Web of Lies – a microstory

Their hold on me had long since loosened. 

One year had passed since I walked out the door. I was beginning to feel like my own person, like I’d finally escaped their spider’s web. 

I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had replaced theirs with my own.

Image Source: imgur

Storm Cellar

I was around 8 years old when Grandma & Grandpa bought a brand new brick home in the nice part of town. They had snagged one of the bigger yards in the area and spent many a day in their gardens as they babysat us during the summer months.

The greatest novelty to their house, though, was the 12-person large storm cellar. When a wall cloud appeared in the sky or there were high winds, my grandparents would lead us out into the backyard where the storm cellar was. They’d lift the heavy metal door, and we would head inside.

I remember that it was a kind of game, how quickly we could load ourselves into the cellar. We set up blankets, flashlights, and a handheld radio on the concrete benches during the non-tornado season months.

We’d get the neighbors involved during some of our drills. We understood that when the time came, not one, but two families would come to this cellar to hunker down. (Anyone who lives in tornado alley has had their fair share of confined spaces during the months of May to July.)

In 1982, our NE Texas little town was hit by a mighty F4 tornado. 10 people lost their lives, 170 people were injured, 435 homes were destroyed and a thousand people were left homeless. It’s the kind of tragedy that brought people together back then. Not long after that, storm cellars were required across every 3 homes built, because if another tornado like that hit, we were not willing to take the human losses like that again.

I’ve been thinking about that storm cellar this week and what it signifies about the human spirit. About how when catastrophe strikes, humans inevitably try to help one another and work together towards a common goal.

In 2011, on the other side of the world, I was around to see another natural disaster and its effects, in the Queensland floods. Thousands of homes flooded in the span of a day. In the days following, thousands of people returned to homes to empty it of all their contents. It was quite the sight to see friends and strangers come together to help with recovery efforts.

Fast forward to 2020, and things seem so different. That belief in the inherent goodness of people has faltered. Social media may have had its part in building the divisions amongst us, but how much of that has been social engineering? I want to believe that this darkest timeline will end sooner rather than later, but until that happens, I’ll keep dreaming about that storm cellar and all that it represents.

Hopeless Conviction

Image by _Marion from Pixabay

If I could change one thing, it would be sharpening that knife. I had never needed it that sharp before, but then again, the shadows were becoming bolder too.

Dusk was settling into dark, when I handed it to Terra. I barely knew her. She looked maybe twelve. But I sensed the same magic in her as I had. 

She was all arms and legs and not much else. Her hollow cheeks were nothing compared to the protruding rib cage beneath her paper thin shirt. She survived, it seemed, for years on the streets. I’m sure she had a sad story to tell, but I was more interested in how she endured. And how the shadows had not taken her. 

I took her to Marnie’s Diner. The dulled street sign let out a cantankerous hum, challenging whatever electric god it served. Marnie stood behind the counter in the empty restaurant, her hands hidden under the benchtop, probably holding the shotgun I’d given her.

Marnie’s shoulders relaxed, “Boy, am I glad to see you today, Fox! We gotta lotta activity in tha street this evenin’.”

I wondered if Terra was to blame for that.

“Good health to you, Marn,” I smiled at her. “This is Terra.”

“Hey there, sweetpea,” she said. 

I led Terra to my normal spot and let Marnie feed her.

Marnie’s Diner sat on a crossroads. Most businesses closed before this hour, but today, the florist looked open. His robust frame stood motionless in the doorway.

I leaned over at Terra and whispered. “This place is safe, but it has its limits. Keep that blade close.”

Her eyes gave away no terror, only understanding. She glanced at the bar and back at me.

“She’s good,” I explained. “Marnie and her husband were clients of mine.”

“You help people,” she said, stating a fact. I wondered how long she had watched me before asking for my help.

I nodded.


“Magic,” I whispered.

Movement caught my eye. Four more shadows appeared at the florist. 

I pushed myself out of the seat.

“Listen, kid. There’s no time. The shadows. They want you. They want you because you’re like me, only you don’t know it yet.”

I could see the gargoyles now. From above, they controlled the shadowmen with puppet-strings. 

“I can protect you, but you have to do exactly as I say, okay?”

A sixth man dropped in the middle of the street. His hunched form and deformed hands told me he was the leader, and the human-puppet he handled had been his for decades.

Terra used her arms and legs to frog-jump off the diner sofa onto the floor in response to my question.

“If you see the strings, cut them. It will sever the link. The shadows’ power comes from the control.”

I didn’t bother to check if she understood. I stepped forward, but before we walked into the street, they transported us to a desert wasteland. 

I wondered what game the shadows were playing. There was nowhere for them to hide.

I clapped my hands, sending a shockwave of blue and white energy towards our pursuers. I knocked most back. With my left hand, I summoned an astral blade and prepared for combat.

The earth cracked beneath our feet.

“Stay with me, kid,” I commanded. 

Terra grabbed my arm. Before I could push her away, our minds melded. Flashes of memories told me of a life I hadn’t lived, and I wished she hadn’t. In the darkness, voices seduced me. No! Her

“I know what you are,” she said to me. “And I know who I am.”

By then, it was too late.

I shouldn’t have sharpened that knife. I shouldn’t have given it to someone I thought was innocent.

Darkness enveloped me. I hoped for – embraced – death.

Only death did not come. 

I woke in the desert, surrounded by shadows, unable to move even my head.

“You will teach me all I need to know,” Terra said.

“No,” I whispered, grateful to have control of my mouth.

“I think you’ll change your mind.”

“My conviction is stronger than yours,” I said. 

But my broken body had other plans. Without want or warning, I stood up, spun, and bowed to her. She clapped. “Actions speak louder than words, Fox.”

That’s when I saw puppet strings on my arms and legs and the body of the previous shadow leader lying in a crumpled heap before me. 

It was at that moment I lost all hope.

Prompt for this week’s fiction grid included the first line and the attached picture. Check out other stories at the link above. 🙂

Yellow Tracks

“Okay, racers, start. your. engines!” 


The whistle blows.

“Annnnddd they’re off!” Mommy commentates. “Callum takes an early lead. But what’s this? Liam is closing in. Folks, he could win!”

Callum grabs the track. “Earthquake!”

The Hot Wheels tumble to the carpet as another match begins on foot.

The Last Volley

I stood on the edge of the court and watched as the volleyball spiraled towards me. I threw up my hands and covered my face with my arms. The ball hit my elbows and crashed to the gym floor. The group of nine- and ten-year-old girls groaned at me.

“Melony, pick up the ball and serve it,” the gym teacher, Ms Graham, said with no small hint of annoyance.

I picked it up, threw it into the air, flailed my arms to hit it and grazed it with my pinky finger. I watched in horror as the ball landed onto my forehead.

The frustration of the room transformed into laughter. The gym teacher blew her whistle to return to a state of calm and called Christi to my side. “Show her how it’s done.”

I watched in awe. She threw the ball straight up, jumped, and at the exact right second, she smacked the ball with her palm. It flew over the heads of my classmates onto the other side of the net.

The game continued until the whistle sounded again, only it was the period whistle to announce the end of class. Thankfully, the ball never came my way again.

I gathered my belongings and skulked past my classmates to make my way out. Ms Graham caught me as I tried to sneak past. Her hand landed on my shoulder and three words came out of her mouth I didn’t want to hear, “A word, please.”

I stopped and walked closer to her. Out of every teacher I had ever had since kindergarten, Ms Graham was the only one that didn’t like me. Aside from being able to run fast, I was perhaps the example of a bookish nerd with no skill in athletics. 

“I tried,” I said, “honest, I did.”

“I know. But trying isn’t enough in my class.”

I flinched. I didn’t know how I could improve on this one thing.

“I feel I need to be upfront with you. If you can’t get this right, I will have to give you a C this term,” Ms Graham said.

A C! No, nonononononono.

“But-“ I said.

“No. Listen,” she crossed her arms for added effect. “This is how you get an A. You need to serve the ball and get it over the net. And you have to hit bump the ball, again over the net.”

She must have seen the terror written all over my face, so after an uncomfortable break, she continued, “You need to do this once before the term is up.”

I gulped and nodded before I realized what I was doing. She showed me to my homeroom and apologized to the teacher before leaving.

I couldn’t focus on class for the rest of the morning; instead, I spent my time planning. Two weeks to master these two simple little things. But first. I’d need Christi to help me.

The next morning thirty minutes before school began, I entered the gym and took a volleyball out of the equipment locker. Christi agreed to help me, for the price of a nutter butter every day. 

For two weeks, I would leave the gym with red palms and fresh new bruises on my forearms from the force of the ball. And every day for nearly two weeks, I would walk away certain that the C inched that little bit closer.

When the end of the term came and I hadn’t heard from Ms Graham about her requirement, I went to her office.

“Uh, Ms Graham?” I said. “It’s the end of term.”

“I’m aware,” she said. Her eyes met mine. “I know I told you trying wasn’t good enough. But you’ve changed my mind. I’ve watched you over the last two weeks try very hard to get it. Your arms are covered in bruises to prove the point.”

I tried to hide my arms into my sides.

“We both learned a valuable lesson, I think. I’ll let you decide what that is. Anyways, you’ll be getting a B+ this term.”

I never considered fighting back. I accepted her grade and her reasoning and walked away with a half smile on my face. I would never be a natural athlete, but if I worked hard enough, I could pass as an below average one.