Friday, July 29, 2011

My Novel Idea Sales Pitch

Well hello there. I know this project is over, but I'm trying to get as much traffic as possible over to my newest project (and no, Castles in the Air didn't work out . . .): I'm going to write six novels in the next year and those lucky people following that new blog will get to read all (or at least excerpts) of them. I will also be posting character sketches, vague outlines and, if I get enough readers, even ask for advice.

For more info, visit that blog (URL above, which probably didn't link, but you can always copy+paste) and/or follow me on Twitter @Hyperbility.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Castles in the Air

Wow, it's April 30th, 2011 - the last day of A Prompt A Day. I am not sure if I honestly thought that I would actually still be writing on this blog on this date. This is the last day of my daily prompt mania (which, in all reality, is a little bit of a relief), but it is not the last day of my blog mania, nor my writing mania. Another blog has already been created in anticipation of the extreme boredom brought on by completion of an enormous task (plus summer). This new blog is currently entitled "Castles in Air" and can be found at I don't know exactly what I will do with it yet, but, as I am flying cross country today and have very little better to do, I suspect that the issue will be remedied quickly. I do know that it will be a writing blog and that it will (hopefully) be a little less impersonal than this blog.

I wish you all the best in all your adventures. See you on the next webpage.

Faster Ride

Prompt: Write three sentences. Last sentence is lyrics from a song.

Source:Modified from WEbook on Facebook. Lyrics from "Faster Ride" by Cartel.

Original Airdate: May 1, 2010 (aka the first day of this project)


You think no one understands you, but I see you. You're nothing more than an adrenaline junkie. You just want to take a faster ride - lower lows, higher highs.

April 29, 2011 - Finals Week: The End

Prompt: Write the last sentence of a story using words of one-syllable only.

Source: (TBA)

Original Airdate: (TBA)


And so they lived with less joy than you were told as a kid for the rest of their lives.

Notes: I can't remember where this prompt comes from/its original airdate, hence the TBAs. I promise to find and modify it as soon as I am no longer inhabiting an airport (aka, tomorrow probably).

April 28, 2011 - Finals Week: The Glass Slipper Incident

Prompt: Write the end of a story which puts a new twist on an old legend.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: July 20, 2010


And, of course, the slipper fit perfectly. But, because the fairy godmother had been hit by a runaway carriage that morning and was still unconscious, it had none of its usual magical reinforcement and broke the instant Cinderella stood.

The Prince fainted at the sight of the blood, leaving Cinderella to clean up the mess.

Note: Though I missed the 28th and 29th, I was extraordinarily busy trying to assign of my belongings a place in a box or suitcase. I've decided not to do penance (my final slack of this project - this is "finals week" after all)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Victory

Prompt: Use this cliché at the end of your story: burn the midnight oil.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: July 22, 2010


"Ready, set . . . Type!" Their fingers flew over their respective keyboards, words thundering across their screens.

She glanced over at his screen as her fingers described the swirl of a lemon-colored ballgown and the kiss of a summer rain. He was lagging behind, stuck on the difficult phrasing of a run-on sentence.

She smiled, slowing her pace to a leisurely consistency. She had very little riding on the exercise. The demonstration was more for her boyfriend's benefit who, without her encouragement, would be burning the midnight oil for a third consecutive night laboring over a 500 word essay.

She paused, mulling over the essence of her scene, wondering if she should add more ambiance. Beside her, he clicked word count and said, "Done - 512."

A little shocked, she checked her own word count. 438. She sighed, deciding that it was all for a good cause, and conceded the victory.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Last Sentence

Prompt: Write the last line to an unwritten novel that's so intriguing that others won't help but want to read the book.


Original Airdate: June 17, 2010


And then it stopped.

April 25, 2011 (+Penance) - Finals Week: Upstairs/The Prop Room

Prompt: Finals Week: Freewrite for five minutes. Begin with an adjective. Then, use something from your freewriting at the end of your piece.


Original Airdate: February 2 and 3, 2011


black dark rusted musty moth-eaten hidden attic crawl spaces cobwebs stroking silvery caressing shivers cold dark new moon ancient wedding dresses hidden away in army-issue trunks large enough to fit a man inside comfortably. perhaps there are men hidden away in those trunks beneath the musty wedding dress from four generations of foppish women. How would anyone ever find them? Why would anyone be sneaking about in the attic looking in trunks like coffins expecting corpses? They're too busy with their coffee beans on the first floor to worry about their dead uncle on the top floor. He's been dead forever anyway, why would they care? What could be more important than getting the children to school and a cup of perfectly brewed joe and the wedding that's coming up with its new dresses and trims and ribbons and so many congratulatory gifts that they wouldn't even fit in one of the trunks upstairs. Maybe the bride will want to wear her grandmother's pearls, though. Or maybe she's looking for something old or something borrowed

Wren crouched in the prop room, her breathing heavy. Around her, dresses hung with unnatural, limp stillness and trunks like coffins loomed out of the walls.

Penance: April 24, 2011 - Finals Week: Being the Sky

Prompt: Write the last words that two people say to each other.

Source: None

Original Airdate: Today


They stood at the edge of the rooftop - just feeling the sun, just feeling the breeze that licked their bodies lasciviously. They stood there for an eternity, the wind turning their fingers cold.

She turned toward him and smiled. Her eyes were the same color as the sky. "I always wondered what it was like to be the sky."

He smiled, about to speak, and then she jumped, clasping his hand so tightly that he stumbled after her. He screamed her name, but she was laughing, and she would not have been able to hear it over the wind anyway.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 24, 2011 - Finals Week: The Door to Somewhere

Prompt: Write the last paragraph of a story entitled The Door to Somewhere.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: Decemeber 25, 2010


Though in her dreams, her fingers had always trembled, they were steady as she inserted the key into the lock and turned it. The resulting clank made her jump slightly; it was deep and metallic. She paused, hands on the splintering wood and cold, austere door handle. Her breath echoed with excitement, reverberating in the chasam created between the door and her body. Then, in a single motion, she yanked the door open, heart pounding. A cloud of dust showered her instantly. When the dust cleared she could see that the doorway had been bricked up so long that the mortar was beginning to disintegrate and that the opening no longer led anywhere.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Finals Week: Following

Prompt: Finish this sentence: "That's what happens when you follow your heart..."


Original Airdate: June 25


That's what happens when you follow your heart for long enough, I guess, hunger sneaks up on you while you're too busy having fun to want food.

Notes: Yesterday was Earth Day . . . and also Ttekcasanna's birthday! Happy Birthday, you.

Oh yeah, and it's Finals Week again (double finals week because this is the last week of Prompt a Day - holy moley, yes?)

Penance: April 22, 2011 - Erasing Voicemails

Prompt: Write about a way of life.

Source: None

Original Airdate: Today


Does it ever get easier to live like this? Erasing voicemails as they come and filling the void in your soul with wet cement so that you won't float anymore. Waking up on a bed that used to be called home. Taking pictures to prove you exist and writing backward so people on the other side of the wall won't have trouble reading.

April 22, 2011 - Salome's Soup

Prompt: Mildly Psychotic


Original Airdate: Penance, October 12


"I can't wake up!" she screamed as her husband combed the tangles from her hair with a hedgehog hide.

"The tulips are in full bloom," he retorted. "Salome has brought you some soup."

She curled up on the staircase as he put the hedgehog hide into Salome's soup and poured it into a bowl for the neighbor's cat.

Penance: April 21, 2011 - Empty

Prompt: Write about a daily occurrence.

Source: None

Original Airdate: Today


For fear of what he might say,
she kept her mouth shut.
No matter how outlandish his words,
no matter how frightening his threats,
she kept her mouth shut.

For fear of what he might do,
she kept her mouth shut.
No matter how far-flung his fists,
no matter how broad his strides,
she kept her mouth shut.

For fear of what she might say,
she kept her mouth shut.
No matter how her blood boiled,
no matter how her hackles raised,
she kept her mouth shut.

For fear of what she might do,
she kept her fist empty.
No matter how she was tempted,
no matter how her fingers longed,
she kept her fist empty.

April 21, 2011 - Summer Love

Prompt: I need you to understand something before I kill you.


Original Airdate: July 24


I need you to understand something before I kill you. I would have pushed you on the rope swing all summer if you had wanted me to. I would kissed you while we were sitting on that fence if you had wanted to. I would have rolled down the neighbor's hill with you if you had wanted me to.

But you never wanted me. I would have loved you, but you wouldn't let me. You still won't let me. But once you're dead, you won't have a choice anymore. It'll all be up to me. And I might just push you on the rope swing all summer or kiss you or roll you down the hill. And you won't be able to say anything.

Penance: April 20, 2011 - The Package

Prompt: Styrofoam


Original Airdate: Today


The package arrived, one corner dented in by travel. The tape was slit at the ends and all down the top of the box with a razor before the package was unveiled. It was full to all the corners but the dented one with a block of white Styrofoam.

When the foam was lifted, it revealed a smooth face, undamaged by the jostling the package had received. Little chunks of Styrofoam rested in the corners of its eyes and protruded from between its bluish lips. With its snow-covering of foam, the face could almost have been sleeping.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011 - Thunderclap Eyes

Prompt: His mood matched the weather; inclement.


Original Airdate: July 23


thunderclap eyes
roiling fingers about to become a hurricane
lightning-quick-bright tongue
lighting the world afire.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

White Freewrite

Prompt: So you pick a place to go, the beach, the roof of a high rise, somewhere that will give you a scenic view-it doesn't have to be a beautiful place. If you don't have a lot of time, I suggest somewhere with a lot of traffic, shopping center, near a freeway . With your mp3 , CD player or whatever device you use , put your head phone or ear piece in and turn on piano music , just piano -no singing . Now , get out of your car , turn it up so you can hardly hear anything else and just look around you slowly take in all that you see. If this place doesn't do something for you, then try one other location and try again.

Source: rdcrclnaslash (Thanks!)

Original Airdate: Today.


Hands holding hands, fingers loose. Raindrops, hitting the pavement like glass shattering as a china figurine is dropped. Short heels with straps and dresses with lacy slips underneath. Lolita. Contrast - pure and defiled. Streets and sidewalks and tiny, china dolls in white. Holding hands and batting their black painted eyelashes at passersby.

Notes: This isn't very long, I know, but I definitely recommend this prompt as a general writing exercise. More could have come out of it, but I decided to freewrite . . . By the by, I also highly recommend Yiruma for your piano enjoyment (in particular: "Kiss the Rain" and "River Flows in You").

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bush Baby

Prompt: "I once dreamed . . ."


Original Airdate: July 18


I once dreamed about a square, white room. In the room there was light, but no bulbs and the windows were all turned away from the sun, their blinds half-drawn. I was not alone in the square, white room and my companion and I were in the midst of a conversation. She was criticizing a girl we both knew, calling her all names but the girl's own. I was trying not to listen. My companion held a bush baby - dark brown and wide-eyed - in her arms. When she criticized so harshly that I cringed, the bush baby hopped out of her embrace and scurried over to me, clinging tightly to my calf. She did not even notice. When I woke up, I could still feel the bush baby wrapped tightly around my leg.

Penance: April 17, 2011 - Angel Down

Prompt: A hell full of angels.

Source: "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Original Airdate: October 30, 2010


My guide led me down a narrow flight of stairs, only just wide enough to allow me passage. Before the room came into view, we were assailed by a scent rising up out of the belly of that place. The odor was of sulfur and burning flesh and other searing things I could not name.

The winding steps eventually widened into the room. My guide walking out into the chamber without hesitation, but I froze at the foot of the stairs, struck motionless at the horrific scene before me.

Fires burned in pits throughout the room, columns of acrid smoke rising from their flames. Magnificent white creatures, with wings as long as I was tall, were chained at intervals along the wall. I stared agog at them for a long time. They could have perhaps been human, but their skin was too pure in color, their eyes too wide, and their bodies too cleanly built - each one towering above the average man and rippling with defined musculature. People threaded between the creatures, using tools to pluck the feathers out of their great wings. The creatures wailed as they were thus stripped. The sounds that poured from their mouths was more beautiful and more painful than any I had heard. It pieced through me, setting my teeth on edge.

Noticing my pause, my guide returned and, placing two uniform lumps of wax in the palm of my hand, blithely explained, "This is where we collect the angel down."

Notes: This is a little bit of a play on the term "eider down" (duck fluff, basically - it's used in down jackets and other such luxuries). This piece is also inspired by Dante's Inferno and Edgar Allan Poe (shocking, right?)

April 17, 2011 - Hands

Prompt: Go to a public place (coffee shop, bus/subway station, library, whatever) during the day and sit down for fifteen minutes with a pen and paper. Watch people as they walk by going about their daily lives. Find a person who looks interesting and, just from watching them, write a paragraph about who they are, what they're doing there, whatever. Be as realistic or wild as you wish, but turn the stranger into a character.

Source: efbq

Original Airdate
: July 3, 2010


Her face was long and plain, made longer and plainer by her copper-highlighted bob that brushed her chin. Her dark eyes were neither engaged nor distant. They were just focused, though not on the speaker.

She glanced down at her folded hands in her lap, turning them this way and that, but not really looking. She had dreamed the night before that she was dancing and singeing to music that she had written. In her dream the music had filled and flowed through her as if her veins themselves were the music staff the notes had been penned on. When she had woken, her sheets had been pulled from the mattress, rumpled by her twisting and turning during the night.

She looked back up at the speaker, seeing her own talentless hands. She could not play any instrument. She could not sing. She could not even read music. She ached, seeing her barren hands in her mind's eye. She could feel the echoes of her dream's music in the bones of her hands and caressing the inside of her eyelids.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


Prompt: M&M Candies "Melt in your mouth, not in your hands." Miller Lite "Tastes great, less filling." Describe yourself (or your writing) in ten words or fewer.


Original Airdate: June 21, 2010


White as a ghost, but not nearly so scary.

Penance: April 15, 2011 - Rope Swings

Prompt: Write an American haiku (a short, three-line poem).

Source: I recently saw something on American haiku.

Original Airdate: Today


Rope swings
in tall trees
tell tales of summer.

April 15, 2011 - The Library

Prompt: In 200 words create your ideal place.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: February 6, 2011


The double doors opened onto an enormous, high-vaulted room. A second floor balcony circled the room, its pillars larger-than-life men with deep-carved musculature and veined arms that seemed to strain as they pressed up against the ceiling. The walls were lined with book shelves in gleaming mahogany that rose out of the hardwood floor into the balcony’s underside. On the balcony, the bookcases were broken by stretches of bare wall between the colonnades, accented by paintings of soft-skinned women in ethereal Renaissance wrappings.

The books, though in precise order, were in various states of use. Many books lay stacked on tables, markers hanging over the edges of their pages. Some of the books were battered; their spines cracked and cover pictures faded. Other books, high on the shelves, looked lonely and unused, their titled spines too pristine. Ignored.

Armchairs clothed in a rich crimson populated the library. The chairs were inviting. They looked formal enough to be respectable, but the tomes balanced on their arms or nestled into their thick cushions kept them from appearing impersonal. Cases containing ancient manuscripts behind spotless glass dotted the main floor, within easy distance of the working chairs and tables, but at enough of a distance that they would not be in danger. Any patron of the library could look up from their studies and see the enormous pillars watching over them, their chiseled backs pushing the ceiling upward to greater heights.

Penance: April 14, 2011 - Daisy

Prompt: Write a week's worth of calendar entries for an unusual character.

Source: None

Original Airdate: Today


Daisy in a fetal position in a corner, jaw slack. Crayons littering the floor around her. She sits on one of her hands, there's a crayon clenched in her fist.

Scrawled on the wall in teal crayon:
Monday - Brunch with the Pope (remember to talk about sea turtles)
Tuesday - Playing the harpsichord at the atrium opening with Lady Violet
Wednesday - Tea with the King, 3:15. Star gazing with the frogs.
Thursday - Braid a daisy chain for the balcony railing. It looks lonely.
Friday - Bathe in Apollo's fountain (you know how he enjoys it)
Saturday - Leave for Patagonia on the 5 o'clock train
Sunday - Wear the white chiffon ballgown with lavender trim to meetings

It has been fifteen minutes since Daisy's last dose.

April 14, 2011 - Key Card

Prompt: Here’s a 90-second drill: List items you can find in a hotel. When the 90 seconds are up, write a story that includes all of the words on your list. Set your story anywhere but near a hotel.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: December 3, 2010

Response: stairs, beds, rooms, doors, elevator, clerk, mailbox, aquarium, cafe, carpet, window, bathroom, luggage, food, key card, lock, room number

George looked up at the sky, balancing his camera carefully in one hand. The gray clouds threatened rain, but the sun was still shining through in places. He fervently hoped that it would not begin to rain - the lighting was far too interesting.

Pulling his knees up, he turned away from the crowds in the park - hoards of sticky children, their parents, and little animals who ran behind to pick up the food the children dropped. Across the street, a cab was pulling up to the curb. The tenant building was depressing at best. George could picture the inside - the tarnished metal mailboxes in the entryway, the battered doors with room numbers hanging on for dear life. And inside, the scratched windows and bathroom tiles, deflated beds and faded carpets. Dismal.

A woman climbed out of the cab, retrieving her luggage. George snapped pictures lazily. She was bedraggled, as if it was raining at the airport even though the park was still dry. Her blond hair was half-dry and it blew into her eyes vindictively as she hefted two suitcases. The cab driver did not even watch as she struggled with the heavy cases. George adjusted his zoom, capturing the moment again and again. Through his lens, he saw a key card fall out of the woman's pocket and flutter to the ground. She did not notice.

George watched her traverse the tenant's stairs and stand in the lobby, waiting for an elevator which was probably broken. George leaned back against the park wall, reviewing his photographs. He watched the key card fall again and, for a moment, he considered crossing the street, walking in the building and giving the card to the lobby clerk, but a raindrop plopped onto his arm, sliding off slowly. And he had to meet his Mark at the aquarium in an hour and he wanted to stop at the cafe first. So he put his camera away and left the park.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Key

Prompt: Write about someone who discovers a key.


Original Airdate: June 15, 2010


She shifted, the chains at her ankles clanking. The sound echoed in the stone corridor. She moved her weight to her right leg. Her left knee throbbed painfully.

Always, she watched the light. There it was, only a couple hundred yards away - a crescent of warm yellow light - shining into the end of the tunnel.

In the first days, she had often looked down, staring at the keyhole in her fetters as if she could unchain herself through her pure determination. But she had quickly learned that the light was her only purpose. There was no escape except through watching the light.

So she was startled when she heard the footsteps behind her, but she did not look toward them. Whatever was coming from the darkness, it could not be as vital as keeping her eyes on the light. It was only when a touch brushed her shoulder that she turned.

A man stood beside her. His eyes were light enough that she could see them even in the corridor's darkness - pale blue.

He walked around her, standing between her and the light. She could see it twinkling behind his back, but his shadow cast her in darkness.

He held out his hand. Cupped in his palm was a key.

She gasped for breath. A way into the light - all she had to do was reach out and take it. His hand was steady, immovable. All she had to do was reach out. She could not move. What if he pulled away?

Penance: April 12, 2011 - Relapse

Prompt: "But when I came back it was more of a relapse."

Source: "The Calendar" by Panic! At the Disco

Original Airdate: Today.


She speaks slowly, as if every word is painful. Her hair has fallen into her face, obscuring most of her features, except for a plain little nose with a little bump on the bridge that suggests it might have been broken once. She twists her left pinkie, as if she could take the digit off. "Everyone was so happy that we got back together, but when I came back it was more of a relapse."

Her back hunches down into the chair, as if she thinks she can fold inward and disappear completely. "I didn't know what to do with myself without him. I couldn't - couldn't get anything done. So I packed up and went back, like I packed up and left."

I can imagine the scene, having listened to this woman so often in our group therapy. I can imagine her anger and determination to leave her brain-dead, junkie boyfriend. I can imagine her dejection. I wonder: if I left Brandon, would I be any different. I can't imagine not relapsing, as she put it, and coming right back to him.

April 12, 2011 - Flarp

Prompt: Practice your dialogue. Write a short story between two characters entirely in dialogue. Make it a bit unusual.


Original Airdate: June 28, 2010


“Woah, that was loud.”

“I had a boyfriend who was really good at that – he could make the best sounds.”

“Your fourth grade boyfriend?”

“Ha. Ha. No.”

“Well, he was Mexican, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah, I guess. Oh, that was a good one.”


“If you press it harder, it will make a better sound.”


“Like this?”

*hysterical laughter*

“No, harder!”

*hysterical laughter*

*gasping for air*

“I can’t believe” -*laughter* - “it can make that noise!”


“Oh, that’s just gross.”

*giggles* “It’s so disgusting.”

“You can blame Sarah, she gave it to me.”

“That girl” - *laughter*

“She’s a genius.”

Notes: This is a sensationalized version of a real-life conversation between two of my roommates about Flarp putty techniques.

Penance: April 11, 2011 - Pain

Prompt: Write and exaggeration of an ailment or illness (cough, fever, asthma).


Original Airdate: Today.


She blinked furiously, scrabbling at her eye. Tears flooded down her cheeks. She cried out.

"What's wrong?" he asked, panicked.

She plucked the object from her eye and held it up to him for his inspection. The eyelash glittered with her tears. "It's nothing," she said.

April 11, 2011 - Shuffle Poem

Prompt: Listen to the radio (or put a music player on shuffle) and write down a few of the lyrics from the first song that you hear. Use these lyrics to jump start ideas for a poem or story.

Source: Song: "Empty With You" by The Used

Original Airdate: June 29, 2010


Sure, I'm sorry.
Do you think I feel sorry?
Forgive me. I'm sorry.

I have sinned.
Haven't wasted anything but time.
Forgive me. I sinned.

Yes, I'm confessing.
Do you need a confession?
Forgive me. I'm confessing.

Sure, I'm guilty.
Haven't lost anything but my mind.
Forgive me. I'm sorry.

Penance: April 10, 2011 - ABC

Prompt: Create a short story that is 26 sentences long, each sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet.

Source: Modified from

Original Airdate: Today.


Alison loves the way the sun slants through her house's window panes. Before she leaves every morning she takes a moment to stare at the sparkling patterns of sunlight on the floor. Curtains in hand, pulled back gently, she loses herself in the warmth.

Devin loves to watch the girl across the street. Every morning she pulls back the curtain and stares at the way the light comes in through her window. Going through data sheets containing data about money he will never see always seems more tolerable when he sees the little, innocent smile on his neighbor's face. However long she stands at the window, curtains in hand, he always wishes she had stood there longer. In the evening he glances across the street as he closes his own curtains, wishing that she would experience a sudden craving for moonlight.

Just before she goes to sleep, Alison looks at her curtains. Keeping her home cool at night is difficult, so she keeps a fan running most night; it kicks up the curtains' edges. Lying back on her bed, Alison sighs and wishes for the sun.

Most nights, Devin only gets a few hours of sleep. No matter how still he lies, his mind rings with data and monotony. Over and over the data sheets of the day parade behind his eyelids.

Pouring her morning coffee, Alison never takes her eyes of her mug. Quaint little roses pattern its porcelain skin in yellows like the sun. Roses adorned the walk of her childhood home and she spent many hours stowed away beneath the rose bushes. Sunlight always seemed drawn to the gentle yellow petals and the child lying beneath them. Through her as of yet unopened curtains, Alison imagines she can see the same sun, though she knows that in her adult years it has changed.

Under his covers, Devin watches the clock so that he can get up in time to watch the neighbor watch the light. Vaguely he remembers once smiling that easily, he envies her the tilt of her lips and the patch of sunlight she claims each morning with a smile. Without so much as an emotion on his face, too old for his age, he spies on her. Youthful dreams dance on his neighbor's lips, driving the data sheets from the night before from his mind.

Notes: I skipped X and Z because those letters have practically no purpose :)

April 10, 2011 - They Once Were Wild

Prompt: Use the following image and title for a piece of flash fiction: They Once Were Wild. (100-110 words)


Original Airdate: June 23, 2010


Madeline stretched the cloth taut in its hoop. She threaded her needle with black thread and a steady hand. Her stitches were quiet, so small they were not visible until several had bunched together, beginning the pattern’s outline. The patterns themselves developed slowly, in aching sluggishness. Madeline’s patterns once were wild creatures that frolicked across the cloth in jovial spirals, she remembered. But their fervor had calmed as the years passed. Flowers of black bloomed across the blank cloth expanse. But when she had finished and sat back to survey her work, the flowers wilted in her hands. They lay lack-luster in their beds of cloth; already dead.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Beyond the Grave

Prompt: Write a story in which a ghost serves as your main character.


Original Airdate: October 7, 2010


She leaned in, tilting her head. The light was dim, but she could still discern Bradley's features where he lay sleeping. One tiny arm was visible above the covers, clutching at the cowboy-patterned quilt.

His eyelids were perfectly smooth, seamless, fringed by long, dark lashes. His hair was getting too long, in desperate need of a cut to prune it out of his eyes. She itched to brush it back from Bradley's forehead.

She leaned in closer; his heat radiated into her, like lazy sunbeams through the window pane in the family room. She smiled, remembering a day when she had come out of the kitchen to find Bradley curled up in a patch of sunlight like a cat. He had smiled as she came in, but otherwise she would not have been able to tell that he was awake.

She ached to see him smile again, but she knew she might have to wait a very long time. He hardly smiled while awake and somehow less when he was sleeping. She had not seen him smile since the funeral though she had only rarely left his side.

Forgetting, she leaned in to press a kiss to Bradley's forehead. Her lips passed through his skin and, though, she could not feel anything except the vague impression of his body heat, she saw him shiver. She retreated hastily.

She folded her hands in her lap. If she there had been tears left in her, she would have cried.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Penny Days

Prompt: Warmth


Original Airdate: August 14, 2010


Meadow stared at the street grate. She could see her penny beneath it there, shining against the concrete, just out of reach.

She blew a curl from her eyes and tugged anxiously at the edge of her yellow jumper, scuffing the toes of her sneakers. She pouted, glaring at the grate.

Her penny winked, as warm as a cookie out of the oven. Meadow thought it would be hot to the touch after sitting in the sun for so long, like her dark hair and ankle socks, if she could only reach it.

She stamped her foot. It had been such a good day.

Penance: April 7, 2010 - Voice Mail

Prompt: Take a generic phrase that is specific to a place (for example: "employees must wash hands before returning to work" in a public restroom) and change its context.

Source: None.

Original Airdate: Today :)


He swings slowly - just physics. He's no longer there to make himself swing. His head tilts and his eyes stare at the wall as he swings. His neck is changing color, his eyes bulge as if surprised.

The note is in his shadow, but the sun is moving and soon it will be readable from anywhere in the room. It is all in block letters that rip the page in places with an emotion that the words do not portray.

"Leave a message after the tone. BEEP."

April 7, 2011 - The Comedy

Prompt: Take someone's final words (be sure to say who) and use them as the first sentence of a 100 word paragraph.

Source: None. Famous last words of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Original Airdate: May 24, 2010


Friends applaud, the comedy is finished. The curtains have been closed, the props put back in their musty shelves. The comedy has done; it is finished. The bows have been taken and the music wearily played. Now begins the tragedy. The stage manager nurses his drink and the dancers hang up their shoes. The actors argue in cigarette-smoke breath and lowered voices. The clowns put on normal-sized shoes and walk home through the sooty snow. Friends applaud, we have finished the comedy.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Man Who Once Slept

Prompt: Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just murdered someone.


Original Airdate: October 23, 2010


He looked out over the lake's still, moonlit surface, touching the intricate balcony rail tenderly. The estate really was grand and beautiful, its property stretching as far as the eye could see.

The man who had slept in the master bedroom had been lucky to own such wealth.

He looked down into the lake's waters, picking out his reflection on the surface, amongst the stars. He looked so calm to himself, so composed. No chance of making a mistake. His reflection smiled and he turned, slipping past the man who had once slept in the master bedroom silently on his way out.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keegan Remix

Prompt: Change the physical appearance of a character you have already created completely and write an introduction to them.

Source: None

Original Airdate: August 25, 2010

Response: A Reintroduction to Keegan of the House of Dawn

The doors swung open. All the maids turned toward the doors and then, just as hurriedly, turned away, many blushing. Lalith watched her brother's approach in the mirror's reflection. Keegan's stride was long, his shoes clicked hollowly on the star-scattered floor tiles.

His eyes were all but invisible beneath his mask, so dark as to make them indistinguishable from his skin - the color of grape juice thick enough to be wine. Their reflections made quite the contrast in the long mirror. When he stood beside her and smiled, and she smiled, their smirks were identical though her teeth shone white as stars and his black as midnight.

Notes: Keegan is a player in the enormous web of my project The Plague Master ( In reality (well, The Plague Master reality) he is just as charming, but pale and dark-eyed, with a pronounced chip on one incisor. Also, please note, that Keegan's black teeth are not nasty - in the PM world, anything can be any color - and Keegan is incredibly attractive.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Five Years

Prompt: Decorated


Original Airdate: August 5, 2010


Hakan looked out over the desolate field. Gangly weeds were growing thigh-high out of the cracked earth. The earth itself was mounded up and broken by enormous rocks.

He sat shakily on one of the gray masses, worn semi-smooth by sun and rain and time. Hakan knew that if he looked far enough he would perhaps catch a glimpse of a small, tired farmhouse, more brown than red, but he did not bother to look.

He looked instead down into the dry earth, the cracks like war trenches. He shuddered, though the sun was warm - too warm, even - on his back. The air, though it was open and sun-touched, smelled of death and gunpowder and screaming.

Hakan's fingers ran over and over the surface of the box he held. It was made of soft leather and it had a nice, sophisticated weight in his palm. He did not look at it, just ran his fingers over and over the neat surface. He knew that it was just like the farmhouse - a thing he would rather not see.

It had been five years since Hakan had sat on that spot, resting in the gracious sun which, at that time, had smelled of life and the earth. It had been five years of war since he had seen that farmhouse, at that time more red than brown.

Looking down at the little trenches that crisscrossed the ground at his feet, Hakan let the leather box fall to the ground. He did not look at the shining trinket that tumbled out of it, holding his hands over his eyes. The trenches at his feet roared with the scent of screams and his medal gleamed like the clean windows of a farmhouse, once more red than brown.

Penance: April 3, 2011 - Sergeant Nelly Maude-Feenarty (Extended Version)

Prompt: Write a scene that incorporates one or more key elements of the Steampunk genre.

Source: Modified from the WeBook Steampunk Writing Challenge (basically they limited the scene to 500 words - this version is twice that)

Original Airdate: The writing challenge began April 3, 2011



Nelly jumped, jabbing her scalp with a hairpin. She swore, letting the strand of dark hair wrapped around her finger fall. She rubbed her scalp gingerly, almost expecting to find blood on her fingers when she drew them away. She was on her thirty-second pin curl and her fingers were beginning to go numb, but she had to finish. The curls needed time to set before they landed in London.

"Staff Sergeant Maude-Feenarty!" The speaker pounded at her door.

The released strand of hair hung limp above Nelly’s right ear. She glared at in her mirror. What a time for her hair to be uncooperative. Nelly sighed and was about to respond when the panicked voice called again, pounding all the harder. "Staff Sergeant!"

"What do you want?" Nelly leaned closer to her mirror, nose almost brushing the polished metal as she attempted to reset the lank curl.

"Ma'm, we're passing another airship."

Nelly succeeded in pinning down the lock of hair and reached for another pin. Her fingers fumbled in the pin box, totally numb and practically useless. She groaned, abandoning the attempt. Nelly turned back to the mirror, tugging discontentedly at the top of her corset. She could swear that the tight bodice made her chest appear lopsided. "One of our own?" she asked.

"Hostile trade ship," Came the instantaneous reply.

Nelly stood abruptly, knocking over her chair and brushing the box of hairpins from the vanity top. She threw open the door. A trembling blond Private stood before her door, fist poised to knock again. "Where?"

The Private pointed down the deck. Only a few meters from them on their port side, the red insignia of an enemy airship loomed. It was close enough that Nelly could hear the whir of its engines, smell its oiled gears and feel the breath of its feverishly running fans washing over her, uncomfortably warm and sooty. The airship was smaller than the HMS Alecto, but the sight of it made Nelly's skin prickle. Looking out, off the quarterdeck, she could see the haze that marked London on the horizon. Enemy trade ships that small only carried one thing: fire bombs.

Nelly swallowed. The vile contraptions had been created by Spanish scientists a few years previously, when the bombs landed it set off a chemical reaction that lit everything within reach on fire. The fire they produced was foul-smelling and a sickly shade of green; the flames were impossible to quench with water or sand and they had been known to continue burning without any fuel. Even a trade ship that small could take out a third of London with a single load of bombs.

"Sergeant Hanway," she barked. Her second in command snapped to attention. His pale eyes were crinkled in his heavily-tanned face, clearly worried, but he was steady, as he always was in combat.

“Yes, ma’m?”

"Shoot those bloody dogs down." Nelly turned to get her rifle. All of her men stood still.

A Private made a muffled noise as if to protest her orders. No doubt he had presumed to remind his commanding officers that their orders were to spill no blood, but he was silenced by Nelly's sharp look. No one had moved.

"What are you waiting for?" Nelly roared, hefting her enormous rifle from its rack. "Snap to it!"

Nelly went to the rail, bracing her over-sized firearm against the deck. She poured ammunition into its mouth, tamping it down angrily. The gun was gigantic, specially made to be shot from the hip, but despite its size, Nelly hefted it easily. Its long barrel was icy even through her gathered skirt, but she knew that after a single round it would blaze hot. The gun was designed to shoot an entire volley before reloading, shot after shot. Biceps flexed taut, Nelly dragged back the lever and let a hail of bullets into the enemy ship.

She could see the men she killed. They scrambled about their own deck, trying to organize and reload their single-shot weapons, until her shot - designed to explode into shrapnel on impact – sent them flying. Nelly bent her knees to keep her balance as a few of the soldiers returned fire and the Alecto rocked.

"They're hitting our belly, Staff, she can't take much more," At her side, Sergeant Hanway cocked two pearl-handled pistols with enormous sights, taking careful aim into the fray on the opposing debt. He fired, with a slight pinging sound, and the skipper of the enemy airship collapsed.

"Stay our course," Nelly ordered. She turned to a passing Private. "Get Flight Charlie out here, now."

Looking terrified to be addressed by his commanding, the boy uttered a "yes, ma'm" and ran down the deck. He stumbled as the ship yawed, grabbing the rail to keep his balance. Nelly let her own rifle fall to the floor and stood, tensed, waiting.

Flight Charlie pounded onto the deck a few moments later, their steps in perfect time despite the desperation of the circumstances. Nelly had conducted their specialized training personally. It was immaculate in every area; Flight Charlie was the pride of Staff Sergeant Maude-Feenarty’s command. Nelly snatched a revolver from one of their hip holsters as the boy passed, joining their line. He stood respectfully at attention.

Nelly aimed with both hands. Though much smaller than her own weapon, the handguns had a kick like a small horse, their rounds a take on the Spanish fire bomb technology. Few ships could survive an assault from Flight Charlie. "On my order," she barked. "Fire!"

The rounds were so large that for an instant, Nelly watched a line of black shot barreling toward the airship. The rounds punctured the airship’s red insignia. A moment after the ship caught flame. The fire was putrid, its flames low-burning and blood red. An alarm sounded on the enemy airship as it collapsed, sinking out of the sky. Breathing heavily, Nelly turned back to her men, expecting to find them celebrating. The two Flight Charlie soldiers nearest her blushed as she turned on them.

Nelly looked down at herself. Her hair was half-up in pin curls, the rest whipping around her face in a dark, sooty mane. She was only wearing her boots, bustled skirt and corset. Containing herself, Nelly drew in a deep, tenuous breath.

"Sergeant Hanway,” she barked. “Get these men back to the barracks. We'll be arriving in London in a few hours and they need to look presentable." She executed a crisp turn and marched down the deck, slamming her door behind her.

April 3, 2011 - The Wind

Prompt: Use a lyric from a song in a poem.

Source: My Creative Writing class. Lyrics from "Every Me, Every You" by Placebo (Italicized).

Original Airdate: February 28, 2011


Last night the wind

Up and blew us out

Far out to sea.

All night we crashed against the cliffs

Up against the black merciless crags.

This morning the wind

Up and breathed its last

All over our bodies.

All morning we lay facedown in the sands

My body’s broken yours is bent
by grit.

Tonight the wind will

Up and blow life in us

Deep in our lung.

All night we will lie still as stones

Until the wind blows us out again.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

In the Beginning

Prompt: Every day the sun comes up and every night it goes down again.


Original Airdate: October 29, 2010


It is the beginning of daytime's final death throes.
It is the moment when the sun burns
-orange as fire-
in the treetops.
It is the moment
-that one still moment-
when songbirds cease their singing.
It is the end of the warms winds and lit rains.
It is the beginning of the melancholy blue hours.
It is the moment when the moon rises
-pale as ice-
in the star-sphere.
It is the moment
-that infinite dark moment-
when mists begin their procreation.
It is the end of the open spaces and red hours.
It is the beginning now
-this moment-
-this tenuous moment-
the beginning of the solemn hours.

It is the end of nighttime's tyrannical reign.
It is the moment when the stars shudder
-tremulous as flames-
in the heavens.
It is the moment
-that last lush moment-
when the insects cease humming.
It is the beginning of the hot sands and day smoke.
It is the end of the luxurious purple hours.
It is the moment when the stars break
-fragile as glass-
in the star-sphere.
It is the moment
-that lingering black moment-
when the mists slink into hiding places.
It is the beginning of the exposed places and yellow hours.
It is the end now
-this moment-
-this fleeting moment-
the end of the solemn hours.

April Weather Forecast - Greatest Hits Month

Wow! This is my last month of A Prompt A Day. April is going to be Greatest Hits Month. I've compiled the prompts that were the most inspiring to me when I first found them (plus two of the prompt suggestions I have received from other WeBookers). Many of them, I was disappointed in my own responses. Others, I just wished I could write several responses to the prompt. And . . . Here they are:

April 2 – Every day the sun comes up and every night it goes down again.

April 3 – Use a lyric from a song in a poem.

April 4 – Decorated.

April 5 – Change the physical appearance of a character you have already created completely and write an introduction to them.

April 6 – Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just murdered someone.

April 7 – Take someone's final words (be sure to say who) and use them as the first sentence of a 100 word paragraph.

April 8 – Warmth

April 9 – Write a story in which a ghost serves as your main character.

April 10 – Use the following image and title for a piece of flash fiction: They Once Were Wild. (100-110 words)

April 11 – Listen to the radio (or put a music player on shuffle) and write down a few of the lyrics from the first song that you hear. Use these lyrics to jump start ideas for a poem or story.

April 12 – Practice your dialogue. Write a short story between two characters entirely in dialogue. Make it a bit unusual. (100-110 words)

April 13 – Write about someone who discovers a key.

April 14 – Here’s a 90-second drill: List items you can find in a hotel. When the 90 seconds are up, write a story that includes all of the words on your list. Set your story anywhere but near a hotel.

April 15 – In 400 words create your ideal place.

April 16 – M&M Candies "Melt in your mouth, not in your hands." Miller Lite "Tastes great, less filling." Describe yourself (or your writing) in ten words or fewer.

April 17 – Go to a public place (coffee shop, bus/subway station, library, whatever) during the day and sit down for fifteen minutes with a pen and paper. Watch people as they walk by going about their daily lives. Find a person who looks interesting and, just from watching them, write a paragraph about who they are, what they're doing there, whatever. Be as realistic or wild as you wish, but turn the stranger into a character.

April 18 – I once dreamed about . . .

April 19 – So you pick a place to go, the beach, the roof of a high rise, somewhere that will give you a scenic view-it doesn't have to be a beautiful place. If you don't have a lot of time, I suggest somewhere with a lot of traffic, shopping center, near a freeway . With your mp3 , cd player or what ever devise you use , put your head phone or ear piece in and turn on piano music , just piano -no singing . Now , get out of your car , turn it up so you can hardly hear anything else and just look around you slowly take in all that you see. If this place doesnt do something for you, then try one other location and try again.

April 20 – His mood matched their weather; inclement.

April 21 – I need you to understand something before I kill you.

April 22 – Mildly Psychotic

April 23 – Finals Week: Finish this sentence: "That's what happens when you follow your heart..."

April 24 – Finals Week: Write the last paragraph of a story entitled The Door to Somewhere.

April 25 – Finals Week: Freewrite for five minutes. Begin with an adjective. Then, use something from your freewriting at the end of your piece.

April 26 – Finals Week: Write the last line to an unwritten novel that's so intriguing that others won't help but want to read the book.

April 27 – Finals Week: Use this cliché at the end of your story: burn the midnight oil

April 28 – Finals Week: Write the end of a story which puts a new twist on an old legend

April 29 – Finals Week: Write the last sentence of a story using words of one-syllable only.

April 30 – Finals Week: Write three sentences. Last sentence is lyrics from a song.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 30 and 31, 2011 - The Trees Crying

The snowflakes floated down slowly, sparkling as they twisted in the light. Crito watched one pass, silent as a feather. It was as large across as her palm, crafted from multi-faceted strands to create an intricate pattern.

She reached out and plucked another of the flakes out of the air. The tiny girl winced at the intense cold of the ice-star, but she did not drop it. Squinting her large amber eyes, she held the snowflake in the flat of her palm, watching it melt into nothingness against her skin.

Crito reached out to grab another and Nathaniel tapped on the glass of the window. His diminutive charge turned toward the sound. When she waved at him with a grin, he could see a blister on the child’s palm where she had left the extreme cold of the snowflake burn her skin.

Frowning, Nathaniel motioned for Crito to come indoors. The snowflakes were getting larger, melting more slowly. Soon there would be a real storm; it was getting dangerous. She turned away from him as though she had not seen, reaching out again for another of the glittering ornaments as it drifted toward the earth.

Nathaniel tugged on his coat and was out of the house in an instant, snatching the girl’s hand before she could catch the snowflake. The blister on her hand from the intense cold of her previous catch was angry red, burned deep into her skin.

“Come inside.”

Crito pulled away from him with the violent indignation of slighted children, but when Nathaniel walked back to the house, his footsteps shattering fallen snowflakes with a noise like breaking glass, she followed.

The storm was coming in quickly. Nathaniel watched it from the kitchen window as he prepared a compress for Crito’s palm. Enormous black clouds plumed across the sky, blocking out the light of the sun. Snowflakes fell steadily, hanging in the air to twist and catch the color of the porch light. Their mosaic surfaces turned a single beam of light into a kaleidoscope of cold color.

Nathaniel closed his eyes for a moment and prayed that the snowflakes would not become heavy enough to cave the roof in. Thus far, the heated roof of the house had kept its inhabitants safe, but the snowflakes were becoming more resilient. Crito had held a single flake in her hand; it had been cold enough to burn her before it even began to melt. And they were larger than any Nathaniel had ever seen – the red tattoo crisscrossed the girl’s entire hand where before a flake could have been balanced on the tip of a single finger.

Crito did not react when Nathaniel put the compress on her wound. She never did react.

Nathaniel frowned as he tended to the fragile child. She was delicate and perhaps the most difficult of his charges; Byrd and Molly were still asleep, but Crito seemed to always be awake. And she had to be under constant supervision.

The little girl had been the first of the three children placed under Nathaniel’s care. She never spoke, though whether by preference or disability no one knew. So she could or would not speak to express her needs, nor scream to call for Nathaniel’s help. Though without being able to ask, there was no way to know the extent of her condition, tests had shown that Crito possessed no tactile sensation. Even when injured, as with the snowflakes, she would continue in an activity, oblivious or, at least, unconcerned with her own injuries.

Crito smiled at Nathaniel. He returned the action, forcing himself to appear happy. He should not have let the child see his worry.

“You’ll be all right,” Nathaniel told her. “It’s just a little burn. You shouldn’t catch the snowflakes anymore – they’re getting dangerous. You could really hurt yourself.”

Crito looked out the window as if she had not heard. Her enormous eyes reflected the twinkling lights of the snowstorm.

Nathaniel pressed his lips together. She had not acknowledged his instruction, but he could not remember a single time when she had done so. Crito was always silent and he had learned that it was usually better to take her silence for assent.

“I’m going to go check on the twins,” he told her softly. “Hold this on your palm for me until I get back, all right?”

Crito stared out at the jeweled flakes pouring from the sky. Nathaniel held in a sigh, stroking her hair for a second before he turned away.

He climbed the stairs slowly, listening for any noises to indicate if the twins were awake. It was late for Molly to still be asleep, but the sky had been overcast for days. It was silent in the hallway of the second floor, where the children’s bedrooms were. He was not surprised to hear nothing when he stood in front of the twin’s door.

The five-year-old boy and his twin sister had come to him only eight months before. Upon first glance it was impossible to see why anyone would not want the twins - they had strawberry blond curls, huge, blushing cheeks, and a habit of twining their index fingers together – yet they had gone through several homes before being placed with Nathaniel. Many of their families had been willing to keep Molly, but no one wanted Byrd.

The boy was smaller than his sister and only spoke in short, illogical sentences which seemed to only make sense to Molly. But the reason so many had give him up was his strange sleeping habits. Byrd was predominately nocturnal. It was rare that he would wake up at all during the day and when he was forced to do so, he clung to his sister and stared accusingly at the people he encountered. Nathaniel had been told that Byrd’s stare was particularly disconcerting because the child had what were called night eyes – they were larger than the average human’s and reflected light like the eyes of other nocturnal animals.

Hearing a suspicious amount of nothing, Nathaniel opened the bedroom door just a crack. The shades were down and the shapes of the furniture loomed in the dark. The room was silent.

“Molly?” Nathaniel’s neck prickled. The beds looked empty. He switched on the light, throwing the empty beds into sharp relief.

“Molly? Byrd?”

“Thaniel,” the voice was Molly’s; distant as though from the upper floor.

Nathaniel raced up the stairs. “Molly? Where are you?”

Coming into the attic space, he saw the tiny figure on the floor next to a window that opened out onto the roof.


Wide-eyed, the child turned toward him. “Thaniel, Byrd’s out-of-doors. And it’s snowing.”

“What? How did he get out there?”

Molly pointed. “He went out to watch the stars.”

Nathaniel blanched. He could just make out a strawberry blond figure on the roof, huddled in a fetal position. He flew to the window.

“Byrd,” he called, unlatching the window to raise it.

The glass pane would not budge. The realization flooded over Nathaniel. In a storm the windows locked themselves, just as the roof heated itself, and for the children’s protection the panes were thick, bulletproof.

The tiny boy raised his head as Nathaniel knelt by the window. Byrd’s unnaturally large eyes stared into Nathaniel’s; his skin was crisscrossed with a thousand snowflake-patterned burns.

“The trees crying,” Byrd’s voice was just discernable through the heavy glass. “They hurting, Thaniel.”

Notes: I know I've been slacking, but here's my flash fiction piece. I've been really off my game, but I fully intend to get back on it. By the by, if you're saying "what the heck, that's an awful way to end it!" I agree completely, but it seemed fitting somehow. I'm a horrible person. If it makes you feel better, you can pretend someone is out in the snow and can save Byrd. Hoping to get the weather forecast up tonight, wish me luck.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Annie Bangs, Part 2

Three Months Before

Davidson saw the body every time he closed his eyes. It had been almost a week, but every time he tried to sleep all he could see was the bloody red of torn flesh contrasting the stark white of bone and green-brown world of the woods. The body had been face-down, but it was obvious from its size that it was just a child.

The third child to be found that way within a mile of the campground. The third child in as many weeks.

Davidson trudged up his porch steps to collapse on the chair there. He ground his knuckles into his eyelids and wished that his father was still alive. Davidson Stonem Sr., more often known as Stonem or Old Stonem, had been arrogant and cranky, not to mention a little crazy, but he had always known what to do.

The Stonem family had owned the campground for generations. Once it had been frontier property, populated by Davidson’s great-greats. It was still wilderness, far out of the way and untouched aside from the cluster of cabins and rusty trailer that marked the spot of the original homestead. It was not much to look at – not much of a place to live in; close enough to a river that mosquitoes were torture in the summer and at a high enough altitude that it was snowed in for a solid three months during the winter. The generator was only kept on for eight hours in every twenty-four, but despite its quaint flaws, Old Stonem had been relentlessly proud of the place.

Old Stonem had protected the property from any and all prospective buyers who might have turned the wilderness area into a place that was actually profitable, convinced that his ancestors would have been ashamed of the world’s obsession with money. As a result, the cabins were out-of-date and rundown, and Davidson Jr. had grown up in a rusty trailer, but the woods were pristine. And though they were never full even to capacity, they had enough campers during the summer and fall to lift them above subsistence.

But Davidson’s mother had left during one particularly mosquito-ridden summer in a cloud of profanity directed at the limited electricity and decimated living conditions. Old Stonem had taken Davidson out of school at the age of thirteen and their entire lives had focused on the campground and the surrounding woods. Though the district had objected to Davidson’s lack of public education, guests had complained about the limited generator use and the sheriff had taken a dislike to Old Stonem and treated every accident on the property as an intentional murder attempt, Old Stonem had always known how to respond.

Davidson was sure that if his father had been there the old geezer would have known just how to keep Sheriff Cheval from shutting down the campground and to keep the guests around despite the trail of deaths in the woods. But Old Stonem was gone and all he had left Davidson was the half-condemned campground, the ancient trailer that had been his childhood home, and a collection of campfire stories colored by the dementia Stonem had suffered during the last few months of his life.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Penance: March 25, 2011 - Mona Lisa Frown

Prompt: Reference a well-known work of art in your piece.

Source: None.


happy cliché,
Mona Lisa,
frown. it's your day.
happy roulette,
Mona Lisa,
frown. too late to stop it.
happy naivety,
Mona Lisa,
frown. he'll never stay.
happy innocence,
Mona Lisa,
frown. bliss is ignorance.
happy infernal,
Mona Lisa,
frown. bliss is eternal.
happy blunder,
Mona Lisa,
frown. bliss is thunder.
happy harlequin,
Mona Lisa,
frown. you're a mannequin.
happy cliché,
Mona Lisa,
frown. it's your day.

Penance: March 24, 2011 - Fever

Prompt: Use a phrase from a song.

Source: None. "U R A Fever" by The Kills.


You are a fever
You are a fever
sinking all into me
raising my blood pressure
through the roof ice bath shakes
and blanketed heat waves.
You are a fever
You are my fever
riddling my bones, dancing on my vocal chords
consuming disease
heartbeat thundering.
You are my fever
We are a fever
so hot my bones will break
and then weld into yours
conjoined, hot burning flesh
the smell will take us over.
We are a fever
You are a fever

Penance: March 23, 2011 - Time Piece

Prompt: Write a four stanza poem using the words scolding, tomatoes, free and onyx and the last word of each stanza.

Source: My creative writing class.


The clock chimes
in ascending scales
that crawl upward in pitch,
screeching and scolding

the time piece's
yowl breaks through
your ears, into your mind, leaving
red, mashed splatters like thrown tomatoes

on the sidewalks
of street performers' homes,
where is practiced the ancient
art of revelry, where life is torn free

of the constraints
laid down, by pieces of time
in their ear-splitting tirades
meted out by pendulums of onyx.

Penance: March 22, 2011 - Thought Bubble

Prompt: Choose a picture of a person and write about what that person was thinking at that moment.

Source: None. Photo from:


Way to go, genius. Cheat on the girl who's supposed to be driving you home. For Pete's sake, how am I even related to someone as stupid as you?

Annie Bangs, Part 1

Davidson woke with a jolt as a slat in the dilapidated porch permanently attached to his trailer creaked ominously. He sat bolt upright and then froze. If she was there, he did not want to startle her; she would disappear back into the night like a ghost. It took him a moment to realize why he could not find the window in the dark. When he realized that the porch light had blown out, Davidson swore under his breath.

Annie was out there. He knew it; he could feel her just a few feet and sheets of metal away. She was sitting in the lawn chair that was almost as old as the porch. Her long, tangled white hair was snarled around her face like a floating death shroud. He could almost see her, but it was too dark.

Davidson reached for the camera that he had kept on his bedside table for months, waiting to capture a moment of Annie’s existence. His sweaty palm slid against the camera’s smooth body.

He swallowed, swinging his legs from under the covers. His throat worked furiously, his heartbeat making the arteries in his neck contract and swell. If he could just get a picture he could prove everything. He could save his entire life from ruin if he could just capture Annie on film; if he could just prove that he was not insane.

The floor groaned as he shuffled toward the window. Beyond the thin glass pane, Davidson could just make out the tree line and the white side of the nearest cabin. The campground was quiet. Though he could not see his clock in the dark, he thought it was probably one or two – the darkest part of the mountain night.

He stumbled slightly over a pair of discarded jeans, the leather belt let threaded through its belt loops jangled. Davidson froze, listening for any noise from the porch. If Annie heard him she would be gone and along with her any chance he had at redemption.

Davidson flicked the switch for the flash on his disposable camera, flinching at the resulting hum and accompanying red light.

He reached the window, his heavy breath making amorphous shapes on the glass. Davidson peered out into the night, squinting, looking for the telltale white hair of his prey.

The lawn chair was empty; its teal and pink plastic slats slouched downward, abandoned. Davidson let a huff of air out of his lungs, his brow knitting. She was gone.

He looked toward the other side of the porch, where the useless blown out bulb would be hanging. He let out a squeak of alarm.

Annie Bangs was staring into his window. Her long, tangled white hair shifted in the breeze, as though it was trying to pull out of her scalp and disappear. Her eyes were enormous in the thin frame of her face. They were dark and feral, staring right into Davidson’s.

Davidson longed to step back, but he told himself that he was safe. The window pane was between them, she could not reach him.

Annie lifted her hand and he flinched backward. The emaciated woman was holding something in her palm. Davidson stared at it, not fully comprehending for a moment. It was dark, but the object’s curvature caught what little light there was. It was a light bulb. The bulb from the porch light.

Davidson looked back into Annie’s face, a chill sliding over his skin. He swallowed sharply; the arteries in his neck worked feverishly.

Annie stared at him. Her skin hung from her bones in fragile folds, allowing the long white lines of her skeleton to catch the light. Her eyes protruded from beneath her brows, wild and electric.

Davidson glanced back down at the light bulb in the woman’s hand. When he looked back into her face, Annie was smiling. Her lips stretched in a grotesque crescent, revealing teeth that even in the dark appeared yellow and corroded.

Davidson felt a bead of sweat trickle down his back. The cheap camera tumbled from his fingers, clattering to the floor of the trailer.

Annie grinned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Two Notes

Note Uno: I have been so lax the last few days and I apologize. I got busy and sick and everything in between. As it's the 21st, I will be moving on to the second writing goal of this month (hopefully with greater success than I had with the first). I am going to outline that story before I begin so I won't post any of the actual story until tomorrow.

Other Note: The upcoming short story is going to be loosely based on the story of Annie Bangs, a legend from the Fish Lake region of Utah. It's a campfire story meant to scare children - she is said to be a wild woman who eats kids basically. I haven't decided yet if I am going to take the story in a lighter direction or a more gruesome one, but, given the cannibalistic content, it may well turn out to be a little mature. Thus, discretion is advised. I'm probably not going to have any graphic description of kid gourmet buffets, but I make no promises.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 14, 15 and 16, 2011 - A Little More


The voice was sharp and angry. The boy turned, searching for its source. It was loud, close, his mother had to be near.

"Constantine," Aspen snapped. "What are you looking at? There's nothing there - she's not there."

Constantine did not respond. He strained to see through the trees and shadows.

"There's nothing there."

"Shh," Constantine caught a glimpse of a partially lit figure only a few feet away. She was much closer than he had expected.

"Come on," she said.

He squinted, trying to bring her into focus. Something looked out of place, misshapen. It must have been the way she was standing, he thought. She must have been hunched over the lantern to keep the breeze from blowing out its flame; that must have been why she looked the wrong shape. And the lantern must have been closed, why else would her outline be so faint against the trees?

"There she is." Constantine did not bother to point. He just pulled on Aspen's arm.

She staggered, surprised by his movement. "Where? I don't see her."

Constantine did not know why his throat felt tight, why his skin was prickling. He tugged again, pulling his companion behind him. "I can see her. Just come on."

Notes: I'm sorry! I keep putting this off until way too late. The reason there was no update yesterday (or the day before) was because my internet decided to be uncooperative and I couldn't see the work I had already done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 8-13, 2011 - More

They never gained on her; she was always ahead of them. No matter how fast they stumbled, she somehow moved faster. She did not even seem to have to take steps. Her movements were smooth and even, as though she were a mist floating close to the earth.

Constantine squinted. He had lost track of her countless times, the lightly lit figure blending into the surrounding motif of trees. He had panicked each time, his heartbeat racing as he searched the trees ahead, but when he had felt as though he might have lost her for good he had caught a glimpse of her ahead.

Aspen fell, wrenching Constantine's shoulder. He yanked at her. She whimpered.

"Come on, we're going to lose her," Constantine fixed his eyes on the distant figure of his mother.

"I can't," Aspen snapped. She might have been seriously injured, but she would not cry, she would use anger instead. She would try to make Constantine weaker and herself stronger. "I don't see her anyway."

"She's right there, but if you don't get up, we'll get lost." Constantine retorted.

Aspen glared silently up at him until he took his eyes off his mother's retreating figure to look down at her. Her jaw was clenched and, though it was dark, Constantine could feel the blaze of Aspen's gray eyes.

"We're already lost," she settled back on her heels, relinquishing her grip on his hand. "We're just getting more lost."

"My mom is right there," Constantine gestured in the direction he had last seen the figure, though he did not turn, afraid that he would no longer be able to see her. He was certain that she would no longer be there.

"She is not lost."

"She's not there - I can't see her."

"Would you honestly rather sit her to wait for -" he paused, unwilling to bring up the bats. It would only remind Aspen that Jana was missing. It would only recall the creeping weight of the winged hoard. He shuddered. "A bear or something."

Aspen's silence told Constantine that she was remembering Jana and that she resented Constantine for leading her out into the woods. She stood deliberately, staring at him. Aspen grasped his hand, clenching it tightly. She was definitely angry, but Constantine was gratified to realize that she was also frightened of the dark, endless woods.

Biting his lip, certain she would no longer be there, Constantine turned back to the woods in search of his mother. The light of the moon was faint, brushing the ground in sparse, pale blue patches through the trees. Everywhere that the light did not touch was black as coal. Constantine could not make out the shapes of individual trees, much less any figure beneath them.

Aspen's silence became condemning as it lengthened. Constantine strained his eyes in the darkness, but he could see nothing. The soft rustling of the trees and undergrowth became deafening and his skin prickled at the noise. He swallowed convulsively, surveying the empty woods. He had lost her; she was gone.

Constantine could tell Aspen was resisting the urge to speak, to berate him.

Notes: As embarrassing as this is, this is it. I've been busy and I was gone for a couple days so I'm not going to do penance. I promise to try harder.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Penance: March 6, 2011 - Metaphors

Prompt: Complete the following metaphors: a)Pale as ______, pale as _______. b) Reading the late Henry James is like ____________. c) I'm stroking the prow of the boat as if it were __________. d) The backyard trees breathed like _________. e) . . . a glass of water lives in your grasp like _________. f) I was born mute as __________.

Source: Writing Poems by Michelle Boisseau, Robert Wallace and Randell Mann


a)Pale as exposed earthworms, pale as appendicitis

b) Reading the late Henry James is like holding dryer lint still on your tongue - fighting not to swallow

c) I'm stroking the prow of the boat as if it were the vast bare expanse of the mantle in my parents' home

d) The backyard trees breathed like a pair of lounge pants - 100% Egyptian cotton

e) . . . the glass of water lives in your grasp like a cursor on a blank page

f) I was born mute as a pearl eraser.

Notes: I did warn that basically all my penance prompts would be poetry, right? Good.

Penance: March 5, 2011 - Lobotomy

Prompt: Write about a medical procedure.

Source: None

Response: Lobotomy

it's slow going
the slippery work
of hook and
nose and
brain matter
it's delicate maneuvering
the tug of doctor and
tribesman and
politician and
to wheedle
the frontal lobe
down through
the tiny channel
of mucus nasal cavity
into the crater of
the brain-catching-bowl
and then
it's gentle settling
the squelching wheeze
of brain in
bowl in
professional hands.

Penance: March 4, 2011 - Identity

Prompt: Use a phrase you heard in casual conversation in a poem.

Source: None. Phrase: "Part of the problem is that you're human.Not by choice, you're just born that way." - My Philosophy professor

Response: Identity

Part of the problem
is that
you're human.
Not by choice
you're just born that way.
And, by being so very human,
you're subject
to both vice and viceroy.
The rest of the problem
is inherent
in you.
It's in the
nature and nurture and
chemical makeup of your every molecule.
It's the determinism
of your ice cream
and the penchant
you have for
pecan pie.
The problem is your
inborn tendency for alcoholism
and your talent for abstract reasoning.
The problem is you.

Penance: March 3, 2011 - Chronic

Prompt: Write about a physical sensation without naming the actual sensation (ex: itchy, goosebumps, etc).

Source: None

Response: Chronic

bone-squealing hard
sparks flying
vicious tearing
churning and snapping
stabbing deep
shock waves
inescapable sharp
convulsive. Never-ending.

Penance: March 2, 2011 - The Fish

Prompt: Write a poem about a dead fish. Flesh it out with carefully chosen details.

Source: Writing Poems by Michelle Boisseau, Robert Wallace and Randall Mann

Response: The Fish

It was dead when they found it
ungloved hands clammy
with the sticky
black plastic
trash bag plastic stickiness.
It was just laying dead there
filmy eyes rusted over
with dead and stinky
rot of dead
things - dead fish stink.
They stopped dead when they saw it
mouths all open
with the just-
jaw work but no talking.
It lay dead while they talked about it
touched it gingerly
with the squeamish
wriggling of girls
throwing it back squeamishly.
It floated in the water, dead, while they told me about it
they giggled
and squirmed
like half-dead fish
the story in retrospect making their skin squirm.

March 2-7, 2011 - Chapter Two (Part 1)

Constantine's skin crawled. He could hear the sounds of the woods all around him. The trees creaked, their leaves rustling and crackling together. Creatures moved, snuffling and shuffling through the undergrowth.

Something creaked above him and Constantine whipped his head up expecting to find himself in the midst of another swarm of bats. The moon was a sliver above him. The top edges of the trees danced beneath the fingernail of light, but he did not see any other shapes in the dark sky.

Constantine looked down at Aspen. His fingers were clenched in the cloth of her dress, catching a few strands of hair. He was sure he was pulling, but his fists remained closed. She was still, her breathing had evened, but if he let go of her for even a moment she could bolt into the woods. There was no way to tell if she was really asleep, though her breathing was so quiet he could hardly hear it over the noise of the dark woods. It was more easily marked by the faint change in the shape of her shoulders when she sucked a breath in.

A twig snapped and Constantine whirled, almost losing his grip on Aspen. His legs tingled, numb from being kept in the same position for too long.

He opened his mouth to call out and demand if someone was there, but no sound came out. He was trembling.

"Constantine, what are you doing out here still? It is late."

Constantine stared into the woods. The voice was intimately familiar. "Mom?"

"Of course, silly. Come on, let's go home." Her voice was soft and gentle. It reminded him of a day when he had fallen out of a tree and come home crying. She had settled him in her lap, dismissing the nurse, and spoken to him in just that tone until he had been able to stop crying.

He looked into the trees. The voice could have come from any direction. He could not distinguish anything specific.

"Mom?" he called again. Constantine was ashamed of the way his voice peaked, as if he were a terrified child.

Aspen stirred; she really had been asleep. She batted away Constantine's hands. "You're pulling my hair."

Constantine ignored her, dumping her out of his lap unceremoniously to stand. His knees wobbled. He searched the woods with his eyes but he could not see her. Surely she had brought a lantern?

"What are you doing?" Aspen was on her feet, hands on her hips. Her hair stood on end in places and she did not look pleased about how she had been awakened.

Constantine hushed her.

"Constantine, let's go." His mother sounded impatient, her voice sharp.

Looking into the woods, Constantine could faintly make out a figure.

"Come on, child."

Constantine walked toward the figure. She was not lit very well, but perhaps she had kept the lantern mostly closed.

"What are you doing?" Aspen grabbed his arm. "We can just go into the woods, it's the middle of the night - we'll get lost."

Constantine glared at her. "My mother's right there, clot-pole. We won't get lost."

"Your mom?" Aspen surveyed the surrounding trees. "Where?"

He gestured at the figure. "Right there, can't you see her?"

The figure in the trees shimmered as if it was moving farther away. Constantine had to squint to see it clearly.


"Constantine," his mother called. She sounded angry. He could hear footsteps receding away from them.

"Coming," he called, trying to tug Aspen with him.

She dug in her heels. "Who are you talking to?"

"My mom - didn't you hear her? I don't think she's happy we've run off."

Aspen's gray eyes were grave. Constantine could just make them out in the girl's face. Her mouth was invisible in the half-light, but he was sure she was frowning. "I don't see anyone."

"She's right there," he pointed again. The figure was nearly invisible, but when it called out to him again its voice was loud and commanding.


"Come on, we have to follow her,"

"I didn't hear anything," Aspen protested. Her fingers dug into his arm.

"She's right there - we have to follow her,"

"I don't see her," Aspen's voice was high-pitched. "I'm not going out into the woods just because you think you see someone - I don't hear anything."

Constantine jerked out of her grasp. "If you want to stay lost in the woods, do it. I'm going to follow my mom."

He strode out of the clearing in the direction he had seen the figure. He resisted the urge to turn and see if Aspen had followed him. After a moment he heard tentative footsteps behind him. Constantine let out a sigh. He had been worried about leaving Aspen by herself in the woods.

His mother was hardly visible beneath the shadow of the trees. She was moving quickly.

"Mom," he called. "Wait, I can't keep up."

She did not slow. Constantine tripped over a fallen branch, stumbling forward to catch his balance. Aspen bumped into him. She grabbed his arm; her fingernails dug into him, even through the cloth of his shirt sleeves. "I still don't see her," she whispered. She sounded terrified.

"Well, just follow me." Constantine forced himself to sound confident. "I can see her."

Constantine tried not to run. He did not want to look lost or out of control. Aspen stumbled over every shrub that they passed, slowing him down anyway. The figure of his mother faded in and out of his sight. She did not turn back to him or speak to him.

They gasped for collective breath. They seemed to be going nowhere, the trees all looked the same and, in the moonlight, every bush seemed a formidable foe. Constantine found himself supporting Aspen as they struggled to keep up. Was the house really so far away? Constantine could not remember. Perhaps they had wandered much farther than they had intended.

Notes: This is extremely embarassing, but yes, this is all I have. That's why I gave myself 20 days. I have yet to find my path through this story . . . Looks like I'll need the full 20 days.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Penance: March 1, 2011 - A Walk in February

Prompt: Write a three stanza poem. The first stanza must end with the word "block", the second with "Tulane" and the third with "February".

Source: We did this on the first in my creative writing class.

Response: A Walk in February

Masochistic pinstripes drip
down his legs, leaving sprinkles
of masochism all down the block.

A little child might come lick
up, lap up, the stripey streaks
that speckle the sidewalks near Tulane.

The pinstripes melt masochistically
down his legs in rivulets -
the laving rivers, too hot for February.

Notes: Because my creative writing class just moved into our poetry section, my penance prompts will probably all be poems.

March 1, 2011 - Chapter One

The corridor was quiet - a heavy kind of quiet that made the hardwood floor out of the candlelight's reach seem to gleam with malice and the walls to loom closer, leaning in. Constantine could see the light from the sitting room coming from downstairs and hear the cordial laughter of bored, but socially obligated, adults conversing. A spot of hot wax dripped onto his hand and he gripped the candle tighter, biting his lip.

Aspen had wanted to use a candlestick. He had called her stupid and said that the old nurse left to baby-sit them would be sure to notice a piece of silver missing when she woke up from her nap. He would never admit that he had since come to the conclusion that undamaged hands would have been well-worth the risk of being discovered.


The boy whirled on his companions and hissed for them to be quiet. Aspen raised her eyebrows and frowned, folding her arms across her chest, but little Jana - who had spoken - looked terrified.

"We can talk when we get outside," he explained in a whisper.

Aspen looked angry - her brow was knit and her glassy gray eyes seemed to bore into Constantine. He knew she was probably still sore over the candlestick spat - there was no doubt that she had noticed the trail of melted wax they were leaving. She was probably glad of the wax splattered on his hands too. She always did get ruffled and vindictive when he played the age card.

It was not as if their ages were too far distant - his birthday was only two months before hers - but he was older and had always used that fact as much to his advantage as possible.

The stairs made muted creaking protests as the trio clambered down them, pausing with bated breath every time the wood let out a particularly loud groan. Halfway down, Jana stumbled and Constantine glared at Aspen, hissing at her to "control her idiot brother."

Aspen hissed back in her brother’s defense. Constantine told her to shut her mouth and keep quiet. Jana looked as though he was about to cry or wet himself. Or both. Looking at the trembling boy, Constantine swore to himself that he would never let the cowardly child come along with them again – he was far too great a nuisance.

The children crept past the parlor where their parents were chatting over tea. The butler standing in the doorway noted the misshapen shifting shadows of the impish three and inclined his head slightly in response to little master Constantine’s stern look. He would not reveal their secret – at least not until after tea. He saw no reason for the children to remain cooped up in the dreary house as their parents wanted them too. And considering the young master’s track record with mischief while under confinement when he was in the company of little lady Aspen, the butler could not imagine what Constantine’s parents were thinking leaving them alone together.

The door swung open silently on well-oiled hinges and the children dashed out of the house and down the back steps, exalting in what they considered to be a brilliant and narrow escape.

The yard was inhabited by thick shadows, the sun sinking low below the woody horizon. Constantine held the candle up triumphantly. “Ha, made it.”

He looked down on his companions. Jana still looked about to cry. Constantine thought him much too sissy to be considered a real boy.

“What should we do now?” he queried, speaking only to Aspen – a companion perhaps worthy of his notice.

“How should I know?” she tossed back, rather irritated by his behavior. She could see from his eyes and body language that he was ignoring her little brother, an unforgivable offense even for her longtime friend. “You said we would explore the woods. Unless you are afraid? It is almost night now. It will be dark soon.”

Constantine stiffened; offended that she would dare question his mettle – she who had witnessed his bravery on so many occasions. “I only thought you might have changed your mind because precious Jana looks about to soil himself in fear.” He taunted.

Aspen bristled, but before she could retort, Jana responded. His large, grey eyes, so like his sister’s, looked at the older boy so admiringly. “I want to go in the woods. I am not afraid.”

Constantine raised his eyebrows. “You hear, Aspen? Perhaps your brother is a boy after all – perhaps you have not entirely corrupted him.”

“He never said he was afraid of the woods,” she responded. “You only assumed he was – perhaps you were looking for an excuse to go back inside to the safety of your Nurse’s arms?”

Constantine scoffed. “I have no need for that hag; you must be desperate to resort to such ridiculous claims.”

Aspen did not return his taunt. She knew that she had hit a nerve and that he was embarrassed to even still have a governess. She did not need to press the subject to triumph over him – she had already won. Instead, she turned toward the woods. “The woods await, then, little lord.”

He brushed past her, hackles raised in indignation. Aspen could not help but smile, Constantine was far too easy to tease. He believed himself in perfect control, but she knew exactly what to say to push him off his throne. His shoulders – grown broad the last few years – were set in a stiff line as he walked away from her, but she knew he would forget the slight soon enough. His ego was nothing if not self-repairing.

Jana followed close at Constantine’s heels, subconsciously mirroring the older boy’s gait and straight shoulders. Aspen almost laughed. For a boy of hardly nine, the walk was absurd. She followed at a distance, content to watch her reckless, heady friend and approval-hungry brother in their incongruous waltz.

The woods were already far darker than the sky, but the children did not seem to notice. Constantine soon turned back to his companions, his expression cheerful and pink-cheeked in the cold and candlelight, to challenge them to a race. Though it was almost too dark to see, the candle was set aside to flicker on its own, and the children ran free of the constraint of its light.

The candle burned low and the children’s laughter began to echo eerily in the woods – black as night. They were not too far away. Aspen had been more cautious than the boys, certain to keep the light within her sight. She glanced back at it as she noticed Jana begin to peek into the looming trees, his eyes frightened though he would never say so.

“We should find the candle, Constantine.”

The older boy nodded. She knew he would never admit it, but he was getting cold and bored and perhaps even scared. She could tell from the wideness of his eyes and the goose bumps on his arms. Constantine was ready to go home, though he would never have been the one to bring it up.

The candle was really not too far away. They walked quickly toward it though, their backs to the open, sinister woods. The noises of the night had begun in the woods – the creaking of the wind-blown boughs and the rustling of unidentified creatures. Far off, a wolf howled and all the children started – laughing a little at their own fear.

Though Aspen had been leading the way, it was Constantine who reached the candle first – bounding ahead of his companions to seize the candle. He was trembling, Aspen noticed.

He turned back to them with a nonchalant smile. “Beat you.”

Aspen rolled her eyes. Jana looked stricken – as though it had been a race from the beginning and he had been too slow to notice, as though he had to be mortified by Constantine “beating” him. Aspen sighed. Constantine was so easily able to torture her brother, sometimes without even knowing he was doing it.

They could almost see the house through the trees – it was just far enough away that they could not make it out, but close enough that they were certain it was “just ahead”. At first, they were too focused on their own conversation – on finding the house – that they did not hear the sound.

The rustling of wings swept through the woods, mixed with the squeaking cries of the bats. Aspen noticed first, looking around for the source of the noise.

A flood of winged creatures suddenly engulfed them, pouring out of the trees. Jana screamed and Aspen cried out to him. Constantine was not sure if he cried out or not – he could not hear himself above the shrieking bats.

They fluttered around them in a moving, pulsing torrent. Their fine-tooth mouths cried in their faces, their clawed wings beat against them, closing them in. Aspen could not breathe – she could not find Jana; she could not find Constantine – and the bats were crawling over her, writhing against her skin in convulsive creeping motions that made her shudder. Some had landed on her, latching their claws into her clothing and climbing on her.

Constantine was crouched close to the ground, claustrophobia overtaking him. It was even darker inside the flood of bats than it had been in the forest – closed in, a shrinking space. His breathing was ragged and it echoed off of the flying bodies.

Then as quickly as they came, the bats were gone. It was deathly still – the candle was out and the sun had set fully, leaving the world in a state of bated silence.

“Jana?” Aspen called, her panicked voice piecing the silence.

“Aspen?” The anguished voice that answered was not her brother. The two children groped their way toward each other.

Aspen found herself embracing a shaking Constantine. His fingers bit into her skin. They were breathing hard.

“Where’s Jana?” Aspen asked.

Constantine shook his head, composing himself and changing the tone of the embrace, painting himself the comforter. “I do not hear him.”

“Jana!” Aspen broke away from her friend, feeling around in the dark. She was afraid to find a prone little body – unconscious or hurt or simply terrified. Where was he?


“Aspen!” Constantine grabbed at her. He knew they would get lost if they were separated. He might never find her again. He might lose her.

“Jana!” Aspen’s screams turned into sobs. She could not find him. She could not hear him. Jana was gone.

Constantine caught up to her and wrapped her in his arms – not only to comfort her, but to try and confine her. His eyes had adjusted a little. He could tell Jana was no longer anywhere near them. The boy really was gone.

Constantine could see the snuffed out candle laying on the ground several feet away – a patch of white on the dark ground. He had a flint in his pocket to light it. He ached for the extra light to drive away the shadows, but he was afraid to let go of Aspen; afraid that she might bolt back into the woods in search of her brother.

He inched toward it, pulling Aspen with him. She resisted. “No, we cannot go back without him!”

Constantine let her go for a moment and snatched up the candle – warring with his fears. Was it worse to lose Aspen or to be trapped in the dark? He tangled with her, managing to light the candle without letting her completely go. She did not try to go into the woods, but that fact did not assuage his fear. Her eyes were glazed – she stared into the trees, expressionless.

He felt calmer as the candle spread its glow around them; he felt more in control. “We should go back.”

Aspen’s eyes turned wild and she clawed at him, trying to pull away. “No! We have to find Jana!”

“We have to tell our parents,” Constantine argued, pulling her in the direction of the house. “They can help us find him. We will get lost if we stay out here alone.”

“No, we cannot go back without Jana! We cannot leave him alone in the dark.” Aspen scrabbled at him like a trapped animal.

Constantine struggled to hold her, to keep her from running. He finally sat down, dragging her with him. He clenched his arms around her until she stopped struggling.

“We can look for Jana in the morning. We will only get lost.”

Aspen did not look at him, but he felt her stiffen. “I would not even leave you in the dark,” she spat. “I will not leave him alone.”

Constantine bit his lip and held her tighter. There was no way he could drag her back to the house with her like this. No one would hear him if he screamed for help. Constantine held Aspen close, watching the candle burn lower and the melted wax drip down while the wood’s shadows crept closer.

Notes: This has been written for a while, but I had to start somewhere.