The Beginning (Fiction)

10-3 trees

Evelyn pushed herself up onto her elbows and looked from left to right. Nothing. She spotted an old wooden sign in the distance, erected in another era, no doubt. Squinting against the harsh sunlight, she dragged herself in that direction. For some reason, her legs wouldn’t move and the dead weight made progress slow. She didn’t know how long it took, but the sun had dropped to about three finger widths from the horizon by the time she approached reading distance.

Unbelievable.

Nothing.

The sign had no writing. No clues. Just two arrows pointing in opposite directions. Absolutely nothing to reveal where she’d landed after dropping through the portal. Surrounded by lush greenery, she knew she wasn’t in Phoenix anymore. In exhaustion, her arms gave out and she crumpled to the ground.

“Eve?”

She turned her head toward the nude man running toward her and then averted her gaze.

“His promise is true!”

She surveyed her own body. Her Fila T-shirt and Adidas yoga pants were gone. Absent socks and New Balance running shoes revealed her poorly-manicured toenails. Never before had she wished for a bra, but in her nakedness, she would’ve been grateful for one. “Let me guess… Adam?”

He smiled. “Of course, my love.”

She scanned the horizon. “Okay, so it’s day six. Where are the trees? Flowers? Forbidden fruit? I wonder if it really tasted that good.”

He looked confused. “Come, there’s much to see in the garden.” He extended his arm.

Evelyn hesitated before grasping his hand. His biceps flexed as he pulled her weight. She smiled- maybe kicking around the garden with him wouldn’t be so bad. Her legs were wobbly at first, but the muscles managed to hold her. She instinctively crossed her arms over her front.

He glanced at her, puzzled. “What are you doing?”

“We didn’t fall yet. Um, never mind. Let’s go chill in the garden.”

“Chill?”

“Oh. Partake in the garden’s majesty?”

Adam smiled. “I know the perfect place.” He took her hand, leading her up the slight hill.

Evelyn looked at the ground and marveled at how the clover felt spongy under her feet, like a sea of little green pillows. She’d never walked barefoot outside before, heeding warnings of the dangers of stinging ants, broken glass and “filth” littering the ground.

“What’s on your mind?”

She paused. She couldn’t possibly tell the truth; that she lived in the future and landed here quite by accident. No way could she explain that she’d gone through a portal to escape Pinky, the man who’d held her captive for two years. She shivered at the thought of Pinky. His name didn’t sound like it, but he had a reputation as the most ruthless pimp roaming the streets of Phoenix. Legend held that he’d snapped the pinky right off a rival; it dangled from a chain around his neck.

They crested the hill and she gasped. “It’s beautiful!” The sun sat on the horizon, minutes away from turning the sky over to the stars. Stars. She hadn’t seen those since childhood camping trips.

“Do you want to help name some animals?”

Evelyn smiled. “Sure.”

They bounded down the hill, bursting through the thick foliage. Momentum slowed and the tallest tree she’d ever seen stood in front of them.

“We mustn’t eat from that tree,” Adam said, pointing.

Her skin prickled. She knew the story; they’d entered the serpent’s favorite haunt, and it was only a matter of time.

“I’m going to get some huckleberries,” Adam said. “Huckleberries… isn’t that a fun word to say?”

“Almost as fun as hippopotamus.” Her gaze darted from trees to brush. “I’ll wait here.”

His footfalls disappeared. The bird song wafting through the dusk air put her at ease, so she decided to rest. She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes, oblivious to the rustling behind her until the undulating movement crossed over her legs.

Pinky!

“Do you know why you mustn’t eat from that tree?”

She knew the serpent spoke, but still, seeing it was weird. “Because you’re evil!” She wrapped both hands around the serpent and squeezed. “You ruin the world! You invade our hearts! You. Need. To. Die!” She tightened her grip with each word.

“Eve, no!” Adam sprinted toward her.

“We mustn’t kill the animals!”

Evelyn relaxed her fingers and the serpent slithered out of reach before pausing to glare at her. She knew he’d be back.

She’d be ready.

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Suzanne at Apoplectic Apostrophes has a new writing challenge site, so even though I’d sworn off the distraction of writing challenges a  few months ago, I couldn’t resist joining in her inaugural challenge.  She’s always been supportive of my writing and I’m thrilled to participate in her new venture :)

The challenge: Write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 739) and (1) reference the photo prompt published on her site, and (2) include the word “haunt” – used as a noun, not a verb.

It’s October and I’d vowed to write creepy this month. And with a prompt word like ‘haunt’ you’d, think I could do that, right?  Apparently not! I saw this challenge late last night and this is the story that wouldn’t get out of my head- a goofy, humorous, time-travel-gone-wrong story.

I’d better scare up some creepy soon, or October is going to laugh me all the way to December. Thanks for reading – oh, and if you want to join in, or check out other responses, click the badge below!

Lost and Found (Fiction)

06-30 Ocean Sunset

“When did you know you were lost?” he asked.

Rochelle gazed into the golden-hued waves, tinted by the sun which had just dipped below the horizon. “I simply woke up one day and didn’t know who I was anymore.”

The man who’d introduced himself as ‘Jason’ gave her a sideways glance.

Silence disrupted her trance. “Oh, you meant here, in Ensenada, didn’t you?” She let out a nervous giggle, hopeful the approaching evening disguised her blush. “Turns out I need to brush up on my Spanish. I went izquierda when I should have gone derecha, I guess.”

He laughed. “I’ve lived here for two years and I still get lost.”

“Where did you live before that?”

“Cornville, Arizona.”

“It’s not too far from Sedona, if I remember correctly.” She exhaled a wistful sigh that would’ve betrayed her angst, had he known her better. “I’m glad we met and you knew how to get to this beach. The sunset was beautiful.”

“Estero Beach can be touristy, but it’s a nice place.”

Her gaze drifted to the rhythmic surf. The scents of fish tacos and her new friend’s after shave hung in the periphery of her consciousness; the pull not strong enough to break the oceanic trance. Each wave tumbled onto the sand and slipped back out to the Pacific, only to stretch farther onto shore the next time. She felt as if she could rediscover her soul if she searched the foam soaking into the sand carefully enough.

“Have you found yourself?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said you didn’t know who you were. If you can’t find yourself in a Mexican sunset, I don’t know where else to look.”

Rochelle pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. “I’m figuring out how to close the gap between the person I left behind and who I want to be.” She glanced at the man beside her, surprised his gaze rested on her rather than the surf. The attention made her a little uneasy. “So what brought you to Ensenada?”

“I wanted to lose myself.”

She furrowed her brow while contemplating the irony of their situations. “Why?”

He traced a finger in the sand, making an incoherent doodle. “I kind of messed up my life and needed a new start.”

“Ah, there’s the story. ”

“Not really.”

“Had to be love or money.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Every conflict known to man can be tied to those two things.”

“What about Hitler’s occupation of Nazi Germany? That wasn’t a conflict driven by love.”

“Actually, it was,” she said, pointing her index finger toward the darkening sky. “It was his love of the master race that drove him to commit atrocities against the rest of society.”

“Conflict didn’t bring me here.”

Rochelle rolled her eyes. “People don’t usually run to another country if life is perfect.”

“So what’s your story?

“My story?”

He laughed. “Repeating the question to stall for an answer is the oldest trick in the book.”

“I suppose you could say it was love gone wrong.”

“I enjoy a good jilted lover story.”

She shook her head. “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.” She smiled to take the edge off her words.

“So you came here alone?”

She nodded. “I needed to get away on my schedule.”

He inched toward her, closing the appropriate gap between them.

She edged away, plagued by another flicker of uncertainty. “I’d better get back to my hotel.”

“Which hotel?

“I appreciate your kindness, but I have to go.” Rochelle reached for her sandals.

Jason held her wrist. “It can be a dangerous place at night.”

His ominous tone prickled the hairs on the back of her neck. She broke his grip. “I can handle myself.” She scrambled to her feet and jogged toward the main road, urged on by the sound of his footfalls closing in behind her.

He hooked his elbow around her neck. “I robbed an armored truck and killed the driver,” he said in her ear. “America’s Most Wanted couldn’t even find me.”

She clawed his arm, panicked memories triggering her fight response. She shoved him off balance and fell on top of him, knocking the air from his lungs. She straddled his body, his arms pinned beneath her.

His eyes bulged when her fingers encircled his neck.

“I killed a man with my bare hands.” She leaned forward, her thumbs collapsing his airway. “I can hide another body.”

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is just shy of the limit) and (1) use “When did you know you were lost?” he asked. as the first sentence AND (2) make some reference to the photo prompt given on the Speakeasy site (I didn’t post it here.)

The last couple weeks, I did love stories, but this week, I decided to bring twisted back.  Ah, feels like I’m home, haha :)

The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re inspired, adventurous, or just curious, click the badge below to check it out!

Writing a Future – Speakeasy #167

To milk or not to milk... that is the question...
To milk or not to milk… that is the question…

Dorothy skipped into the barn. “Lookie, here!  A looooove note from Samuel Stivens,” she taunted in a sing-song voice. She made kissing noises and then clasped the letter to her chest.

Caroline dusted off her skirt and ran toward her little sister. “Give it to me!” Her left boot knocked over the milk pail.

Both girls gasped.

Caroline stooped to right the bucket. “Mom’s going to be mad. Sophie’s dry and we won’t have milk for dinner.”

Dorothy scrunched her eight-year-old face. “Maybe it’s ‘cause yer tryin’ to milk a bull. Can’t you see the horns?” She giggled. “Or the…” she pointed to the underside of the animal. “Yer lucky you didn’t get knocked silly!”

Blushing, she ripped the letter from Dorothy’s hand. She plopped onto a bale of hay and took a deep breath before slipping her finger under the envelope flap. Sam left for the city two-and-a-half months ago to find work because after three seasons of drought, the ground supported death more than life. Caroline prayed this would be the letter where he sent for her.

Dearest Caroline,

I found a job at the docks. For twelve hours a day, I stack grain. The meager pay barely covers my expenses. It’s not nearly enough to support a family, so I have to withdraw my proposal until such time as I am able to afford to properly care for you.

I hope you will wait for me, but I understand if you cannot do so.

Sincerely,

Samuel

Caroline felt the blood drain from her face. At age nineteen and seven months, her parents pressured her to marry. Mostly because they couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, but she knew the gossip about her marriageability bothered them as well.

“Whatsa matter?” Dorothy patted her shoulder. “You look like you seen a ghost.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Dot.” Caroline sighed. “Sometimes when you’re grown up you have to do things you don’t want to do.”

Dorothy wrinkled her nose. “Then I don’t wanna grow up.”

Caroline smiled. “Neither do I, kid. Neither do I.”

* * *                * * *               * * *                * * *

Dressed in her nightshirt and sleeping cap, Caroline sat at her wooden desk, inked quill poised over paper. Just as she imagined, her father insisted she marry Bart Folsom. His family owned the town mercantile, which her father found stable and honorable. He turned a blind eye to the rumors of Bart’s carousing and dalliances with prostitutes in the shadowed alleys beyond Main Street.

Her protests ignored, Caroline had to accept that she would be wed the next month. At the mere thought of him touching her, acid backed up into her throat. She forced it down.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling and that you are unable to keep your promise. I had hoped that you would find faith to believe love would see us through you would find prosperity.

She crumpled the paper and shoved it off the desk. She felt trapped by the limitations of her words. A part of her wanted so much to condemn him; as if his guilty emotional imprisonment would grant her freedom from her own atrocious future. However, in her heart, she didn’t want the responsibility of forcing him to bear the burden of her circumstances, so she decided to project the illusion of happiness instead.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling, but I believe, in time, innumerous blessings will be bestowed upon you. The good Lord gives us tribulations so that we may appreciate our times of peace.

You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month. Although I gave my heart to you, I will dedicate what remains to my new husband.

I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Caroline

She folded the paper in thirds and slipped it into an envelope. After extinguishing the lamp, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers to her chin. In the morning, she would take it to the post office. She hoped her letter would free him to pursue a new future.

Loneliness and dread gnawed at her insides.  Caroline knew she had no choice but to accept a life without her Samuel.  She figured in time, she might be blessed with some shade of happiness.  She prayed the same for Sam.

But Sam was never the same again.

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 734) and (1) use “But Sam was never the same again.” as the last sentence; and (2) make some sort of reference to the video prompt, a short film, entitled Writer’s Block, by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley.

The letter with the strike-through lines and the paragraph following it are my references to the video prompt.

Note:  I amended the last few sentences after original posting (but before linking to Speakeasy grid.)  I think it flows better now.  Also, for fun, I wrote a continuation, from Samuel’s POV.  It’s not part of the challenge, but if you’re interested in reading it, click here!

The challenge is open to everyone, so click the badge below if you’re curious to find out more!

P.S.  I have been away from the computer for the last few days, so I’m a bit behind on reading and commenting.  If you’ve visited here lately and I’ve not responded, please bear with me as I catch up :)

Eye Contact (fiction) – Speakeasy #166

Terrace view (taken at Monticello)
Terrace view (photo taken at Monticello)

He taught me how to read people’s eyes. He, a student of non-verbal cues, became my teacher. Without him, I might not have noticed the visual embrace of lovers’ extended stare, the broken contact guarding a secret, or the lie harbored in a sideways glance.

As I pinned his laundered shirt on the clothesline, I hoped I had been a good student. But could the student interpret the teacher?

“You know how to tell if someone is into you?” He’d asked on our first date over twenty years ago. He twirled spaghetti around his fork, never shifting his gaze from me.

“Not really.” I glanced away, unwilling to surrender to vulnerability. I focused an inordinate amount of attention on my iced tea, poking the lemon wedge with my straw and swirling sugar sediment to watch it settle like flakes in a shaken snow globe.

He leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Eye contact.”

“Hmmm. “ Realizing my preoccupation with the straw, I let go.

“Aren’t you going to ask how much?”

I shrugged. “I presume the look would be longer than one given to a panhandler and less than a rush hour car crash.”

He laughed. “Eight seconds.”

“Is that a fact?” I tied knots in the paper straw wrapper. I couldn’t let my eyes betray me.

He leaned back in his chair. “From my experience.”

I lifted my gaze to him. “And what do you surmise from our eye contact?” My boldness surprised me.

“If I told you right now, you’d run and never turn back.”

His lopsided grin made my stomach quiver. I tilted my head to the side, wordlessly asking for elaboration.

His hand covered my fidgety hands. “I’ll wait. I know what I want, but I sense you’re scared.”

He had me at I’ll wait.

Over the clothesline, I spied him leaning on the wall of a nearby terrace. Uncertainty crept over me. I feared he’d become bored, or worse, had already found comfort in another’s arms. Until a few months ago, he would tend to laundry with me. He’d shake the clothes and hand them to me to pin, our hands brushing in the exchange. Maybe I should have said how much the intimacy of an ordinary moment meant to me? I thought he knew.

He rubbed his chin stubble with his right hand, thoughts obviously absent from the action. He shook his head. I knew frustration when I saw it. Then he ducked out of sight.

I stared, hoping he would sense my need. He didn’t. I clipped the last white shirt to the line and grabbed the empty basket. I contemplated heading to the garden to read; to avoid him because my fears might be confirmed. Instead, I took to the stairs, following the labyrinth that led to the other terrace.

Before I crossed the threshold, I took a deep breath and imagined courage inflating my lungs. “We need to talk.”

He jerked his head up, obviously startled. “Addy, I didn’t expect you…”

I wanted to cry. Everyone called me Adele. The familiar, intimate ‘Addy’ was reserved only for him. He rose to his feet, standing in front of what he’d been fiddling with. I tried to peek around him, but his legs blocked my view. “Do you still love me?”

His eyes widened, as if my words had lashed him across the cheek. “More than ever. Why do you ask?” He moved toward me.

I averted my gaze to the ground. “You’ve been distant lately and I worried you’d found someone else.”

With his index finger, he nudged my chin. I focused on the flecks of amber amongst the green. “I only love you. Come here.” He took my hand and led me further onto the terrace. “We’ll be married twenty-one years…”

“Tomorrow,” I finished.

He smiled. “Yes. I’ve been working on something special. It’s not quite done, but I think it’s time you see it.” He stopped in front of a stone structure, about two feet tall.

“Oh. It’s nice.”

He knelt. “Look closer.” He pulled me beside him.

I took in the peaks and valleys as my fingertips brushed the intricate details. I gasped when I realized the sculpture was of us in an embrace. “It’s beautiful,” I managed through threatened tears.

“As are you, my dear.”

Our visual connection held for much longer than eight seconds. In his eyes, I read everything I needed to know.

He loves me.

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (I’m at 740) and (1) use the sentence ““He taught me how to read people’s eyes.” as the first sentence, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the art prompt, Waterfall, a lithograph by the master of impossible constructions, M.C. Escher.

If you’re diabetic, I hope you have insulin handy.  It’s funny, but I find it much easier to write fear, tragedy and heartbreak than to write a sweet and sentimental love story.  I’m not sure what that says about me!  At any rate, I resisted the urge to twist this into a sad ending and left it on a high note (you know, to really throw you off :) )

The prompt is open to anyone, so if you’re interested in joining the fun, click the badge below!

Liberation (Speakeasy #165)

From the first labored breath, our days are numbered;

from the first hints of speech, our words are squandered.

I should’ve known the very instant your practiced, easy smile nailed

my heart that we- rather, I- was doomed; that misery was our fate before we

uttered ‘hello’.  Still, nothing could have stopped me from desiring your embrace,

or the thrill of your sweet lips searching mine, or the shivers from your hands trailing my

skin; unblemished, uncharted territory. I should have heeded the warnings of my crumbling

defenses. Foolish, to think I could absorb unbridled passion and keep some semblance of myself.

Silly, to think you wouldn’t yearn for another after I succumbed wholly to you (what’s the sport

in that, I suppose.) Naïve to believe the cruel myth of ‘happily ever after’ or the deception of

forever. Ha! The chink in my youthful armor destined to be a constant reminder of how

I should have paid attention to the tale of the moth devoured by the flame,

instead of thinking it would never happen to me. It can. And it did.

I got the first inkling of forever when I acknowledged, we

gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough.

A new dawn, a new day,

a new life, is what I need.

They say one ending is the opportunity for a new

beginning. “They” apparently never loved (and lost) you.

Last night, I dreamt of butterflies and peace. Then, this morning, I

knew what I had to do next. No way could I move on carrying the burden of

you. The sun had risen, keeping watch as I buried my figurative and literal skeletons.

The rays thawed frigid topsoil as I burrowed deep, preparing for a long-awaited ‘goodbye.’

You let me go long before I could bring my heart to do the same. How liberating to grasp the

freedom I’d lacked for some time.  You’d know how that feels, wouldn’t you dear?  The waiting.

So heavy was the affliction of love decomposed. Satisfaction fluttered in my soul with each

toss of earth. I delighted in the paradox of the emancipation by six feet under, give or

take (pre-dawn soil was difficult to penetrate, I found) but oh! The triumph when

your abnormally long toes were covered. I was exhilarated by the scent of

pine; the crunch of brittle needles as I walked away… one last time.

With your last labored breath, my days were numbered;

with your last words, my love for you was squandered.

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (I’m at 421) and (1) use the sentence “We gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) make some sort of reference to the media prompt, which is he song Feeling Good, performed by Muse.

This poem is supposed to be in the shape of an hourglass, but I’m not sure if it will come out right when I post it.  (Sometimes they do, sometimes not.)  I probably don’t have to clarify this, but it is fiction.  Although I  have lost loves, I have never, ever literally buried any of them (or murdered them, in case you were wondering) :razz:

The prompt is open to anyone, so if you’re interested in joining the fun, click the badge below!