Archive | June 2012

Short Story – Cover Story

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a jeweler. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a journey in the present. The story is about deception.

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She left the shop in the hands of her assistant and promised to be in touch as soon as she landed. She’d been dreaming this trip since she was a teenager and planning it for the last two years. She had told no one except her staff and her landlady fearing if she admitted any thoughts about this trip to family or friends someone would try to talk her  out of it or otherwise prevent it from happening. And she couldn’t risk it. Not after this long. They would worry about the jewelry store. They would worry about her safety. They would deplore the expense.  No, she told herself, this was the best way. She planned to tell them after she returned safely. Then no matter what anyone said the experience was already hers and could not be taken away. She had managed to evade all the social requests  from her friends for events during the time she was gone. She even had a convenient cover story worked out to tell them.

She hurried to the bus stop and caught it just in time. As she slid into her seat she mentally reviewed the items on her to do list. Passport – check. Tickets – check. She was already packed. Had laid out her traveling outfit. Yes! All in order. As she left the bus stop and walked the few blocks to her apartment, she dared to picture herself arriving. Lost in thought she grabbed the mail, unlocked her door, stepped inside and turned on the lights.

“Surprise!” They yelled.

Oh no! This gathering was not part of her plan. Her sister stepped forward and grabbed her arm, turning her back on the crowd in her living room and pressing a glass of champagne into her free hand.

“You could at least look pleased to see us, Sis. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to arrange this party for you.”

She quickly gathered her composure. “I know, it’s just that I’m beat and was planning a soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book. Not exactly social.” She smiled hoping to disarm her sister and it worked.

“Just let me go freshen up and I’ll be out in a flash to enjoy your efforts.”

“Okay, but if you take more than five minutes, I’ll come in and drag you out, naked or not.”

“Promise! I’ll be back before you know it.”

She smiled at the gathered crowd and begged to be excused long enough to change into her jeans. As she walked by the catered spread she swiped a couple hors d’oeuvres and popped them in her mouth. Mmm! That was tasty! They had indeed gone to a fair amount of trouble. Now how was she going to get rid of them before midnight?! She preferred to travel when she was well rested. Of course, she could use the excuse of having to work in the morning… which is where she would normally be going in the morning… That should work to divert them and cover her tracks.

She changed into her jeans and shoved the packed suitcases into her closet, hoping no one had come into her bedroom tonight. Thank goodness the weather was mild so they didn’t need a place for coats, although they could use the guest room or the office.

She gathered her thoughts and put on her party face and went back out to mingle with her guests.

“Here’s the guest of honor, finally!” her brother said to the crowd. “Now for a toast.”

She had no idea what to expect so she smiled and held her champagne glass ready.

“Here’s to my sister. A woman who always gets what she wants.”

A chorus of Here! Here! reverberated around the room as everyone raised their glasses and drank.

Her sister pointed to a table in the corner. “Hey Sis! Why don’t you open your presents?”

She looked quickly at the pile and then at her sister, and then it was her turn to drag her sister away from the party guests.

“What’s all this about?” she hissed. “Christmas was months ago and it’s not my birthday. Why am I getting gifts?”

“I think you better open them,” her sister replied.

With a another suspicious glare at her sister she turned back to the party and smiled.

“How kind of all of you. I am sure I haven’t done anything to deserve all this attention.”

As she made her way across the room to the table smiling and greeting each person as she passed, she wondered what had inspired this party.

She paused in front of the table. The mound of gifts was impressive. Better than any birthday she remembered. Larger than any Christmas since her childhood. She surveyed the pile and turned back to the room. Her sister gestured for her to start opening packages.

“We know you need to get up early tomorrow,” she said simply.

“You are all so thoughtful and I am overwhelmed,” she paused and then picked up a small box from the front of the table. The paper was familiar. And then she realized there were pictures of luggage and travel related items. She hesitated again. They couldn’t know. How could they know? She had been very careful to cover her tracks and her staff were under strict instructions not to divulge her destination.

Then she opened the box. An adorable set of purple luggage tags with a pawprint theme was nestled in the tissue paper. They were perfect! She smiled widely. Then she looked around the room.

“Thank you very much. How did you know?”

Her sister smiled a secret smile. “We have our sources.”

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.  Mary is on vacation this week, however, she is with us in spirit and provided a laugh for David without knowing it.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Time

Time does not exist. It is an illusion. We are all eternal beings having a temporal experience. Time catches us and folds us in, deluding us into thinking that we will never accomplish all we set out to do. Quantum physics is better at explaining it. And occasionally I have those moments where I am in two bodies, two places and I understand.

She is nothing like me, so when I step into her body, into her life for a moment, I am surprised at how it feels. I wonder where she goes when I am there. Does she know I am there? Does she blank out and later wonder what happened? Does she swap with me somehow and borrow my moments? It is disconcerting to realize the body I inhabit in those moments is not the one to which I am accustomed. She is darker, slim and glamorous, and high maintenance. And yet, we both shop for groceries and travel through airports. I wonder if we have ever encountered each other in person. Did we both step through the same airport in the same moment? Or would that violate some portion of the physics? So I go on, through the illusion of moments thinking about the next point in the space-time continuum where the lines cross and I will step into her again.

Short Story – The Scroll

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a tax collector. A barn plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a library in ancient times. The story is about aging.

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She rambled down the aisles of the library, randomly looking at scrolls and tablets. She wasn’t expected here and the librarians occasionally scowled in her direction. They weren’t fond of women — educated women were considered to be particularly troublesome. And they were even less fond of tax collectors. Since  she was both, she knew they watched her more closely, and with more animosity than any of the other patrons. And since she was no longer young, she could not distract them with her beauty as she once had. She was still striking although her once jet black hair was streaked with silver and soft lines had appeared around her eyes. The advantage from her perspective was that she was no longer intimidated by their glares. She knew they couldn’t hurt her and they could not stop her. In spite of her gender. It was not a great time to be a woman, although with enough money and power one could still exercise some freedom in Alexandria.

The manuscript she sought was old. Older than anyone here and older than the parents or grandparents of anyone here. The author had been dead for centuries, but she remembered seeing the scroll when she had visited with her father. It seemed like a lifetime ago. She was young then and just starting to realize the power of her looks on those around her. Her father was proud to have a daughter so eager to learn and so pretty.  She still missed her father even though he had been gone for more than 10 years.

She dragged her thoughts back to her task. She tried to remember the general area in which he found the scroll. What was the angle to the librarian’s station? How many rows? How many tables? Based on her memory of that day, she calculated that she had to be pretty close, but how would she recognize the document? Just then she noticed one of the librarians moving an armful of scripts quickly out of the room as if he didn’t want to be seen. He seemed to be checking to see if he was being watched so she looked quickly away before he noticed her gaze. After he left the room she furtively moved down the aisle to see where he had gone. She followed at a distance as he went through two other rooms and then down a set of stairs. She crept down the stairs not knowing what was at the bottom and not wanting him to know she was following. Just as she reached the bottom and peeked over the balustrade, he lifted a trap door with one arm and held it until he had stepped into the hole and replaced the door above his head. She knew she didn’t dare follow him down so she looked for a place to hide and waited until he came back out. Once he came up she knew she wouldn’t have a lot of  time to explore the trap door before he returned with another armful, so she moved quickly. Peering down through the trap door she saw more stairs leading to a tunnel and decided to risk it. She descended quickly and ran down the torchlit tunnel as soundlessly as possible until she found another door. Holding her breath, she eased the door open to peek in and saw a chamber with more doors.  Since no one seemed to be around she slipped into the chamber and was approaching the first door when she heard voices behind her. She darted through the door and closed it noiselessly behind her hoping they would not follow her. Luckily they were distracted by their conversation and didn’t notice as she dove behind a partition, when they entered through the same door. She waited while they discussed the movement of the works from the library to these chambers, holding her breath when they gestured at the urns in her direction. She held back a sneeze and then stopped breathing altogether when they paused.

“Did you just hear something?” the younger of the two men asked.

“No. These chambers will make you crazy if you allow your imagination free rein. There are echoes from the stable above us and the grain in the bins will shift suddenly. Just ignore it. There’s no one else here,” replied the elder man.

As the men were silent again and then left taking the torch with them. She waited in the dark as long as she could.  She could hear water dripping and she heard the echoes of the hooves of the animals above. Then she started to feel for the door she had glimpsed on the opposite end of the room. She found the handle and slowly opened the door a crack  – Light! She decided to go through and soon found herself at the foot of a ladder leading to an opening in the ceiling. As she climbed she realized she was climbing into daylight although still inside a building of some sort. She poked her head through the aperture and looked around – seeing only the animals she finished her climb and looked around the barn as she straightened out her clothing and dusted herself off. Then as casually as she could she walked out the door of the barn and into the street. Now that she knew where the tunnels led, she could come back another time and explore the contents.

When she was a block away from the barn she heard the cries and turned with the crowd to face the library. Fire! The library was on fire! People were running from the building screaming. As the realization came to her, she turned and headed for home. She would never see the manuscript now, so she resolved to recreate as much of it as she could from memory.

Many years later as she lay dying she passed what she had recorded to her daughter with the words, “Never grow too old for adventure.”

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With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – The Trader

The story prompt is: The protagonist is female and a trader. A gate plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a barn in the medieval age. The story is about fear.

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She gathered her skirts and picked up her bag to see if everything was still in it. Good! Nothing is missing. She looked around.  She appeared to be in a barn.  She could see the stalls and straw and hear the horses. The structure was made of stone and wood and appeared to be fairly solid. She didn’t feel any draft so the doors must be closed. She made her way cautiously forward. A board creaked and a horse nickered. She paused. Without knowing what she would encounter, she preferred to move slowly. It was still light outside so the barn wasn’t completely dark although there were no lanterns or torches. She could see the barn door ahead and glanced back to the gate through which she had recently gone. There was no one around. Just the horses and perhaps some other livestock at the other end of the barn. The horses were usually kept toward the front since they were taken in and out more frequently.  The cows and swine were toward the back where the door led into the barnyard and out to the pasture. It had been a pleasant spring day, so there would be no need for heat, although the night would undoubtedly be cool. She continued making her way toward the door when suddenly it flew open and a large man stood in the doorway. She ducked behind a horse stall and waited. He moved quickly to the first horse stall and was bringing the horse out when it whinnied. “What’s the matter, Blackie? You seem uneasy.” The horse followed obediently, but kept turning his head toward the rear of the barn. He had tethered the horse at the mounting station and was getting the saddle and bridle when he noticed the horse’s repeated glances behind him. “What’s going on, old boy? You act like you’ve seen a ghost.”

She held her breath. The last thing she wanted was to have him find her there. She had hoped to make a quick exit and make her way along the nearest road to a village. If he found her she might have to go back through the gate to escape and she was not looking forward to that. The gate was problematic. She used them when she had to, but each trip seemed to take something from her that she never regained. And who knew how long she could keep using them until there would be nothing left of her to give. Still, if that was what she had to do, she would do it. The gates had allowed her to keep her freedom and her sanity. Otherwise her father would have had her married to some man – a peasant, a butcher – and tied to one time and place. By using the gates, she avoided her father and controlled her own fate. She would go to the villages and trade her needlework for food and fabric and thread to make shirts. Sometimes she traded for wool that she carded and spun for warmer garments.  Occasionally she traded her sewing and mending skills for a place to sleep. But since she had been using the gates, she hadn’t needed as much sleep, so those stops were rarer. Perhaps that was the toll the gates exacted – her sleep.

He came very close to her location and she prepared to flee, but suddenly he turned and went back to the horse. “I don’t see anything, Blackie, and we’ve got to get done before dark.” He finished saddling the horse then led him out of the barn and closed the door. She waited until she heard the horses hooves fade in the distance and then let herself carefully out of the barn. Then she moved quickly to the road and hurried on her way. Grateful that she wouldn’t have to use the gate again so soon.

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With thanks to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

Story-A-Day Challenge is courtesy of Forward Motion for Writers http://www.fmwriters.com/

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

Voodoo Doll

Last night it happened again. Every nerve in my body fired at a different time and for a different reason. An itch here. A pang there. A cramp. A twinge. A poke. After four hours I swore someone had a voodoo doll of me and just kept poking it and twisting it so there was no way I could get comfortable.

I could blame the invisible aliens like they had in Star Trek Voyager where only 7 of 9 could see them torturing and experimenting on her crew mates.

It may be ghosts or otherworldly beings trying to get my attention. Problem is, I’m much more receptive to them when I get at least halfway toward a sleeping state.

And it always stops at dawn. As soon as the light comes I can sleep easily and then the alarm goes off and I drag my weary self into the day.

Mom says it’s because she worked nights while she was pregnant with me. So I am programmed to be awake at night and sleep during the day.

It doesn’t help. I can be dog tired and still unable to sleep. Some nights even sleeping pills don’t work. And I rotisserize and dream about sleeping.

I wonder what it would be like to sleep undisturbed from night until morning. Actually, lately I wonder what it would be like to just sleep undisturbed for more than two hours.