Tag Archive | hope

Short Story – Winter

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a collector. A cat plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about loneliness.

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Grigor shivered and closed the pod. He could have sworn he’d heard something. And yet, when he opened the pod to look, he saw nothing but driving snow and layers of ice. As always. Or at least ever since he’d landed on this godforsaken outpost.

He thought back to the fatal day his pod had been ejected from the starship. His crime had been considered so heinous, so horrible,  that his punishment was banishment far from civilization. Altarean society considered the death penalty to be cruel and also too lenient. They wanted criminals to reflect on their misdeeds. And so he would have plenty of time and space to think, they had chosen this uninhabited locale so that Grigor could not damage other citizens.

“Damage” – Ha! That was their word. Grigor was taken from his family and friends and deposited here. They had allowed him to take his beloved recordings and books with him. He could read and he could write, although he could not communicate with anyone. They dropped food and supply shipments regularly. They never asked him what he wanted and they did not tell him when to expect it. The pod was equipped with a state-of-the-art communication system. but Grigor was forbidden to use it, and they did not choose to use it.

There! He heard the noise again. It was louder. He wrapped himself against the cold in his ice suit, grabbed an electron lantern, and opened the pod door again. He stepped out into the swirling ice and snow. And he heard it. A cry. He turned and closed the pod door behind him and headed toward the sound. He waded through the drifts. The sound seemed to be coming from the direction of his supply drops. He struggled over a larger ice rift, tripped and rolled. When he righted himself he noticed he had dropped the lantern. He walked over to retrieve it and found it firmly wedged under a rocky ledge. Cursing, he tugged and pulled to no avail. It would be more difficult to get back to the pod without the lantern.

Then he heard the cry again and forgot the lantern. He slogged toward the sound. He stumbled over the supply shipment. Cursing again he maneuvered around the shipment and kept moving toward the sound. It seemed to be coming from underneath the pile of containers. He started digging out the containers and stacking them to the side. He’d have to move them into the pod later.

He moved another container and heard a loud screech. He quickly picked it all the way up and set it aside. There in the snow he could barely make out a small, dark, furry ball . He reached down a hand to pick it up.  It shrank back in between the other containers.

“Now, now…” His voice cracked and the fur ball hissed.

“I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve uttered anything but expletives. Although that doesn’t mean I wish you harm.” He spoke in soothing tones.

He reached in again, more slowly, continuing to murmur.

“Come here little one. You won’t survive long out here.”

The fur ball finally let him pick her up.  She mewed pitifully and shivered. He opened his ice suit to put her in next to his heart for warmth. Then he noticed her leg.

“You’re hurt! Oh precious little one, I’m so sorry. That container must have been heavy. I should have come sooner.” He tucked her safely into his suit and closed it again. He could feel her shiver once more and then start to purr as she warmed up.

Grigor made his way slowly back to the pod.

The wind didn’t seem quite so cold any more.

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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.

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Short Story – The Nursery

Story prompt:   The story’s protagonist is female and not human. An hourglass plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a nursery in ancient times. The story is about loneliness.

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The wailing could be heard from the street. Distressed cries from a dozen infants and small children filled the air. Serena drifted among them, immune to the din. The nursemaids scurried and shushed as best they could only to have another child set the whole crew off .

The hourglass on the shelf marked off the time for the nurses. They shared turning it when the last grains of sand slid through. Reminding each other when feeding time was due.

Serena looked into the eyes of the child in the crib closest to her. As the child gazed into Serena’s eyes, he started whimpering.

The nursemaids scrambled to quiet him before he triggered the whole nursery. Again.

Serena moved on. The next child reacted exactly as the last eight had and burst into tears quickly. The nurses hurried over to him.

Serena reached the tenth child, a little girl, and looked into her eyes.

She expected the child to close her eyes to cry as the others had.

The usual time on the hourglass elapsed yet the child remained transfixed. They continued to gaze into each other’s eyes.

The sand ran through the hourglass at its usual rate. Serena waited. Staring into the child’s eyes.

The child stared back.

Finally, Serena stopped staring and looked. Really looked. Into the child’s eyes.

She saw it. A sadness to match her own. Profound melancholy. So deep the child did not scream or fuss.

Serena was entranced by a set of eyes that looked into hers reflecting what she felt.

“What is your name?” Serena broke the spell.

“They call me Mariana.”

“But what is your name?”

“The name they gave me is Mariana.”

“And who are you?”

“I am Iris.”

“Hello, Iris. I am Serena.”

One of the nursemaids paused at the crib. Seeing the child staring, the nurse looked briefly for the object of the child’s stare. Seeing nothing, she moved quickly to another whimpering tot.

The sand flowed through the hourglass. One of the nurses turned it over.  It began again.

Serena and Iris continued their silent conversation.

“Would you like to come with me, Iris?”

“Could we leave this place?”

“Yes.”

“Will we be together?”

“Yes.”

“I will never be lonely again?”

“We will always have each other.”

The sand ran out of the hourglass, Too late.  A nurse noticed the crumpled body in Mariana’s crib and came over to check on her.

*******

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.

Birthday Celebration Philosophy

I recently celebrated my birthday. The wishes trickle in both before and after the actual date, with apologies for not being on the actual date. So I remind them, when I turned 50, I got 3 months to celebrate. A quarter of a year for half a century seems reasonable. And when I turn 80, I intend to celebrate every day. If anyone lives to be 80 (although I might have to up it if everyone starts living that long), then every day is a new chance. We are already on borrowed time, so why not enjoy it?

I’m planning to go into new restaurants and tell the young staff I am celebrating my birthday. I am even considering buying or making a party hat to sit on my gray head to emphasize the point. And they will smile and ask me how old I am, and I will tell them “I am 80 years old.” And they will coo over me as if I am their grandmother.

I will eat dessert first and then if I am still hungry I will order appetizers. Tasty little bites of this and that. Whatever strikes my fancy. And then perhaps another dessert. I will ask the young server ever so coyly if they do anything to celebrate birthdays. And if they bring me a cupcake with a candle or a scoop of ice cream, I will giggle in appreciation and gobble it down and maybe even lick the plate. And if they offer me a free drink, I’ll slurp it noisily. They will not know I choose to portray myself as an old fool for their amusement. Meanwhile, I will be entertaining myself with free goodies at every opportunity. Everybody wins!

Short Story – Luisa

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a toymaker. A sceptre plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in ancient times. The story is about trust.

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Giorgio set his bag down at his feet and looked over the parapet at the water. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief. The sun was still climbing, so he took his time, enjoying the breeze off the water.

“Excuse me, Signore.” He turned at the tap on his shoulder to find a young girl dressed in a simple frock  with an apron and wooden shoes. A scarf covered her hair.

“How can I assist you, signorina?”

Per favore, Signore, my mama is sick. I am to bring back the lemons to help her get well, but il mercante will not sell them to me. He calls me ragazza and tells me to go away. But you look kind. Will you please help me?”

What is your name, my dear?”

“Luisa, Signore. Luisa Cantone. I have the money here.” She shows him the piastras enclosed in her apron pocket.

“And where do you live with your mama, Luisa?”

“Via Veneta, Signore.”

“Very well, Luisa. Let’s go see Signor Mercante and see if we can get the lemons for your mama.” He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder and took her hand.

As they walked, she chatted happily about her family and the many babbinos at home. Luisa was the oldest and responsible for the others. When they reached the vendor, she pointed him out.

Giorgio approached the vendor, inquired about the lemons. He chose carefully,  sniffing each one and giving it a gentle squeeze.  He made the purchase on Luisa’s behalf then he turned and handed her the lemons.

Grazie, Signore! My mother will be so happy.”  Luisa ran for home.

Smiling, Giorgio turned toward the bridge. Thud! He felt the blow on the back of his head and lost consciousness.

When he awoke with a throbbing head, the sun was low in the sky and his purse was gone. His nose and mouth were full of dirt. His bag was inside out and the contents were strewn on the ground. There were pieces everywhere. With a heavy heart he knelt to gather them. Everything appeared to be unbroken. He breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, Signore!” Luisa reappeared at his side.  “Are you hurt? I am so sorry.”

Giorgio stood and examined her distraught face. “Why should you be sorry, Luisa?”

“I should never have left you, Signore. Then you would have been safe.”

“But you needed to get the lemons to your mother…”

“She could have waited until I saw you safely back to the bridge. The market is not a good place for strangers. I am sorry, Signore. You helped me and I left you. It is all my fault.”  She hung her head.

“Now, now, Luisa. Please help me pick up the rest of my things and you can show me back to the bridge.”

“Oh si, si, of course, Signore. I will help you.” Luisa dropped to her knees and began to gather the contents of his bag.

Signore?”

“Yes, Luisa?”

‘What are all these things?”

“What do they look like to you, Luisa?”

She picked up a miniature cabinet and tiny belt and held them toward him.

“They look like toys, Signore.”

“Yes, Luisa. I am a toymaker.”

She continued to pick up furniture and clothing, balls and puppets. She marveled at a small doll in a green velvet dress.

“She is very beautiful, Signore.”

Si, she is very beautiful, Luisa. And she is even more beautiful with her crown,” he placed a tiny jeweled crown on the doll’s head. “And her scepter.” He placed a golden scepter in the doll’s little hand.

“Oh, Signore! She is marvelous to behold. How did you make her so perfectly? Look! She is smiling since you gave her back her things.” She turned to Giorgio in wonder.

“Shh! That is a secret.”

“But Signore, she was not smiling before and now she is. You must be a marvelous toymaker indeed.”

Si, si, Luisa. She is happy now, but it is not because of her things. If you promise not to tell, I will share her secret.”

“Si, si, Signore. I will not tell.” And then her face fell. “No. Do not tell me, Signore. I do not deserve to know. ”  She put her head down and sobbed.

“There, there, Luisa. Don’t cry.” He patted her shoulder.

“But Signore. I let you get hurt.” She sobbed harder.

“Luisa, it is mostly my pride that is hurt now.”

“But your money,” she wailed

“I have my toys. They are my treasure and my livelihood. Please, Luisa. Calm yourself.”

She continued to sniffle. He held out the tiny doll. Luisa wiped her nose on her sleeve. Her jaw dropped in wonder.

Signore, she is crying.”

“She is crying because you are crying.”

Luisa wiped her eyes and took the doll. “You are right, she is not crying any more.” And as her smile grew so did the doll’s until both were grinning from ear to ear.

“She is yours, Luisa. But…”

Luisa remained entranced by the doll’s reflection of her mood.

“But you must promise you will never lie again.”

Shocked, Luisa looked up from the doll’s face.

“If you do, she will tell on you and everyone will know.”

Luisa nodded soberly and the tiny version of Luisa in the green velvet dress with the crown and the sceptre smiled.

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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 – Honestly

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and an inventor. A towel plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a kitchen in the present. The story is about honesty.

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Jeff fanned the steam away from the boiling pot with a blue kitchen towel and then realized he could have turned on the fan. So he did. As the vapor was drawn away, he looked into the pot to see how his dinner was faring. Then realizing his glasses were fogged up, he activated the mini-wipers. Two quick swipes and they were clear again, so he peered into the pot.

Chicken chow mein, frozen in a plastic bag that was prepared by placing the plastic bag in boiling water (AKA boil-in-bag) was his favorite quick meal since he was a child. In his mind, boil-in-bag dinners were the greatest invention even although they were much harder to find these days. He bought them by the case from the Piggly Wiggly® website. He had a very large storage freezer that was way too much for one person – unless that person liked to store five cases of frozen chicken chow mein boil-in-bag dinners. He also had a case of beef stew and one of sweet and sour pork for variety’s sake. Jeff didn’t like to waste a lot of time thinking about what he was going to eat.

Jeff liked to boil his dinners because he didn’t trust the microwave. He had fried several when he forgot and put an aluminum TV dinner tray or a fork in and turned it on. The sparks were amazing, if a little scary. Microwave ovens were not designed to operate under those conditions and most would quit in protest. Since he could not seem to remember not to put metal utensils in them, he gave up after the fifth one turned in its resignation.

Just as the little egg-shaped timer dinged to let him know his dinner was done, the doorbell rang. Startled, Jeff paused to turn off the burner and the fan. Then he put the blue towel back on his shoulder and headed for the front door. He paused to look through the peephole and seeing a pretty young woman, unlocked and opened the door.

“Yes?” he asked her, hoping she would get to the point so he could go back and eat his dinner.

“Hi? My name’s Amber and I live across the hall?” she replied. She had a habit of raising her voice at the end of her sentences so they sounded like questions.

“What do you want?” Jeff responded.

“Well, I was really hoping I could have a chance to talk to you?” again raising her voice and inching her way into his living room.

“And my dinner is getting cold, so please explain what you want quickly,” as he fell back startled at her bold move.

“We-e-l-l-l, I am new in town and I was hoping I could find somebody to show me around?” as she moved now quickly from the living room to the kitchen.

“As I explained, I am busy. Please state your business or come back at another time.”

“You mean you won’t take me out to dinner?” she pouted standing in his kitchen.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Guys always take me out to dinner? You could take me out to dinner?” she purred as she started to pull the blue towel slowly off his shoulder with her fingers.

“No, I could not. I have dinner plans.” He grabbed the towel away from her and stepped back.

She sauntered over to the stove, peered into the slightly steaming pot and grabbed a corner of the plastic bag, pulled it up, dangling it over the pot. “This” she pointed at the bag, “is not ‘dinner’ and it is definitely not ‘plans’.”

Swiftly he grabbed the bag out of her right hand with his left and dropped it back in the pot which he grabbed with his right and spun away from her. He set the pot down again and adjusting his glasses on his nose, he looked down at her. “This is MY dinner plans. Your dinner plans are an entirely different matter and you should leave me alone and go take care of them.”

Undeterred, she started to inch closer to him again, giving her best pretty girl pout. “But I’m hungry and I don’t know anyone?”

“Th-th-that is not m-m-my pro-pro-problem.” He was startled by his disobedient tongue and then realized she was rubbing herself against him. Knowing that he would not be able to speak clearly until he was again at a safe distance, he shrugged himself away, stepped around the table, quickly placed a kitchen chair directly in front of himself and kept his hands on its back.

Amber climbed up on the chair one knee at a time and started to reach for the towel again, running her fingers up his arm to play with it. She smiled.

He snatched the towel out of her fingers and stepped away from the chair. “Young lady, I am not taking you to dinner. If you are truly as hungry as you say, I am willing to prepare another meal like mine for you to eat. Otherwise, you should go bother someone else.”

Sensing she would not get any further tonight. She pouted and then stepped off and pulled the chair up so she was seated at the table. “Okay? I would like dinner, please?”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jeff threw the towel back over his left shoulder and went to the freezer. “Chicken chow mein, beef stew or sweet and sour pork?”

*******

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 – Dreams

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a scholar. A computer plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bathhouse in the future. The story is about dreams.

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Zanter trudged down the street, feeling the weight of the day. The dirt and noise of the city were heavy on his spirit. It seemed to take forever until finally he reached an ancient building and mounted the few stairs to the front portal.

Zanter glided through the opening and greeted the owner briefly before proceeding to the changing area, where he divested himself of clothing and put his belongings into a small pod anchored to the wall. Then he padded barefoot down a narrow passage to the center of the building. As he passed through the ultrasonic shower and into the bathing area, he was awed anew at the sight. The space was glorious and ancient with high pillars, soaring ceilings and sculptures and frescoes of merpeople and sealife. The ceiling could be opened to the stars by a series of louvered panels.

He had once asked about the history of the building and was told that it had been a bathhouse for thousands of years. It was originally built over natural hot springs to take advantage of the minerals and warmth they exuded. The current owner was descended from the last several owners, each taking over in turn. Some things had changed. There were no longer religious rituals required of the bathers. There were showers and saunas in chambers off the large central pool. Computers controlled all the portals, pods, and louvered panels. The processes for regulating the temperature, monitoring bacterial and mineral levels, and filtering and recycling the water were now automated. And yet, the concept of the place remained the same – healing and renewal.

As he slipped into the pool, the humidity and warmth began to work their magic on him. His sinuses and pores opened, his muscles relaxed, and he felt his spirit lift. Given the ubiquitous nature of pools and bathhouses like this one, Zanter thought, “Perhaps we were once sea creatures after all. And the water takes us home.”

As he floated in the water, he closed his eyes, letting his thoughts drift. He reminded himself he did not come here just to wash dirt and sweat from his body. Simple cleansing could be accomplished in the privacy of his domicile. Here he could swim and float and when he left, he would feel completely different than he did after bathing at home.

He had been drifting for awhile with his eyes closed, and when he opened them he was surprised to find that the pool was dark. He stood up in the water and looked around. He listened carefully for the splash or low conversation from other bathers and heard nothing but lapping water in the pool, splashing water from the shower chamber. He spoke quietly, knowing the water would carry the sound, “Hello? Is anyone else here?”

No one answered. He lowered himself back into the water. Briefly he felt panic begin to rise. “What if he was alone in the building? What if he was locked in? What if he could not get out? Where was the owner?”

And then he felt the pull of the water, warmly, gently caressing him, urging him to relax. He succumbed to the motion and started floating again. This time with his eyes open. He allowed the thoughts to tumble and spill away again. As he looked up at the ceiling he noticed that the panels had been retracted and he could see the night sky above with its myriad stars. The view fascinated him and pulled his musings further into the ancient questions that have ever tugged at human minds. The questions of philosophers and religious scholars like him. “Who am I really? How did I get here? Is there something or someone out there that made this world I see? Why?”

And as he pondered these things, he felt himself expand, absorbing everything in his path, until the whole city, the whole continent, then the whole planet were inside him. He continued to move outward, taking in everything until his awareness encompassed all he could imagine. He felt the water surround him and envelop him. And he was water, indistinguishable from everything else. Absorbing it all, encircling it all. He was enjoying the feeling. So incredible. So beautiful…

Then as if a drain had been unplugged he started swirling rapidly, growing smaller and pulling back down to his body that had seemed so far away. He ebbed like the tide away from the shore and too quickly found himself back to his normal state. So small. So insignificant.

Vaguely he heard a voice nearby and opened his eyes. He was in the pool at the bath house. The lights were on. He sat up out of the water. Across the pool two bathers were engaged in low conversation. He must have been dreaming…

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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.