Spiced Architecture

[Don’t miss your chance to enter the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition! Impress us with your best story in 1500 words or fewer. Deadline Dec. 15.]


December 12 is National Gingerbread House Day. Although ginger has been used across the world in baking and cooking since antiquity, gingerbread is thought to have originated in the Middle East and made its way to Europe during the Crusades. In the 13th century, German monks began to shape into different forms, and from there the practice spread first throughout Germany and then throughout Europe. In the 15th century, Queen Elizabeth I was said to have had gingerbread people made to look like some of her important guests.

Our contemporary idea of a gingerbread (or, originally, lebkuchen) house, however, came around in the early 1800s, evidently popularized by the Grimm’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel”—though gingerbread loaves were decorated to look like houses long before that.

The Writing Prompt

You (or a character, or perhaps two) have been enjoying a leisurely walk down a familiar wooded path for about an hour, when you suddenly realize that you no longer know where you are. Trusting that your current path will lead you back home—after all, it logically should—you turn around and head back the way you came. After a few moments, you conclude that you must have somehow strayed… because before you stands a structure that appears to be made of gingerbread.


Writer’s Digest Digital Archive Collection: Iconic Women Writers

For nearly 100 years, Writer’s Digest magazine has been the leading authority for writers of all genres and career levels. And now, for the first time ever, we’ve digitized decades of issues from our prestigious archives to share with the world. In this, the first of our series of archive collections, discover exclusive historic interviews with classic women authors including Maya Angelou, Pearl S. Buck, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates and Joan Didion—and much, much more. Featuring five stunning issues spanning more than 60 years, this collection is perfect for writers, literary enthusiasts, educators and historians. Explore what’s inside.






You might also like:

165 thoughts on “Spiced Architecture

  1. Jennifer Park

    31. The Embassy

    [This comes after the first Ambassador Barbara chapter, under “Interplanetary Relations,” which I noticed was in the third person.]

    Ambassador Barbarella found herself lost in the romance of it all, albeit for a brief moment. Traveling through a remote forest, far from any signs of Kryzlam civilizations, riding on what could only be described as a one-horse open sleigh, on a pleasant summer day, laughing all the way…

    “Oh… ummm…” the subunderpotentate’s sudden uncertainty broke the mood. She pointed at a tree. “I…”

    Barbara looked at the tree. There was a red trail marking on it that looked familiar. “So, we are lost, aren’t we?”

    The geolocation system was not going to be activated for another few months, and the subunderpotentate was quite sure that she knew the way to the most breathtaking waterfall in the known universe. “No, no, Your Excellency. This…” She directed the horse-like creature in the same direction she had chosen the last time they had been here, but then took a different turn at the next fork. “I think I got it now.”

    When they reached a clearing, the subunderpotentate suddenly brightened. “Here we go.”

    By contrast, Barbara’s mood was that of utter surprise. “What the f*&% is that?”

    “Hmmm?” The subunderpotentate stopped the sleigh.

    There stood a house, on the far edge of the clearing, that looked, for all intents and purposes, like a gingerbread house. “That!”

    “Oh, it’s a… cabin… you know… a local style.” The cabin was built using timbers of the ekvm trees, which were more like overgrown fungi. The planks did not die upon harvest, but continued to grow, creating a seamless, solid, medium-brown structure. When they did finally die, a bacterial colony consumed the planks, burning off the organic materials and leaving behind a solid, mineralized structure that was darker in hue. At the height of the bacterial activity, blooms of white crud appeared on the edges, and in spots here and there, where multi-colored colonies of other bacteria sometimes recolonized. These colonies could remain intact for decades after the structure was fully ripened. “Not completely ripe, yet, obviously.”

    Barbara got out of the sled, and approached the cabin. The closer she got, the biologically active nature of the cabin became the more obvious. It stank. It was warm. It was attracting local insect-equivalents.

    It was like home.

    “I… Could we… locate our embassy here?”

    “What???”

    The embassy construction still had not begun. Siting was a big issue. “None of the kingdoms would mind, if it’s here. In that cabin.”

    “But… But the majesty of…” Barbara had already broken all sorts of protocol by revealing her true appearance to the Kryzlamei. To locate the embassy at a peasant cabin? The Council would have both their heads for sure.

    Still, they had listened to Barbara so far. The Kryzlamei were a different kind of subject species, and they required a different approach. “I will speak to the Archambassador about this.” She stroked the surface of the cabin. It felt alive.

    It made Barbara feel alive.

  2. abhijit jiwa

    Axel had awoken early as usual. The 5-mile mandatory jog completed, he was taking a break from the stream. The soothing gurgle of the rippling water cooled his nerves. One of the biggest challenges of being a top operative for XCI (Executive Counter Intelligence) was to have cool neves. They had shot up here really quick and it was all he could do to train himself to keep calm. Flowing water was a sound he used pretty often to calm down.
    He hated periods of inaction. When he was in the thick of the action, his nerves were absolutely calm. It was during these times when everything was still, and nothing happening, that his nerves began to climb the octaves of jitteriness.
    This was the sixth day of nothing happening. And he was getting wound up beyond normal. Why did they assign him here? He had run his brain through every possible explanation, and always came up blank. This was something he couldn’t put his finger on. They said it was a testing process.
    “Of what” he had asked Timothy. No answer came. He would see, was all the response he got.
    “Why me?” Axel had asked.
    “Because you are our top trusted executive” Timothy had replied.
    “We don’t trust anybody else with this. Believe me, this is big. Very big” was all Timothy volunteered.
    And that was the end of the briefing. All he needed to do was stay at the cabin for as long as he was told to.
    Axel fingered the earpiece stuck inside his ear. He was told to wear it at all times. Even during his sleep. Communications needed to be 24 hours non-stop. He closed his eyes and felt his gun stuck in his belt behind his back. It was a reassuring gesture. His breathing returned to normal.
    The wait was killing him. Test for WHAT??
    He looked up at the stream. It wound its way gently all along his five-mile jogging track. The terrain was rock strewn and the forest seemed to wall up a few miles around him. Pine trees all along the horizon as far as he could see. They said he had nothing to worry, as a 100 km radius sector was cordoned off, with the military securing the area 24/7. Yes, he concluded. Whatever this was, it was big.
    “Axel…..” the earphones crackled.
    “Yes, Tim, I’m here,” Axel replied.
    “Stand by for instructions” meaning keep alert.
    “Roger that” Axel replied.
    The earphones went silent. He felt a sudden coldness all around him.
    He walked with a lanky gait, pulling the ground below him easily. The stream glinted the early morning sun like diamonds sparkling.
    Suddenly he heard a slight crackling sound behind him. He turned around, his hand snapping to his gun. Instinctively he knelt down.
    The act of kneeling down seemed to draw the air from his lungs, and he momentarily felt like he was blacking out. A crackling sound in his ears. He gasped for breath, raking the oxygen in. His eyes seemed to have fogged a little. He rubbed them and the fog cleared.
    Axel froze. Something was not right. He looked around.
    The stream seemed to have disappeared. His jaws slackened.
    He stared at the landscape unbelievingly. Gone were the pine trees. Gone was the rocky landscape. Instead, now all around him was the orange tinted sand of Nevada. Desert landscape surrounded him. Suddenly dis-oriented he felt his legs go weak.

    Axel was considered the top in his outfit. An ex-Navy seal he was hand picked by XCI to operate in missions not many men could handle. He was a prize. He had never backed out of an assignment.
    But this one stumped him. What in holy hell was happening? He looked up to spot the cabin, but the cabin seemed to have disappeared.
    “What the….!” he said into the mic hoping Tim could hear him.
    “You okay Axel?” Timothy’s voice seemed to come from an alternate realm. Axel was in a stupor, or so he thought. Maybe somebody had drugged him.
    “What the hell is happening to me? Did you guys drug me? I’m seeing things. How the hell did I get to Nevada so soon?”
    “You have not been drugged Axel” Timothy’s voice replied.
    For the next hour, Axel explored the strange Nevada-ish landscape around him, answering all the questions Timothy asked.
    “We want you to videotape what you see Axel” Timothy said.
    Axel reached for his mobile and set the phone to record.
    “Okay, am taping,” Axel said.
    “Good,” Timothy said. “There ‘s a big rock ahead. Round the corner and tell us what you see”.

    Axel walked to the rock and carefully turned around the bend.
    And he stopped. His jaw slackened even more.
    He gaped, not comprehending what he was seeing.
    Ahead of him was green grass, a single pine tree, and below the pine was one of the most beautiful gingerbread house he had seen only in his imagination as a kid.
    “What the….!! A gingerbread house?? Now what? Is this a Disney dream?””
    Timothy seemed to be chuckling in the background.
    Axel could sense other people around Timothy. Probably all laughing at him back at base. He still couldn’t understand what was happening. A gingerbread house in Nevada…? What happened to the stream?
    Timothy’s voice came back on.
    “Axel, count to ten and then snap your fingers. See you back at the base”
    “10…9….8….7…..” Axel counted.
    “4…3…2….1….” SNAP!!!
    Suddenly the same misty shroud came back on, and the Nevada desert seemed to melt away, and he was back in his pine tree forest.
    Axel stood still, stunned. He had never seen anything like this.
    The chug chug chug sound of an Apache filled his ears.
    They were coming to pick him up.

    They called it “Gingerbread”. For the simple reason, there were bread rolls on the table when they were asked to name it. The result of five years focused work, this was way beyond cutting edge. Gingerbread WAS the future of military technology. This was so huge that the world would never get to hear about it for at least a decade.
    Timothy, the head of intelligence at XCI (Executive Counter Intelligence) had said that all he could promise was this could stay under wraps for a decade, give or take a year or two. After that, the world would get wind of it.
    X-MIRAGE was the name given to it. Codenamed “GINGERBREAD”.
    The official name was HVET, Holographic Virtual Environment Technology. The ability to project in real time and all weather, a holographic wrap around the environment in any given target location on earth. The uses were endless. Imagine putting a seething ocean all around the enemy forces. Imagine making pilots of fighter aircraft think they were about to crash into a mountain? Timothy said they could fine tune it so they could overlay a different screen onto laptops of enemies. A mirage.

    As the helicopter took off, Axel leaned back and relaxed for the first time. His nerves were calm. He sighed.
    “Is this helicopter real…?” He wondered.

  3. JosephFazzone

    Merry was the approach, as my mind meandered with measured ministration, mingling with the mist of the meadow. I made my way into this melancholy metropolis of pine and cone.

    Every estimable effort involved evolved from every ounce of my intellectual energy wasted, evenly dispersed about the field of consciousness.

    Reminded of my remorse, I reminisced my route to render a relation between rational reality or ruminations into the radical.

    Really not the point, relaxing as I realized my response to the current situation requires something a bit more robust in reaction.

    Yawning years of yellow icing across the awning and roof, ginger spiced breaded walls, cemented together with icing. You could barely yearn youthfully for a more decorated house yonder in front of my yowling gaze, yanking on the old heart strings.

    Space – Always the need for some.

    Christmas, cause, and causation casually created this conscious casualty, concerning my cessation of cerebral connections with current affairs, I currently had no one to blame, but my clueless countenance.

    How many hours have I been standing in front of this house?

    Right now, my heart was racing, reticent to respond ridiculously and run off into the reddening horizon behind the receding sun reduced my chances of refining my reflections for a remote point elsewhere.

    I felt like an idiot, interjecting imbecile, inside of the inches of infinite impromptu individual moments of ideas, insanely invented to involve me in incidents like these.

    So many stupid situations exactly like before. Suspense had surrendered, and safely I assumed something substantial should supply itself if I wanted to salvage and seek out surviving.

    The totality of my torment was upon me as the door tumbled, and tumultuously thrust open. Taking in my terrified take, and the trembling tough tussle I took, there was a total opposite of my expectation.

    Made of mirth, manufactured from marshmallow, mistletoe, merriment, and mystical metaphor, the man stood before me on the mango orange matt.

    Although I was not allowed moments to automatically lock myself into attachment to this auspicious asylum, I froze in shock at the figure before me.

    Sized stupendously in slacks and suit sewn in red cloth with white trim, shoes soiled with soot, black belt buckled belt. Silvery swirls of the curly beard slowed their crawl just short of the shoulder. Santa stared at me, sighed slowly, sternly said, “No Solicitors”, and slammed the door.

    M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S

    1. writer_sk

      Joseph! Nice to see you back. Still waiting for you to sing another entry!

      Anyway- interestingly illuminating alliteration. (That’s all I could manage.) you came up with so many like-sounding words together. Impressive.

      I like the mean Santa at the end.

    2. Kerry Charlton

      I am so glad I came back to poke around. This had to be very difficult to handle but was perfectly clear in it’s motive. Loved the last line. I always wanted to say that, finally did and then said I was sorry. The little red head was certainly too cute to pick on

  4. pven

    Gewundenster are meant to confuse you: to obscure unique landmarks and hie away the ticks and dots you may set as guideposts on your journey. To pick your way along a gewundensten is to challenge your carefully drawn map with every step, to rely on will and grit to shove the worry beneath your gut and into your feet.

    I worry that night will fall before I find the witch’s hut. I worry that I will have to camp in these dark overgrown woods, to find some bit of flat earth amongst these tightly knit roots.

    I practically stumble upon the house in the waning twilight. Tree roots thrust up against the gingerbread walls, molding yet still sturdy at the foundation. Branches bend low and tap against the clear sugar windows. I duck to push open the peppermint stick door, yet still strike my head on the rock sugar-encrusted fondant gutter.

    The interior is stale. A thick layer of floury dust lines everything. To my left, a cage hangs from a pecan log beam, next to a cold oven presumably still holding the previous occupant’s ashes. A cauldron lays on its side. To my right, a pile of straw lies moldering beneath an ornate quilt. Next to it stands a short bookshelf crammed with a hodgepodge of tomes, notebooks, and paper. At either side and in front sit nearly empty chests around which are a scattering of jewels that had been dropped as the witch’s last victims had abandoned their prison.

    They were kids. Terrified for their lives. They didn’t think to look for the witch’s knowledge. They hadn’t considered that with the witch gone, they’d found shelter.

    I thumb my torch on and peruse the spines on the bookshelf.
    * Llewellyn’s Practical Magick…
    * Alnwick’s Encyclopaedia of Herbal Remedies…
    * Gallic Home Baking…

    More attempts to obscure. Priceless tomes, to be sure, but placed to direct my attention away from the true prize – the grimoire holding the secrets to baking a house that could withstand the ravages of time, let alone the brittle Germanic weather.

    I pull the bookshelf away from the gingerbread wall. Nothing there. I toss the straw ticking bed. Again nothing. I sigh and cast my eyes about the cottage. It’s small. There aren’t many places to hide.

    I stare at the table beside the oven, covered with dust except for one rectangle next to the cauldron. Had someone already found this cottage, taken the witch’s notebook? No. The floor had been undisturbed until I had entered. I look closer and see a dusty layer hovering a few inches above the tabletop, shimmering in and out of view.

    Had the witch hid the book in a fae cupboard? A slot in between this world and that of the fairies that had molded our tales of old?

    I squat in front of the table and plunge my hand into the space, grabbing nothing but air, moving nothing but dust.

    Another twist in the path.

  5. Sonyahetan

    The first day I meet her and the last time I saw her part II

    Allie was running as if gravity had been weakened by a sudden change in the orbital distance of earth, leaping as effortlessly as a kangaroo exploring mars—her singing run, run, run as fast as you can Doppler shifted out of range. I gave chase and to my amazement my previously cemented shoe feeling was absent; I now progressed as silver-tongued and sustained as a well-lubricated uncle. I moved not as a person walking down the street does, but rather with razor-sharp skates gliding on ice.

    It began to snow, particles of perfect confectionery sugar floated carefree of intent, some landing on my tongue making my taste buds tango. I couldn’t see or hear Ally anymore but it didn’t matter, I was baking with excitement. I explored this new place that was so familiar but so strange. I skated down side streets separated by tootsie-rolls, through alleyways of graham crackers and jumped fences made out of pretzels. I spun around street lamps that were serpentine-stripped candy canes and rang doorbell’s that squished like dots. I ran from people I ran from the baker and his wife too then come a pig, cow, and hair who joined the chase around the square. Suddenly a voice, you’ll never catch me I’m the ginger—

    She’s not getting away this time I thought skating in the direction of Allie’s voice as fast as I could. It’s too late. Ellie was gone, again. She was gone but there was something else there. I was standing in front of my childhood home. It was exactly as I remember; even the rotted out wood on the front porch that left holes for children to put things they want to disappear were missing from the graham cracker planks that now replaced them. The front windowpanes where icing colored exactness; rocks leading friends from the driveway to the door where chocolate covered cookies and Mike and Ike pieces were the points on the decorative star on the front door. At that moment like the color of yolk shown on the inside. They’re home I gasped. I had walked up to the door and just as I was about to ring the bell a tiny light colored fluff of a ginger girl was standing there staring as confused as I was.

    “Who is it, pumpkin?” A soft voice from somewhere behind her asked. Then shuffling like movement bringing more to the door.

    “It’s Hans L,” said the ginger gal. The red circles making up her eyes and mouth making a confused cookie before stuttering, “but he’s human.”

    “HUMAN!” A voice shouted.

    “AHH! Another followed.

    My ginger parents placed themselves between us.

    “Quick, close the door,” my ginger mom said.

    “Stay behind me,” suggested my ginger dad.

    Yellow light flanked me from all sides from neighboring houses ginger people had started making our way toward us. A mob of ginger folk had formed during the commotion, steadfast and determined they were chanting…

    “Get the human, we need his vanilla flavored—” A ginger-man coughed cinnamon.

    “Save the children!” came a scream.

    “HELP US ALL ginger-god. He’ll eat us all.”

    I tried yelling, “I don’t even like gingerbread,” but all that came out were crumbs. That looked like evidence in the snow. They started throwing mints and chocolate chips as hard as ice. They were advancing faster with the sound of a fist wrapped in cotton candy punching the hull of a ship. To them, I was a monster with a sweet tooth and they didn’t want to share. That’s when I heard Allie… run, run, run as fast as you can.

    And that’s when I woke up in the hospital staring at my nurse. Her nametag read Allie. She was holding a plate of gingerbread cookies.

    “Welcome back,” she said.

    1. writer_sk

      What a trip!

      Glad you continued your story! I liked the details of all the types of candy. Allie’s song was so haunting. I noticed comedic points in the story, too.

      Great how this was packed with descriptions. I thought it was well done.

  6. Smileyface256

    Sophie paused. The trees were more pink than they had been a minute ago and seemed to have…crystalline bark. What looked like cotton candy hung from the branches like baby blue Spanish moss. This particular world had seemed a little unstable…had she passed into another dimension without realizing it? That would be a first. She cautiously sniffed a blue tendril that hung close enough to the ground. Well, it smelled like cotton candy. Could be toxic, though.

    Sophie turned around and retraced her steps, hoping the cave she’d passed earlier was uninhabited. Though judging by her luck, it probably housed a gingerbread bear or something. Gingerbear? A gingerbear with ginger beer eating ginger bread while being watched by a ginger? Sophie chuckled; she’d have to file that for later.

    She broke into a jog as the sky grew darker by the minute; she’d underestimated the speed of this planet’s solar rotation. An animal howled in the distance and Sophie drew her electroblade, just in case. Night predators were never something to toy with.

    A sliver moon broke through the clouds, refracted light filtered through the crystal trees, the pale blue tendrils floated on a gentle wind. Another howl broke the silence, closer than before. Sophie’s spine tingled and she broke into a run. The cave should have come up by now, but the scenery showed no sign of changing back. The wind shifted, and Sophie swore she caught a whiff of cinnamon. He mouth watered but she didn’t dare slow down. She had to find a safe place to hide before whatever animals were in this dimension found her.

    She glimpsed a light in the distance and felt a slight bit of relief. The smell of cinnamon grew stronger as she approached a building with light filtering through frosted glass. As she got closer she noticed the white trim around the windows and corners of the building, the fake icicles hanging from the eves, the doorknob that looked suspiciously like a peppermint candy…

    “Holy crimenellie,” she muttered. “It’s a freaking gingerbread house.”

    A gingerbread house full of booming voices and the rise and fall of boisterous laughter.

    She sheathed her sword but hesitated at the door. There was always a 50/50 chance that entering strange places led to a night spent in the local jail. In one dimension it had led to child services, but they were unprepared to handle Sophie’s level of “teenage delinquency,” as they called it. She had just wanted to keep her weapons and get out of there, so what if she literally blew a hole in the wall? They could fix it…probably.

    The howl echoed through the trees, even closer than before. Resigned, Sophie raised her hand and knocked.

    Nothing happened. With the amount of noise coming inside, she shouldn’t have been surprised. With a sweaty hand, she tried the doorknob. It turned easily. She pushed the door open.

    The smell of cinnamon immediately overpowered her senses, making her nose run and her eyes water. The building was one big open hall with a fire burning in the middle, fed by giant cinnamon sticks. The partyers paused in their merrymaking and turned to Sophie.

    She blinked. “Um, what?”

    They were all vikings…gingerbread vikings, sitting around long gingerbread table piled with pastries, sipping what was probably ginger beer, with beards made of chocolate frosting and weapons made of what Sophie hoped was hard candy.

    The largest gingerbread viking (ginger viking?) sat on a throne encrusted with green and silver gumdrops. He pointed at Sophie. “Intruder!”

    The ginger vikings reached for their weapons and shields.

    Sophie raised her hand with an air of authority. “Stop!”

    The vikings paused.

    This idea was completely bonkers and could possibly still get her killed, but there was always the off chance that it would work. She drew herself up to her full height of five foot nothing. “I am Thoria, daughter of Odin. He sent me here to wish you well, and to…” Her eyes roamed over the vikings, noting their chipped armor and weapons. “To praise you for your bravery! Truly, all of you have a place in Valhalla, the hall of Odin’s bravest warriors.”

    The ginger vikings turned to their leader.

    He stroked his beard, squinted at Sophie with his black frosting eyes. “Tell me then, goddess, why does Odin send his daughter to bring us yon tidings? Why not his crows?”

    Sophie put on a scowl, rested a hand on the knife on her hip. “It is not for a mere mortal to question the decisions of the gods. Unless you wish Odin to rescind his blessings, you should consider my presence and message to be a high honor and show me due respect.” Sophie whipped out her electroblade and switched on the blue glow.

    The leader leaned back, eye widened in fear. “Of–of course, goddess!” He scrambled out of his seat. “Please, be my honored guest.”

    Sophie smirked as she sheathed her sword. “Wise choice.”

    She spent the rest of the evening feasting as each of the ginger vikings regaled her with tales of past battles, each trying to one-up the other with how brave or strong they were. It turned out, there was a short bread nation across a nearby lake that they were constantly at war with. She also found out that the forest was made of rock candy and yes, that was cotton candy hanging from the branches.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________
    She never did find her way that other dimension. Didn’t matter though; that was the best con she ever pulled, even if it was on a bunch of sentient baked goods.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a fun story, descriptions of sights and smells were perfect, the red headed Vikings were an unexpected treat, but this was, after all, a world that seemed a bit unstable. Great take on the prompt.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved every word of this, so imaginative. It was and wasn’t a childrens story. I think you might consider using your MC and let her have other adventures. She is a very likeable girl.

    2. writer_sk

      Smiley-

      Well done. Glad you’re continuing with installments of Sophie’s inter dimensional travel. I appreciate the bits of characterization between action. You’ve done well placing her in a world each time.

      My only critique is I would like to be reminded where she is ultimately going and why. In other words I forgot what Odin’s story is.

      Excellent work. It felt like the hobbits’ world inside the little house. Loved it.

  7. terrinkern

    Ginger Nightmares
    I walked the old beaten path slowly, my heart all a flutter. It had finally happened Jace the Miller’s son had asked for my hand. A smiled edged across my freckled cheeks and I ran my hands through my long blond hair. Eyes closed and I let my feet take me down the old familiar path. My mind wondered and I imagined a life with my love, away from my awful stepmother and the father that hadn’t protected us.

    Just as, in my mind, I was making my way to the altar to be beside him I tripped on something and flew, my head slamming into the dirt. I found myself staring up at the sky. I didn’t move for a moment. My head hurt and the slightest movement gave a dull ache.

    Why was the sky so dark, I wondered? It had been lighter when I’d left, hadn’t it? I slowly pushed myself up, grinding the pain in my teeth. I looked around. The path seemed odd. I had walked this path a hundred times but I couldn’t remember this place on it. My eyes darted around searching for something I recognised. I pushed up further and staggered back the way I’d come. As the pain dissipated I began to move quickly, trying to find a tree, a stump, or a rock that I remembered. My breathing came in ragged breaths and my eyes were so focused on the area to the sides I almost ran into the oddly made fence the path ran into. My hands stopped me just before.

    They stuck slightly as I pulled them back from the smooth white surface and the slight smell of peppermint filled the air. Something about the smell of desserts had always made me gag since i was a kid. I covered my nose quickly just as the smell mixed the smell of burning ginger. I looked up at a blackened corpse of a little shack. Jagged shaped slices of sweets overrun with insect shells and mold were scattered all around.

    Feeling dazed I felt my legs pulling me toward the door that had once been held shut by a black chair shaped from gingerbread. It and the door seemed to crumble at my touch. Just inside were two chard skeletons. The bigger slumped over a very small one, a knife with a bone handle still in its claw like fingers.

    To her horror the little scorched bones of the smaller one twitched and the tiny hand reached out toward her. The chest pushed into a sitting position. The head slowly turned toward her. It’s mouth opened. “WHY?” It screamed.

    She sat up looking around the colorless room she knew instantly as Jace’s family cottage. Her one haven. Jace leaned in and hugged her as she felt the tears stream down her face and just as the silent sobs started she heard him whisper, “Gretel, who is Hansel?”

    1. madeindetroit

      Love your premise here. Nightmares always promise an interesting story and yours doesn’t disappoint. Just one comment. The POV seemed to have shifted the last two paragraphs. Did I miss something?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Exce;ll;ent writing, tension is vetry high. Killer last question. Your description of house and interior is totally frightening. Tiny slip about the POV, easy to fix. This one made me shiver, great job.

      2. terrinkern

        Nope you got it right. Sorry about that. It’s normally my go to POV and I kind of slipped into it without thinking. Thanks for your comment and time. I hope it didn’t detract to much.

    2. pven

      So… you’re suggesting that fairy tales spin a bit of revisionist history? Perish the thought!

      I particularly liked this sentence: “They stuck slightly as I pulled them back from the smooth white surface and the slight smell of peppermint filled the air.” This is a well-done “show, don’t tell” moment where you make it obvious that the fence is made of peppermint without saying: “the path ended at a peppermint stick fence.”

      There are a few typos in here that can be picked apart after a solid proofread, but one that made me chuckle: the chard skeleton.

      I can imagine in a world of sweets, a chard skeleton being a truly nightmarish thing.

  8. ShamelessHack

    And ‘lo it came to pass that the Angels came to hasten the family out of the corrupt and evil City. And among the women were Jenner’s wife and daughters and ‘lo his stepdaughters, and their servants, of which there were many. Very many.

    And ‘lo all who were fleeing the doomed City of Hollywood—the city of gluttony, avarice, pride, sloth and fornication (much fornication)—all were commanded by God to cast their gaze ahead and not look Back, as the City was now to be destroyed by His mighty Hand.

    But ‘lo the Wife of Jenner, as she walked behind her husband, would not be restrained or administered, even by the Lord’s edict. The arrogant wife looked Back from behind Jenner and gazed at the City and, ‘lo, she turned into a Pillar of Gingerbread.

    Shielding his eyes from the destruction, as the Lord had commanded, Jenner reached back and broke off in his hand a piece of the Gingerbread wife, and tasted it.

    “Hmm. Krispy Kris,” uttered Jenner, chewing with unbidden yet welcome Relief. Then his eyes cast forward, as he and his daughters and stepdaughters and their many, many servants made their way across the blighted land. (Genesis, 19:15)

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Thou art a jewel of the rarest kind. How you managed to eat your wife and get through the Writer’s Digest filter is a miracle itself. (Sorry, but you laid it out and I jumped at it. )

    2. Bushkill

      Verily, it seems to me that the Lord Has smote the land with hellfire and damnation, the very air burns and it is as if the gates of hell have opened on Rodeo Drive.

      Nice writing, hack.

  9. GrahamLewis

    THE GINGERBREAD ILLUSION

    Lunch had ended at the lodge, on a delightful summer day. Standing on the veranda watching the sun cast its beams through the trees and across the lawn, I turned to my bride. “Let’s walk to the lake.”

    “Do you think it’s safe? It’s a long way.”

    “Of course it’s safe. We have our lives before us and it’s our honeymoon. We can spare a couple hours. What can go wrong?”

    We set out on a well-marked woodchip-covered trail that wound through a wildflower bedecked meadow. But when we entered the canopy of the ancient forest, thick branches joined overhead and the sun made only rare, dappled appearances. We could hear birds but not see them. I thought I saw a bat, but kept that to myself. Mosquitoes were stirring. Rustlings and other subtle sounds suggested this might not have been my brightest idea. I wondered about bears. I wanted to turn back but no groom wants his bride to realize, right-off, that he’s more Danny DeVito than Daniel Boone. Best to let her find out for herself, incrementally. I kept quiet and hoped. Maybe prayed.

    We arrived and watched the gentle waves lap the rocky shore as gulls squabbled in the distance. Blue water, green trees, silver lake. Better than any photo.

    She turned to me. “It’s so beautiful. Thanks for talking me into coming..”

    “You’re welcome,” I said absently, scanning the trees, trying to remember where our trail began. Not a clue.

    “Let’s go back,” she said. I agreed but held back, hoping she’d lead. But she didn’t.

    I saw three openings and opted for the third one. “C” is always the go-to choice on exams.

    After 20 or so minutes I knew we were lost. I was about to admit it when she gave a little squeal of delight. Up ahead was a gabled white house with green trim, whose porch was decorated with turned posts, cornices, and curving corner brackets. Gracefully carved ridge boards decorated the roof peaks. A sign announced the “Hidden Lake Haven. Gifts and Treats.”

    She turned to me. “It’s beautiful. You know I love these gingerbread-styled houses. And you were acting like you were lost. Fooled me totally. Let’s go in.”

    We did, and while she was haggling over some knickknack with a cashier, I surreptitiously asked the proprietor for directions back to the lodge. For now anyway, I would be Daniel Boone.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Hack, you have no idea how I struggled to come up with a pair of names who were polar opposites in terms of savvy, a woodsman and a sort of clown. Daniel Boone and ??. They were the best I could come up with. And there was the risk with Danny DeVito that millennials and beyond might not recognize the character as Louie in “Taxi”.

    1. writer_sk

      GL I enjoyed this. I thought your daniel and Danny reference worked well. I couldn’t come up w an alternative….was trying!

      The way it ended was cool, brought it all back to what he’d hinted at.

      The first paragraphs were nicely written. I always like a scene setter.

  10. Kerry Charlton

    AN EASY WAY OUT

    So many years ago, it is hard to remember how many, my older brother Bill and I walked the old Civil war trenches the north had dug to protect Washington from the advancing southern army of Lee. We lived in Fairlington, Va., just south of Washington. Our Dad had been transferred to work in Washington in 1944. Bill and I hated leaving Philadelphia and being crammed in a second floor apartment.

    The trenches however, were a five minute walk through the surrounding woods as our apartment city had been carved from the deep trees and it started 500 feet from our doorstep.

    “Bill, it’s getting quiet and dark, I feel frightened.”

    “Oh bull, it’s just the trees hiding the light. We‘re coming to a clearing ahead, it‘ll be brighter there.”

    “I don’t remember any spot of these woods without trees.”

    “Well it’s right ahead, don’t worry.”

    We burst into the opening and across a clearing, a small house stood, but maybe it wasn’t a house. It smelled, not a bad smell. Large monkeys surrounded the house and were chewing the stone brick only it wasn’t brick it was ginger bread.

    “Bill, the monkeys have wings, like, like…..”

    “They’re not what you think, they’re not the flying monkeys from OZ. They’re buzzards.”

    An old woman of fifty or so came from the front door and waved,

    “Come boys, I have some cool punch inside and you can split one of the ginger bread bricks on the house.”

    “No thank you,” Bill said, “We’re not hungry.”

    We started to run for the woods but what we thought were buzzards rose in the air and chased us across the clearing.

    “I told you Bill, they are the monkeys, damn!”

    Bill made the edge of the clearing and safely jumped into the trees but I was slower and felt four monkeys grab my arms and legs and rose up in the air. I screamed my head off and Bill reappeared and with his slingshot, peppered the monkeys with small rocks. Four of the pint sized apes picked him up also and dropped both of us through the brick chimney. atop the steep roof.

    I hit the coals at the bottom of the log burner, luckily it wasn’t lit. Bill fell on top of me and it felt like a ton of real brick hitting me.

    “Ouch, why is it always me that gets hurt.”

    “Quit you complaining Kerry, we’re in deep do-do. Look at the old woman.”

    Her mouth was open as she cackled,

    “Come young ones, you’re wanted for dinner.”

    “I don’t see any food on your table, you old hag,” I said.

    She cackled again through her rotted teeth,

    “You misunderstood, you’re not invited, you are the dinner, first you chubby. You look delicious.”

    Bill and I tackled her, tied her up with her apron strings and shoved her in the
    fireplace and struck a match.

    “Are you ready to make a run for it, Kerry? Grab the poker by the fireplace. We’ll sock those monkeys good if they try again“

    The old lady started to scream, the monkeys rushed in to save her as we rushed out. Still, some came at us from the sky and I knocked them silly as we ran. Bill used his slingshot on a couple.

    Deep in the woods, the light was gone but we were safe.

    “Kerry, now you remember every word of the story and tell Mom that’s why we’re late, you get it?”

    “I just hope she believes us, if not, we’re headed for a good spanking.” .

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks JR, always happy to hear from you. The nostalgia hit me also. The 40’s were a curious period, warm and fuzzy home life but also seeing the horrors of war at the news films in the movies. Too young to really understand until I saw the death camps in film.

        1. JRSimmang

          I have family who survived the horrific events of WW2 in Poland, and I’m lucky enough to have their stories preserved in photos and trinkets that have traveled to me through the decades. It’s always fun to read the subtext of your stories. Lots of wisdom there.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you for the nice reply. Glad you enjoyed it. The forests were everywhere around our apartment city
          Now they’re town.homes.sixty years later and lots of dollars to own one.

    1. writer_sk

      Hi Kerry,

      The backstory of the property around the house was a great way to transport reader to that time.

      Visual of the flying monkeys added another level to this fun piece.

      Nice work!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The back story is always fun to write and you probably know by now most often it is real or was back in ancient history. Thanks so much for stopping by and your comments are always appreciated.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hi Reatha, thanks for your response. I knew when I wrote the word fifty you would respond to it
        I thought you might be thirty the way you write and of course a ‘looker’
        Seriously, when I was eight, fifty looked ancient to me.

    2. Bushkill

      Loved it. I’m not a fan of flying monkey’s at all and believe they should be beaten with fireplace pokers on first-encounter. … But I might have a condition.

      Come to think of it, I remember spankings, too.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Bushkill, always glad to hear from you. Glad you liked it, I was laughing through most of it while writing. I lost my older brother a couple of years ago and get very nostalgic writing about our adventures together. He was four years older and I gave him a hard time being a nuisance most of the time. I think I was spoiled rotten being the baby of the family, now all are gone except me. It’ not a comfortable position to be in.

  11. JRSimmang

    WHEN IT RAINS ICING

    The path had softened since the rains to a slippery slurry, and the slurry stuck to Geberhart’s feet. He always hated what the rains did to everything. The tree branches above his head sagged, mirroring him, as he trudged through the thick and homeward.

    Home, the indisputably hostile outpost, was only a few more paces, and he couldn’t wait to get into a new argument with his mother. His sarcasm was only ever a defense mechanism. His father had partially melted in a factory accident when Geberhart was a young bun, and he had never recovered. He only mumbled through a malformed mouth, gaze out through one glassy eye, and hobble along on a perpetually snapped leg.

    His father wanted to move to the country, and now he can’t even enjoy it.

    Geberhart hesitated before gripping the doorknob. The house was crap and getting crappier. The constant moisture in the air was eating through the spackling, and the roof was oozing the most recent rains in between the boards causing them to bow out.

    “Get your a$$ in the house, already,” his mother shouted from the window.

    He felt himself bristle and turned the knob.

    “Hi… mom,” he muttered.

    “Shut the door and get in the kitchen. I need help putting the final touches on the human-bread house.”

    Every past Christmas flashed through his mind, and he kicked himself for not remembering the human-bread house. Every year they put one together. Every year, it ended in a mess of tears, shouting, and scrambling to catch the humans before they got out the front door.

    “This year, I’ve slipped mickies in their drinks,” his mother confided. “Worked for you and your brothers when you were younger.”

    “So you say every year,” he said. “Where’s Fillion and Dancy?”

    “They’ll be here,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand.

    “Hey, dad.” Geberhart put his hand on his dad’s arm who kept his one good eye trained on the TV. “Any improvement?”

    “I tried molding a new pair of eyes, but I think I got the oven temperature wrong, wound up with biscotti,” his mom shouted from the kitchen. “Get in here! One of them is starting to stir.”

    Geberhart left his father in the living room and joined his mom. On the dining room table, their human-bread house stood a towering masterful centerpiece. “Woah,” he breathed. “Mom. That’s incredible.”

    “It’s not inedible,” she snorted.

    “You’ve really outdone yourself this year.”

    “And you’ve done nothing to help.”

    He leveled his eyes at her. “You told me to be here today. You told me not to come sooner. You told me that I didn’t need to come any sooner than today.”

    “You should’ve heard my subtext.”

    “You don’t have subtext.”

    She was silent for a moment. “I know.”

    Geberhart opened his mouth to retort, but realized she uttered an admission. “You know?”

    “Look,” she turned to him. “I… I’ve been thinking about your father a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about those dammed elves who did this to him and the forest fire they caused afterward and the cracks that he’s showing and that I’m showing, and I… perhaps that’s why I did this.” She motioned to the house. “I just… I’m… I know I’m not easy.”

    Geberhart coughed.

    “I know I haven’t been… present.”

    Geberhart heard a scratching sound coming from within the human-bread house. “I think one of them is awake.” Then, he heard a tiny screaming.

    “Yep,” was all his mother said.

    “Look, mom, I don’t know what to say other than thanks.”

    She looked up at him with her pearly confectioned eyes and sighed heavily. “I just want you to know that it’s been hard since your father’s accident. And, perhaps I went a little too far sometimes, and I’ll try to… I will be a mom again, to you and your brothers.”

    “Anyone home?” Dancy’s voice lilted through the living room and into the kitchen. “Holy moley, mom, is that our human-bread house this year?”

    “Boys,” she gushed. “Come in. Come in. One of them’s awake, so start eating.”

    Geberhart and his brothers gathered around the dinner table and took their piece of the human-bread house. He thought about how human-men have always been his favorite holiday treat, and laughed at how his mother didn’t mind them eating dessert before dinner. Maybe, he thought, maybe this is the year when we start healing.

    -JR Simmang

    1. writer_sk

      Geberhart really got to me. I was picturing a sad little guy. The mom’s apology was on point. I thought the idea of a human-bread house was so grotesque. You had a planet of the apes type scenario going.

      Visuals of the father’s eye and melting house were so striking, telling and metaphoric with regard to the overall statement you made with your story.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        JR, I’ve reached a new high, eating breakfast and reading you at the same time
        Damn, I miss the Twilight Zone and your story is perfect for it. It fits like a glove and is the bones for a great episode. Your style in without doubt your own territory
        Hack said it a nutshell, bizarre on a magnificant way. Keep ’em coming.

  12. writer_sk

    PART 1

    After an hour had gone by Rye hadn’t worried about the length of time she had been heading home but when the readout on her phone said 16:15 she did feel a nervous queasiness churn in her stomach. Anxious by nature, she’d taken to hiking and being outdoors as a way to calm her busy mind. Now, aged 55, she thought of retiring but not of slowing down. She had got caught up talking to her next-door neighbor about the long autumn. He was an attractive widower with whom she’d grown closer. She hoped they’d go on a real date soon and she almost invited him on her walk when he suddenly retreated to his breezeway saying he needed to make a call. She tried not to think of work and how her once tidy home office was now strewn with patterns and her computer filling up with email. She was a tailor and dressmaker but was thinking of selling her designs and closing up shop. It had become too much work and she was planning her escape.

    Rye thought she would retire to the woods, her respite from the busy tedium of the career she’d created but so loathed. She had plans to work at the fabric store and maybe the bookstore or café. She had been set up for life by her deceased husband because he’d been such a successful businessman.
    The listing for the house was on a realty website but was now inaccessible. She knew it was located within the woods she now stood but could not recall any other details. The seller described the little house as being a “gingerbread house set in a magical oasis.” The fact that she could no longer view the listing bothered Rye and she wrung her hands and twitched at the thought of it. Ever since her Hugh had passed away in the car crash, her anxious worry had returned. He had always calmed her with a warm hand on the small of her back, a reassuring nod when she wondered if it would all work out, a bubble bath and cup of tea ready for her after she had dealt with a frenzied customer or a picky wedding party all being fit for expensive bridesmaid gowns.

  13. writer_sk

    PART 2

    At night, she would awaken, forgetting Hugh was dead and turn on the nightstand light, sure her heart would stop. On one such night she saw her handsome neighbor, Mayer, strumming his guitar with the pink coat his wife had always worn draped over his knee. She closed her eyes, and could hear the sounds of the The Band’s tune whose refrain pleaded “take a load off Annie/ take a load for free, take a load off Annie and/and you took the load right off…right off me.” Though Mayer was singing to himself or his dead wife, Rye imagined he was singing to her and let the beautiful sounds calm her soul. The next day she would invite him for coffee.

    Their date hadn’t gone well. The cat was sitting in the sun letting her tail swish back and forth and just as Mayer’s boot touched the threshold he began sneezing.
    “Cats?” he asked
    “Allergic?” Rye confirmed.
    They tried sitting out back but it was too cold. Mayer seemed distracted and aloof. Maybe he wasn’t ready to date. Maybe he didn’t like Rye and her nervous energy. They ended their visit saying they’d go out for a proper dinner “some Friday.”

    She watched as he pulled away to go to work the next morning, smoke from his tailpipe hanging in the dead winter air.
    In the woods, the smoke from a nearby chimney caught Rye’s attention and she thought she might ask someone to point her to the clearing from which she entered this maze. As she approached the house, she noticed it was the house from the real estate listing and in the backyard someone was chopping wood.
    She approached the man. He was silent and serious in his answers. Calm. Just her type.
    Rye wondered when she’d become so desperate and needy for men’s attention. When he stood, he looked like a mixture of Hugh and her neighbor, Mayer.
    “Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee and some gingerbread, I’m about to throw this wood on the fire?”
    “Um, is your house for sale?”
    “I took it off the market and decided to stay. My wife died a year ago. I’m just not ready to move out. I built it.”
    Rye thought about her nervousness over her work, her days yearning after her neighbor and her nights mourning Hugh and decided to take a risk. She entered the house and sat down for a snack. The pair had a lot in common and Rye smiled as her date threw another log on the fire. She couldn’t help thinking everything happens for a reason.

    1. writer_sk

      Ok I got those song lyrics very wrong! Just looked it up. Ha. Oh well I have the gist.

      “Take the load off Fanny and you put the load right on me.” More something like that it says.

    2. JRSimmang

      As a standalone, I’m hooked. You’ve painted such a wonderful picture of Rye, and the personality of Mayer plays off hers so well. I normally don’t like so much exposition, but I’m thankful for Part 1. It set up the story for me.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Lovely tale. Great use of the term “gingerbread.” I seem to be seeing lots of book potential recently, and think this plot could qualify. I recently read there is a need for “mature” romance novels. Two suggestions, use Mayer’s name earlier in the story, and make the new guy have a cat. Good job.

      1. writer_sk

        Oh, really? Thank you. I really appreciate the feedback/praise especially coming from you because I admire your work.

        Great idea on the cat. Thanks.

        Am thrilled I made myself go do an entry this week.

        Mature meaning the age of the characters is like 50 and older? I love writing about any age but mostly stick to right out of college because that age is sort of “free” (from career/family) I once wrote about elderly and thought I could expand that. Anyway. I’m rambling. TY for the advice.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Drawn in immediately, I traveled with Rye and my thoughts were for her safety and the fact that she would meet the man of her dreams
          It looks like a great entry into s mystery where Rye
          and her new found friend solve mysteries as a team. You could take this anywhere with the two of them, let them become close friends and proceed from.there.

          1. writer_sk

            Thank u! That is a cool idea. I used to like reading the Nancy Drew Files (her and her team as adults)

            I appreciate your thoughts!

  14. Beebles

    ‘Anything, Darling?’

    Her heart skipped a beat when the only response was the wind in the canopy.

    ‘Er… no,’ Francis called at last. She breathed a sigh of relief as he reappeared through the trees.

    ‘Well, I’m sure we parked the Landie around here.’

    ‘Well it’s not anywhere in sight, is it Isabelle?’ The three hours they had been trudging through the god forsaken woodland added a lisp of irritation to his voice.

    ‘No need to snap, Francis.’ She pulled her pashmeena closer around her shoulders. ‘Why don’t you climb a tree, see if you can see if this bl00dy forest has an edge?’

    ‘What, in my Barbour? Why don’t you?’

    She waved a hand sarcastically from under the shawl. ‘Nails, Dear. I’ll not risk cracking one of these; I had to sit for two hours to get them how I wanted. They’ll let anyone open a nail salon these days.’

    ‘Oh, come on, let’s keep walking. Bound to find a farmhouse or a tea shop somewhere out here. It is bloody Berkshire after all.’

    They walked, careful to avoid the large clusters of puddles that seemed to punctuate the path ever twenty feet. For some reason they made Isabelle think of lying in her huge copper bath, wriggling her painted toes through the bubbles.

    ‘Do you remember that little artisan tea room in Bideford? Run by that pale eastern European looking girl. The place that served those funny homemade cakes?’

    ‘Do I ever,’ he replied, patting his forehead with a handkerchief. ‘Good thing I had a friend on the council. Her three children running riot in the kitchen. She won’t be opening another health hazard in a hurry.’

    ‘Well, they don’t have the same hygiene standards as … oh my! Look!’

    Isabelle pointed a slender finger to where a group of colourful cottages huddled in a small clearing.

    ‘At bl00dy last! I bet some bloody kids nicked the footpath signs.’

    ‘Oh?’ Isabelle had a look of bemused disgust on her face. ‘What on earth are these?’

    The cottages were uniform, like something a child would make, smooth brown walls and roof, each encrusted with outsized candy looking decoration. The smell of sugar pervaded the air. As Francis and Isabelle arrived in the middle of the confectionary conurbation a small, youngish, bleach-haired woman in a pinny emerged from one of the buildings sucking on her fingers. She stopped and stared at the couple with startled interest.

    ‘Hey, you, woman, where are we?’

    The woman paused, then smiled briefly. ‘In forest.’

    ‘We can bl00dy well see that,’ Francis trumpeted. ‘What are these?’ He pointed at the buildings.

    ‘Oh, these?’ the woman chirped in her thick accent. ‘These are for children.’

    ‘Children?’ trilled Isabelle. ‘Luring children out here with sweets? That’s perverted.’

    ‘I have a good mind to report you to Social Services,’ Francis added.

    ‘Hmm,’ said the woman thoughtfully, ‘there phone inside.’ She eased open the door to the nearest cottage, inviting them in. ‘Quickly, before children come. You spoil surprise.’

    It took a moment for their eyes to become accustomed to the dim light from the single sugar glazed window. There was nothing inside save for the four plain ginger walls and slab floor.

    ‘Doh svidanya. Be right back,’ the cook said and shut the door.

    ‘Where’s the phone?’ Francis called after here.

    Isabelle gave a squeak. ‘Did you feel that?’

    The ground shook again. And again.

    Bigger, louder, harder.

    ‘What the bl00dy …’ he said, peering out of the window.

    A huge eye filled the panes, looking back at him.

    Isabelle screamed as they felt the whole building lifted from the ground.

    ‘Christ!’ exclaimed Francis, holding tight, staring through the window. ‘Look at the enormous cavities in those teeth. Some parents shouldn’t be allowed to-.’

    1. JRSimmang

      Great setup and delivery, Beebles. There’s a genuine relationship between Francis and Isabelle, and I’m left wondering if they knew they were in an actual gingerbread house because of the last line. Does the young bleach-haired woman capture children the same way? If so, to whom does the huge, window-filling eye belong?
      The descriptions of setting were spot on. Nicely done.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I’m rather addicted to shows from across the pond, so I loved this story, and the nasty/nice couple who got exactly what they deserved, even though their dialogue was fantastic.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh, Beebles, the eye is definitely to the beholder
        Another ‘bones’ story for the twilight zone. You and JR COULD write a seasons worth of plots between the two of you. Nice work and I enjoyed the ladies and their nails.

  15. Big Tastey

    Ball bounced, as Ball often did, down the familiar wooded path, content and unperturbed. The smell of wild roses and the soft dappling of sunlight through the forest canopy filled her with peace and tranquility. She bounced higher here in the forest, filled with lighter air than when she was in the city. As she bounced around a bend in the path she saw a wondrous waterfall with a rainbow shimmering in its mist.

    “What a gorgeous sight!” Ball thought.

    The roar and constant fall of the water mesmerized her. She had never seen this waterfall before. She realized that she must have bounced far further today than she had ever bounced before. A loud noise behind her suddenly broke her tranquility.

    BADONKADONK

    She turned with a stup-stup-stup of little nervous bounces. Her air became heavier as she looked at a large bounce house slowly bouncing up and down on the wooded path. It was shaped like a gingerbread house, with white icing icicles hanging from its roof, and red candy canes adorning the sides of its door. Loose braided cords dangled from the corners of the house. Its windows, on either side of the door, looked sad.

    “She has somehow broken free from her moorings and bounced into the forest,” Ball thought. “no doubt from some children’s Christmas party.”

    Ball felt sorry for the house, lost here in the forest so far from home. With a stup-stup-stup she bounced up to the house. Slowly, they began to bounce.

    BADONKADONK-badonkadonk BADONKADONK-badonkadonk. In unison they bounced.

    Ball turned and she led the bounce house back to the city. BADONKADONK-badonkadonk.

    When they cleared the forest they saw children and adults fanned out in a line looking into the forest. A child saw them first.

    “Yay!” the child said.

    The child ran up to the bounce house and hugged its corner, and its windows, Ball thought, looked happier than before. Soon, the bounce house was surrounded by people who held its cords and guided it back home. With a last turn at the corner of a street the bounce house looked back at Ball and bounced once, BADONKADONK.

    bandonkadonk, Ball replied. Turning around, with air lighter than before, Ball returned to the forest and its familiar wooded path.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I needed this on a cold and dreary.Friday afternoon. At first read, a wonderful children’s story. At second read a guide upon how to survive in our world today. Thank you

  16. Bushkill

    A Midnight Clear

    “How long you gonna’ stand and stare down the path to where it ducks into the brambles? The other is smooth and grassy. Let’s take that one.”

    I listened to my buddy fuss with his coat some to keep out the cold. It had gotten dark. “I don’t think so, Hal. We’ve been forked on a number of trails now and I just wanna go home.”

    “How do you fix to do that, Mike? You know the way?”

    “No. I’m gonna turn around and retrace my steps. You’ll see.” I had pulled my favorite old, blue, work-a-day coat up over my neck because the wind howled from behind and we had stubbornly kept it at our backs the whole day. I figured, to get home, I’d just slog into it.

    So I turned. The change couldn’t have been more abrupt. The temperature shot up nearly 60 degrees and you could taste the sugar in the air. In front of me now stood the most beautiful home. Icicles hung from the eaves and snow mounded across its roof and chimney. The view was stunning. I even thought about unzipping my parka it had warmed so much so fast.

    “Hey, Hal, look at this!”

    Hal turned, grumbling turning to gaping shock and an expression similar to mine, though his coat was red. It looked as if the tiles of the roof had all the colors of the rainbow and they sparkled under the now-bright sun. Which gave me pause, but the dreamily dripping snow sloughing off window sills and sashes drew my attention elsewhere.

    Snow piled in majestic fashion on either side of the walkway leading to the door of the house. The path, lined with snowmen with perfectly formed and plump bottoms and pleasantly described geometry as they tapered upward wound from the house to the neighboring wood. Several snowmen seemed to stand guard with red and white hooked staves as if they could use the shepherd’s crook to snare an unwanted person from the stoop and send them on their way.

    A small pine in the front of the yard had decorations and baubles hanging from most of its branches. The rest of the tree’s limbs bore snow, and one, cheeky, squirrel. (I confess, the squirrel looked like a yellow bear. Bears aren’t often yellow, though. Puzzling.)

    Far off to one side of the house was a fire pit surrounded by dancing bears. I kid you not. Fire. Circle. Bears. Dancing. All right there in front of me.

    A monstrously large hand appeared out of nowhere and snapped Hal in half. Literally broke him into pieces. His arm dropped onto the path and rested next to his still-upright legs, anchored as they were in snow to the path. A button rolled off toward the house and it seemed as if the snowmen sneered. A shadow flitted across the ground and the scene went dark. Something latches onto me and twisted.

    Hard.

    Terror of an unknown nature leaped into my soul.

    1. JRSimmang

      The setup certainly made the ending satisfying. Great dialogue between them, and I liked the abrupt transition between reality and fantasy.
      Be careful of tense shifts (“Something latches – present – onto me and twisted – past -“), and passive voice (“Terror of an unknown nature leaped into my soul.”). These distract from your overall powerful narrative. Well done.

      1. Bushkill

        Thanks, JR. I saw the tense shift after I hit submit and hung my head in shame. The passive voice is something I struggle with. I’m better than I was, but still working on it. I appreciate the feedback. Always welcome.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Loved this a whole lot, even made me hungry until the last part of the story. Right on course with a candy themed terror ending. What are you guys eating this week?. Thought it brilliant with all the descriptive verse.

  17. thexant

    To whomever may find this note:

    Do not stray from the path. Do not misjudge your direction. Carry a compass, carry a map. Do not let what has happened to me, happen to you.

    Let me explain, you see, on December 14th 1934, I was out for a midday stroll. Walking down a path very near where I now reside. After what only seemed like some minutes, I recall hearing what sounded like an elderly woman crying out for help. I went off the path in an effort to help, but my search was met with failure. It was not long before I noticed that I had strayed very far from my original route, now completely surrounded by towering conifers and stranded in the snow. I began to trudge drearily uphill, in the direction I thought the path to be. But to my dismay, there was no path and the peak of the hill. Instead, there was a house peculiarly made of what appeared to be Gingerbread! I approached the building thinking it was some type of festive pop-up, and that I may find my much needed assistance. I tried to knock, but there was no response. I pushed the door in and entered the candy house. This was the beginning of my mistake.

    I explored the building and eventually reached the attic, where there sat a typewriter, dusty and adorned with cobwebs. Although, to my surprise it was in working order and had paper, as if its owner had prepared to write only to leave and never return. I took a few minutes to examine the typewriter until I began to feel a twisting sensation within my stomach. I assumed myself to be hungry, and broke a piece off of the window to eat. As I ate, I traveled down to the main floor of the house in order to exit. Only there was no exit. The door I had entered through had disappeared and left no trace, as if it had not existed just moments ago. I returned upstairs to exit through the window, as the snow was deep, and with the window not being very high, my fall would be bearable. The window was still there although the piece I had taken to satiate my hunger had been replaced. I didn’t believe there was anyone else in the house with me, as I would have seen them at some point. I broke another section of the window in order to crawl out, but within moments of breaking it, it had procedurally returned. Healing itself, as if it were a flesh of a living being.

    I began panicking, breaking the window quickly and trying to climb, only for it to regenerate itself within seconds. To make matters worse, when the window was broken and I could see outside, I would only be looking at a black expanse of nothing. Though the view from the window appeared entirely normal. I fell back, and landed on the floor. Sitting, I was not sure what to think. My mind couldn’t piece together a logical conclusion. I believe it was at this point I began to laugh! I had been laughing for perhaps ten, maybe fifteen minutes before I stopped.

    Now, I hear someone, or something. Something is approaching, coming up the stairs. Big and lumberly, though each and every step it takes is just a click, as if it is walking on stilts. I hope there is more than void beyond these walls, as I release this letter. Do not enter the house. Do not, do not!

  18. Sonyahetan

    That was the first time I met her and the last time I saw her.

    I met Allie on one of those online dating websites. Not my idea. My best friend Tom bought a one-month pass and created my profile as a birthday gift. It was both a joke and a gentle prod. My birthday was not for another six months, but I had not been on a date in 3x that either. He could smell my desperation like a cheetah hunting underwater. About a week after logging in I got a match and an email. It was from her, and we have talked every day since. She was quirky. She labeled us as having the same weird. She was smart too. That was four weeks ago and with my gift subscription about to expire I asked her out. I had a date.

    We decided to meet at the park. It was public enough for a first meeting but there were enough trails to walk on if we wanted. It was also the week the town was having their winter wonderland festival.

    I got to the park benches early; I had a huge smile and a lump in my throat. My foot was tapping a rhythm for a song I didn’t know. I cannot say for how long I sat there, long enough for day to allow advancement of night. I called Tom.

    He answered the line, “that bad, buddy?” His greeting made me smile.
    “She didn’t show, man.”
    “Really?” He paused for a breath. “That’s unusual It’s not a hook-up app. I mean you need to pay to use it, I mean, It’s not expensive but-” His voice represented his thoughts in real-time, “are you bummed, my friend?”
    “Nah,” I lied, “I’m just bored.”
    “Are there a lot of people there?” I was glad he changed the course of conversation.
    “A few. I heard a couple earlier say that this year’s winter village in the woods was the most realistic one they had ever seen. I might go and check that out.”
    “You should, who knows maybe something good will come out of something bad. You know, one door opens and anothe–”
    I did my best wise shaman impression, “ you speak the great and universal truth… tonight first round is on you.” I was half joking. I figured he owed me a night to drown my lost love connection and he should pay for it. After all, it was Tom that made me a profile and bought the membership. Just before I hung up the phone he said, “you know—don’t get down to fast something sudden could have come up. Accidents happen. Relax, she’ll call.” He paused, “Enjoy the winter village and I’ll see you later.” He was right. I needed to relax.
    I stood up from the bench and stretched my skeleton the maximum distance allowed by its evolution and took a deep breath. Young lungs I thought to myself and with that, I reached deep into my jacket pocket and pulled out a lighter and some of the natures natural. I thought about the thought process for the first person that overcame their fear, walked up to fire with a stick and decided to control it.

    *An unknown amount of time later*

    I had been to the park so many times. Even helped with the trails maintenance and upgrades. I knew the place well, but right now I was completely lost. The sun had sunk into the sea transforming shadows into heavy blankets hiding the forest floor. I must have been cold because my legs started to itch under my jeans. I slapped my legs hoping to stop the itching. That’s when I heard someone whisper.

    “You there, foxy.” It didn’t matter at all the words were non-threatening. My stomach set a recorded for the worlds fastest descent. I looked towards where I heard the voice. I couldn’t believe it. It was Allie.
    “I am so, so, so sorry, her speech was rapid and accelerated, “my car ran out of gas, my phone died—I had to bum a ride to the gas station to buy a portable container and-
    “Whoa, slow down,” I said. “First, hi.” I offered hands to shake, “Second, are you alright?” She walked past it and hugged me. “Business meeting lame handshake,” she said. I hugged her back while silently mouthed such a dunce. My legs no longer itched from the cold. There was heat in my loins. She was prettier than her online profile pictures. Her milk colored skin was as smooth as plastic and made her cerulean glacial colored eyes that intimate, her hair the color of a sunset. She had commercial perfect teeth. She was perfect and she brought with her a faint smell of gingerbread that made me think of home.
    “I thought you stood me up,” I said.
    “I thought for sure I’d miss you, but I had to try.”
    “I’m glad you did. Have you seen the winter village?” I managed to verbalize.
    She looked at me in a confused hound dog way. “I mean,” she started, “I just got here and haven’t been through it, have you?” She wasn’t looking at me anymore. Her eyes fixated on whatever was directly behind me.

    I spun an about face. My eyes feel upon a weird but familiar landscape. It was a lifesize replica of my hometown made entirely out of gingerbread and not just the town, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing there were gingerbread men and gingerbread woman, gingerbread kids throwing gingerbread footballs, and playing gingerbread basketball on a gingerbread court. Even the lake was there though it was filled with milk instead of water. I was not sleeping; no need for pinching, my inner consciousness told me as plainly that I was in my hometown as your conscious mind tells you that you are in yours. I tried moving but instead of progressing in a sane and dignified manner my attempt at forward advancement resulted in a feeling of heavy footedness as if my boots were encased in concrete. I looked toward Allie but in her place stood a life-sized cookie version of her singing run, run, and run as fast as you can…
    I shut my eyes.

    When I opened them I was horizontal staring into a soft white light in what I discovered to be a hospital bed. Tubes leading from my arm stretched off to my right plugged into plastic bags full of clear liquid. I rubbed my face as if I was washing off soap with a towel. To my left was Tom, half sitting and half laying on a couch too small for a child, his head being supported by his hand doubling as a drool basin. “Tom,” I roared. His eyes opened and he sprang to his feet as if lightning had pulled his underwear up to the clouds. “You’re awake,” he verbally crashed. “I can’t believe it, but you’re awake.” His tone suggested that the consensus was that I might never have.

    Tom and I talked for hours. He called my parents who were on their way. I learned that I had been in a car accident nearly a month ago. I was driving on the highway when the driver of a tractor-trailer fell asleep at the wheel and lost control.
    Accidents happen.

    1. writer_sk

      Sonyahetan-
      Wow I really liked this.

      I felt there were so many good lines and descriptions such as the MC’s “stretching his skeleton” the way Allie used the phrase “the same weird”. I thought your choices with wording were very well thought out.

      It ended just when it was getting good. I would’ve loved to have seen them go into the house.

    2. JRSimmang

      I’m with Sarah on this. There are so many vivid descriptions here, I was immersed.
      There are a few clunky lines (“…day to allow for the advancement of night,” “…maximum distance allowed by its evolution…”) where more concise diction would have been stronger and more in line with the MC’s personality (day advanced to night, stretched my skeleton to the maximum evolutionary limit, etc.). I, too, wanted his hallucination to be reality because the characters are interesting.

      1. Sonyahetan

        after posting it I read it and came to the same conclusion with regard to “clunky lines.” I’ll have a go at an additional few paragraphs in the hallucination and post them; after reading them through, of course. Thank you for the comments and kind encouragement.

  19. brookefischbeck

    I walk down the dark path, into the shaded path of the towering pines. The path lays there, untrodden on

    for years. The cool gaze of the ancient pines glares down on my back, and a chill creeps up my spine.

    “Della!” I hear my friend, Blake, call out to me. “Don’t be a chicken. Come on, the dare was for you to follow the path all the way back to your house.”

    “Can you please come with me?”

    “Why, you scared?”

    “No.” I was scared out of my wits, but I would never admit it. I was in eighth grade, so of course everyone’s opinions mattered to me at the time. I faced the path again, taking a tentative step forward.

    “Fine.” Blake said, then ran up to me. “We’ll do the dare together.”

    We walked down the path, further and further, widening into the eternity that was the forest on the edge of our town.

    “Should we have reached your house by now, Dells?” Blake said, scratching the back of his head in thought. I craned my neck to see down the path.

    “I think it’s just a little farther…” My sentence trailed off as we rounded a bend in the road. A huge golden gingerbread house stood in front of us, dripping with frosting and sweets.

    “Sick!” Blake yelled, running at it with joy. I hesitated. This reminded me of a fairytale I once read as a kid.
    But which one?

    Blake grabbed a candy cane and started licking it. He opened the brown ginger door and walked into the house, exclaiming with happiness.

    “Blake! Blake, stop it!” I cursed and followed him inside. The door shut behind me, and a cold sense of fear creeped into my stomach.

    A haggard old lady stood in front of us, with curved, long nails and a black hood.

    It was all too familiar. What fairytale did this remind me of?

    “Eat up, Della.” The witch said, prodding me with her worn cane.

    And then it hit me.

    Hansel and Gretel.

    The one where the kids are burned alive.

    Just great.

    1. JRSimmang

      Brooke, I’m so glad you’ve continued to contribute to WD. Already, I’ve started to see improvements in your already stellar writing. This is a nice modern take on the Hansel and Gretel tale, bringing it to a new audience. I found few syntax issues, and the motion of the story makes it easy to read.

      There are a couple spots I’d consider changing: “…exclaiming with happiness” and the last line. The first I would have preferred to see (Blake exclaimed, jumping up and down like a little boy on Christmas morning, or some such), and the second sets the story up as if Della thinks it’s just a joke. Perhaps ending it with her acknowledgement that things are about to go terribly awry would be stronger (“The one where the kids are burned alive./” A broken cackling echoed from the kitchen.)

      Lovely job, Brooke.

      1. brookesmith

        Thank you for the critique! Looking back on it, it does seem stupid to look at someone who is probably going to burn you alive and say, “just great” haha

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Brooke, nice to see you back again, and I think the new name is wise. Tuesday night we were at a program with Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire books and someone I first met before he was published. He said he tells aspiring writers to create someone, and something, new to write about, don’t use teenaged vampires, for example, that’s been done. His Walt is the “overweight, over-aged, over-depressed” sheriff of the smallest county in the smallest state, plus, he works without a cell phone.

      I’m sharing this because none of the grandchildren seem to be interested in writing and I like that Della’s best friend is a boy, not a boyfriend, and that she is probably the smarter of the two. And, last week I felt your story had book potential. So, finish your math, then write your book.

  20. CalebWhite

    Sophia and Jackson were walking down the green meadowy pathway behind their house. The sky was a crisp blue and birds were chirping.
    “How do you feel about the new laws passed on gun regulations?” says Jackson.
    “Uhh.. I really don’t get into politics too much,” says Sophia “but I realize why people feel the need to own them.”
    Jackson nods his head and they continue on. They both notice this animal with skimpy grey hair with pieces torn out from his skin. Jackson rushes over to pick the animal up.
    “I think that’s a Badger.” says Sofia.
    “Sofia, I think we need to take him home.”
    Jackson and Sofia run back to the house as the Badger takes its last few breaths.
    As soon as they arrive back home, their house, as they knew it, is now a Gingerbread home. Little Gingerbread men are putting red hot tamales on the sides and others are plastering candy canes to the walls.
    Jackson drops the Badger in amazement as the Badger takes its final breadth. Jackson looks over at Sofia but she isn’t there.
    “What? What is going on?” he yells to the Gingerbread men.
    He knocks one of them on the shoulder, “Hey!” he says.
    “Give it to him!” says a Gingerbread man.
    One of the Gingerbread men runs up to Jackson and kicks him in the leg, only to have his ginger bread leg crumble.
    “What happened to my house?” says Jackson.
    “What house?” says the Gingerbread man.
    “My house, the one that was standing hear with white shingles and a blue colored front porch.”
    “Ohh, that house? Didn’t you hear some people raided it sixty years ago? A man and his girlfriend came in with shotguns and killed a bunch of badgers in the home.”
    “What are you talking about?” says Jackson.
    “What are you talking about?”
    “You said that the house–my house– was raided sixty years ago? That’s impossible because I’m standing right here.”
    “Sir, it’s as real as it could ever be. I can show you the documents.”
    “Yes, please. Wait, why am I talking to a Gingerbread man right now?”
    “Excuse me?! Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave before I call the cops. You’ve been a disruption this whole time.”
    “Yea, and now we have to sew up Paraseva’s leg thanks to you.” says another Gingerbread man. “Here, drink this honey Paraseva, it’ll help with the pain.”
    Jackson begins walks off from the house. As he does, he notices the dead badger lying on the ground where he stood. He observes its dead body.
    “Jesus Christ, I don’t understand any of this.” he says.
    As he walks more Sophia appears next to him.
    “As I was saying, badgers are such rare to find. I believe that one was a Honey Badger. It’s so great you helped him like you did.” says Sophia.
    “Honey,” says Jackson “I didn’t help a badger, a badger helped me.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Caleb, interesting concept. Was Jackson hallucinating, and how did he start the hallucination? Or, did he step through a portal to a candy-laden universe? I did get a little lost trying to keep up with what happened to the badger. Did it die? If so, why did Sophia complement Jackson on helping it?
      Be cautious of tense shifts (moving from past to present between the first and second paragraphs), and I’d put a space between each paragraph next time; it makes reading a little easier.

  21. ReathaThomasOakley

    (A bit long, but I wanted to include a new Annie story I wrote last month for NaNo. Needs editing.)

    Countdown to Christmas
    Saturday, December 11, 1954

    “Mama?” I’d come out the backdoor and Mama was heading down the steps with her laundry basket on one hip.

    “Yes, Annie?” She shifted the basket and I followed her into the wash house.

    “Aunt Lily gone home?” I asked, casual like. I figured she had, since the sheets were all on the lines, but I had to make sure.

    “She had to start supper, Vonnie’s boyfriend’s eatin’ with them tonight. They got lots to discuss, the weddin’ comin’ up so soon.” Mama started putting towels in the washing machine. “Did you want to see her?”

    “No, mam, I just need to talk to you about something very serious, very, very serious, and didn’t want her to hear.” I opened the notebook I’d been carrying that Mama hadn’t noticed.

    “Alright, but let me get this load started first. Towels take time to wring and I still got to get that ham in the oven.” I went back to the steps and sat down to wait. Mama’d been hinting for a new washing machine, one you didn’t have to wring, ever since we saw Harriet Nelson using one when we were watching television at Aunt Lily’s house; maybe Santa’d bring her one.

    Christmas was two weeks off and thinking about a new washing machine got me thinking serious about all kinds of other stuff, not just what I had to tell her. I had to figure out what I was going to do about Santa Claus. At school lots of folks kept on saying he wasn’t real, and since last year I’d had my doubts about how he could get all around the world in one night, with all those time zones and foreign lands. But, I didn’t want to make a mistake and say out loud I didn’t believe in case he was real, so I wrote my letter to the Record, and kept my fingers crossed. Christmas was another hard time.

    “Now,” Mama said. I’d been thinking so hard I hadn’t even noticed she was sitting on the step next to me. “What’s very, very serious?” I’d been practicing what to say, but still couldn’t think how to start.

    “Mama, how,re you feelin’? How is your heart?”

    “My what? Annie, I’m feelin’ just fine.”

    “That’s good.” One less thing to worry about. “How about other stuff? You been forgettin’ things?”

    “Not that I know about. Now, what is goin’ on?”

    “Well,” I opened my notebook and read, “at 7:13 on the morning of Friday, December 3, 1954, as I on my way to the bathroom I just happened to glance at the gifts under the Porter Christmas Tree.” Hmmm, maybe I should put the address in. “And, became aware of a strange sight, one wrapped gift looked like it had been unwrapped, then wrapped up again with crooked tape.” Mama made a funny noise, but didn’t say anything. “Because I had to get to school early due to the special song practice at 8:45, I couldn’t do anymore investigation that day.

    “Then,” I continued, “on the afternoon of Monday, December 6, 1954, when I got home from school, as I just happened to glance at the gifts again, I saw that same present looked like it had been unwrapped again because the paper was all crooked and wrinkled. Then—”

    “Annie, please, how many times did you notice that present?” I counted my notes.

    “All together ever day, even this morning.” I closed my notebook. “Mama, somebody, I don’t know who, musta forgot and left the front door unlocked and some thief just walked right in in the middle of the night, or while we were all gone. Or,” I paused,” an evil burglar has been breakin’ into our home and openin’ that present. Look,” I opened up my notebook and handed it to her, “I drew a picture of how the present used to look and how it looks now.” She took it, but it sounded like she was trying hard not to laugh.

    “I know the drawin’ ain’t that good, but you can see the wrinkles and the tape and,” I took a big breath because I was so nervous about what I had to say, “Mama, I know who the thief is. It’s Uncle George.”

    “What?” Mama sounded about as surprised as I was when I put all the clues together. I had to hurry up and finish.

    “I got it all written down, all the clues.” I turned the page. “See, here’s a list of ever body who has keys to our house, you, Daddy, and here it is, Uncle George, ‘cause you told me they used to live in this very house years and years ago before Miss Florence died and they moved in with Mr. Phillip. And, if the locks ain’t been changed, well, don’t that prove it?” Mama took her handkerchief out of her apron pocket and blew her nose, that’s how upset she was.

    “I just got it all wrote down, but before I go tell Aunt Lily about what her very own husband has done, I wanted you to know so when you see the police cars you’ll know what’s what.”

    “Dear Lord,” Mama said with her hand over her mouth. She was really upset. “Annie, you were gonna tell your aunt all this?”

    “Yes, mam.” She took my notebook.

    “No, Annie, you will not.” She stood up. “You been spendin’ too much time trying to find some mystery where there ain’t one, like when you were little and believed everything you read in your fairy tale book, like the time you were certain because Mr. Noda painted their house brown it was made outta gingerbread and Mrs. Noda was a witch.” I’d been sorta hoping ever body’d forgot about that. “You shoulda asked me or your daddy about this.” She put the notebook in her pocket. “You really thought your uncle would come into our house, unwrap one present, then wrap it back up, and leave?”

    “Yes, mam,” I said, “it is strange.”

    “We know all about that package, and what’s goin’ on. Your daddy gave Brother a dollar to buy Christmas presents and he got me a box of those chocolate covered cherries he knows I like. Daddy said all the way home from McCrory’s Brother kept talking about how he liked that candy,too. Daddy helped him wrap the box. He’s told me he’s also noticed how the wrapping looked different every day. We think Brother just can’t help himself and he’s unwrapping, getting a cherry or two, then rewrapping the package.” She stood up. “Come on in the house, you can help me poke cloves in the ham that I’m gonna bake today so we can have it tomorrow.” I stood up. “Maybe I’ll get Daddy to tell Brother to open up the box tomorrow, so we can have chocolate covered cherries for dessert.” I stood up.

    “If any’s left,” I said.

    1. writer_sk

      Reatha- what a cute Annie story. I liked the last line. As similar comparisons have been made before, your tales of Annie remind me of beautiful descriptions of strong, clever and curious children such as Heidi.

      I have enjoyed the Marie pieces also but still am way behind reading past prompts.

      Great holiday theme and I laughed at the mention of the gingerbread house.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, so very much, I might never finish with Annie. The opened box of chocolate cherries part is real, but we all knew what was happening. I hope to use another based on reality Christmas story next week, one I had to ask permission from Brother to use.

    2. JRSimmang

      I’m so glad you posted this one, Reatha. I was beginning to miss Annie, though Granny Jo and Marie have been keeping me interested. Perhaps I’ve missed it before, but I would like to know how Annie’s mom’s heart plays into the entire story. I’m worried for Annie if her mom’s heart is actually in trouble. Or, is it just metaphor? Their lives are so deliciously bucolic, I yearn to be a part of it, and I thank you for letting us.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, JR, for your close reading. In November I added nearly 30,000 words to Annie, including three Christmas pieces that I hope to use here, if I can get them close to the prompt. January will be spent editing. Annie is worried Mama’s heart might not survive the shock of the news. I’ll add a few words to make that clearer. Even when I was living there, even when I knew it was far from perfect, my home and neighborhood felt so very safe. Thank you again, I value everything I get here.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I am right in there with Uncle
          I can not resist the chocolate covered cherries. Walgreens has about ,1000 boxes strewn all through the store and I can barely make it through the store without psssin’ out from the smell
          I go way back past back with the chocolate cherries, I think maybe into the eighteenth century or there a-sbouts. Thanks for rushing me back sixty years or so.

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Kerry, you might want to hold on to the memory. When I first saw the stacked boxes this year, I gave in and bought one, first time since forever. No more little fluted papers with cardboard partitions, just a plastic tray with half the spaces filled in. Yet another childhood memory gone. They were also so sweet my teeth ached, but perhaps they always were.

  22. rlk67

    Peristeria was a ragged woman, and understandably so. Her dimmed eyes beheld sights which could crumble even the giant next door. She lived in a bad neighborhood and grew up in a hard family. She sipped her cocoa, picked up The Daily Tales, and perused the obituaries. She was jealous.

    How much more could she have of this nonsense? Quickly shuffling through the headlines, she shook her head in disbelief. “Lone-Wolf Gets Life for Huffing and Puffing Piglet-Care Center.” “Goldie Again Arrested for Trespassing”. “De Vil Dogged with more Prison Time”.

    Cruella?! She dropped the paper. Another cousin behind bars. She just hoped her younger brother Ebenezer wouldn’t suffer the same fate. But it was in her blood, wasn’t it? After all, her grandmother did try to eat some children. Now her ashes are spread by that tower with the hair, as per her wishes.

    Peri was about to cry but heard something by the outside. Someone was eating her roof! Again! She instinctively reached for her oven mitts…no, she was better than that. Peri grabbed some water bottles, and opened the door.

    “Hello, there. Uh..welcome.” She tried to keep a smile pasted on her red, wrinkled face. Startled, Max spit out part of the chimney and cleared his throat.

    “Oh…oh, gosh. Oh, man. I…I am so sorry. I didn’t realize…I mean…”

    Peri held out a water bottle. “Please. I understand. You didn’t know anyone lived here.”

    Max took the bottle from Peri’s brittle hand. “Yes. Yes, I…I was wondering who made this…um…house in the middle of the forest…I mean…I sort of…”

    “Got lost? Yes. We get this all the time. It’s a very strange forest. Paths keep changing according to algorithms and integrals depending on the temperature and the date. You couldn’t have known.”

    Max just stood with his mouth open.

    “I am Peristeria and I grew up in this house. Smells yummy, right?”

    Max put his head down. “Yeah it does. Sorry.”

    “No please, don’t be sorry. Come in, and I can try to Google your way home.”

    “Oh, that would be awesome. Wow, this is a really old house.”

    “Yup. And it never gets stale!” Peri was never so good at making conversation. How often did she do it anyway? She was so lonely and…hmmm….something was baking in her mind.

    “Well, Max, it’s like this. I could help you home, but I’d like to…eat you. So maybe if you could just follow me to the oven over there…”

    Max laughed. “Oh, I get it. You’re funny. Hey, it’s just like that story…umm….Handy and Regrettle?”

    “Hansel and Gretel, silly!” Peri sighed and giggled. “Excuse me, I just meant…”

    Max scratched his head.

    “Ever read the story, dearie?”

    “Nah…not all of it. Something about a witch and a gingerbread house. And she had the children for dinner…”

    “Yes! That’s it!” screamed Peri.

    “And they ate together and lived happily…”

    Peri slumped onto her couch. “NO, you idiot! That’s not what happened! The witch…Oh. just follow me to the oven…” Max walked behind her.

    “Now listen, boy. Just look into the oven, and I’ll push you in.”

    “Hmmm? ‘Scuse me? Oh, I get it. You’re just being…”

    “SERIOUS! Please, oh, please. Look, I’ll show you how…HINT, HINT!”

    Max’s brain was spinning. “Oh, like in the book. Oh, right! The witch gets pushed in…”

    “YES! YES!” Peri would finally have her relief. And her family wouldn’t be shamed!

    Max pushed her slightly, then pulled her back and laughed. “Made you scared! Sorry, just a little fraternity humor.”

    “NOOOO! DOOO IT! PUSH MEEE!” That was it. Peri fell to the ground, shaking and mumbling something about golden eggs…

    Max was stunned. He backed off slowly. “Uh, thanks for the water. Gotta go.” He grabbed a piece of the door on the way out, and munched it while successfully following the algorithm of the changing paths.

    Engineer students needed their strength.

    1. Smileyface256

      Well, this was hilarious; I chuckled all the way through it. Loved the bits about other fairy tale characters committing various crimes, and Max getting Hansel and Gretel’s names wrong. The “HINT, HINT” line almost made me fall out of my chair. Well done. 🙂

    2. JRSimmang

      I do so enjoy allusions, and you’ve managed to cleverly squeeze a ton into this one. Thanks for this little romp down memory lane (not that I’ve ever been inside a gingerbread house) and into my childhood storytime. That last sentence of the second-to-last paragraph stuck out to me, by the way. “The Algorithm of the Changing Paths.” Sounds like a great title.

  23. Russ

    Hey all! So I have a couple grammar questions. It would be great if someone could help out. They are from my response to last week’s prompt. And I know, I know. The sentences are a little random.

    1.“This is horrible…” the man with the sombrero said. He knew that dogs followed you, unless, of course, you HAVE a sombrero on.

    Is it HAD, or HAVE?

    2. The man looked up; he had always been curious as to how the fleas GOT here.

    Is it GOT or GET?

    And here’s the week’s story:

    The walk was at first very nice. The cool breeze was blowing through the trees, the leaves making a beautiful noise. It was a lovely day. I saw a squirrel here and there scamper across the forest floor or climb up a tree. I wished someone was with me so I could share the moment. But then again, I thought, maybe solitude was best for me at that moment.

    At some point I all of a sudden noticed a fallen tree off the path. It looked rotten and dead. I didn’t think I had never seen that tree before, and then with a panic I noticed that my surroundings did not seem very familiar either. I had walked in these forests, along a certain path, for more times than I could remember.

    I looked down at the ground. The path seemed rather wild-looking; there were shrubs and weeds growing here and there all across it. I must have made a wrong turn, I thought. I must have made a wrong turn. I was a little panicked, but I knew I was one some path, so I knew it must lead somewhere. I went back in the opposite direction.

    I walked and walked, and still nothing seemed familiar. I could see that the sun was setting, and I was almost ready to break into a jog when I saw through some trees a giant house that looked like it was made of gingerbread. It had frosting along the windows, frosting all along the rooftop, what looked like giant candies lined up along the roof and corners, and a chocolate door. There was beautiful grass all around it.

    I walked through the few trees and went up to it. I wanted to see more, so I began to walk around the perimeter of the house, but as I passed one of the windows, I saw the most grotesque looking woman I had ever seen walking along inside. She had greenish skin.

    I was near the front door when I saw her there; and almost immediately, I saw the front chocolate door open up, and there she walked out. “Oh! What a nice surprise!” she said. She looked even worse when the sun hit her. “Come inside! Come inside! I’ve got cookies ready for someone! Come inside!” She had the nastiest smile.

    “Umm… I’m sorry miss. I was just passing through. I better be getting home now.”

    “No! Come in! I’ve just made cookies!” She was standing by the open door, coercing me inside with her arms. “Come in!” she repeated.

    “No thank you, miss. I should be going.” I then started to walk away back to the forest. She was still standing in her doorway, smiling at me, staring at me as I went. I kept glancing back at her. As I walked back on the path, I saw her smile vanish, and she grimly went back inside and slammed the door very loudly.

      1. Russ

        Thank you! And to let you know the words are different in the story. I changed them here to make it simpler. I asked this question in the last week’s response too.

    1. JRSimmang

      Russ, the grammar questions do depend on context, but there are hints in the verb tenses in the sentences you’ve provided.
      1) If you want to keep up the fourth wall, keep the sombrero sentence in past tense all the way through: “…unless you had a sombrero on.” If you want to use the predicate as an aside, it should read it as you have it.

      2) Keep the past perfect consistent throughout your sentences. Since you had written “…had always been curious…” you should use the past perfect again with got, “…had gotten here.” Stylistically, however, I do like the way the sentence reads originally, though I think I would remove the semicolon in favor of a period.

      As for your post, I would have liked a little more terror. You set up the situation well with vivid descriptions of the woods and the hag, and I feel there should be more tension through the development of story, a cat and mouse game perhaps or a grand illusion, something that makes us want the MC to work for his/her resolution.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Russ, I just went back to previous post, and am adding a bit to JR’s excellent advice. (But, first, while I try to read and comment on every posting because I so appreciate comments I get, I get lax toward the end of the prompt week, so missed yours.) I often write narration based on POV, so grammar might “suffer” but hopefully the piece doesn’t sound stuffy or forced.

        Last week’s story was a lot of fun to read. In this week’s I just noticed she smiled “grimly.” Very clever.

  24. jhowe

    “God help us Cedric, but it appears we’ve strayed from the path.”

    “No, Father. I’m sure this is the way. The road should be just around that bend.” The brothers made their way around candy cane trees and marshmallow bushes before determining there was no road. Even Cedric began to have doubts when a chocolate creek bubbled before them.

    “I don’t like it, Father. This ain’t no ordinary stream.”

    “You think?” The padre rolled his eyes and crossed himself. They jumped over a narrow part of the creek and came upon a gingerbread cottage. An old woman stood in the doorway knitting her gnarled hands.

    “Who do you think that is?” said Cedric.

    “I’m guessing she’s not the Virgin Mary.”

    “I’ll go ask,” Cedric said, marching forward. “Hey lady. Are you the Virgin Mary?”

    The padre shook his head. He watched as the hag licked Cedric’s arm and spat on the ground. Cedric returned, a bit shaken.

    “She asked where the children are…among other things.”

    “The children? What children?” Just then, a boy and girl hopped over the narrow part of the stream and ventured toward the cottage. The woman rubbed her hands together and sucked in a stream of drool.

    “Uh, children,” the padre said. “I’d not go there if I were you.”

    “Are you kidding,” the boy said, hands looped through his lederhosen straps. “That house looks delicious.” The woman shot a glance at the men as she ushered the children into the cottage.

    “What do we do, Father? I don’t trust that woman.”

    “Look.” The padre pointed. “The children left a trail of bread crumbs. We can follow the crumbs and summon help.”

    “But there’s two of us and only one of her. Can’t we rescue the children ourselves?”

    “Definitely not. We need help.”

    The trail led to a rustic cabin deep in the forest. A man split wood in the back. After hearing the story, he ran off, following the bread crumb trail.

    “Shouldn’t we go with him?” Cedric said.

    “He has an axe, he’ll be fine.”

    “But Father, isn’t God watching?”

    The padre once again rolled his eyes and looked skyward. “Fine, we’ll go help.”

    Hopping across the creek, the brothers detected the odor of roasting meat as smoke rose from the chimney of the cottage.

    “It appears we’re too late,” the padre said.

    Cedric ran to the door and burst into it with his shoulder, the padre close behind. The woodcutter, the hag and the children sat at the table eating a turkey dinner.

    On the road to the village, Cedric said, “What now Father Grimm?”

    “Well, my brother, we are definitely changing the ending.”

    1. JRSimmang

      What I love most about the Grimm fairytales is that there are versions in practically every culture. There’s a claim that the Brothers Grimm were a fairytale themselves. Are the brothers living in this world, or are they standing outside it? For me, they seem to be detached from the material world, living almost as gods aware but not interfering with the world of man.
      The hag is also of interest to me, as is the relationship she shares with the family. What an odd situation to happen upon.

  25. Pete

    My dad has a tendency to take things to ridiculous levels. It always has to be the biggest and best. Mom said he proposed on a skyscraper. Like, on the window of the skyscraper, dressed as Spiderman, with a note and a ring as she stood gazing out the window.

    I remember on my sixth birthday, I asked for a treehouse and Dad got to work, at least until the city shut him down because he went three stories and plumbed in running water. My lemonade stand had a website. I had to pay taxes that year. When I wanted to be a knight instead of a princess, he forged a metal suit of armor in the basement. It’s in the attic, we set it out in the yard every Halloween.

    All this stuff may sound sweet, and I suppose it is. But it’s also exhausting. My father can’t sit still. He can’t stop wowing us, and now that I’m in high school I’m beginning to worry about him and Mom. Last year he set up a Christmas display that made the newspaper. Over three hundred thousand bulbs, all controlled by his phone. He was constantly playing with the controls, and I swear a few times I looked over and saw my mom white-knuckling her fork.

    Mom is stressed. She needs some R&R, so last weekend we had girl’s day. Dad was at a convention, probably learning how to build a spaceship or something, and we thought it would be fun to make gingerbread houses. We wore plaid pajamas. We sang Christmas carols. Mom never once asked me about boys like I was ten. It was nice.

    Then Dad came home early.

    He saw us. How the table was a spread of flower and cinnamon, the icing and sprinkles. His eyes sparked with ideas. “Oh, what do we have here?”

    Mom looked at me. And we knew, we just knew. And we were right.

    Our fears were confirmed when we saw the search history. BIGGEST GINGERBREAD HOUSE WORLD RECORD.

    “Maybe he’s just curious,” I said to Mom. But it was pointless. Sure enough, Dad returned from Sam’s Club, hauling sacks of flour and industrial sized buckets. He was whistling, a sure sign he was going lunatic.

    “Dad, what are you doing?”

    He kissed me on the top of the head, looked at Mom. “Honey, I’m going to need the kitchen for about a week.”

    Mom couldn’t take it. She told him we were leaving. I don’t think he heard us. We drove to Grandma’s house. Well, I drove while Mom took inventory of her life. “He’s a good father. He means well…”

    I was a little worried this was it, my parents were splitting. But all I could say was, “Who buys seven thousand eggs?”

    Grandma started in with the told-you-so’s. We watched the news. Dad on a forklift, a frenetic gleam in his eyes as he tore into our backyard. He had ginger panels up and the grass was covered with a dusting of all-purpose flower. Icing arrived by the truckload. The neighbors watched as reporters stood in front of our house, making dumb jokes about how many calories went into a 3,000 square foot gingerbread house.

    …”it’s an awfully ambitious, not so nutritious, undertaking, I’m not sure he’s going to be finished by Christmas…back to you, Dan…”

    Dad on a ladder, swinging a hammer with a serious sugar high going. He had flecks of dough in his hair, swipes of icing on his cheeks, his tongue was poking out. Grandma said his sugarplums were all wrong.

    Mom stayed glued to the local news. But even with all his feverish baking and building, Dad hadn’t gotten to the roof. The weather had turned warm, the bees were out. It was a mess.

    I turned to Mom, she was already on her feet, thinking the same thing. “We have to go home.”

    Mom drove. I manned the playlist. We barreled through two White Stripes albums and made it back in record time. We had to park a street over because of traffic and news trucks. We cut through the woods behind our house. Dad was sculpting the chimney as we came out. He looked back, saw us and climbed down.

    “I think I got carried away.”

    Mom kissed him on the lips, which was gross, because they’re old. But also because Dad was sticky and covered in ginger and bee stings. I broke them up and we got busy. We went over the top. We baked and caked the panels and built the biggest gingerbread house by 100 square feet. Go big or go home.

    Or I guess, in Dad’s case, go big at home..

    1. JRSimmang

      What a wonderful slice of life, Pete. The dad is such an interesting creation, driven to ruthless perpetuity with his projects. I wonder what in his past he’s running from that he has to go to such extremes to compensate.

  26. creaturescry

    Once upon a time during the reign of the terrible King Quill, there was Sir Galavant and Eva the Enchantress. While different in many ways they were similar in the one common goal they shared. Defeat the king and win back the land for the people. It was one of those ‘easier said than done’ deals that seemed the plague every adventure with good intentions. So that might’ve been why the two of them were arguing over the peculiar Gingerbread house they happened upon.

    “It’s obviously a trap,” Eva hissed, Pointing at the house, “they know we haven’t eaten for days.”

    “It doesn’t look too dangerous,” Sir Galavant replied in his haughty tone, rocking back and forth on his heels, “besides, what sort of monster could possibly hide in there anyways?”

    “A lot of things moron, a lot of things with tiny little dagger teeth.”

    “You worry too much,” he announced with pride, pulling out his sword and shield, “ because as long as I have my sword and my armor nothing can stop me.”

    “You said that when we ran into that dragon, and who had to save your butt?” Eva scoffed, her arms crossed.

    “That was a rather large dragon.”

    “Fine eat the house then,” she spat, storming away from the infuriating Sir Galavant, “I don’t care.”

    Sir Galavant, bravely approached the house, braced for any attack. He danced around it for a moment, poking at it with his sword. When he deemed it safe enough to eat he put away his sword and broke a chunk off. Eva watched from a tree stump she had settled down on, safe enough to watch and still he his demise. Sir Galavant then took a bite, taking in all the rich spiced flavors that danced on his tongue.

    “See,” he waved the chunk at her, cookie crumbs falling out of his mouth, “perfectly safe.”

    “What’s in the house though?” Eva asked, narrowing her eyes at him.

    “Come on! Can’t I win just this once?”

    “Open the door to that stupid house and we’ll see.”

    Sir Galavant inched over to the door and kicked it open, “see, nothing…”

    For a second he was right, there was nothing. That was until three Gingerbread men, armed with candy cane swords charged out and babbled at him. Shocked by the fact there were sentient Gingerbread people, Sir Galavant didn’t have time to pull out his weapons and just ran for it. Eva herself didn’t even see it coming, but then again it made sense considering he was eating their house.So she sat back and enjoyed the view, a smug smirk working it way across her face.

    1. JRSimmang

      I’ll echo J’s sentiments. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Galavant and Eva.
      Watch out for incorrect comma use and awkward sentences (“…seemed the plague every adventure,” “Sir Galavant, bravely approached the house, braced for any attack,” etc.) for a stronger narrative. These characters are great, and I do hope you continue to work with them to defeat the king and return the kingdom.

COMMENT