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!

Second Chance (Speakeasy #158)

04-21 Butterfly

Rebecca Myles stood amongst the dusty contents of a 6×8 storage locker. It had only been four days since her husband of fifty-one years had passed away and the shock still left her numb. Fifty-one years, nine months and four days.

“This doesn’t have to be done so soon,” Dee said, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “The funeral is enough stress for one day.”

Rebecca shook her head. “I didn’t know this space existed until yesterday. I need to find out what Arthur stored here.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”

“I’m okay.”

Dee enveloped her friend in hug. “Call if you need me.”

Rebecca surveyed the stacks and reached for a box at eye level. She sat in a plastic patio chair with the box on her lap and lifted the tucked flaps. Medical journals. She smiled at the memory of the pride Arthur carried for his cancer research.  Just last month, he felt sure a vaccination was close. Her throat tightened. Before his heart attack.  He was a good man- stable and reliable.  She refused to fault him for what was missing when he gave her so much.

She slid the journals aside. Off to her left, a glossy white box tied with blue ribbon caught her eye. When she lifted the lid, she thought it strange the box didn’t have a coating of dust like the others. Inside, she found a stack of hand-written letters. Unfolding the first yellowed, brittle page, she noticed the shimmering blue and black butterfly at the top. She scanned the script with vague familiarity, though the writing wasn’t hers or Arthur’s- the letters were a century old.

The poetic proclamation of love caused raw emotions to fester to the surface. Tears dripped from her eyelashes, soaking the linen paper. She rushed to wipe the wetness away, smearing the ink into a black smudge. She gasped. “No! Oh, no… it’s ruined!”

The hairs on her arms raised, as if charged by an electrical current. Rebecca moved to smooth them down and the paper slipped from her arthritic fingers, drifting to the ground on an unseen breeze. Her eyes widened as the butterfly’s wings lifted from the page. In stunned silence, she watched as it flitted toward her and landed on her shoulder. A ripple of fear rushed through her, followed by a serenity like none she’d felt before.

Warm fingers brushed the side of her cheek. Rebecca’s eyelids lifted, breath momentarily suspended when she caught sight of the handsome dark-haired man beside her. She looked up and saw a spray of stars across an inky sky rather than the metal storage unit ceiling.

“Caroline…”

She returned her gaze to him. “Antonio?” Confusion clouded Rebecca’s senses. She ran her palms along the back of her arms to ease the chill, shocked that her fingers weren’t bent and arthritic and her age-spotted papery skin had transformed into a soft, youthful glow. “What’s going on?”

“I’ve spent the last hundred years figuring out how to change our course.”

Rebecca sat up. “What?”

“Caroline, from the moment you wed Joseph, I’ve searched for a way to get our time back.”

“I-I don’t understand. I married Arthur.”

“In your last life, my love. Arthur was Joseph a century ago.”

“I don’t believe in reincarnation.”

Antonio sighed. “Or time travel?”

“I don’t know anymore.” She took in their surroundings. It felt like a different era. She glanced at her hands, absent of raised blue veins, and couldn’t find another explanation.

“Your tears brought you here. If my letter no longer stirred emotion, I would’ve let you be.”

Brows furrowed, she searched his face. “Were you Leonard?”

He smiled. “It killed me to step away again, but this is the moment I’d waited for.” He cupped her face in his hands. “Our second chance.”

Her cheeks warmed when he grasped her hands and pulled her into him.  The electricity she’d felt when the butterfly neared her before returned.  It beckoned her to choose passion over practicality.

“You’re to wed Joseph tomorrow, Caroline. Marry me tonight.”

She searched Antonio’s eyes for truth.  She’d sometimes wondered where alternate paths would’ve led, and in that moment, she couldn’t help but think the rightness eclipsed every mistake made along the way.

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This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly challenge which is to write a response in less than 750 words (mine is 712) and (1) use “The rightness eclipsed every mistake made along the way.” as the final sentence, and (2) make some kind of reference to the media prompt (a trailer to Love in the Time of Cholera.)

The challenge is open to anyone, so click on the badge above to view Speakeasy’s site with the complete guideline information.

1984 – Sixth Grade Do-Over

Intimidated by boisterous Billy, stone-faced I watched him catch popcorn in his mouth.

To his crestfallen question, “Don’t you like me?”

I’d answer, “Of course.”

Erasing the “no” shyness uttered twenty-nine years ago.

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This is my response to Trifecta’s weekend prompt, which was to “give us a 33-word time travel story.  We don’t usually tell you what to title your piece, but we’d love it if you could title it with the year/date that you choose.”

My first thought was to fast forward eighteen years to see if my younger son has mastered using a napkin.  Instead, I decided to tackle my past.  Shyness had a strangle-hold on me until I finally faced it when I turned fifteen.  It’s not completely gone, but I’m mostly functioning now (except in unfamiliar social situations…shyness still makes me look like an idiot :))

Edit:  I want to clarify that this piece isn’t really about Billy, or regrets about how that turned out.  It’s about shyness and all the things I haven’t let myself do because of it.  This do-over symbolizes one change in the right direction:  living life outside the shadow of shyness.

Have a beautiful weekend.  Oh, and if you have any thoughts on this piece, don’t be shy – leave your comment!