” I saw my younger self reflected in the black of her pupils.

    “Just promise to never repeat the past.”

    “The past? Okay, I promise.” Trembling, I stood, unable to accept what was certainly a mistake. Without trying to stop me, she stood looking at me with the same blue eyes as mine, filled with love and patience.

    I ran, ran from what I now wondered had ever really happened. Had I fallen and hit my head? I reach up to touch my head and my long black ponytail. Had I even knocked on that door? I reflected on the promise I had made, rubbing the scars on my wrists that would forever remind me of a difficult past. As a troubled young woman, unable to love myself, I had attempted to take my life. Unable to accept that I would never be the size two I thought I needed to be, to be loved. I thought of Jason, no longer missing him and knowing it was his mistake that caused our break up. I was loveable and would be beautiful even twenty years from now.

    The older woman looked like me, and I realize she was beautiful, I was beautiful, grey hairs, wrinkles and even with those few extra pounds.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, dusty!

      What an beautifully uplifting story! Especially this line: “I was loveable and would be beautiful even twenty years from now.”

      Great job! 😀

    2. Observer Tim

      I know how your MC feels; some days I feel the weight of life and years on me, but the thing to remember is that you are a combination of your past and your future, and that the end result holds as much beauty as you care to give it. The introspection and the message are just wonderful. 🙂

    3. JosephFazzone

      Great take on the prompt! I love the stories where one confronts themself. I would like to understand a bit more about the mistake that she’s never to repeat. The scars gave some insight, but it got me curious as to the backstory! I love how she believes she was beautiful. It’s so uplifting. I can only hope everyone feels that was about themselves.

  36. ReathaThomasOakley

    A ghost story with Annie
    (Semi-autobiographical)

    “Mama,” I said in my best grown up voice, I wasn’t gonna whine.

    “Yes, Annie,” Mama said from behind the sheet she was pining to the line.

    “I’m ’bout finished with the towels, I got ’em all straight, so I was thinkin’ maybe I could walk over to Granny’s house, see how she’s doin’.” The only sounds were the clothes flapping in the breeze and Brother and cousin Punkin playing cars in the front yard. I was hoping Mama was considering.

    “That’s a long way,” she finally said, “you ain’t never walked that far all by yourself.”

    “Yes, mam,” I said.

    “You gotta cross King Street,” she said, but she hadn’t said ‘no’.

    “Yes, mam, but I’d go to the light to cross. I think Granny’d appreciate a little visit, don’t you? Her bein’ old and all.” Please, please, please, I thought, but couldn’t say that.

    “Well, I suppose, if you promise to cross at the light, and get home before supper…Bring me that clothespin bag.”

    “Thank you, Mama,” I wanted to hug her, but figured that’d be too much, so I just gave her the bag. “I promise.”

    I was beginning to learn talking grown up was better than begging or whining, but I couldn’t tell Mama the real reason I wanted to go that far. Acina Adams was the fastest girl in the entire school and I was determined to beat her in one race before fifth grade, but if I practiced running too close to home Brother or some one would tease me. The Catholic school was on the way to Granny’s, so I nobody I knew would see me running there.

    I was about a block from St. Joe’s and just kinda trotting along when I saw somebody looking out a window. Hmm, I thought, and kept on running, but by the time I got to the school, something was buzzing around in my brain, so I turned around and ran back, past the house with the window, and stopped. Either I was seeing a ghost or…

    I’d never, except for trick or treating, knocked on a strange door, but this was different.

    “Annie! I thought that was you. What you doin’…”

    “Diane Nightingale, I thought you were dead!” I was mad. “That’s what ever body said when you quit comin’ to school.”

    “Oh, no,” Diane was laughing. “We moved and Catholic school’s so close, I been goin’ there. I ain’t dead.” She kept on laughing.

    “Well, if you ain’t dead, where’s my book? I loaned you Rose in Bloom, but you never gave it back. I hadn’t even read it yet. I been reading Eight Cousins over and over.”

    “Oh, Mama packed up all my stuff. Come on in and I’ll look.”

    Diane found my book, I ran on to Granny’s, and got home for supper. I go over to Diane’s lots now, it’s interesting to hear how Catholics do school different, but I still ain’t beat Acina Adams in a race.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, Reatha!

      I really liked this story, especially that first line. 😀 And that just made me feel bad for Annie – having to read Eight Cousins over and over again, all the while wishing that she could read Rose in Bloom. 🙁

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Cosi. Diane did borrow my book and move. But, after I posted this found Rose in Bloom, Kindle edition, FREE, so now I have it again! I’ve used Acina’s name in other things because I always loved it. I’ll send this to her.

    2. Observer Tim

      Back at you on your happy ending comment, Reatha. 🙂 This is beautiful and cries out for the nostalgia of simpler days. You did a great job setting Annie’s voice (continuing it, really). I believe you could write an entire semi-memoir like this. I for one would read it, especially with the elements of the semi-fantastical you’ve woven in. 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Tim. Annie is that bolder version of my ten year old self. I am trying to pull lots of things together in hopes of submitting. Haven’t had much published since the 80s when I had a bit of success with newspaper humor columns I sent on.

    3. JosephFazzone

      This was a sweet story. You really describe the relationship with her mother so well. Respectful, but distant. Fantastic job. Someday she’s gonna win that race, but at least she rekindled her friendship. That’s already a bonus!

    4. UnclePizza

      The way she can restrain her emotions when begging her mamma tells me she’ll be able to pace herself in a marathon and win the big race one of these days. Good one, Reatha!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, UP. I’m hoping to show how Annie grows when a prompt seems to fit. She’s been with me since before I introduced her several prompts ago.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, and I do try to capture how the characters speak, as well as the time frame, so Annie’s voice would be different from those in other stories.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Reatha, you have an immense talent for weaving a story about every day things and people. You don’t need much action or fame because you hit home with every word. You should publish again, a collection of short stories, anyone would read if they find how you spin tales.

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Thank you so much, Kerry. I’ll autograph your copy of that book (most likely posthumously completed by my sons).

  37. Observer Tim

    RUNNING FROM A GHOST

    I hazard a glance over my shoulder; the dead girl is still there, chasing me like a freaking female Terminator. My heart is hammering but I know if I stop I’m done for.

    My mind draws back to half an hour ago; I gathered all my bravado and knocked on the door of the Thurmond place. It had been deserted for fifteen years, ever since Becky Thurmond and her family were killed.

    Becky was my third grade nemesis. She would chase me home from school every day, and if she caught me she’d beat me up. I was relieved when they moved away, but it took years to get over the guilt when Mom told me their flight had gone down over the Atlantic; I figured somehow I was responsible.

    At first the place was just another landmark on my training route; I’m going to Boston this year and need all the practice I can get to go the full twenty-six miles. Three weeks ago people started refurbishing the place. Last week a moving van was there. Since then, someone has been watching me through the venetian blinds.

    Today I knocked on the door. When it opened I nearly fainted. Becky Thurmond. She was an adult now, but her features were still recognizable. She was wearing workout shorts and a sports top, and had those fingerless boxing gloves on her hands. The right hand was a fist. Then she threatened me.

    “Jason Carlisle,” she said.

    I bolted and she came after me. Since then I’ve been running for my life and she’s been about ten paces behind me, the tortured expression of the damned on her face. Will she ever give up?

    I glance back again. Something hits my waist and I flip over a bike rack, landing flat on my back on the grass. In a second the demon is upon me. I close my eyes and wait for the first punch.

    She drops on top of me and hits me square in the mouth. With her lips.

    I open my eyes in confusion. She’s on top of me, strings of wet hair hanging around the face that used to torment me. She gasps a couple of times and looks down at me.

    “God… what… a workout!”

    I gather all my wits about me and manage to say, “Becky?”

    “Reh… becca… now… Miss me?”

    “But… plane crash…”

    She looks perplexed as she sucks in a couple of long breaths.

    “We missed the flight. I’ve thought about you a lot, Jason.”

    “But you used to… beat me up…”

    “I can express myself better now.”

    I get lost watching her breath and feeling her warmth and the drops of sweat rolling off her.

    “Becky?”

    “Uh-huh?”

    “Want to train together?”

    “I thought you’d never ask. I know some great exercises.”

    So do I. So do I.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hi, OT!

      This story made me happy. Especially this part:

      “But you used to… beat me up…”
      “I can express myself better now.”

      😀

    2. JosephFazzone

      This was awesome! Great story! I love how we both had a Terminator reference in our stories. So random! I agree with Cosi, I really love the line, “I can express myself better now.” Hilarious! There’s such a fine line between love and a good thrashing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh man! I loved this. I don’t want to analyze it or talk about it, just remember it, forever. So glad you are still writing on the site, you better not go any where or I’ll come after you.

    3. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Thank you for the story, Tim. And before I saw Cosi’s comment I’d already copied this part:

      “But you used to… beat me up…”
      “I can express myself better now.”

      to tell you that it’s damn brilliant.) I also wonder what’s hidden behind those ‘great exercises’ she knows))

  38. Fox in the Walls

    Having done eight miles at a veritable sprint, I expected my legs to feel weak. But I expected to feel them, at least. I had to look down at them to confirm they were still there. They were and were moving me in a direction I was hardly…a curtain twitch…

    I stopped breathing, stood perfectly still and allowed my head to fill with the thumping, bloated rhythms of a heart denied expression. Thump, thump, thu…curtain…

    I didn’t dare look at the window. If I could be incapacitated this way by mere apprehension, I would be easy prey if I caught the figure’s eyes. Thump, thump, I need oxygen. I need it now. Thump, THuMP, THUMP! A shadow appeared behind the glass door in front of me. And then it was gone. Can I breathe, yet? No, give it a second.

    One second later as the thumping became numbing the letterbox crept open. The figure was looking at me for certain through its rectangular visor. I stared down at the slit of darkness glaring back at me. I walked unsteadily to the door, despite myself, in a manner that belied my oxygen reserves.

    Thump, thump, thlink, crank, and jangle as bolts and chains were undone behind the door. I continued walking and the opening door received me lick a docking vessel pulled by a magnetic doom. My senses were caving in to the suffocating blackness. My body was spent and my breath lingered in my lungs like a tormented ghost. I blinked to force my eyes to adjust to the harrowing emptiness of this false night. My eyes wide open now.

    Thump.

    1. JosephFazzone

      The 8 miles sprint was an astonishing accomplishment. This all feels like a dream sequence, but I have to admit, I was a little confused by this. It’s very intriguing, but I’m afraid I don’t really follow what’s going on here.

    2. Observer Tim

      Nice job building the atmosphere and sense of trepidation, Fox. Of course, now I find myself wondering just who or what is behind that door. Hopefully it isn’t going to be dangerous. For some reason the being looking out through the mail slot gave me the impression of somebody looking at your MC’s crotch. This may be a more *ahem* interesting story than we thought… 🙂

  39. JosephFazzone

    I stare face to face with the blast of my past. My buddy Kevin Hubris, back in the day self titled as Cock O’ the Galaxy! I remember saying that would be accompanied by the rest of us doing some fanfare. Da, da, da, DA! And here he stood.

    “Dude!” He said. Nice to way remind me of the 80s when ‘dude’ was gnarly enough to be radically, bodaciously righteously awesome, dude. Christ, I’m getting old.

    “Yo, Kev.” I’m current. I swear I’m hip. “Aren’t you dead?”

    Something about him crashing into a light pole, or was it, wait, hang on. I remember it now. It was a stupid balmy yet rainy crappy Tuesday. Got fired from the shop, stupid dog got loose, and I was looking for him…then there was…a truck?

    “Not dead, man.” He looked amused. “I transcended into the collective.” He raised his hands up, flapping them like a bird.

    “Idiot.” Reflex action, just felt right.

    “Harsh, bro.” He feigned stung. “I went into a coma, thanks for checking in on me by the way, and, well miraculously came to about three years ago. I sell insurance now.” He handed me his card.

    I flipped the card in my hand, and looked back. “Are you serious?” My mind was stunned. I remembered a funeral. Wendy his sister was crying on Kerry Spiner’s shoulder. The rain, and that stupid bagpipe. What was your dad thinking? “I went to your funeral.”

    “You went to a funeral for me, not my funeral.” He smiled his teeth white and straight. “My parents had it when I was pronounced brain dead, but the ole man never could pull the ole plug.” His brown eyes were alive, no crow’s feet.

    I looked at him. Same boyish grin, same partial blond goatee, same straw mop for a hairdo, and that red shirt. Who wears the Terminator anymore? It’s all about Star Wars. Still 80s, but in a more ‘we became relevant again’, type of way.

    “I don’t believe you.” I shook my head stubbornly. “I remember.”

    His smile turned sheepish as he confessed, “Okay, you’re right. I died. It’s true. How did you guess?”

    “Ha! It was the stupid shirt!” I shouted with glee having won the argument, and then I stopped. “Wait…that means…”

    He nodded. “Your new house is over there across the street,” he said lightly. “Welcome to Heaven, neighbor.”

    “But how?”

    “Heart attack training for the marathon,” he answered.

    “B-but,” I stammered. “I saw you all those other days.”

    “That was your heart telling you to stop training,” he told me.

    I stood there stunned, and feeling glum.

    Realizing his hands were still up, he put them down, and then said. “On the bright side, now you can stop training, and run the marathon right now. I guarantee you will win.”

    “How?” I asked.

    “Uh, dude?” He pointed all around. “Heaven.”

    He was a good friend. I forgot how much I missed him, but I remembered now, the fun, the good times. “Yeah,” I said. “That is a point to consider.”

    “Had you fooled for a second about the not dying, right?” He asked.

    “Yeah,” I admitted. “Definitely had me confused.”

    He looked serious. “Softens the blow, dude.”

    I nodded in thanks. “Dude.”

    “Dude.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This story screams late 20c (80’s or 90’s). Dear Lord, let heaven not be a huge flashback to those days! This is clever and imaginative, Joey (you’re getting a reputation for that, you know), and an awesome take that you’ve made your own. Duuude! 🙂

  40. SkyFox

    The burn in my legs, my pathetic lungs gasping for air.
    This is what of it would have felt like.
    I deserve it.
    I keep running, trying to run from the demons that chase me.
    But they are always there. They always keep up.
    No matter how fast I run.
    I should have been in that room. It should have been me.
    The demons grab at my heels, trying to drag me back to that dark place.
    I would let them if it wasn’t for that stupid promise.
    I run faster. My legs tremble as I run pass houses.
    I see curtains close. No one wants to talk to me, let alone look at me.
    The girl that got drunk at the party. The girl who killed her best friend.
    My legs throb. They are already tender because of the beating I got.
    I trip. The world tilts just as it did on that night and the colors blur.
    I land on my knees. Pain shoots up my legs but I deserve it.
    The demons are behind me, ready to snap me up.
    I lift my head and gather what strength I have left but stop.
    She’s there. Staring at me with that twinkle in her eye. It’s like she never left.
    I blink, trying to clear my vision but she’s still there. For the first time in weeks my mouth curls into what could only be a smile.
    The demons vanish. She open her mouth. To make a joke maybe? To forgive me?
    Her mouth curls into her snarl. Her eyes turn hateful.
    A voice whispers along the breeze for only me to hear.
    It’s all you fault.

      1. SkyFox

        Thanks. Did I put enough details in? Or did I go to light? I liked yours btw.
        Should I repost a continue? Im not sure if I should. Thanks for the feedback.
        🙂 🙂 🙂

        1. UnclePizza

          Excellent just the way it is. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to make a good thing better by making it last longer. It never works that way (at least not for me). Part of the beauty is in the succinct way that you tell it. Thanks for a great read!

    1. JosephFazzone

      So much frantic energy here. It’s almost as if the MC will never end the vicious cycle. Feels like the demons are a psychosis or some kind of unrelenting regret. Either way, it’s vicious. Nicely described.

      1. SkyFox

        Thanks. I feel like my MC is that dark part of me that I will always have. That I guess we all have. I am trying-hopefully succeding- to capture that feeling

    2. Observer Tim

      I really like the way you built the story slowly using the action as exposition. The short sentences do a good job of creating a sense of urgency to the story, and the theme of reaching for redemption only to have it torn away is very real. )

    3. jhowe

      You’ve got a nice little story here SkyFox. The self loathing of your main character is very evident and likely the way a person who caused such an accident would feel. The two incidences when she feels physical pain and thinks that she deserves it is a nice touch. I read your question to Observer Tim, on if you should post a continuation. I wouldn’t; the story stands quite well as it is. You said a lot with very few words. But that’s just my opinion. If you post a continuation, I’ll definitely read it. Good job.

      1. SkyFox

        Thanks for the adive. I decided that I wont. Ive posted some other stories on other prompts if you would like to read and critque. Thanks for the loevely compliments.

          1. SkyFox

            My erros right now are terrible. I meant my writing. Thanks again to all your lovely comments

          2. jhowe

            I posted a comment for the ‘I Can Hear You’ story. Hope it helps. Just keep writing and read every line you write to yourself and be sure it’s exactly what you want. I do that, and I still make mistakes, but I often catch a few before I post.

  41. litlfletch

    I kinda played with the prompt:

    The marathon was a week away, and John’s passing a week behind. I was certain everyone thought I was crazy for continuing to train, despite the circumstances. After all, I was still running the route where he’d just been killed, moving faster when I reached that neighborhood…

    It was indisputedly the girl’s fault. Driving too fast for a subdivision. Cell phone. Texting about whether to go on vacation with her boyfriend’s family or not. I had hoped she’d go, and I had hoped she’d fall off the cruise ship, or catch some fatal foreign disease, or…something.

    I actually don’t know how I knew what her texts said. I might have grabbed the phone out of her hand in a complete, ravenous rage; blindly intent on learning what was so damn important that it resulted in my last view of John in bloodied Nike gear (the moisture-wicking was failing miserably…) and a mottled pair of New Balance tennies.

    Sure, she was apologetic. Completely stunned. It’s not every day you find a runner smashed beneath your freshly washed car. It needed washed again, of course, but…who worries about that when you’re telling 911 that you think you just killed someone?

    ‘Think’. It was pretty obvious.

    So obvious, that you could imagine my surprise (I almost tripped over an uneven section of sidewalk) when I glanced over at the ugly peach house and saw John staring out of a window. It was that gaze he had when he was both contentedly contemplative, but unhappily mulling over a dozen too many thoughts. A ‘bittersweet brooding’, he had called it.

    Now, it wasn’t the first time. I’d been running that stretch since he died, and felt someone stare each day I sped past the residences. It was only this time that I bothered to really give it more than a passing glance. And there was John, his curved nose and thin glasses a physical testament to the friend I had lost.

    Now, seven days since the accident, I saw him again, and left the ‘Do not walk on grass!’ sign unheeded (pompous, grass-gloating schmucks…). I beelined through the lawn and ran up the porch steps.

    I knocked on the door. It remained closed.

    ‘Well…damn.’ It was stupid to believe that a dead John would actually open a door (to a house not his own). I felt the heat of a long-suppressed sadness in the bridge of my nose.

    “Thomas, you retard; you know I never answer the front door.”

    As I quelled my tears (no one would see this man cry in public!), I whipped around to face the voice.

    “John! But…I saw you die!”

    He faked a punch towards my throat, then laughed as he hugged me tight.

    “Man, I saw you die too!” John said mirthfully. “But you’re the same as always: you could never just follow. You can’t always lead, Tom. I know you’re stubborn, but this time, you have to let it go, dude.”

    The hug released, and I was alone.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a wonderful story; I don’t think it bends the prompt so much as raising it to a higher level. The twist at the end is done perfectly. It seems like Tom has got a little more running to do before he reaches his destination, but at least he should know where the finish line is now. 🙂

    2. regisundertow

      A bittersweet story. At least there’s some resolution to be found for your MC. It didn’t really bend the prompt, in fact I find it perfectly in line with its spirit.

  42. cosi van tutte

    One. Two. Three. Four. Foot in air. Foot on ground. Inhale. Exhale. One. Two. Three. Four.

    One. I am running towards health. Two. I am running away from fear. Three. I am running for courage. Four. I am running for fear. Foot in air. Foot on ground. Inhale.

    Stop.

    Look.

    Freeze.

    Someone in an old house sees me.

    I see them. Him. It. Looking at me.

    Exhale sharply.

    They. He. It. disappears.

    But I can’t stop shaking.

    ***

    Next day is the same.

    One. Two. Three. Four. Foot in air. Foot on ground. Inhale. Exhale. One. Two. Three. Four.

    One. I should change my route. Two. I should train with a friend. Three. I should buy a treadmill. Four. It was nothing. Just imagination. Foot in air. Foot on ground. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.

    Stop.

    Look.

    Freeze.

    They. He. It. is there. Standing there watching me.

    One. Run away. Two. Give in to fear. Three. Run. Four. RUN!

    Exhale.

    A crowbar lies forgotten on the ground.

    Inhale.

    I pick it up.

    Exhale.

    I will not let fear own me.

    Inhale.

    If it is him…

    Exhale.

    If he is in there…

    Inhale.

    I’m tired of running. I’m sick with fear. I walk up the splintered, ruptured steps. I open the door and go inside.

    Exhale.

    He will never hurt me again.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a deep story of a woman reclaiming her life. I love the sense of exertion and stepping that you wrote it in; what is running but a set of hard steps, each propelling towards resolution? The whole thing is kind of poetic and, as you can tell, got me thinking. Beautiful! 🙂

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      This could be the prequel to my piece) I love the style and the atmosphere it creates. At some point I felt like reading a poem. Another thing is, I can actually understand the character and describe it in my head, though you didn’t mention a word about what she’s like. Great job. Love originality.

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