A to Z 2017–Y is for YOLO

This story isn’t my usual fare, but I like how it came out.

Y is for YOLO

“You only live once,” they said. “You’re thirteen… you can do this! It’s just like going off the high dive at the pool.”

I really didn’t want to do it, but I let them talk me into it. That was my first mistake.

I climbed the cliff with my sister and her boyfriend. Del. What kind of a stupid name is Del? Frances Arthur Delacroix. Ha. I guess if that was my name, I’d go by Del too.

Anyway, so Del and Barbara showed me the path. It took about 15 minutes, and I was hot and sweaty by the time we got up there. My legs were covered with nasty yellow-brown dirt.

I stood there breathing hard at the top of the hill overlooking the lake. I could see Trev and Sandy and the whole group down there swimming.

I wished I’d stayed down there swimming, too.

Instead, I was up there with Barb and the goon. And they wanted me to jump off a freakin’ cliff. Great.

The water looks greener from above than it does when you’re in it. Somebody told me once it’s because there’s a lot of copper in the dirt. So my sister’s creton was really kind of egging me on to jump into a pool of pennies from up high.

I kind of thought I could do it. Just get it over with. But once I was up there my heart started racing. Not just from climbing the hill, either. I was shaking all over. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My knees locked up.

Overwhelming terror. That’s what it was.

“I changed my mind,” I told Barb. “I don’t want to do this.”

It was the muscle-bound maniac who answered me. “Don’t be a baby,” he said. “Nothing bad can happen. I’ve done this a thousand times.” He turned to Barbara. “Is she always so chicken-shit?”

“Shut up, Del.” At least she had my back. For a minute. Sort of. “Listen, Teena, if you don’t want to, fine. But if you don’t, you’re just going to beat yourself up over it. Once you do it, you’ll wonder what you were even afraid of. Seriously.”

I don’t know if I thought she was right. I don’t know if I could think at all right then, I was that scared. But I also didn’t want my sister to think I was a wuss. My friends either. They’d apparently noticed that we were up there, now, and they were all staring up at us.

Waiting for a show.

I took half a step closer to the edge, then another half a step. I got close enough that I could look straight down at the water. It really didn’t look as far as I thought.

The green was darkest right below the cliff. Deeper water there. Deep enough that you couldn’t hit bottom by accident when you jumped. That was good.

I edged a little closer again. My heart was still pounding, but my breathing wasn’t so bad now. I thought maybe I really could do it.

As I stood there, right on the edge of everything, Del started to say something. I don’t know what. He stepped closer to me and something shifted. Loose dirt. I took a half step backwards, but my feet were slipping.

Then there I was, out in the middle of the air.

I think I yelled. Not sure. I couldn’t hear anything over the pounding in my ears.

I couldn’t see anything, either, except the blue sky above me.

I hit the water, back first. All the wind rushed out of me.

The heat from the sun gave way to the icy fingers of the cold water as it wrapped around me.

And now I’m here, watching my friends pulling me out of the water. Barb and Del are running back down the hill.

You only live once, they’d said.

I need to decide whether to prove them wrong.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

 Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won’t find on my blog!

A to Z 2017–W is for Well Water

W is for Well Water

It had always been William’s job. He was the one who got the water. It was Aurinda’s job, now. Two buckets after breakfast, two more after supper. Extra on wash days or anytime mama said.

She shuffled her feet as she walked, creating a cloud of dust that she could taste. Aurinda didn’t want to fetch the water, but somebody had to. It wouldn’t be William. Not anymore.

Since she was only nine, plus a girl, mama said she didn’t have to carry two buckets at once. That was good. She didn’t think she could even lift two buckets, leastwise not without spilling. One would be hard enough. She knew it would take longer to do one at a time. Didn’t matter. You do what you got to do.

As she walked toward the well in the town square, she hesitated. This was her first time here without her big brother, but you do what you got to do.

With her bucket hooked on the rope, she realized she couldn’t reach the crank to unwind it. She tugged down on the bucket and found the rope uncoiled easily, causing the crank handle to spin.

A splash told her she’d hit the water, but then a howling started up and made her scream. Was it coming from the well? It surely sound like it was. Tingles ran up her spine and she nearly felt like crying.

She realized what it must be, then, and fear turned to anger. “Jace McCall,” she shouted down the well. “You stop this instant. That ain’t a bit funny.”

“Aurinda May?” She spun at the voice. “Aurinda, who you shouting at?” Her eyes grew wide as Jace and his brother Thomas crossed the square from their father’s shop.

Her eyes fell back on the well and she backed away. If that wasn’t Jace…

“Auri? What’s the matter?”

The moan sounded again, louder and more distinct.

Thomas, who wouldn’t be nine until the end of summer, ran away shrieking. “It’s a ghost! A ghost down the well!” The shop door jangled as he hurried inside.

Jace moved more slowly, but also backed away from the well. “Auri, I think we need to go.”

“I told my mama I’d fetch the water,” she said. “I’m big enough. I gotta fetch the water.”

“But William….” His words trailed off as he stared at the well.

A thought suddenly occurred to Aurinda. She took a deep breath, straightened her back, and walked toward the watering place.

“No, Auri! Don’t” Jace sputtered as she climbed to the edge of the well wall and took hold of the crank. He moved toward her. She thought he’d try to pull her down. She was afraid he’d accidentally push her in.

“I gotta get the water!” she screamed, tears now pouring down her cheeks. The call from the well seemed quieter now. More distant.

Turning the crank was easier than she expected, especially from her perch on the wall. But for some reason she wasn’t surprised.

When the bucket was pulled all the way up, she secured the crank while Jace unhooked the pail for her. He placed it on the cobbles and stared at her.

“Why’d you do that, Auri? Scared me near to death.” He kicked at the stones beneath his feet. “I thought that was William—that he would pull you right down where he’d gone.”

Aurinda smiled then—first time since her brother fell down the well. “I think it really was him,” she said. “But he’d never hurt me, so I knew he must be here to help.” She picked up the bucket and started back toward her house. “Mama needs this water. You to what you got to do.”

 

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

 Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won’t find on my blog!

A to Z 2017–M is for Mist

Creep factor +1. Geez.

M is for Mist

I can feel the dark descending like a shroud. It covers everything in a blackness constructed from the souls of those who have lost all and are no longer. It’s a darkness that can’t be penetrated.

And yet, here I am.

I watch as the sun hides behind the hills and mist starts to curl skyward from the cooling ground. I wait knowing that to step into even filtered sunlight I’ll also fade and dissipate, just like that mist.

He comes, then. Running hard. But he already knows it’s too late. Too late for him. Just in time for me.

Once I was the one. Lost. Running. Afraid. Once I descended from those hills, looking for refuge. I remember for the briefest moment what it was like, and I decide.

Come, I say. And he has no choice but to obey. He thought he was the master of his own soul, his own desire. He didn’t know that there was a greater master. So he came.

He looked at me, curious, likely imagining that he is feeling fear though he isn’t. The unfettered soul has no use for fear. Fear is a thing of the flesh, and now he has stepped aside from that anchor. He’s not yet aware of the separation.

The soul before me asks then. The same question I know I asked I don’t know how long ago. Is this how I die, then? Am I already dead? Is this the afterlife?

I reply with the same detachment, the words wrapping around him like the mist. No. You will not die. Not this night.

Will I return from this darkness, then? The body that carried me knew where I was going—there is time for me to get there, still.

And again I have to tell him no. You are now part of the twilight. You will stay here in the mist and the night. You will become what I have been these many… I trail off, not knowing how long I have been here. But no matter. You will be a shade—a wraith. You will be as I have been. You will come to know the dark as a sister. A friend. A lover.

I reached out to him then. Stretching to fill the nothing between us. Entwining my eternal essence with this eternal soul.

In that moment, he understood.

In that moment that stretched for eons, he knew all that I knew. Absorbed my knowledge—my being—just as I absorbed his. He fought me, but I was the stronger of us. Against me, he could not stand.

As the sun slipped behind the hills, he became the mist.

And I became the man.

The exquisite pleasure as I felt his weight became mine, his flesh, strong and eager, enclosing me in a way I had not known since I could not remember when.

Then I ran. Back to the Inn. Back to the pretty girl.

The first man in time immemorial to return after dark.

(Note: this is a followup to the story I told in F is for Fog.)

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

 Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won’t find on my blog!

A to Z 2017–F is for Fog

With this one I might have creeped myself out a little bit. I like it. 😀

F is for Fog

She told me, before I left. Get back before the dark comes, she said. Get back before night. Get back before the fog.

I told her not to worry. It’s only fog, I said. It’s only dark.

But she insisted. Said her daddy, the innkeeper, would lock the gate at full dark and wouldn’t open it again until morning.

She was a pretty one, that girl. Like many innkeepers’ daughters she was full and curvy in all the right places, and soft to the touch. Both the kind you give, and the kind you get back. So I smiled at her. I nodded. I promised I wouldn’t be out after nightfall. I’d stay out of the fog.

Mama told me never to lie. Daddy told me never to disappoint a woman. My parents were wise folk and they ain’t never turned me wrong. So I had every plan and intention of being back to that inn plenty early for supper. I thought just maybe that innkeeper’s daughter would share a little something sweet with me after.

And then I walked out of that boarding house and took the narrow path toward the hills.

The map I had was rough. Worse, it was old—maybe very old. But I knew this was the place and I had to go. It was the best chance I ever had to change my fortunes. Best chance to turn my life in a way that might earn me the right to hope for something more permanent than just a cuddle in the dark with a pretty girl.

The guy who gave it to me said it was his grandfather’s map, and his grandfather’s before that. I don’t know the whole story, but it showed where to go to get the magic and the token. And when you have a chance like that, how can you turn it down?

So I went up that track through the woods and into the hills. I followed the signs. I found the place. I said the words. I searched for the treasure.

And do you know? It was true. It was all true. And it happened just exactly like it was supposed to.

Except when I went in that cave it was high noon. When I came out—it can’t have been an hour later—the sun was scraping the horizon.

I knew there was no way I could get back to that Inn before I lost the light.

But I didn’t want to be a liar, so I ran. Oh light, how I ran.

I chased the sun right down the side of those hills. I whipped through those trees like a ghost in a graveyard.

I could swear I heard the gate clang shut just a moment too soon.

Just a moment before the darkness slammed down like a guillotine.

Just a moment before the fog lifted up and wrapped itself around me.

And I told myself it’s only fog. It’s only dark. I tried not to worry.

And then I was gone.

 

I wrote a follow-up for this story in M is for Mist.

 

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

 Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won’t find on my blog!

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body – Blog Hop October 2016

Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body

key-252231_1280The large brass circle of keys clattered against the door as Daiyu locked the shop on the edge of China Town. None would come for her herbs tonight. In truth, none came much anymore since her YeYe was gone. Grandfather brought her across the ocean. He taught her his trade. But he couldn’t keep from the drink, and he left her little legacy but his debt. If she couldn’t do this, she would lose both shop and home.

Turning, she settled a heavy cloak across her shoulders. The San Francisco fog and her destination tonight meant she would be more comfortable if she stayed covered. She paused for a moment to breathe deeply. The evening’s wood fires and the familiar scent of spices that reminded her of home mingled with the city’s salt air. Daiyu squared her shoulders and strode up the street.

The click of her low, wood-soled shoes on the cobblestones echoed between the dark buildings that surrounded her. Most people avoided the alleys and byways where Daiyu spent the majority of her time. But she would never fear the dark—she was named for black jade. The dark was a friend that kept her secrets.

Tonight, the dark hid her form as she passed by banks and businesses that would not welcome her in the daylight.

After a quick, twenty-minute walk, Daiyu pulled open the ornate wrought iron gate. Brambles tugged at her wide, silk trousers as she stepped lightly between the shadowed stones. She muttered apologies to the departed. She would never understand this lack of respect for the dead. Then again, what did westerners know about venerating the deceased? Would their dead even care about nettles and vines? Those buried here were not the ancestors who would be called on for guidance.

Most were not.

Finding the grave she sought, Daiyu retrieved a small box of sulfur matches from the folds of her cloak. She cleared a small patch of earth in front of the stone in which she placed a few dry leaves, then struck a match. When the flame rose, she added herbs from a small clay jar and spoke, her brittle words sounding loud in the gathering fog.

“James Henry Wilcox, I call you forth by rightful charge. You will come and give me the answers I seek.”

Her skin prickled and a shiver ran through her. She tugged at her cloak, now stirring in a sudden wind, and repeated her call.

As she spoke the words for a third time, the small fire she had ignited blinked out, leaving only a curl of white smoke against the night’s darkness. “I am here,” said a voice. “Why do you disturb me.”

“I am resuming our negotiation,” she said. A cold smile slid across Daiyu’s features. “I told you, you owe me answers,” she said. “I promised I would haunt you. Here I am.”

The ghost of James Henry Wilcox faded into view like a reflection on imperfect glass. “I thought ghosts were meant to do the haunting,” he said.

“You’d think that, but I’m the one with the unfinished business,” Daiyu replied, crossing her arms. “Where will I find it?”

A suggestion of a scowl crossed his non-corporeal countenance. “Where will you find what?”

“The deed. You promised a guarantee of my home.” She crossed her arms as another chill gust swirled around her.

Daiyu jumped as the ghost of James Henry Wilcox laughed. This was not what she expected, but it made her smile. She liked a ghost with some spirit.

The ghost circled her once and then spoke again. “As far as I’m concerned, you got me killed. I think that makes us even.”

“I took you to where you wanted to go and you got yourself killed. You still owe me what was promised.”

“Over my dead body,” said James.

Daiyu clicked her tongue. “And here we are.”

“Yes,” he said. “Here we are. There’s nothing left that I need. You have nothing to negotiate with.”

“Except,” said Daiyu, “maybe I do.” Her fingers closed on another item hidden within her cloak.

A blurring caused by the shake of a head obscured the ghost’s features momentarily. “How could you?” he said. “I’m dead. I followed you into that den, and now I’m dead.”

“But your sister… she is still alive.” Daiyu finally drew out a photograph showing a sad-looking young woman with vacant eyes. James Henry Wilcox reached right through the picture before remembering he could not take it. “Give me what you promised,” Daiyu said, “and I will take care of her.”

“Take care of?” Worry creased Wilcox’s transparent features.

chinese-998917_1280“I will rescue her. Train her. Teach her what I know. She will be able to summon spirits.” Daiyu paused as realization dawned on the specter’s features, then continued. “She will be able to summon you.”

“I’d be able to see her again? I had hoped,” he said, “but I never thought…”

“You never expected I could actually help you.’

“The opium? Can your skills really overcome that?”

Daiyu stared at him for a moment then nodded. “I can break its spell. You will have what we agreed on after all.”

“Then it is decided,” James said. “I’ll help you get the deed to your building, and you’ll get my sister out of that viper’s hands.”

“Good,” said Daiyu. “It is decided.”

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note: The links should finally be all sorted out. If you find any errors, please let me know!

  1. Elizabeth McCleary – Over James Henry Wilcox’s Dead Body **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Canis Lupus The Picture
  3. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  4. Bill Bush Trapped
  5. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  6. Viola Fury 911
  7. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  8. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  9. Erica Damon Penance’
  10. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  11. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  12. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  13. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  14. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  15. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  16. Sherri Conway Ants

 

 

Enjoying this post? Join my mailing list to get content as a weekly digest in your email, plus extras that you won't find on my blog!

Update on my procrastination skills, and other events of note

alarm-clock-590383_1280Yeah, so, procrastination.

About that.

It’s still a thing that I do. (For evidence, note that here it is something like 3 weeks after saying I’d post an update in a week. Ha!)

HOWEVER, that is not to say there has been no movement on that front.

I did do a little bit o’ plotting. Not much. Not enough. But some.

Blog Hopperpetualbloghop

Also, I wrote a flash story – one that I really like! I’m participating in the Story Time Blog Hop again this month. It’s a quarterly thing, and being October, all the stories will probably be leaning toward ghost stories, Halloween, paranormal… typical haunted fare.

But these are my friends, so don’t expect ordinary. Never expect ordinary. 😉

Expect to see that story as well as links to the others on October 26 at 6PM. (We are a global group, so we try to make things drop right at Midnight UTC. I’m in the -6 timezone, so I post 6 hours early.)

Advent CalendarKat's Advent Calendar

I’m also planning to participate in my friend Cat’s Advent Calendar again this year. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past, and it has always been a lot of fun.

As soon as I have sign-up info for that, I’ll post it here. To get the stories, you’ll need to join a mailing list… but it’s a list ONLY for the Advent Calendar and Cat never spams.

For that collection of stories, the theme this year is Winter (but not necessarily Christmas). As usual, most of the authors participating will likely have some kind of bonus in the form of an additional story, a traditional recipe, a fun desktop background… something unique. You won’t want to miss out!

NaNoWriMonanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-200

Between the Blog Hop and the Advent Calendar, is the annual event known as NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  For those who haven’t heard of it, writers (anyone, really) are invited to try to write 50,000 words in November. That works out to an average of 1667 words every day.

50,000 might be a short novel, but by most classifications, it’s a novel. A whole novel (or maybe a good start on one) in 30 days is a pretty significant challenge. With my afore mentioned habit of procrastination, I have never managed to hit that 50,000-word goal. But I’m giving it a shot again this year. (My username there is pearannoyed, so if you’re participating too, feel free to connect!)

The story I’m planning is actually an extension of what I wrote for the Blog Hop. So if you drop back by on the 27th and read that story, you might have motivation to cheer me on for NaNo. Maybe. If you like it.

 

That is, I think, all I have on the table at the moment. If anything else comes up, I’ll let you know.

I’m Published! (Again)

Well, I didn’t get a story up on Friday. For that I apologize. I wanted to, but I was swamped with a couple of non-writing related projects that didn’t leave me time to toss off a story for you. Hopefully I’ll have one this week.

Flashes-of-MagicIn better news, I did manage to finish my edits and formatting and get my new collection published on Amazon! I still need to get accounts set up at B&N, iBooks, and other places. But Amazon is obviously the big dog, so I’m glad to have my stories there at least.

I hope you consider buying a copy. Most (but not all – there is one that is brand-new) of these stories found their first incarnations on this blog, so I’ll understand if you don’t want to purchase the revisions. But I guarantee that the current iteration on most of them is significantly better than what you read for free here.

As always, if you like what you read I’d love for you to leave me a review or send me some feedback here. Which stories are your favorite? What do you want more of? Inquiring minds want to know!

So, enoy! I’m currently considering what my next project will be, and I’ll post as soon as I know.

Friday Fiction – Apothecary

Rest in peace? Hmmph. Not likely. I growl, a low rumble in the back of my throat. It’s a good thing I can’t be heard. Incorporeal growling tends to unsettle people.

Then again, some people deserve to be unsettled.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been dead. A few weeks. Maybe months. Time passes differently, in-between. I figure that’s to my advantage. I have all the time I want to get back at my charming, cheating wife; her and that so-called clerk she hired to run my shop.

I watch as she spends her time mooning over that boy behind the counter. By the Gods, woman. He might be young enough to be our son. He does know his herbals, though. Doing a damn fine job running my business when he isn’t busy being fondled by my wife.

He has brought in some unorthodox compounds. Goldbud for stomach ailments and lost appetite. Dragon flower for skin problems. Bat bones for weak eyesight.

The Goldbud isn’t likely to work. Maybe the bat bones though.

mortar-89048_640He prepares to grind the lightweight bones and I realize I’m frustrated. I don’t want to like him.

In my irritation, I flail my invisible arms through my workspace. His workspace.

To my surprise, the bones are strewn across the countertop.

I watch as he jumps back. His shoulders crawl up to his ears. A visible shiver passes through him. His dark eyes scan the table, the wall, the room. Does his gaze linger on my invisible form a moment too long? Certainly not. He is simply staring in the direction of the scattered bones.

I stare at the bones too. They moved. I moved them. I reach in again, more deliberately this time, and discover I can easily slide the thin white sticks across the table.

My replacement watches for a moment longer, then squares his shoulders and reaches. He picks up the bone, and his movements tug at my hand. For a brief moment, my hand moves with his, then his with mine.

We separate but the sensation still tingles where I have no right to feel anything.

He rubs his offended hand and his gaze lingers on the space I occupy. “I know you’re there,” he says. “I’m not the one who killed you. It was her. She told me there were rats. I told her how to kill them.” He paused then said, “I didn’t know she meant you. I’m sorry.”

I consider his words as he proceeds to pulverize the bones to a fine powder.

I wonder if it’s unusual for the dead to not know they were murdered. It makes sense to me now. Afterwards, the infidelity was obvious. My death and its cause are not things I can see, but the evidence is there.

He fills a glazed pot with the bone powder and speaks again, interrupting my reverie. “I know how to bring you back.” A dark smile plays across his face.

Copyright Notice: Please note that this is mostly unedited, raw writing. I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story. Please do not copy, quote, or post anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.