Tag Archive | loss

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.

*******

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…

*******

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 Gardener

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a gardener. A story plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a bedroom in ancient times. The story is about movement.

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After it was over, he picked up the pieces of statuary that had fallen, and moved them to a storage shed. He surveyed the damage to the fountains. The largest one was leaking, so he turned the water off and added it to the list of repairs needed. As he passed the ruins of the house, he thought he heard a sound. The house was not his responsibility, still, he had no way of knowing who was left to take care of things. And the sound was small. Like a child. He could not just pass by. So he followed the sound. Up onto the great patio. More smashed statuary and another fountain with chipped cherubs. Past the doors to the great hall that allowed the large parties to flow out into the gardens. The doors were now gaping wide as they did when the great hall was filled with dancers and musicians and food. Only there were no guests, no orchestra.

He paused and then followed the sound along the southern wall until he came to the balustrade that separated the large formal gardens from the private terraces. He worked his way back down to the main garden along the stairs and then back up to the house at the first private patio. The sound lured him on and he found a set of doors that opened onto the terrace. They were broken and stood open with the curtains billowing in the breeze. He paused a moment and then pushed back the curtains and stepped through the doorway.

He had never spent much time in the house, although he wasn’t surprised to find himself in a large bedroom. The house was designed so that all the rooms opened onto a garden. Even the library opened out into an outdoor reading room with little benches and shaded hammocks that called a reader to idle away the hours with a good book.

The bedroom was part of a suite and massive.  Nearly equal in size to the great hall. Ah – this would be the master’s quarters then. Or the mistress’ -she had always liked and commanded a larger space… And the sound was closer now. A whimpering. He started to search the overturned furniture and disarrayed hangings and draperies and tapestries, pulling them aside and peering behind. And finally, he found her. She was curled into a small ball, hiding under the cushions, behind the draperies surrounding the bed. He recognized the youngest daughter, who was called “Mina” by all. She continued to sob softly, her face buried in the silken bedclothes unaware of his presence. Gently, he knelt beside her like he would for the rabbits and deer and swans that populated the garden. Quietly he began to speak to her, reaching out to stroke her hair ever so softly. She was too forlorn to be startled and continued to whimper even as he gathered her into his arms. She smelled of the outdoors and childish sweat and faintly of the soap her mother used to bathe her. Her clothes were rumpled and slightly dirty. He checked her limbs to be sure none were broken. There was no blood on the bedding or pillows where she had lain, only the tear stains from her crying.

“Ssss, quiet now… are you hurt?”

Mina wailed.

He patted her back and held her and waited for her tears to subside again. He sat down on the bed cuddling her and rocking. And then he saw her mother across the room, shattered under an enormous pillar. He pulled Mina tighter to his chest covering her eyes.

“Ssss, quiet now… would you like to hear a story?”

Mina subdued somewhat replied “Thirsty.”

“Certainly, you are. We shall do something to address your thirst presently. For now, I would like to offer you a story, if you wish.”

Mina nodded and he began. “Once upon a time…” as he gently carried her from the room.

*******

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.

A Tribute to Thomas

It must be the season of loss… So many of our loved ones seem to die in the spring time. My father in March 2010. Delilah April 2010.  Jezebel May 2011. Penny March 2013.

We lost our “baby” in March 2012.  A beautiful black and white tuxedo with soft velvet fur, named Thomas after the main character in The Aristocats – “Abraham Delacey Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, O’Malley the Alley Cat.”  We were presented with his mother, Lucy, while she was pregnant, so we were there for Thomas’ birth and held him within moments of his arrival. And we held him until his departure.

Thomas was huge by cat standards – bigger than many small dogs, with a laid-back attitude. He was talkative and affectionate. His favorite perch was the raised portion of the kitchen counter that served as his dining area. From that point he could easily reach out with one large paw to grab a passerby and pull them in for a good nose-licking. Because we held him so much and so often, we could do almost anything to him – clip his claws, rub his belly, put in eye drops, give him medicine. He tolerated everything. As you can see in the photo below, he had panda paws – white paws with black pads that were so cute, we were always messing with them.

Thomas_06Nov2010

Samson, our yellow lab mix, was always around, so Thomas had no fear of him. When he was old enough, he often played with Samson, wrestling on the floor. And Samson was delighted to have a playmate.

Thomas loved to lie down and stretch out in the middle of the floor. He wasn’t worried about being stepped on. He was too big and obvious – we always knew where he was.

At bedtime he stretched out full length along my or my husband’s chest, purring. There was no mistaking that kind of weight on top of you.

In a house with pets, you never do anything alone. There is no point in closing the door, because they will either open it or nag until you open it. Thomas had an unusual trick for anyone using the toilet. While they were seated, with their pants around their lower legs, Thomas would crawl in and make a nest between their ankles, purring loudly. Many times I simply abandoned my trousers when I was done and retrieved them later once he had moved on.

Thomas and his mother, Lucy, remained close throughout their lives although he was easily more than twice her size. They also sparred and one time Lucy nearly killed Thomas when she got a claw deep into his side. I came home late on a Friday night  to find him hot and listless on the downstairs couch. Luckily our veterinarian office had emergency services. We took him to the vet and Thomas got a bolus of subcutaneous fluid and an injection of antibiotics. Within a couple days he was himself again, although it took a bit longer for the huge cyst in his side to go away. We started trimming Lucy’s claws more regularly.

Thomas and Lucy_13Mar2011

As of April 2012, Lucy is still with us, although occasionally we still hear her searching for her son, Thomas. And we understand, because we miss him, too.

Crash

I crashed this week. Fibro flare. Precipitated by the death of my 13.5 year old, 80 lb yellow lab, Penny of Perpetual Motion. I barely got out of bed. Everything hurt. My hair hurt. And most of all, my soul was hurting. I finally went back to work today for 4 hours and my office mate barely spoke to me. I must have offended her in some way and I didn’t have the energy to ask her about it or to deal with it.

Today, I called the vet to help my mom’s ancient three-legged Siamese leave this world. I was horrified to find he was still alive last night and hadn’t eaten in three days and she had twice asked someone else to take him out for burial only to be told “He’s still breathing.”

Mickey was her last mental/emotional barrier to leaving her home. She felt no one would adopt him. Even though I’ve already promised her that my hubby and I will take all three of her cats if something happens. At any rate, it wasn’t right that Mickey should suffer. I told her last night that she should give him permission to go and that if he was still alive in the morning she needed to call the vet. I called the vet. I didn’t give her an option. And I asked the vet to meet me at Mom’s at 2:15 after I got off work.  The vet asked me if there was any possibility she would be saving the cat. I told her I was pretty sure he was too far gone. He hadn’t moved in four days and he’d had nothing to eat or drink in three days.

I called Mom on my way to her house and told her the vet was on the way. She was still in bed so I told her she had half an hour before the vet got there to get her act together. Mom acquiesced and was up and in the living room by the time I got there. The vet called to ask if we still needed her and I told her that Mom said he was still breathing earlier. So she headed in our direction. And I went out to check on Mickey. When I touched him he was hard as a rock so I knew he was gone. When the vet got there, she said “Let’s make sure.” She picked him up and he was stiff as a brick. She said “I’m good, but I’m not that good.” Meaning there was no help she could give him. She got out a heavy duty body bag and I moved him outside where the snowy landscape would keep him until someone could bury him.

I know what she’s lost. I had so much pain from losing Penny I couldn’t cope. Yes, I know she’s in a better place where she can chase the ball again. And I miss her. As one of my friend’s put it, “I can’t even imagine trying to fill that big hole.” Penny was a very big presence in my life, as Mickey was in my mom’s life. Farewell faithful friends!

Penny and Thomas_12Sep2008

Short Story – The Map of Family Honor

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a surveyor. An eye plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a council chamber in the medieval age. The story is about family.

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Ivan cleared his throat and waited. The man across the room continued to read through the large scroll in front of him. Ivan’s knees were getting stiff and his back was starting to ache from standing still.And he knew there was nothing else he could do but wait.

After nearly an hour, the man turned to Ivan and nodded once. Ivan stepped forward and presented the scroll he had been holding. The man accepted it and then unrolled it. Glancing through the contents he harrumphed and then quickly rerolled it loosely and handed it back to Ivan and went back to reading.

My lord, what shall I do?

Go.

Go where, my lord?

Do you know what that scroll represents?

Yes, my lord.

Then go.

But the council needs to review it, my lord.

I represent the council.

My lord?

I have reviewed it.

Begging your pardon, how does that resolve the problem, my lord?

It does not resolve it.

With no disrespect, my lord, my family can not continue under this cloud of ignomy.

Why not?

My lord, it is imperative that we earn our living honestly and without recrimination.

Why should that be so?

We have always been able to make our way without harming others and it is a matter of honor to us that we continue doing so, my lord.

And if I tell you that you must leave?

I dare not leave until this issue is resolved and our good name cleared, my lord.

I am a busy man, I don’t have time for petty squabbles.

My lord, the land granted by the king and the honor of family are not small matters.

They are unremarkable if I say so.

My lord, I am hopeful that you will change your consideration.

And why should I?

Because this map also affects the border of your estate, my lord.

What???

Perhaps you would like to review the map again, my lord?

Give it here!

Gladly, my lord.

The man behind the desk snatched the scroll from Ivan’s hands and smoothed it out on his desk.
After several moments he gasped and looked up.

You have told the truth. My God in heaven, how could this be?

My lord, perhaps you are familiar with Lord Mandraker?

Of course, of course… go on…

Then, my lord, you may also be aware of the accident that befell him some months ago?

Yes, what of it?

He lost an eye, my lord.

And? Will you get to the object of this reference?

Yes, my lord. It is well known that Lord Mandraker’s remaining eye was not his good one.

Must I pull every detail from your lips one by one?

No, my lord. I did not wish to presume upon your good nature nor to speak ill of Lord Mandraker.

Then why bring up his name?

My lord, if you would please observe the signature on the corner of the map.

My God!  The signet is that of Lord Mandraker, himself!

Yes, my lord. And the date.

Why, it is only 3 months ago.

Exactly, my lord.

Well that does change the nature of this discussion. Now, go.

My lord?

Can you challenge Lord Mandraker openly?

No, my lord.

Then leave me to my thoughts and trust that I will handle it appropriately. As you know, the council meets tonight. I will present this issue before the council for discussion. And as you know, I must tread carefully so that we can resolve the boundaries without loss of face for Lord Mandraker.

Yes, my lord. I will take my leave of you now.

Godspeed!

*******

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 – Divided

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a fortune-teller. A sword plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a swamp in the future. The story is about hatred.

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Esmelda lifted her skirts and stepped across another wet area. The swamp was dark and getting darker. If only she’d refused to tell that couple their future. If only when the card came up she had  palmed it. If only she had lied to them about its meaning. If only… if only…

But that wasn’t the way it went. She was too forthright, too honest… like the card…. although apparently not as astute as the card itself or she wouldn’t be in this mess now.

Shit! She swore as she sank into a mud puddle and lost her shoe. She knelt down and snatched the muddy slipper back from the ooze that was trying to absorb it whole. Then she took off the other one and put both shoes in her bag. It was easier to proceed barefoot.  She could feel more with her toes and avoid sliding into the worst slime as she continued through the swamp.

When she finally saw the light glimmer through the vines and trees, she sighed. Thank Goddess! She was almost there. She started to move forward and felt something slither from under her step so she quickly retracted her foot. No sense getting careless now that she’d almost reached her goal. She needed to proceed cautiously. Swamps were notorious for sinkholes and quicksand and creatures best left to their own devices. Another shuffle of movement off to her left and again she held her breath and her pose, waiting. Something big lumbered away and she breathed again. Moving tentatively so she could retract each step if needed. She slowly swayed forward one carefully placed foot at a time. Lifting her skirts as needed to avoid the slimier things and the burrs that would snare them.

Finally she stood on a clear spot of dry land a short distance from the small cabin. As she struggled to make her breathing more even, she planned her entrance. This situation wasn’t going to be easy to explain, although luckily she knew the cabin’s inhabitant very well and could anticipate which answers would cause the most consternation. And as she collected her thoughts she went back to the day that started this whole nightmare.

It was almost a year ago now. The young couple had come to her seeking advice as lovers often did. And as many before them had been, they were from families locked in ancient tribal feuds with each other. Their love had crossed the biggest boundary and now they wanted to be together permanently. And yet the animosity between their families made both of them afraid to tell even their closest friends. No one knew they had come to her. No one knew they were together at that moment consulting her. She had taken out the cards as usual to assess the situation. She had laid them carefully on the small table in front of her. Most of the cards were predictable, the Hanging Man, portent of change, didn’t worry her. None of the figures indicated a major barrier until the very last card. The Queen. And not just any queen. The Queen of Swords. She could have been salvation itself except for one small problem — she was reversed.

True to her calling, Esmelda had advised the young couple to wait. Things were not as they appeared and the time for change was not yet. The Queen of Swords was clear and astute and forthright. All admirable qualities.  Except that when turned on her head, she was vengeful and dangerous. She told of hidden things and dishonest dealings.

The young woman recognizing the card’s import had gasped in horror and thrown an accusatory look at her beloved. “How could you?!” she cried as she fled out the door. The young man, shocked at the young woman’s outburst and rapid departure, had reacted badly. He had grown angry; and Esmelda watched the murderous rage rise. She had urged him to caution and he had cast her aside and stomped out the door.

Because of her ability to sense his thoughts she knew she would have to act quickly to avert a major disaster and possibly another reason for the two families to continue their feuding. So she cast the spells her grandmother taught her and ran out the door after the young man. She had no idea how long it would take but she needed to stop him.

It had taken much more work than she had anticipated. She quickly reached the young man and bound his anger away. She regretted the amnesia she forced on him (and subsequently the young woman, as well), but it was necessary.  The two families were centuries deep in curses and retribution. She had spent months just unwinding the threads and ropes to pave the path so that the couple might find their way back to each other. She had to be careful as she worked that she didn’t undo the fibers that would bring them together and she had strengthened the bonds that would ultimately tie them.

Now she had to go forward to the beginning. She tapped on the door of the cabin and heard a chair scrape back and a rush of movement as the cabin’s occupants greeted her at the door. They were not surprised – the dog didn’t bark and the cat remained on her perch in plain sight. Even the bird continued to sing prettily in his cage. The woman who answered the door did not even blink as she invited Esmelda in. Noting her bare feet she brought over a basin of water and a warm clean towel after Esmelda was seated. Then she produced a steaming pot of tea and poured a mug for Esmelda.

So, the work is done then?

Yes, it is complete.

Then we are ready for reunification?

Yes.

Good! I have everything in readiness.

All right, please proceed.

A short while later a young couple arrived at the cabin door. They were obviously deeply in love and seeking her advice as young lovers often did. And in her usual fashion, Esmelda laid out the cards on the small table in front of her. The Hanging Man appeared again. Ten of cups. Five of pentacles. Two of wands. And there she was. The Queen Swords. Only this time, she was standing on her feet.

Esmelda breathed a sigh of relief and the couple turned to each other with joyful expressions.

*******

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.