Chuwa’s Judgment

I took a stone from my pocket. It was meaningless, the kind of pretty thing she would have liked. It was also a life. I put the first of many on the shelf upon which we had laid Chuwa’s necklace of stones and shells.

I lifted his head, heedless of the greasy blood matting it, dragging him to the cliff’s edge as he struggled.

“Please! I have done nothing!”

“This isn’t about you!” In my anger, I threw him to the ground, and for a second it looked like he’d go over. He clawed at the rock and managed to hold himself back from the edge. Continue reading “Chuwa’s Judgment”

My Kindness in Return

Write a three-paragraph story, starting every paragraph with the same sentence.

Photography by David Graham at https://www.flickr.com/photos/animal168/ .

He is so kind. Before I broke, before the accident. He bought me flowers, he had a necklace for me — I still have it — and we went to a fancy restaurant. It was so uncomfortable for a girl who grew up with nothing, that we left and went to a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant. The tablecloths were plastic. The food was greasy. I loved it.
He is so kind. Even when he found me spattered with blood. He ignored every evidence of my guilt, he would have testified self-defense from a break-in, despite the handcuffs, despite the surgical scalpels. I had to tell him, then. He cried, he pleaded, begged me to get help. But I knew there was no help for me. He helped me bury his body. It was lucky that he caught me, in a way. The man was three times my weight.
He is so kind. He loved me, even knowing what I did. He learned how to rent a warehouse through a shell corporation for me. He insisted we buy all my tools that way, too. He protected me well. Even now, on the table, he begs for the chance to forgive me. But when it is time, it is time. He knows it, I see it in his eyes as I kiss his brow, as I tell him that I’ll meet him soon.
He was so kind.

The True Monster

You’re passing a court house and a screaming man is being pulled from a police car. He pulls his arm free and points at you.
“You did it and I’m coming for you – dead or alive “.

I got out of my car, closing the door and leaning back against the frame. My glasses were a little greasy, so I pulled them off, cleaning them, then set them back on my face to watch a man being dragged into the courtroom. “You did it!” He screamed at me across the street. “You did it and I’m coming for you, dead or alive!”

There’d be peace, now. No more late-night parties. No more band practices. No more listening to the headboard crashing against the wall after he brought some prostitute home. We all complained about him, the entire building, but nobody ever did anything. The landlord didn’t care, as long as the rent was paid on time.

In the end, it was easy. Continue reading “The True Monster”

Setting the Stage for Battle

Alexander slammed his foot down atop the dead body, pointing his sword.  “You’re next!  There’s no room for altruism in the world I’m building.  We fight to win!”

Spartas wiped a trickle of blood from the trickle at the corner of his lips, standing. “That’s why you’ll never win.  Why you can never be allowed to win.”

Alexander rushed forward with a rising slash.  Spartas leaned away from it with inches to spare, grabbing Alexander’s armor to thrust his sword into Alexander’s belly.  His opponent whirled behind his grip, tearing himself free of that hand and bringing his sword to strike at Spartas’s back.

“Stop, stop.” Continue reading “Setting the Stage for Battle”

Geo Rivals

You’re driving home from work late at night when you begin to suspect the car behind you might be following you. You take every right turn until you have made a full circle. The car is still behind you…

Scene from Courtlyn Siepert: You’re driving home from work late at night when you begin to suspect the car behind you might be following you. You take every right turn until you have made a full circle. The car is still behind you…

Why are you so paranoid, and why are they after you?

I had been beaten. Again. This time I had the advantage though; I was intimately familiar with this neighborhood. I glanced in the rearview and made the turn, heading to the hillside that the latest clue had to represent. It would take anybody from outside the region days to do the research needed—

That’s when I noticed headlights in my rearview, making the same turn I had. My instincts twitched. Continue reading “Geo Rivals”

Young Steel

You’ve decided it’s time you taught your granddaughter to use a sword.

My granddaughter came up the path, as she did every Monday and Thursday. It warmed me, to still have visitors; the hike into town had grown difficult for my old bones, though perhaps it was just the townsfolk. So many bled for them, and they seemed intent on forgetting it. Not my granddaughter, though. She was blooming into womanhood, but still took the time to visit an old man. She always asked for the old war stories.

Today, though, she came up the walk with a new hairstyle. Over her shoulder, hiding one cheek. It was pretty. But the look on her face was shaken, nervous.  Familiar.  “Amanda. Always a pleasure.” I hugged her, as always, then brushed her hair behind her ear before she knew what I’d done, showing the bruise on her cheek. “Were we going to talk about this?”

“No.” She was direct. She didn’t argue or make excuses.  I liked that about her.

“Well then . . . you like the old stories, right?”

She looked up, hesitating. She knew I rarely told her the real stories. I told her about where we went and the things we achieved there, but not the real grit of it. There were war stories, and there were the ‘old stories’. “Will you tell one?” Continue reading “Young Steel”

Unarmored

Night Diner

This is the third story in what I call the ‘Soul’ series, based on artwork by Klegs.

Original

Artwork: Night Diner, by Klegs (DeviantArt)

“Man, that was great!” Sarah was excited, animated, all the things that set me on edge. But she wasn’t like most people. I knew that she needed to just talk. I was content to listen, and she didn’t take offense.

“It was just me! I mean, the bar was a hole in the wall, but I wasn’t just opening for someone, either. They wanted me! They even applauded!” Continue reading “Unarmored”

Photographer’s Spirit, Sniper’s Soul

A photographer and a sniper meet in a bar. Neither is aware of the other’s occupation. They talk about “how to take the perfect shot”.

 

Original

I looked at the mirror across the bar and surveyed the damage. The youthful man looking back at me was a mess.  My hair was full of dust; from the explosions, from the powdered concrete of ruined buildings, and from the ever-present road dust.  You couldn’t escape it.  The caked mud on my face was where the dust in the air had mixed with a bloody scrape.  a I sipped at the beer in my hands – the first I had found in a week – and sighed, savoring this respite from the chaos.

My companion was a more grizzled man.  He looked like he was used to conflict.  His hair was cropped shorter than mine, a week of beard went unnoticed by any razor, and a jagged, torn scar snaked along the line of his jaw like a disfiguring rope.  “You’re new to this, ain’tcha?”

“It’s my first time ‘in it.’  I took some fantastic shots, but . . . it’s chaos out here.  This country is a wreck.”

He smiled, putting an empty glass down, and the bartender refilled it with an amber liquid that smelled like kerosene. “Y’get used to it.  Learn to function in chaos, or go home.  Got some good shots myself.  See that bell tower up there?” He pointed through the window – a church steeple was visible from a few blocks away.  The top of it had been destroyed, leaving only a broken wall, and the crumbling stub of a staircase. “Before they secured the city, got some of the best shots of my life up there.” Continue reading “Photographer’s Spirit, Sniper’s Soul”

My Friend’s House.

Take me to your favorite place, your favorite moment, describe how it is in your memory or imagination.

Original

I crawled out the window onto the porch roof. The book in my hand struck the sill, but I didn’t dare lunge after it as it skidded down the roof. It slid to a stop just short of the gutter. I went and retrieved it, careful of the edge. My next stop was to cross to the far side of the porch and spread a double-fistful of peanuts. Rushing back to my bedroom window, I leaned back against the brick wall, my legs spread out before me on the slanted roof, and I opened the book.

The wind was cool in my hair. The sun was warm on my skin. The rustle of the leaves was comforting, like a mother shushing and comforting an upset child. For a time, I was lost in another world. Princes led men into battle, magic powers contested each other, and the forces of good and evil struggled. Then I heard something.

A scrabbling . . . a crunch. I looked up, and a squirrel had found my peanuts. She’d gotten bolder in the past weeks. She tore the shell of every peanut, stuffing them into her cheeks before rushing off to bury them. Five, six times. Then she ran out of peanuts. She sniffed around the roof, and I tossed one her direction. Instead of cringing away, she rushed for it, scooping it up, trying to fill her cheeks. I tossed another, closer; she advanced – stopped, looking up at me, then took that one, too.

Would it be today? Would she? I held one peanut out, in my fingers. She looked at me, and it seemed like she met my eyes, even though hers were pure black and on opposite sides of her head. She moved forward with that frenetic energy that squirrels have, stopping barely a foot away. Then she crept closer and snatched it from me. Suddenly she was five feet away and crunching through the shell.

It was okay. I was grinning like a fool, despite her distance. She’d come closer than ever before, and I knew she’d grow more comfortable with time. “Come on down for dinner!” It was faint, through the open window. I could ignore it, pretend I didn’t hear, but then they’d find me on the roof and that would be a whole different kind of trouble.

I leaned in the window and called back. “Be right down!” I climbed in, replacing the screen, then I brushed leaves and grit from my pants and socks. I changed my shirt so they wouldn’t see the dust from the mortar of the brick wall, and I shook my hair out just in case. It was a good thing I did – a leaf drifted down. Then I rushed downstairs for dinner, still smiling. I had a new friend!

Paranormal Activity

A challenge to myself, to write a story for a picture chosen by somebody else.

Original

Eight o’clock. I had n’ left work this late in months. All of the other purchasing agents had quit on me or were detailed to other tasks.  It was just me right now, and I was exhausted. The monorail roared down the track running parallel to the road, the street flashing bright and dark as the windows rushed by.  I didn’t pay it much heed, until it went dark, though.  The streetlights went out, the house lights went out, and I could tell the train wasn’t powering down the rails anymore, only coasting.

I turned around, and looked down the mountainside – I could see so much of the city from here – and I was just in time to see the whole city go dark in patches. The train stopped with a squeal and hiss of hydraulic brakes, and then everything was quiet.  I looked at the train and saw people in the glow of their phones, some pressing against the windows to see outside.  A city-wide blackout. Continue reading “Paranormal Activity”