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 As a result, the cabins were out-of-date and rundown, and Davidson Jr.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.

March Weather Forecast

March is going to be something like NaNoWriMo. I've decided to call it HyShoStoMo (Hyperbole's Short Story Month). The first story is going to be a novella (10,000-20,000 words)which I owe my best friend (it was her birthday present last year). Basic synopsis: the story is called The Bats, it is about three kids lost in the woods, it is action-adventure and it involves bats. The first 20 days of March will be dedicated to getting as far in that story as possible. The next 9 days will be dedicated to finishing the next story (3,000-5,000 words). Right now that story is between a story based on the legend of Annie Bangs, wild-woman, and a story I have not thought of yet. The remaining two days will focus on a long-for-flash-fiction flash fiction story (like 900-1,200 words), which I have not yet decided on either.

Penance: February 28, 2011 - Meditations on a Rotting Banana Peel

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

Source: We just did this in my creative writing class.

Response: Meditations on a Rotting Banana Peel

Almost black
like the pavement it's rotting on
the banana peel
reposes in its own decay
Almost reminding
you of what it's like to be
a real person
basking in your own aliveness
Almost real
like when you lose yourself in
all the romance
it bites you
* back


Almost gone
like the worn shoes you're wearing
the real person
reposes in their own decay

*Lyrics from "Emily" by Absent Elk

February 28, 2011 - the slaves of Apollyon

Prompt: Tether (verb)

Source: WeBook's 911 Writer's Block Tool


That mister Apollyon
he no good
he take he slaves
down to the whippin' post
an' he tether them
he strap them
he stripe them
he mark them up good.

That mister Apollyon
an' he no good sons
they take they whips
on down they slave's backs
an' they tan them
they cut them
they slash them
they don' stop 'til they marked up good.

You best beware mister Apollyon
fo' if you no good
he take you fo' he slave
he take you down to the whippin' post
an' he tether you
he strap you
he stripe you
he mark you up good.

Notes: As you probably can guess, the grammar in this poem is intentional. I just finished reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker, my American History class just covered Frederick Douglas, my choir class is performing an arrangement of a spiritual, and this format just seemed fitting. Also, in case you didn't know, Apollyon is the Greek word for "destroyer" and it is also used in Revelation to refer to Satan.