The Journal

Flipping through your library books for research, you find one of the books you incorrectly checked out. It’s a handwritten journal authored by someone you know. Who wrote it and what does it say?

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

Want more creative writing prompts? Consider:
The Writer’s Book of Matches

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338 thoughts on “The Journal

  1. Kay Harrington

    Marcella Jones sighs dramatically. Being a drama major at the best art school in the country, she is good at sighing dramatically. In her (mandatory) English class, she has to write an essay concerning something about the economy. She actually doesn’t know what it’s about; she didn’t pay much attention to the instructions.
    Flipping her dark brown hair over her shoulder, she looks through the shelves of the campus library searching for the correct book concerning her essay topic (that she hasn’t thought up yet). Pulling a random volume off the shelf directly in front of her face, she looks at the title. An Accurate List of Medicines that…
    Marcella stops reading and places the thick book back on the shelf. She looks through the spines, hoping to find something that would perk her interest. She sees a small leather bound book on the end of the row, about to teeter off the shelf and land on the floor. Reaching for the small volume, she pulls it toward her.
    She opens the book to find the name inscribed on the inside cover.
    Caine Clark.
    Marcella nearly drops the book. Caine Clark is the only guy at the entire college who she would consider dating. His amazingly windswept hair had half the girls in the school swooning over him. Marcella was one of them, yet she didn’t make it as obvious as some as the others (who would full-on stalk him). An art major; he was known as the catch of the school.
    Mentally debating her morals for about two seconds, Marcella turns the page to find a title on the page.
    Marcella Jones.
    She reads on with such speed her English teacher, Mr. Wills, would pass her in a heartbeat. The entire paragraph went on about how much Caine liked her, her hair, her voice, and how he would sometimes come by her acting class to see her perform. About three pages are about how he wants to ask her out.
    “Oh, my god,” she says to herself as she sinks to the floor. She sits cross legged and continues reading. About three pages in, she thinks it’s safe to say Caine likes her.
    A text message distracts her from the journal to see her best friend Clara wanted to talk to her. She places the journal in her handbag and goes to see her best friend for coffee. Marcella decides not to tell her about Caine’s journal.
    The next day, she has English class with Caine. He is already there when she arrives, and looking extremely stressed. His hair is in disarray (as it always is) and he has bags under his eyes. Marcella knows it isn’t because of the English essay assigned to them. She goes to sit next to him.
    Caine turns to see Marcella to come sit next to him and he blushes. She leans over, kisses his cheek and hands him his journal.
    “The answer is yes,” she says with a smile.

  2. Amyithist

    I sat in my room, running my fingers over the weathered binding of the little purple journal. I can’t help but tremble slightly as I stared at it. I flipped the cover open again and read the name one more time: Abigail Henry. My mother.
    How did this journal end up in the library? Obviously, she had checked a book out at one time and it had accidentally become part of the inventory…but how was it still there? I flipped the pages to the first entry.

    April 1, 1982

    Dear Journal,
    I went to the doctor today and found out the most terrible news. I can’t talk about it right now, but I’m so heartbroken. I don’t know how I’m going to tell Dan… I have to go, Journal.

    I turned the page to the next entry, my heart pounding as I tried to imagine what my mother could be talking about.

    April 5th, 1982

    Dear Journal,
    I told Dan today. He’s being incredibly supportive but he insists we tell everyone before it gets too bad. I told him I wasn’t ready, but he isn’t going to let me go at this alone. I suppose I should be thankful, but, to be honest, Journal, I’m terrified… Gotta go. Dan’s home.

    April 15th, 1982

    Dear Journal,
    Today was really hard. I told Mama and Daddy and Grandma Miller and Dan’s mother and father and grandparents… Everyone is acting so fragile around me now. They keep asking how I’m feeling and if I’m okay and if I need anything… This is why I didn’t want to say anything, Journal. Cancer doesn’t just change you. It changes everyone around you, too.

    I swallowed and looked up from the journal. My eyes were glazing with tears. I had no idea my mother ever went through cancer…what else didn’t I know? I turned back to the journal.

    June 23rd, 1982

    Dear Journal,
    Chemo is really getting the better of me. Which is why there has been a lapse in entry. I’m not doing so well. Tomorrow I have to go in for a complete hysterectomy. I’m pretty broken up about it. I’ll never be able to have children, Journal and I just don’t know that I can deal with that. I’m sorry. I have to go pack for the hospital. Goodbye for now, dear Journal.

    Confusion laced itself through my mind. I was born July 23rd, 1983… If my mother had a hysterectomy…then how… I jumped up from my bed, tucking the journal under my arm. I hurried down the stairs and into the kitchen where my mother was preparing dinner. “Mom?” My voice trembled.
    She looked up at me and smiled. “Hello, dear. Are you hungry?”
    I set the journal on the counter and slid it over to her. She looked at it for a moment, her face suddenly drained of all color. “I read it, Mom.”
    She nodded slowly and wiped her hands on a dishtowel. She stayed quiet.
    “If you had a hysterectomy a year before I was born…how are you my mother,” I asked. Tears streamed down my face as I stared at her, waiting.
    Mom closed her eyes and shook her head. “I didn’t want you to find out this way,” she whispered. “Kayla, honey, I’m not your biological mom.” She took a deep breath and uttered the words I knew were coming; the words that changed my life forever. “Kayla, you’re adopted.”

    1. Revolutionship

      I like that. It was very well written, and it’s true, things like this does happen. It was like a dose of reality. Reality that is upsetting, and that life isn’t always what we think it is. Good job. 🙂

  3. FuschiaGroan

    January 14th 1968,
    The weather was bitter and I spent most of the day at the library sitting by there fire. I had told myself that I would get some ‘work’ done. What does that even mean? Reading old articles and books so I could write other articles and books for others to read and write about? But what can I do? There is nothing left for me. The real work is over for me. I played my part and now it is up to those who still have a grasp on reality to clean up the mess.
    I sent her the letter today. That was probably the real reason no work got done. She will listen to me. I’m sure of it. She can’t stay there. Lord only knows what they will do to her. I can only hope she will listen to me.

    My old fingers shook as I turned to the next entry.

    January 24th 1968,
    The lab exploded today. They still don’t know who did it. My first thought when I heard the news was Mary of course. But her name was not on the list of casualties, thank God. She has to get out of there.

    February 3rd 1968,
    It’s over. Today I received the letter back in the mail, it had never found her. On my way back to the library I bumped into James who told me that she had gone to Italy. I’ve decided to keep the letter here. Maybe someday I’ll have the chance to give it to her again.

    I’m home, and safe. They decided I was too scarred to be part of the clean-up crew. And you aren’t? Mary, you don’t have to play the game any more. You’re exhausted and nobody sees it. There are others who can clean up. You played your part. Now go. You can’t keep this up. Show people what you’ve been through and they will let you come home. If you don’t they will work you until there is nothing left of you. Mary, please. Don’t let them do that to you. Come home. In the name of all we’ve done together, come home. I love you Mary. I always have. And I always will.
    Yours forever,

    A hot tear splashed on the letter in my hand.
    “Oh David,” I whisper “I loved you too. I did. I really did. And I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

  4. Leanderdias


    I entered my room, stood for a brief moment in the threshold, and basked in my room’s impeccability. It was almost like the effulgent pride my mother feels every time she walks by her trophy cabinet in our living room. Even on bad days when she is feeling particularly bogged down by her life, her beloved trophy cabinet always manages to cheer her up a little. My room was the bastion of my sanity, my sanctuary that gave me respite during times when i needed to shut the world out and enter into other ones. I loved entering my room knowing i would not be disturbed and that my books were always waiting to take me where i wanted to go. I emptied the contents of my book bag onto my bed and proceeded to separate all my library books from my school journals. When i borrowed books from the library, i usually borrowed two fiction novels, two non-fiction novels and four unique research journals every time. But peculiarly enough, when i went through all my books, i found a tiny dilapidated journal nestled between two large ones looking greatly out of place.
    I couldn’t for the life of me, remember taking it out. Its cracked spine and curled pages would not have looked attractive enough for me to consider it. The journal also smelt of dust bunnies and stale cheese so it made it even more unlikely. I guess it must have fallen in while i was checking the books out of the library. It had happened before, but not quite by accident – in the days when i was still new to the library, and the normal four book restriction applied to me, i used to intentionally yet inadvertently drop an extra novel into my bag when i thought no one was looking. But this time i was absolutely sure i had not taken this journal out on purpose. I carefully removed the elastic band that held the book closed and saw a small puff of dust erupt as the book unraveled. It was definitely the only unkempt item in the whole room. An abominable aberration that stood out from all the rest. The yellowed pages were filled with untidy scrawl and scribble that extended far beyond the limits of the margins and lines. Loose pages lazily descended onto my creaseless sheets accompanied by old dried flower bookmarks that had lost their color. Excited by this new development, and brimming with ravenous curiosity i decided to put aside the other books and give all my attention to the one that lay before me.
    I knew as soon as i opened it that it was a personal journal. People usually took their own journals wherever they went, and would sometimes be seen writing in the even while they ate. Therefore it was not surprising for me to see ancient curry stains- or in this case coffee stains- located on the fringes. I scanned the opening pages for a name, and finally found a small signature untidily scratched onto the hardcover. I rolled off my bed and carried the journal to the lamplight in order to get a better look. An audible gasp escaped me as i finally realized whose journal it belonged to.
    Jonathan Samuel Cartridge, my late father.
    The glass of my mental aquarium crack and shattered, releasing all the thoughts and emotions suppressed over three years. I was the strong one, the shoulder for all to cry on, the crutch that kept my mother walking all this time. But in that instant, i was reduced to the sensitive adolescent i really was. I wept for the first time since my fathers death, all five stages of grief came and went in those brief moments and i realized that i hadn’t yet forgiven God for taking him so prematurely. I took father for granted when he was with me, i did not love him the way he deserved and i was angry that my father died before i had the chance to understand that. But when i looked at the old journal once again, i realized that i was given a second chance, an opportunity to know who he was when he was as old as me, and i vowed to make the most of it.
    So i read. I read and did stop until i was finished. Pages lay strewn across the room whose words now resided deep within my heart. Time became non existent and my capacity to absorb new no limitation. I read about his lovers, the passion he experienced and the souls he encountered. I read about his sadness, about days more wretched than the next and the evil conspiring world that was out to ruin him. I read about his goals and aspirations, what he wanted from life who who he wanted to share it with. I giggled with bleary eyes as he described the high school crush that he would later marry; how she was so impossible and difficult to charm. And finally, in the last pages , i read about his love for God.
    He was a man who had is heart broken many times and yet still trusted freely;a man who had fallen more than once and still stood back up…I was made to understand that my father was a warrior in the war of life and it made me proud.

    1. snuzcook

      You communicate a lot of complex feelings in this short story. I chuckled at the reference to dust bunnies and stale cheese. The metaphor of the mental (emotional?) aquarium bursting was very clever. The main character’s manner of speaking drew a clear picture of her, perhaps a little OCD, perhaps outwardly a little more adult than she felt deep inside. Well done.
      A few technical glitches in the formating and punctuation, and some words missing or mispelled (“So i read. I read and did *not* stop until i was finished.”) were minor obstacles.

  5. TamraSue

    Jessica Beam, 1862. Intrigued and confused, I open the thin, red book gently so as not to tear the tattered pages. Some pages are torn. Others have been smeared by drips of water, maybe tears. The writing is tiny, but legible and appears to be written by a young person, probably a teenager because of the frequent references to boys, nice boys and mean boys.

    Nothing much interesting in the first few pages, besides stories about picnicking along the White River with mom, dad, Joey, Josh and Emily. After some reading I realize that these are two older brothers and a younger sister. A few yellowed pages later, though the stories become more painful, the writing more erratic. Jessica tells of the dark people passing through during the night and staying in the basement of her home.

    The entry for October 10, 1865, Jessica writes of being in her 3rd floor bedroom and hearing the banging on the front door. Men are yelling wanting to know if her dad had seen the runaways. Reading on, she describes crawling to her window and seeing Mr. Hall and Mr. Chambers and about 6 other townsmen speaking loudly with her father. They are waving rakes, sticks and two men have their hunting rifles. “The war is over,” she records her dad saying, “now go on home.” I flip the page to see what happens next, but the pages are smeared and many have been ripped from the book. Random words are left wandering around the remaining page fragments. Fire. Two women and four kids. Basement. Torn green jacket. Screaming. Breaking glass. Smoke.

    The next readable page in the journal tells of living in a one room home with Widow Davis and her son, Jeremiah. I read on for many pages but am only finding simple, mundane stories of scrubbing floors and attending school on Mondays and Wednesdays. I search the remainder of the small journal but I find no mention of Jessica’s father or mother. Her sister is mentioned once in a small entry dated January 22, 1867 describing her visit to Chambersville cemetery to lay daisies on her grave.

    It doesn’t take me long to make the connection between Jessica Beam and the Beam mansion that sits on the western hill standing guard over our small Indiana town. I had always heard that the Beam mansion was used as part of the underground railroad, but assumed those tales were just legend to add to the mystery of the old place. I step out onto my porch and peer up the hill toward the Beam mansion and could almost imagine young Jessica and the what must have happened on that dreadful October evening. I must find out more.

    1. snuzcook

      Very good story. I can really visualize the little journal, the stained pages, the torn and incomplete passages. You leave me with the narrator, wanting to learn more.

  6. snuzcook

    Please excuse the late entry. This piece meshes with the novel I am writing for NaNoWriMo. It is (argh!) a tad over the 500 words.


    Today was the day. I had to go through the boxes in Grandma‘s storage unit. The new tenants would be needing it by Monday.

    I had not been close to Grandma. She was my father’s mother, and my father, Leo, had divorced my mother when I was in the fifth grade. But Mom and Bill insisted, since I am the closest relative living in Seattle. It was up to me to go through her things. It was time for me to get over my twenty-year sulk.

    It was going pretty well. The large household items would all go to the Goodwill. A box of china and some keepsakes would go to my mom.

    The final box simply said “Leo.” It was heavy. As I pulled it out, it seemed as reluctant to be removed from its burial place as I was to disturb it. I unfolded its top cautiously, as if it might hold some toxic memories ready to jump out and grab at me.

    It contained mostly books and magazines. No photos of my mother and me. No skeletons. I was going to just close it up again when I noticed several of the books were marked “WWJDC: Western Washington Juvenile Detention Center.” I pulled out the books. They appeared to be library books, hard-covered novels a boy might read. There were a couple of science fiction titles, a western, a book about model airplanes. The dates on the check out cards inside were all October, 1964.

    Between the books was a theme book, one of those black-and-white covered notebooks with lined pages that some teachers made us to use in school. There was birthday card stuck between some pages, and I opened it to that spot. It was the final entry in large, child’s longhand written in pencil:

    “I never meant it to happen. Everyone tells me I can’t go home until I admit that I did. But they’re wrong. They can’t make me into a monster, even if I never go home.”

    I sat on the floor in front of the storage unit and read from beginning to end the narrative of a boy who had done a terrible, dangerous prank and been sent away by society. “The fire got big too fast for me to stop it. I didn’t know that anyone was inside.”

    There was so much anguish and vulnerability in the entries in the journal. So much anger at being sent away, yet so much remorse that a homeless man had died when the vacant shed burned. The prosecutors had said that since Leo and another boy had been seen harassing the homeless man, bullying him, that there had been malicious intent to the fire. The words I read were of a victim, paying a heavy price for what he had unintentionally set in motion.

    Obviously, the boy had been released, probably shortly after the last entry. The birthday card was for his fourteenth birthday, and the sentiments written to Leo in his mother’s hand mentioned how happy they were that he would be home in a few days.

    Was this the secret that drove my father to drink, to live a secret life, to keep himself apart from my mother and me? I wondered if my mother knew, but I doubted it. This part of my father’s life had been buried like this box in the back of a closet, holding the key to so many questions I had never even known to ask. I pulled out my cellphone and punched in a number. “Hello, Mom? Got a minute?”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A mystery of a story unfolds with, ‘The final box simply said ‘Leo'” And then the story unfolds in a precise manner, drawing the reader in. I have a small suggestion to your woderful tale. What if your last sentence read, “I pulled my cellphone out, opened it and my gaze studied my Father’s journal.”

  7. swatchcat

    It’s hard to explain but every so often my mind splits off to some unknown place. It can be quite dark there and yet not dark at all. I am far away from this literal place, I have no idea where. It is the most peaceful place. I am totally blank. The only thing is that it frightening when the lights turn on again and I return to the here and now. I have been told that when friends see me in that deep place of thought and peace, they are scared of the place I have gone.

    I can only imagine what I must look like? Perhaps a coma patient with eyes wide open and, not a soul at home? The last time it happened, I was pleasantly seated in the back corner of the library. Piles of books circled around me as I researched my next project. I was facing forward toward the picture window gone to that place, when the librarian tapped me on the shoulder.

    “Penney, Penney? We’re closing now.” She new my name as regular as I was but truthfully, after years of acquaintance, I hadn’t a clue to hers.

    “Sorry, what?”

    “We’re closing. Is there any of this you want to take home?” She, helpful as always stood over me waiting for my stack. I handed her a stack and watched her walk toward the front desk.

    “God, I’m so sorry, how long was I out?” Rhetorical because I knew by the dimmed lights it was too long.

    Later that night I was settled at my writing desk. I watched my index finger trace the binding of the books I had brought home. Instinctively it stopped on an odd character. Pulling it out I found a journal that did not belong. The librarian must have thought it belonged to me and included it in the bag of books. I on the other hand did not recognize it at least, not a first.

    I flipped through the pages and stopped on a passage:

    ” It’s hard to explain but every so often my mind splits off to some unknown place. It can be quite dark there and yet not dark at all. I am far away from this literal place, I have no idea where. It is the most peaceful place. I am totally blank. The only thing is that it frightening when the lights turn on again and I return to the here and now. I have been told that when friends see me in that deep place of thought and peace, they are scared of the place I have gone.”

    These were my own words. My thoughts of my experiences. A life long explanation of where I had gone and where I like to return. Paradise.

  8. swatchcat

    It’s hard to explain but every so often my mind splits off to some unknown place. It can be quite dark there and yet not dark at all. I am far away from this literal place, I have no idea where. It is the most peaceful place. I am totally blank. The only thing is that it frightening when the lights turn on again and I return to the here and now. I have been told that when friends see me in that deep place of thought and peace, they are scared of the place I have gone.

    I can only imagine what I must look like? Perhaps a coma patient with eyes wide open and, not a soul at home? The last time it happened, I was pleasantly seated in the back corner of the library. Piles of books circled around me as I researched my next project. I was facing forward toward the picture window gone to that place, when the librarian tapped me on the shoulder.

    “Penney, Penney? We’re closing now.” She new my name as regular as I was but truthfully, after years of acquaintance, I hadn’t a clue to hers.

    “Sorry, what?”

    “We’re closing. Is there any of this you want to take home?” She, helpful as always stood over me waiting for my stack. I handed her a stack and watched her walk toward the front desk.

    “God, I’m so sorry, how long was I out?” Rhetorical because I knew by the dimmed lights it was too long.

    Later that night I was settled at my writing desk. I watched my index finger trace the binding of the books I had brought home. Instinctively it stopped on an odd character. Pulling it out I found a journal that did not belong. The librarian must have thought it belonged to me and included it in the bag of books. I on the other hand did not recognize it at least, not a first.

    I flipped through the pages and stopped on a passage:

    It’s hard to explain but every so often my mind splits off to some unknown place. It can be quite dark there and yet not dark at all. I am far away from this literal place, I have no idea where. It is the most peaceful place. I am totally blank. The only thing is that it frightening when the lights turn on again and I return to the here and now. I have been told that when friends see me in that deep place of thought and peace, they are scared of the place I have gone.

    These were my own words. My thoughts of my experiences. A life long explanation of where I had gone and where I like to return. Paradise.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Swatchcat, is so muchn fun to read your stories. I miss your not writing each week as I’m sure the forum does.

        This is a very intriging take on the prompt. I take it Penney has recorded this journal while in the unknown place and now she has discovered the treasure.

        I’m dying to know what’s in it?

  9. Doug Langille


    It’s never been easy working in the same place where Mom died. The university’s sprawling campus occupied most of the peninsula, and the hospital sat at its edge. The medical school annually stamped out young doctors and nurses, and the hospital kept the research facility well-stocked with human suffering and corpses. All in all, it was a fair trade and not all that atypical. From the study of death comes the hope of life.

    Mom didn’t like being doctor, but she loved research. I always liked solving puzzles and riddles growing up; the shared thirst for truth kept us together despite her long hours in the lab. Without many friends, I spent a lot of time by myself. As an adult, I still do.

    When she died, I stayed in the old house; there was little reason to do otherwise. My father came home from out west and helped with the arrangements. They’d been divorced for years, but it was easy to tell he still cared. It was Mom’s focus on her research that drove them apart. Dad and I had dinner before he went back. He said I looked like her.

    I woke this morning thinking about her as I have every morning for the last five years. The floors were cold as I banked the furnace and got ready to leave. I grabbed my keys and dashed out the door to the university library. I’d applied for a research fellowship and looked forward to some time away from the ER. Boning up on a few periodicals of current works couldn’t hurt; the interviews would be brutal.

    A sense of time was not something I was blessed with possessing. The librarian was annoyed that she’d have a patron so early on a Sunday morning. I showed her my badge, smiled at her and headed to the basement cages, swipe card in hand.

    The reading room had a comfortable oversized leather chair with the warm light of a pole lamp behind it. I curled up and tucked my cold feet under my jacket and started going through the stack of journals and papers. Much of it was bland reading, resplendent with medical jargon, numbers and detail.

    My mind kept trying to stitch a theme and thread through the pieces. Why did I choose these? They were all about cancer research, as expected, but nearly all the research referenced a single study. All I had was a research identification number, 1982-043, and a single note of ‘Protocol Sierra’. I was born in ’84 so it was likely that Mom worked on this just before she got pregnant.

    I returned the materials and headed back upstairs to the librarian’s desk to ask her about the missing materials from 1982. She looked at me funny and told me that the research was destroyed in the fire, the lab fire where Mom died. I asked her how she knew who I was. She said the family resemblance was uncanny.

    The drive home had my head spinning so I took a walk through the park, soaking in the harbor air amid the tall evergreens. What was Mom doing with all that old research on the night she died? What the Hell was Protocol Sierra? Why did the current research all tie back to Mom’s work?

    There was a fair-sized package on my doorstep wrapped in brown paper, tied with jute, when I returned. It looked like it’d been kept somewhere for a while. There was a note taped to the top from the librarian. ‘This is what you’re looking for,’ it read.

    I took the heavy box inside, placed it on the kitchen table and turned the kettle on. The chill was settling in my bones and I was shaking. I was pretty sure I was coming down with something. Carefully unwrapping the package, the faint smell of aged paper filled the air. It was a stack of hard-bound lab notebooks, each titled ‘Sierra’ and dated; thirty journals from late-1982 to mid-2002 when the fire happened.

    There was an envelope tucked in the box. It had my name on it in my mother’s handwriting. The letter inside was hurriedly written. I started reading as the kettle’s whistle blared.

    ‘Sierra, this is your life. I’m sorry.’

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Wonderful story Doug. Has a great sense of mystery to it, and it builds on a discovery. Your descriptive prose is excellent. The visual thoughts make the story very realistic with a sense of being there.

        “Floors were cold as I banked the furnace,’ brings back my early childhood memories.

  10. Su@dreamweavernovels

    It’s been well over a year since I came to play here, but I just finished the first draft of my second book and wanted some play time while I wait for reader’s to review for the next edit. So I decided to come here and have a little fun! Just fair warning, I tend to be a bit dark and cryptic in my storytelling. Hope you enjoy!

    Studious Sarah shoved a pile of books into her backpack, and raced from the university library, dodging fat raindrops on her way to the dorm. Inside, she slung the pack onto her mussed bed, kicked off her shoes and sequestered herself in the bathroom for long hot bath. Ninety minutes later, she awoke to chilled water and sloshed from the tub as her skin prickled with goose bumps. Fuzzy, warm, Dr. Who Tardis jammies coaxed the heat back to her body. With a sigh, she dumped out her trove of books, and one fell open in her lap. “What the…” She didn’t remember checking out any books with handwriting, but the elegant, slanted writing beckoned her. The entry with today’s date, no year, stared her in the face:

    So much work to do, so many books to lug around. But uni library stacks smell so sweet, like old paper and words. I hate the rain. It always rains in Seattle. I won’t tan. I’ll rust.

    Sarah remembered thinking precisely those words, earlier in the day. She flipped to the next page with tomorrow’s date:

    Nearly froze my ass off last night. Fell asleep and let the bath water run cold. Thank goodness for Tardis jammies to keep me warm. Studied til 2am. Up at 6. Classes til 3. No rest for the weary as they say.

    The young student was bewildered by familiarity of events. Then, a cold, piercing thought sliced her gut. The entries continued beyond today. Beyond tomorrow, into next week, next month. With an aching dread she realized, maybe this journal was….no. That’s just not possible.

    Sarah went to classes that day but the coincidences in the journal niggled at her all day. Tired and stressed, she cut her last class and found herself curled on her bed, clutching the journal to her chest. Hyperventilated air throbbed in her chest, in conflict with her thrumming heart. Did she really want to know what tomorrow would hold? Or next week? Next year? Like the classic idiom, curiosity lured her in:
    Sooo tired today. Up studying too late. But I gotta get….grr! gotta get the door….

    Sarah opened the door without peeping through the peephole; just swung the door wide in welcome. And promptly wished she hadn’t. A masked man, dressed from head to toe in black, waltzed in and slammed the door behind him. He silenced her before she had the time to scream. Crimson stains spattered the journal’s pages and soaked through its fibers.

    “Perhaps,” said the masked man, “you should have read a bit further. You’d never have opened the door if you had.” As Sarah’s labored breaths slowed and turned shallow, her blood, like bleach, erased the ink from the pages. The man flipped the book closed and tucked it beneath his arm and strolled nonchalant from her room.

    Kathy dumped her messenger bag on the tiny table in her Portland dorm room. A handwritten journal fell open amidst the rest………..

    1. don potter

      Gripping tale. I liked the phrases ‘uni library stacks smell so sweet, like old paper and words’ and ‘It always rains in Seattle. I won’t tan. I’ll rust.’

  11. PeterW

    Writing Prompt Journal.

    This is what I found in brother’s journal, a sample, verbatim:

    10/29: Today someone died. I saw it, 10pm, on the news. This person was shot through the head over some dispute. I think two things. Bad things. One: at least this person’s life was important enough that it had enough value to be taken, and too, death is sad, death is news, and life is the static in the background.
    10/30: I think that life is meaningless. At least for me. Maybe for everyone else life holds meaning. Holds importance. I can think of examples: pride, love, friendship, duty; etc and whatever. But for me….

    Example: I walk through our suburban neighbor every morning, among the leaves and wet, cool fall rain and I am wet for nothing, cold for nothing, I wait for the bus for a job which means nothing to me, I am suffering for, what, nothing. Thus, for me, life has no meaning. It has no subsistence. It is like a gas. I reach out and claw and am flailing. Nothing to cling too. Nothing to hold on too. It is phantasmal, and my reaching fingers run through it. I don’t want to kill myself though. There is no point in that either.

    10/31: There is a beautiful girl at work. She is in high-school. She works the front end as a checker. I am six years older than her, and I didn’t know what to say. I know deep in my heart that one: girls like this have boyfriends, and two: she deserves better than me.

    11/1: After watching the movie Zodiac, looked up the worst serial killers on the web. Lots of children were raped and afterward killed.

    11/2: Although the world is meaningless, it is very strange and wonderful. You’d think that so much death and so much pain would eliminate it, but it doesn’t, it intensifies it. When I saw the bus rounding the corner something jumped in my heart. The bus surrounded by mist appearing, like the sun out of a cloud, just when I thought I had missed it, and then it was there, and I was on it, and I was moving onward. And on the bus it was all silence. Over thirty people trying to be as silent as possible. And the only noise was the noise of the engine and the pulse when some soul pulled the yellow line. And the elblowed-doors would open and each new person to swipe their card was somehow a new opportunity and there was something perfect that it was a new opportunity lost, because each person who joined, joined the silent communion.

    My brother, right now he is in the basement, in his room. He is depressed. He must be lonely. He is four years older than me. He moved in after college. He was once my role model. Once I followed him, and did what he said, and stared with wide eyes as he did things I could only image doing. Now, it is strange that I have somehow surpassed him. I have the world wide ahead of me. And he, well I have seen it, seen it in the his shoulders and below his eyes; he is sinking, the world is collapsing around him, the wide array of paths before him are diminishing into a single road to hell. What can I do? What should I do? What would you do?

    1. agnesjack

      This is a very moving piece, PeterW, and the dates make it present and urgent.

      You’ve presented a thoughtful young man who sees all the variations of color (dark and light) in the world, but can’t find a place of comfort. I thought the line, “I reach out and claw and am flailing,” said it all. Then, at the end, we see where his pain comes from — his feeling of helplessness when it comes to his brother. There is nothing more difficult than watching someone you love fall into the pit of depression.

    2. Victor

      Does the final paragraph “My brother, right now…” come from the journal or the narrator? Could be read as either. Althoug the final question “What would you do?” means it has to belong to the narrator I guess. But it being part of the journal makes a very nice twist.

    3. don potter

      Disturbing piece. However, the narrator has an opportunity to reach out to his brother and lead him to help. It’s time to act and act fast while knowing full-well that brother must be put in the hands of a professional.

  12. radioPanic

    He sits, sunken into the hide-a-bed as the sun, preparing to set for the last time, traces constellations of dust motes. His shaking hand reaches for the latest stack of books, fingertips tapping a brief tattoo on each cover before he slides it off.

    What the hell had he been thinking?

    One full week since he’d slipped Miss Rayburn the note. Stupid, schoolboyish—a note!—but necessary. Verbalized, his message would have been a shout; a song belted from a tabletop. Not something the lovely Miss Rayburn would’ve tolerated.

    He looks at the titles as they slip off: Self Confidence NOW; The Mind-Made Prison; Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.


    He pictures Melissa’s—he corrects himself: Miss Rayburn’s—smooth skin, features unreadable, empty of judgment as always, as he checked out the titles. The cool, professional smile, the “Thank you. Have a good afternoon,” as he slipped the books into his satchel and retrieved his library card. The lingering trace of smile he caught while he pushed through the door, glancing over his shoulder for one more glimpse as she returned to work.

    His eyes clamp shut. He drains his glass of Yellow Tail Merlot and sets the glass on the table. Second glass; hardly the textbook drowning-of-sorrows à la Matthew Scudder or Philip Marlowe, more of a splashing-sorrows-in-the face. But he’s never been much of a drinker.

    He lifts the revolver. He looks at the steel’s blue sheen, thinking how unfortunate the stain that’ll soon decorate it.

    As he hefts the Smith & Wesson, his mouth curls into a bitter grin, eyes glancing at the bottom book’s cover, the silhouette holding a gun to the side of his head. Bad idea; from behind, just above the hairline, aiming toward the front, carries the best chance of success.

    His eye catches the corner of another book below Kamal Ravikant’s scripture, and his brow creases. Did he neglect to read one? He slips it out from under. Surely it will contain all the answers.

    The only text on its cover: “10/03/2013—11/07/2013,” written in blue ballpoint. He scratches his head with the hammer, then sets the gun down. Today’s the seventh. He opens the cover, and barbed wire pulls tight around his heart. Melissa’s journal!

    His thumb flips the pages, from which the orderly, flowing script disappears halfway through.

    His eyelids strobe the scene for him. Why would she give an end date—a future end date—to an unfilled journal? He turns to the last entry and, burying his sense of invasion of privacy, reads.

    The room’s dust motes curl icy needles into his spine.

    His eyes dart across his room toward the phone book, then he flips to the journal’s inside cover. Thorough, meticulous Miss Rayburn’s address, of course, graces the endleaf.

    He shoots to his feet, dashes through and slams the door without locking it, launches outside without his coat.

    He leaps down the steps and starts running. He prays for speed.

      1. swatchcat

        No! Psycho stoker, he has a gun remember. Either he’ll shoot himself as a quiet unnoticed person with no courage or he’ll go after her for being blind to his existence, “selfish, ungrateful bitch.” – Disparaging story, explain the purpose of the gun, please.

    1. Victor

      I think it works well, not being told what’s in the journal. I feel 95% sure he’s on his way to the best of happy endings, and yet, with his own suicide so close there, dark doubts linger. Nice.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I take a different road. With all his self examination and no thoughts of anyone else, he lives in his own prison. The diary of meticulous Miss Rayburn, turns the corner of his mind from his thoughts only of himself to another person’s welfare.

        Perhaps it is a key to his own survival. Sometimes, that all it takes.

    2. radioPanic

      Hey, thank you all very much for the comments. Haven’t posted here for, cripes, almost a year. Almost forgot how, when something is left open to interpretation, the sheer range of interpretations one gets, and all the new perspectives. Now, if I had more than 500 words to work with… 🙂

    3. Su@dreamweavernovels

      Wow! Great use of imagery! My only comment, and I haven’t read the others yet, is the use of “shoot” in the next to last paragraph. I thought briefly, maybe he’d shot himself. Very vivid imagery. Not sure you really have to say what was in the journal. Readers are supposed to understand some implied things. I got the gist of it.

  13. don potter

    Rushing home from the Dallas main library, I dropped the armful of books on my desk. This last round of research, I hoped, would provide the information needed to complete my latest project, a non-fiction book, ‘Major Events of the Past Fifty Years.’

    I began to sort through the stack of books. While doing this I came across a personal journal, dog-eared with yellowing pages and fading ink.

    Thumbing through the pages, there was nothing to indicate who this book belonged to, but I was compelled to find out. So I decided to start at the beginning in hopes of shedding some light on the origin of the journal and how it ended up with the books I brought home.

    It did not take long to read through the three months worth of entries covering the period from September first through November twenty-first. There was no indication as to what year the writing took place. But, based on the condition of the journal, it was apparently several years ago. All I was sure of was the writer was angry at something, someone or both.

    The last entry concluded with these words, “Tomorrow I will be surrounded by books, and I will become famous.”

    I tried to figure out the meaning of this message. Could this person be a writer expecting his book will be published and meet with critical acclaim? Maybe he uncovered some news that would change public opinion? Or, was he going to take an action no one could ignore?

    The next step was to get on the Internet and see if I could learn anything that might help me unravel this mystery. I typed in the date November twenty-first. Scorpio came up. It was the last day of the Zodiac sign that starts on October twenty-third.

    Then I looked up famous people born on that date. These included the French writer and philosopher Voltaire, cartoon character Tweety Bird and former quarterback Troy Aikman from a list of many dating back to 1495. A search of deaths and major events on November twenty-first produced little that was noteworthy.

    Going back to the journal, I reread the words, “Tomorrow I will be surrounded by books, and I will become famous.” Then it hit me, the day of the last entry was not the important date. It was November twenty-second that was important. My God, could this be the journal of Lee Harvey Oswald?

    November 22, 1963, Oswald hid in the Dallas Book Repository where he waited for the presidential motorcade. As it passed by, he fired at the open car carrying the President of the United States. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was struck and killed by the assassin’s bullets. This, I am sad to recall, was one of the ‘Major Events of the Past Fifty Years.’

    1. PromptPrincess13

      This was a very creative take on the prompt and the ending took me completely by surprise. The MC’s voice was fresh, the writing well executed, and the plot line had me guessing who the journal’s author was along with the mc. Really enjoyed this one.

    2. radioPanic

      A well-rounded take on the prompt. I really like the misdirection in the middle, and how the journal relates, without credulity-stretching coincidence, to the narrator’s life.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        ‘It did not take me long to read thru the first three months……” All my memories rushed back to me. For I driove the parade route early that morning, As I went through the triple underpass and took the right lane with entered on Stemmons Freeway, my thoughts turned,

        ‘Why would he even make an appearence here, the Republician stronghold of Texas, where little was right about John Kennedy. I was among the group and I arrived at my office, a few blocks from Parkland, where John Kennedy died in.

        The pain, shame for my city, and trauma, I still carry with me. ‘Why Dallas I thought? It would ruin the city forever. I went to church that Sunday to escape the 40 hours of new I had watched until exhaustion, had closed my eyes to rest. My wife stayed home with our two week old daughter. I had the older girls with me.

        My prayer felt empty and useless. When I returned home, Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot point blank in a downtown police station as he was being transferred to a place of safety. An innocuous man, owning a strip club in Dallas, Jack Ruby, had murdered Oswald.

        “The world has turned to insanity,’ I thought. I knew on the 22nd, a little part of me, died that day. I’ve never felt the same since. ‘People are just no damn good I thought.’

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I had little control over what I wrote above, Don. I want to tell you, your story line was wonderful, yet painful for me. You are a master with this story. Kerry

          1. don potter

            I remember where I was and what I was doing when the news broke. After that, I went out with friends and quietly got drunk.

    3. Observer Tim

      I guessed whose journal it was in the first paragraph, and had comfirmation by the fourth. Even so, the story had an interesting and satisfying build to its point. Of course, the major event is now only barely within the past 50 years, but what a way to start his essay!

      1. don potter

        I wasn’t trying to hid the assassination from the readers, which is why I planted clues throughout. You caught on right away, but I’m pleased you stayed with the story until the end.

  14. svaughn

    There was nothing left to do but work on my paper. I had laid my dad to rest the week prior. The immediate sorrow and tears were over, but the deep sense of loss was still an ache to my soul, and I realized to some extent it would always be there. We had both known he did not have much time left on this earth, and that the horrible disease, after my dad had won a few battles, was winning the war. I am thankful he called me and insisted on my coming home and working on my Master’s thesis at the house. I had always felt guilty about leaving him there all alone after my mother died, but the stubborn old mule insisted I continue my college education at Stanford, and not transfer back to the East Coast to a closer school to him. My eyes started to water, though I was grinning as I recalled the not quite argument between the two of us when I told him I was not returning to Stanford. There were no more stubborn people on this earth than my dad and me. “Enough of this” I said to myself, and I pulled out my laptop, and then pulled out all the research material I had checked out of the library before coming home.
    In between two of the books, was a thin leather bound journal that I did not recognize. As I opened the Journal, a piece of paper slipped out onto my lap. I picked up the paper in my eyes immediately locked upon my father’s handwriting, which began with “my dearest son.” When did he have time to slip into my room and put this in my bag, I asked myself, Though not totally invalid, he had been quite bedridden for the last month? Ignoring these thoughts, and began reading his note: ‘this is a journal I have been keeping since I met your mother. I struggled mightily on whether to ever tell you about what was in this journal. Here, near the end, I still do not know whether it is the fair thing to do, but I feel it is the right thing. I beg that you read the journal all the way through, and make no judgments until the end, and even then not without a long period of contemplation. No matter what, know this, you are my son and I have loved you and will always love you and look over you. You have been a blessing to my life, and I am indeed thankful that you are part of it’.

    With a sense of trepidation, I began reading the journal.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A very poignant response to the prompt. The flow of self examination is well done. Don’t be hard on yourself for spelling errors. I’ve been posting for eight months now. Not once, did I get every word spelled correctly. I blame it on my Father, so I can live with myself.

        A suggestion: break your writing into paragraphs. Be sure and double space in order to emphasize them. It’s tricky posting in a box without spellcheck. I should know. Kerry

    1. Observer Tim

      This was a nicely told piece. I love the way you got the message across (that his father was not so in the strictly biological sense) without actually saying so.

      I echo Kerry’s request for paragraph breaks, and spotted a few werpos but nothing jarring.

      1. svaughn

        Originally, I planned to have a section of the journal entries revealing the secret, but the word count limited that. It seemed the submission was better with the mystery so I left it as such. I will say this, he was not adopted; however, I plead the fifth as to any remaining details, and with all respect and humor, I say “nanny nanny booboo”

        As the the remarks about paragraphs, I am with you 100%. I prefer paragraph breaks. In fact, as originally written, it had the breaks. However, I use Dragon in Word. When I copied it to the submission box, the formatting was erased, and I hit the post button just as I realized the formatting had changed. Live and learn. In the future all of my submissions will be carefully reviewed before posting.

    2. Su@dreamweavernovels

      svaughn, I contemplated doing a piece on my daddy’s journals. And I even went to YouTube to listen to songs about Dads. But everything was so melancholy that I changed my mind and went with dark and cryptic. LOL nothing new there. I guess we all know that daddys don’t live forever, no matter how Superman they are. Right now, my dad is in a fight for his life. He needs a new kidney. And I’ll give him one of mine if I’m a match. If only to have him around a little more time, to share his great stories that often make it into my writing.
      Nice piece! Poignant and thoughtful. No sweat on the oops’s. I don’t think we’re shooting for perfect here.

  15. Victor


    I stared at the librarian’s pinched face. I checked it out by mistake? She had to be kidding.

    Struggling to keep my voice even, I said, “I brought five books up to the counter here yesterday. I know it was five because – ”

    “Daniel, you really – ”

    “Don’t interrupt, you, you…” I pointed my finger, almost losing my cool. “And don’t ever call me Daniel!”

    She folded her arms, trying to look non-plussed. I had her on the go, though. I was cooking with gas today.

    She said, “So what should I call you today?”

    “You know what to call me.”


    I nodded, slightly mollified. “Now, take the dew out of your decimals for a moment, Missus, and listen. I know I checked out only five books because this library only has five copies of ‘Ulysses’.”

    “Indeed. And I asked you to bring at least one copy back today, Dan – Ishmael. In case somebody else might like to – ”

    “No! Not until I’ve read every one!”

    “Why, for goodness sake?”

    I considered a moment. She didn’t deserve a fig, but I was large today. “My father told me once that James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ was a one-off masterpiece. So obviously I would like to find the perfect copy.”

    She pulled a face that made my fingers itch. She said, “You have five copies from here and, according to the database, seventeen copies from our other branches. What on earth are you looking for? A particular introduction? Annotations? I could help if you would only tell me.”

    “Well actually, Stupid, I’m looking for the one-off classic dad talked about. So far, every copy I’ve tried to read has been utter rubbish. Utter garbage even a mental patient couldn’t read. But my dad was no liar, and I’m gunna find it.”

    And with that – my dignity thrumming almost as hotly as my anger – I left the premises.

    I almost kicked myself as I ran back inside my flat. I forgot to grill Missus about the sixth book. The one she must have snuck in my stack. The big fat sloppy journal half falling off the couch like an etherised mental patient.

    Feeling ill, but drawn to it, I flipped it open about two-thirds through. Jesus, that handwriting – crabbed and nasty and trailing off at the end of each line like the whine of a migraine.

    I sat on the couch, drew the big floppy thing on my lap. It was awful, just awful. Last night, holding it up to the mirror, it had looked horrifically familiar, like something dad might want to correct.

    Bent forward, using one finger, I began to slowly read the red ink. “The bitch must die. The bitch must die. The bitch must die.” Over and over. Every line. Every page. After a few minutes, I giggled. It actually wasn’t half bad when you started getting into it.

      1. radioPanic

        “…crabbed and nasty and trailing off at the end of each line like the whine of a migraine.”

        Not sure why this works so well, but it does. And it shows something about the narrator without you telling us.

        For a moment, I was trying to connect the journal to the narrator somehow, but decided it says something chilling about his potential future even if its writer has nothing to do with him.

    1. PeterW

      First off I want to know if you’ve read Ulysses. Second I would like to know how many people on this forum have read Ulysses. And thirdly I want to point out that there are people who want to write like the “The Dubliners” and people who want to write like “Ulysses” This is truth.

      And btw… I really how the ‘bitch must die.” refers to Molly, cause honestly those last 40 pages or so were like painful, so painful.

      1. Victor

        Twenty page sentences are a strain. When I made the effort to get into Shakespeare, the rewards were huge. I never found that with Joyce. I just never warmed to Leopold or Dedalus (in either book) as characters, and I couldn’t get much juice out of his word play. I actually found it more interesting reading about his masterpiece. Guy was obviously a great intellect and (taking it on advice) a genius, but wasn’t he mainly communicating – in Ulysses – with other great intellects and geniuses? And with Finnegans Wake, perhaps only his maker truly understood him.

        1. PeterW

          My professor said that the only way Ulysses can be enjoyed is in rereading. It is… but it is also very helpful to have someone explain various parts, and further you cannot get hung up on the way Dublin is wrote: Joyce writes like you know the city. And you have to realize that understating every reference, especially in terms of place will not help you understand the novel itself. And in Ulysses, although it was certainly aimed at a highly intellectual audience familiar with literature, the main point was actually to parody every style in existence, and by doing so usurp every style. Further, like Homer, who is considered the father of literature (being the first recorded), Joyce was attempting to recreate literature, thus becoming father, yet also remaining son (of Homer/literature)… And this is what Christianity was based off of: father=son, Jesus=God, and in the book, Stephen is both Joyce (biographically) and a creation of Joyce (literary, woot). I could rant for days. But, seriously Ulysses is unreal, f-ing amazing, and there is a reason it is generally considered the best novel ever written…

          Its sort of like the Bible. It needs to be interpreted.

          As for FG, which I have never read, it took Joyce 18 years to write it… so it probably takes about 18 years to understand it.

  16. Stormsent

    Second Chances

    Red brick building. ‘Second Chances’ scripted in red paint on the door’s window. Twelve foot ceilings. Lumbering bookshelves. Vertically, horizontally, books in their niches. Shelves swayed under their weight. Groupings that seemed random to casual visitors, were in perfect order for the connoisseur. Wooden floors no longer gleamed with polish.The air, drizzled with dust. Visible, sepia washed. Attic smell.

    Loved too much to throw out or acquired through searches, these books came with second chances. Travel the world or universe. Fall in love, suffer the broken heart. Standing next to soldiers from wars past, healing through medicine or faith. People who opinoned and proselytized, futures predicted and warned. Personalities, animal traits, life and death. Do-it-yourselfers’ , ‘some assembly required’, ‘ how-to-fix-it’, directions of all kinds. Art, music, languages and theater. Family lines, famous or not. It was all here… They waited.

    Lynsi loved Second Chances. The reading nook invitingly furnished. She liked that purchases were tied together with ribbon. Today she bought 5 books.

    Since her brother’s death, Lynsi continued to try and find her place in the world. She lived as his guardian, now displaced. Close in childhood, she saved his life twice, he drifted from her when she left for college. Greatly saddened, upon her return, their closeness dissolved.

    Starbucks. Seven dollars plus later, keys dropped in the blue and yellow pinched pottery bowl. Kept on the hallway table, a place of distinction, first thing seen when entering her home. Handmade. His 2nd grade art project. Hands full. Coffee in one, books in the other, heading towards the living room the ribbon slipped. The books rippled away, falling onto the floor.

    Sitting on the sofa, sip of now cold amaretto, she bent and began picking up the books. She grabbed three, inspected each for damage. Satisfied they were unharmed and placed them on the coffee table. Looking down at the remaining three books, her head tilted, she thought out loud, “Three books?” She picked up the small, leather bound, 6th book. When opened, her eyes widened and her breath stopped. Then, slowly, like inhaling a cigarette, she found her breath again. Handwritten. Her brother’s songs, sketches and doodles. Journal entries. Dated. Sometimes day by day, sometimes week or weeks in between entries. Poetic descriptions of struggles and pledges made while striving to change. Soulful descriptions of world events, injustices that evoked his anger and pleas for a return to civility. Reading, she learned of his disappointments. And then… blank pages. The crash. Tears filled her eyes.

    Closing the book, a ‘dog eared’ corner unfolded. Descriptions of happy times they shared. (Same as hers.) Places he wished they could return. (Same as hers.) Missing her. Promises of being there for her, wanting to be someone she looked up to….apologies. She began to understand the distance he had placed between them.

    Second Chances gave him a place to wait for her. Gave her time until she could understand. Second Chances… second chances.

    1. Observer Tim

      There is quite a lot of vivid imagery in here, Stormsent. You paint a lovely series of pictures both physical and emotional.

      I found the very high proportion of fragments tended to break up the narrative flow more than I prefer.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Intense story Stormset. Reading very quickly, fragments blended well for me, almost like movie stills revolving so fast, smoothness appeared. It was a very emotional read.

    2. agnesjack

      The fragmented dialogue felt like snapshots to me. Or, more appropriately, browsing in a bookstore. I liked the atmosphere that it created very much. I do see Tim’s point, however. Fragmented prose of this nature needs to have a kind of musical flow to work completely.

      That said, I thought the story was beautifully told, Stormsent, and I loved the concept of a bookstore named, “Second Chances.” Very nice.

      1. Stormsent

        I totally agree w/ the ‘”fragment’ comments. This was shaved down from just less than a 1,000 word piece. It probably would have been best saved for that, but I want to learn how to create the short stories. Thanks for your feedback.

    3. don potter

      The techniques you used packs plenty of story into a few lines, but too much of this could be difficult to read. The length of your tale was just right for the fragmented sentences.

  17. UtahJackson

    Ray Dodd is the name of the old man down the street. It’s also the name of the author of a secret journal that found it’s way into my backpack at the library on Wednesday.

    The title of the journal made me raise my eyebrows, “The Humanist Heresy”.

    The first entry was the only one I read.

    Jan 4, 1935- First assignment. Attend Progressive Education Association (PEA) convention. Pose, infiltrate, document. Flow to HQ. Beware the demons.

    Attended convention. Covered as new hire for DCPS, sworn socialist and humanist. Eagerly introduced to many members. Met John Dewey. Invited to backroom dinner with other luminaries. Open talk about radical change, expulsion of God in school, installation of humanist doctrine.

    After dinner a sort of ritual began. A small man at the table head began to speak quickly and loudly in Russian. Soon, others began to chant, at first below their breath. They were saying , “Man is God, Man is God.”

    After a few minutes, a young woman, approximately 14, was brought into the room. The chanting stopped, a small stanza of something in Russian was said, after which the young woman was ravaged over and over by several men. All sat and watched in silence with a kind of anxious docility. Many were masturbating under the table.

    After this the dinner broke up.

    I was told that what I had seen was group therapy, social psychology at its finest. The goal of the “exercise” was to restrict and suppress the exertion of “universal” values and ethics upon each man’s mind. That is to say, by being exposed to the “unethical” or the “immoral”, each man could better understand his own shortcomings in developing true humanistic values and ethics in the face of what is viscerally “wrong”.

    It was further explained that masturbation was encouraged as modern psychology states that sex is a portal to the inherent divinity of man. Sexually focusing the mind during a morally abrasive event liberates man from the cultural influence of his morality and allows him to enter into his God-consciousness.

    I closed the journal and stared out the kitchen window for a long, long time.

    1. Observer Tim

      Okay Utah, this is very disturbing. On several levels.

      I do like the way the humanists, who often cite science as their motivator, take part in what is essentially an occult ritual.

      I also find it interesting that the final reaction of the main character is left unspoken.

    2. jhowe

      Wow, am I wrong to have loved this story? I think many questionable groups justify their behavior in ways such as this, but hopefully not to this extreme. Well written and well told.

    3. radioPanic

      Interesting, disturbing take. Could possibly be more disturbing by moving Ray Dodd closer the narrator, imply that he’d been more directly connected, had some impact on the narrator’s growing up. (Yeah, all in 500 words.) Well done.

  18. Frozen Alone

    For years I had avoided this town and all who dwelled in it. Memories of a life I tried my hardest to forget would flash before my eyes if I even saw the name of my hometown on a map. Now I’m back for one last funeral. Hopefully this will be the last time I step foot in this town.

    With a few hours before the funeral I took a stroll down to the old library, the one refuge I had growing up. The librarian stood stiff as I walked through the door. A number of people my age or older stopped to stare as well. No one had ever expected to see me in this town again.

    I sat myself down at a deserted table with a stack of books about the 1960s determined to learn a little about a subject I had never bothered to ask my grandmother about. For years my family had been important here, I never knew why.

    I sorted the books by size and started to skim to pages. Hardly ten pages into the first four books and I had to set them down. A moment later I was standing, the books had been gathered back in my arms, and the section of shelves locked into my sight.

    The last book slipped into its place with ease. I couldn’t help but notice that a small book was missing that hadn’t been before. The edge of a leather binding peeked out from behind an old yearbook by her hand. A shift of a book later and the small book was in my hands. The leather was newer than the rest of the bindings for this section of books. I flipped the cover open to see where it really belonged, a book should be in its rightful home after all.

    The leather bound pages fell to the ground as my eyes swept across the handwritten message. The shock of the words was short lived. Slowly I knelt to pick up the book. It was small and delicate. I felt as if just touching it would make it crumble away, the words forever lost. I turned to the first page again.

    “To Whoever Reads This,

    My name is Ryan. I am about to do something that will hurt my family in ways I can’t imagine, but I have to do it. The pain is just too much.

    I ask you that you deliver this to my little sister. She’ll pass it on to the rest of the family but I’d like for her to read it first.”

    Her name was scrawled across the page in his disastrous handwriting. She turned the page to read his next words.

    “If you’re reading this, I’m gone. I’m sorry. Don’t do what I did. Live long and be strong. Carry my memories where you go. I’ll always be with you. I hope these letters will explain it all to you.”

    She sat reading his words and was late to the funeral.

    1. Observer Tim

      Tragic story, Frozen, and nicely told. If I’m reading this correctly Ryan committed suicide, which is always painful to those around him.

      The fifth paragraph (about finding the journal) is a little rough around the edges; I found it didn’t scan well. That can be fixed in editing.

  19. Kylero

    The doctor’s told me to read. To read anything I could. That reading would help me remember. Who I am. What I’ve done. The people surrounding me day after day as I lay on this gurney.

    Every couple of days a nurse would bring me a new book, a magazine, a newspaper. It didn’t matter what you read, they said. Just keep reading.

    So I read.

    They said to focus on the date and you might remember the days you’ve missed. That the different stories might make me feel something, anything but the numbing unknown. To tell them if and what made me feel that way.

    Not that it ever does.

    Amnesia isn’t classified as a disease, but you die a little every day you don’t remember who you are. People bridge their present lives with the experiences they’ve built from memories. Amnesia takes away that bridge, cutting the cord to your mistakes, your family. To yourself.

    Today, the nurses brought me a ragged diary. It’s bent spine crippling the worn, delicate pages from standing sober. It was about Connor Oh. A lunatic who claims he’s traveled through time as some messianic savior. But what do I care. It doesn’t matter. I just have to keep reading.

    So I read about the future. About the ramblings of a dead man. I read about the decimation of death and corruption. About the arrival of true freedom each man has desired, yet so sorely lacked through the invention of the ‘happiness’ sedative.

    War is dead. Disease defeated. Cognitive thinking is an eroding, negative trait. Peace reigns in what’s described as the Age of Peace and Content and yet, all this guy does is bitch like a demonic brat.

    “Where are the thinkers? When did individuality become a crime.”

    He says he’s coming back to solve our problems. To stop us from the upcoming, numbing peace that will ‘doom our kind,’ leaving us stagnant in a ever-evolving world, along with neurotic prophecies of satisfaction and complacency.

    “Perfection is a goal, not the ideal reality. Man is flawed so be flawed. Don’t get upset about it. Don’t fight it. Be it. Know it. Do what you can do to better yourself, but know that you will always be perfectly flawed.”

    He says peace under sedatives is a false reality. An illusion. A self-imposed handicap that needs to be evaporated, eradicated, and withdrawn through a ‘reawakening.’

    “If by violence, then so be it.”

    He went on about the importance of violence in humanity’s history and how peace is a parasite that eats away at our natural instincts and how to implement random, but imperative, acts of violence even through the “happy pill.”

    I wake up to the locking of a door. The book is gone and a new magazine is left in it’s place on my table stand. Not that it matters. It’s all just words. An experiment to see what triggers a reaction.

    I turn my body, nuzzling my head against the cheap starch hospital pillow, pushing and prodding it to get comfortable.

    That’s when I open my eyes and read my wristband.

    Patient: Oh, C.

  20. lailakuz

    I love the story concept and, although I normally like a little more description, I thought the clean, concise prose worked really nicely. I would maybe fix up the little grammatical errors but, overall, a moving tale with an interesting main character. I can only imagine her guilt … God, that must be horrible. But, overall, a very special story with a clear meaning.

  21. starwatcher

    Just letting you know that the mistakes are on purpose. I hope I don’t write like this 😉

    “For Our Children’s Children”

    Night #1

    Hi I’m Joel. I’m starting this journal because America has been attacked. I don’t know by who because comunications are down, but I know that Dallas (the nearest major city to me) was nuked. We are helping our nieghbors who are about eighty maybe ninety years old. Mom says that they won’t last long so that we might as well try to help. I think she means that they are going to die. Mom told me to write this because we were living in an important time in history. I have to go to bed now. I’m scared.

    Night #2

    Someone tried to break in last night. My mom said that he knoked on the door yelling help. She said that she didn’t answer and grabbed my dad’s gun. The guy broke the window and Mom shot at him. She doesn’t know if he got hurt. She says that she thinks that he was Tommy, her student from school. We looked at all our food and Mom said that we should try to leave and get more food.

    Night #_

    It has been a little while since I wrote in the journal but I haven’t been able to find it because we have been traveling. Right after my last writing, Mom told me to get some cloths and valubles because we were going to leave. She told me she was going to go away for a little while and to hide in the house until she would come back. I went up stairs in to my room and hid under my bed. Mom was gone for a long time and when she came back she had two horses that she said she barrowed and that she also got some food and that we needed to go quickly. We were going to go to Grandpa’s house she said and that’s where I have been living. He lives in a city near Mt. Pleasant he showed me on a map. I’ve turned 11 today.


    Hi Son, this is my gift to you, now that you turned eleven today. I know that there isn’t much written down, but I think that you should have this, to pass down to your children. Maybe you’ll show more effort in recording everything than I did when I was your age. Good luck. I love you so, so much.


    Hi. My name is George and I’m 11 years old…

    1. Observer Tim

      Good job, starwatcher. You’ve captured the writing style of an 11-year old reasonably well, though there might still be a little too much sophistication in the grammar. Chalk it up to his being a smart eleven-year old. I like the sense of ongoing history.


    10/31/2013 3:24pm
    I pulled out what seemed like hand written notes from the “Zeus” the God of all book as I sat down at the cafeteria table. They weren’t notes but rather journal entries in letter form.

    Dear God: I pray this year will bring my family and marriage back together. Amen. Robyn

    01/02/2013 Doug celebrated New Years without me.

    01/31/2013 My friend Prudence was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers disease. She’s losing her mind.

    Dear God: I bought candles, wine and a red negligee. I want a Valentine’s day of renewed passion with my husband. I’m desperate and scared. Father help. Robyn

    02/15/2013 Doug didn’t come home last night.

    Dear God: How can we fix what he will not face? I want my husband, my family and my marriage. Help me. Robyn.

    03/18/2013 Now I know what the silent treatment feels like. How do I say I’m sorry and mean it?

    Dear God: I spoke with Reverend DeWord. He doesn’t understand. This is an issue the church won’t budge on although they have some skeletons in their closet too. Thanks for sending him. Robyn.

    04/17/2013 It’s my birthday. I’m alone and I want to die.

    Dear God: I said things to Doug I can’t take back. I think he’s going to leave us. What do I do? Robyn.

    Dear God: Forgive me. I slept with a hit man to kill Tracy. I didn’t know what else to do. Robyn.

    06/30/ 2013 I just wanted Doug and Tracy to feel my hurt.

    Dear God: Doug’s gone. Tracy is still alive. What now. Please stop this pain. Robyn.

    07/21/2013 My Bff Melody found a lump in her breast today.

    08/10/ 2013
    Dear God: Tracy shot my only son. Please don’t let my baby die.Take me! Lord I can’t live without my babies. Robyn.

    08/22/2013 My friend Sayber found out she’s sterile and will never be a mother. Life’s not fair God. Why?

    Dear God: Why me? My son’s a paraplegic and my teen aged daughter is pregnant. Stop the madness please. Robyn.

    09/16/2013 The girls weekend trip was a bust. I don’t care about anything anymore.

    10/01/2013 I figured out a way to stop my pain.

    10/07/2013 I bought a gun today. I don’t know how to use it but I will!

    Dear God: Forgive me. I paid thugs to rob Tracy’s house today just because it’s his birthday. Why should he and my husband be happy? Robyn.

    Dear God: Happy Halloween. This is it! I don’t care anymore! THERE WILL BE NO MORE PAIN! Robyn.

    There was also a newspaper clipping about a delusional and disheveled woman who’d jumped from the ledge of the First National Bank. The woman’s husband (Douglas Edwards) and another man (Tracy E. Warren) tried to talk her down with no such luck. I replaced the papers, rode the elevator back upstairs to return the books to the room where I’d gotten them. I pushed the door open and she looked up and smiled at me.

    “Thanks for holding on Ma. I love you.”

    1. starwatcher

      Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Are you sure this isn’t a modern day Job? 😉 I’ll admit that I was a little amused about the last entry: Happy Halloween.

    2. Observer Tim

      It’s sad to see poor Robyn coming to this, McKevin. The summary is an excellent way to show how long her pain has been going on. It’s an interesting picture of a woman falling apart, and I like the subtle reference to at least one other prompt.

      So does this timeline fit in with your larger story, or is it just for the prompt?

    3. Susan

      Hi McKevin – found this a bit confusing, and had to read it all over again in order to appreciate it, after reading the last few lines – it’s a powerful and unusual way of conveying what it might be like to have a serious breakdown.

    4. agnesjack

      This was a very disturbing story, McKevin, of how deep despair can lead to psychosis, although it appears that Robyn was not quite stable from the outset. The timeline format worked well to reveal her mental and emotional spiral downward.

      I was a little confused by a few things, however:

      Why would Tracy shoot Robyn’s son? That seemed to come out of nowhere.
      Who is the narrator? Is it the pregnant daughter or the paraplegic son? (I assume the mother did not jump and is in some hospital or psychiatric ward.)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hello McKevin,

        Beautifully told story. I’ve read it three times. I have the same question about the narrator as Agnesjack does. My take, it’s her daughter.

  23. kahtymeridiah

    Oh my gosh, I wish I hadn’t opened this damn book. At least I thought it was a book. The book I wanted. Now I’ve been sitting here for at least an hour with one thought running through my mind. Forget this, forget this writing!

    The beautifully illustrated clothbound journal in my lap was written by my boyfriends ex. The one I met last week at the local farmer’s market. What do you think? Is the universe trying to tell me something?

    Crap. He told me she was really unhappy, suicidal, psychotic. I believed him. He’s right about that. That’s for sure. And dangerous.

    On the other hand, if she’s being honest here, I have a bit more idea about why he’s so good in bed. He’s had a lot of practice, for a long time. Somewhere along the way, he learned his craft, or mine, very well.

    From experience, I know how private journals are. They are probably, in most cases, honest and truthful. For me anyway. Oftentimes my public writing is just like my journal. I realized that recently when trying to decide whether or not to publish my last couple of essays on my blog. I did it, but I’m still feeling quite anxious about who may be reading it and whether or not they take it seriously. My problem.

    Hope she’s not serious about her talk to take matters into her own hands, ‘with a pistol or 2 or 3’. Tom’s been frightened of her in the past. Frightened of what she would do to him, or his family, or herself. I thought that was over with. Obviously, it’s not. Since she’s still going to target practice.

    I need to get back up off this bench, walk back to the library, put the damn journal into the book return slot. And not go back to the Farmers Market. Tell Tom about my worries after reading this. Do I tell him I read the journal? Ooh, that makes me sound like a snoop. It wasn’t my fault! Oh, what to do.

    Her comments about me are completely misleading.

    One of these days I’ll ring her up and tell her so.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice view into the fears and nervousness of the main character, kahtymeridiah. I like the fact that it’s about the reaction of the character reading the diary instead of the contents of the diary itself. You did a great job of letting the main character’s worry fall out for the reader to see.

      1. kahtymeridiah

        Thanks so much for your input, Tim. I’m brand new to this writer site.

        I spent Halloween waiting at hospital. I was accompanying my son, who was there for 4 hour scheduled surgery, accompanied by 3 hours pre-op and 3 post-op. Yes, all is well.

        While waiting, I was writing, reading WD (a couple of issues from 2011 & 2012 that a friend picked up in a laundromat recently, lol), and went to take a look online. I stumbled upon this challenge. I’m always good for a challenge.

        So, thanks again for the feedback. It’s quite fun reading all the other submissions, learning from them.

        And you.


  24. wkspizer

    by W.K. Spizer

    The library was crowed that Friday in June of 1975, which surprised me to some degree since school was no longer in session and school children temporarily had no need to do research for term papers or a quiet place to study away from warring siblings. I was there to checkout some new reading material and catch up on some periodicals and out of town newspapers. Debbie and the kids were headed to the beach early and I wanted to find something new and different to read at the beach when I caught up with them in a couple of days.

    I guess I was not paying close attention, because when I arrived home I discovered that one of my books was actually a hand written journal by a woman named Julia Stream. The discovery surprised me two ways. First, the document was hand written and on the selves mixed in with the fiction. Secondly, I had known a Julia Stream being my nanny when I was a child growing up on our farm. In fact Julia had cared for my mother and my uncles when they were young children. She was African American and she and her husband, Percy were tenant farmers on my grandfathers’ tobacco farm.

    I opened the book and began reading the beautiful handwriting. Julia was describing her anguish for her son, Major Stream, who had been charged with rape and robbery and was awaiting trial at our local courthouse. This incident had taken place in 1948 and she was very fearful that her son would be convicted and sentenced to death. I was surprised at the beauty of the handwriting as well as the quality of the prose. Many African American people did not have the opportunity to attend school and they were not afforded the quality of materials and physical plants that were enjoyed by their fellow Caucasian citizens.

    From her narrative, I gathered that Major had left home on a Saturday evening with his brother Sam and a mutual friend Dave. They came upon a car, occupied by two couples, parked in a wooded area and known for couples to park and make out. It was obvious that the three men planned to make trouble that evening, since they were carrying a shotgun and knives. They robbed the couple of personal items and money and Major and Dave proceeded to rape the females. The three men then left the area on foot.

    I followed up with some independent research and confirmed my suspicions that the women were white and in 1948 this could not turn out well for Major and his companions. Julia was describing how she had ask my mother’s family for assistance as well as my fathers family since my fathers brother was one of the jury members. I knew that this particular area was very rural and sparsely populated, but what were the chances that both sides of my family would be involved in this incident.

    It was clearly a traumatic event for everyone involved, especially Julia and her family. Here was a mother who was screaming for help, an abusive, alcoholic husband who was unable to feel what she felt and an employer, my parents, who were afraid and/or unable to assist her. There had to be more to this story.

    1. Observer Tim

      A tragic tale of a type too-often encountered in real life, wkspizer. It’s a pointed reminder that less than a century ago social justice was an alien term. It is well-told, though there are several places where another pass could clean up the grammar and style a bit.

  25. seliz

    I picked it up on impulse. An old, leather bound book with crinkled parchment paper inside. It was exceptionally beautiful—especially for a library book—and I had to have it. I found it in the YA section, so I figured that it was something I would enjoy.
    What I didn’t expect was that it was a hand written journal—beautiful calligraphy scrawled across each page.

    March 18th, 1910

    Today I leave for America. I am terrified, but Mama told me to be strong. She gave me this journal to write everything that happens, so when she follows me here, she can read all about it. I think that was just her way to get me to stop crying. My younger sister Margaret is coming too, and though I’d never tell her, I’m relieved. We’ll meet my aunt on the dock and live with her. It won’t be the same though. I miss Mama and Papa already. I wish they were coming, too.

    I paused from my reading, a wave of sadness washing over me. I skimmed the pages, being cautious of the delicate pages, and stopped when I came across a picture—two young girls arm in arm in front of a boat. Flipping it over, it was labeled in the same calligraphy, “Margaret (age 9) and Me (age 13), 1910. I flipped the picture back over and examined the author of the journal. She was a wisp of a child, tiny and frail, her younger sister almost as tall as her. Her dark eyes held sadness that only her journal could word.
    Her entries had been sporadic, filled when the heartache and joys of a young immigrant. One entry in particular stopped me short.

    March 15th, 1912
    Great news! My parents are coming to America! They used their savings for tickets on the Titanic. They set sail in April. Ahh! I can hardly wait! I’ve missed them so much!

    My breath caught in my throat at the mention of the Titanic.

    April 15th, 1912

    I can barely see from crying. Mama and Papa are dead. I shall never see them again. It doesn’t seem right. They paid everything to get tickets on the Titanic and it sank. They drowned trying to reach us. My heart aches. All I long for is the faces I will never see again. Oh Mama! Oh Papa! How can it be?

    I felt my own tears trickling down my cheeks as I read her words. To sate my own curiosity, I flipped to the last entry in the journal to see how she coped.

    June 10th, 1919

    Dear Journal,

    It has been too long since I visited your pages. How the years have flown. I am no longer the child who cried from leaving her parents. I’m an adult—married and expecting my first child. If it is a boy, I shall name him Albert, after my father. If it is a girl, I shall name her Katherine, after my dearest mother. I think they would be proud.

    1. Observer Tim

      This is a great story, seliz. A reminder that life goes on and loss is a significant part of it. Our ancestors certainly understood that better than we. The main character has a lot of strength for a 15-year old.

      1. seliz

        Thank you. Our ancestors did understand loss better than we do, as well as sacrifice. I wrote the main character thinking, that immigrants needed to be strong in order to survive.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A beautiful story, Seliz. Very tearful at first, then a ray of hope at the end. My great great grandfather and my great great grandmother came from Ireland in the early 1800’s.
        What courage for two young sister to go through. I loved it.

    2. agnesjack

      I can’t really add much to the comments. This is a poignant story — and I’m glad to see that she survived such tragedy and is thriving. The immigrant story is so much a part of the American story. My father-in-law’s parents came over from Ireland when they were in their teens (they met over here). I can’t imagine what it must have been like to just pick up and leave like that.

      1. seliz

        I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that in my teens! The crazy thing is that it still happens. A co-worker of mine is from the Ukraine and when she was 16 she won what they call the lottery over there–for a Visa. She ended up coming alone because no one else in her family could get one. She hoped they would be able to follow her, but she’s now 32 and still no one has been able to get a visa.

        1. Observer Tim

          On fellow I knew about twenty-five years ago was smuggled out of communist Estonia hidden in the back of a hay-wagon. If he’d been found he would have been killed. We forget how much of our freedom is a product of where we are. But even in a “free” country, the courage needed to make this sort of change is incredible.

  26. Susan

    I left Matt’s stag do early – I suspected the plans to leave him naked and tied to a lamp-post, would come to nought, because the chief plotters were already too pissed to tie their own shoe-laces. If they’d stood any chance of success, I’d have been right in there, yanking off his pants. But I could tell Matt was quietly going easy on the sauce, too smart to risk wrecking his big day.

    I couldn’t bear to look at his smug face any longer, so I sloped off home. Still stone cold sober and wide awake, I was too restless to sleep, so started sorting through the books I’d checked out the library for my research paper. Caught between two weighty tomes, I found a slim volume I didn’t recognise, with a plain, soft black cover. As I opened it, I realised this was no library book – it was a personal diary, penned in ink, in a beautiful, delicate, sloping script.

    Reminding myself how much I’d hate anyone to read my diary, I was about to resist temptation and close it, when I saw my name:

    “Plucked up courage and tried talking to Benny Tyler again today. He was wearing that cool old leather jacket, and I said how much I liked it, but he gave me the brush-off, as usual. Just grunted and went back to his book. Reckon he thinks I’m a dimbo – guess I’m not smart enough for him.”

    I remembered that day, 2 years ago – remembered the other girls giggling in the background. Remembered feeling my face turning beetroot, which was why I’d buried it in my book. I thought it was a set-up to tease me, for a laugh. Let’s face it, I was easy prey – the skinny, spotty, geeky swot, with glasses and a lisp.

    Like all the guys, I was head-over-heels for Marcie – but not just because she was beautiful. She was clever, too (how could she ever think she wasn’t “smart enough” for me?) But that wasn’t it, either. I was crazy about her because I could tell she was a kind, caring, gentle person – the kind of girl I’d want to mother my kids. But I wasn’t the kind of guy any girl wanted to date – who’d want kids looking like me?

    Or so I’d thought. But as I read her diary, it became clear that all that time she’d been coming onto me – and, out of embarrassment, I’d given her the impression I wasn’t interested. So she’d given up – and settled for Matt. Smooth-talking Matt – who’d be walking her down the aisle tomorrow morning.

    I waited in the crowd outside the church, clutching the diary. As she stepped out of the car on her father’s arm, I walked right up and handed it to her.

    “I’m so sorry, Marcie,” I said, “I never knew – am I too late?”

    Her eyes filled with tears – but she smiled, with a look that told me I was just in the nick of time.

    1. jhowe

      Good story Susan. I think Matt will get over it soon enough; smug people usually do. How wonderful it would be to find out the girl you were crazy about was secretly crazy about you.

    2. don potter

      Acts of courage are seldom experienced by the timid. The MC now has a new lease on life. maybe it will be too overwhelming for Marcie. Who knows? Only the writer knows.

  27. Kerry Charlton

    [A true story. The journal was used to tell it]


    When Dad passed away, I inherited his grandfather’s library. Over a thousand books and ledgers arrived at my home. Overwhelmed with’s its historical value, I donated most to Philadelphia.

    In the bottom of one box, lay a leather bound journal. I opened it to the front leaf and read,

    ‘To my beloved husband William, on our third wedding anniversary. December 31, 1869.
    Maragret Jane Charlton.’

    My great grandfather’s journal,

    ‘October 11, 1870

    Elected to common council today, ward 15. William Stokley is major of Philadelphia. I’ve had dealings with him. He’s troubling, but I’ll manage it.

    January 2, 1873
    Last day on council. It’s quite a relief now that Stokely is stirring trouble and investigating my city contracts.

    May 12, 1873
    Bought a new home for Jane today. Three stories at 2700 Girard Avenue. She appears excited as well as William Jr., Francis and Mary.

    October 10, 1879

    My worst day in a long time. Rumors swept city hall about my taking a $400.00 bribe from William Irvine to push his bid through for the Schuylkill bridge project. It wasn’t my fault he ran a $100,000.00 over his bid.

    October 5, 1882
    Three years the bribe rumor has tried to derail my coal yard and construction business, My official response was in the Inquirer today,

    “These statements have been made with a view to injure my business and I will protect myself from the defamer.”

    September 6, 1883
    Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a double payment made on my Poplar to Penn. road contract in 1875. $4000.00, stuff and nonsense!

    March 12, 1884
    The ‘Mandamus Inquiry’ on mis-deeds of contractors in Philadelphia, has expired due to lack of witnesses who will testify. Peace finally.

    Entry by Jane Charlton
    May 21, 1886
    My husband suffered a severe head injury on the eighteenth when he was thrown from his carriage by his horse bolting. I fear for his welfare.

    Entry by William
    August 17, 1886
    Revovering at Cape May this summer. Pleased with my physical progress. Saved a woman from drowning today at Cape May Point. Still not thinking clearly.

    September 25, 1886
    Appointed chair of committee to help District Attorney Graham, dealing with crime in Philadelphia.
    My mind continues to deteriorate.

    April 23, 1887
    Returned from Florida trip to help me recover. No success when I realized former mayor Stokley made vast changes in my ward. Furious and steaming mad.

    April 26, 1887
    Burst into city hall this morning making a damn nuisance by yelling,

    “Where is ex mayor Stokley? Fetch hin out. I want to kill him.”

    My mind’s worse now, can’t concentrate. Doctor’s don’t seem to help.

    Entry by Jane Charlton
    March 6, 1888
    My beloved William, went to be with the Lord on the 28th. He’s finally at peace. I miss him dearly as do the children. Buried March 2, at Mount Moriah Cemetery. This journal will rest under my pillow as I sleep.’

    I closed the journal, thinking,

    “Well Dad, you inherited it all from your grandfather, didn’t you? I understand now.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You’re welcome Susan. Thank you for your kind words. It’s hard to compress a life such as my great grandfather lived, in 500. Good practice I should say. I even have a photp of my great grandparent horses. Who else has photos of horses from the eighteen sixties?

    1. jhowe

      How wonderful that must have been to find the journal. I’ve heard a few small tidbits about my great grandoarents, but know hardly anything about what kind of people they were.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you jhowe. Sadly no journal ever existed. I made one to relate the story. There are many articles that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on my great grandfather, enough to write a book on. Photos of the house, his lampblack business and work history, even a photo made around 1870. He looks exactly as my Father looked at the same age.

        The make believe journal was the only way to get this much story in. Every fact in the jjournal is true.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I couldn’t agree more, Tim. Our past history of family leads us to understand ourself easier. At least in my is. Thank you for your comments, as always.

    2. agnesjack

      These tiny little one or two line entries tell such a full story. And it makes me curious about your grandfather’s archenemy, William Strumberg Stokley.

      I applaud you for sharing this, Kerry.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thank you, agnesjack. I should have some articles on Stokely along with William. I need to get into the Philadelphid Inquiror’s web site and see what I can find on him in the archives. A distant cousin in Philadelphia has researched William Charlton for twenty years, digging through Philadelphia.
          I did supply him with a photo of William.

          1. agnesjack

            My sister has been researching our paternal grandmother’s family, the Lloyds, who came from Wales. It’s a fascinating project.

    3. seliz

      Very interesting. I must say, I’m a little jealous that you know so much about your great grandparents. It wasn’t until my grandparents died (sans the great!) that I was old enough to understand the importance of knowing ones history.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you seliz for your thoughts. I knew exactly how my great grandfather thought and acted and looked like. If I hadn’t known better, I would say he was reincarnated in my own own Father

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you BezBawni. I’m a little overwhelmed so many of you found this interesting. I do of course but I appreciate every ones interest. Perhaps Stokely and my great grandfather can visit another prompt. Get this, I even have a portait photo of William Stokely. He looks like he eats glass for breakfast.

    4. starwatcher

      Wow! Very interesting. A small look into the life of your great-grandfather. My ancestors were Mormons that crossed the desert and before that, Vikings. That’s the amazing thing about history: how similar and how different everything is throughout the ages.

      I want to see more of this. Very well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you starwatcher. He was a fascinating man. There are many articles on William in the archives of the Philadelphia Inquirer. So many things he was involved in. A distant cousin who lives in Philadelphia is also related to him and has researched him for over twenty years now.

        Photos, deeds, letters, newspaper articles, all of it’s here. Tempted to do my first full lemgth book on him. There is gap of ten years, from his early twenties to about 30, we know very little about but my imagination can fill in that part.

        Thank you for the read and comments.

        1. starwatcher

          If you’re writing a full-length book that’s somewhat close to what’s written down here, I’ll be sure to be one of the first to buy it. Good luck!

    5. don potter

      The people who built this country were not weaklings. They handled adversity and still ran their businesses. Nice story, particularly since it’s true.

  28. agnesjack

    Annie had been working on her research paper all afternoon, and she was beginning to feel as if she were drowning in facts. For the past six years she had been working full-time and going to school at night to try to finish the degree she had started nearly thirty years ago. One more semester after this and she would be done. She was exhausted.

    “I need to take a break,” she said out loud, and began gathering the library books that were scattered all over the dining room table. When she picked up the last book — an old statistical volume from the early twentieth century — a very small, leather-bound booklet fell out. It must have been tucked inside the back cover.

    There was no title on the cover or spine. She opened it and on the first, yellowed page were the words, “My Confession,” written in a very neat, old-fashioned hand. On the inside front-cover, in the same meticulous hand, was written, Josie Shane Marsdale, May 1927.

    Annie stared at the name. Josie was Annie’s maternal grandmother. She had died in June of 1927 at the age of twenty-nine from some kind of cancer. Annie’s grandfather, Warren, who lived to be ninety-two, never seemed to get over his wife’s death. For the rest of his life, he spoke of her almost as if she were simply out somewhere and would soon be back.

    “I need a cup of coffee,” Annie said, and went to the kitchen to make a pot. The journal unsettled her a little.

    Josie Shane had been the assistant librarian in the local library. She married Warren Marsdale, one of the most sought after young men in the town, at the age of nineteen. Warren was handsome and personable and made a decent living in the hardware store his father owned. Their daughter, Rachel (Annie’s mother) was only six years old when Josie died, but Rachel could still recall the unique scent of her mother as she tucked her in each night, and the soft voice as she read her a bedtime story.

    Annie came back to the table with her coffee. She thought her mother might want this as a memento, but she felt she should read it first to be sure it would not be upsetting. The title seemed so ominous.

    She opened it and turned to the next page. There were two small paragraphs written in the same careful hand. She skimmed through the book and saw that the rest of the pages were blank. The paragraphs read:

    Now that I am so very ill and certain that I shall not survive, I must clear my mind of a shameful transgression, so that I may face my God in peace.

    Warren was not my first love, but he was my most dear. There. I’ve said it. May God forgive me.

    Annie gently closed the book and put it on the table.

    “O.K. with you, grandma,” she said, “if I keep this to myself?”

    1. Susan

      Ah – very moving – all the more so for the fact that she felt so guilty about something that wasn’t such a great sin after all. You kept my interest and attention right the way through – excellent.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A beautiful story you’ve written, Agnes. I also thought it very emotional and I was left wondering if her grandmother’s affair with her lover, resulted in Annie’s mother. A deep secret held by Annie’s mother.

        1. agnesjack

          Actually, no, Kerry. I specifically didn’t want to go there. Annie’s mother is not the result of the love affair because it happened before she married Warren. I wanted this to be a secret that the poor thing kept from everyone, because in those days it was unacceptable to have sex before marriage — especially as a teenager.

      1. agnesjack

        Susan, jhowe and Tim,
        Yes. The transgression in modern terms is really nothing, and that’s what makes it kind of sad. To be honest (and Tim is right, here), you can’t be sure what actually happened. Back then, even if a boy had touched her intimately, she might have felt some shame about it.

    2. seliz

      This was well written, and you conveyed her grandmothers guilt nicely. The fact that she waited until she was on her death bed to write it, only reinforces how her guilt plagued her. I also liked the bit with the MC’s grandfather talking about her as if she would be coming back shortly. So sweet!

  29. BezBawni

    It happened in the summer of 1813 before my final year in the boarding school. By some ridiculous coincidence my parents happened to befriend one of the wealthiest families in our county – la famille de Lorraine, who invited us to their ‘château’ for the summer. I had thought we, Englishmen, were the poshest nation, but then I met de Loraine. However, they did have one treasure I cared for – their only daughter Josephine. She was a year younger than me, adorably shy and delicately pretty.

    On the seventh day of my boring existence in de Lorraine’s country mansion – there were hardly people around, except the staff, and Josephine had consistently been avoiding my charming company – I decided to introduce myself to de Loraine’s library. Since I was wasting my time anyway, I thought I might as well waste it studying. It was another ridiculous coincidence – at the result of which several heavy volumes ended up hailing down onto my head – that I found Josephine’s diary. Suddenly, I became glad French had been forced on me at school. In delicate curly letters, Josephine described how madly ‘amoureuse’ of me she was. I couldn’t miss the prospect of such immense entertainment. I put the journal carefully back where it had been and went to my room to devise a plan.

    Throughout the following weeks I was very insistent in seeking the company of mademoiselle Josephine and applied whatever thespian abilities I had to persuade her of my purest and deepest ‘tendresse’ towards her. Every afternoon, when Josephine had her piano classes, I would amuse myself to no end reading her naïve and antic ‘mots d’amour’ describing how Monsieur Charles (that would be me) was ‘charmant, courtois et noble’.

    By the end of the summer I decided it was time to put the icing on my plan – ‘le baiser d’amour’ or ‘the kiss of love’. Wearing my best outfit, I took blushing and stumbling mademoiselle Josephine up the hill for a picnic. Our chaperone (bless her Welsh soul) dozed off after about half an hour in the warm August sun. Suddenly aware of us being ‘seuls in silence’, Josephine went stiff with fear, which was very much to my advantage, because I met no resistance whatsoever when I leaned in towards her. With wide terrified eyes Josephine watched my mouth drawing closer, and as our lips almost touched I drew away so abruptly that she gasped and woke up our chaperone. Apologizing three times and making sure I looked properly embarrassed, I took my leave.

    Tasting the triumph on my tongue, I went into the library the next afternoon. There were three full pages of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ in respect of the ‘événements miraculeux’ of the previous day. I laughed to tears in my eyes, until I reached the last page, at the bottom of which was one sentence written in perfect English:

    “I am delighted to be the reason of your amusement this summer, my dear Charles, I shall inform all the respectful ladies of the county of your lovely shenanigans and utter lack of respect for a Lady’s privacy.”

    Josephine never spoke to me again afterwards, nor did many other ladies.

    1. jhowe

      Good one BB. Poor Charles; I’m sure I would have been tempted to read the diary as well, but guys are that way I’m afraid. Thanks for including us in this delightful story. The smattering of French was a nice touch. Even though I can’t read it, I was able to get the meanings.

      1. BezBawni

        I was counting on the English roots of the words and tried to use only those words that wouldn’t need translating (which often annoys me in books, I’m a ‘footnote’ person)))

        P.S. Naughty jhowe, tempted to read diaries))))

    2. Observer Tim

      Ouch. Charles certainly deserves what he got. An excellent comedy of manners story, BezBawni.

      It’s amazing how much even a single fact like 1813 does to set the piece and draw the images. I was captivated from the start.

      1. BezBawni

        It worked! (phew)))) To avoid extra word count I’ve been looking for some short remark which would immediately place the reader into the atmosphere, and it seems I’ve found one. (By the way, it’s the year when Pride and Prejudice was first published.)

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A wonderful story, BezBawni. If Charles had married Josephine, since she was a real princess and a beauty, his title could have been, “Prince In Waiting.” He may be better off, not financially but otherwise, without her. Someone nees to write a story on how to handle a princess.

    3. seliz

      Well, I hope Charles learned his lesson from that one! Although, I can’t really blame him for reading the journal. You did a nice job with the French setting. The incorporation of the language was a nice touch. Good job!

    4. PeterW

      Honestly…. didn’t sound at all 1813 lolz…. or old… sounded vintage 2013 high-school. The insertion of French was clever, but unnecessary and sort of a cheap trick.

      But otherwise ok.

  30. Observer Tim

    Dr. Romanov’s work was so badly translated that I had to put it down. He lived in the Stalin era; as a free-thinking scientist that meant he also died in the Stalin era, frozen to death in some forgotten gulag. His work on the paracosm was inspired but sadly incomplete.

    When I set the tome down it slid off the table along with several others. Picking them up, the one that caught my attention was a little brown notebook with a leather cover; I didn’t remember even taking it from the library, but it was there on the floor. There was nothing written on the cover so I opened it.

    The Journal of Alana Ravenwing. What the? She was my friend as a little girl – my imaginary friend. She got me through many long and lonely days. Alana was someone I could cry to when the other girls would deliberately exclude me, or when the boys would call me Creepy Cassandra. I still addressed my journal to her. This could NOT be Alana.

    As I read, I became convinced it was her. Alana’s life was a story I’d made up, yet here it was laid out in someone else’s handwriting. Still not fully convinced, I turned to April 10, 2002. It was there. The day she grew from being my imaginary friend to my imaginary lover.

    Her journal filled in gaps I’d suspected but never really known. She was a physicist too, and also working in a lab studying mass quantum superposition; alternate universes to normal people. Her lab, under the watchful eye of Amerika First, had gotten a lot further: they’d broken through. The journal included her equations – enough that I could see where we’d gone wrong and fix it.

    She talked about something called the Foam, a set of microworlds defined by variances off a hypothetical Prime Reality. Alana’s great discovery was that her world was in the Foam, and could simply blink out of existence at any time. Needless to say, she didn’t tell the authorities. Instead she used the portal they’d developed to send the largest thing she could – this book – through to what she hoped was the Prime world.

    So now I’m at home, writing this in my electronic journal with Alana’s book beside me. I dream of her excitement as I draw up the schematics to change our sensor into her portal. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Dr. Edworthy, but we’ll need a bigger grant to get into the Foam. And we’re going to need power, lots of power, to make the portal big enough to bring a person through. I’ll have to think of something.

    I imagine Alana’s hand caressing my shoulder. Her imaginary lips kiss the back of my neck, right on the sensitive spot. I stand up and shuck off my housecoat, feeling her phantom embrace, tasting her sweet breath. I would move heaven and earth to actually see and touch her. And I will.

    1. BezBawni

      Tim, your story is very touching and engaging. It’s also unique – I’ve never heard of a story about too female physicists in love with each other and living in different worlds (how could anything like that even come to a human mind?))) I’m amazed at the infinity of your creative potential.

    2. Svapne

      What a great story- time-space and sub-realities and romance, oh my!

      And how lucky for the journal to have ended up in just the right place… but they’ve known each other since childhood, so why wouldn’t it?

      1. Observer Tim

        The Foam is like that. I actually created it as background for another story, which hasn’t finished writing itself yet. Since it is based on ideas and decisions, this kind of synchronicity is all too common.

      1. thejim

        The idea I had was…It would be almost like a a Twilight Zone episode. When he was reading about his imaginary friend. Who’s journal he was reading? How could his imaginary friend be writing? He reads about all the things he imagined they did together. He began to read each entry every night before bed. one day he went looking for the journal , it was gone. Come to find out he was the imaginary friend in her journal.

      2. Observer Tim

        I was thinking in the same direction as you were, theJim, but I got sidetracked (rescued) by the alternate dimension idea. In my take the two both found the journal and the reader is left wondering which of the two is imaginary. I couldn’t fit that into 500 words, though.

        Your idea would be fascinating, though you did just announce the twist. 😉

        1. thejim

          500 words is hard. I have to revise mine so many times , find a cut-off point, and then edit out excessive words. Which now thinking about it is a good exercise.— May be they both are imaginary and if they stop writing about the other one they disappear. So in the end would be they both agree on location to meet and then they finally meet they become part of the real world not just imaginary one. Everyone kisses and life is grand!

          Till a Yettie comes out and eats them.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            I’m left in awe with this story, Tim. Your imagination is like the universe, ever expanding. It’s beautiful, romantic and highly visual and realistic. A great love story, even if it ends being two separate personalities streaming toward control of each other. Talk about travel. Imagine a human mind to explore.

    3. jhowe

      Great story OT. Your mind was in full gear on this one. When you said, “She was my friend as a little girl – my imaginary friend,” I had to pause and appreciate your idea. Do you think that Alana is still imaginary and Cassandra is clinging to hope? If so, maybe the found journal and the Foam concept is Cassandra’s work and she doesn’t realize it. Maybe not though, that’s the beauty of this story.

    4. agnesjack

      This was very inventive, and the scientific detail was very believable. It took many unexpected turns, which was refreshing. I could not see or anticipate where it was going.

    5. seliz

      Very interesting concept here. I love the MC’s voice in this one. Just the excitement of realizing Alana’s real, but also the scientific approach to it. Great job!

  31. jhowe

    The Washington streets reeked of manure strewn mud and amassed garbage that was overdue to be collected and disposed of. Rancid smoke from the rendering shack billowed from decaying brick chimneys, adding to the disgust of the Pullman Street neighborhood. Regardless of the conditions, Isaac gamboled through the filth wearing the only smile visible for blocks.

    At the modest home he shared with his mother and older brother, Isaac kicked off his worn, muddy shoes and set the bundle he carried on the kitchen table. The house was damp and cold despite the warming April air. Isaac lit a candle, opened the stove and added a split oaken log; poking the embers to be sure it caught fire.

    The bundle contained four books his aunt Edith had given him that morning. Edith had executed the meager estate after his father’s death last month. Sitting at his favorite spot in the corner by the stove, Isaac fingered the books with respect. He hardly ever got to read anything except the family bible and some dated texts on the few occasions he was able to attend school.

    One book, Moby Dick, caught Isaac’s eye. He had heard of this fanciful tale and he desperately wanted to read it. Upon opening it, a few loose pages fell into his lap. They were hand written and he recognized his brother’s unique penmanship immediately. He set the book aside and studied the pages that appeared to be a journal or diary.

    Isaac’s brother seemed to be involved in multiple meetings, some here and some at his aunt’s house. The meetings became more and more conspiratorial as the journal progressed. Isaac knew his brother would deliver the full extent of his wrath if he knew his journal was being read but Isaac couldn’t stop. He had seen some of the men mentioned in the pages and he shuddered at the thought of what they would do if they found out what Isaac now knew.

    When Isaac came to the last page, it was clear what his brother and the men had planned. A cold ache assaulted his temples as he questioned what he should do. It was his brother for god’s sake. “No,” he said aloud. Isaac gathered the pages and opened the door to the stove. He hesitated a few seconds and threw them on top of the flames.

    Running down the street into the nicer areas of Washington, Isaac panted and thought about what he could say to change his brother’s mind. Surely he would listen to reason. Isaac wondered if he should tell someone but who would believe a young boy. And it was a matter of family. Neither his brother nor their mother would ever offer forgiveness, especially now that the evidence was gone. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
    When he got to the theater district there was much activity and chaos. Shouting men and crying women ran this way and that. It was apparent that Isaac Hamilton Booth was too late.

    1. PromptPrincess13

      Great use of suspense and great descriptions here Jhowe. I’d love to know what happened next. In fact, my only note would be that I would have loved reading a few snippets of the journal. Regardless, this prompt catches your attention immediately and I really enjoyed it.

    2. Svapne

      Ooo, historical fiction! A fun take on the prompt.

      I am not a history buff and I don’t want to do a ton of research and fact checking, so I’ll just ask you instead. John Wilkes Booth’s father, Junius Brutus Booth, died in 1852, and the assassination was in 1865. There is a broken family there to consider, though, so they could easily be half-brothers if Booth’s mother remarried. It fits with his comment on his own youth.

      Also, is the aunt the same aunt that blackmailed Junius into providing for her and her husband in exchange for not exposing his rather productive affair?

    3. snuzcook

      Nicely done! It drew me to google the Booth family to see if Isaac was mentioned (not in the first few I looked at) and reminded me that there were many behind the scenes stories to be told with the Lincoln shooting. Your writing was believable, concise and created a good historical period atmosphere. Good response to the prompt.

    4. BezBawni

      I, too, was wondering what was with the full name in the end and the comments were quite helpful (I’ve never heard of the Booth family, so, I’m grateful for the excursus into history). Bible and God written with the small letter threw me off a bit, but on the whole it’s a very well written story (I expected nothing less of you, jhowe)))

      You mentioned Moby Dick and I remembered I also wanted to read it (all of you must have read it already, I guess). Is it any good? Is it worth the time?

    5. Observer Tim

      A really great story, jhowe. I love the historical take. I knew you were heading somewhere, but only got it in the final line. For some reason I was fixated on the Revolutionary War, and even the town named Washington couldn’t dissuade me.

      Bravo! Wonderful!

    6. jhowe

      Thanks for the comments. I should have added a disclaimer that none of the facts are accurate. I don’t know much about Booth’s mother or wheter he had a younger brother. I see now his father died way before I said he did, whoops. I also don’t know if there was a Pullman Street or a rendering shack or if the streets were muddy. I think I should probably not write about real people in this context but it was fun. I did like the overall tone of the story and how it played out but I probably should have used fictional people somehow.

      1. Observer Tim

        You could always fall back on the sci-fi writer’s cop-out and say it was an alternate history. Or you could do like they would have done a century ago and just ignore the real history.

        The internet has been a boon to obsessive fact-checkers on both sides of historical fiction, but it can take away some of the whimsy.

    7. agnesjack

      This was a great read — very suspenseful and well laid out. I have to say that I knew who his brother was early on — the meetings in the house and the time period gave it away — but it did not spoil the read. Your descriptions of the environment were wonderful.

    8. Susan

      A very clever take on the prompt – great story and you’ve taught me a bit of US history with which I was completely unfamiliar. Like Bezbawni, I was grateful for the other enlightening comments – thanks, folks!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I want to commend you on your prose, jhowe. The story moved along and the tension rose with each word. You set the city, the rendering plant allowed the reader, the date. I realized who you wrote about before the reveal, but I wasn’t absolutely sure. It made the tension even more so.

        Wonderful job on this story.

    9. seliz

      This was written very well. I loved the descriptions you used in this. I could almost smell the reeking Washington streets. Also, the way that Isaac found his brothers writing–the pages falling out and Issac realizing what his brother was up to. Great job! This was a very enjoyable read.

    10. PeterW

      Cause I respect your writing…. let’s be honest, this is not so good. Its all about the twist at the end, and the the first three paragraphs don’t add to this at all. They don’t even build a scene well, because my conditioned mind is used to story in present time, so when I find out its 1865, I’m like ummmmmmmm… k. The last 3 paragraphs would have been fine for what you told. As for the character development of Isaac all I got was a smile among the garbage. (Ok, you told us more that than, but that was the only telling/interesting fact about him).

      Oh. It should be “which” instead of “that” in sentence one. Don’t end on ‘of’ either…


      1. jhowe

        As soon as I posted this, I knew I should have considered other avenues. I made the mistake of using real peole without reseaching facts for one and I see now I ended a sentence on a preposition, which is a no no. My aim was to set a scene that took place in the past without telling and lay the Lincoln thing on at the end. This didn’t work too well but I did learn something thanks to the comments I received. Since I started doing this prompt thing a few months ago my writing is gradually improving, but not every week.

  32. PromptPrincess13

    I fingered the band that looped around my finger. It felt strange to have it on; the metal was warm, the diamond small but glimmering with a rose-tinted sparkle. I wanted the tears sliding down my face to be of joy, but the smiles I managed were fake- a facade for my confusion and frustration.


    I’d said it, I’d accepted, then I’d left; I’d run from the man I love, him still on his knee, ruining the moment: our moment.

    And why? All because of something I’d read.

    I looked at the diary in my hands , the finger-smoothened pages arching against each other. I was alone in the library, alone except for the sleepy librarian comfortably snoozing in her cushy chair by the check-out desk. I didn’t blame her: it was almost 11:00pm. I whispered the words i’d already read so many times to myself , remembering the day, 1 week ago, when I’d found the journal. It wasn’t like I’d been looking for it, I’d just picked it up by accident while looking for some good studying material for my psychology course. The tears still falling, I remembered how my heart had stuttered it’s way to a stop when i realized that I knew the writing scrawled on the yellow paper.

    It read:

    To the women of my family,

    If you have found this, you are most likely bumbling around like a fool, love struck and wishing for a piece of jewelry that will mean nothing in a few months, or years if you’re lucky. Don’t fall for their charms, if you do, you’ll only be opening a gateway for them to hurt you, handing them a weapon with which to manipulate you.


    Gina Krew. I knew about her, a distant aunt who’d written birthday letters to me every few years. She’d died five years ago and i hadn’t known her well, but i knew her handwriting- not many people wrote in neon green ink. My family said she was borderline nuts, paranoid almost to schizophrenia. I didn’t believe her words, not really, but they stirred distrust in me I couldn’t overcome. I hadn’t meant to run, but I’d been scared. Doubtful.

    The library was my safety nook, the outside white and intricate but the inside cushioned with hundreds of folds of fabric draped over sofas and chairs to hide in. No one knew i came to this library, not even Jack, but i’d somehow convinced myself that if he found me here, it was because he truly knew me. Because he honestly loved me.

    I waited, fingers worrying my ring so that the band shone with polish by the time I heard the familiar footsteps. Jack came into view, a crooked smile on his lips but concern in his eyes, a whole depth of it that took my breath away.

    “Figured you’d be here.” He said and this time, when the tears came, they were the kind I’d wanted. The happy kind.

    1. jhowe

      Are you ready for some harsh critisism? Well, there isn’t any. I loved the story and the writing. The only thing I could find wrong was you failed to captolize a couple of i’s when refering to the MC. Good job on this one. Nice to have a happy ending every now and then.

      1. PromptPrincess13

        Thanks so much. You kind of gave me that sinking feeling with the words “harsh criticism” but I really appreciate the kind words. I’ll keep an eye on my Is.

    2. BezBawni

      I like the fact that the story is finished and self-contained. It is a great idea for the prompt, but I didn’t expect the aunt to be the author of the journal, I thought it would be Jack himself confessing some terrible things to the paper. That might have added to the drama of the situation.

      1. PromptPrincess13

        The only experience I have with romance stories is one-too-many Hallmark movies so I wasn’t to sure about how this one came out. I completely agree that there should’ve been more drama though…my original idea was that she would find out that Jack’s family had a curse and that the dad had written the journal. Glad it came out okay, thanks for the comments!

    3. agnesjack

      I’m glad the journal was not written by Jack. I think that would have been too obvious.

      I liked the crazy Aunt’s message. It gave a very clear picture of who she was — a very sad, very angry woman — but I was not clear about why her words affected the MC so strongly.

      However, the ending was really lovely. His four simple words brought the MC, and us, back to reality. How could she have doubted Jack, who obviously knew her so well.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I also loved your story. I hope you haven’t tired of people telling you so. I thought while reading it, it was a perfect take on the prompt. Thank goodness, you didn’t capitalize the i’s. You don’t want to be totally perfect so soon out of the gate.

          1. PromptPrincess13

            Wow, you all are way too nice. Thank you so much for the comments. Never thought I’d look forward to writing for so many talented writers!

  33. Svapne

    “Have you ever been in love? I suspect that you think you have, but I don’t think it was real. Nothing I’ve ever seen called love was as real as what I have with her. Her hair is golden, like the yolks of the eggs my mama fried when I was a kid. Her skin is brown like wheat, and she sways like the grass does in the breeze. She has curves like the river. She smells like flowers. Everywhere I look, I see her. Every day, she consumes me a little more. I checked a book out of the library years ago, and it was in her writing. I thought it was a journal or something, but it was just a homesteading book, like it was supposed to be. But those lazy loop-de-loops and curls and flirty hearts on the ‘i’s and ‘j’s… those were hers. All the books are like that now. It used to be one or two, but now it’s all of them. I can’t stand to be away from her anymore. We have to be one. I’m going to make her my bride tonight.”

    Sanders threw the journal away from him and ran out of the little building. He threw up in the bushes, vomit clinging to his moustache. He wiped it away on his sleeve and staggered back from the putrid bush. Cigarette smoke wafted by. A couple seconds later, the cigarette was dangling over Sander’s shoulder. He took it and pulled a deep drag. He closed his eyes and exhaled shakily.

    “At least it’s over,” the shaky voice said, trying to comfort them both.

    Sanders turned to his partner, Kelly. Her eyes were swollen and her brow was furrowed as she tried to fight the incoming emotions. He was about to say something when a call cut him off.


    Sanders patted Kelly’s shoulder and sauntered off. “Yeah?”

    “What’s the situation? No one is being real clear on the radio.” Sanders couldn’t meet his supervisor’s gaze. He shook his head.

    “It’s over,” was all he could say. Sanders glanced back toward the shed, where the walls were lined with newspaper announcements and stolen photographs. Vomit rose in his throat again, but he steeled himself. He was calmed by the gun hanging by his side, which was a little too light, having been fully relieved of its cargo into some sick child-fucking bastard’s chest. “He can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

    “And the girl?”

    From where he stood, Sanders could just see the mass of golden-red hair splayed across the floor. She had been waiting for them to save her; he wondered if her ghost would wait forever. “…no one can hurt her anymore either.”

    1. jhowe


      I’m a little unsure what happened with the journal. I’ll get it though, give me another read. I loved how Kelly handed her partner the cigarette, capturimg her personality perfectly. Also a good portrayal of a tough cop with a conscience.

      1. BezBawni

        This is so Svapne, if I may say so – a Russian doll of plots))))) I was nodding appreciatively when I realized it was a journal written about a journal (well, almost)) I was a little confused by the ‘vomit’ thing, but towards the end everything was put into place and the picture was clear. Still, I’d be much more comfortable if the story were a tidbit less vague, which I know for sure you can do perfectly.

        1. Svapne

          I think the transition would be a lot more clear with an italicized first paragraph. I need to learn HTML. 😛

          I admit to a slight bit of laziness and a bit of disgust; I didn’t want to spend too much time writing, or too much time dwelling on the topic. It could be improved (see my reply, below, to swatchcat), but I doubt I will.

          Also, I love those Russian dolls!

      1. Svapne

        I was a little unsure on the transition and how it would come across. Without knowing how to HTML, I’m not sure how I’d go about italicizing that portion or giving it wider margins to separate it from the rest of the story.

        Kelly’s one of those people who may be individually weaker but gains strength from keeping it together for others; the cigarette thing sums her up really well, and I’m glad it came across. As for her partner, I’m glad it didn’t seem to unbelievable that a tough guy lost his shit on that kind of scene. I don’t know any police officers, but that kind of scene can’t possibly be 1) normal or 2) easy to deal with.

        1. swatchcat

          Harsh topic but nicely written. As for the journal, albeit seeming not literal to the prompt, it works unless, you could further the story line by explaining how the detective found the journal at the library or among things from a visit. It would also be interesting to explain how he connected the handwriting to the killer. The start of a possibly good detective thriller especially if you have made the reader hungry for more.

          1. Svapne

            The reference to the prompt is actually a one-liner in the first paragraph. It’s hidden, but it’s there.

            If I were to expand it and make things more clear, I’d address your points with the following: I assumed that the journal was in the shack, and that it wasn’t left somewhere carelessly. The detectives find it when other evidence leads them to the raid. He knows it’s the killers probably because the killer was writing in it at the time.

            But I don’t think it will expand, so the above is just for the sake of getting the continuity out there.

            Thanks for your comments! 🙂

      1. Svapne

        Thank you! I wrote it in just a few minutes, so I’m glad it turned out as well as it did.

        I’m not 100% sure on a few things… I personally like disconnects in writing, where I’m forced to re-read to comprehend things, but sometimes it doesn’t come across as clearly as I’d like it to when I write it. I might be missing some part of the art.

        Like I say above, italicizing the first paragraph would help, but I don’t know how to do that… say, you’re adept at HTML, right? Any pointers?

        1. Observer Tim

          If you want to make something italic, put <i> at the front and </i> at the end. I hope the parser handles the entities properly, otherwise this will look pretty stupid. All the pseudo-html tags here work that way. title=”” and cite=”” should be optional, href=”” is necessary for a working link (the target goes inside the quotes).

    2. agnesjack

      This is a quite a disturbing story, Svapne — especially the excerpt from the journal, which was creepily well-written.

      I did have to read the story twice, however, to understand the time and place. I think that might be because it starts with the journal, which has a different feel than the rest of the piece.

      Good job, though.

      1. Svapne

        I think I would go back and make the journal a little different, maybe, but I’m glad it does work as-is. I wanted to get away from the really stereotypical hill-person creeper story, by having it be someone more educated/eloquent. I think it makes the obsession creepier. At the same time, I wanted the analogies to nature to emphasize how he sees her everywhere. It was tricky.

        As for needing to review it- it’s something I need to work on in future pieces, because it’s impacted a lot of my posts here. I’ll keep trying. 🙂

    3. Susan

      Enjoyed this and found it very powerful, especially the ending, when all becomes clear – sort of – still a little confused by the “journal within a journal” at the beginning, but I’m probably just a bit thick! You’ve done really well to create a real thriller is so few words.

  34. thejim

    Matt Levier sat back in his chair and reached toward the stack of books that rested on the small table in front of him.

    He had an infatuation with the written word. In a time when there were only a few libraries left on the planet, Matt was lucky to live in Capital City were the largest of all written libraries existed. There were only a few people who even read anymore. Learning and information was deposited directly into the nano-mite connecters in the human brain. The information is absorbed almost instantaneously; you understand the content of what had been downloaded or deposited but you lose all the emotion behind what was written. The building of anticipation the feeling and exhilaration of what the writer was trying to impart is lost. Matt on the other hand enjoyed the slow read the process of letting himself be absorbed in to the nuances of a book.

    Matt had a tradition, once a year he would randomly picked 3 books and read them to completion. This year was no different. Now in his favorite chair he grabbed the top book.
    Ahhh… Matt thought he studied the cover quite closely; the leather was dull green and had numerous stains on it. There was no title and the binding was coming loose but all in all it was in good shape.
    He opened the book to the very first page in the center was written 3 words


    He examined it closer and realized that there was a faint number behind the words. It appeared like it had been removed or erased he could barely make out what was written but it looked like it was… 37.

    So he turned to page 37.

    On the right side of the book was a flourish of hand written words and equations. Matt skimmed the page and then turned to the next, the same thing. He had never seen anything like it before the writing made no sense. Then on the following page there was something else written:

    Matt, hold on to your hat buddy but you are in for a ride. First things first, you must get the prior two pages to a Dr. Riven Ton. He is located on the other side of town at the Old Piezea Square warehouse. Give him the two prior pages – JUST THOSE PAGES! Keep the rest of the book for yourself.

    Matt shut the book quickly. Dust flew out from the pages, he recognized the hand writing but how could this be? It was his hand writing. He slowly opened the book again as he thumbed through the book he notice that periodically there were other paged that were missing and torn from the book.

    He got to his page gain.

    Yes, it is you who wrote this, but don’t be alarmed, sit back and take this moment in, this are what I refer to, HA, YOU will refer to as Day 1.

      1. thejim

        I was trying to have the first 2 pages hand writing be the Dr. of who he is going to meet. So he did not understand that part. So later on … He meets the doctor and he recognizes it as his handwriting, both are baffled.

    1. agnesjack

      I liked the world that you created here, theJim, especially the concept about learning in a future society, where the joy of reading is lost.

      I, too, was confused by the ending — especially the last line, which doesn’t seem to make sense. It felt as if you looked at the word count and wrapped it up more quickly than you wanted to.

  35. blanderson

    All I seemed to do these days was putter. I puttered around that old library all the time, voraciously reading through the tomes. No one really seemed to notice me and I didn’t bother them.

    I removed an old chemistry textbook from the shelf, which had a spiral bound notebook tucked into the middle. I could not believe my eyes when I opened the notebook. That perfect cursive writing was immediately recognizable, and I sat slack-jawed, reading page after page of his writing. Common themes of an ordinary life emerged, but I couldn’t escape feelings of deep sadness when I read some of the entries.

    “He was a little angry today. Never so much as to hurt us, or even make us feel unsafe. But he was irritable, and didn’t want to spend time with us. Yeah, he was more irritable than angry.”

    Bit by bit it was my life that unfolded, not his.

    “I was going to launch my rocket today, but he said it was too windy. I’ve been waiting for weeks to launch my rocket. It wasn’t that windy.”

    I missed so many opportunities to make memories with my family.

    “Today was nice. I watched some of my favorite shows and got to play video games with my brother.”

    Sometimes it’s not a sad or difficult life that leaves you wanting, but it’s the life that you didn’t live fully.

    “I was looking forward to going out for breakfast with him, but he got too busy. Later we all went out, so that was fun.”

    And then there’s the forgetting. I still wept at my inability to remember details.

    “She was so beautiful on our wedding day. I am so happy, and Mom was beaming with pride.”

    You always assume there will be more time.

    “He won’t admit it, but it seems like he’s getting sicker.”

    Life passes so quickly and soon it’s all over.

    “I’m 32 years old and I buried my father today. I miss him desperately.”

    Now all I can do is putter.

    1. jhowe

      I have goosebumps. That was well writeen and well told. It reminds me of the song, ‘Cats in the Cradle,” except for the ghost part. No wonder he wasn’t noticed much.

    2. agnesjack

      You have a wonderful, atmospheric way of writing, blanderson. I agree with BezBawni, however. I was a little confused. Is it a ghost story, with the father puttering around the library, reading his son’s diary? I guess that makes sense.

    3. Susan

      An engaging read but, like some others, I found it a little bit confusing – I take it the MC is a ghost, reading his son’s diary? Made more sense when I read it second time around – a powerful message for Dads who don’t have time for their kids 😉

    4. radioPanic

      Maybe it’s just how my mind works, but I wasn’t confused at all, and your ending is surprising and the story as a whole, is touching. And complete. Well done.

  36. mariagavila

    I appreciate any feedback that you can provide. And thank you for reading.

    I was about to set the book down. But, for some odd reason, it beckoned me to open it. I ran my hand slowly over the front of the cover. It was an old, brown leather with a fine covering of dust. It smelled a little musty but not enough to be repulsive. I looked around for a reading chair, put on my glasses and opened the book to the first page.
    August 1912
    I heard the baby cry, a loud piercing wail, and then silence. I asked, “Was it a boy or a girl?” and no one answers. I am desperate to get up off the bed, to go to my baby, to feel its skin, to look into its eyes. To name him or her. I’ve thought of Lucinda for a girl and Maximilian for a boy. I knew no one could know, that I would have to give up my rights as a mother, but I thought I would at least get to see my child, before it was taken. (I know, I keep saying “it” because I still don’t know what I had.) How horrible. How agonizing. To have felt all that pain and not seen the fruits of my labor. I feel a stick on my arm and my eyelids get heavy.
    (Several pages later.)
    December 1920
    I’m still looking for my child. I know my parents know what happened, but they still won’t talk. They see my decline, but social status is more important than my health. I am forced to wear makeup, to smile and to wave, like I never felt the movement of my child in my young womb. Like everything is peachy and covered in rainbows. Well, it’s not and it never will be. I cry myself to sleep almost every night whispering the names, that I had so carefully chosen, to the night air and to the blinking stars.
    (Again, I skip ahead, not because I’m bored mind you. I just want to know what happens.)
    August 1932
    I see a gentleman walking down the street. He looks like I should know him. He smiles and tips his hat in my direction. And I notice his dimple and the set of his eyes. How his hair curls out from under his hat. And my skin crawls. My father has been dead for almost three years now and yet, I am standing in front of him. I start to feel faint and he reaches for me catching me before I hit the ground. With great care he takes me to a local nurse who cares for me while he sits outside and waits. Without asking him, I know he is the one that I had carried all those years ago.
    August 2010
    I never could bring myself to tell my son, that his father was also my father and that that was the reason why I couldn’t keep him. Daddy had other plans for us.

    I wipe away my tears. My father had legally changed his name to Maximilian and I had never known why.

    1. jhowe

      Very nicely done. Good job with the journal entries. I liked how the MC skipped ahead to let us know there were other entries that didn’t pertain to this story, adding to its credibility. A good tale about finding out where one came from, even though the grandfather and the great grandfather were one in the same.

    2. PromptPrincess13

      First paragraph caught my attention from the start, and it only got progressively better. The third paragraph was my favorite; you did a great job giving us a sense of what the MC was going through. Great, great prompt!

    3. Svapne

      This was beautiful. Tragic and terrible, but so beautiful.

      I’ve always marveled in sad stories how, no matter the situation, so many women love their babies so thoroughly, though they came to them in horrible means. It’s wonderfully crafted and executed.

      And 100 years with that kind of secret? That seems like a torturous life for her to choose.

      1. mariagavila

        You are so right! And also, I should have paid more attention to my timeline, because in my mind, at the time she had the child she was around 15, so she had to have lived to be over 100 with the timeline I had.

    4. seliz

      Nicely done. You did a great job conveying the emotion of giving the child up. The entry from August 1932 where she finally meets her child was my favorite. As someone who gave a child up, I could just imagine that nervous little flutter, but the excitement also at seeing him. Great job 🙂

    5. BezBawni

      Impressive. The idea is great and well rendered, I also appreciate the pace of the story. Quite a Lolita character you have here))) The time line is indeed a bit stretched and also I’d rather expect the person writing a diary to use past tense, not present (at least most of the time), I might be mistaken. All in all, a good read.

    6. Observer Tim

      This was a very touching story, mariagavila, and presented very effectively in the format you used. It was a pleasure to read, and an interesting, if disturbing, concept.

      In the way of comments, there is a hanging article in the third sentence. Also, as others have pointed out the timeframe is long; that could be fixed by changing the last entry to something between 1980 and 1990 (my guess).

    7. agnesjack

      This is a very nice, complete story, mariagavila. We feel for this poor girl and the reveal at the end is very disturbing and well done.

      I have to ask, though: Why did the father change his name to the one she had picked for her son?

    8. Susan

      Hi – I enjoyed this, but had to read it a couple of times to get the sense of it – you really have to concentrate on the dates! A good read, though – very moving at the end.

  37. lcser


    I started to write this post, and the story evolved into a longer short-story – way past the 500 word limit. So here is part of that story, please would you comment on this and also whether potentially you would read a longer version?
    As always, thank you for your valuable comments!


    I could picture a frightened teenage girl, with curly ginger hair and opal green eyes, hurriedly writing these lines into the book I’d just found, hiding in some dark corner of the house.

    ’It started with a feeling – that I don’t belong here, that we three are different. And it’s not just the looks – mom, dad and I all have ginger hair and green eyes but no-one else in the family has similar. It’s our character – we are quiet and introverted people, my mom especially. Definately couldn’t say that about the rest of my family. Why are we different?’

    I paused and thought for a moment – she was right, everyone of my family looked and behaved the same, and all of us different from uncle Jason’s and… Nellie! I remember! That was her name!

    ’I went back to our village, where our family had lived for centuries before moving here. I knew where to go since Dad had compiled that family tree going back to 1607 – he said he’d found some interesting things in the village church and cemetary, so it seemed like a good place to start.’

    The chill temporarily gone, I was engrossed in the book and continued reading.

    ’In the village library, I found a local history book written in 1879, which had detailed the history of the village itself, and life in the village. It was an odd read, not like a normal history book, but more of a diary and a history book and a travel journal all in one. Weird mix! Not expecting to find anything concrete, I leafed through it and was surprised to read this:’

    There was a piece of paper – it was folded and one side had been glued to the page, so the reader could unfold it completely without loosing the sheet. It was a single, faded photocopy of a page from this book. I had to move to my desk and switch on the reading lamp to see all of the lettering on the page. I started to read:

    ’The clensing.
    On this fateful day, 17th September 1607, the village council had decreed that two families had to be exiled from the village due to ’unholy behaviour’, their lands and houses confiscated and their children taken to the church for communion with the Lord.

    They were to be sent away from the village for all time, and their children were to be renamed and given to families in other villages.

    When the villagers went to evict these families, they only found the corpses of the adults of both families, hanging from the central beams of their houses. Apparently they had commited suicide rather than face loosing their children and be forced into exile.

    The children were never found, it was thought they had run away into the surrounding forest and had met their fate there. Many people however feared that these children – or their spirits – would return some day and have their revenge.

    Some years passed and life had returned to normal in the village, when one night in September, all of the houses in the village, except for the two belonging to the families, caught fire. The villagers fought the fires all night, however only half of the houses survived the blaze. When the smoke cleared and the damage could be seen, the villagers suspected that the children, or their spirits had returned to claim their revenge on the entire village.’

    1. jhowe


      I would definately read more about this story. I’m curious about the clensing and what happened to all involved. I anticipate we will hear more about Jake and Nellie.

    2. lailakuz

      I like this, it sounds like the beginning of a very intense plot. Yes, this is definitely something I would want to read a longer version of. I would recommend playing around with the style; however, I think that this sounds like the beginning to a great read.

      1. PromptPrincess13

        I have the feeling this prompt could evolve into a very intricate, gripping story. I definately want to read more of this. Your voice is spot on, your style unique, and your plot enrapturing.

    3. mariagavila

      The flow of the story is very well placed. Just an opinion, at the end instead of “the villagers suspected”… you could say, (the villagers were sure or adamant) to add to the intensity and “spirit” of the story.
      Overall, good story.

    4. seliz

      There was a lot of information in this–I would definitely think that you have a longer story in the works. The imagery of the girl in the beginning was well done. I enjoyed that the journal entries itself told the bulk of the story.

    5. BezBawni

      I enjoyed that too. I’m not sure whether the MC is set in the present time or around the time mentioned in the journal (I might have missed something, it happens to be sometimes))) I’m curious why the family was accused of ‘unholy behavior’, I’d say witches, but I’m not sure, possibly Halloween influence)))

  38. Jim L

    I love technology and all the gadgets it has produced to make our lives less mundane or hectic or whatever, but when it comes to research I’m old school. You won’t find me “surfing” for information; I will be among the stacks, plucking books as if they were ripe apples on a branch. That’s my zone, that’s my happy place. With full arms I then find my way home, pile them on my desk and start searching and scribbling notes at eye level because I have built that lovable paper bound barrier.

    The art is in the search, the search for the right book that leads to the right information. That’s when I found it, a brown leather journal its pages well-worn from years of caressing. Opening it I was curious as to why I had checked it out, the cover was bare of title but before my mind could answer, my eyes saw it was not your usual library book, this was somebody’s journal filled with a very familiar handwriting.

    My heart leapt. I know that handwriting, it was my fathers, we called him Pappy. It must be six, no seven years since he passed unexpectedly. He was an engineer, and his mind worked as such, filled with graphs, charts, processes and efficiency. He had few personal effects which made his passing all the more difficult because there was nothing to hold onto, no favorite pen, or pocket watch or folding knife to carry with you and find in your pocket at any random moment. But, his penmanship was incredible, it was perfect. My mother still tells the story of when they were newlyweds and how he would practice writing every night at the dinner table because he wanted it to be perfect. He would tell her that your penmanship was your mark on the world and he wanted his to be memorable. And it was.

    A chill raced across my spine, I was frozen, unable to read the first page trying to grasp how it came to be in my possession, had I unknowingly picked it from the shelves did someone plant it? Eventually I calmed myself and turned to the first page.

    My Dearest Son,

    1. jhowe

      Jim, that was fantastic. It was full of wonderful little tidbits that stirred emotion and kept the story moving. Penmanship is definately a lost art. It used to be a subject in school. Now, my son can barely write in cursive, in fact, I’m not sure if he can at all.

    2. seliz

      What a cliff hanger to leave off on! You’ve definitely built up anticipation as to what his father wrote to his son–hopefully it was something to bring him closure.

    3. radioPanic

      Pulled a bit of a Craig Clevenger with that last line. While it leaves questions, it closes nicely by answering the important one, and gives the narrator something of his father’s. Very nice.

  39. Mallory Terry

    I smiled to myself, satisfied. I had carried over a stack of ten heavy books all by myself. I carefully opened each one as most were old. Stuck between the pages of one of the books, was a small journal, bound in old, black leather with a cord and a few rubber bands wrapped around it. There was no writing on the outside, saying whose it was or where it came from.

    I opened it to reveal the most beautiful cursive handwriting in the front cover. It read, “Angelina Hawkins, 1756”. I gasped aloud. My name was Angelina Hawkins. I skimmed my finger over the writing and when I did, the whole room shifted and I was in another time, sitting here in this same library watching a young girl with auburn hair like my own, sitting at the same table I was now, writing in this journal.

    She was writing quickly and quietly while covering what she had written with her arm as if someone where going to come up behind her and start reading over her shoulder. Absent mindedly, I walked over to where she was sitting and looked at her. Her fierce green eyes didn’t look up from the page. She neatly wrote down something I could not make out.

    The “flashback” ended abruptly and I was sitting in the same chair, I hadn’t moved.

    I looked down at the journal in front of me and saw the same handwriting I had just seen in the dream. I flipped to the first page and at the top it read, “July 15, 1756 – Time Travel”. On the next page over it said, “July 15, 2013 – Arrival”. July 15, 2013 was today.

    1. seliz

      I love the idea of the time travel and that moment where the MC just gets it. I agree, this is a good beginning for a longer story. It’d be interesting to know what the MC would do now that she knows she can time travel.

  40. snuzcook


    ‘Palm Reading Made Simple’
    ‘Hands Shape Your Future’
    ‘Encyclopaedia of Palmistry’
    The book I wanted had to be hiding in there somewhere. I was doing a fluff piece for my small town newspaper about what the shape of the hands can tell you about yourself.

    I dumped the entire bag of library books onto the floor. There it was, a thin blue volume.

    No, this wasn’t the book I thought I checked out. I flipped it open. Handwritten entries covered the pages, close spaced and written in meticulously printed abbreviations. I noticed a familiar name on the inside cover: Grenada Sams. Under the name was an address I recognized from the old neighborhood.

    That took me back. The old neighborhood, and Granny Sams on the stoop at the corner. Dressed in a spotless cotton housedress and slippers, she had presided over our stretch of sidewalk; knew everyone, saw everything. She would call us kids over sometimes to do odd jobs: girls would get a nickel to run get her sweater from her apartment, boys would get a dime for carrying boxes upstairs.

    Granny Sams sometimes read grown-ups’ palms there on the stoop, sitting knee to knee and talking in whispered tones. It was general knowledge that she never took money to tell a fortune, but it was suspected that her clients gave her something when the prediction came true.

    I was only eight when we moved away. I hadn’t thought of her for years. Wasn’t it funny that her private journal had ended up with this particular stack of library books?

    “Oct. 25, 1957: B a baby boy ($10) A girl within 2 yrs ($10).” I read it three times, then moved on.

    “Nov. 5, 1957: YL will find work out of state ($5).

    “Jan. 21, 1958: WF son graduate med school ($20) and have a successful practice ($20)

    There were pages of entries like these, people for whom she had predicted something they wanted or needed to know. The dollar amounts were most likely what people had paid when the prediction came true, since they appeared to have been added later.

    I flipped to the last entry. It was dated two years after my family had moved away.

    “Mar. 13, 1966: GS line of health ends at line of head with a star in or around the 62nd year.”

    There were no further entries. There was no notation about payment. I flipped through the rest of the pages, hoping there might be some parting words, some explanation or follow up to the last entry. Then I realized that GS was Grenada Sams herself.

    What had she discovered that could be so profound as to end her journal entries?

    I spent the next hour pouring through my stack of books, studying indexes and descriptions of lines and markings of the hand. Then I verified what I found.

    I finally understood why no further entries were needed.
    Grenada Sams had predicted her own end. And it had come true.

    1. jhowe

      Snuzcook, that was great. The entries were written well and were very believeable. You took us through this tale effortlessly, which is what makes it so good. And the MC, doing the fluff piece for the local newspaper made it believeable why he/she would have the palm reading books to begin with.

    2. seliz

      Interesting take on the prompt. I love the way you described Grenada Sams; creative and well described character. I could just see her sitting on her porch reading palms. Nice job!

    3. snuzcook

      Thanks, seliz, swatchcat, bezbwani and O.Tim,
      I am so delighted you enjoyed it.
      (BTW I have started posting in other forums where feedback is less forthcoming, and I really appreciate the generosity that all the participants in this forum show by taking the time to post with their comments!)

  41. ehrenkauferm

    My heart thumped as if to escape my chest as I caressed the beaten cover of the Journal. I felt tears creasing down my cheeks. The first page held the name Andrew Wright his hand had been steady and fluid. I wiped the tears away as I read the first entry. February 18 midnight…..
    It’s another dark day in this hell father has again drowned himself in alcohol while mother sits to strung out to care. I am writing not out of desperation but in the hopes that I can free myself from the demons that plague my soul. I lay my head down to night praying that tomorrow I might be able to feel the warmth of her smile once again. I fingered the wedding band holding my finger as I sighed. Andrew Wright was my late husband he had died not two weeks ago from cancer. I was sitting with a stack of books about psychology although I was grieving my term paper would not wait. I had met Andrew in this very row of books. His bright smile comforted my timid nature and drew me out. Andrew had never shared too much about himself we had both been in high school when we became engaged although he was only eighteen he had already moved out and lived on his own since he was sixteen. Perhaps I had been too scared or to selfish to pry into his life. I flipped through the many pages filled with his words my head reeling filled with his voice and his smiling face. When he had been with me my life had been filled with peace. And now the happy husband I knew was crying. Even during the worst he had always reassured me I felt my heart breaking he had always given and I had without question received. When his soul had been tattered and torn. I felt ashamed the last page quivered as if beckoning my eyes to the page.
    The day I met her I was contemplating death, on this last page of a book filled with sadness, hate and anger. I hope to pull out the golden thread of the hope I hold. Today I am leaving behind all I am stepping into my future. The day I met her she was reading at a desk hidden behind shelves of dusty books she was timid and quite, delicate and gentle in nature. I was almost convinced there was nothing to live for. I left home soon after meeting her I may be but seventeen but I have something to move forward for. I have something to live for and protect my sweet Elizabeth. Today I will ask her out, even if she says no I will forever work toward that warmth. You are my hope, you are my future.
    My tears stained the page. I knew not how it had gotten in my hand nor did I care.

    1. snuzcook

      A very sad and compelling piece, ehrenkauferm. You communicate the emotions very well.

      A suggestion: I was lost a few times where sentence breaks and paragraph breaks were missing, and I had to reread to figure out whose voice I was reading. Just a little cleaning up would help the reader follow your story and receive its full impact.

      I look forward to your future posts.

    2. jhowe

      This is a great first draft for a story. It needs a little editing and paragraph breaks. Without the breaks, I got confused at times. I look forward to future stories from you.

      1. ehrenkauferm

        Thanks to all who commented. I agree with all the suggestions. My weakest point has always been grammar and sentence structure. It is a work in progress.

    3. seliz

      Keep working at it! The story was sad and sweet and like snuzcook said you communicated the emotions nicely. As far as the grammar goes, I think everyone has issues with grammar, but reading and writing more prompts will help you. (To be honest, I’ve gone so far as to buy grammar books before–not the best reads, but helpful.)

      1. swatchcat

        Ha, I too have bought grammar books to refresh a few points. As I have always said, reading aloud to yourself is another way to check. You’d be surprised what you hear in your writing. Nice story.

    4. BezBawni

      I agree with all the above. The story is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. Just a small remark (and you can ignore it if you think I’m being subjective): it feels weird when a story starts with tears running down someone’s cheek, at least for me, it’s distracting and a bit superfluous because it’s just the beginning and we don’t really know the character, hence don’t feel for him\her and don’t relate. I’d recommend letting the reader get to know the MC, explain the situation and only then show the tears – they would feel much more real if they’re justified first.

      All in all, I like your voice.

    5. Susan

      I found this very moving and engaging – as others have already commented, the lack of punctuation is confusing in places, but this would be easily remedied.

  42. AmeliaPond

    Alternate beginning though it doesn’t follow the prompt very well.

    I pulled a drawer out of my desk it was covered in dust and the bag inside gave my shivers and brought tears to my eyes. Inside were a pair of pajamas a toothbrush and a stretchy black mini skirt. I had gone through the bag half a dozen times and everything inside made my stomach flip over. I took the bag out of the drawer I dropped it on the floor it was just a simple blue backpack. I took each item out and lay it on the floor. I picked it up and the front pocket ripped open sending a cloud of dust and the smell of dirty water all throughout my room. Something heavy fell out onto the floor. I simple brown book the size of a post card was lying on the floor. There was an engraving on the front.
    To my dearest Lydia. Love dad.
    The book like everything else was slightly green looking and the pages looked lie they had gotten wet. Which I knew they had. Because this was the bag she had with her when they found her.

  43. AmeliaPond

    Lydia Jones was my roommate in high school. We Attended a super conservative catholic boarding school and from the ninth grade till eleventh grade we were best friends, like sisters even but without the fighting. In our senior year we grew distant. She started wearing tons of makeup and tight short skirts as soon as we were aloud out of our uniforms. She dyed her hair black and stopped talking to me. On her Birthday she stayed out late and when she came home at around two thirty she was silent as a bone. Naturally i was hurt, being her roommate and not invited to celebrate with her. After she stopped sleeping in our room and started skipping classes i assumed drugs, or a gang or worse. I’m not sure what happened but she dropped out of school only months before our graduation. I never saw her again three months after i graduated her body turned up in a river only a mile from the place i was living hundreds of miles from where I last saw her. But i never got it out of my head she was coming to see me when she died. Now holding her diary sitting on my bed only a year after the incident I have a feeling that if I had known she was keeping a diary I could halve saved her. Maybe I could find out what she was coming to tell me, and maybe just maybe I could forgive her. I opened the dusty brown cover and saw the words printed in it. In curly gold letters it said. Lydia Marie Jones. The date said the diary was from a year before she changed. I opened to the first entry.
    Dear diary, I have never been in love before. I know now what people say in songs and books. It is a feeling better then anything else in the world. I feel like I would give my life away for this boy. Jacob. Jacob Michael Dun. Jacob Jacob Jacob. I tried to tell Amelia, she didn’t understand what I meant she giggled and continued with homework….

    My heart dropped. I went to the next entry, walks with Jacob, lunch, conversations, kisses, hugs. love in general. She wrote of the warm feeling she got when ever she saw him and said over and over again how much she wished she could share it with her roommate. But apparantly she just didn’t understand. Then during the first week of term in senior year she saw him kissing some one else. She didn’t understand. Then the entries stopped. And the date was right. I let the book dropped the book in front of me and stared ahead. It was dark now. I had been reading for hours. The last words had been ‘I wish I could talk to Amelia.’
    Fine what I set out to do I had accomplished, I could forgive her. But what about me, could I ever forgive me?

    1. seliz

      There were a few grammatical errors I noticed, but they didn’t detract from your story. The story came across sad and heartfelt. The guilt Amelia must have felt at reading those last words! Nicely done.

    2. snuzcook

      A very moving story, AmeliaPond. Good concept and very good ending paragraph.
      “…when she came home at around two thirty she was silent as a bone” was a great line.

      I suggest a little more time with proof-reading before the final post just to make it easier on the reader. I find it easiest to create the text in a different file, re-read, proof and correct it, then cut and paste it into the REPLY box. I have to insert paragraph breaks right before hitting POST COMMENT.

      I look forward to your future posts.

    3. jhowe

      I agree with Snuzcook. There were some little errors and I would like to see more paragraphing to make it easier to read. It was a good story though. I enjoyed reading it.

    4. BezBawni

      I can’t but agree with the previous comments: it’s a pity when a good story loses its sheen due to grammar and visual presentation. And the story is really good, I can clearly understand the struggles of both girls and the guilt in the end, it almost gave ME a pang in my heart, though I did nothing wrong))) (hopefully))

    5. Observer Tim

      This is a very sad story, AmeliaPond, especially carrying the weight of survivor’s guilt. The saddest words are “If only I could have …”

      I agree about the grammar and structure clean-up; that’s the necessity of publishing.

    6. lailakuz

      I love the story concept and, although I normally like a little more description, I thought the clean, concise prose worked really nicely. I would maybe fix up the little grammatical errors but, overall, a moving tale with an interesting main character. I can only imagine her guilt … God, that must be horrible. But, overall, a very special story with a clear meaning.


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