Mercy Grove

I’m participating in the 13-Week Streak by Eilidh from Thain in Vain and Charlotte of Drafty Devil. I wrote this last week, but I’ve had some trouble with my dog in the past week and never got around to posting. Here’s my 2nd week entry for this awesome little event!


IMG_20170522_054502The fog was so dense this morning that Claire struggled to see. She looked back and considering the distance back to the campsite. It was an hour either way now. No point in going back.

A power transformer buzzed like an angry swarm of bugs. When did my music stop playing?

She pulled her phone out of her sleeve case and examined it. Smashed. From top to bottom. What the hell?

A light above her flickered, and for a moment she thought she could see a dark and wet streams across her arms and hands, but the moment passed.

Claire rounded the corner. The sound of a distant squeal of wheels sent a jar through her muscles.

 

“Why train so bloody early?” her sister had asked her yesterday – today?

“The marathon’s next month. I’m trying to get used to long distances,” Claire answered.

“But, really! Three in the morning? You’re insane.”

“All marathon runners are,” Claire laughed.

 

The echo of hard footsteps broke her revelry.

Claire turned around.

“Hello?” she called.

A scream from far away resounded back.

She shuddered. Just ignore it. It’s probably just a couple of pranksters.

Claire knew this path well. She had consulted many a map before she came here, making sure it would be well-lit and had little access to the main road. So when she found herself at fork and a sign with the words “Mercy Grove” painted on it, Claire was a bit surprised. She had never seen it on any map. The small cobbled footpath was surrounded on both sides by tall hedges. She glanced inside; the mist was all but gone here.

The smell of snicker-doodles and fresh-mowed grass permeated through the air. Claire was reminded of her grandmother’s house, before she passed.

She through the shrubs.

“He must have been drunk,” she heard someone whisper.

She scowled and turned.

A pair of headlights pushed through the bushes. Claire covered her eyes and braced herself.

The cacophony of squealing wheels, screams, the shattering of glass, and sirens rang across the garden. Claire’s muscles jerked; a single tear ran down her face.

“Let me at ‘im!” she thought she heard her sister scream.

She blinked. Nothing was there. The cobbled path was unblemished, but a shadow raced towards her.

With a shriek, Claire ran the opposite direction.

“Come into the light,” she heard a familiar voice whisper.

A brilliance beamed onto the path, and Claire saw a golden staircase. With a yell, she leapt at it. The shadow grabbed her foot and tried to drag her back, but she landed squarely on the stairs and held on, screaming.

The light glowed brighter until the pressure on her foot receded. With a guttural yell, the shadow faded away.

A soft, wrinkled hand touched her own and helped her up.

“Grandmother?” Claire said, blinking.

“You needn’t run ever again,” her grandmother whispered as they embraced.

Claire smiled. They walked up the golden staircase to the clouds, leaving the troubles of the earth (and the living) below.

 

The Hills

Today’s piece is brought to you by, Donna-Louise Bishop over at Newshound to Novelist. She is doing a weekly writing prompt challenge in which she provides a single word and challenges everyone to write a complete story in only 100 words. This week’s prompt is “Hills” and here is my take on that prompt.

*****

Lora intoned a sweet sigh as her eyes drifted to the window beside her bed. Buildings and houses covered the landscape. She frowned and watched a girl getting the water pitcher.

“There used to be nothing but hills there once,” Lora said.

The girl gave her a knowing smile.

“What was your name again?”

“Sarah, Mum. It’s Sarah,” the girl answered as sadness filled her eyes.

“Right, Sarah. I knew that,” she turned back to the window, “There was a giant apple tree on the top of one.”

Sarah dipped her head and whispered, “I know. You met Dad there.” 

The Dragon Room

I entered the Yeah Write Super Challenge #4 this year. There’s so far been 2 rounds to this event, and I’ve successfully moved forward on both rounds. I thought I might share the round 2 piece here, since I’ve been quiet the past few months. 

Group 1

Scene: An arched corridor

Event: learning a nonviolent skill

Summary: Custodial apprentice, Pip, sees his clumsiness landing him in so much trouble that he is led into the castle dungeons. Down there a room awaits him, a dragon room, filled with nothing but stone and obsidium to keep him company, and maybe a few dragon eggs.

_________________

The arched hallway of the castle dungeons was much darker than Pip had imagined. The stone path was cold and coarse beneath his bare feet.

“Wh-what are we doing down h–ow!” he asked as his toes caught on a gap, causing him to stumble forward.

His heart raced, and sweat beads formed on his pasty skin.

No one has ever entered the dungeon before and come out alive!

“This is your fault,” Gregory harrumphed. The castle caretaker and master custodian pushed his way past the young man.

Pip sighed. He knew the old man was right.

The castle halls had not been the same since Pip received the custodial assignment at this year’s Naming Day. He remembered the trials – success judged by a series of events. Turned out, his skinny frame and tiny hands were ill-suited for sword-wielding, his archery skills were non-existent, and his attempts at magicka had disastrous consequences.

He knew he was rather unremarkable in almost every way.

“Did you have to spill the king’s chamber pot on Queen Symphonia’s baby gryphon?” Gregory stopped in front of a large double door.

Pip straightened himself; tears filled his eyes, “Please, don’t lock me away.”

Gregory chuckled, “Oh, dear boy, what kind of kingdom would this be if we locked every clumsy apprentice into a cell?”

“Bu-.”

Gregory shook his head and reached for the metal rings of the door.

“We can’t have you getting clawed to death by an angry gryphon, now can we?” Gregory pulled the doors open and exposed a large chamber with oval stonework covering the floor.

Pip squinted and cocked his head to the side.

“When I was young and nervous like you, the king sent me down here to work. There is naught but stone and obsidian.”

“Nothing to break?” Pip asked nervously.

Gregory shook his head, “And no one to harm.”

He gestured Pip inside, but the frightened young man hesitated. What if it’s all a trick?

“There are no locks on the door, boy,” Gregory sighed.

Pip swallowed, nodded, and stepped forward. “What is this place?”

“The chambers of the great dragon the first king slew two hundred years ago.”

Pip followed Gregory inside and put his hand on top of one of the oval statues. “Ow- It’s hot!”

“Obsidian,” Gregory said. “It retains heat.”

“What are they supposed to be?”

“Dragon eggs,” Gregory shrugged his shoulders, “or so I’ve been told, but never mind that fairy tale.”

Gregory handed Pip a thin cloth.

“The king. He asked for you to polish these dragon eggs.”

Pip raised his eyebrows, “Really?”

The caretaker narrowed his gaze, “It took me years to master. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.”

Pip watched as Gregory showed his expert skill. The motion of his polishing was methodical and unlike polishing a table or benchtop. Pip tried to understand it, but as he followed along with the master custodian, he saw dust and dirt reform on his egg while Gregory’s remained spotless. He couldn’t ever imagine being able to match that skill.

*****

For months, Pip practiced and practiced. He languished over the eggs. With every passing day, he talked to them, sometimes without even speaking, and from time-to-time, he thought he heard them talk back. He dismissed it as nothing more than loneliness. There were often voices in the corridor outside the chamber, so it could have just as well been that which he was hearing.

One afternoon, nearly three months after his assignment began, Pip heard the familiar voices again. Two men must have been in the halls, and for the first time, he listened.

“Your brother, the king,” he heard, “he knows something.”

“Nothing that he’ll be able to stop now. The unicorn horn has already been added to his stew for tonight. He’ll be eating it within minutes,” another voice said. His hushed laugh made the hairs on Pip’s neck stand up.

Unicorn horn! But it’s poisonous. If he eats that-

Pip backed up and fell backwards with an oomph.

“What’s that?” he heard. The door slowly opened, and Pip scrambled to hide behind an egg. His hands touched the obsidian, and he cried.

Please don’t let me die!

A crack appeared across the egg. The sound of shattering glass echoed through the chamber.

The Earl stood in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face as each of the eggs burst open. Whelplings. Hundreds of them burst forth and circled the diminutive Pip.

With a shriek, he sprinted down the halls of the dungeon, up the stairs of the castle, and into the king’s sitting room only just scrambling past the guards.

The king was lifting a spoon to his mouth. Pip screamed and dove at him.

“Unicorn horn!” he cried pushing the king’s hand.

Outside screams and a flurry of wings echoed through the castle halls. The man pushed through the dining hall door narrowly missing the fiery breath of the tiny dragons. Despite the chaos, the king remained resolute in his chair.

“This man tried to poison you,” the whelplings cried in unison. “Pip told us.”

Pip gasped at the words, at their meaning. They understood him. Every thought, every word, every emotion. The connection was real.

“Thank you, dear boy,” the king said. “You confirmed what I had already suspected and saved the kingdom.”

The little dragons swarmed into the room and surrounded Pip. The would-be assassin struggled against the strong embrace of the castle guards. The king stood up and patted Pip on the shoulder, “Oh, you unremarkable boy. You broke their sleep and have bonded with the dragons. Just as I knew you would.”

Pip squinted at the king, “Wha-?”

“You’re the third born in the third generation of dragon masters.”

The whelplings sang, “Master, protector, friend.”

Pip’s eyes grew wide, and a smile spread across his face. Their joy was his joy, and suddenly for the first time in his life, he understood his place in the world.

Miss Kylie

Miss Kylie slid the last of the outfit on. Long, shaven legs were accented with a pair of uncomfortable red heels. A short skirt barely covered the rear, and a tight top showed off more cleavage than should be possible. 

Blonde hair hung in ringlets around Miss Kylie’s face, and shades covered the eyes. The ensemble was complete with a scarf in a bright shade of pink tied around the neck. 

“You don’t have to do this,” Erica said. 

Miss Kylie just nodded and smiled. Erica shook her head and muttered, “You’re crazy going out like that, but there’s no talking you out of it now.”

“Rape culture at its finest,” Miss Kylie said gruffly.

Erica looked Miss Kylie up and down and sighed, “How is it you look better in those clothes than I do!”

With a shrug, Miss Kylie picked up a tiny purse and started for the door. 
 
 
Erica drove Miss Kylie into the city and parked off a major street. “Good luck,” she said.

A laugh, “You’ll see. Nothing to worry about.”

Miss Kylie stepped out of the car and heard a whistle.

“Hah, yeah. You’ll be fine,” Erica said. “I’ll see ya soon.”

Miss Kylie nodded and walked down the street. The shoes proved to be the hardest to master. But after some time, they seemed to get easier. An old couple walked past and gasped. Mutters of “why would she wear that?” eddied across the sidewalk.

But Miss Kylie continued on.

A whistle here, a catcall there – all well-received. But the longer the walk went on the more was heard. 

A hoot, a holler, a slap on the rear, a dirty joke, a bad pickup line, a few sexual advances, repeat. 

For half an evening this went on until Miss Kylie had had enough. 

How do they do this all the time? 

Miss Kylie travelled back to the apartment where Erica was waiting with a bottle of scotch and a frown.

“How was it, Kyle?” Erica asked as the door slammed shut.

Kyle slumped into a chair and tossed the blonde wig onto the ground. 

“People are disgusting,” he growled.

He didn’t say another word. He grabbed the breast pads, threw them down on the ground, and proceeded to remove all reminders of Miss Kylie. 

“I tried to tell ya,” Erica sighed. “No matter how progressive the world gets, women will be objectified.”

He grumbled, “I know now.”

The social experiment was over, but the lesson was not soon forgotten.
 
 
 
 
 
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The Arcade

Rachel’s stomach churned as the acrid stench filled her lungs. She tossed what remained of her chocolate bar aside and steeled herself through the broken glass door.

It was well past midnight and well past her bedtime too. She could hear her big brother, Vinnie, laughing uproariously. Somehow, he had coerced her to tag along with temptations of wholesome fun. So far his version of excitement was breaking curfew, trespassing, and vandalism.

“This used to be the place to be,” Vinnie said. His voice rebounded off the grey walls.

“What happened?” Rachel asked nervously. Shards of glass cracked beneath her feet.

Ash and dust settled into her throat, and she tried to expel it with a cough.

“A fire. Bad wiring or something,” Vinnie said.

Rachel shuddered. 

“Doesn’t look like anyone has had our idea,” Vinnie snickered. “Throw me the bag.”

“There won’t be any money left in them,” Rachel said with a grunt.

“Don’t be such a girl!” Vinnie said as he grabbed the bag mid-air.

The temperature was dropping inside, but Rachel tried to ignore it. Her nerves were already frayed. This was not her idea of fun.

The video arcade was a shell of its former self. The pinball machines and games still stood, but not much was left of them. The marquees, sides and bezels were either blackened or destroyed.

Rachel shuffled around the arcade and rubbed her arms. She was at the next aisle of machines when movement caught her eye. With a jump, she turned to see if it had been Vinnie.

Vinnie was still pulling out screwdrivers from the bag.

She walked down the aisle, heart in throat, and attempted to investigate.

A streak ran past her and knocked the wind out of her. 

A light breath touched her ear, “You should not be here!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. With a scream, Rachel ran, and the arcade sprang to life. 8-bit sounds echoed, and the machines flashed shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.

“Vinnie!” she called as she rounded the corner. His hands were on a pinball machine, and his eyes fixed on the flashing lights. He didn’t even acknowledge her.

She pinched herself and blinked to make sure it was real. All around her the arcade games were playing themselves. The buttons were moving up and down, and the sticks moved left and right, forward and back.

Panicked, she sprinted back to Vinnie. The pinball machine buzzed with messages of “High-score! Double!” Vinnie high-fived the air as cheers and laughter rose in the room.

Rachel shook her head and rubbed her eyes. When she reopened them, she saw group of kids standing around her brother. Their heads turned toward her with toothy grins and villainous eyes.

With a shriek, she stepped back; her hand landed squarely on the closest machine, sending a jolt through her body.

“Play,” she heard.

She pulled away and called out to Vinnie. He turned to look at her.

“Play,” he said. His soulless gaze peered right through her.

She coughed and held her hand over her mouth as a haziness settled on the room.

Her mind cloudy and her chest tight, she spun towards the door. Smoke filled the room and blanketed it in a fog, but still she tried to push forward. She stumbled and struggled to regain her balance. Somehow she knew if she touched the machines, she’d be lost.

The sound of the games echoed in every chamber of her mind, and she longed to play. One game. That’s all. Just one round.

Her fingers grazed the machine. She pushed away but returned a second later, unable to resist the chilly invitation.

“Your turn,” the voices echoed.

Mesmerized, her hands clutched the joysticks, and she started the game. 

“You’re mine,” a single voice said.

Her reflection shone through from the monitor. Her own sinister eyes and venomous smile stared back, but she just smiled deeper and laughed.

Rachel ignored the cold embrace, ignored the pulling on her soul, even ignored the fire surrounding her. Her eyes stayed fixed on the little 8-bit hero on her screen, on her opponent, and on her score. She was one with the machine, and she was never leaving this arcade.

 

 

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