Category Archives: Written Words

These Are The Things (Short Story)

As it turns out, starting a new job in the new year takes up quite a lot of energy. My apologies in advance.


I had spent days on that speech. Days of writing and rewriting and then rehearsing in front of the mirror to make it as perfect a speech as I could possibly give for graduation, and now the auditorium was on fire and it was all for nothing.

It was a terrible thought. Even as I was thinking it, I knew how selfish I was.

“We need water,” my brother Jake yelled beside me. The fire roared, people screamed.

Water, yes. There were buckets in the supply shed on the other side of the hill. My feet moved on their own, ran towards the shed. I slipped on the icy grass, but eventually I made it. It was locked, of course, but my hand knotted itself into a fist and punched through the window. I was amazed at myself, even as I was crawling through the hole and throwing the buckets outside. My mind had trouble catching up with the rest of my body.

Jake waited for me beside the pond in the plaza where he’d gathered a few of the other students. I threw the buckets at them and yelled, “Water.” They immediately knew what to do.

Technically, we all knew what to do. We had emergency training days every year, because the closest fire brigade was ten miles out. I’d been there a few times as a kid and I knew they weren’t big enough to handle a fire like this. Flames lept out the windows. The edges of the wooden door were gleaming from the light inside. The next bigger department was another ten miles away.

That’s what you get for going to school in the middle of nowhere, I thought. You prepare a speech for days and then the auditorium catches fire and all your work was for nothing because there is no proper fire department in yelling distance and all there is is buckets and a bunch of students forming a line.

Terrible, selfish thoughts.

“We need more people,” Jake yelled. He ran up and down the bucket line. I ran towards the closest person I could reach. Hannah, from English class, stared at the flames through tears streaming down her face.

“Go to the bucket line,” I yelled, but she didn’t move. There was a sound, and when her eyes focused on me, I realized I had slapped her. “Bucket line,” I yelled and pointed. She moved, awfully slow, but she moved. I went to the next person. And then the next.

I heard the sirens of the fire brigade. I felt someone push me away from the building.

“You did good,” Jake said beside me. “Better than last time.” I turned my head towards his voice, but he wasn’t there.

“May!” Mom’s voice echoed over all the noise. “May!” She wrapped her arms around me before I’d even seen her.

And then I remembered that Jake was dead.

“Are you alright?” Mom asked, wrapping my head in her hands. I struggled to nod.

“The fire,” I said, remembering a similar sight two years ago. The flames, the noise, Jake yelling instructions. Then Jake, running into the building for someone who was stuck. No, not someone, Hannah’s sister. Neither of them coming out.

“It’s under control,” Mom said, then, apparently reading my mind, she added: “The auditorium was empty.” She drew me in for another hug. Around her shoulders, I catch Hannah’s eye.

She’s still crying and her cheek is red. She touches it, then mouths something, but I can’t make out the words.


 

Original photo by LearningLark on Flickr.
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Forest Song (Short Story)

Last story for 2015! A friend of mine suggested I try a different genre and I picked „Romance“. As you will see, the story ended up taking its own turn again.


The wind howling around the house did nothing to cover Susie’s cries. Clouse had dragged her downstairs but she was putting up quite a fight for such a small girl.

Aria stood by the fire and stirred the soup. Clockwise, clockwise. Counter-clock, counter-clock. Clockwise. It was only for Susie’s own good.

The door fell shut downstairs and finally drowned out their daughter’s screams. Clouse’s footsteps were heavy on the stairs.

„It’s worse this time,“ he said, wiping his forehead. „We should have kept her inside sooner.“

Counter-clock, counter-clock. Clockwise. Aria nodded.

„It hurts me, too,“ Clouse said. „I hate that they make me do this.“

„I know,“ Aria said. She did know. She knew that Susie was only safe down there where she couldn’t hear the call. She knew that Susie wasn’t herself this time of the year. She knew it was necessary. But her heart broke every time, nonetheless.

She poured Clouse a bowl of hot soup as he sagged into the chair. Susie was getting stronger and stronger every year as Clouse got older and older. Aria kissed the top of his head as she placed the soup in front of him.

„What would I do without you?“ he asked after the first spoonful. Playful, lightening the mood.

„Eat uncooked leaves and berries, probably.“ Her smile was genuine and yet more for his benefit than hers.

„That’s for damn sure.“ He asked for another bowl shortly after. „You can’t bring her anything, yet,“ he said when she poured soup into a second bowl. „She’s still too wild.“

„Do you think she may have… been exposed?“ Aria asked. Clouse grunted.

„Don’t know. Schuster’s girl definitely has, what with the way she took off on him earlier. Punched him square in the nose that girl. He’d be proud if it weren’t so tragic.

„He’ll heal.“ At least his nose would. His pride… his heart might not.

Clouse yawned. Finally.

„Why don’t you head to bed?“ Aria offered. „It was a rough day.“ The village had lost three girls to the woods today. That was more than they usually lost in a year.

Clouse grunted and yawned again.

„I’ll be right along,“ Aria said. „I’ll just finish the dishes.“ She busied herself with the pots and bowl until she heard his first snore. It sounded through the house like an alarm.

She grabbed her coat from the rack. She’d leave the candle on the dinner table burning. Just in case. Then, before she could change her mind, she opened the front door and slipped out.

Braeden leaned against her neighbor’s house. As soon as he spotted her, he peeled off the wall. She fell into his embrace.

„I’m so glad you came,“ he whispered, his voice a deep whisper. It reminded her of the wind whistling through forest leaves. „I was afraid you wouldn’t.“

„Never,“ she said. She looked up into his face. His green eyes, always so captivating, shone in the moonlight. She kissed him. He tasted like summer rain.

Aria had known from the first moment she’d met him that this was inevitable. When she was younger, she’d never understood why the girls lost their minds. She’d always thought the forest song had driven them crazy.

„Are you sure?“ He asked. „I want you to be sure of this.“

„I’m sure,“ she whispered. „I’ve never been surer of anything in her life.“ His smile went right to her heart.

Aria loved Clouse. They had been destined to be together, get married, have children and live in that house of theirs. It was comfortable, knowing her life was so secure and she’d gotten one of the good ones. She loved him for everything he had ever given her, especially Susie.

Then she’d met Braeden. He’d sought her out by the lake months ago, just like his kind sought out young girls every year. She’d expected him to try and hex her with a song, like they always said the forest did. But all he’d done was ask questions. She was far too old for the forest to be singing to her, anyway. She’d felt safe answering and asking her own. He’d answered every single one of them. With every answer came a new question. With every question came a smile.

She hadn’t known that was his way of singing.

Aria didn’t want to leave Clouse. She would miss his heavy footsteps on the stairs. She would miss Susie’s laughter. She would miss their dinners and his thundering snore. But Clouse had never asked any of the questions Braeden had. He’d never answered her questions the way Braeden had. And he’d never been able to offer more than ‚comfortable‘.

She’d thought she’d be frantic and crazy, like the other girls. And even though she didn’t feel like running or screaming, or punching anyone’s face, she knew that this was what the forest song did. It made her want more than ‚comfortable.

„I’m sure,“ Aria said again for good measure. Holding Braeden’s hand, she went slowly, quietly into the woods.


Original image by JackPeasePhotography on Flickr.
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The Hand And I (Short Story)

A quick one whipped up out of an idea I’ve had for a while.


I found the hand behind a dumpster in my alleyway.

It was a good alleyway, if only for the fact that all the dumpsters gave us plenty of room to crash back there. I’d just stolen a leftover sandwich from a table outside Chili’s Cheesesticks three blocks down the streets and was wolfing it down when I noticed the hand.

Long silver fingers attached to a metal stump, it just lay there next to my foot. I was sure it hadn’t been there when I sat down — I kept my place clean, or at least as clean as could be. Then, suddenly, it moved. Jumped up to my leg and poked my ankle, then fell back down.

“Hey there, little fellow,” I said, because it seemed like the most reasonable thing to do.

It didn’t answer. I finished my sandwich in silence, keeping an eye on the hand.

It didn’t move again until I curled up on my cardboard a little while later when it crawled down to my feet and wrapped its fingers around my ankle. I instantly felt a warmth rush through me, as the hand began to purr. Like a cat.

That was the moment I decided to keep the hand.

*

Good things started happening after I found the hand.

It started bringing me food to eat whenever I returned to the alley. Then money.

And once, the hand brought me proper sleeping bag. It was stolen the next day, but I didn’t mind. I’d had my warm night, now it was someone else’s turn. The sleeping bag returned the day after.

“Hey there, little fellow,” I’d greet the hand and it would purr. Like a cat. It would keep me warm at night.

The hand and I, cuddled in the sleeping bag together.

*

Before I found the hand, there was a guy who used to hang out in the alleyway, too. He didn’t talk, just grunted in greeting and we left each other alone. Mostly.

He wasn’t quite right, sometimes. He’d scream and trash in his sleep, sometimes waking and rattling everything. He’d grabbed me, once, in a fit, his eyes staring at me but not really seeing. I bit his hand and he let go.

He didn’t come back for weeks after that.

I was rattled awake one night, the hand purring by my feet, by his booming voice. He was dreaming, I knew. I crouched deeper into my sleeping bag, hoping he wouldn’t wake up. Praying, he wouldn’t grab me like that again.

The hand purred louder.

“Don’t,” I whispered, but the hand was already on its way. I watched in fear as it crawled over to the man. It disappeared in the bundle of paper and junk. The groaning got louder as the bundle began to shake. His body, massive as it was, thrashed around. He got up, still groaning. On all fours, eyes wide open, he tried to move. A car drove by, its lights flashing his face.

The hand was wrapped tightly around his neck.

I stared as he moved, winced, groaned until the noise subsided and his limbs went still. His eyes were wide open, staring right back at me. He looked as scared as I’d felt.

The hand crawled up to his face and closed his eyes, then came back to me, purring.

*

Bad things started happening after that night.

The hand would still bring me food and money, it would still curl up with me in my sleeping bag every night. But its touch now felt stronger, harder. Gripping me.

I tried to leave it behind one night, making my bed underneath a bridge. When I woke up, the hand was there, around my ankle, purring louder than ever before.

Its gifts got more elaborate. Soon, the hand brought me jewelry, clothes, entire wallets with bundles of cash.

I started to wonder if the spots that were on them were dirt or blood.

After the second time I tried to get rid of the hand, it would no longer let go of my ankle. It sat there, all day, only leaving for five minutes to grab whatever gift it had for me. Once I started to run while it was gone and when it found me, it grabbed my ankle hard enough to leave bruises.

See what you made me do, it seemed to purr when it stroked the bruises later that night. It’s you and me now.

Nobody else.

The hand and I, cuddled in the sleeping bag together.


Original image by Don Harder.

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