What’s in the Barn?

Late at night you awake to find your wife/husband out of bed. Exploring the farmhouse, you find no lights on and the kids are still sound asleep. Past the fields, you see light shining out of the barn. When you walk out there and open the door, what do you find?

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

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

You might also like:

352 thoughts on “What’s in the Barn?

  1. agaggero

    Cold wood creaking with each step. Bare feet creeping. Cold feet seeking. “Jim?” Breathing is quickening, Thoughts are sickening. “James!” .Frantically entering. Candle light flickering. Children sleeping peacefully. Search continuing. “Jim Tabert?” Heart beating rapidly. breathing loudly . Front door opening, snow drifts stifling. Scanning darkness. There it’s flickering. Coat snatched, boots buckled, into the night, snow glistening. Closer and closer and closer she nears. The dear old red barn searing with mystery. Boots step in front. The door lies ajar. One step in. Two. And then a few more. Then her eyes behold the horror.

    And so is the tale of the Tabert mystery. Their children left to ponder their history. Except for one who seems so sisterly. She secretly knows the mystery. Late at night in the cold farm house, a demented smile contorts her old mouth. She rocks in her chair and laughs in delight every time she remembers their fright.

    1. CMDrumgool

      Wow, this is fantastic! I love the rhythm to this. And when I read it out loud to my husband it sounded even better.
      Definitely into the plot too, I love how dark it is. Great piece :)

  2. beeswax42

    First prompt filled here, and it’s a little bit over the word count. Sorry!

    The night air was stifling when Sandy woke, kicking free of sweat dampened sheets. The box fan in the window rattled and hummed, circulating air that could have come straight from an oven. The other side of the bed was unsurprisingly empty, Jason having cleared out hours ago for more comfortable quarters.

    Sandy checked on Katie and Megan, asleep on their bedroom floor directly in front of the fan before heading downstairs. Jason wasn’t on the couch in the living room or the daybed on the screened in porch. Not that it was any cooler either place than it had been upstairs, but those were pretty much the only other options available. Sandy checked the pantry and knocked on the bathroom door before wandering onto the porch, taking a deep breath of the heavy night air before glimpsing light in the windows of their barn.

    The tiny knot of worry in her chest unraveled as she slipped on her sneakers and headed across the moonlit yard. The barn didn’t hold animals; it had long ago been converted into an office for her and a studio for Jason. She should have guessed he’d head out here if sleep eluded him.

    A flash of light caught her eye as she pulled the barn door open and a low roll of thunder sounded far in the distance. The air was perfectly still, not a hint of breeze to herald the storm’s approach.

    Jason looked up as she entered, tired eyes crinkling as he smiled. “Too hot to sleep?”

    “Blergh.” Sandy made a face indicating exactly how she felt about heat and headed straight for the bottle of beer at her husband’s elbow. “How’s the song coming?”`

    Jason sighed and strummed his guitar. Sandy grimaced when he played the opening bars of Heat Wave and segued directly into Too Darn Hot.

    “Ugh,” she groaned. “Can’t you play something cooler?”

    “Sleighbells ring, are you listening?” he began and Sandy giggled, grabbing two more beers from the barn’s mini fridge.

    “Perfect.” She sank crosslegged to the floor and closed her eyes, willing the heat away as Jason’s clear baritone painted verbal pictures of winter. She relaxed into the music, actually feeling cooler the longer he sang. A crack of thunder interrupted Jingle Bells and Sandy started, lifting her face to the breeze now flowing through the screens.

    “We should get back,” she said, closing the windows. “The kids’ll be scared.”

    Rain pattered onto their faces as they stepped outside, cool rivulets washing away the blistering heat. Lightning zigzagged across the sky and thunder rumbled as they sprinted for the porch, reaching it just as the skies opened above them. Sandy shivered as porch creaked and groaned while trees began to bend under the wind.

    “Now you’re cold?” Jason teased.

    “Not even close,” she responded, snuggling under his arm. “Just not a fan of storms.”

    “Tell you what,” Jason murmured. “We’ll check on the girls then come back to this nice cool porch with the comfy daybed and give the storm a run for its money in the house shaking department. Think that’ll be enough to distract you?”

    “If it doesn’t, nothing will.” Sandy grinned and sprinted for the stairs, praying that the children were still asleep.

  3. sheila95

    First entry ever, I’m posting it now because the site wasn’t working when I wrote it that week. I’m 17 so I’m not married though I hope I did a decent job. Sorry for it being longer than the expected amount of words.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————–

    The sticky feeling of my sweat against my nightgown finally got the best of me and my eyes pried open to the dark night. Why was it so hot? Was the AC not working?

    After some seconds the room finally started to get shape and my eyes were able to distinguish the open window in the far off wall. A chill went down my back as I saw the curtains barely move with the hot air of the

    August night. With a swift movement I turned to the side to warn Daniel that I feared someone had entered the house; however my hands only met the cool material of my mattress.

    Daniel was gone.

    Oh, god. I covered my mouth with a hand in fear I would scream and startle the children who were sleeping in the room next to ours. Calm down Grace, he might have gotten cold and opened the window. I assured myself. He’s probably drinking water right now.

    Trying to prove something to myself I passed my legs to the side before getting up shaking with the still lingering fear in my veins. Daniel wasn’t the type of man that suddenly gets thirsty in the night and goes for a glass of water, he surely wasn’t a person that got cold in the middle of the night, so why was I making these silly excuses in my head?

    After making sure that Dalia and Gabby were alright and noticing that their windows were tightly shut I decided to go and check up downstairs. The cracking of the steps were killing me as I tried to keep quiet in case that there was actually some kind of robber, but found everything in the first floor to be as calm as in the second one.

    My breath was even now just like my pulse at the thought that it was probably Daniel who opened the window and not some creepy robber that wanted to harm my family.

    The cold tile floor felt heavenly as I walked now fearless towards the kitchen, the humidity of the hot summer air was almost palpable as I flicked the light on but noticed the room bare.

    Brand new dreadful thoughts raced through my mind while I walked towards the kitchen sink suddenly feeling dizzy with anguish.

    That’s when I noticed the light in the barn. The quick flicker of yellow inside as if calling me to go and see what mysteries lied in there. I took a deep breath before passing Daniel’s button up shirt on top of my purple night dress.

    Small pebbles crunched against my shoes while I walked towards the small barn we had some meters away from our house. Once I was right next to the wooden building I could hear the muffled conversation of someone, but it was as if he was talking to himself… Daniel was talking to himself?

    “She hasn’t noticed anything, but I refuse to keep playing a part of this…” He murmured. “No, I won’t do it; I have two girls for heaven’s sake! I love her, I won’t do it.”

    There was some shuffling inside as if he was hitting something.

    “Shut up, I already told you, and if you try to do something I swear I’ll—“Daniel got cut off when I opened the barn doors, I knew I had a quizzical look in my face as I took in what was happening.

    My husband was there, with only a pair of black shorts, his dark brown hair damped in either sweat or water as he paced around in the inside of the barn. His cellphone was in one hand as his face showed clear flabbergast at my prescience.

    “W-who are you talking with?” I asked completely confused. The only light in the room came from a gas lamp that he had probably turned on in order to see better. Daniel bit his lower lip a worried look crossed his face before the turned off his phone.

    He took small steps until he reached me. His lean body seemed cautious about approaching me and I really wasn’t sure if I wanted him near me or not.

    “Grace, you won’t understand…” He began.

    “Are you cheating on me?” That seemed like the most reasonable answer to this madness.

    “No, I love you.” He quickly defended.

    “Then?” My voice was an octave higher this time; the event simply didn’t go well with me.

    Daniel placed his warm hands against my shoulders before resting his forehead against mine, and even though all I wanted to do was to scurry away from him and demand an answer i found myself unable to do this.

    “Then…sleep.” He whispered and as I was about to ask him what in the bloody hell he mean the entire world around me banished and darkness welcomed me again.

  4. sharyl

    What’s in the Barn?

    Angela always joked if a nuke dropped on our pasture, she’d have to slap me awake to save me, so when I shot out of a dead sleep, I knew something was up. I padded down the back stairs, past the study, into the kitchen and onto the back porch turned greenhouse. I got a chill as I passed her rows of pink lilies. .all their heads were bowed tonight. Out the backdoor I could see the barn was lit up, outside by moonlight, inside by?

    We weren’t the Old MacDonald types so the barn had spent most of its’ life empty, standing vigil under the Spanish moss until a couple years ago.

    We took out a couple stalls and made a little cemetery for our dogs. Angie liked the idea that they’d never again be cold or in the rain. Then when Beau died a year ago, she’d set up a second studio in the barn. After sixteen years, his death had been the hardest to bear, so I totally got it.

    Her paintings took on an ethereal, almost mystical quality. Her gallery drew more crowds on the weekends, too. Listening my way through the crowds, ‘healing’ and ‘magic to touch’ became common descriptors.

    I was following the moonlit path towards the barn, when. .

    “DAD! Wait!”

    I turned to Julian, my 17-year-old.

    “Before you go out there, you should know something.”

    When had he gotten so tall? Even by moonlight, I could see his eyes, her eyes.

    “She’s not painting tonight, Dad, because, because. .”a tear slid down his young face.

    One look at my face betrayed my lack of surprise.

    I sank to my knees. My nightmare flashed before my eyes of Angela, tubed and needled, tethered to deathbed monitors, screaming, “Betrayer! Betrayer!”

    “You know you’ll never get her near a hospital, Dad.”

    (Betrayer.)

    “You know she’ll go out on HER terms.”

    I wanted to curl up in a ball at my sons’ feet.

    “So, she’s been practicing.”

    “Practicing? What, dying?”

    “Yeah, you know, leaving her body. I’ve watched her a couple times. I saw Beau once too, healthy and beautiful again. I want that for Mom.”

    I dragged myself up.

    “You always said she walked between worlds. I guess she just can’t be in this one anymore.”

    Belief, a completely benign word until you color it with ideals, dreams, expectations. Then, it becomes the sword that kills or the hope that heals.

    Deaths’ sword fell that night. What I saw? It’s all a blur.

    But when she comes to me in my sleep, Beau beside her, hope that I’ll be with her again is the only thing worth believing.

  5. lailakuz

    Just a note: This is my first post on WD. I would love feedback! I know it’s too long and that I need to clean up my prose. But what about the concept? Is it alright? This is also intended to be a more literary piece than not.
    Rolling over to his left side, Joshua glanced at the glaring red numbers, sighed, and rose resignedly, stretching the aching muscles in his back. For the past two days it had been like this, waking up a mere half hour before his requisite 5:00. Craning his neck back, he found half the floral sheet thrown back and his Sarah gone.
    He gave an inward chuckle and brushed past. Adam again. His little man loved roaming the pitch black shadows by the house at night to terrify himself. Sarah would probably have reined him in again by the ear and slept in his room to keep an eye on him. His thoughts were interrupted by something giving under his arm and shattering beneath him.
    Jumping in surprise then cursing softly, he picked up the silver picture frame. He and Sarah, standing in front of their home, baby Adam across their intertwined arms. Her gentle blue eyes glinted in the photo next to his brown ones, but with the crack now blocking the baby and slicing up the rest of the picture.
    He reached right under the mattress where he knew Sarah would have put the dark brown boots they’d bought yesterday. Nothing to do now except take a short walk around the fields and ready himself for the day of hard labor ahead. As he passed the little balcony protruding from the living room, he saw what looked to be the beginnings of a breathtaking sunrise. Sarah, he thought. I’ll go get Sarah.
    He knew that she, like him, enjoyed the simple things in life. That was why he’d married her in the first place. When all of his buddies longed for the glitz and sparkle of the city, all he wanted was to find someone simple, easygoing and undemanding who shared his own love for the quiet, pastoral life of a farm. When Sarah appeared in his life, he knew this was the person he could live with until the end of the days.
    They knew everything about one another because there wasn’t much to know about. That’s what he liked about it all. She wanted to live quietly, have children, raise them and look at the similar yet varied beauty of the land with him.
    Looking back at the balcony, he recalled a few days ago when they had been marveling at a spectacular sunset and she’d let out a deep sigh. Was it longing he heard? Puzzled, he looked over at her for a moment. He now recognized it for what it was: a sigh of contentment, followed by the happy thought of the golden thread that wound together their little family in a ring of silent bliss.
    “Sarah,” he called, pushing open Adam’s door. No answer. He peeked inside. No Sarah to be found. Where could she be? Something caught his eye. Adam’s room faced the barn, now blazing with light like the Alabama fair in full swing on long summer nights. But why would Sarah be there?
    A twinge of uneasiness touched his gut as he shoved the porch door open, crunched over the chilly fields and stood squarely in front of the door. Closing his eyes and leaning his head back for a moment, he steadied his breath as he peeked through the barn’s browned, ruddy windowpane. Sure enough, there was Sarah, sitting amid piles of … books? As he stroked the icy metal handle, he considered turning back and forgetting about it all. He knew Sarah too well. They kept no secrets from each other because they weren’t complicated enough to have secrets to keep. Surely she was still the same Sarah, kind and demure with rosy cheeks and soft eyes just as he was still the same Joshua, plain and simple with dimpled cheeks and clear eyes.
    And yet there would be no going back. He had to see for himself.
    A creak, a swing of the door, and before him Sarah, surrounded by books strewn everywhere like dew on a fine spring morning and sprawling canvases laid out. His eyes followed the colorful covers, reading Pound, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Joyce, Wharton; every fashionable name he’d seen emblazoned in bookstores and literary reviews on his rare visits to the city. The canvases themselves, however, were most shocking of all. Passions, tipped out like an overflowed river, lay splattered on the white blocks before him. All of it, every bit of sophistication and sparkle he’d avoided were here, not knocking on his doorstep, but tearing it down and tumbling into his life in suffocating torrents.
    Sarah herself sat squarely in the middle, yellow hair tangled, otherworldly as her hands flew over a small canvas. Her face bore that same expression he’d seen the other day mingled with a radiant joy. Seeing him, her eyes widened and she paused for a moment in shock. Then, snapping up to attention, she resumed her sweet demeanor.
    “Joshua, what are you doing up so late?”
    He couldn’t respond. He turned around and walked back briskly to the house. When he’d put his head down again and pulled the sheet up tight, he laughed giddily at himself. Fear? Why fear? She was still the same Sarah, you could tell that by her honeyed voice and expression. They had no secrets to keep from each other because they weren’t complicated enough for secrets. No secrets to keep from each other because they weren’t complicated enough …
    ‘Just go to sleep,’ he thought, ‘It’ll all be normal in the morning.’

    1. Hunter1

      It appears that you are a vey descriptive writer. I am also new to this site. I think I am curious why she died. If I am correct, she dies recently. That is making me curious.
      I think that your writing kept me interested. I wanted to keep reading.
      It states that she was in shock seeing him. He was also in shock, I could imagine.
      You are a great writer.
      Thanks for sharing.

  6. mfdavis

    What’s In the Barn?
    Judy is used to waking up and finding her husband out of bed, but usually he’s checking on the children or raiding the refrigerator. Tonight the house is completely dark and all the kids are sound asleep. So where is Pete thought Judy.
    A light shone through the kitchen window from the old barn across the soybean field. Judy slipped on a pair of shoes and grabbed her shawl. She looked in the gun cabinet for the shotgun, just in case everything wasn’t kosher. The gun wasn’t there. Pete must have the gun, there’s something wrong she thought. She went back to the children’s room and awaken her oldest.
    “Come with me”, she whispered. She led the child back to the kitchen. She got her husband’s cell phone off the counter and gave it to Jake, her eldest son. She reached into her bag and found her cell phone. Pointing to the barn she told her son, “your father maybe in trouble down there in the barn. I’ll go check it out, if there’s trouble I’ll call you, and if you don’t hear from me within 15 minutes you call sheriff Matlock, ok Jake. Are you awake, Jake? This is important son.”
    “I am awake Mommy,” said the nine year old. His eyes opened wide, looking scared but excited. “Can we turn the light on Mommy, I’m scared.”
    “No Jake, leave the light off, you hear me.” She whispered as she slipped out the door. Jake watched his mom’s white shawl disappear into the darkness.
    Judy’s canvas shoes were soaking wet from the dew on the grassy path to the barn. She sneaked up to the barn, and leaned against the side of the barn leading to the door. She heard a voice say, “take it easy fellow.” That’s Pete’s voice she said in an undertone. Before she could get the words out of her month, she heard the shotgun blast. Thinking her husband was hurt she swung opened the barn door.
    “Pete!” she screamed. “Are you . . .” her eyes landed on her husband’s face. There were tears in his eyes, the shotgun hung at his side. She looked past him, and there laid Blanket, their Golden Retriever who had been missing for a few days, in a pool of blood. . “He was rabid” said Pete, “I couldn’t take a chance with the children around.” Judy ran over and hugged her husband, thanking God that it wasn’t him on the ground dying. Pete had raised Blanket from a puppy. He found him just before Jake was born. Remembering Jake, Judy composed herself and dialed the cell phone.
    “Hello Jake, daddy and I are fine. Everything is ok, honey, stop crying. You did a great job. No, daddy didn’t get shot. We both are ok. Jake the cell is getting weak. We will be there in a few minutes… What? Son, did you ask what was in the barn?

  7. jhowe

    1st post. Hope it works.

    The kitchen light turned on as Josh paced in front of the barn window for the hundredth time in the last half hour. Lizzie must be up. She obviously knew he wasn’t in bed but would she come out to the barn? Josh ran to the light switch and turned it off hoping she hadn’t looked outside yet. He saw her pass in front of the window cinching her white terry cloth robe tightly around her slim waist. Maybe she had not seen the light in the barn, but what was he going to tell her about his absence from the house in the middle of the night?

    Josh crouched at the barn window, his eyes moving from the kitchen window to the gravel driveway. He wiped his palms on his faded blue jeans and breathed deeply, trying to slow his racing heart. His contact was late and now Josh hoped he wouldn’t show. The meth lab in the root cellar was a bad idea, a terrible idea, even with the impending foreclosure on the farm a few months if not weeks away.

    Josh had been cooking crystal meth for three weeks and now the time had come to cash in. He’d obtained large quantities of pseudoephedrine from a generic pharmaceutical manufacturer where he worked as security personnel. He could have stolen ephedrine but his contact wanted the chief ingredient to be pseudoephedrine for reasons Josh did not understand. The remaining ingredients were easy to get; starter fluid, Coleman lantern fluid, all purchased in small quantities at various places around the area. He had six plastic zipper bags containing a pound of meth each. This was about 3,000 grams of high quality meth valued on the street at $100 per gram.

    Street value was one thing; what he could get for the bulk supply was another. The contact was supposed to be here at 2:00 A.M. and present Josh with $100,000 for the entire cache. Josh looked at his watch but couldn’t see the dial in the darkened barn. He took another look toward the kitchen when the driveway was illuminated as a black GMC Envoy rolled to a stop. A lone man got out and looked around. Josh opened the barn door and quietly told the man to come in.

    The man was small and twitchy with a mouth full of blackened teeth and held a worn satchel in one hand and a gun in the other. Josh protested that the gun was not needed just as the barn door opened. Lizzie said, “Josh, are you in here?”

    The man turned one way, whirled the other and fired. Josh roared as Lizzie fell to the floor. The man turned back as Josh lunged and the gun fired again.

  8. LizzieC

    Something woke me. I turn over to feel the warmth of my husband’s body and there is nothing – just a cold spot. It’s 3.30 a.m by the clock so where is he?
    Grabbing my dressing gown I creep downstairs, all is quiet but I can see light from the kitchen seeping under the door into the hall. He must be having sleeping troubles again. I know that we are having difficulties with finances over the farm but things had started to look up over the past month.
    “John,” I call as I approach the kitchen door. No answer; the room is empty and the main door is wide open. I am now starting to get a little worried. Outside it is pitch dark, no moon to-night. I look around, darkness, darkness and then I see a pin point of light coming from the distant barn. As I walk towards it the trees appear as eerie shapes and in the distrance I can hear a dog baking.
    Rounding the end of the barn I peer through the door. There is my husband, hand and feet bound and tied to a post. Standing around him are four tough looking characters one of whom is holding a gun. I gasp! Hearing me one of the men turns in my direction.

    “What have we here?” he asks as he approaches me. Grabbing me roughly, he drags me into the barn and flings me to the floor. I let out a cry of pain as my body hits the hard concrete. Looking up I can see the man holding the gun looking back at me a cold glint in his steel blue eyes.
    “Perhaps this will make you come to your senses.” he addresses my husband, grabs me and pulls me to my feet. “You wouldn’t want any harm to come to this lady, I am sure,” he adds with a mocking laugh.
    “Please leave her out of this. She knows nothing,” my husband implores.
    The man with the gun gently stokes my cheek with the cold steel barrel of the gun. I feel my knees begin to buckle and hear a faint ringing sound in my ears.
    The sound gets louder and lounder then I realise that it is the alarm. Time to get up!

  9. Icabu

    Leaving the sleeping and quiet farmhouse, Ed crossed the dew-damp grass to the main barn. The cool night air cleared the sleep from his mind, making his thoughts churn as to what could be up with Ethel. Previous times when he’d woken to find her gone he’d assumed she’d needed a drink of water or gone to the outhouse. When ol’ Rex the rooster woke him, she would be curled next to him like always.

    He wasn’t sure what made him look after her this time. One of those married things, he guessed. He pushed the barn door open a crack and eased in. A clattering sound stopped him just inside the door. It was a sound he’d never heard before. Certainly none of his farm machines made that noise. It was somewhat like Ethel’s sewing machine, but different. It wasn’t smooth. Ethel could make that Singer sing. This clatter came in fits and starts, sometimes rattling for a spell, then sputtering along.

    Spotting the light source in the hay loft, Ed crossed the barn to the rickety ladder attached to the wall below the loft’s edge. He passed his trusty, aged tractor, smelling of gas and oil, then the dairy stalls, smelling of … well, dairy stalls.

    The clattering was definitely coming from the loft. Was Ethel making that racket? Unsure, Ed grabbed a pitchfork resting by a stall. Carefully, he negotiated the vertical ladder, armed with the fork. Certainly Ethel didn’t come out here in the middle of the night to clatter around in the hay loft.

    When his head cleared the floor of the loft, Ed dropped the fork – his chin nearly fell as far.

    “Ethel?” he said, pulling himself up the final steps.

    When he got no response, just more clacking, Ed stepped closer. Ethel sat on a bale of hay with the old Royal typewriter from the attic resting on a bale in front of her, clacking away on the keys. A sheaf of typewritten papers sat beside her.

    “Ethel!” Ed demanded.

    With a surprised screech, Ethel whirled around. An odd look of innocence lost replaced her surprise.

    “Ed,” she whispered.

    Picking up the papers, Ed read, looked at his wife, shocked. “This is the story we’ve been reading in the paper for the last month.”

    “Yes,” Ethel said, voice stronger. “I won the contest.”

    “Why?” Ed asked.

    Ethel stood, arms crossed. “Because I wanted to. Because I’m good at it.”

    Ed nodded. “Yes, you are good at it.” He continued to read, looking up when he’d finished. “Do they pay you?”

    “A little,” she said. “A publisher called today. That’s why I’m so late – rushing to finish. It’s going to be a book. A real book.” She embraced Ed tightly. “Then I’ll really be paid and we’ll get that new tractor.”

    Stunned, Ed shook his head. “You bring that inside, do this thing. We’ll get a car. A fancy one.”

    Squealing with delight, Ethel hugged tighter as Ed twirled her around the loft.

  10. sheila95

    First of all, hello I’m Sheila :) and this is the first time I try this so I’m rather nervous. I literally just did my account some hours ago, but I decided to give this a shot, please be kind. Also last night this wasn’t working (when I did my account) so I’m seeing if I can see my story this time. I’m 17 and not married so I hope this is decent enough.
    **************************************************************************************************************

    The sticky feeling of my sweat against my nightgown finally got the best of me and my eyes pried open to the dark night. Why was it so hot? Was the AC not working?

    After some seconds the room finally started to get shape and my eyes were able to distinguish the open window in the far off wall. A chill went down my back as I saw the curtains barely move with the hot air of the August night. With a swift movement I turned to the side to warn Daniel that I feared someone had entered the house; however my hands only met the cool material of my mattress.

    Daniel was gone.

    Oh, god. I covered my mouth with a hand in fear I would scream and startle the children who were sleeping in the room next to ours. Calm down Grace, he might have gotten cold and opened the window. I assured myself. He’s probably drinking water right now.

    Trying to prove something to myself I passed my legs to the side before getting up shaking with the still lingering fear in my veins. Daniel wasn’t the type of man that suddenly gets thirsty in the night and goes for a glass of water, he surely wasn’t a person that got cold in the middle of the night, so why was I making these silly excuses in my head?

    After making sure that Dalia and Gabby were alright and noticing that their windows were tightly shut I decided to go and check up downstairs. The cracking of the steps were killing me as I tried to keep quiet in case that there was actually some kind of robber, but found everything in the first floor to be as calm as in the second one.

    My breath was even now just like my pulse at the thought that it was probably Daniel who opened the window and not some creepy robber that wanted to harm my family.

    The cold tile floor felt heavenly as I walked now fearless towards the kitchen, the humidity of the hot summer air was almost palpable as I flicked the light on but noticed the room bare.

    Brand new dreadful thoughts raced through my mind while I walked towards the kitchen sink suddenly feeling dizzy with anguish.

    That’s when I noticed the light in the barn. The quick flicker of yellow inside as if calling me to go and see what mysteries lied in there. I took a deep breath before passing Daniel’s button up shirt on top of my purple night dress.

    Small pebbles crunched against my shoes while I walked towards the small barn we had some meters away from our house. Once I was right next to the wooden building I could hear the muffled conversation of someone, but it was as if he was talking to himself… Daniel was talking to himself?

    “She hasn’t noticed anything, but I refuse to keep playing a part of this…” He murmured. “No, I won’t do it; I have two girls for heaven’s sake! I love her, I won’t do it.”

    There was some shuffling inside as if he was hitting something.

    “Shut up, I already told you, and if you try to do something I swear I’ll—“Daniel got cut off when I opened the barn doors, I knew I had a quizzical look in my face as I took in what was happening.

    My husband was there, with only a pair of black shorts, his dark brown hair damped in either sweat or water as he paced around in the inside of the barn. His cellphone was in one hand as his face showed clear flabbergast at my prescience.

    “W-who are you talking with?” I asked completely confused. The only light in the room came from a gas lamp that he had probably turned on in order to see better. Daniel bit his lower lip a worried look crossed his face before the turned off his phone.

    He took small steps until he reached me. His lean body seemed cautious about approaching me and I really wasn’t sure if I wanted him near me or not.

    “Grace, you won’t understand…” He began.

    “Are you cheating on me?” That seemed like the most reasonable answer to this madness.

    “No, I love you.” He quickly defended.

    “Then?” My voice was an octave higher this time; the event simply didn’t go well with me.

    Daniel placed his warm hands against my shoulders before resting his forehead against mine, and even though all I wanted to do was to scurry away from him and demand an answer i found myself unable to do this.

    “Then…sleep.” He whispered and as I was about to ask him what in the bloody hell he mean the entire world around me banished and darkness welcomed me again.

    1. don potter

      Good effort. I can’t believe you are writing like this at just 17. The set up was a bit long, and I got tired before getting to the barn. What happened in the end? Did he hypnotize her or what? You might want to check for grammar and typos. I look forward to your next post.

  11. cator2306

    Light of my life

    So hot! 5:00 in the morning. Not feeling good. Can’t get to sleep. Must have slept a few hours though. Head hurts. Tossing and turning and trying to get comfortable. Hold on, how come I can spread-eagle my arms and legs like that. Bed’s empty. Where’s Lana? She must be finding it hard to sleep too. Need a glass of water. Kids fast asleep. Go downstairs. Silent house. No-one around. Strange, has she gone out? Where can she be at this hour? No sign of her anywhere. Oh, don’t feel good at all, nauseous. I’m sure she told me something earlier but I can’t quite remember what.

    Opening the door into the back garden there’s not a sound except for the drone of crickets. Across the garden into the fields beyond there is a light in the barn. ‘What’s going on? What’s she doing in there at this time of night’. Start to make my way tentatively across the garden in the bright moonlight, a sinking feeling in my stomach. Something’s wrong. Nearly there. What will I find? Why is she out here alone at this hour? Why do I feel so bad, this pounding headache. Scared. Maybe I should just leave this and head back to the house. I push open the door of the barn. Empty whiskey bottle on the table and another on the floor which is littered with photographs. I pick up one or two. Her smiling face looks back at me. I remember that holiday in Greece, her soft tanned skin. I pick up some more photos. The usual happy couple type. Could be anyone, but it was us. Us at the beginning. us, with the kids. Those happy days. Where are they now? Where is she now? Lovely Lana, light of my life, light of my soul. Life is not conceivable without you. Tell me where you are? Tell me you want me? Tell me you need me? Pressure in my head.

    I know. She is not in the barn. She is not in the house. She’s gone. She is out of our lives. From now on, there will be only myself and the kids. No, can’t face that. There will be no from now on, no future. Here in this barn, we made out for the first time. The evening is coming back to me now. Sweat running down my back. Tears running down my face. I had spent the evening drinking and looking at these photos of happier times, when life had a real meaning but what had happened just before.

    My foot stumbles over something else on the floor. I look down and see her. There she is, my beautiful Lana, cold, lifeless and still, stretched out below me. A wave of sweat and dizziness comes over me. I hadn’t just looked at photos. That was after. I could remember the blind rage, my fingers closing around her slender throat. But she shouldn’t have done that. She shouldn’t have told me about him, that she was going to leave and take the kids, that she needed something else, someone else.

  12. catbr

    The last few weeks were stressful for Donald. Sleep was almost non existent as he tossed and turned nightly over whether he should retire from work. He just did not know what he’d do with no job to go to anymore. I thought that he might be downstairs in the kitchen having a snack when I discovered the cold empty space beside me in bed at 2 in the morning. The house was in total darkness except for the nightlight in the hallway. I quickly checked the spare room and living room on my way to the kitchen, but he was not in them.

    As I approached the kitchen, figuring he had to be there I said “Don, what’s the matter? Are you having trouble sleeping?” The quick brush of fur against my leg startled me. I let out a small scream. It was the cat. Of course, what else would it have been. I nervously laughed to myself. This was starting to make me a tad edgy. I could not for the life of me figure out what in the world happened to …. wait a minute. Looking out the kitchen window I noticed the barn out back was lit up inside. I pulled on a sweater, put on my old gardening boots and grabbed a flashlight on my way out to investigate the barn.

    Before announcing my arrival I thought I would look into the window of the barn to get an idea what was going on first. What if there was a burglar or murderer in the barn? You never know. Now I’m getting a little paranoid. It had to be Donald in the barn probably working on one of his projects because he had trouble sleeping again. I peek inside the window and had to shake my head and rub my eyes. I could not believe what I was seeing. There in the middle of the barn was Donald with some weird looking creature or person. It appeared that they were having a conversation. I tried to listen in, with wide terrified eyes and cold drops of sweat forming on my face. I had to keep my hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.

    “You have served us well Donaloid. But now it is time to go back to our home planet. You can’t worry about this earth woman you call your wife. She is not one of us.” said the hideous looking little beast. I’m not one of them? Donaloid? This can’t be real.

    “I’ve fallen in love with her. Can’t I take her with us?” said Donald or Donaloid or whoever the hell he really was. My mother warned me about him years ago. She always said there was something about him that seemed a little off. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was going to go in to confront them when all of a sudden a strong wind started blowing and the sky lit up like it was the middle of a sunny afternoon. That’s when I fainted.

    1. reba_O

      I don’t know if you meant to do it, but I enjoyed the subtle hints of dry humor in your story, “…earth woman you call your wife.” “My mother warned me about him…”. It made me smile. Enjoyed reading your story!

  13. sydneybear

    I’m still new at writing, but I’m having so much fun.

    The Surprise in the Barn

    “Steve, I heard something outside.” I roll over to shake him and find that he is not in bed. I sit up and got out of bed and look for him. I look in the bathroom and do not find him. I check on the kids and they are sound asleep in their beds. All the lights are off and no sign of him.

    I’m getting worried because he has never just left in the middle of the night before, or he had he woke me first. I jump at the sound of the noise again coming from outside. I look around and find one of the kids baseball bats. I have to find out what that noise is.

    I put my boots and jacket on and I walk out the front door and look outside. A faint light catches my eye from the barn across the field. I walk slowly and cautiously toward the barn. My hands are shaking as I grasp the baseball bat. I wish Steve was here.

    As I get closer to the barn, I can hear the noise even loader now and there is someone inside moving about. I should have brought my phone to call the police. I can’t go back now; I have to protect the kids.

    I reach for the door and then take a big breath. I swing the door open.

    “Get out, I warn you. I called the cops.” I yell as I am swinging the bat around.

    There is movement to my left and it sounds like someone is coming towards me.

    “I’m warning you, I will knock you into next week.” I scream.

    “It’s OK Linda, it’s just me.” Steve poked his head around the corner.

    I look at him and I go weak. I drop the bat and start crying. I’m so happy that it is just Steve.

    “What are you doing out here in the middle of the night? You scared the crap out of me.” I cried.

    “I wanted to surprise you for your Birthday. Come see.” Steve takes my hand and leads me to the back of the barn, into his woodworking shop. Standing there is the most beautiful piece of furniture that I have even seen.

    “I know how much you wanted a china cabinet for your dolls. Happy Birthday Sweetheart.” Steve bent over and kissed me on the forehead.

    I’m speechless. I turn and wrap my arms about Steve’s neck.

    “Thank you. It’s beautiful.” I said as a tear rolled down my cheek.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Welcome to the forum. The key to writing is the personal enjoyment you feel when you create a story. You’re off to a good start. The more you write, the more fun it is. Read as many stories here as you can and study the critiques on them, you’ll learn faster than any on line course you might take. Write for your own desire and those who like it, will please you. Those that don’t respond are not important. Write, and write some more and keep writing.

    2. don potter

      You are now part of this writing community. Participate as often as you can, and you will garner plenty of comments. As Kerry indicated, you get a lot from this forum. Use what seems to work for you and you will be a better writer for it. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

  14. reba_O

    My first writing prompt. Please be gentle :). Constructive criticism, suggestions, etc. are welcome!

    I awake with a start, gasping for air, and scrambling away from the looming, ghostly figure my mind still insists is standing next to the bed. As I catch my breath and shake off the vision, I reach back to grab my husband, searching for warmth and security, knowing he will comfort me.

    My hand clutches only bedding and sheets. I turn, willing my eyes to see, and realize he is gone. The clock reads 3:02 am. I gingerly step out of bed, pretending that the child in me isn’t cringing at the thought of a monster underneath poised to grab my ankle, but my pace does quicken as I head towards the kitchen.

    The house is dark and silent. I pour a glass of water and glance out the large bay windows that overlook the ranch. I notice the barn light is on, “That’s where he is. Such a work-a-holic”, I scoff inwardly.

    I slip on my riding boots, left scattered after our earlier trail ride, and head out the back door.

    The air feels empty and stale; suffocating even for a Mississippi July. The barn doors are open and the light spills onto the dirt outside, too bright for my eyes to quickly adjust. I stand on the threshold, shielding my face and call out his name, “Matthew? You in here? It’s late. What are you doing?”

    I hear shuffling from inside, but no answer. I begin to walk down the aisle, checking the stalls. All horses present, accounted for, and seemingly undisturbed.

    Suddenly, a putrid smell of rotten meat wafts under my nose, causing me to choke and spit. I grasp a stall door gagging uncontrollably.

    “Maggie. There you are.”

    Alarmed, I quickly stand upright and stare into the eyes of my husband, “Oh, it’s you,” I sputter. “Did you smell that? Oh, god. Worst smell ever. What are you doing up so late?” I ask, now completely perturbed by his nightly outing.

    “Follow me.” He responds. His lips curl up into a smirk and his eyes flash red. I turn, expecting to see the red light that caused the reflection, but only the discount yellow bulbs glow in the ceiling.

    I follow Matt down the aisle, toward the ladder that leads to the hay loft.

    Matt grabs my hand and pulls me the rest of the way up. I look around, dusting my pajama bottoms off. The hay lay in stacks as usual, undisturbed like the rest of the barn.

    As I turn to my husband, a hand grabs my throat, cutting off my voice and airway. I gasp and claw at it with my nails, trying to escape his clutch. He slings me onto the floor, my fall cushioned by the bales of hay. I look up and realize I am no longer looking at my husband, but at the ghostly figure that haunted my nightmare. With a whoosh, the figure descends upon me, intoxicates my being, and everything goes dark.

    1. Sarah Elizabeth Butler

      Wow! I’m a newbie to the “prompt” scene here, too, but yours blew me away. My only constructive remark is regarding the last paragraph. I got a little lost when you referred to “a” hand, then segged right into assuming it was the husbands. I wonder if instead of if “he slings me to the floor”, perhaps “I am slung to the floor” would work. Just a thought, and the only advice I can begin to offer. Write on!

      1. reba_O

        Thanks Sarah! That made my day. You’re right..I struggled on that last paragraph with making it clear. Work on clarity, check and check. Thanks for the feedback!

  15. cajbw

    Late at night Allen awoke to find his wife, Francine out of bed. Exploring the farmhouse, he found no lights on and the kids were still sound asleep. Past the fields, Allen saw light shining out of the barn. He nervously threw on his worn out pair of running shoes and crept outside. By habit, he reached for his shotgun, but then thought better of it. If Francine was in the barn, he did not want to risk pointing a gun at his own wife. He felt safe enough when Scooter, his old coon dog rubbed up against his leg and followed him outside.
    Even in the summer, the night air was cool in the mountains. The clouds blocked out the moon and Allen had to feel his way along the side of the house. His old hands could feel the peeling paint and broken siding. He wished he had money to fix it, but times had been tough on the farm the past few years. They were getting by, but just barely.
    As he reached the Barn, he pushed on the old doors and barged his way inside. What he saw made him question his marriage, his sanity, and his concept of reality. He stood in shock but slowly put his hands in the air as he looked down the barrels of at least twenty guns pointed at him. They were held by the old plow horses he used to work the fields, the four pigs they kept in the pens, the milk cows that should have been out in the pasture, and the goats that roamed the property. He also noticed about fifteen chickens with knives poised to be thrown.
    What shocked Allen most though, was when Francine, his wife of twenty five years, spat on the ground and lowered her handgun. She put her hand up and motioned for the rest of her crew to lower their weapons. Cautiously the farm animals obeyed her.
    It was at this point that Allen noticed the piles of money laid out on the wooden table. There must have been tens of thousands of crisp new bills. On the ground lay more bags of money. The label on the bags indicated the loot was from the First National Bank.
    Allen’s mind flashed to the news story about the recent rash of bank robberies in the region. “Alright Allen, I guess the cat, or the money in this case, is out of the bag.” Francine said with a grin. “Come in as its time we had a talk.”
    Allen hesitated but then felt the point of a gun in his back. “Get walking Allen! The boss lady wants to have a word with you.” Allen turned and saw Scooter standing on two legs behind him.
    “You too!” Allen said in disbelief.
    Francine looked him in the eye. “Don’t look so glum Allen. We are going to make our mortgage payment for the first time in six months this month.”
    The animals all laughed, and one of the horses slapped him on the back. “Yeah and we are going back to brand name feed around here. No more of that generic crap!” At that, the entire barn erupted into laughter; Even more so when Allen fainted.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Very imaginative and witty take on the prompt. His ass would have been vaporized, had any cats been around. Especially if their staff of servents were slacking off. I can picture the scene when he walked in the barn; clever.

  16. smallster21

    MIDNIGHT BARN PARTY—GATEWAY FOR FAIRIES, ROBOTS, WITCHES, & ALIENS…VAMPIRES NOT INVITED :(

    Layla was at her vanity putting on makeup, when the music started. Blue-green lights and glitter weaved in through the window like fairies twirling on sycamore seeds as the temporal fold between the astral planes opened.

    She hoped Marque would show tonight. He couldn’t speak English. His language was a cross between Russian and an angry dog. Regardless, he was handsome—curly-sable hair, Brad-Pitt jawline, and violet eyes.

    A voice from outside shouted, “Yoohoo! Layla! Come on!”

    Layla leaned on the windowsill. Dixi6–the robot–was cutting across the pasture, scattering the cows, and randomly breaking into the robot dance. Robots didn’t actually move in mechanic-like motions, hence Dixi6’s amusement with the dance. They were more like limber ballerinas—a product of the materials the aliens had invented.

    Restricted by her thigh-tightening black dress, Layla shuffled to the door, but fell, ripping the fabric up her leg. Not wanting to waste anymore time, Layla grabbed a safety pin, secured the hem, and went outside to meet Dixi6.

    ***

    Once in the barn, Dixi6 headed to the circular bar where the Massey Ferguson usually sat. Layla breathed in the scent of jasmine, cinnamon, and alcohol coming from the martinis and tankards lining the counter. The barn had morphed into party central, where the races came to socialize before embarking to another plane for business, social visits, or leisurely shopping.

    Once a month, the barn was a gateway. Five stone archways encircled the barn, each engraved with writings belonging to the world that lay beyond. They read:

    The Otherworld—(Fairies)
    X453Z—(Robots & Aliens)
    Bloodhaven—(Vampires)
    Cidero—(Witches & Wizards)
    The Unknown

    Layla had visited the first three. There was a barrier to keep the vampires out, and she had never ventured into the Unknown—Marque’s dimension. The fairies, witches, robots and aliens she had asked claimed they couldn’t read nor speak the language, and they never bothered to venture through the gateway.

    Dixi6 returned and handed Layla a glowing, red martini topped with mini fireworks that shot out from the surface. Dixi6 was holding a tankard of—what looked like—liquid mercury.

    “Did you think about our conversation last month?” Dixi6 threw her judgmental robot eyes at Layla.

    Layla shrugged.

    “Even if Marque could understand your request to attend your human prom thing, you can’t ask him.”

    Layla rolled her eyes. Dixi6 had warned her about the guys who came out of the Unknown—social outcasts (for reasons Dixi6 wouldn’t say). They usually stood around a corner table, wearing charcoal, linen pants and flannel shirts drinking bottles of silver liquid—similar to Dixi6’s drink, but it had to be something different, for the Unknown people weren’t robots.

    “I don’t understand why not?” Layla retorted. She played with her dress, trying to hide the tear. A hand stopped her—it was Marque.

    Dixi6 squeaked and ran to the bar.

    Marque was on one knee, holding the hem of her dress, smiling with his violet eyes. He whispered something in Angry-Russian-Puppy-Dog as he pressed his finger against her thigh, the warmth of which intensified as he traced the tear with his finger. When he stood up, the torn dress was like new.

    Layla didn’t understand. Marque appeared to possess powers like a wizard, however, he had the keen, violet eyes of a fairy, and, one time, she thought she saw fangs.

    Along with Dixi6, everybody else had retreated, leaving Marque and Layla in their own quadrant as if to contain whatever it was they disapproved of Marque for. As Marque stared into her eyes, muttering his incoherent language, disregarding the contempt around him, he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. Murmurs and gasps erupted around them, along with Dixi6’s squeaking.

    His lips prickled her skin like the electricity of a wizard’s wand, and as he held his lips there, she felt his teeth lengthen, which grazed her cheek as he pulled away.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Loved it. Reminds me of our Sigma Chi parties we threw at the University Of Miami. Would it be allright with you if I brought Psyche? She’d love a party such as this. I dance a mean Tango.

        1. smallster21

          Lol, wow, sounds like those were some crazy parties then. Bringing a centaur to a fairy-alien-robot-wizard bash? Well, since you can Tango, you two will fit in, so sure, the more the merrier, lol! Thanks :)

      2. smallster21

        Maybe. I do have the concept saved in my “story starter folder” with different characters and setting, but basically the same overall idea. Glad you think its novel material! I like hearing that. Let’s me know what ideas to prioritize over others. I have an issue with starting books and never finishing. I have 80,000 words in one series started, 50,000 in another, 20,000 word novellas, and so on. I never know what to focus on! “&#sdf*@!sdfsdf oi$#” that’s how I feel about that. Lol, thanks for your comments :)

  17. jake1126

    *First time writing on this site. This may be a little graphic. I also don’t mean to offend anybody lol.

    “BZZZ,” my cell phone vibrates and wakes me from a light sleep. I reluctantly look at it and notice the time is 3:43 AM. My alarm was set for some odd reason. I stretch my leg a little to the left, expecting to feel the warmth of my pregnant wife’s legs, but I feel emptiness.

    “Huh, strange,” I think to myself. “I wonder where she could be.”

    Coming to my senses, I notice the light from our barn shining gently through our window curtains. My thoughts start to race a bit as a sinister panic sets deep in my stomach. I wonder if something is wrong. Perhaps she needed some alone time to meditate outside and think about the baby and our future. I grab my robe off the hook on our wall and slip into my sandals. The first thing I do is check on the kids. They are both sound asleep, with their night-lights shining brightly. Ivan is even snoring. “That’s a relief, ” I whisper to myself with a smile on my face.

    As I make my way down the hall, that ominous feeling sets in again. I’m still not that comfortable walking outside in the country late at night. We’ve only been out here for about three months and I’ve always had a strange fear of what could possibly lie in the darkness of these woods. I have my childhood to blame for that. As a kid, I always found myself watching horror movies like “American Werewolf” and others like it. I make my way out the back door and turn to head to the barn. The night is very still and darker than darkness itself. The grass is still wet from the rain a few hours before. Walking through our backyard to the barn, my toes get a little wet from the moisture springing off the blades of grass. It’s late November and very chilly outside. It must be 32 degrees out here. I certainly hope Lori grabbed her jacket before coming out here. Man, what could she be doing?

    “Lori?” I call out as I approach the barn. No response. I’m really starting to wonder now. The heavy barn door creaks open as I slowly enter. What is in front of me is something no man, or woman for that matter, should ever have to witness in their life. Every hair on my body sticks up as straight as it can, my heart skips 3 beats, and I feel light-headed.

    “Lori! I don’t understand. What what…happened?” I manage to croak out at a patheticly low volume. You can feel the fear and hurt in my voice. I stare in disbelief at my wife’s mutilated stomach. Tears begin to rush to my eyes and my mouth will not close. She’s sitting in a chair facing the door with a huge hole in her stomach. The baby is in her arms, still connected to the umbilical cord and blood is dripping down her body. Her eyes are somehow still open and focused on me.

    “I’m sorry baby,” she says emotionally as she raises her right arm and points a Sig Sauer P229 pistol dead at my face. “I love you,” she manages to get out, right before I hear an echoing explosion at the barrel of the pistol, the sound of death.

    “Yes baby?” I hear my wife’s amazing voice, as I wake from the worst nightmare I’ve had in years. My arm is wrapped around her body, with my hand on her six-month pregnant belly. My legs are slightly stuck to the sheet from the sweat I was in. Realizing I was only having a nightmare brings intense warmth, comfort, and relief.

    “You were moaning my name right as the baby kicked and woke me,” she says slightly annoyed.

    “I’m sorry love,” I replied. “I had a nightmare involving the baby. I already forgot it. Let’s go back to sleep, I have work at seven. Want me to grill steaks tomorrow night?”

    “Sure, sounds good,” she replies. “Goodnight baby, love you. See you in the morning”

    We kiss and I slowly fall back to sleep with my arm around my family, appreciating every moment I have with them.

  18. angel plant

    Part Two What’s In the Barn

    When the police came they found two bodies. It was awful and I could not even think right. My nerves was on edge. I just never thought this would ever happen. How could I tell my kids? It was going to be the hardest thing I ever had to do.

    I knew Michael was quiet lately. I thought it was from work. The Police asked a lot of questions which I was glad for. I wanted to find out if I could why he do such a thing. He had to be sick.

    All I could do was tell the Police what I knew which was not much. He wore a tan shirt and black pants. Dark socks and black shoes. Michael is very strong. But he never showed a temper around me or the kids.

    The Police was puzzled as I was. The people he killed was from another Country. They had never been in trouble so far as the Police could tell. One was a big man and had a scar on his chin. The other was a man that was smaller.

    I started to wonder as did the Police. Had Michael killed before. Well the Police would find out. Did they come to fight? Was it self defense. Maybe drug related. But I never knew anything. Of Michael using drugs. Maybe he did. Something had caused him to commit murder but what?

    When I finally looked at the bodies. I looked as close as I could. On both bodies. He had cut them bad. It made me sick. As I looked I saw the big guy had a small mark on his neck. You could barely see it. The smaller man had a tooth missing. Now I was really confused.

    For about a week I could barely think. Because it seems the Police missed the mark and tooth. How could they miss something like that? It shocked me.

    They did not come back or call for a week. Then they came back asked me if we had a lot of bills. I told them no. Then they said Michael had bank accounts in different countries. I did not even know about them.
    That would explain some of this, I guess. I have no idea what else they will find.

  19. JR MacBeth

    Hoping this fixes the html…
    —————————————–

    It was snowing outside, and just in time for the Holidays! The children were excited, and played outside most of the day. After dinner, the family settled down in front of the fireplace. Papa was still eating a tamale. He could eat so many! Tonight, grandmother would tell the Story—but she would have to be asked first, according to tradition, by the youngest child.

    “¿Abuelita?” said little Jose.

    “Yes Pepito, ¿que quiedes mi amor?, what do you want?”

    “Can you tell us the story of the night when Baby Jesusa was born?”

    “¡Claro que no!” she exclaimed, startling the child, suddenly leaning forward. And then she smiled. “Unless you come sit on your abuelita’s lap. Only then can I tell the Story!”

    The boy hurried into her arms.

    “It was many, moons ago, when I was even younger than you, m’ijo.” All the children gathered round. “It was the middle of the night, snowing, but even colder than tonight. My mother, your great-grandmother, woke up and couldn’t find my father, he was gone! She looked everywhere. This was not like him. And then she saw the light!”

    “Was it the Light of the World, abuelita?” Maria asked.

    “It was! But she did not know it at the time. It would be many moons before we knew.”

    “How many moons, abuelita?” The children all had questions.

    “Well, I was a grown woman—wait! Let me finish the story! Listen now: She saw the light outside. It was coming from the establo! She went to see, and found my father, kneeling. There, in the hay, was a little bebé. And do you know what? The animals were kneeling too! The horses, sheep—even the naughty goats!” The children laughed.

    “Was it really Jesusa, La Unigida?”

    “It was! And our familia was the first to see Her.”

    “What did She look like, abuelita?” Ramon said.

    “She was beautiful! And do you know? Even though She was just born, She put up Her hand, and gave Her blessing! And that is why our family guards the Sacred Stable today.

    “Abuelita?” Maria said, “Why did She have to die?”

    “Maria, Maria, always the serious one! We will save this for another day. Tonight is Missaunigida!”

    “Yes, it is,” Veronica said. “Time for bed. Tomorrow will come early!”

    There were some protests from the children, but soon they were asleep.

    “Mother?” Veronica said. “I still don’t really know why She had to die.”

    “‘Nica, ‘Nica! Not this again. The children will hear you!”

    “I have explained, many times,” grandmother said. “I was there! The day the arrows pierced Her sacred flesh!”

    “Yes Mother.” It was no use. “Well, goodnight.”

    Veronica went to bed, sad that she still could not believe, after all these years.

    Suddenly she was awake. Pedro was gone! She went to the window and saw light coming from the stable. Then she thought she heard someone calling to her. A child’s voice…

    “Veronica! Veronica!”

    1. don potter

      Nice story, but I would like your help in understanding the ending. Is Veronica about to die? Or did I turn left when I should have gone right?

      1. JR MacBeth

        Thanks Don,

        I was hoping that you could go both left and right with my ending. It can go various ways, interpreted differently depending upon the reader’s perception of what the story’s emphasis was supposed to be about (at least that was my intention). As a sort of Christmas story retold, it could easily be about “faith”. Or, it might be more about family, culture, tradition, etc., of value whether true or not. And then it could also be about something many of us experience, instead of belief in these old religious stories, our characters may have to deal with unbelief.

        SO, all that being said, it could be that the doubting Veronica (I could have called her Tomasina!) has fallen asleep and is dreaming, or is about to experience something of a miraculous encounter with the deity Jesusa, or indeed that she is dead, in which case her next experience would certainly be the definitive denouement.

        I sometimes feel that it’s fun to leave an ending open, I wonder what others feel about this? That way, I hope, different readers can come away with something that resonates with them personally.

        A fun prompt.

        JR

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Personally, my take on the ending is a rebirth of faith for Veronica. I usually look for the rainbows in life.

    2. smallster21

      I’m also confused about what happened at the end, but I read the explanation you gave don, and it is an interesting perspective, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. And, I’ll offer my opinion (my opinion at the moment), because I actually stopped to think about what you did here. My first thought is that leaving a story open-ended for any reader to interpret how they wish is a nice concept, but then again, when we tell a story, we are telling a story with the intent of leaving a certain effect on the reader or to get them to think and maybe even ask questions about concepts bigger than the story. So, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I know when I read a story, I expect there to be a resolute ending. I don’t expect all loose strings to be tied up, but I expect to have a sense of closure. With a story like this, I don’t get that, and I’m left frustrated with the whole intent behind the story. Well, thanks for having me work my brain, lol :) Great things to think about.

      I also liked the spiritual tone of your story, and it definitely was an interesting read!

      1. JR MacBeth

        Thanks Doug and DMelde for your comments!

        Thank you smallster21 for your thoughtful reply. You make some good points about readers generally wanting closure, and that’s certainly something a writer should take into consideration I think, especially when writing with a goal to “merely” entertain.

        But there are various kinds of entertainment of course, just as there are various kinds of closure, and when we wax philosophical, the interesting thing is that “answers” are generally absent, leaving us with only questions. In this sense, leaving a somewhat philosophical / spiritual piece “open”, is more a reflection of the actual reality that our characters face. Is there a god, would he/she condescend to show himself/herself to us? What might that look like? Would such an experience always be a matter of faith, or does it get “real” at some point?

        While I left the story’s end open, it was my hope that readers might see the contrast between a believing, faithful family tradition, and the persisting lack of faith that one character, Veronica, continued to deal with. As we know in our own lives, many of us do not find tidy resolution to such weighty matters. In fact, even if some of us could be granted a special apparition, or divine communication, we still might not “believe”.

        Lastly, and this might sound strange, but the frustration you mention is also not a bad thing from the point of view that we are attempting to reflect reality, at least in this particular piece. Things like “faith”, while a comfort to the believer, are rather frustrating to the unbeliever. So, maybe the feeling could be more a result of a reader identifying with Veronica’s frustration, than the story’s lack of closure. She certainly didn’t get closure either, with where the story ended. But was there still a smidgen of hope for her? The ending, if it worked as I intended, still would have left that for her. And that is, in it’s own way, a kind of closure; in fact, it may be the only kind we can ever have, in this life.

        Oops. I started getting philosophical again!

        Great comments, thanks.

        JR

  20. JR MacBeth

    APOLOGIES, 30 words over the limit. I’m getting rusty.
    ———————————————————————

    It was snowing outside, and just in time for the Holidays! The children were excited, and played outside most of the day. After dinner, the family settled down in front of the fireplace. Papa was still eating a tamale. He could eat so many! Tonight, grandmother would tell the Story—but she would have to be asked first, according to tradition, by the youngest child.

    “¿Abuelita?” said little Jose.

    “Yes Pepito, ¿que quiedes mi amor?, what do you want?”

    “Can you tell us the story of the night when Baby Jesusa was born?”

    “¡Claro que no!” she exclaimed, startling the child, suddenly leaning forward. And then she smiled. “Unless you come sit on your abuelita’s lap. Only then can I tell the Story!”

    The boy hurried into her arms.

    “It was many, moons ago, when I was even younger than you, m’ijo.” All the children gathered round. “It was the middle of the night, snowing, but even colder than tonight. My mother, your great-grandmother, woke up and couldn’t find my father, he was gone! She looked everywhere. This was not like him. And then she saw the light!”

    “Was it the Light of the World, abuelita?” Maria asked.

    “It was! But she did not know it at the time. It would be many moons before we knew.”

    “How many moons, abuelita?” The children all had questions.

    “Well, I was a grown woman—wait! Let me finish the story! Listen! She saw the light outside. It was coming from the establo! She went to see, and found my father, kneeling. There, in the hay, was a little bebé. And do you know what? The animals were kneeling too! The horses, sheep—even the naughty goats!” The children laughed.

    “Was it really Jesusa, La Unigida?”

    “It was! And our familia was the first to see Her.”

    “What did She look like, abuelita?” Ramon said.

    “She was beautiful! And do you know? Even though She was just born, She put up Her hand, and gave Her blessing! And that is why our family guards the Sacred Stable today.

    “Abuelita?” Maria said, “Why did She have to die?”

    “Maria, Maria, always the serious one! We will save this for another day. Tonight is Missaunigida!”

    “Yes, it is,” Veronica said. “Time for bed. Tomorrow will come early!”

    There were some protests from the children, but soon they were asleep.

    “Mother?” Veronica said. “I still don’t really know why She had to die.”

    “‘Nica, ‘Nica! Not this again. The children will hear you!”

    “I have explained, many times,” grandmother said. “I was there! The day the arrows pierced Her sacred flesh!”

    “Yes Mother.” It was no use. “Well, goodnight.”

    Veronica went to bed, sad that she still could not believe, after all these years.

    Suddenly she was awake. Pedro was gone! She went to the window and saw light coming from the stable. Then she thought she heard someone calling to her. A child’s voice…

    “Veronica! Veronica!”

  21. Sarah Elizabeth Butler

    “Mooove over, Jack. Do you always have to be such an ass?” Daisy drawls as she shifts her black and white spotted hips, udders swinging beneath her.
    Jack mulishly ignores her as he nuzzles Mr. Farmer behind his right ear, further dislodging the spectacles that have gone askew upon his rapid descent to the hay strewn floor. “Neighhhver saw a human just keel over like that – fell flat out like one of those fainting goats that used to live two pastures over!”
    Sheepishly the Woolen brothers edge their way closer as Wilbur, still embedded in his sty near the trough snorts, “Serves him right, interrupting our card game like that! He ALWAYS turns on the farmhouse lights before he comes out here in the middle of the night, how could we have known? And I had a full hoof, too!”
    Purring aloofly from the corner, while aimlessly licking her hindquarters in that peculiar way of hers, Boots, who never joins the evening games, is content to watch the melee from a distance, only padding closer as Mr. Farmer gurgles and gasps and begins to move a bit. This in turn rouses the Cluck family, who somehow roosted quietly during all the excitement. They now peckishly flock to the scene, feathers afloat behind them.
    “Well, I can see whose gonna get the blame for this, as usual!” barks Fannie, red tail popping behind her. “Why do they think I’m always trying to get into that damned hen . . .” trailing off as she realizes Mr. Farmer is on his feet, rifle pointed down her long whiskered nose. Her friend, Spot, doggedly takes her defense by nipping at his master’s feet as though begging permission to attack. This gives Fannie just the time she needs to slyly slip through the hole under the barn wall, and he joins her as they howl with laughter just beyond.
    Upon Fannie’s escape, Mr. Farmer kicks the slop bucket hard, though Wilbur squeals his objections. The man slips a few steps on the slick slop then slides, head over heels, landing prone into the Cluck’s house, never to move again. Their brood surprisingly does not make a peep as the barn door again opens wide, this time revealing the wife from the farmhouse above, pale and mouth agape as she utters her husband’s obituary: “Mr. Farmer kicks the bucket during a nighttime foray to a henhouse, dying with egg on his face.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Good Lord, I had no idea I’d be set up that. I began to suspect something was gonna happen, but not your Mr. Farmer line. So be it, I’ve been had again. It won’t be the last time. Really thought it clever and quite amusing prompt. Thank you for making my day.

      1. Sarah Elizabeth Butler

        Thanks, LizzieC, and might I add, your “hoot” reference does not go unnoticed! I was scanning the WD site and, after reading the prompt, fell into giggles thinking of this little story, had to write it, and now fear I may be hooked!

      1. Sarah Elizabeth Butler

        Thanks, Don, I think. Although I must admit I do not know what a “shaggy prompt” is, it sounds like fun. Thanks for reading, and for your response.

        1. don potter

          Its a take on a “shaggy dog” joke. The punch line often produces a groan at the end of an elaborate set up, which your obituary did for me. Actually, I enjoyed your joke.

  22. angel plant

    As I walk to the barn and see the light. I am wondering why my husband Michael is in the barn. “What is he Doing”? This late at night and in the barn at that. Will I find out or just have to worry? I wonder if he is hiding something so bad he does not want me to know. My mind is thinking of so many things that could be wrong.

    As I open the door. I open my mouth to “scream.” But nothing comes out. There he stands with a knife and blood all over him. He comes to me and say’s what are you doing here? I look at him in surprise. So I say, you mean what are you doing here. He start’s to say something and changes his mind. Would not say anything. I was hurt and confused. I thought there was no secrets between us. I thought I knew him. How could I be so blind?

    Then I look and “oh my gosh” there is blood everywhere. Oh and a foot and hand. I could not move. Now I was scared. He knew I had seen it from the look on my face.

    Michael tried to come close to me as he put his arms out. But I caught him off guard. I started to run but I was not fast enough. He looked me in the eye and said ” I can explain.” I listened at what he said but knew he was telling me a lie. He knew then, I did not believe him.

    Michael killed two people and I did not even know who or why. I was really scared now. I knew I had seen one foot and one hand. I did not know there was more.

    The man I had been married to for so long. That I had loved and trusted. I never even knew. How and why I wondered did he do these things. What was he going to do to me?

    I soon found out he walked out the door. I thought he had left but he came back and handed me a drink and told me to drink. To calm down. I tried to knock it out of his hand but he caught my hair and made me drink.

    I don’t know what it was but it knocked me out cold. I don’t know how long I was out but when I came to I was tied up. I had cuts all over me. Now Michael tells there is going to be plenty more. Now I was getting sick. Didn’t know what to do. I had to get away. There was the kids to think of. What would he do to them?

    As I was planning to figure out what to do. He came and pointed the knife at me! Then said why did you come out here. I stalled for time trying to think what to do. When I heard a noise. I looked around and there stood our boy of five. He was looking and asked “dad” why are you holding a knife to mom.

    Of course Michael made an excuse. Told him to go back to the house and go to bed. He turned to go and saw the feet and hands. He screamed and started to cry. I started to him but my husband caught him and stabbed him. I stood there and screamed because I could not get to him. He died there and I could not do anything.

    It was the worse night of my life. I still have not gotten that sight out of my mind and never will. He had the gall to ask me if I would go to court with him and say it was an accident. Of course I wouldn’t. He killed my baby in cold blood. What kind of father does that? My life was a mess. My son is gone and killed by his own father. The man I married and loved for so long. But I did not know him. I just thought I did.

    It just show’s you to never trust anyone so much that you think they can do no wrong. Be careful who you trust,

    1. don potter

      As a mystery writer, I had trouble with the story. How am I supposed to know the husband killed two people? The foot and hand could be from one person. Did one belong to a woman and the other a man? Was one black and the other white? Perhaps one was large and the other small. I need this input in order to know Michael is a serial killer. When he killed the son, it was almost a matter of fact event. I want answers and an explanation to the son’s murder or be put in the position of drawing my own conclusions based on the information provided. The “Be careful who you trust” statement did not do it for me.

  23. koach77

    Usually a very light sleeper, something seemed to startle me out of my deepest sleep in months. The room had a slight glow from the crescent moon low on the horizon, and I could see that Cap was gone. I rose up onto my elbow as I tried to get my bearings. Eyes still sleepy, I looked toward the bathroom to see if he might have had to get up in the middle of the night as usual, nope, I thought to myself. The doors wide open and he insists on his privacy, and I encourage it.

    Getting out of bed to check his study I happened to pass the large bay window that he put in for me. I enjoy curly up with a good book nestled in the bay seat bench when it’s raining outside. The whole experience is richer. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of dim light out in the large red barn. What in the world, I thought.

    Cap has been known to go into the study or to his work shop in the wee hours if he had trouble getting back to sleep for one reason or another. But this was first time I found the barn occupied by anything other than the John Deere tractor, the two mares and either the cat or a few brave field mice. Donning my rob and house shoes, I sauntered down the stairs and out the back door past the laundry room and the mud room and headed out the door flashlight at the ready but unnecessary because of the moon, and walked to the barn hearing a faint shuffling sound emanating from within.

    As I cracked open the door there was Cap, shovel in hand, digging a hole in the middle of the barn.

    “Cap, I said softly trying not to startle him, what in God’s name are you doing?”

    “Digging. Well I am trying to bury the body of that nosey neighbor before it starts to stink to bad,” he quipped. What does it look like I am doing?”

    “Moving dirt from one side of the barn to the other I suppose. Cap I don’t know but it’s late, come back to bed, please!”

    “I’ll be right in dear. I just need to get my mind around all the talk about banning guns and the nonsense coming out of Washington DC these days. I figured if they want our guns, then we need to have a plan in place. I’m going to build that bug out shelter and figured I may as well get started with the outline.”

    I simply turned back toward the house and went back in bed.

  24. livvykitty

    Life is like a game, don’t you find? You’re only a game piece. Fate rolls the dice and chooses your life. Game pieces are oblivious to their helplessness. Game pieces are never supposed to suspect. The game is never as it seems.

    I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep. That’s when I realized: where was my husband? I stayed still for a few moments, afraid that if I moved he would just come in a few moments later, figuring out that I disobeyed him. That was a fate… best avoided. So, I looked up at the ceiling, indulging in my thoughts.

    I was scared. I know I can’t leave, not yet, at least. He’d be… I don’t want to think about it! I almost slipped up last time, almost. Thank God I caught myself. Who knows what he would have done!

    I soon couldn’t take it anymore. It felt as if it had been hours since I first noticed. That’s just far too long to be left alone with my thoughts! Restless, I got up, starting to leave our bed. As my limp left arm dragged on the bed, it brushed something. As the pain flared in my wrist, I looked back, my eyes widening.

    He had left his gun.

    My husband never left anywhere without it. This struck like a physical blow. What could have happened? Worry flared in my eyes, threatening to spill over and sting my cheeks. I shook my head, hair flying in my face. It was probably nothing. My husband could take care of himself. He was a strong person.

    It couldn’t hurt to check, though… I opened the door and ventured out into the dark hallway, looking quickly into the children’s rooms. They were completely still, faces peaceful. I smiled. Sleep on, my little angels! The house was rather small, so it wasn’t hard to figure out that there was no light on in here. Glancing out the window, however, revealed light.

    It took a few seconds for me to register that the farmhouse’s lights were on. My eyebrows furrowed. What was he doing in there? I had to see. He could get hurt at this time of night! I quietly left the house, smiling as I remembered what heavy sleepers my kids were. With a sigh, I went towards the farmhouse.

    I hesitated at the door. What if he saw me? How would he react? He wouldn’t like it… But then again, I have to go in there. If I don’t, he’ll do something stupid. I don’t want him to do something like so many others do. I love him too much for that. I entered the threshold of the entrance.

    Oh dear… It was just as I feared.

    He was in the middle of the room, curled in a ball, his back to the screens behind him. By the shaking, I could tell that he saw. I sighed. Oh dear, this just won’t do. Game pieces aren’t supposed to know.

    He snapped his head up to me and backed away, breathing heavily. I smiled at the scent of his sweet fear. He saw through the illusion I weaved over him. Rolling my eyes, I pointed at each of the screens, speaking to him of each outcome, “The first one there’s a boring life, one of tedium.” He flinched at the gravelly tone of my voice. The first screen showed just a normal man, sighing in his office cubicle.

    “And there,” I pointed to the second screen, “Is the life of one gifted with everything. Quite greedy, that one.” I smiled as the uncomfortable long skirt was shredded away, leaving me in my comfortable shorts. The girl on screen smirked, spinning the pistol in her hand and taking a swig of her drink.

    “Number three was a dreadful man, you know,” I pointed at the screen depicting a man hanging from the noose, eyes blank as he swung leisurely from side to side, “He killed twenty women, all of whom he raped.” My wings, my beautiful, black feathered wings, unfurled from my back.

    “Number four was a blind pianist,” I wrinkled my nose, showing the barest hint of a fang, “Quite silly, that one.”

    He finally spoke, voice shaky and quiet, “What… is this?”

    “This?” I gestured grandly to all eleven screens behind him, “My dear, these are your lives! You had quite some interesting ones, you know,” I pointed to eight, grinning along with the jovial woman on a screen, “A billionaire who associated herself with five countries’ mafias,” There was seven, with the sobbing woman, “Seven was a woman who became the last in her family alive.”

    My gaze rested on number eleven. The screen was… black. Oh dear. It seems that this life was something too gruesome to remember. “This is the final roll. You’ll be judged on what life’s number is chosen. Good luck.” I hoped dearly for one outcome. There was one outcome here I could love him forever…

    I took the dice imbedded in my right arm and rolled. As the dice slowly dropped to the ground, his eyes followed, his lip being rapidly abused. The dice impacted, one bumping along the ground for a bit before stopping. I grinned and I could already taste the misery and sweet, sweet fear rolling off of him.

    The dice rolled eleven.

    I laughed in pure joy. Now we could be together! It’s been a while since I’ve had a toy to play with. As his eyes shot rapidly around the fast changing room-his new home, his body shaking as if he were having a seizure, his mouth foaming, I took his hand and brushed my lips against it.

    “Welcome to Hell, darling.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      And he deserved every bit of it! This is quite an intriging, well fleshed out story with vivid descriptive narrative. A very original take on the prompt. “My wings, my beautiful black feathered wings, unfurled from my back.” is a great line. A death angel and a serial killer, what a sweet couple. Remind me, not to have high tea with them.

      I loved the story.

    2. smallster21

      Very original and thought-provoking. I liked this a lot, but was confused on some aspects of this story. The wife’s fear in the beginning doesn’t seem to fit with her personality/emotions when she enters the barn. Nothing happened from when she left the bed to seeing her husband that would explain this shift. Maybe I’m missing something?

      Also, we see a gun, but it is never utilized. If it doesn’t have a purpose, or is never used, I feel it shouldn’t be there…unless, the husband has already committed suicide with the gun or killed someone else. Killed the wife? Is this why her arm is limp (or is her arm just asleep?). The wife also states her husband is a strong person and can take of himself, yet she is not surprised to find him curled up in a ball on the floor in the barn.

      All that said, I loved the scene in the barn! Very unique, great idea :) The MC reminds me of Lilith with her darkness, black angel wings, and apparent desire to control the man. There is much more going on here that I don’t fully understand. I’ll have to come back and read it again with fresh eyes. I do enjoy stories like this; they have messages that transfer from the story to the real world and make you think.

  25. Sillenve

    Caged

    He’d always get that feeling when something dear was taken away from him. In early childhood, it was his belief in aliens. In adolescence, it was his video games. In adulthood, well, that was his wife. Well, not exactly.

    Tristan wasn’t exactly in love with his wife. And before you ask, no, it’s not another woman. Tristan’s love was more of an infatuation with what exactly his wife was. More like a scientist will do with an alien species or how a toddler gapes in wonder at a magic trick. No, it wasn’t love. It was an obsession.

    He gingerly got off the bed, slid a pair of sandals on, only pausing to check on Ariel. His beautiful, keen eyed daughter. She had her mother’s petite, ethereal beauty but her father’s inquisitive personality. Her delicate chest rose and fell in a rhythmic cadence. His wife wasn’t coaxing her to sleep, nor was she taking a bathroom break.

    The starlit sky greeted him warmly, and the stiff grass groaned irritably as his steps awoke them from slumber. He shuddered as the night’s cold indifference greeted him. The barn door creaked forth as it slid on its rickety frame, and Tristan swung the beam around, expecting his wife to be checking on her doves. She had a natural affinity for birds in general, and reserved a soothing tone for them that made his heart fill with lust and desire. The barn was empty.

    Tristan turned briskly away, fearful, when he noticed light coming out of the corner of his eye. A sigh of relief escaped his trembling lips. There she was. Ignoring his chattering teeth, he half-jogged, half-strode over to greet his wife.

    Her ash blonde hair swayed as a soft breeze caressed her locks. Silver eyes met his as she hesitated, then guiltily looked away, hiding the lantern behind her back. Tristan’s curiosity subsided his suspicion as he drew closer, tentatively, as if she’d run off at any second. It took a few seconds for his words to come out.

    “Ariel.” he whispered. “You’ve…been trying, haven’t you?”

    Ariel looked up, and met his gaze. Her voice trembled as she spoke. “Yes.”

    Tristan swallowed a wave of anger before he spoke. “You chose me over them,” he managed. “You knew the consequences.”

    She abruptly turned away from him. Tristan put his hand on her shoulder, afraid she’d leave. She stared in the sky forlornly.

    “I know. I still miss my home.”

    “Haven’t I kept you happy?”

    She whirled around, glaring daggers at him. “You don’t care about me. To you, I’m just, I’m…an aberration of nature.”

    Tristan froze, lost for words.

    “Don’t believe me?” she whispered. Ariel began unbuttoning her nightgown, her eyes focused on his. Tristan glanced around nervously to see if any of the neighbors has decided to wander out early for some breakfast.

    “Ariel,” he began. “We can’t. Not in the middle of a wheat field, where the Diggles can see-”

    Ariel let the nightgown drop, revealing her undergarments. “That’s not what I intended.” She turned around, so her back was facing him. He knew what she meant. On each of her shoulder blades, there were two nubs of bone sticking out. “What a pity she couldn’t have saved those wings.” Tristan thought.

    Fallen. Just for him.

    “Look-” he lied.

    “I fell for you.” she spoke, as though explaining to a child. “I chose you, over my home. My religion. Believing I’d be actually happy. I can sense you…you care about unraveling what’s on the other side. You filthy ape…” she spat.

    Her sobbing cut off her rant. Tristan moved closer and wrapped his arms around her, his body swaying as her body racked with sobs. He silently stood there, savoring the fragility of the moment. Finally, she stopped.

    “Put your nightgown on.” he whispered. “The neighbors will think we’ve been at it.”

    Wordlessly, Ariel buttoned the soiled nightgown and avoided his gaze.

    “I’ll make you happy when we get inside.” he cooed in her ear. “You did say you wanted another kid.”

    Her hair billowed in the breeze, her expression distraught. “That’s not what I wanted.” she said coldly, and stormed towards the house.

    Tristan smirked at her. Birds always flew with the wind. Those who didn’t usually didn’t live long. He would reassure her. He would get her to see she didn’t need a heaven. He was her heaven. Not her hell.

    He sauntered off after her, leaving the wind to tell their predicament to anyone that would listen.

    1. slayerdan

      I like the concept and idea—-its different and def outside the box. What i didnt get from her was the feel of a fallen(even by choice) angel. At one point i was unsure if angel or elf, but the next to last line seemed to clear that up. The dialogue just didnt seem to fit, just my opinion. But totally dig the concept. Wish I had more insight into that obsessed mind. Thanks.

      1. Sillenve

        Thanks. It’s my first post and I’m not really sure what I need to work on, having minimal experience in writing. I ‘ll definitely try out your suggestions.

    2. Doug Langille

      This is quite inventive. I really like what you have set up. I think this is a great start to a longer piece.
      Don’t write anything before it. Start from here. This will be great. On dialogue, I find reading it aloud works best for getting rid of awkward bits.

    3. Amy

      I really like the originality, but I agree the dialogue needs a tiny refresher. Also, I got confused when you introduced Ariel, the daughter, and then called the wife Ariel, too. Great ideas.

  26. don potter

    Living in what my old friends call the loneliest part of the county has its advantages. No loud neighbors, since the nearest one is a mile away on either side. No street noises with the main road over five miles away. Nobody to bother us.
    Something woke from a sound sleep. My wife was gone. I concluded she could not sleep and went downstairs to make a cup of tea and decided to join her.
    I arose from the bed, gazed out the bedroom window and noticed an eerie light coming from the old barn about fifty yards from the house. No ordinary light casts a beam like this. My wife must be out there, but why?
    A quick check of the bedrooms showed the kids were sleeping. So I put on my boots and picked up my heavy-duty flashlight. I grabbed a suitable weapon, just in case.
    The summer air was still and heavy. A sweet smell rose from the wet ground as I trudged forward toward the light spilling out of the rugged old building. I did not need my flashlight; following the beam was as good as a magnet.
    Moments later, I stood in front the double-doors. There was a sizable hole in one spot that had rotted away. I peered inside.
    There was my wife in her nightgown talking to man. No it was not a man; it was a creature. Something or someone from another planet.
    How many were there? Did they come in a space craft? There were no signs of one. Maybe it was on the far side of the barn. Why are they here? These and other thoughts crowded my already confused mind. I must do something. But what?
    Go back and call the sheriff was my first thought. I quickly concluded that would not be a wise move. Besides, they might take my wife away before I could return. The only play for me was to walk right in there and rescue my dear Dora.
    Swinging open the door, I stood at the threshold and held the weapon as if I was not afraid to use it.
    “What are you doing?” Dora shouted.
    “Saving you from being probed or whatever these guys do,” I proudly replied.
    “Oh, Jack, I told you not to smoke too much of that stuff. It’s the most powerful marijuana I’ve ever grown. One joint and you were zonked. I had to put you to bed.”
    “What do ya mean? Who’s this? How ‘bout the light?”
    “This is the new upright drying equipment and the light is coming from the latest environmental grow-bulbs. So put down that AK-47 and wait over here until I finish up.”
    “OK, but can I smoke a little bit more?” I pleaded.
    “Not tonight. Next thing I know, you’ll want to go off and find an alien ship to rocket you into outer space.”
    “A couple more hits of that new weed and I’ll be able to fly off without any help.”

      1. don potter

        That’s the beauty of writing, Amy. I’ve said it before, your descriptions put me right in the scene. They are poetic, which is why I enjoy reading your stories. I come from a different mindset and bring with me different experiences. The result is you have your voice and I have mine – what wonderful gifts these are.

        1. Amy

          Damnit, my poeticism is showing again. Can’t seem to shake the poet in me, even in fiction. Haha. I appreciate the compliment and agree about the different voices. Just musing about that super green grass on your side of the fence, today. ;)

          1. don potter

            When I get into the grass is greener syndrome, I either get back to the writing project I’ve been putting off, exercise, or take a nap. Today, the nap won out.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Awesome story, loved the ending!

      One thing, and in these exercises it’s obviously no big deal, but I have been under the impression that there are two main ways to demarcate paragraphs these days.

      First, the old use of indents. Of course, online material did not carry forward with that tradition, but it led to the second usage, that of additional lines between the paragraphs. Lots of visual “white space”, it definitely helped demarcation, but then, all that was invisible to the code behind the screen that compressed it anyway.

      This is something I notice others doing too by the way. Maybe I can put this out there for someone to answer, or is there something I’ve been missing?

      JR

    2. smallster21

      Haha, I liked this :) I didn’t believe the wife at first, which is odd isn’t it? I believed that aliens were actually there over the husband smoking too much weed, so props to you for weaving a believable story. I started chuckling when I realized it was the weed making him hallucinate. Well-played, perfectly paced.

      1. smallster21

        Oh, and I also wanted to add a small critique: It’d be nice to hear what this eerie beam of light looks like, especially since you state that ‘no ordinary light casts a beam like this’, so I was really curious to know what you were seeing.

  27. FantasyDreamerStar

    I knew it. His side of the bed is empty and cold. He’s been gone a long time. It makes me wonder what’s so important that he gets up at night.

    I force myself out of the warm bed and put on my slippers. I checked the kids on my way. They were both asleep, nestled together against the cold. I throw an extra blanket on them, then head downstairs. I slip on some boots, my coat, and grab the lantern.

    Outside the sky was as dark as it had been since that day. Past what little grew in the torn fields I can see a small light from the barn. I make my way there, stepping around spots of dead ground. I stop at the barn door and peek inside.

    I hear my husband cry. The kind of cry I hear when he’s asleep having those horrible nightmares. He’s described them to me before in detail. He said it was like memories, real. He couldn’t always recall all. I thought it had something to do with his past, before in the old world.

    The past was something we had both agreed to never bring up. It was safer that way. Everyone was being watched, after all. The last thing he or I wanted was to bring Heaven’s wrath down on us, or the kids, again. A lot of people back then had done so, and now only few people were left.

    Shaking the thought from mind, I carefully slide back the barn door. My boots made a sucking noise as I stepped in filth. I slipped out of them, going barefoot. It was disgusting, but hid my presence.

    The source of light originated from something I thought I would never see again. I had been so careful. Lived humbly, truthfully, and prayed at every chance.

    Before me stood a being no human wanted to see after that day the land shook, the air quivering with loud booms of drums and horns. The beings had descended, prophesying an age-old legend of the end of days. All I had seen were monsters clad in white clothing. That is what I saw now; an angel.

    With several wings announcing it’s status, it held back it’s hand. A long whip with serrated edges dangled. Before it knelt my husband, his back stained red. I ran forward, instinct propelling me to protect my most cherished one. I flung myself over him, weeping. The angel stared with cold eyes, unsurprised.

    “Why do you protect this sinner? Why do you weep for the wicked?”

    “Because I love him!” This is the truth.

    “For your love and prayers for him he shall be spared. Let all know that love and forgiveness can still be sought.” The being vanished and all grew dark.

    It was a while before we went back to bed. I could only hope that my husband’s love for me is the same, for he is my salvation.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      A very poignant response to the prompt. Certainly original and powerful. A small suggestion; you switch from present to past tense and back in your story. It doesn’t dilute your story but it would be more harmonious to stay in one or the other.

      I find writing in present tense a little awkward for me but you might feel more comfortable that way. When I first stated writing I thought responding to the reader in present tense was more powerful but it doesn’t diminish using the past tense. Just stay consistent to pull the story together. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to your next write.

  28. slayerdan

    (I went over this week and i do apologize).
    Edgar stared at the now cold pillow his wife Lani had left. The aged lines of his cheeks held the dried tears from just minutes ago. It was the same. Every night it was the same. She would sleep the deepest of sleeps, sometimes for as much as three hours. Then, as if she had never been asleep at all, she would rise out of the bed fully awake and make her way downstairs and outside. Sometimes just to the porch, others to trees. More times than not, it was to the barn.

    To wait for him.

    Edgar had fought with her at first. He tried to stop her, but she would not listen. He tried to discuss it with her in the mornings, and she would have no part of it. “Old man dreaming”, she had called him more than once. Overwhelmed, Edgar simply waited and watched nightly as she made her way down and out. Some nights she would stop by the children’s old rooms and peek inside and then close the doors. Some nights he could hear her talking on the way down the stairs, but it never made any real sense as he heard it.

    The crisp, cool mountain air was alive with the aromas that only nature could provide as Edgar shifted his body so he could work his aching legs off the bed and his feet to the floor. He warmed his gnarled hands, one against the other, best he could as the moon shared its reflected light with him. He slid into his shoes. His near seventy years of life had taken its toll. Tears once again streamed down his face as he made his way down the stairs and put on his coat.

    “Of all the things you’ve taken”, he said as he tried to stop the tears,” of all the things I no longer have, why did you take her too?” his words trailed off as he grabbed her coat and made his way outside to the porch. He had asked the same question every night.

    He never received, nor expected, an answer.

    Tonight she was in the barn. She would wait for him there, oblivious that Edgar even knew. As he made his way to the barn door, he could hear her talking. At one point she even laughed. Sometimes this hurt Edgar, others time it even angered him. Tonight, he felt only remorse. He hated himself for the thoughts he had had at times. Lani was the love of his life and this was his burden to carry.

    He accepted it without hesitation.

    He made his way into the barn, well lit by the lantern he left there. Lani sat there on a chair, as she had done some 50 odd years ago when she and Edgar had met. An angelic smile broke the creases in her face as her silver hair momentarily appeared vibrant again.

    “Hello there sir, how are you tonight?” she asked, her voice alive with the giddiness of youth.

    “I’m just fine there now Miss Lani, what brings you out to the barn?” he answered in a well rehearsed reply.

    Edgar watched her face as it lit up even more, her smile even bigger as she straightened her shoulders and sat up,” I am waiting for Edgar to show up and brush the horses. I do love talking with him as he brushes the horses”, she said with a youthful exuberance. “Have you seen Edgar about?” she asked.

    Taking and releasing a deep breath, he replied,” I haven’t seen your Edgar about in some time Miss Lani, but I will sit with you till he arrives,” he answered as he placed her coat around her shoulders and pulled the chair from the corner and sat across from her. He then sat and listened to her as she told him about Edgar.

    Same as he did every night.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        And I second Patty’s comments. There is no worse hell then watching someone you love loose their awareness, their memories and their ability to enjoy life. You’ve written this as if you’ve you’ve walked this with a loved one. I thank you for your story. It indeed, is haunting. Kerry

  29. rjmwx81

    Trying to get back into creative writing after several years off, and this is my first effort. The 500-word limit was tricky; I think I spent too much time building the scene and it forced me to rush the “punchline” a bit. I would have liked to develop the concept a little more. Oh well, here goes:

    The first thing I noticed upon waking was that Liz was not in bed. In that brief moment between sleep and wakefulness, with my mind trying to discern between dreams and reality, I remembered that there was a reason for that. I couldn’t remember what that reason was, though. At least, not until I lifted my head and glanced around the room. There was my dresser, over by the door, the top drawer still hanging slightly open, just as I’d left it this morning. The glass-topped bedside tables, purchased at a once-trendy furniture store, now collecting dust. Black curtains, billowing in the late spring breeze. Yes, everything was as it should be, just the way I liked it, save for the empty bed. Just the way I liked it. Not the way we liked it. Liz wasn’t in bed with me, because she wasn’t supposed to be. Not anymore. She was in bed with Tom, where she’d been every night for the last five years. I decided a drink was in order to help settle my mind.

    I walked down the hall to the kitchen, past the kids’ rooms. For a moment I was tempted to look in, make sure they were sleeping soundly, but I decided not to waste my time. I had given my blood, sweat, and tears to ensure their comfort, to give them a good life, but they called Tom “Dad” now. Tom, whose idea of “good parenting” was ensuring that each child had their own Xbox. Tom, whose lavish lifestyle had lured Liz back to the city, and the kids with her.

    I poured the whiskey into my favorite glass, roughly three shots’ worth. I was in no mood to worry about precision. I tossed in a couple of ice cubes, then filled the glass with soda. I never could drink straight whiskey. Tom probably could, I thought, as I chugged down the cocktail. That’s why Liz left. She deserves a man who can handle his whiskey. I had just decided that a second drink would be the thing to combat such mental foolishness, when I saw the orange glow coming from the barn.

    By the time I reached the barn, flames were already shooting from the roof, swarms of embers swirling up into the darkness. The main door collapsed and a figure emerged, a human silhouette, dark against the backdrop of the flames. I knew why he was here. I remembered the deal we’d struck when I didn’t have a penny to my name, and no other way of attracting a girl like Liz. He was here for my soul, carelessly bartered away in youthful, romantic desperation.

    He reached out for me, but I did not cower. Instead I merely smiled, shook my head, and said, “Divorced…five years.” The shadow dissolved back into the flames, consumed by heat and the failure of showing up five years too late to collect his prize.

  30. rjmwx81

    This is my first crack at any kind of creative writing in several years. The 500-word limit forced me to rush the ending and the “punchline” isn’t quite as subtle as I would have liked. I guess I probably spent too much time scene-building at the start. Oh well, it’s a start. Here goes:

    The first thing I noticed upon waking was that Liz was not in bed. In that brief moment between sleep and wakefulness, with my mind trying to discern between dreams and reality, I remembered that there was a reason for that. I couldn’t remember what that reason was, though. At least, not until I lifted my head and glanced around the room. There was my dresser, over by the door, the top drawer still hanging slightly open, just as I’d left it this morning. The glass-topped bedside tables, purchased at a once-trendy furniture store, now collecting dust. Black curtains, billowing in the late spring breeze. Yes, everything was as it should be, just the way I liked it, save for the empty bed. Just the way I liked it. Not the way we liked it. Liz wasn’t in bed with me, because she wasn’t supposed to be. Not anymore. She was in bed with Tom, where she’d been every night for the last five years. I decided a drink was in order to help settle my mind.

    I walked down the hall to the kitchen, past the kids’ rooms. For a moment I was tempted to look in, make sure they were sleeping soundly, but I decided not to waste my time. I had given my blood, sweat, and tears to ensure their comfort, to give them a good life, but they called Tom “Dad” now. Tom, whose idea of “good parenting” was ensuring that each child had their own Xbox. Tom, whose lavish lifestyle had lured Liz back to the city, and the kids with her.

    I poured the whiskey into my favorite glass, roughly three shots’ worth. I was in no mood to worry about precision. I tossed in a couple of ice cubes, then filled the glass with soda. I never could drink straight whiskey. Tom probably could, I thought, as I chugged down the cocktail. That’s why Liz left. She deserves a man who can handle his whiskey. I had just decided that a second drink would be the thing to combat such mental foolishness, when I saw the orange glow coming from the barn.

    By the time I reached the barn, flames were already shooting from the roof, swarms of embers swirling up into the darkness. The main door collapsed and a figure emerged, a human silhouette, dark against the backdrop of the flames. I knew why he was here. I remembered the deal we’d struck when I didn’t have a penny to my name, and no other way of attracting a girl like Liz. He was here for my soul, carelessly bartered away in youthful, romantic desperation.

    He reached out for me, but I did not cower. Instead I merely smiled, shook my head, and said, “Divorced…five years.” The shadow dissolved back into the flames, consumed by heat and the failure of showing up five years too late to collect his prize.

  31. Kerry Charlton

    PSYCHE, A FAIRY TALE

    Doris and I had left Thursday night for our ranch in the Texas hill country, to mow grass, watch the butterfles and wade in the Guadalupe River. The girls were at UT in Austin taking summer classes. Friday afternoon, a God-awful fight broke out when she told me,

    “I’m leaving you Brad. There’s nothing left in our marriage.”

    “And who is it, this time?”

    “You’ll think it’s funny, it’s Robert.”

    “My partner? Well that is a joke. Take the car and don’t let the screen slap your butt on the way out.”

    I called Robert.

    “Good news, you can have her. Also you can buy my share of the company. I’ll sign the agreement and courier it to you.”

    “I don’t know what to say,” Robert answered.

    “Nothing’s needed.” And I hung up.

    That night I wandered the house and noticed a light in the barn. ‘Unusually quiet,’ I thought even if the horses were sleeping. And then I saw her, hiding in the shadows.

    “Who’s there?”

    “I am; my name’s Psyche. I was hungry, I hope you don’t mind.”

    “I’m Brad,” I said. “Come out so I can see you.”

    She backed slowly out the stall and pranced over to me.

    “My God,” I said, “you’re a centaur.”

    Her breathless beauty with large luminous eyes and auburn hair falling to her naked waist, which connected to a stunning chestnut mare, startled me.

    “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I am real and very gentle. I’m hiding from Aphrodite, she’s jealous of me.”

    And then, my mind put it together.

    “And where is Eros?” I said.

    “He abandoned me and cast a spell, turning me into a centauress.”

    “I’m very sorry. How can I help you?”

    “May I stay here?”

    “Of course; are you still hungry?”

    “Your grain was delicious,” she said. “Thank you. Would you like to go for a ride tonight?”

    “It’s pitch black outside; you’d break a leg.”

    “I can see through the darkness,” she said. “Hop on.” She locked her arm in mine and lifted me up to her back.

    “Hold me tight,” Psyche whispered and she galloped out the barn door.

    I wrapped my arms around her waist. It had been a long time since I had ridden bareback but her gait smoothed as she ran like the wind across a large pasture. I felt free at last and enchanted with her, regardless of what she was, with her hair brushing my face in the breeze and her smell of gardenias on a spring morning.

    “Watch out for the river ahead,” I said. “It’s forty feet across.”

    “I see it. Do you trust me and do you love me?”

    “I do have faith in you and I’m smitten with your beauty and passionate for you.”

    She lifted off at the edge of the river, sailed across the trees and landed gently in a field of grain. I leaned across her back and kissed her, totally lost in her. She put her arms around me, pressing her lips to mine. I stood on the ground and looked down her face.

    “Your beauty is beyond belief,” I said.

    “Because of your love for me, you broke Eros’ spell.”

    I placed my jacket over her, lifted her in my arms and walked toward the ranch house. She nuzzled her cheek to my chest.

    “Are you taking me home?” she said.

    “Our home. Wherever you are, I will be.”

    1. Doug Langille

      Nice story overall Kerry. The only big thing that stood out for me was that the first part, before “That night”, isn’t necessary to the rest of the story. I think you could easily drop it and spend your word budget on the rest. Unless I’m missing something here…

      1. Pattypans

        Doug, it seems to me that most of the first part sets us up to understand why the protagonist would be so ready to suspend disbelief and enter into the fairytale world.

          1. JR MacBeth

            Kerry,

            Nice story. You write for small children? Well, that isn’t easy! But I can see that it is probably quite helpful at times when weaving a tale made out of the yarn of ancient myth.

            I too love the old myths. They remain an inspiration even after thousands of years.

            JR

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Doug. I had thought about changing the entire first part to make it more appropiate for five to eight year olds. Perhaps having him struggle with the death of his wife or some other trama in his life for him to consider the fairytale world.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thanks JR. This is my first write for children, thus I’m going to do the first part and expand the falling in love that Brad experiences. 500 is very tight for me. I appreciate the imput.

    2. don potter

      Don’t know if I’d ever get up the courage to kiss a centaur let alone fall in love with one that fast. My question is now that the spell is broken is she a full women or a full horse?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Okay Don.

        One of the last lines, he picks her up in his arms. When did you ever pick up a chestnut mare in her prime? She’ll only turn back into a horse when she gets mad and kicks the s— out of him. God, I didn’t plan this very well, did I?

    3. DMelde

      Sweet story. I can see a quest or two in Brad and Psyche’s future because Eros won’t like that the spell has been broken. This sounds like it will be a fun story to pursue. Well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you DMelde. See my reply to Don above. Seems like Brad may be a heap of trouble. Maybe I’ll continue as a fairy tale and have an ending kids will relate to. Interesting thought. Thanks for the idea.

        1. DMelde

          Why, you’re very welcome. Another thought would be to change the age of Brad to a boy and have him be sort of an outcast at school, with a harmless but very imaginative other-world that he can escape into. i think kids would like that.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thank you, that’s a wonderful idea. I was shy and kind of a nerd in school and escaped into the world of literature at a very young age. I can relate well to your idea. I’ve never written a children’s story but with fourteen grandchildren, I understand their minds well.

    4. Amy

      I agree with Doug; I didn’t feel like the beginning had a significant effect on the believability or added to the character much; those extra words could have been used to prevent the “Instalove” effect. Otherwise, a sweet fairytale.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’ve worried about the start of my story. It comes no where close to fitting the rest of the tale. I’ll drop it and expand the fairy tale. Thanks for your help, Amy, I really appreciate it.

    5. smallster21

      I actually liked the beginning. It added to the happiness I felt for the MC when he finds love again, and creates a well-rounded story. We see the man with a broken heart, can imagine what this feels like, then see him find this beautiful creature in the barn, and I was like, “ya take that you stupid, cheating bitch! He found a magical centaur!” So, really, it made me sympathize and care about the character. And, I’m not an expert on story structure, but that is my opinion, and I can see how other reviewers hold the opinion they do, so it comes down to what you want to make of it.

      That said, I think you could have summed up the dialogue exchange between Brad, Doris, and Robert. The dialogue’s so fast. It’s like bam, bam, bam. The couple goes to Texas, then the wife is all like, “As you know I’m a cheating whore, I love your business partner, I’m leaving,” and he’s all like not surprised and says okay. Then he calls Robert and is all “F-U.” (Clearly, I read too much Christopher Moore today. Abby Normal has possessed my brain.)

      So, I like the setup, but the presentation might flow better if you start at Brad’s reaction to his wife leaving. Maybe he’s all mopey, trudging about the farm yard in a pit of despair as he reflects upon the situation when he hears the centaur in the barn. Having the other two characters introduced and then quickly excused from the story seems choppy.

      You weave a great spell over the reader. Such a magical little love story that sends a powerful message that life continues after heartache and loss. I enjoyed it!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you smallster. As always, I appreciate your imput and I hope you keep reading my stories. I see your point in the first part, making it flow better. I actually did go into auto pilot writing the love story part and didn’t edit or change a word in it. But the first part I couldn’t figure how to fix it.

        Your last sentence really made me feel as if I might break through and become what I wanted to; tell stories that make people laugh and occasionaly cry.

  32. Alex

    I snapped up and looked at the empty spot in the bed “Peggy must be downstairs. No surprise there.” I said. I chuckled as I realized I was talking to our cat Sardine.

    I peeked in the kids room. Christmas morning would be here soon. Will I be here next year? I wondered. I was suddenly nostalgic for when the kids were little. I tightened my robe and headed downstairs.

    Past the decorations, and down past the dark Christmas tree, I poked my head into the den. Peggy was sleeping on the couch. She woke up and looked at me.
    “What’s the matter?” She asked.
    “Nothing.” I said, looking outside. “Did you leave the light on in the barn?” I asked, noticing the light outside.
    “No.” Peggy said. She rolled over on the couch.
    “Whatever.” I said, going to the kitchen for a cookie and the flashlight.
    “Whatever.” She said.

    That’s odd.. It’s snowing pretty good, but I can still see the moon. I trampled out in the snow, munching on a cookie. The light grew warmer as I approached the barn. I stopped Is it on fire? No, I’ve seen fires and the light isn’t jumping around like flames do. Something out of the ordinary was in the barn, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

    I crept closer and I could smell our horses, but there was another animal smell mixed in too. A smell that pulled me back towards an old childhood memory, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. And then a noise. A man’s low voice. Then the sound of a bell tinkled from the barn. I gripped my flashlight and crept closer.

    A blast of warm light filled my body. I walked as if in a dream to the middle of the barn. Wearing a red coat and matching pants, silver bells tinkling in the air, Santa Claus stood there. He was hammering a horseshoe.

    “Welcome Ed!” He said.
    Santa Claus smiled, knowing all too well the effect he was having on me. That is to say, I was frozen in place with cookie crumbs on the side of my mouth.

    He reached into his bag and pulled out an envelope. “Merry Christmas Ed. It’s what you’ve wanted for a while now.” I could see stars floating in his eyes.

    He looked dark, his face pulling the light from the room back into his face. “When you wish so long for something, even if you don’t mean it, sometimes it comes true. The present is yours to choose”.

    He hopped up on his sleigh, snapped the leather reins and flew out of my barn.

    I opened the letter.

    It was divorce papers.

    The next morning I brought Peggy a hot chocolate.
    “Thanks.” She said, smiling at me.
    I stirred the logs and pushed the edge of an envelope into the fire.
    I sat down next to my wife on the couch.
    “Merry Christmas.” I said.

    1. Pattypans

      Original story, Alex! I don’t quite know why, but in parts I was reminded of O. Henry; I think it might have something to do with the mood you created.

      But I thought for sure Ed would offer Santa a cookie! At least a bite!

    2. Amy

      Another “awww” story… kinda cute. The ‘whatevers’ in the beginning painted a clear picture of the indifference in the marriage, but they felt a little forced to me. I really like the ending and it made me smile; the holidays have their own magic, don’t they?

  33. Solteras

    The alarm clock glares with blood-numbered figures: 2:22 AM. I still feel the warmth from Claire’s side of the bed. She’s gone. Minutes tick off the clock. The wind howls through the trees, the branches tapping at the window. And then I hear it. A scream. No, wait I say to myself. It wasn’t a scream…just the wind. Regardless, I jump out of bed. In the closet, I rummage through clothes and boxes, reaching for that black box, that small black box with the black gun. Solace for the scared. I can’t keep my hands from trembling as I unlatch the gun case, as I load the firearm, as I clutch the grip.
    There are rumors, floating around our town. Just rumors though. People have seen it. I haven’t, but people have. I guess it has us all on edge. Her father wanted us to house sit for the week. Instead we decided to take a vacation here. The kids love it, and Claire and I do, too. But a week ago the rumors started swarming. A week ago someone died. Three days ago, she saw it….
    “Claire,” I call, hoping to hear my wife in return. Nothing. The floorboards of the old house creek and groan under my weight as I stalk the halls, groping in utter darkness. I check the kids and both sleep soundly, dreamily. Just then I hear it again. Louder this time. A…a scream? I trample down the stairs and head toward the front door, bare feet smacking the linoleum kitchen floor. Anxiety starts to flutter in my stomach, that uncontrollable need to do something. The screen door opens as I make my outside, but before I step into the autumn air, I turn back. I forget the flashlight, which sits nestled in the lighthouse fixture at the end of the cupboard. Claire made it for us. She thinks it’s cute. As I make for the front door, I flip on the porch light. Nothing happens. I flip it on and off repeatedly, but still nothing. Clicking on the flashlight, I push forward into the lightless night.
    Outside the wind shoots a breath of cold air and the screen door slams against the side of the house. “Claire!” I shout. Nothing but the howling wind. The beam pierces the darkness, casting all sorts of shadows. I creep through the night, treading across the dew-soaked grass, it sparkling in the circle of light. I shine the beam into the fields, but I see nothing in the labyrinth of corn. Nothing near the sandbox and swings. Nothing near the house at all. I secure the grip on both the gun and light and continue on. The decrepit barn sits behind the house, about fifty feet from it. I jog across the field and make my way toward the back.
    It shines brilliantly in the night. The only light besides my own. I step forward as my knees begin to wobble. The flutter of anxiety morphs into a violent free fall. “Claire! Claire, are you in there?” Closer and closer to the doors I go, the left closed, the right halfway open. I reach out and touch the old wood. I inhale deeply, and push. Clair lies on the ground, surrounded by…them. They stare with giant red eyes, chittering, chattering, singing like cicadas. They are cicadas. Several of them, standing, human-like. I shoot one, two, three, four, but they swarm, they swarm. The gun slips from my hand as the pincers pierce the skin, and as they suck away my blood, they sing together, buzzing loudly in the dead of night.

    1. tryingtowrite

      I like your writing style. The short sentences/thoughts flowed well. “Solace for the scared” caught my attention. Nice description.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            A nice build of suspense. You’d bite and suck blood also if you’d been stuck in the dirt for seventeen years, We’ve had invasions of them in San Antonio. It depends on the year and the noise is an eerie wail of click clack. I also like your writing style. Only suggestion, might be paragraphing to help the reader. Icky story especially when you seen thousands of them at one time.

    2. DMelde

      lots of active descriptions going on here. the porch light, the labyrinth of corn, the deaths in the past week, and the singing cicadas, to name a few. i liked this a lot.

  34. tryingtowrite

    Widow McIntyre

    My wife Elena and I live in one of the six guest cottages situated on the southeast corner of Widow McIntyre’s thirty acre estate. The property is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, with its natural springs, lush pastures, and voluminous 125-year-old Colonial.

    I am the caretaker of the estate, and have been ever since Widow McIntyre’s husband Walter–as she says it–“went tits up.” Widow McIntyre didn’t like Walter very much, which explains the red sequined mini dress she wore to his funeral. I never met Walter, but Widow McIntyre says he was controlling, arrogant, and had zero libido. Believe me, I had to think long and hard (no pun intended) before taking this job. She’s an interesting character.

    As the caretaker I am responsible for managing five twenty-something-year-old men, and ensuring they service every aspect of the property to perfection, including Widow McIntyre. I didn’t know coming into the job that I’d be a caretaker and a pimp, but I also didn’t know how handsomely I’d get paid for it.

    My wife Elena also works for Widow McIntyre, doing odd jobs around the house and garden. I don’t supervise Elena because we both agreed, and Widow McIntyre concurred, that it wouldn’t be good for our marriage.

    Yesterday, Elena and I watched the sunset from our porch, sipping vodka martinis, while Daisy and Duke lay happily at our feet. Daisy and Duke are Mastiffs, but we call them our kids. Elena and I were never able to have kids of our own.

    Elena and I climbed into bed around nine, and as usual, I awoke around midnight, feeling congested and needing water; I have chronic post nasal drip. I rolled out of bed and noticed Elena wasn’t beside me. I wasn’t alarmed or anything because Elena doesn’t sleep all that well with her going through the “the change” and all.

    I walked down the hallway and heard a faint hum of static coming from the den. I figured Elena had fallen asleep while watching a movie. Normally, I’d just do my thing in the bathroom and go back to bed, but I decided to check on her instead. When I got to the deb, the television was on, but Elena wasn’t there. The were two discs on the DVD player, each labeled in ink. I recognized the titles Finding Neverland and Chocolat as Johnny Depp movies. Elena had been watching the two movies almost every night. I guess I get it, Johnny Depp is pretty sexy…for a guy.

    My attention was drawn to the window and a shimmering light in the distance. Curious, I grabbed a flashlight, my coat and boots, and made my way across the pasture to the old abandoned barn. When I reached the barn and eased the door open, I screamed when I saw Elena and Widow McIntyre. I bolted to the cottage as quick as I could.

    My hands shaking, I slipped the disc marked Chocolat into the player, and as the first scene came onto the screen, I heard Elena breathing heavily behind me.

    Her mouth and body dripping with chocolate, and beneath it all, a hint of red sequins, I had to remind myself how handsomely I get paid.

      1. tryingtowrite

        Great question. I wish I could say it was a well thought out strategy (whether it bombed or succeeded), but it wasn’t. I just write the words that come to me. Maybe (subconsciously) I was trying to show Widow McIntyre’s arrogance and control over this couple without coming out and saying it. Even he didn’t know the extent of her manipulation, but he respected her, or at least her money, even at the end. Thanks for letting me know it was distracting. I will learn from this.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          An easy fix to that question would be to simply refer to her as the “widow” or “Miss Mac.” I do like unusual stories, leaving a reader’s imagination to do a little work.

    1. Amy

      I really like the picture you began to paint in the beginning, but I felt like it was a lot of explanation; I think most readers like to infer from examples and not have things spelled out (i.e. “as usual, I awoke around midnight, feeling congested and needing water; I have chronic post nasal drip.”) I do like reading ideas that never would have occurred to me.

  35. WEWrites

    Well I needed to do some writing that didn’t have to do with my novel. Here goes nothing. Sorry if some how this double posts. The website was being weird.

    Each stair down provided it’s own experience. Shoes and toys seemed to jump from the darkness. They attacked her feet threatening to send her hurtling to the bottom. When she made it to the landing in one piece, she sighed and flicked the kitchen light on. She blinked away the sting of her eyes adjusting and shuffled across the tile floor.

    Stella held her breath as she pulled the shade over the kitchen door open. The sight she’d seen from the kid’s bedroom window wasn’t gone. It was closer and clearer than ever. One large red and white barn door stood slightly ajar. Light poured across the threshold lighting up the dew on each strand of grass.

    Reminding herself that she wasn’t afraid of ghosts and just barely believed in the paranormal, Stella reached for the door knob and gave it a twist. The newly oiled door swung open without protest. Wet grass clippings clung to her feet and ankles as she made her way across the lawn. She should have put shoes on. It was too late now. The only way was forward. Part of her hoped Adam would call out from the house and ask her what the heck she was doing. The farther she got the less likely she thought that would be.

    As she neared the door, the light became brighter but only because of proximity. Nothing about the light coming through was natural. Stella knew that the lights inside the barn often flickered and clicked. This was a light that never wavered. Had Adam seen what she was seeing now? Had he gone through the door?

    She lifted her hand to touch the rough, recently painted wood. Her hand shook in front of her. It shook for a few moments hanging in the air before she snatched it back to her side. What was she doing? Anything could be inside the barn, or it could be nothing. Butterflies in her stomach told her she was probably wrong about the last part.

    Stella gritted her teeth and reached her hand out again to the door. The lightest of touches sent it swinging silently inward. She hardly had time to think about the fact that the barn door never swung quietly.

    The light intensified blinding her momentarily. A face stared back at her from within the light, now fading. Stella lifted her hand not believing what she was seeing. The figure beyond the light also lifted it’s hand. As the light faded further, Stella could make out more features. She gasped. The face in the light was hers. The hand extended was hers.

    The face smiled but the eyes within were dead and cold. Their hands touched for a moment. With a twist the other Stella wrapped it’s hand around Stella’s wrist and yanked.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Nice and scary with a good build up of suspense. Maybe i’st her ‘Id’ running around like mine was a couple of weeks ago. They’re not easy todobattle with. I liked your story.

    1. don potter

      “Shoes and toys seemed to jump from the darkness,” is downright scary. Anytime kids or their toys do creepy things, I’m scared. I knew this was not going to end well, but you did not telegraph how.

  36. julianna.evans94

    This is connected to my post on the previous prompt, “Why Did You Do It?” I’ll post that response in the comments so you can see what I went off of. I hope you like it!

    I have wondered what happened for a while now, that night he decided to stay late at work. I understand that the notes were very upsetting, and uncalled for, but what happened that made him so different now? I push myself up from where I was resting in bed, my hand touching the cold on his side; it sent a shiver down my spine. It was two weeks ago today that he stayed at the office; two agonizingly long weeks. Before that night he was calm, considerate, friendly and a great father to our two children. These past two weeks though, he was a man who lost his sanity and started talking to himself. He also has threatened a few times to hit me, but I know he could never do that.

    The floor is cold so I gently slide into my slippers and quietly walk past Ben and Jake’s room, no need to wake them at three in the morning. The stairs always creek but I try as best as I can to walk down them quietly.

    “Jack?” I whisper as my hand slides along the wall to find the light switch. “Honey, are you down here?” The sole of my foot feels shooting pain as I step on one of Ben’s LEGOS and I let out a curse. He knows better than to leave those things just lying around. He’ll definitely hear about that in the morning. I can’t find Jack anywhere; he wasn’t even passed out in his recliner chair in front of the television like I find him some mornings. I make my way to the kitchen and turn on the light. I fumble around in the cupboard trying to find a decent sized cup to quench my thirst.

    I stand in front of the sink; my mind wandering to where on this earth my husband could possibly be at this time of night. I began to think the worst and then I saw it. Off in the distance a light was emanating from the barn. I pull on a sweatshirt and open up the back door. I quickly make my way across the fields; glancing back towards the house to make sure the boy’s light didn’t come on at all.

    Upon reaching the barn I hear my husband’s voice:

    “I didn’t mean to. I was scared. It all happened so quickly.” The words trailed off as a woman’s voice came to my ears.

    “Shh. Jack, I know. But now you need to help me. I can’t find my parents. Where are they? What have you told them? Did you tell them you saw the man? Jack I need your help.” My heart wrenched inside my chest. What on earth is going on? I glance in the window and see my husband standing, alone. There is no woman.

    “I don’t know where they are. Why are you here? What do you want from me?”

    “I want you to help me Jack. I need your help.” I scanned the room but saw no woman, then she came out from the shadows; a tall lean woman, with blonde hair and glowing blue eyes. She looks ghastly pale, with bruises covering her entire body and broken handcuffs on her wrists. I can’t take any more of this madness that was clearly driving my husband insane. I walk into the barn, grasping a two by four in my hands, and looking quite insane myself.

    “Back away from my husband, whoever you are. Don’t you dare go near him.” She looks at me, confusion burning on her face. She looks back at Jack, waiting for him to explain but he just stands there saying nothing with that same blank expression he has held for two weeks. “Jack, honey, who is this and what is she doing here?” He turned to me, his eyes searching me. He starts walking towards me, arms outstretched. He takes my face in his hands and stares deeply into my eyes. Images flicker through my mind; a young girl taken from a park, beaten and raped, Jack watching her being taken and doing nothing.

    Then it hits me. That woman is me. The barn disappears from around me; I can no longer see or feel his hands on my face. The house is gone from the distance and the fields that surrounded the barn are gone as well. It was all a facade.

    I’m back in that room; that tiny soundproof room.

    I must find Jack. I must ask him why he did it.

    1. julianna.evans94

      It’s 9:30 PM, June the 3rd, 2013. Tonight I am staying late at work in order to find out who has been putting these notes on my desk every morning and why. Being alone in this office building should probably scare me, but it doesn’t. I welcome the night and the entrancing mysteries that will unfold with it.

      Ten little yellow post-it-notes stare at me from their resting place on my desk. The letters swirl around in beautiful calligraphy to spell out five haunting words: Why did you do it? Sighing, I spin around in my comfortable ergonomic chair that supports my back and neck perfectly. Everyone from work is long gone; clocking out at 5:30, just like every other day. I decided to stay late though; the notes are getting more annoying by the day. They are always the same font, always the same size and color, and always the same message. The thing is; I can’t think of any reason why someone would send me these notes every morning.

      I check the clock again, 12:56 AM. I must have dozed off for a little while, no sign of any note yet which I’m very happy about. Suddenly I hear a sound coming from my boss’s office. I push myself out of my chair, that isn’t feeling so comfortable anymore, and start walking towards the office, flipping lights on as I go. Usually when I walk I look at the floor the entire time, but something red in the corner of my eye encourages me to look at the walls.

      Why did you do it?

      Big red letters forming those same five words span the entire wall leading to my boss’s office. I start shaking. Surrounding the words are vibrant pictures of a young girl, laughing and playing on a playground. I recognize her instantly, her blonde hair blowing in the wind, her blue eyes sparkling. Memories flash back, one after another; all in the playground, all with the girl. I can’t remember her name, but I can remember how much fun we had. She was my best friend at that park; we would always play cops and robbers.

      “I didn’t mean to!” I yell. “It all happened so quickly! And I was only seven!” I continue walking, my hand guiding me along the wall and also holding my shaking body up.

      That day was one I will never forget. It was sunny and warm, the perfect kind of day to go to the park. She met me there, as she always did. I was adventurous though, as most seven year old boys are, and she was quite reserved. The park was split into two sections, one for younger children, and one for teenagers or adults. I was bored with the children’s park and wanted to explore, maybe play some Lewis and Clark this time. I knew she would follow me without hesitation, so when I ran away from our parents and looked back, I wasn’t surprised to see her blonde pigtails bouncing up and down behind me.

      I feel tears welling up again, I haven’t thought about that day in quite some time. I knew I shouldn’t have walked away from our parents, my mother told me not to, but I refused to listen.

      She and I went to the swings, the big kid swings. We were only there for a few minutes before I noticed the man standing against a tree. I was seven though; I didn’t think anything of it. Ten minutes went by, we were having fun running around the basketball courts. The man was still watching us. Five more minutes, we were back at the swings. Three. Two. One.

      “Watch me jump out of the swing!” I yelled as I got higher and higher from the ground. I didn’t look back at her, I just jumped. When I landed, she wasn’t there, and neither was the man watching us. I panicked and scanned the park. There she was, being carted away by that man; my best friend, gone. All I could do was stand there, mouth agape. I couldn’t even scream.

      I get to my boss’s office and see the silhouette of a woman.
      “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I manage to whisper.

      “Why did you do it?” She asks, her voice the sound of agony and despair. “Why did you let him take me? Why did you lead me away from my mother? Why?”

      I just stood there, eyes swollen, mouth agape. I couldn’t even scream.

      And everything went black.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Nice take on the prompt. By connecting two prompts , you have a wider range to tell a completed story. You’ve done a nice job with this one.

  37. Solteras

    The alarm clock glares with blood-numbered figures: 2:22 AM. I still feel the warmth from Claire’s side of the bed. She’s gone. Minutes tick off the clock. The wind howls through the trees, the branches tapping at the window. And then I hear it. A scream. No, wait I say to myself. It wasn’t a scream…just the wind. Regardless, I jump out of bed. In the closet, I rummage through clothes and boxes, reaching for that black box, that small black box with the black gun. Solace for the scared. I can’t keep my hands from trembling as I unlatch the gun case, as I load the firearm, as I clutch the grip.

    There are rumors, floating around our town. Just rumors though. People have seen it. I haven’t, but people have. I guess it has us all on edge. Her father wanted us to house sit for the week. Instead we decided to take a vacation here. The kids love it, and Claire and I do, too. But a week ago the rumors started swarming. A week ago someone died. Three days ago, she saw it….

    “Claire,” I call, hoping to hear my wife in return. Nothing. The floorboards of the old house creek and groan under my weight as I stalk the halls, groping in utter darkness. I check the kids and both sleep soundly, dreamily. Just then I hear it again. Louder this time. A…a scream? I trample down the stairs and head toward the front door, bare feet smacking the linoleum kitchen floor. Anxiety starts to flutter in my stomach, that uncontrollable need to do something. The screen door opens as I make my outside, but before I step into the autumn air, I turn back. I forget the flashlight, which sits nestled in the lighthouse fixture at the end of the cupboard. Claire made it for us. She thinks it’s cute. As I make for the front door, I flip on the porch light. Nothing happens. I flip it on and off repeatedly, but still nothing. Clicking on the flashlight, I push forward into the lightless night.
    Outside the wind shoots a breath of cold air and the screen door slams against the side of the house. “Claire!” I shout. Nothing but the howling wind. The beam pierces the darkness, casting all sorts of shadows. I creep through the night, treading across the dew-soaked grass, it sparkling in the circle of light. I shine the beam into the fields, but I see nothing in the labyrinth of corn. Nothing near the sandbox and swings. Nothing near the house at all. I secure the grip on both the gun and light and continue on. The decrepit barn sits behind the house, about fifty feet from it. I jog across the field and make my way toward the back.
    It shines brilliantly in the night. The only light besides my own. I step forward as my knees begin to wobble. The flutter of anxiety morphs into a violent free fall. “Claire! Claire, are you in there?” Closer and closer to the doors I go, the left closed, the right halfway open. I reach out and touch the old wood. I inhale deeply, and push. Clair lies on the ground, surrounded by…them. They stare with giant red eyes, chittering, chattering, singing like cicadas. They are cicadas. Several of them, standing, human-like. I shoot one, two, three, four, but they swarm, they swarm. The gun slips from my hand as the pincers pierce the skin, and as they suck away my blood, they sing together, buzzing loudly in the dead of night.

  38. Tigger987

    You never imagine it’s the one you love. I will remember that fateful morning for the rest of my life, like it only happened yesterday. Everyone thinks I need to get over it but how do you get over something like this? I honestly don’t think you can.

    “Mrs. Woods, I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to share your story” Swallowing hard, not trusting my voice to speak I slowly nodded my head in agreement.
    I took a deep calming breath and began ” I finally realized that If I wanted our lives back then it was time to share what happened that early morning and hopefully put an end to the constant media frenzy that won’t seem to die down.”

    “On this night a year ago my husband and I headed upstairs to our bed at 11:00pm as we did every night. Stopping on the way to check in on our children who were fast asleep in their beds”

    At this point my hands began to tremble and I thought I would be violently sick. Another deep breath and I continued ” we made sweet and tender love and fell asleep around midnight. I woke just after 2:00am realizing I was alone. Figuring he was in the washroom or kitchen I rolled back over to sleep. Two hours later I woke startled, heart racing. Something was very wrong. I checked on our children who were thankfully sleeping soundly and wandered the house in search of Dan. From the kitchen I could see the faint light in the barn out back. With the barn at the other end of the property and a place I rarely visit let alone in the middle of the night, I grabbed the shotgun and slipped on my shoes. I ran towards the barn heart pounding. I heard voices, a young woman pleading, begging and that is when I heard it, my husbands voice filled with what could only be rage, yet it was foreign to me. I had never heard rage in his voice or the foul language that came out of his mouth. Terrified but needing to know, I found a space between the boards hoping to see that I was wrong, that it was someone else. She stood naked, wrists shackled above her head and swinging on the tips of her toes. The mutilation was horrific but I was able to tell she was the missing school teacher that had been abducted three days ago. With a lump in my throat and a shattered heart I threw up, immediately there was silence in the barn. The door swung open, he was holding a knife but it was not my husbands eyes that looked out at me. As he took one step towards me, terrified I pulled the trigger. With my cell phone I called 911, It wasn’t long before the police and ambulance arrived. Their search of the barn unearthed 7 other women’s bodies before dawn. I had married a serial killer and never once suspected that it was the father of my children, the man I loved. What did that make me?

    1. Doug Langille

      Neat idea. This started really strong, but the meat paragraph didn’t sound right. It’s dialog. I don’t think someone would speak that way. If you read it aloud, that’ll probably be apparent. Your interviewer would likely interject at least once. Just my two cents. Take ‘em for what they’re worth. Write on!

      1. Tigger987

        Doug, thank you so much for the feedback. Honestly the suggestions you have given to me over the past two prompts have been invaluable. Can’t grow and learn if your not told so thanks again. I think I am going to take this piece and be a little more flexible on the word limit, once again I edited tons, not sure if it was better or worse because of them and clean up the dialogue. Mind you without feedback on that one I’ll never know if its better…lol look forward to the next prompt :)

    2. JRSimmang

      I have to agree with Doug. Try breaking up the large paragraph, favoring smaller bursts of action. That will help with the pacing.
      Also, look up this book: Shattered Silence. It’s a daughter’s confession, living under the watchful gaze of a serial killer.

        1. slayerdan

          Nice read—just suggestions to follow here. As the others said, without a doubt that one big para needs to be split up. This kind of suspenseful terror needs to build. Make love. fear of waking up alone. Waking up again two hours later. Going downstairs. Going outside.Hearing voices. hearing the husbands voice/rage/words.Sneaking in. Horror–the real moment of pure horror here-of seeing the missing woman.The husband finding her. The gunshot. The aftermath. Each one of these could easily have had their own para to give that build to utter horror. Yeah—it would probably not made the word limit that way—but writers need the practice to self edit. Even if you went over and wrote a good piece no one here would complain. (much). I almost think a third person description may have worked well too. It can be hard to convery first person horror without it sounding so ” i did this, I felt this…..etc” . What I missed here was the “feeling” of the story–when you said “what does that make me?” it almost sounded like an afterthought—in truth, it could be the true start of her horror. Ive had battered women as patients that are more upset they missed certain behaviors than they are about the behaviors themselves. I can only imagine what that must be like on a serial killer level. For practice–if you want–try to rewrite it when you have time, breaking up the parts of the scene as I outlined, or as you choose, and see how it fleshes out. If you repost it here, Im sure all the commenters here would read it.If not, use it for yourself to grow. Sorry so lengthy, but I tend to like the darker stuff, and this is as dark as it gets. Much luck.

          1. Tigger987

            Slayerdan,

            I love your suggestions, thank you for taking the time to provide such specific feedback. I continue to work on this piece and I will incorporate your suggestions. Depending on the size when I am done I may post here or perhaps in the forums for feedback. This pience is kind of taking on a life of its own which has been a wonderful experience. Learning so much since I have started sharing my writing. I cannot thank you enough for taking so much time to provide valuable direction.

      1. Tigger987

        I just finished reading the book you recommended. Some wonderful insights and an amazing woman. So glad that she has come through the other side of all of this and continues moving forward with “her” life. Again, thanks for the recommendation.

    3. Amy

      Good story, but it needs tightening up. Punctuation, grammar, and reworking paragraphs- all things that have been suggested already. I like Doug’s suggestion that she would probably be interrupted here and there, and it would feel more natural to cut in and out of the testimony to remind us where she is now. But the heart of your story is a chilling point of view that I thoroughly enjoyed.

      1. Tigger987

        Thanks Amy, grammar has never been a strength so something I always struggle with. As always I appreciate your feedback. I am glad that you enjoyed the actual story plot, I am having a good time expanding on this piece.

    4. don potter

      I enjoyed your story. I do have a trio of observations, however. You could lose the first two paragraphs and spend the words on the actual story. A one paragraph story is hard to read. I had trouble buying into the scene where you throw up and he heard that over the screams of the woman being tortured.

      1. Tigger987

        Don, thank you for your trio of observations. As always your feedback is appreciated. I totally agree that portion of being sick did not work the way I had hoped and I have now taken it out of the story all together. I am enjoying rewriting this piece without any word limits to see where it takes me. Thanks again.

  39. blanderson

    Like a lot of urban hipsters in their 40s, we had fantasized about getting away from it all. We’d move to the country, perhaps open a B&B, and live the slow life. We opted for the hobby farm. 80 acres of grassland that included a four-square farmhouse and pretty red barn. I imagined keeping horses, but that is a damn long fence to build.

    She often spent late nights in the barn. She’d sweep floors, polish the stables…really, she was obsessed. I didn’t worry too much. She was the type to go all in on projects and this was no different. We had plenty of money and were, indeed, living the slow life.

    It was awfully late, though. She usually came in by midnight or one, but it was now past three and I’m sure she hadn’t been to bed.

    Opening the door, I stopped startled. Even in her work, she was so elegant. So beautiful.

    “Honey, you really ought to come to bed.”

    She looked at me and smiled. We were antiquing earlier in the week, and we had purchased three church pews that we intended to use as a place to change when entering or leaving the barn. She was stripping the pews in preparation for stain and lacquer.

    “I’ll be in soon,” she responded sweetly.

    As I turned away, she glanced at me again. Even if I had seen her face, the distress would have gone unnoticed. I never noticed those things. She was concerned about me. As I walked away, I missed her calling to me.

    The next morning, I saw them walking through the property. They were talking, but I couldn’t hear them.

    “How long has the listing been on the market?”

    “About two months.”

    “Who lives there now?”

    “Single guy. In his 40s. He moved out here with his two little girls not too long ago.”

    “So why is it on the market?”

    “As an agent, you know I can’t answer that.”

    “Come on, Stephanie.”

    “OK, but you can’t say anything.”

    “Just tell me!”

    “I think the guy is losing it. He moved out here after his wife died of cancer. Heartbroken guy. Very cute and very nice, but heartbroken.”

    “So why is he selling?”

    “Like I said, he’s losing it. I’ve heard that he sets the table for four, and his girls recently left to live with their aunt.”

    They have concerned expressions on their faces. What are they talking about? And why hasn’t she returned? Is she still in the barn?

    “Honey?”

    She startled me.

    “There you are!”

    “I have to go now.”

    “Why?”

    “It’s time. I miss you terribly, but I have to go.”

    “Please just a little longer.”

    “No, I have to go now. You have to talk to my sister and bring the girls home. I love you.”

    I turned back to watch the realtor and her client. I wept. Later that day I called the realtor and told her to take the farm off the market.

    1. Pattypans

      Thank you for this story, Blanderson. It’s beautiful. Needs a little bit of proofing, including ‘repairing’ at least one tense shift. Just a few minor things. I love the way you gave us the hint via the realtor’s conversation, and the way you showed his realization of the truth. Lovely happy ending.

        1. blanderson

          Thanks, Patty and Doug. Probably sloppy, but I tend to write these things in 10 minutes and slap it up. I need to be more respectful of the reader.

    2. mod.nova

      I enjoyed the read, I just think you should add a little more about him being crazy. When you made the transition and said, “The next morning, I saw them walking through the property” , I was like , “them?!” I had to figure it out on my own, which was nice, but a little difficult until I got further in your story and saw you state him as being crazy.

    3. Amy

      I really love the way you began- a thoroughly painted picture in a few concise words. But after the first two paragraphs, it got confusing and a little messy. Just needs a little clean-up. Proof-reading will take care of that for you, as well as a little time apart before you post, if that’s what it takes. I also liked the peek into his madness with the realtor conversation, but it was unclear who was talking, both in that conversation and in the one at the end.

    4. don potter

      I liked the story but got confused as it went on. Giving the wife a name would have made her real rather than referring to the woman as her or she.

  40. mooseshoes

    Winter Moon

    Beep, beep, beep, beep……

    I reached for the alarm clock and noticed the time, 12:05 AM. Blood rushed through my body as I questioned myself as to why I had set the clock to go off at such an hour. I sat up and realized Curt was gone. I looked around and didn’t see him in our one room shanty.

    The heavy white snow under the full moon lit a path through the small farmshoue, the floor cold under my bare feet I looked to the girls still sound asleep. I rubbed my arms to warm the chill and tossed another log in the firebox, the glow sent orange embers up through the stovepipe. My thoughts of Curt walking to the outhouse in the deep snow sent a chill up my spine I had to smile. We didn’t have much and indoor plumbing will one day be nice but for now, we had each other.

    The girls snuggled closer under the feather down quilt as I looked out the window above them. The moonlit snow was beautiful a vision I wanted to cherish. Moments like this I wished I could capture and remember forever. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. A few moments later I realized Curt had not come in and wondered if he could be sick. I lit a lantern from over the stove and pulled on my heavy boots, hat, and coat. The chill of the cold wind across my face sent a shiver through me as I walked to the outhouse. Curt wasn’t there. Confused I turned and saw a soft glow from the barn across the neighbor’s field and thought I heard music. I trampled through the dense snow to the barn. As I approached the fragrance of flowers filtered through my nose.

    Peering through the door, I saw Curt in a tuxedo standing in the middle of the barn floor scattering rose petals in a circle. Am I dreaming? I thought as I stepped in startling Curt. He turned reached his hand out to me and asked for one last dance. The small candles flickered as I walked to his arms; he took off my wool hat and kissed my bare head then embraced my vacant chest.

    He spoke only a whisper. “Do not shed a tear for me, the time we’ve had is all I need. You are my sole, my keeper of light, and my desires of passion and drink of thirst. I will love you now and forever will be a beginning to end for the lives we lead.”

    I raised my lips to his we met; our one last dance was picturesque.

    1. don potter

      After reading your second paragraph, I needed to put on my robe. The description of being in the cold cabin worked very well. However, I too am confused. Did Curt go to the outhouse and die? Did he die months or years before and this was their wedding anniversary? Or, was this a regular occurrence?

    2. Amy

      I, too, am confused. Not enough clues to really “get it.” Some run-on sentences and it felt like you were in a hurry to get to the end- the wording became awkward and not quite as neat.

  41. JRSimmang

    I had another idea, if you all don’t mind.

    RAISING
    I wouldn’t call Francine my wife, though we’ve been together since the first winter. After the Plummet, people stopped believing in God, myself included. She didn’t speak a whole lot of English, and I didn’t speak a whole lot of… whatever she speaks, but when it’s cold, you don’t need words.

    We were told by some young couple a few months back that there was an enclave of people in the South, trying to rebuild. From Alaska, or what used to be Alaska, the South might as well be the other side of the world. Judging by the increasing number of cropland, and wild corn, I’d say we were somewhere in Idaho. I keep doing that. There aren’t borders any more.

    I rolled over in our tent, the moon poking my eyelids open. Francine was gone, which I supposed wasn’t wholly out of the ordinary. Still, with Marauders sweeping across the nation, one can’t be too concerned. I sat up, rubbed the dirt from my face, and shuffled outside the tent.

    Spring. The night was pitch-black, pure, breezy, and dark enough for a light to pierce straight through it. Artificial light. If I could see it, then anyone else within a 15 mile radius could see it too.

    I ran.

    I ran hard, stepping over mounds of dirt, rotting corn husks, slapping aside hardy corn stalks, making my palms bleed. I could hear the wind picking up, the Spring chill cutting into my eyes and causing them to water.

    As I got closer, I could see the light was shining through the top of a barn. Why didn’t we see this when set up camp? How did Francine find this at night?

    I reached the doors of the barn and threw them open as hard as I could.

    Francine was sitting in the middle of the barn, “I want to make sure,” she said, a doll in her hands, her hands combing through her hair.

    I was out of breath. “Make… sure?”

    “I had to see if this was the place.”

    “What the hell are you talking about? You could get us killed out here!” I rushed over to her.

    “My best friend, Daisy, lived on a farm like this one. She said the world would end.”

    I scratched my head. “What?”

    “I’ve brought you here.” She motioned to a door, uncovered, in the middle of the floor. I walked over to the door and peered down. Gallons of water reflected the light above me. I could see cans of food, petrol, dried goods, and a body, perfectly preserved. “This is our place now.”

    “Our place?”

    “Look around you, Phil. The world is over. It’s time to rebuild. And, we can do it here.”

    Then, I heard it, the sound I’ve only heard once before. The slow rumble of a muffler, the wolf howls and yips. My heart skipped a beat, “Down. Go Down.”

    Francine’s eyes grew wide.

    “Now!” I shouted and turned off the light.

    1. Pattypans

      This is a very interesting story, JR. Your first paragraph drew me right in, and I liked the rhythm of it. I do think Francine’s English is better than Phil described it, which was a bit puzzling. I’m also trying to figure out the connection between the muffler sound and the wolf yips. My guess is the muffler is a vehicle some Marauders are in, and that they make the wolfish noises to scare people, and maybe to show us readers how animalistic they are? Sorry if these are dumb questions.

      This feels like the beginning of a longer and truly promising story. Are you planning to continue working on it? Thanks for a good read!

      1. JRSimmang

        Patty, it started out as an idea, simplistic, but I think I’m going to have to expand it into something more. And, yes, the Marauders are going to be purely animal, people devolved and cannibalistic, who scavenge wherever they are until resources are tapped. A few packs have autos still, driving down the deteriorating roads.
        Thanks for the tip on Francine. Part of her dialect comes from my being unsure as to where she came from. Naturally, because of her name, I assume France, but who knows. She could be German, Spanish, unsure.
        @Moose and Doug, thanks y’all. This is definitely one of those prompts that spark something.

    2. tryingtowrite

      I was also drawn in by the first paragraph. Beautiful flow throughout. I found your description of the land to be both interesting and thoughtful.

  42. AJ Grass

    We had a fight tonight, we never get into fights, but when we do it doesn’t end well. I tossed and turned through the night, thinking about the horrible things we said to each other. I rolled over to try and cuddle her to ease the tension some in the morning, but when I felt around she wasn’t there. A wave a fear washed over me. The only thing I could think about was our newborn son. Would she really storm out in the middle of the night and take him from me, my own namesake?
    I quickly hopped out of bed and ran to his room. The entire house was dark, the only light came from the moon shining in through the windows. She really took my son from me and I have no idea where she would go, was my only thought as made my way to his room. The door was open, but he was sound asleep in his crib. I breathed a sigh of relief and stood there for a minute looking down at him, thinking to myself, What would I do if I lost him?
    My moment of peace was cut short as a small barn owl smacked into the window. It scared me half to death, but luckily junior didn’t wake up. I looked up and saw the owl standing there in the window for a moment looking down at my son, then at me with its head slightly tilted to one side, then flew away. When it left I could see the barn out back had the lights on. Why would she go out there? She hated the horses and the smell and the dirt, so why would she go there? I slowly crept out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind me.
    I threw on some decent clothes and made my way out to the barn. As I approached, I could hear strange sounds coming from within the barn, it sounded like a group of people humming a song. All of a sudden the humming turned to a hooting noise, like a small group of owls. I made my way to one of the cracks in the boards to peek in and see what was going on in there. It was empty. Nothing was out of place or abnormal in anyway. I guess I left the lights on earlier after feeding the horses, but where could my wife be? I thought as I came around to the front doors so I could turn the lights off. Just as I reached out to open the doors the lights went out, and all the horses went into a frenzy. I threw open the doors to the barn. The last thing I remember seeing was six of my horses running straight at me.
    I awoke the next day in the hospital with a pair of police officers standing in my room, and my wife standing off in a distant corner. When I looked at her, she turned away. I turned to the cops and asked, “Where is my son?”
    “Thats what we were hoping to find out from you sir,” one of the officers began, “your wife woke up in the barn this morning with no memory of last night after fighting with you. She’s the one who found you outside and brought you here, but couldn’t find your son.”

    1. Doug Langille

      What the hell….? this is a great story with a compelling cliffhanger. You have a couple run-on sentences in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs that would benefit from some editing. Read it aloud to see what I mean. Well done.

      1. AJ Grass

        Thanks Doug, I definitely need to edit it quite a bit. I’m pretty new to this so any advice/criticism is much appreciated. As for the cliffhanger, I didnt have much choice as I was already over the 500 words. I figured it would be a good place to stop for thisnl and I’ll probably keep writing it to see where the story ends up going.

    2. Amy

      An interesting story, but I didn’t really pick up on many clues to lead me in a certain direction as far as what happened to the baby. There was the owl, but not really enough to go on for me. Lots of introspection that maybe could have been turned into actions to direct us where you want our minds to go. An interesting read.

    3. don potter

      I came away thinking the father was going to get out of Dodge with the son and had a mishap with the horses, after which the son wandered away. Am I close or what?

  43. Pattypans

    Watching the Moon
    Joseph hadn’t been himself since returning from the war. At first I thought it was the loss of his leg, but then I saw it went even deeper than that. But men seldom talk about what hurts inside.

    I’d begun to think the only reason he cared about surviving the war was so the children and I wouldn’t be alone and unprotected. It was a miracle he was alive, and it was another miracle that when he came home he found a farm that had survived Sherman’s march to the sea. We were thankful. But life was grim. The old men said that the real hard times were only beginning.

    One night I woke some little time after we’d both gone to sleep and didn’t feel Joseph beside me. I lit a candle, wrapped my old woolen shawl around my shoulders, and went through the house looking for him. Little Joey, who’d never seen his father with two legs, was sleeping soundly. Will, who had ridden with his father all over the countryside before the war, tossed and turned.

    Joseph wasn’t downstairs. The front door, always latched at night now, was only closed to. Maybe he was on the porch watching the moon. In case he wasn’t, though, I went back upstairs for the pistol before going out. We only had one pistol now, and it was gone from its place high up in the armoire.

    I got a knife from the kitchen and headed to the porch. He wasn’t there. My stomach flip-flopped. The near fields were pearly under the glow of the moon. On the far side of them, a long thin wedge of wan lamplight showed on the ground through the bit of space between the slightly open barn door and its doorframe. None of the animals was about to birth. Why would he be in the barn in the middle of the night? I hurried toward the light.

    Halfway there I heard Joseph talking to another man whose voice I didn’t recognize. It didn’t sound like a friendly chat, but not like a fight, either. When I reached the door, I paused and listened. Something in my husband’s voice tore at my heart, but I couldn’t quite hear his softly spoken words.

    The door creaked as I opened it. Our pistol lay on the floor of the barn, looking as if it had been knocked there, and a man in a torn, bedraggled blue Union uniform stood near Joseph. My fear must have shown plainly, because my husband hobbled over to me with his crutches and told me everything was all right. How could that be, I thought, with a Union soldier in our barn? The war was over, yes, but the cruelty wasn’t. I tightened my shawl around my body.

    “Kathleen,” Joseph said, “this is my little brother Johnny. He’s in trouble, and he needs our help.”

    I looked again at the pistol, mystified as to why there had been a scuffle over it if this Union soldier was harmless. “Johnny wasn’t trying to hurt me,” he said. “He took it from me to save my life.”

    1. jra2013

      Jealous! I like the old time setting. Loved the twist at the end. And the misdirection — So focused on the war-time theme, looking outward for the danger, that him trying to off himself in the barn just reaches in and grabs your guts by surprise. Nice set-up ;)

      1. Pattypans

        Thank you, jra. I wish I hadn’t used the word “flip-flopped”, because I’m not sure someone from that time period would have used it. I wished I’d used something like ‘churned’, maybe. In fact, if anyone would like to comment on whether or not you think the voice sounds authentic for the time period, including the vocabulary and way of speaking, I’d greatly appreciate any input on that.

    2. JRSimmang

      I have to concur with Doug and JRa. You built tension well while providing the reader with sufficient backstory. As with most of your shorts, I’m curious as to what happened after. Nice job.

      1. Pattypans

        Thank you, DMelde. Just today it dawned on me that I should have used “Yankee” instead of “Union.” Don’t know why I didn’t catch that until days after posting!

    3. don potter

      Moving story. The period you chose makes the aftermath of war seem far away, but there are many present day veterans who, after serving their country and then being forgotten, think the only way they can find peace is by taking their own lives.

      1. Pattypans

        That’s true, and it’s tragic. My first draft actually had a line following the first line (“Joseph hadn’t been himself since returning from the war.”) that said something like, “Is anybody, ever?” But on revision, it didn’t seem to fit the voice, but was more like something I wanted to say; it came out like my voice. I’d hoped it would be implied enough.

    4. Amy

      I think you could have gone even further with the voice and really smacked us over the head with the image of the wife of a confederate soldier. I, too, thought “yankee” would have been more appropriate, but I suppose there were those that didn’t use the term- it all depends on the personality of the woman. That said, I like the post-civil war glimpse you’ve given us and applaud your effort. Historical fiction is one of my favorites to read but always seems incredibly daunting to write.

      1. Pattypans

        Thanks for the feedback, Amy. I definitely think she would have used the term Yankee. I also really love reading historical fiction, and agree that a novel in that genre would be daunting. But 500 words is easier–you don’t have to include so many things you could get wrong!

    5. JR MacBeth

      Patty,

      Great story, awesome ending.

      I hope you will be patient with this somewhat long commentary. I agree with other replies, especially Amy’s, historical fiction is a serious challenge. So many nuances that are so easy to slip-up on.

      It looked like you admirably made an attempt to use what might be period word choices, but I think you needed to push much further.

      As an example, your use of “was”, instead of “were” (about to give birth) I think was going in the right direction. The problem is it was too little, and almost too late. These are by all appearances poor Southerners (they have a latch on their door, no servants mentioned, etc.). Their language should quite likely be better classified as dialect, but instead, they seem to speak and think, more or less as most of us might today. Another way to put this is that to really pull this off, to give it the authenticity you were clearly after, you have to go for it, impregnating every sentence with who your characters are.

      I have a small trove of old hand-written letters from that time period, and it’s amazing to read them. They literally inhabited a different world, and if you look closely, you can see that in virtually every line.

      Speaking of lines, here’s one that could have used a bit of improvement, IMO: “The front door, always latched at night now, was only closed to.” The missing extra “o” is an easy typo, but maybe say something like “was left just barely closed”, instead of closed too. Something like that maybe.

      Very nice visuals, “I tightened my shawl around my body.”

      Keep up the good work!

      JR

      1. Pattypans

        No apologies needed for a long reply, JR. I thank you for it.
        As far as ‘closed to’, I meant it to mean only shut, not latched; not ‘too’. Maybe I got the phrase wrong. Didn’t/don’t some people say ‘shut to’ to mean that? Maybe it would have worked better with shut, come to think of it.

        And actually, they weren’t originally poor, but simply brought to near-poverty (they did have a farm and a house still–even a barn, many of which Sherman didn’t leave standing.) Remember, the South was brought to poverty during and after the war.

        Those letters you have must be fascinating! Where did you get them?

        Thank you again for your input. My explanations are meant to be just that, not rebuttals or defenses, ha!

    6. smallster21

      Awesome! Loved the mood you created and your descriptions built such a vivid setting. I got goosebumps as I read the last line. Great writing!

      I agree with JR. Instilling the story with dialect for the time period/class would strengthen the voice. I applaud historical writers. The amount of research and time that goes into reconstructing the past is mind-boggling to me, and I’m impressed with anyone who attempts to tackle such a daunting task.

  44. SM-Dreamer

    Moonlight filtered through rippled glass, a lover’s touch to my cheek. I groaned, reaching for the quilt. Cool linen met my hand. My eyes snapped open. Empty. Jerking upright, I looked to the window. A winter moon. I surged out and into a shawl, a glance at the cradle reassuring me.
    Filled with dread, I ran, from the house and across the grass. Where I’d left unfinished my work.
    Within, my husband stood, between lantern light and silver light. I caught my breath, eyes going to the floor. The circle, caught between. I stopped, and called out to him. His head turned, shadows flickering.
    “You promised.” A resounding voice, not his. I closed my eyes.
    “Oh dear God in heaven…” I stepped into the barn, realizing it was silent, the animals gone. Laughter skittered around the barn, words echoing in mockery.
    “You lied, millers-daughter. To Me!” He shouted, spinning to face me. His eyes were dark pits; shadows in the room thickened.
    “You didn’t come,” I carefully circled the diagram, clutching the shawl.
    “You ought have waited” Booming growl, dropping to whisper soft.
    “A year and a day? Winter and winter again? We couldn’t-“ Desperate, my hand flew to my mouth, to recover the words. Eyes flickered away, distant, then back.
    “You broke faith, married this!” A ripping scream; I closed my eyes against the bombardment.
    “You first. Again, and again,” the wind stole my words; he rushed, slamming into me. I averted my gaze.
    “You are mine. As is-“
    “No. He’s mine. I never loved you.” Aching heart, from its pounding surely; I hated the press of him. Memories, wicked dark. Shadows screamed.
    “Mine! You ate of my garden, the seeds-“
    “Trickery. Your sins are not truths,” I spat. “I never loved you.” Wrenching ache. He froze, eyes crazed with agony. I fought for calm.
    “I will destroy this wretch.” I nodded; had expected it. Shadows darkened, screaming wind. His face distorted, monstrous-made wrath. “I’ll take him from you.”
    “No. He’s my sorrow, you may not. He is protected.” I set my jaw; his eyes flickered away, then back.
    “Your ward will not hold!” Wind whipped; pain sliced my face. Stillness, and his hand touched the bead. Reverence, regret. “Death…” He understood. Angry, he assaulted my mouth, and I near forgot myself.
    Silver hands pushed at him. I could not. I averted my gaze. “You smell of apples. Of narcissus, of lilies,” he whispered. I closed my eyes. “Stars, sun, moon! I could give you the world!”
    “I do not want them.” I let the silence stretch, and anger returned.
    “You ask I lay pride upon the altar? I will not!” I glared, accusation.
    “I don’t ask for pride.” What I wanted, he could not give, would not say. “I never loved you.”
    “I’ll come for him.” I had expected that, too. Another kiss, hands twining with mine; searing heat and burning pain.
    He collapsed, my husband again. With whole hands, I found life there still. Crumbling, I wept.

    1. DMelde

      I thought this was really good. My eyes kept making your paragraphs even shorter than they already are as each short, jabbing sentence made me stop and take pause. This invoked a strong poetic feel. I liked it a lot.

    2. Amy

      I have no idea what is happening here. Others commented that they enjoyed it so maybe it’s just me but I felt the sentences were very fragmented; the concept cloudy.

    3. don potter

      I don’t get it. Is this a cult sacrificing someone? Who? Why? I had enough trouble reading it the first time that I decided not to give it a re-read.

    4. SM-Dreamer

      I do apologize that it’s so, er, blocky in its layout. I’ve never posted here, so I didn’t realize it would get smooshed together like that ^^;

      I had to make it fragmented because of limited word count and the idea I had for it needed, uhm, a lot to be said. In its entirety, its 2000+ words, and got too choppy broken down. And to don potter, no, its not a cult or a sacrifice. Its a woman waking up to find her husband’s gone out to the barn, where she unfortunately left a circle/diagram undispersed. He stepped into it, was possessed by an old lover of hers, and she and he have an argument. More of less <.<;

      And to Dmelde and JR MacBeth thanks ^^

  45. calicocat88

    I didn’t worry that Benjamin was gone. But after tripping over the empty box of shotgun shells I began to get a little fidgety. He recently began getting up every night and would tool around the house or in the barn until he finally exhausted himself enough to fall back into bed. Sometimes I’d find him sitting at the tops of the stairs outside Josie’s bedroom, fiddling with a book that I never saw him actually read. I was slowly creeping open Josie’s door when the gun cabinet across the hall caught my attention. It was empty.

    I stuck my head into Josie’s room. She wasn’t in her bed. As I hurried down the stairs and out the back door I tried to tell myself there was nothing odd about that, she was probably in the downstairs bathroom popping a zit or maybe trailing Benjamin like she always did. Sixteen and still Daddy’s girl. A small flower of comfort bloomed inside my chest when I saw the pale gold of the barn light. I was positive we didn’t leave it on. Ben and Josie would be in there. Perfectly normal.

    Halfway across the lawn I heard the voices. I recognized the gentle tone of my husband straining as he shouted. Then Josie’s little pitch—sounding panicked. I was stopped short as a third voice chimed in.

    What the hell?

    Slowing my pace, I could barely make-out the words coming from the new voice. It was male that was for sure. A booming, self-righteous tone, and I knew I had heard him somewhere.

    “Benjamin, we can come to terms with this,” the man said.

    “I knew there was something off about you. The way you watched the girls from your pulpit,” Benjamin said. “There’s nothing to talk about here.”

    “Dad, no, please!” Josie said.

    The gun fired and the night was suddenly filled with my daughter’s screams.

    Kicking off my slippers I ran the rest of the way to the barn and when I burst through the massive red doors I felt my stomach crawling up my throat. Pastor John was crumpled over one of the small hay bales, dark fluid gushing from the jagged hole in his back. My husband was to my left doing his best to cover up our daughter with the thin sheet that was barely hiding her naked body. Benjamin scooped her into his arms and that’s when I saw the lacerations covering thighs, still weeping fresh blood.

    What had happened to my baby?

    I couldn’t hold it back anymore and bent over and vomited into one of the watering buckets. When I righted myself both Ben and Josie were staring at me, Josie with her round hazel eyes deep in shock. I looked at Ben and he held my gaze for a moment before I said anything.

    “How long?” I said.

    “Couple months,” he said. “I caught her one night about to head outside. And then one other time when I saw truck lights pulling behind the barn.”

    “You knew it was John?”

    “Had my suspicions,” he said. “You didn’t think I stayed up every night for the hell of it, did you?”

    I shrugged. “What are we going to do? Call the police? It wasn’t trespassing if Josie was calling him to meet her, but they might not charge you if they see what he did to her–”

    “Not calling anybody,” he said heading out the barn. Josie was clinging to his neck, a trembling mess. She’d need therapy. “I’ll get rid of the body.”

    “Oh, my God,” I said. “He was our pastor–”

    “I’ll burn it,” he said.

    “How will you be able to do that?” I said, struggling to keep up in my bare feet.

    “Doesn’t much matter,” he said. “He’s burning where he is anyway.”

    1. smallster21

      I agree with everyone else. Great pacing, tension, conflict, dialogue. I was scared, holding my breath the first few paragraphs regarding the direction the story was going. Only thing that confused me were the lacerations. Sounds like Josie has been meeting the preacher regularly and willingly, so if he didn’t force her (I’m assuming they had sex), why would she have lacerations on her thighs? Unless he did, but even then, I’m not sure why there would be cuts there. This was a terrifying story, and you had me biting my nails. I like your ending: The father chooses to just hide the body instead of calling the police. Creates much more conflict and tension that could continue.

  46. jra2013

    “Jane”, said the orderly, “it’s time for your pills”, her chubby fingers engulfing the tiny plastic shot glass.

    With a single blink, as if snapping out of a daydream, she replied, “Okay”. She didn’t hate taking the pills. Some of them actually seemed to help with the pain, she thought.

    Satisfied with her compliance, the orderly then left with a polite, “Thank you”, waddling off to finish her rounds.

    Jane’s silence wasn’t uncommon; she usually kept to herself. Day after day, she would just sit facing the window overlooking the grounds centered within the horseshoe shaped facility. Occasionally, she could catch a reflection of herself, the only true bearing she had to mark the time that had passed.

    Today was one of those days. As she sat, she stared back into what were once beautiful, bright eyes that saw beauty and hope in the world. Now, they were frigid icebergs floating around in a sea of hopelessness hollowed out years ago by the horror they saw years ago on that fateful night.

    It was the cold chill coming from the open window that woke her. She stirred and snuggled closer to her husband. But, he wasn’t there. “Honey”, she whispered groggily, “Why’s the window open? Where are you?” Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she scanned the room. The white curtains blew gently in the entering wind. It wasn’t like him to open the window on such a cold night.

    Instinctively, she jumped from bed to check on her children. She donned her thick bathrobe, slid into her warm slippers, and walked down the hall. Reassured that her children were safe, she continued her search for her missing husband downstairs. Where is he? she thought. He’s probably just stressed and started smoking again. Yes, that’s where he is!

    As she crept toward the back porch, a small smile began to grow at the corners of her lips. She couldn’t help but be amused by the boyish guilt he showed whenever she would catch him. She headed toward the back porch. As she passed through the kitchen, she saw a strange glow coming from the barn.

    Why is…? Her thoughts trailed off as she grabbed the shotgun from its resting above the back door. With a shaky hand, she loaded two shells.

    The barn was only fifty yards from the house, but it might as well have been a mile. Each fearful step returned the soft, squeaky crunch of fresh snow beneath her feet.

    Finally, she reached the barn. Gripping the cold metal handle, she gave the hefty door a jerk. Reluctantly, the door groaned open, revealing the horror that was taking place inside.

    The massive glowing creature jerked its head toward the intruder. Its catlike eyes just glared back at her and its lips pulled back into what could have been a smile if it wasn’t for the rows of sharp jagged teeth – teeth stained by her husband’s blood.

    She raised the gun, took aim, and pulled the trigger.

    1. tryingtowrite

      I was intrigued from the beginning. The despair and loneliness of living one’s final years in a nursing home, poor Jane. But then came the end of your story–maybe poor Jane was a smidgen insane, thus living her final years locked away in an asylum. Nicely done.

    2. calicocat88

      I really enjoyed this :) Lovely description. You picked up nicely on the eerie atmosphere–I could feel the iciness of the night. I especially love the way you leave it up to the reader to wonder if the MC is really insane or if everyone just thinks she is. Sucked me in :) Great job!

      1. jra2013

        Believe me Doug, me too. I want more to this piece. I’ve never been part of any sort of writing community, so I was just exploring. But when I saw the barn writing prompt, every synapse in my brain just starting firing.

        It wasn’t until after I had already knocked out about 1500 words on my first draft that I took a break and re-read the instructions and realized the 500 word maximum. Imagine my saddness as I clipped, trimmed, cut, and cut again. Luckily, I didn’t have to completely “murder my darling”, but it still saddens me knowing that I had so much more; it could have been so much better. I had the back story of why her and her family moved out to the farm, some of the creepy things that were happening of the farm, why they moved, what made them move… grrrrrr… All is not lost tho.. It was practice right?

        1. Pattypans

          jra2013, of course all is not lost! You can still write the original story and make it as long as you want. Not to post here, but to do with as you see fit.

          1. Doug Langille

            No novels yet. Baby steps. :) I have three or four longer pieces that came from prompts that I’m happy with. I also have a couple longer works-in-progress that I’m aiming to finish up.

    3. don potter

      Was Jane old and recalling the past or young and insane and remembering the story of her husband’s death the way she thinks it happened? Real or imaginary, I presume killing the thing that ate her husband was why Jane was spending her life in some kind of facility, right? Having answers to this questions would help pull together both parts of the story.

  47. handyman43127

    Silence, broken by the stillness of the night.

    Unless you are from the mid-west farm country you cannot understand.

    Awakened by that stillness I found myself alone. Half of the bed empty and my wife gone.

    It is a gift, or a curse, depends on how you see it, that we share that choose to live our lives away from the bustle of the crowd of the city.

    Moving through the hallway, I find myself checking rooms. That is a second nature for me, well, I suppose first nature. My children are fast asleep and tucked away comfortably in their beds. Traversing the narrow steps through the darkness to the ground floor is easy for me, I have done it so many times before. I have even learned to step to the left side of the third step down to avoid the loud creaking that would wake the rest of the household, on my daily departure to tend to the animals.

    Finding the kitchen empty, where my wife would be if she had awakened before me, I searched the rest of the house. It is only after I have searched the rest of the rooms that I noticed a light far across the field. A beam of light finds its way through the crack between the boards of the barn door.

    Alarmed, but not yet overwhelmed with anxiety, I pull my coveralls on and lace up my boots. Walking across the yard and through the fence my mind imagines the worst, after-all she has suffered from depression ever since her mother died last week.

    Reaching for the handle of the door, I had fixed just yesterday, I braced myself for what I may find. Breathing out the deep breath I had taken, I slowly opened the door..

    Sitting in the middle of the dirt floor of the barn, surrounded by hay was Vickie my wife, with her back to me. Never lifting her head, no movement from her body, I feared the worst.

    Only when I had walked around to the front of her did I see what was holding her attention so intently.

    “Meet Victoria,” she said. That was her mothers name.

    Cradled in her arms was a colt, only about an hour old.

    “I was sleeping and my mothers voice spoke to me ,” she said. “I need help, go to the barn.”

    Seems the mare was having trouble with the birth and needed help. Had Vickie not been there to help we might have lost them both.

    “Thank you Victoria for the new colt, and for giving your daughter, my wife back to me!” I spoke under my breath.

    1. calicocat88

      Very delicate story here. I like the way you start out sparking the reader’s curiosity by kind of giving us a spooky vibe, but then the ending is so fragilely written and expressed. Very beautiful. And there’s also a mythical, almost ethereal feel to it as well. I enjoyed this :)

    2. don potter

      The short story about Vickie’s mother speaking to her and thereby saving the colt’s life is warm, but the subtle button about giving the grieving daughter back speaks volumes. Nicely done.

      1. handyman43127

        Thank you don, for me it isn’t about farmhouse’s, colts, death or even a voice in the night. It is about life changing happenings, regardless of what form they make take.

      1. handyman43127

        Thank you Amy for your contribution. I will re-read the story and look at it with the eyes of what you have brought to my attention to try to see what you have.

  48. nelleg

    Anna woke up with a shiver. “Darren I think the stove needs more wood.” Anna reached out for her husband but he wasn’t there. She laid there for a few minutes longer and then she sat up and reached for her robe. She walked across the cold wood floor; she loved the creaks the loose planks made. It reminded her of her grandmother’s home.

    She made her way down the hall to check on the twins, she peered out the window at the end of the long corridor and saw a faint light coming from the barn. “Darren, what are you up to?” she whispered to herself. After she peaked in on her sleeping boys she decided to check up on her husband.

    Anna slipped on her snow boots and parka and made her way out into the cold winter night. Six inches of snow had fallen the night before and insured that they would have a white Christmas. She trudged through the white covered yard to the century old barn. The old doors screeched when she pulled them open.

    “Darren?” Anna spoke as her eyes adjusted to the light.

    “Over here!” she heard the voice of her husband of six years.

    “What are you doing out here at 3:30 in the morning? The stove needs more wood, the house is freezing.” She told him as she walked toward the back of the barn. Anna turned the corner and was astonished by what she saw. “What in Heaven’s name is this?”

    “What do you think? You think the boys will like it?” There Darren stood in front of a beautiful hand crafted red sleigh with a velvet cushion seat.

    “Where did this come from?” Anna still couldn’t believe her eyes.

    “I made it! I’ve been coming out here every night to work on it.” Darren’s eyes were filled with pure joy.

    “How long have you been working on this?” Anna wondered if she was actually dreaming the whole scene.

    “Ever since Kole came home from the hospital. I thought it might cheer him and Dylan up. We can hook Ole Fred up and have him pull us around tomorrow on Christmas.” Darren said while touching up a few spot with crimson paint.

    Anna laughed at the thought of Darren trying to get their temperamental donkey hooked up to the masterpiece he made. She couldn’t remember the last time she laughed, but she knew it was before the doctor told her Kole’s diagnosis. “I think they’ll love it.”

    “I hope so. I want this Christmas to be special.” The joy on his face faded after he spoke.

    They both stood there in silence thinking the same thing. The doctors words rang through their heads “You’re son may not see spring.”

    Tears filled Anna’s eyes “Its beautiful Darren.” She hugged her husband and turned back to the door. “I’ll stoke the stove before returning to bed.” Anna knew she wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.

    1. DMelde

      Bittersweet story. Christmas is a time to celebrate family, but what if a family member is no longer there? Good job in bringing that into focus.

  49. Doug Langille

    FALLING STAR
    ============

    Martha woke from her terrible dream with the chills. She was having the same dream that she’d been having ever since the confirmed diagnosis two years ago. She was barren and would never be able to carry. There would never be the pitter-patter of young feet to be heard in this old farmhouse. Adoption wasn’t in the cards. It would always be just her and her husband. In her nightmare, he left her. She would live and die utterly alone, with not a single mark to make along God’s path.

    It wasn’t true, of course. Martha’s waking mind knew that. He was good to her. Even though they talked excitably in their early days of a brawny son or fetching daughter, he didn’t hold it against her. Yes, he was a good man. Not perfect by any stretch, but a good honest man.

    They’d made love tonight, gentle and slow. She rolled over to nuzzle her cold nose between his broad shoulder blades, but was denied her playful tease. He wasn’t there. Martha felt his side of the bed. It was cold.

    She threw back the quilt, sat up and pivoted. She fumbled for her glasses as she slid her feet into her slippers. The floors were always cold, even in summer. Her housecoat was on back of the door. Martha padded her way downstairs in their dark and quiet home.

    She peeked out the kitchen window and saw a falling star. She closed her eyes and made a silent wish. When she opened them again, she noticed the light on in the barn. Damn him. He was always tinkering with contraptions when he couldn’t sleep. Everything was ready for harvest. The activity was unnecessary. She felt a pang of guilt over her part in that. Not a mother, was being a wife enough? Lost in her thoughts, Martha wandered slowly to the barn just as he was coming out.

    “I thought you wouldn’t catch me,” he said, smiling. That easy smile was what won her heart.

    “You know I would,” Martha returned. “The harvester’s still a harvester, right?”

    “Yes, dear.” He gave her an exaggerated eye-roll. “I’m just restless.”

    “Come back to bed. Let’s see if I can tire you out.”

    His smile returned with a slight turn to the right. He started to cross the driveway towards her. He hadn’t made two strides when a brilliant blur of motion to his left stopped him short.

    “Jonathan!” screamed Martha when the earth met the sky. The playful banter between farmer and wife exploded in a rain of dirt, gravel and intense heat.

    Martha picked herself up off the front-lawn thirty-feet from where she stood only moments ago. Heedless of her own cuts and scrapes, she ran back to the driveway. The dust was settling and she spied him right away.

    His scanning eyes relaxed when they landed on her. He shouted “Martha, you okay?” Their ears rang dully with noisy echoes.

    Martha nodded. “What is it, Jonathan?” She pointed to the large object in front of them. Steam was hissing off a coffin-shaped black object.

    “I have no idea. Saw it the same time as you. Stay back.”

    “You’re kidding, right?”

    They both approached the crashed pod, if that was what it was. Despite the steam, the surrounding air was cool. Jonathan reached forward to touch its smooth surface. It glistened like black pearl.

    “Careful,” whispered Martha. She knew better but reached out to touch it as well.

    They looked at each other. Excitement and curiosity danced in their eyes. “Let’s do this together,” he said. They reached across the pod and brought their hands down at the same time. Their fingers touched. The pod was neither cold nor hot, neither hard nor soft. The material was extraordinary, like metal and fabric at the same time. It was also sheer and nearly translucent with a soft glow. The couple peered forward into the unknown together. Something was moving within the interior.

    Jonathan reached forward. His hands and upper arms disappeared as they sank inside. He withdrew them back slowly carrying something. Martha stared in utter astonishment as her husband and lover delivered a small wriggling child from the pod’s womb. With the delicate tenderness of a new father, he handed the baby over to his awestruck beloved. Martha beheld the tiny bundle and felt joy for the first time in a long time.

    Sometimes, wishes do come true.

    1. tryingtowrite

      I journeyed over to your blog and read the story there. The background lent well to the setting. Having known many couples who could not conceive a child, I felt your story accurately portrayed–in an honest and quite touching way–the emotions, insecurities, and hope, a man and woman feel together as well as independent of each other. Great story.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Very heart-warming story. I am a huge fan of fantasy, maybe it’s because I’ve seen more reality then I’d like to. I don’t know how you manage it, but your storytelling, keeps reaching new heights each week. I realy enjoyed this one.

    2. Doug Langille

      Thanks everyone for your comments and kind words. I’m taken aback by the interpretation. This is but a sliver of a much more well-known story. I just brought the camera in tight to a single scene. Score a bonus point to Dmelde for picking up on it. :)

    3. don potter

      This kid might well be more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Nice to know the back story of the people who raised the super hero.

    4. smallster21

      I never read the comics, but I’ve seen the movies. I don’t think many people are familiar with the story of Superman’s origins–when I went to see the newest movie, a woman near me at the drive-in was like, “I don’t like this. It’s so sci-fi.” I was like, “Ma’am. You know Superman is an alien right?” I enjoyed this Doug! It was fun to read and nice descriptions. I liked the title too.

  50. mod.nova

    The last thing I recall from last night was pressing my lips against her cold, tender cheek.

    As I lay there, immersed in my dream, my conceived reality turns into a childhood fantasy. Murder. My subconscious has developed a dream that allows me to feel the sensation of carnage, creating an experience I could never forget.

    Everything seemed so real. My wife, Deborah, was sound asleep and snoring as usual. The blankets, warm, her skin, cold. As I sit up in bed I feel a shift of emotion, my vision is blurred, and suddenly I am experiencing a migraine. Immobilizing my thoughts, I stumble out of bed and make my way towards the kitchen. I need medicine.

    Rummaging through the cabinets, I come across a pharmacy of medications, many expired and a few still useful. Having trouble determining which one I should take, I go with experience, and chose a sedative that will induce sleep paralysis and cause me to forget about my headache. The medicine bottle appeared full and, when shaken, created the harmonious sound of a maraca. What a beautiful way to kill the pain.

    As I make my way towards the sink I dump a few pills in my hand, toss them in my mouth, and drain them down with the contaminated water from the faucet. What lays in the sink, seemed to be a sign, an object that will help me engage in my fantasy. A butcher knife.

    Without hesitation, I grip the knife in my right hand and suddenly become overwhelmed with excitement. Adrenaline is rushing through my body and I begin to feel a sense of urgency. The urgency to kill.

    Targeting my wife, I rush to our room and find her sound-asleep. There I am, standing over a helpless body, contemplating ways to kill her. Objects around me begin to influence my choice of homicide. For example, living in a farmhouse, I conclude that the best place to murder a person would be in the barn. It is far enough away from the house that my children won’t hear anything and is satisfying enough to fulfill my fantasy. What a great location. Having slaughtered thousands of livestock there, I know exactly how to kill her. I will butcher her the same way I do my cattle. Vigorously.

    Grabbing her by the hair, I yank her across the room and out the front door. She begins screaming, clawing the carpet and pleading for me to stop, however at this point, I have already decided she is dead. I feel a sense of emotion leave my body and suddenly the migraine disappears. This is what I’ve always wanted. I’ve always wondered what it felt like to murder someone.

    As I open the barn, odors of blood and flesh race to my nostrils. Is this what death smells like? Unsure, I determined only time would tell, and that time, is now. I forced my wife to lay on her side, like a butchered pig, as I began to slice her jugular vein. Blood was spraying everywhere.

    I suddenly wake up.

    Overwhelmed by the dream, I find myself laying in a pool of sweat filled covers. Wanting to tell my wife about my experience, I reach over and attempt to nudge her in hopes of awakening her. What I nudge is absolutely nothing. She is no longer in bed with me, causing me to worry, because it is the middle of the night. I conclude that she must be in the restroom or in the kitchen getting water. After laying in wait for roughly 20 minutes, I decide that it is time to go searching for her.

    I walk down the hall, past the restroom, and peek inside my children’s room, finding them vast asleep. Continuing to the kitchen I notice the medicine cabinet wide open and I begin to experience a sense of deja vu. Remembering the knife, I make my way towards the faucet and glance into the sink. I see nothing but an empty vessel. Confused about what is happening, I peer through the kitchen window and see that the barn light is left on. Upon first thought I assumed that my wife had went for a walk and that maybe she was organizing the barn. As I make my way towards the barn, I hear nothing but complete silence. Upon entering, the first thing I notice is my wife laying on the ground in a bed of red-stained hay. Unsure of the cause, I begin to construct motives as to why someone would want to murder my wife. Suddenly I realize that I know the whole story. Was it me? Did I kill my wife? As I look up to the wall of the barn, I see inscribed in blood,

    “Till death do us part.”

    Certainly, it couldn’t have been me… It was only a dream.

    …Or was it?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        So realistic, it took me into your story immediately. Then I wanted to get out of it and I couldn’t. I had to stay there and witness it. Some one has to warn people about this guy. I’m not sure he exists only on this web site. Gave me the “willies.” but I have to admit, I might read it a second time, but not today.

  51. DMelde

    Daniel was a troubled young man. He often woke up at night, unable to sleep from worry. He rolled over and stretched out a comforting hand to his wife. With a start he realized she was gone, and his first thought was, “Are we safe?”
    Daniel got up to check on their twin boys. He went to their room and counted their sleeping heads, relieved to see that they were sleeping soundly. He searched the shadows of their room but saw nothing, so he gently closed their bedroom door, and he quietly walked through the dark house searching for his wife, looking for anything she may have done. He couldn’t find her, but he saw that her boots and coat were missing, so he looked outside and saw a light shining from inside their old barn.
    Walking through the early morning dew to the barn, Daniel thought about last night. His wife, Mary, had turned on the gas stove burners, and left them on while she took a bath. Luckily, Daniel had noticed and turned them off. Mary had given the twins sharp steak knives to cut their food. Daniel had quietly replaced them with dull butter knives instead. He had also found their car keys and flashlight in the kitchen freezer. Early onset dementia, they had told him. Her medication wasn’t helping. Daniel didn’t like thinking about the future and how bad they had told him it would get, but it looked like the future was bound and determined to make him think about it anyway.
    “How much longer can we go on like this?” Daniel asked himself.
    He found Mary inside the barn, stacking wood around their large, cast iron kettle.
    “Hi Mary,” Dan said softly, “what are you doing up so early?”
    Mary gave her husband a big, toothy smile.
    “I’m making soap.” Mary replied. “We need a big fire to boil the lye.”
    Daniel didn’t know if boiling lye was the way you made soap, but he did see the folly in building a fire inside of a hay barn. Mary clucked like her Rhode Island hens as she went and got more wood. She started singing a song, “a little ditty about Jack and Diane”. Daniel chuckled as he watched her work. My God, how he loved her.
    “Mary, it probably isn’t safe to build a fire inside this barn. It looks like it’s going to be beautiful outside today, so how about we build it outside instead? I can help if you want.”
    Mary flashed him another toothy smile and her face beamed with happiness. She started gathering up the wood while Daniel dragged the heavy cast iron kettle outdoors. Daniel knew he couldn’t stop the future from arriving, but he could slow it down. He knew there would come a day when he needed to follow their advice, and find her a safe home to live in, but not today. Today they would make soap, and together, they would sing their songs.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Your portrayal of Daniel and his fortitude in helping his wife is right on que. I wonder how many of us could follow his footsteps?’ Great story.

        1. slayerdan

          Seems we were on the same page this time—what is that saying, something about great minds…..Well done.Daniel is a strong guy—hope it lasts.

    1. DMelde

      thank you everyone for your kind words. i wanted to write a normal story (to see if i still could) without any snakes or things that go bump in the night. (i was also curious to see if anyone else would think up a story about the witches that were hung in the barn exactly one hundred years ago to this day. in that story, farmer dan had a really bad day. i’ll write that story another day perhaps.) happy writing!

    2. JR MacBeth

      A really great story Dmelde, good job. Only thing for me is paragraph demarcation. Online it seems that the old indents are gone of course, but I believe that a (blank) line between paragraphs helps, now that indents aren’t used. If you or anyone else has heard something different, please let me know.
      JR

      1. DMelde

        Good point. I shall strive to remember to divide my paragraphs up better. I always cut and paste my stories and I usually forget that all of my formatting doesn’t copy too. Thanks! :)

  52. JakeC

    Screamer

    I woke up to an eerie sound coming from somewhere outside. It wasn’t a natural sound you would expect coming from a farm. The noise did not register as chicken, goat, wind chime, crickets; it sounded more like an abnormal screech or scream of despair. Turning over I reached over to touch Lille and see if she was awake only to find our Toile Garden comforter tossed to the side. My iPhone docked to a Jensen speaker system I recently purchased at Target displayed 2:37 am. What the heck? What was Lille doing up at this time of night? And, where was she?

    For some reason I was thinking the witching hour. Could that ungodly shriek be coming from a supernatural creature? Sure sounded like it. This was October and close to Halloween. I was tired and susceptible dark thoughts. This is nuts? Reluctantly, I shifted to my side of our bed, stood up, pull up the blinds, and peeked outside the window screen. Beyond the bushes and trees it was pitch dark. It was difficult to see anything then then I noticed just past the dirt field a light shown inside our barn.

    God, my thoughts spun and jogged my memory of the movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. Except instead of a cornfield with a baseball diamond, I had a basketball hoop near our vegetable garden. “If you build it, he will come”, well he is me and this is where our sons Jeffery, Thomas, and I dribbled on a dirt court, and would run and gun to the hoop.

    I checked and thankfully, the kids were still asleep even though the shrieks of despair continued. Dressed in long pajamas I slipped on a pair of Alpine sandals, grabbed my Surefire Pro flashlight and walked out the front door. The barn was about 25 yard from our house. As I approached the barn the screeching became louder. There was just enough light that I could just scarcely see Lille bent over struggling with something. The barn door was blocking whatever she was wrestling with. I yelled, Lille and ran to the barn.

    Lille where did they come from? Lille was struggling to fend off two fox cubs while trying to feed a bottle with a rubber nibble filled with white liquid to a third. She looked up at me with those gorgeous green eyes and with a secret smile and said, “You killed their mother with that damn rifle remember douchbag? I have been hiding these pups since finding them in the corner of our tack room. I couldn’t keep them quite this time around.”

    “Pretty scary howl huh? Can we keep them?” as she bats her eyes.

    1. Amy

      I, too, was put off by the specific brand of everything and where it was purchased. It did feel like product placement! A final proof-read out loud, as Doug has suggested to many others, really helps with believability and awkwardness.

    2. don potter

      If they keep the foxes, the chickens and other small animals will have an interesting existence. As an ex-Madison Avenue guy, I like product placements when they enhance the story and add the the authenticity of the story. This was a little too much branding. By the way, why didn’t the long pajamas have a brand name? Don’t tell me he bought a private label from some discount store.

  53. Amy

    GONE

    William.”

    He opened his eyes to the intimate whisper of a woman. Her pillow still held the shape of her head, a lover’s imprint. He reached for the glass of water next to a framed photo of a man and woman embracing, happiness imbued in toothy smiles and eyes that shrank to tiny creases. Staring at the photo filled him with regret, despite the blissful scene. But her voice brought forth a need in him that couldn’t be ignored.

    William.”

    She beckoned to him like a siren and he heeded her call. His feet were swift and silent, stepping over the floorboards that groaned the most, as he made his way down the hall. He passed by the door that never opened; a foreign room of soft pastels and plush fabrics. The possibility of new life had been stifled by death long ago. He was out the door and running swiftly over the lawn in a manner of seconds. Trudging through the field, the broken stalks of corn jabbed at the soles of his feet. Small penitence, he thought, as his shallow breaths quickened. He reached the edge of the corn and was bathed in the discerning glow of moonlight. A lantern swayed inside the barn, casting eerie circles through the window that grew and then receded.

    Hurry, William.”

    He knew he was too late; a flaw he had cursed for years until age assented. But still he ran and threw open the heavy barn doors, causing their aging quarter horse to whinny frantically and paw at the straw beneath her feet. She was here, she had to be. The scent of jasmine danced around his senses, drowning out the pungent aroma of the manure. He moved to the middle of the barn, underneath the light that rocked back and forth in the summer current. The step stool was waiting in its permanent place on the cool floor. He climbed the first step, certain he would find her in the loft where the straw hung over the edge, a mirror image of her flaxen hair that waved to him that night.

    The next step up sent the horse into a frenzy and she kicked at the door of her pen. Her eyes were bloodshot and wild with panic, not unlike the eyes he found in the loft that were fixed in alarm. Oddly enough, they were almost the same dark chestnut hue. As he raised his foot to the third step, her sweet whisper came to him again.

    “Will… What are you doing out here?”

    He turned to see her fair hair below him, chestnut eyes wide and anxious. He descended the steps and pulled her into his arms. As he patted her head, he realized it was much too low, a foot shorter than it should have been. He pushed her out in front of him, keeping a firm grip on the arms.

    Her face, everything she was, was alive in this face, but it wasn’t her; it was Ben, his stepson. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked cautiously at Will, waiting for a response.

    “I was just looking for something,” Will replied. “Come on, let’s get back to bed.”

    He shooed Ben toward the door and pulled the string on the swaying lantern, letting the darkness swallow his vitality once again.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The feeling of remorse, being too late as always and the step in his permanent place on the floor of the barn, leads the reader to wonder if she had hung herself and as always, he was too late to save her. A breathess, beautifully paced story. Thank you Amy for the write.

          1. slayerdan

            I must say, that was really good. Vibrant description without 1000 words or concrete descriotions—i love that. Thanks.

        1. Amy

          Yay Kerry, you got the gist of what happened to this poor family. I had a line in the story that referred to a frayed rope hanging from the beam in the ceiling of the barn, but decided to cut it for the limit’s sake. I wasn’t sure if people would still understand what happened or even just begin to see the clues along the way. And did you notice the TITLE at the beginning? Just for you! Haha. As always, thank you for your comments.

    1. JR MacBeth

      Amy,

      I’m guessing you also write poetry? You have a distinctive voice coming though here, and it has a sort of melody, if I may say so, something not always evident is so few words. It is engaging, if not charming.

      Just a couple nit-picks, para 2. I believe you should say “matter of seconds”, instead of “manner of”. I realize people say both, but one is regarded as correct. (If I’m wrong, be sure to let me know.)

      And then there is “penitence”. This should be “penance”.

      JR

      1. Amy

        Thanks JR for your comment. After posting, I noticed the “manner of seconds” line and cringed, but then realized, as you pointed out, that both are used and didn’t feel quite so bad about it. I would have preferred “matter” instead of “manner”, but oh well.

        As far as the “penitence” and “penance” dilemma, you are absolutely correct! I like to think that I am a meticulous editor but somehow that one slipped through, so thank you for pointing it out.

        I have been writing poetry for a long time; longer than fiction. I suppose giving a certain lyricism to my words isn’t too bad a problem, although as I mentioned on don potter’s post, sometimes I really wish I could write with more of a less-is-more voice.

        Thanks again!

    2. smallster21

      I fell right into the story with your beautifully written prose. It appears that this is a memory that he relives over and over, but if his wife committed suicide, why would she have called out for help right before taking her life? Unless it’s her ghost and she regrets killing herself, then calling for help would make sense. I love the way you are able to pace your stories and instill descriptions and emotions within such a limited amount of space.

  54. JRSimmang

    The spot on the bed next to me was cold again. She’s been getting out more and more frequently.

    I threw my legs over and slipped on my house slippers. I poke my head into the kids’ rooms. We were watching our grandkids this week. Parents were out on vacation. I kept telling them they need some adult time, away from the kids, where they can reignite their marriage. But, for three years, they didn’t separate once from the kids, and they were starting to get that crazed look in their eyes.

    From Kaileigh’s room, I could see the light on in the barn. I wasn’t surprised. A part of me knew that was where she would be.

    I walked downstairs, poured myself a glass of water, and watched the light flicker in and out of the sorghum fields. What was she doing out there tonight? Painting? dancing? Tonight she may be working on her memoir. Having finished my water, I pulled on my boots and started the walk out to the barn.

    The trail was still trying to stitch itself back together when I stepped through. She must have only been out an hour or so. I worried about her sometimes, sneaking out in the middle of the night. But, I guess it’s when she truly wakes up. She let me watch her paint the other night. A bird on a branch. Right there, in the middle of the barn, in the middle of the hay and the lowing calves.

    The barn door opened with a creak and a rattle. I scuffled in and expected to see her standing in the middle of the barn again. Instead, our nag Phyllis looked at me and whinnied. I grabbed a soft apple from the basket and fed it to her. “Where’s Maggie?” She nudged me. I couldn’t help but laugh a little.

    I looked around the barn, calling for my wife. She wasn’t there, apparently, but up on the loft, I found her easel. Painted in beautiful letters I read a note.

    “Darren, I’m okay now.” Her name was signed on the bottom.

    I pat Phyllis once more on the chuck and walked out of the barn, turning off the light. The breeze was coming in from the south and I think I realized for the first time that our grandkids wouldn’t be leaving tomorrow. They wouldn’t be leaving us at all. It was nice to see them snuggled up underneath their blankets and pillows. Sweet kids. Tonight was the first night I wept for my children.

    When I climbed the stairs back up to my room, my wife was back in our bed. She was awake.

    “You’ve been crying,” she said.

    “I have, Maggie.”

    “Come to bed, Darren. We’ve got to tell them in the morning.”

    I went to her side, and she enveloped me in her arms. “The morning,” I repeated. And soon, I was back to sleep.

    1. DMelde

      Good story. I could see the trail stitching itself back together in my mind so I was right there inside the story. Good job. Yep, tenses. They’ll get you every time. :)

    2. reba_O

      I was so drawn into your story. I wanted more, but at the same time I really appreciated piecing it all together in the end, without it just being thrown at me. Your writing also helped me “see” how to close up a short story better; I felt mine was left without a true conclusion. Thank you for that. (Coincidentally, I chose the same character “Maggie”)

COMMENT