Between the Lines

 

Some say I am evil. A few have said I am simply misguided. Very rarely, I hear that my destiny shall lead me to greatness. Everyone seems to have an opinion of me.

Myself, I believe that we all have choices before us. Each choice is one step closer to who we are fated to become, and whether that is perceived as good or evil depends on who stands to judge.

From an outside point of view, I can see where people get their impressions of me.  Remember, however, that not everything can be taken at face value.  Only an individual can genuinely understand the reasons behind his deeds.  Much of what seems evil and heartless is fueled instead by love and the will to protect.

Most people don’t see any of that; they are quick to pass judgement and make their assumptions. Yet, one must want to look beyond the initial actions to see if something deeper is at stake. So many acts that were deemed despicable and hateful were actually founded on the basis that they served a greater purpose. Every so often, there is one person who honestly means well, and is not fueled by greed or power. Let this be a lesson, a reminder, that just because one does bad things, it does not mean that he is a bad person. For the innermost essence of a person to be discovered, we must truly learn to read between the lines.”

–The leading antagonist in the mind of Crystal MM Burton

[Bonus points to whoever gets the secret message!]

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

Describe the perfect antagonist.

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

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Chasing Inspiration

This is a short piece detailing the very real struggle of a fantasy writer. We surround ourselves with these imagined worlds and spend way too much time sitting in them, with a swirl of inspiration around us…and yet, we seem to overlook it, searching for just the right elements for our next story. Enjoy.

 


Krysten sat there in the warm, brown mud, drumming her fingers rhythmically against the uneven top of the aged stump. With her free hand, she occasionally swatted aside a curious vine that tried to overtake the keyboard of her laptop, but her eyes never wandered from the flashing black line on her blank white screen.

I need inspiration.

She knew writing was hard work, but some days she really wondered what she had been thinking when she changed her Facebook profile to reflect that her career path involved “creating worlds and designing personalities.” There was a level of difficulty involved with all that creating and designing that she hadn’t quite expected.

She idly scratched the back of her head, feeling the thin, spindly legs of the agriata spider tangled amid locks of her tousled blonde hair. Without flinching, she turned her hand slightly and gently lifted the arachnid away, setting it down beside her. It scurried off, the blues and greens of its diamond-like abdomen dancing in the streams of sunlight that filtered through the trees. Turning back to her nonexistent novel, Krysten sighed.

Seriously, I need inspiration.

A voice from behind her brought a brief reprieve from the mocking screen. “Top o’ the mornin’, lass. How’s my best mate this fine eve? I’m so hip to the jive of your creative passion for the spoken language; but Hark! Wherefore art thou saddened?”

“Johnavieve…you’re doing it again,” Krysten said as a dark-skinned soldier trotted up to her on an ebony steed, tipping his bejeweled top hat in greeting. The lime-green saddle stole attention from his leopard-skin loincloth but wasn’t enough of a contrast to keep her eyes from darting straight to his shiny, purple zoot-suit vest, where thick pads spread his shoulders to disproportionate widths. “We really need to work out who the hell you are one of these days.”

“I couldn’t agree more thoroughly, madame. The beast of uncertainty doth cursed this wretched land, and I alone hold the key to—”

“Nope, not today, Johnny.” She cut him off mid-sentence. The rapidly changing accent and personality of her ambiguously indecisive friend could be a bit overbearing at times. Or, more specifically, at any time he came around her. “I’m really kind of busy right now; I’m trying to find inspiration.”

“Ah.” He nodded, his tall hat rocking precariously atop his thick red curls. “Well, I’ll leave you to it then, milady. Until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east!” With that, he squeezed his legs hard against his horse and held on tight as it reared up, pawing at the air with thick black hooves. A second later, the beast took off at a gallop, and Johnavieve was gone, having disappeared into the surrounding jungle.

Krysten shook her head. When he stayed around too long, he started quoting other authors. She really hoped someone would come along and quote one of her own stories, so she could be reminded of why she was trying so hard to write now.

Where is my damn inspiration when I need it?

‘I know where it is, Cricket,” a familiar voice called out.

She knew who it was instantly by his ability to read her thoughts, as well as his nickname for her. She turned, almost falling over in the mud, and her eyes lit up at her friend’s new mount.

She reached out a hand and laughed as her fingers slid across rubbery, webbed feet. Its thick orange legs ran up a full meter high before disappearing beneath a blanket of sleek white feathers. Krysten couldn’t hold back her excitement as the oversized Pekin duck rubbed its beak into her hair, coating her in slimy duck drool.

“Hey, cowboy!” she said, still laughing. “Nice ride! I like this one.”

The man sitting on the duck’s back wore full western gear—including a beaver-fur cowboy hat and shined leather boots with golden spurs. He let loose a wide smile and lovingly patted the duck’s neck. “Yeah, this here is Puddles. Been raising him for weeks now; this is our test run. He’s doing great. And look!” He pointed to the left breast of the majestic bird, where a shiny gold badge was pinned to the feathers. “He’s already passed his deputy trials.”

Krysten could tell he was immensely proud of his pet. “I like him. Congratulations, Puddles.” She turned her attention back to her friend. “How have you been?”

“Not bad. How’s the writing going?”

Ugh. Do you have to ask, she thought.

Before she could say anything out loud, her friend shook his head. “You know I’m going to ask; it’s the only way to keep your mind on your work.”

Oh right. Mind reading. Oops.

He laughed. “Well, get back to it then! You got this.” Right as the last words rolled off his tongue, a deafening crash to their left made them both jump. The duck let out a loud quack in response.

The nearest pine tree was on fire. The flames burned an unnatural white, and the tree disintegrated rapidly beneath the intense heat. The cowboy swore and whipped the duck around to face the direction from which the baelfire had originated.

Aayeeeeeyaaaaah!” A battle cry rang from just beyond the misty forest to the south, and they searched the barely visible treeline for any sign of movement. A few more bolts of baelfire shot past, one just barely missing the duck’s tail feathers.

Scantily-clad natives rushed out of the mist, raising their tattooed arms in front of their chests and releasing balls of colored energy. Each color produced a unique, terrifying effect: blue power sent boiling water streaming through the air, and brown shot spikes of rock flying toward its target. Krysten ducked, and the cowboy lifted his own hands toward the oncoming army.

“I think you should go,” he called down over his shoulder.

“I think you’re right!” she replied. “Good luck with your battle! I’ll see you later.”

With that, Krysten stood up. The stump in the mud, the jungle, and the battle of power all dissipated before her eyes as reality flooded back. She pushed aside her computer chair and stretched out her arms with a yawn.

Maybe I’ll be inspired later, she hoped.

Just Coffee

 

Note: This short story was entered into a writing workshop in the fall of 2016, where it was critiqued, revised, edited, and submitted to the Authors’ Tale anthology Once Upon a Wednesday. It was accepted and published. You can find an excerpt of the final story here or grab a copy of the anthology at Amazon. For now, enjoy the rough draft that started it all.


 

I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My husband, caught in a whirlwind of jealousy-induced rage, was straddling a handsome police officer on the dirty Walmart floor, throwing punches like candy at Christmas. The officer had his hands up to block his face, and his torn shirt was soaked in hot coffee. They struggled, occasionally flipping over, with the cop wrestling to hold my husband down and pull his handcuffs from his belt. As frightened as I was, I knew if I got in the middle of it, it would only get me hurt. So I stood there, my back against a pallet of dog food, sipping coffee and wondering how this would all end.

***

It began as a normal day. I had dropped my son off at his elementary school and had my truck idling at the four-way stop, where a police officer stood most mornings directing traffic. Watching him was the best part of my morning routine. He was just finishing up his rotation and had to cross in front of me to get to his Rural County Sheriff SUV. His eyes met mine as he walked with authority and confidence, and I couldn’t stop a smile from spreading across my face. He was quite handsome. His short black curls were bouncing with each step, and he flashed a bright, flawless smile back at me. I waved at him, then admired his trim, muscular build as he passed by and climbed into his vehicle. A loud horn honking behind me made me realize I had right-of-way at the stop, and traffic was building up. Blushing, I went through the intersection, grateful that no one could see me through my tinted windows.

Barely two miles down the road, I heard a siren. A quick look in my rearview mirror showed blue and white lights flashing behind me. I pulled over, confused. I wonder what I did? I slid my license out of my purse and rolled down my window, waiting patiently for the officer to walk over. When he finally did, my heart fluttered as I saw the same handsome policeman that had been directing traffic. I read the shiny black name tag on his shirt pocket. Sheriff James Fowler. Hellooo, sexy sheriff.

“Good morning, ma’am,” he said as he tipped his black Stetson cowboy hat. I felt a rush of appreciation for whoever designed Texas officer uniforms. Cowboys were definitely my weakness, and this man was gorgeous.

“Morning, officer,” I said brightly. I met his commanding green eyes with a nervous smile, and was relieved to see his features soften in response.

“May I see your license and proof of insurance please?” I handed him my license and my cell phone. He read over my license as I explained the reason for my phone.

“My proof of insurance is there on the screen. I lost the paper copy, so I hope the digital version is all right.”

“Yes, this is perfect. Do you know how fast you were going, Miss…Lancaster?” Sheriff Fowler asked, checking my name on my license. He turned his attention to my phone, occasionally pressing buttons, but I didn’t mind. Whatever he was doing, there was nothing on my phone that was illegal, and I hadn’t been texting and driving.

“Oh, um… like sixty-five maybe? I know, it’s a little fast, but… I’m sorry. I don’t have an excuse. I shouldn’t have been speeding.” My smile faltered as I realized I was probably getting a ticket for going five miles over the limit. He handed my phone and license back to me right as his own cell beeped twice. Getting it out and checking the screen, he barked a laughed.

“No, no, you’re fine. Actually, hah… You didn’t do anything wrong.” As he put his phone in his pocket, he looked up at me and grinned. His wide, crooked smile melted my heart, and I felt my face grow hot. “I really should be going. Have a great day, Melissa.” He winked, and turned to leave.

“Wait!”

“Yes?” He spun around back to me, sounding hopeful. The corners of his mouth twitched, as if he wanted to say something.

“What just happened here?” I tilted my head questioningly.

“Well…” He reached a hand up and scratched the back of his head, his face turning as red as I thought mine must have already been. “You really weren’t going that fast. Besides, I can’t very well reprimand a lady as beautiful as yourself.”

I wondered if it was possible to blush any deeper than I did at that moment.

“And, not to mention,” he paused, sighing, his expression dropping slightly to reveal his disappointment, “I saw your ring. It’s bad form for an officer of the law to be hitting on a married woman.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Damn it. Even though I was indeed married, I was also blushing and smiling and laughing; I was hooked, and he knew it. His smile returned, wider than before, and his face lit up with amusement at my reaction. He took this as an invitation to lean against my truck, his face just a foot away from mine. I tried my best to avoid direct eye contact. I knew this conversation had suddenly taken a very dangerous turn. I wasn’t feeling threatened, but I knew how weak I was when it came to attractive men. I specifically kept myself out of such situations for that exact reason; yet here I was, flirting with a cop.

“Don’t worry, James,” I teased, as I pretended to straighten his already level name tag on his shirt, “I noticed your ring, too.” What was I doing? No, Melissa, bad. Bad Melissa. Stop. I pulled my hand away. “It’s probably bad form for a married man to hit on a married woman, cop or not. But I should probably get going anyways, I have shopping to do this morning.”

“How about coffee first? There’s no rule that says two married people can’t be friends. Friends can get coffee, right?”

“I don’t know…” I absentmindedly ran my fingers along the curve of the steering wheel, desperately trying to find a reason not to get coffee with this man. I made the mistake of meeting his gaze. This muscular, athletic, tan—No. I couldn’t allow myself to think about his body, or what he might look like under that black, pearl-snap shirt. I forced myself to look away from his stunning green eyes and perfectly formed jawline. “I really have to get my shopping done. I’m sorry.” I felt ashamed that my sorrow leaned more toward the fact that I’d never get to feel the warm embrace of his arms around me, or the force of his body against mine. I’m a horrible person. A nice, friendly, horrible person.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. Bad idea.” He stood there for a few seconds, watching me for any sign that I was changing my mind. Not seeing anything, he rapped his knuckles against the side of my truck. “Maybe another time.” He went back to his SUV, and I released the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. Before I could shift out of park, I got a text.

8:34am:  Sheriff James 😉

“It was nice meeting you. Hope you like caramel macchiato. See you soon.”

I chuckled, knowing that while he was playing with my phone, he must have been programming in his own number, and the message he had gotten immediately afterwards must have been him texting himself from my phone. Twenty minutes later I was pushing an empty cart through the dog food aisle at Walmart when my phone beeped again.

8:56am: Sheriff James 😉

What kind of dog do you have?”

I read it twice. I wasn’t sure how he knew where I was. I looked up and down the aisle, but I was alone. I stared at the screen again for what must have been five whole minutes, until I heard footsteps close by.

“Well?” I finally tore my eyes away from my screen to see Sheriff James Fowler standing in front of my cart, holding two cups from Starbucks.

“Black lab,” I murmured. I cleared my throat. “My dog, she’s a black lab. Her name is Katy.”

“Nice name. I have an Aussie. His name is Bruce.” He handed me a cup of coffee, and I held it up to my face for a moment, taking in the wonderful aroma of hot caramel. I lowered it back down and sighed.

“Look, don’t take this the wrong way, you seem really nice, but it’s not safe for a girl to take a drink from a strange man. Especially one with stalker tendencies.” I giggled despite the seriousness of my statement. “How did you find me, anyway?”

“Oh, you know,” he replied casually, “just practicing for my big promotion next month. Going detective.” He sipped his coffee and pointed at the fifty-pound bag of dog food I had stopped beside. “This one?”

I nodded, and he lifted a bag off the shelf and lowered it into my cart. Against my better judgment, I took a long swig of the hot drink he had handed me, and took pleasure in the joy of caffeine. It was short-lived.

“Who’s this?” A familiar voice demanded an answer. I turned around to see my husband carrying a box of dish detergent. He set it in the cart and stood next to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and staring intently at the sheriff.

“Honey, this is Sheriff Fowler. He directs traffic next to the school,” I explained. “He tried to pull me over today, but I wasn’t doing anything wrong, so he brought me coffee to apologize.” I tried to sound relaxed and calm, but my stomach was already in knots and my legs were shaking. I knew how it must have looked, but for once, I had been good in the face of temptation.

“Coffee at Walmart? You did tell him you met up with your husband here, right?”

“Actually, I didn’t get that far yet. I think he knows now though.”

The Sheriff did his best to stand tall with as much of an air of authority as he could muster.

“Your wife needs to learn to slow down around those curves in town. She wasn’t speeding, though, I just thought I’d make up for wasting her time this morning.”

“Thanks for bringing her coffee, but I think it’s time for you to go.”

“I was just trying to be friendly, sir.”

My husband was getting impatient. I recognized the signs of his short temper rising to the surface, and lightly pressed my hand against his chest.

“Sweetie, don’t you think it’s time to check out? I think we have everything we came for.”

He continued staring at the officer.

“We’ll leave as soon as this jerk-officer gets the fuck away from me and stops staring at my wife like a piece of fucking meat.” His hands were clenched into tight fists. I took a step back and looked away, feigning interest in the price of the leading brand of doggie diet food. Hm, made with real chicken. Lovely.

“It was just coffee, man. Let it go. I’m a county sheriff, you don’t want to start an altercation, okay? It was just coffee.”

“Yeah…just coffee. Well, unfortunately for you, it was with just my wife.”

And that’s how the fight started.

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

Write anything, as long as it ends with, “and that’s how the fight started.”

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

Hydra

Sweat drenched my shirt; my hands went numb. The agent stood motionless, staring at me. His expressionless face bore an intimidating quality that I could only assume he took years to perfect. Anxiety was coming on strong, with no apparent escape. My breath grew shallow, my heart quickened. None of the thoughts in my head were coherent enough to form a sentence. The world was in my hands, and I myself was powerless and afraid.

“H-hydra?” I stammered. “As in, the hydra? How—? How are they real?”

“Ma’am, the danger is very real. We do not have the luxury of time on our side. I’ve been told you were the expert on fictional heroes, so I brought you in. That was my mission, and I’ve completed it. The scientists are equipped to fill you in on the specifics of the matter. You’ll have to take it up with them. But I would advise you to be prepared with your hero of choice. The white coats are far less patient than I am.”

I swallowed hard, half-hoping to suddenly wake up to tomorrow morning. My rapidly intensifying nausea proved this world to be truth, and I was nearly sick. I swallowed again, this time holding back the vomit that threatened to heave forth.

Turning my back to the agent, I stumbled down the long, dark hallway. The faint yellow glow of the incandescent lights cast eerie shadows across the walls as I managed my way beneath their tired fixtures. Upon reaching the rusted iron door that marked the end of my path, I took a deep breath, turned the handle, and braced myself for what laid beyond.

“Finally!” a voice exclaimed, sounding exasperated. Three men in filthy lab coats rushed over and began talking all at once, but I was too overwhelmed to focus and inadvertently tuned them out as I took in my surroundings.

I was disappointed to find this room just as dark and ramshackle as the hallway. The walls were plastered with aged yellow pages, their scrawled formulas too illegible to read. Freshly printed papers were tacked overtop many of the older ones, red ink correcting many equations and descriptions. The center of the room was a clutter of tables and scientific equipment that I did not recognize. After a moment, I realized that it was an arrangement surrounding a large metal platform. This metal was shiny and bright, and the tangle of thick black cords that protruded from the base extended across the room to a series of gray, head-high breaker boxes, with red and orange lights flashing rapidly across the front panels.

My attention was drawn back to the men. These must have been the ‘white coats’ the agent had referred to. Brown coats, they should have been called. They finally stopped bombarding me with questions and information, and glared at me impatiently.

“I’m not sure what you want from me…” I began. I was surprised to hear that my voice was not shaking; my knees certainly were. “They—they told me hydra was real?”

The men nodded simultaneously. The foremost scientist, his hair wrapped up in a navy blue bandana, seemed to be in charge. He was the only one who spoke.

“We can bring one hero to life. Any hero, across any platform. This is entirely based on your imagination, so get creative. You know who will be best to fight this enemy. I don’t know what the suits told you, but you alone—out of the entire world—have sufficient knowledge of such a vast array of media. Books, movies, video games, comics; you know everything. Time is growing short. Now quick, choose your hero!”

Anxiety pulsed back in full force. I didn’t even notice it had receded. Perhaps it hadn’t; my apprehension may have just reached a new level of physical torment. My mind raced, and I blurted the first name that came to mind.

“Captain America!”

“Real name?” the lead scientist asked.

“Steve Rogers. He’s a Marvel character, from the comics. And books. And movies.”

“Got it!”

They rushed into action, scribbling notes on scraps of paper and typing various strings of data into keyboards. A full hour later, all three men finally stood stationary, breathing heavily. Their eyes were wide and their hands were shaking as they flipped the final switches. The center platform hummed loudly, and a blinding white light filled the room. I threw my hands over my ears to block out the deafening vibrations that were sending tremors through my bones. I squeezed my eyes shut and dropped to my knees, crying out in fear. The building must have been exploding; it was the only explanation for the overbearing volley against my senses.

Silence fell. For a moment I was certain I had met my death.

“Ma’am?”

I lowered my hands to the ground and cautiously opened my eyes. A pair of dark red boots stood directly in front of me. I let my gaze run up the boots, until they reached dark blue leather—skintight—forming calves, then knees, then thighs. Rising slowly, I kept my eyes level with my ascending point of view. A dark red utility belt was wrapped securely around wide hips, curving into a red-and-white striped waist. As I stood up straight, I found myself staring at a blue chest with a crisp white star emblazoned across the center. Muscles rippled just beneath the leather, stretching against an outfit that could barely contain the power within. I raised my eyes further, meeting the bright blue of the Captain’s.

“Hi.”

Though my voice was barely audible, he acknowledged my greeting with a smile. It was a confident, crooked grin that softened his features. He had never quite been my favorite of the Avengers, but in that moment he took his rightful place at the top of the list.

“I gather I was summoned here for a purpose,” he stated, glancing back at the scientists before addressing me once more. “What do you need, ma’am? I’m happy to help in any way I can.”

I was speechless. I looked to the scientists to explain. They began talking among themselves, exchanging hushed whispers accompanied by quick hand gestures. The one with the navy blue bandana stepped forward.

“Captain, sir, we have a hydra problem.”

“Hydra?” Steve Rogers gasped, pulling his shield from his back and assuming his classic superhero stance. I watched him in awe, completely absorbed in the fantastical reality these genius scientists had brought to life. “Have they infiltrated the S.H.I.E.L.D. of this version of Earth, as well? Where are their bases? Tell me where you need me. Red Skull is still defeated, right?” He shot off a barrage of questions, and I could almost see the gears turning in his head as he strategized and planned tactical offensive missions against the hydra bases that threatened us.

“Uh…” The scientists exchanged glances. “Not ‘hydra,’ sir, a hydra. Just one.”

I was as confused as the Captain looked. The scientist tried to explain further, noticing that we seemed to be lost on his correction.

“A hydra. You know, big beast, three heads? Dragon-like creature. It breathes fire and lightning, and has scales like steel and acid blood.”

I blinked. It was all I could do. The Captain looked to me for further details, but I had none to give. I could barely manage the small question that was on both of our minds.

“A hydra? You—you said hydra. You didn’t say ‘a’ hydra. Just…hydra.” Hydra didn’t seem to be a real word anymore. Anger began to surface, and my tone became a blend of accusatory and defensive. “You said the entire world was in danger! How can one beast endanger the entire world?!”

The scientist shrugged.

“It’s big and scary, and it melted New York.” One of the scientists that had thus far been quiet decided to join the conversation.

“The Navy managed to cut off one of the heads,” he added, “but three more took its place. It’s like something out of a Greek mythology, you know?”

Captain America just nodded. He still seemed to be working out a way to save the world. I knew he was the right choice; he would do what he could if it meant saving lives.

Although, in hindsight, perhaps I should have summoned Hercules.

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

The world is in danger, and a secret agency recruits you to save it. They have the technology to bring one fictional character to life (book or movie). What is endangering the world, and who do you summon to save it?

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

Alice

 

“…”

“Whatcha got?”

“Well?!”

Alice closed her eyes and concentrated. She didn’t really feel any different.

When her mom got her power, she said she knew instantly that she could read minds. She had told Alice that the moment the clock struck the hour of her birth, her head exploded in conversation, with bits and pieces of thoughts and emotions. She recognized it for what it was, and learned to control it within a week. She said her power helped her excel as a businesswoman.

The world was quiet tonight. It was now fifteen seconds past ten o’clock on her eighteenth birthday, and Alice could not read minds. All of her friends were present for her coming-of-age party, standing around her in a circle, anxiously waiting to hear what her new power was.

When her dad got his power, he had said it took him until the next day to discover the gift he had received. He had been quite solitary back then, and celebrated his coming-of-age alone. The next day, when her mother had stopped by to visit—before she was her mother—her father had been able to feel the love she had for him with every fiber of his being. He realized that his power was to feel the emotions of others. They were married within the year, and Alice was born just two years later. Her father had said that his power made him a more active member in the community.

“Come on, Alice! What can you do?”

“Can you fly?” asked Jen, her best friend since middle school.

Alice focused on lifting her feet off the floor, and jumped. She came back down as expected.

“Nope, I can’t fly.”

“How about reading minds like your mama?” her friend Rachel inquired.

Alice stared hard at Rachel and listened. Rachel just raised an eyebrow in silence.

Alice sighed. “Nope, can’t do that either.”

“Don’t worry, Alice,” said Jackie, clapping her hand on her back in an effort to comfort her. “I had to wait overnight for my power to show itself.”

“Jackie,” Alice replied, irritated. “It’s not about you right now!”

“I’m just saying!” Jackie raised her hands defensively. “I know how you feel, and you have nothing to worry about. You’ll get your power soon.”

After a few more minutes the excitement of waiting wore off and the girls went back to the kitchen for a snack. They began chatting about where to go after graduation next month, and who was going to date who after school let out.

“I’m thinking Jackie will end up with Kenny. Right, Jackie?” Rachel said casually. “He really likes you.”

Alice laughed. “No he doesn’t!” She laughed again, longer this time. “He told me last year that the only reason he hangs out with Jackie is because she’s so willing to sleep with him.”

The room got quiet. Alice was still chuckling, and Jackie was staring at her in shock. The rest of the girls were staring at Jackie, trying to keep straight faces.

“Okay, well, it’s not like he’s going to be with you!” Jackie snapped.

Alice shrugged. “He asked me out last year but I said no.”

Jackie’s mouth hung open. “What the hell, Alice?”

Alice suddenly realized she hadn’t meant to tell anyone about that. She didn’t want to hurt Jackie’s feelings, and she knew Jackie liked Kenny.

“I—I’m so sorry, Jackie. I don’t know what got into me. I’m just still kinda bummed about not having a power. I wasn’t trying to be mean.”

Trying to change the subject, Jen offered a plate to Alice.

“Here, happy birthday, Alice! Chocolate cake—your favorite!”

Alice shook her head in disgust. “I hate chocolate cake. My favorite is actually angelfood.”

This time it was Jen’s turn to stare in disbelief. “I’ve been making you chocolate cake every year for six years… You told me it was your favorite…”

“Sorry, Jen. You went through all the effort to make it, and I did appreciate the thought.” Alice paused, staring at the floor. “I don’t know what’s got into me tonight.”

Alice was getting tired. She didn’t know why she kept blurting out these things, these secrets that she had been keeping. She wanted her friends to go home and leave her in peace. She wasn’t so sure she had a superpower at all, and if she did have one it was probably lame, like her cousin’s ability to tell you the exact charge remaining in a battery.

Alice glanced up and saw that Rachel was eyeing her with a look Alice couldn’t quite place. She felt very uncomfortable under her gaze, and even more uncomfortable when Rachel spoke.

“Alice…do I look fat in these pants?”

“Not really,” Alice replied. “Though when you bend over the rest of the world can see your crack, but I think you know that already judging from the amount of times you bend over in front of Charles.”

Rachel continued. “Do you like my mom’s crocheted sweaters she gives you every Christmas?”

“Of course not! They’re scratchy and kinda bulky. Besides, I don’t see you wearing yours to school, either.” Alice’s eyes grew wide and she threw her hands up over her mouth, shaking her head. Rachel took a step forward and narrowed her eyes as a smirk crept across her face. Alice backed up until she was against the dining room wall.

“Rachel, stop!” Alice pleaded between her fingers.

“Last one, Alice.” Rachel got right up in Alice’s face and stared into her eyes. “You slept with Ed, didn’t you?”

The other girls gasped almost in unison. Alice shook her head, terrified, and when she moved her hands from her mouth to deny it, all she could do was squeak. She knew exactly what was happening, and she was—ironically—powerless to stop it.

“Yes,” she whispered meekly. Looking at Jen through the tears that were now streaming down her face, Alice tried to explain. “Jen, you were already broken up, I promise! He came over one day to talk…he just needed a friend, and I don’t know, it just…it just happened. But you were broken up!”

Jen didn’t say a word. She set her plate on the counter and walked out of the kitchen. A few seconds later, the front door slammed shut.

Jackie stood by the sink, contemplating the scene that had just unfolded. Rachel sat down at the table, a satisfied look playing across her features. Alice slumped to the floor and started sobbing loudly.

She should have known. That’s all she could think, was that she should have known. Her mother had the power to tell what other people were thinking. Her father had the power to tell what other people were feeling. It made perfect sense that Alice would have the power to tell what she herself was thinking and feeling.

She had the power of honesty.

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

It’s tradition that on your 18th birthday, you get powers. You anxiously countdown the seconds, but are shocked when you discover you have the worst power ever.

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

Inspiration from the Wheel of Time

There’s this girl. She’s about 28 years old, a housewife and mother of three. She loves her life, but she spends a good part of it in fantasies. Sometimes she’s mapping out new worlds, sometimes she’s creating new creatures, and sometimes she’s talking to her creations. She never expected to fall in love with one of her fictional characters, but she has. She has sworn to write about him and his universe and to share it with the world. She thinks about it every day, and she knows her husband is probably getting tired of hearing about it. But she hadn’t always been like this. Her head wasn’t always lost in the clouds.

Okay, maybe it was. She certainly spent a lot of her life dreaming instead of doing, and planning rather than enacting. She would tell you it wasn’t her fault. If you were living in a world where your parents kept divorcing, you had the same chores every day, you made absolutely no impact on society, and your mind was turning against itself…wouldn’t you also need an escape? And wouldn’t you agree that it’s far better to get lost in a book than lost in a wine glass? Well, that’s what she did. It’s what she does. She loses herself, and she dreams. She dreams of writing.

Writing is hard, but reading is harder. It’s an adventure, it’s a friend, it’s an enemy. It’s conflict, it’s romance, it’s complicated. Every book she reads is too short. Every bond she forms with a character is broken with the last turn of the page. It’s just not good for her bipolar disorder or her codependency issues; it’s really not.

But a few years ago, she found a world that helped. She found the World after the Breaking. She went to the Borderlands and the Aiel Waste, she went to Seanchan and the Isles of the Sea Folk. She lived in Cairhien and Andor, fought across the plains of Maredo in Illian, and trained in the White Tower at Tar Valon. She found the world of Robert Jordan.

Robert Jordan is her role model. He wrote a book series called The Wheel of Time. There are 15 books involved in the series, if you count the prequel book—which, she will tell you, should be read properly between books 5 and 6. Jordan’s first book came out in 1990, and it took over 20 years for the series to come to a close. He spent a lifetime creating and perfecting the perfect fantasy world, and the detail is astounding. He follows over 25 main characters, and introduces you to what must be at least 200 other named characters. It sounds like it would be confusing, but it’s surprisingly fluid and beautifully written. The world he describes is perfectly thought out with politics, religion, climate, landscape, cultures, races—you name it, he covered it. His attention to detail in his world inspires her in her own design. Knowing it took so long to write them all, that masses of loyal readers stood by the series for over 20 years from start to finish, has taught her that it’s okay to take her time with her words, because if she tells it right, people will stand by her as well. And maybe her books can help people like her. Maybe there will be other people one day who dream of escape, and maybe they will seek comfort in her books. Maybe they will get lost in her universe the way she does in Jordan’s.

Between you and me, I think she knows more about his world than the real world around her. I can’t blame her though; I would want to live there, too. She hasn’t even read the final book in the series, and it’s been out for years! I asked her once, why she didn’t just read it. Her husband bought it for her the month it was released. Yet I saw it on the shelf one day, covered in dust.

She told me, “I can’t stand the thought of that world ending. I can’t say goodbye to those people. I grew up with them! I laughed with them, cried with them, discovered saidin and saidar with them… We have been through so much—SO MUCH—and I can’t leave them. I just can’t.”

It must be that much harder for her, knowing that Robert Jordan passed away before he finished his books. He had it all planned out, and Brandon Sanderson collected his notes and put them together as best he could in Jordan’s voice. The last books were published, and the series completed. But there won’t be any more additions to the story. There won’t be any more adventures. When I think about that, I understand why she hasn’t read the last book.

She’s not completely mental though; I know I must have made it seem otherwise. She reads other books, and visits other worlds. JRR Tolkien created Middle Earth. Sara Douglass created Achar. These are among her favorite places to visit. But only to visit. Her inner Aes Sedai is firmly set in the world Robert Jordan created.

If you ever find yourself lost, or looking for an escape, or just needing a friend… she’ll be there, turning with the Wheel of Time. She’ll introduce you to the right people, show you who to trust and who to run from, and she’ll support you as you fall in love with the world she loves to fall into.

The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.

~ R.I.P. Robert Jordan~

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

Who is your favorite author and why? 

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!

Country Girl Style

I walked outside as the sun reached its peak, and there he stood. He was dressed in the same brown as the night before, but I loved every inch of him. My cheeks flushed with excitement as I recalled the events of the previous evening. He had just received that thick, dirty coat not sixteen hours earlier.

It had been raining, and we both knew what that meant. After gathering a few friends together, we had gone out into the afternoon storm with music blaring and a cooler full of ice cold Dr. Pepper strapped to the back. It was all in good fun as our tires tore up patches of green grass by the roots and flung them far behind us. We had been slipping and sliding, digging and climbing. It all ended around a bonfire, with beer in place of the soda and the acoustic melody of a friend’s guitar rather than a booming radio. It had been a night to remember.

“Are you ready baby?” I asked as I pulled my hair back into a loose bun. I had warned him before I went to bed that we would have another kind of adventure today. Before I reached him, I turned on the water hose and splashed him playfully. Still he stood there, the water glistening across his muscular physique. As much of a chore as it might have been to any other girl, I knew I was going to enjoy this.

He towered two feet above me, and my step-stool barely put me at head height. He was taller than most, with a heavyset build and a sizeable rear end that most girls laughingly referred to as “more to love.” I made sure to soak every inch of him; he didn’t complain once. The cool water was a refreshing relief from the blistering heat of the day. I lathered soap on my sponge and ran it down his silver mane, gradually working my way down. A few chunks of dirt clung to him in places, but I made sure to be thorough. He deserved greatness, and I would give him no less.

I silently ran my hands down his sides, wincing each time my fingertips brushed across a scratch. He was tough, that much was certain. I didn’t know how he could endure such beatings and still have the strength and willpower to take me out each day, but I admired him for it. I was much more gentle here with my sponge, caressing his battle scars with the respect they demanded. Pity had no effect on him; he earned every gash and he would wear each one with pride.

I sprayed him again with the hose. As the water pooled around my boots, I watched his dirty, lackluster appearance turn clean and sleek. For a moment, I considered turning him on. When he was happy, he purred like a kitten. But get him fired up and he was a mighty lion, roaring into action with the power of what I could only imagine 381 horses would have. Instead I decided to simply snuggle up against him, closing his arms around me and letting myself become immersed in all that he was. The salty smell of leather mingled with the sweet perfume of a strawberry-lemonade pine tree.

After a few minutes, I swung his arms out wide and took a step back, then gently returned them to his sides before walking behind him to a long black bed. This bed was much harder than the one I usually slept on, but I didn’t care. My eyes scanned the clouds and I laid in quiet contemplation, he and I both still drying off in the sun. There was a loud crack as a bolt of lightning broke out across the sky, followed by a deep growl. As the storm rolled in, a smile crept across my face. It seemed we would be doing this again tomorrow.

“Come on, baby. Let’s go play.”

 


This short story was inspired by a writing prompt. The prompt was:

Describe washing a car, without actually mentioning the car or that you are washing it.

If this story or prompt inspired you, let me know in the comments!