Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Well, this is it, I guess. To give a grisly end to a year of often-macabre prompts, here is...

Write a short story of 1,000-10,000 words based on the following:

She'd expected getting stabbed in the stomach to hurt at least a little more. But to humor her attacker, she supposed she should act like she was in agony.

Hope you had a very merry whatever-religion-you-are holiday or Festivus if you're atheist!

And a joyous New Year!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Have a Fairy Merry Christmas!

Have a Fairy Merry Christmas!

Laura and Joey Alvin sat at the kitchen bench, watching their daughter giggle and dance and squeal.

The parents tried really hard not to show their concern, but it wasn’t easy when little Josie was having a particularly bad fit this time. The doctors hadn’t really known what the problem was, but they’d just called it fitting to get the Alvins out of their hair. It was nearly Christmas and the doctors had their own plans—not to be thwarted by irritating parents way too concerned for their children’s health. Laura and Joey weren’t the only pair to have been turned away with flippant diagnoses. Many other local parents had been told ‘they’re just fits…let’s leave it till the new year and see how little Micky’s going, shall we?’ or some variation. Yeah, just leave it till the new year…and who cares if your kid’s seriously ill by then.

Who cares if it’s too late by then.

Fits? Laura thought as Josie was seized by a particularly violent fit of giggling. The little girl leaped into the air and squealed, “Don’t!” though she was talking to no one and, as was usual lately, Laura began second-guessing herself, wondering if the little girl had said something other than Don’t even though that was definitely what it had sounded like. But in truth, the giggling squealing stage was the stage Laura preferred. It was the other stages that freaked her out.

“Three days till Christmas,” Joey murmured, chewing nervously on his lower lip as he followed his daughter’s crazed, jerky movements.

He didn’t even have to finish the statement. Laura knew what he was thinking: Three days till Christmas, and there’s no sign of improvement. In fact, she seems to be getting worse…

“That damn Dr. Verity pissed me off the most,” Laura muttered, tugging uncomfortably at her too-small jumper (how had she forgotten that the extra kilos she was carrying put this jumper off the list of possible wears?). “I mean, he was so condescending.”

Joey nodded, but said nothing, just rubbed at his chest with one hand as if trying to ease some discomfort there. Laura could relate to that. Her own lungs felt under pressure more and more as the hours passed.

You are naughty!” Josie squealed, and suddenly she was on the floor, kicking and screaming and—laughing. She really was laughing. But her face was going all red and her eyes were wide and bright and crazed and she was…fitting.

That was how it looked. But there was nothing wrong with her brain, apparently. How Dr. Carter had known that without even looking at her brain, Laura still hadn’t figured out. But that was yet another thing to be done in the new year.

What if it’s too late by then?

“Emergency?” Laura murmured to Joey. “I mean, they are still open… They have to be, right?”

Joey frowned. “My parents are arriving in like, an hour.”

All the more reason to get out of here… Laura thought guiltily. “Well, I could take her, you stay here.”

The look she got from Joey then told her all she needed to know. She was not escaping this house, he would not let her. Not unless things got really bad with Josie, at least. Looking at Joey’s face, though, Laura didn’t think that point was very far off.

Josie sighed and lay still, grinning up at the ceiling. For a moment she was silent, then a tiny giggle bubbled up and out of her. “Yes,” she said. “Okay.”

And that was the last thing she said for the rest of the day, until it was bed time.

When Laura put her down to sleep, the little girl still wouldn’t focus her eyes on anything in this world. That was the only way Laura could put it. “Honey, are you feeling okay?” she asked her daughter, pushing back silky blonde locks of hair from the little girl’s forehead. “You’re having fun?”

Josie giggled, twitched, buried her head in the pillow then lifted it again. “They tickle.”

“What tickles?”

“The fairies.”

Laura paused, feeling strangely cold inside. She’d believed in fairies when she was a kid, but fairies had never taken over her entire life. Not like they apparently had with Josie.

“Are the fairies your friends, honey?” Laura asked, gripping handfuls of Josie’s bedspread and leaning closer to her daughter.

“No,” Josie said, shaking her head. She was still grinning, shuddering with the occasional giggle, but a strange look had come into her eyes. “They don’t like me. But they tickle.”

“They…don’t like you?”

Josie shook her head, then giggled loudly and burrowed back down into the pillow— “Don’t! Ahhh!

Meanwhile, Laura was frowning. Since when do fairies not like people? I mean, Tinkerbell…

But then there were the old fairies, or maybe they were called faeries or something…the vicious ones from ancient myth. Maybe they didn’t like people. Maybe they tickled people to torment them.

You are insane, Laura told herself, even as she formulated words to say to her daughter.

“You’re talking to the fairies right now?”

“Yes. But they don’t listen.” Giggle. Squeal. Twitch. Gasp.

“What do they say to you?”

For a brief moment, Josie’s eyes seemed to focus. But then she was off in fairyland again, seeing nothing of the real world. Laura was sure she was not going to get an answer to that last question, and was preparing to kiss Josie goodnight. But then words slipped out, so softly spoken they were barely audible. They were words to chill Laura’s blood:

“They say lots of things…

Unbidden, helpless tears sprang into Laura’s eyes and she cursed the doctors who had turned her child away, the doctors who she would not hesitate to sue if anything went wrong.

At the door to the bedroom, Laura and Joely exchanged words. “I’ll sleep in here tonight,” Laura told Joey. “I don’t want to leave her alone.”

“Shall I stay with you?”

“No, honey—you need your rest.”

His eyes accused her. “So do you. You’re not invincible you know.”

“Yes,” Laura said with a quaver in her voice. “I do know.”

They stared at one another. Joey sighed, reached out to touch her cheek. “We’ll be okay. Try not to worry.”

But what a hypocrite he was, when worry practically oozed out of his every pore. Still, Laura loved him for trying to reassure her. At least somebody was trying.

They parted ways and Laura rested in the lounge chair by the old cot Josie had used up until a year ago, before she’d got her first ‘big girl’ bed. Those had been days when Josie was still in this world, still truly engaging with others. Those days were gone now. Josie was in fairyland and Laura had no idea how to get her back.

Laura spent the night in her daughter’s room, and woke to a day of more giggling/squealing/dancing. Two days till Christmas. The day passed much as those before it had. Joey’s parents were in the house, and they reprimanded him and Laura for not getting help for Josie. They wouldn’t listen to any excuses, not even the ones where the doctors had refused to help. Laura longed for the day when Joey’s parents would run off back to their homes. She hated them, more now than she ever had at any other time.

That night, Joey stayed in Josie’s room, and though it was a terrible night’s sleep for Laura, she awoke to find her daughter still present. It was a strangely huge relief, as if she’d expected to find the girl gone.

Gone where? she wondered, but had no answer.

It was Christmas Eve day, and it passed as any other had done lately. “I think she needs a doctor,” Mrs. Geraldine Alvin told Laura for the thousandth time in the last couple of days, as if Laura had never thought of that herself before. “Why don’t you take her to a doctor?”

Laura just gritted her teeth and walked away.

Christmas Eve night, it was Laura’s turn again to stay in Josie’s room. She was tired, she truly was, but she sat in a way that she knew was terribly uncomfortable, just to prevent herself from falling asleep. When even that seemed not to be working, she retrieved a fire engine toy from the bedroom floor and stuffed it behind her back, making sure it dug into her flesh uncomfortably. That ought to be sufficient.

But when Laura woke in the middle of the night, she realised she’d slept for at least two hours. And leaning forward in her chair, she realised her daughter’s bed was empty.

Laura screamed, and Joey came running.

They waited and waited, but Josie didn’t come back. Laura became convinced that the fairies had taken her. They weren’t the only parents in town who had woken up on Christmas Day to find their children’s beds empty. Laura wasn’t the only parent to lose her mind and start mumbling about fairies. Joey wasn’t the only bereft parent who also had to take his spouse to a psychiatrist for evaluation. And the Alvin family wasn’t the only family destroyed by Christmas that year.

But the fairies had a good one, at least.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Prompt #51 (?!?)

Wow.  I guess we are winding down.

Here's my prompt:
"This is the time of year when you start to wonder if the tickle monster is the new vampire."

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Actually, it's only flash fiction. 750 words, -ish. But hey. It's here.

The woman at the top of the mountain had wrinkles pressed so deeply into her face she resembled the crevasses surrounding them. The icy wind whipped her sagging cheeks, but she didn’t move.

“Hey,” Juliet hissed, her chattering teeth turning the word into a clattering mess. “Ma’am.”

No reaction.

“Oh God,” Maria said. “Oh, God, please don’t let her be dead. We’re already all the way up here. Lady, don’t be dead.”

Juliet hoisted her backpack higher on her shoulders. It hadn’t exactly taken ages to get up there – Mount McKinley was only a couple hours’ drive from their college – but time wasted was time wasted. “No. She’s not dead. She can’t be dead. This will work, and I will find out the answer to my question, and everything will be awesome.” She rounded on the old lady. “Everything will be. Super. Awesome.

No reaction.

Maria reached out and prodded her.

The old lady’s claw of a hand flashed up and grabbed Maria’s wrist, her blind eyes darting open. Juliet let out a cry and staggered back; Maria screamed, and screamed, and screamed.

“Shut up,” the old lady croaked.

Maria shut up.

“Help me stand up,” said the lady. Maria hoisted the limp old body to her feet. The woman was bones draped in loose skin and layer upon layer of fur, unhindered by the bitter cold. And she turned her scarred clouded eyes upon Juliet and said, “You have come this far to ask me a question whose answer has been prophesied.”

The old woman’s hand let go Maria’s wrist, and Juliet hurried forward, her throat choking in anticipation. This sounded real, and for now, that was enough to convince her it was true. Juliet’s cynical side – admittedly diminutive at best – had hidden itself deep in a place that didn’t believe in fortunes and fates and soothsayers, and all that was left was blind hope.

“Prophesied?” she said. “What’s been prophesied?”

“Juliet Elizabeth Turner –” twin gasps from the two girls – “you have many truths to face.”

“Like what?”

“Firstly, you must accept that fault is not always two-sided.”

Juliet stared, slack-jawed. “I … okay.”

“Secondly, if you require my assistance, you must accept that ancient law rules over all.”

Maria cocked one dark eyebrow. “Uh. Ancient law?”

“Don’t interrupt, foolish one,” snapped the old woman.

Juliet stifled a snigger. “Okay, go on.”

“Thirdly, you must accept responsibility for your actions to come.”

“Actions to come?”

“You will understand when the time comes, Juliet Elizabeth Turner.” And with that, the woman drew a bone, long and disturbingly human, from inside her furs. She held it out.

Juliet hesitated.

The woman’s half-smile dug a crag into her cheek. “That’s right, girl. Think carefully.”

From behind the old woman, Maria made an is-she-sane? gesture. Juliet shrugged, but felt uneasy making any motion. The blind lady seemed to have such a good grasp of the events around her. It unnerved at best, disturbed at worst.

“Remember … when you make your choice, it will all be over.”

Juliet took a step forward, lowering her hand. “What will all be over? Will I be able to forget? And what am I going to have to –”

The old woman’s grip on the bone started to shake. “Your time dwindles, Juliet Elizabeth Turner.”

“But I need to know if he –”

“Your time dwindles.”

One breathless second later, Juliet grasped the other end of the femur.

Dark clouds billowed and rolled across the sky. Maria, quivering, sat down in the snow and closed her eyes. Juliet could only stare, but then lightning flashed.

She blinked. And as quick as the flutter of her eyelids, both old lady and storm had vanished.

She stood holding a human bone at the top of a mountain.

The walk back down was long, confused, and filled with stilted conversation. Juliet held the heavy object in her gloved hand. Though it should have grown cold, it never did.

When they reached the ground, Juliet wondered if the old lady meant what she thought she did, giving her this object. Surely this couldn’t be the answer to the problem – surely it would only exacerbate her feelings of guilt about the whole ordeal.

It came to her that night. Fault is not always two-sided.

It was not her fault.

She was free.

Juliet took the bone in her hands and shattered it against the floor. It broke as if made of brittle blown glass.

Elsewhere on campus, her rapist woke up screaming, as he would the rest of his life.

Juliet slept in bliss.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Phew. Not long to go now, folks!! Just three stories, three prompts, three weeks...you get the gist! Now here's the prompt for this week.

Write 1-10k based on/inspired by on the following:

I believe she said something like... "Grant me the serenity to change the things I cannot accept, the courage to accept the things I find acceptable, and the wisdom to know when it's time to kick your butt."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Prompt #49

ACK! latelatelate

Write a short story of 1,000-10,000 words based on the following:

He wouldn't have died if he'd known what the word "hydrogenated" meant.

Sorry for dropping the ball so frequently...

All the best,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Stomping Ground

Stomping Ground

Tom started at the old high school, what was left of it.

Crumbling buildings only half of which had roofs; dead weeds choking what had once been a magnificent botanical garden; drinking fountains long-since coated with the dust of renovation and years of changing weather. Everything had a dry, dusty feel, and Rachel was glad she’d brought along a bottle of Mount Franklin.

“See that square of grass over there?” He was pointing off into a distance so distant she had to squint to try and make it out. She failed. But she nodded anyway. She didn’t want to let him down, and pretending to match his enthusiasm was the best way she could think of to keep him happy. You should never have to lie to the one you love, her mother would have said. But her mother wasn’t here, and she didn’t know what it was like. She was old and decrepit and out of touch by now. So Rachel nodded, and hoped her own eyes gleamed with an excitement to match his, or at least to come close.

“We used to sit there at lunch time—and recess. We sat in the dorks’ corner.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.”

This time Rachel’s smile wasn’t forced. She turned it on him and fell to her favourite pastime—studying him, appreciating him for the nerd he was. Tall, skinny, gawky even; his glasses weren’t that thick but he couldn’t really do much without them. He was red-haired and freckled to within an inch of his life. He wore a Temple of the Dog shirt and black jeans. A clean but worn backpack hung precariously from one shoulder, but he stood as if he’d forgotten about it entirely. He gazed off toward that distant patch of grass—Rachel could only assume it was all dead grass by now—unaware of her scrutiny, a fond smile on his face.

“Hard to believe,” Rachel agreed, still smiling at him. Then he came back to himself, looked to her, winked and took her by the hand.

Oh god, she loved it when he did that.

They walked all around the school ruins, and for a while Rachel actually lost herself in the walk down Memory Lane. Even if they weren’t her own memories, she’d always enjoyed Tom’s stories of his high school antics. Childhood too—he was a funny guy. Still, she was impatient to get on with their day, or rather, get closer to their night.

The school was just the beginning, though. They drove around town in Tom’s battered old Mazda 323, visiting old haunts and sharing the stories to go with them. Mostly, they were Tom’s stories—Rachel was from interstate and so her old stomping grounds were out of reach for the time being—but on occasion there was cause for Rachel to conjure some old memory of her own and share it. Tom shamed her with his attentiveness at those times; surely she could never reciprocate the way a good girlfriend should. But he wasn’t bothered—it was all in her head. Like so much of what plagued her every day.

“Okay,” Tom said at one point as they turned a corner onto a main street, “the house is coming up on your left.” The car slowed and Rachel craned her neck, very nearly pressing her face to the window in anticipation.

That was when she saw it.

Tiny, brown-bricked and teetering on stilts. You could see all sorts of crap underneath it, like it was the neighbourhood rubbish tip or something. Easier than gathering up all your stuff and heading to the real tip. Windows were broken, roof tiles were missing and weeds grew through the cracks in the porch. The porch.

Oh, and speaking of the porch, it totally sagged. You wouldn’t want to step up onto it, ‘cause you might fall down.

The way Tom had always talked about this place, Rachel had envisioned it as some kind of magical hideaway, a little fairy house tucked away in some mystic, lush garden. The garden wasn’t precisely lush, more overgrown and out of control. An example of nature rising up to reclaim its territory. In this case, human beings had stepped aside and let it have its unruly way.

She was still trying to comprehend what she was looking at as Tom’s car drew to a halt at the side of the road. “So, what do you think?” he asked, dragging her unceremoniously back to the present. “Pretty amazing, huh?” Um…yeah. “I mean, I grew up there. Trippy, right?”

“That’s really it?” she asked, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice.

“Yep,” he said with a nostalgic grin, “and yet, look how I turned out.”

At that, another genuine smile appeared on her face, and she squeezed his hand. “You turned out just great.”

“Wanna explore the backyard?” he asked.

Her heart sank. “Um…well… Is it safe?”

“Hmm…maybe not. We won’t go in or anything.” No shit, we won’t. “But you know, the grass should be safe.” Except for snakes and rats and stuff, right? There was a brief silence before Tom tugged on her hand and she turned to him. “But if you don’t wanna go in, it’s cool.” Looking at his face, she knew he was telling the truth.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “It’s just…”

“Don’t even say it.” He smiled and leaned over to brush his lips over her cheek, making her shiver. “I get it. And you’ve seen it now, anyway—that’s all I wanted.”

She watched him for a moment, waging an inner battle he was unaware of. Then she smiled and said, “No, let’s go—I want to see the backyard.”

“You sure?”


The delight on his face then told Rachel she’d made the perfect decision.

They explored the backyard like intrepid adventurers, and nobody got bitten by any snakes. To Rachel’s surprise, a happy memory of her own childhood snaked its way into her thoughts as she climbed a particularly magnificent tree in one corner of the yard. In the memory, she and her best friend Josie had made a treetop fort—or that was what they’d called it—and had played Star Wars games. Rachel had been an Ewok called Kowee, while Josie had insisted on Princess Leia—Josie had definitely had the long, dark hair for it.

“Careful,” Tom called, laughing delightedly as Rachel climbed even higher. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“That’s nice of you,” she responded breathlessly, flippantly, “but I’ve got it.” Because suddenly she did have it—her confidence, something she’d been lacking for far too long. She was good at pretending, but this was the first time in a long while that she hadn’t had to. The smile that bloomed on her face at that moment was like the sun breaking through clouds.

“You’re so hot,” Tom murmured into her hair as she fell into him again at last, having forsaken the tree for his arms. “And you’re awesome.”

“So are you,” she giggled, and pressed her mouth against his. Gently. She liked to be gentle. But then suddenly things got a little less gentle. So much so that she thought her hair might be standing on end. There was a strange buzzing sound in the air—no, it was in her ears.

“Okay,” Tom gasped, pushing her to arm’s length from him, “we’re going before you get me into trouble here.”

And they picked their careful way back to the car hand-in-hand, the delight of the day shining on both their faces.

On the road again, they left Tom’s childhood climes behind. As they hit the highway once more, Tom said with a shake of his head, “Yep—that’s my neighourhood.”

This time, when he looked at her, she was smiling so much it hurt her face.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prompt #48

Oops.  My turn again.

Hopefully, this will be short, simple and easy:

"Yep, that's my neighborhood."

Good luck!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prompt 47...!

Yeah, Prompt #46 is missing. Maybe it'll turn up at some point?

For now, here is number 47:

Write 1,000-10,000 words based on the following:

As soon as I saw you, I knew today was going to suck.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prompt #46

A retrospective prompt for a retrospective post:

If she could have done it all again, she might have chosen not to trust the talking animals. Such things are rarely trustworthy.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hunting an Abomination

Hunting an Abomination

The nurses fuss over me like I’m at death’s door.

In their defence, I was at death’s door for a while there. At least that’s what I’m told. But I’m all better now, and they need to leave me alone so I can get back to work. I stare at the ceiling trying not to scream while my caretakers unwittingly block my escape route. Or maybe it’s completely wittingly. Either way, they’re in the doorway and that’s where I need to be.

I need to be out the door.

Aaron pisses me off at the best of times, but this is fast becoming the worst of times. He knows it’s urgent that I get back in the room—he knows I’ve got work to do. Lives to save, and not just my own. A killer to find. And he promised he’d be here on time. He promised he’d get me out.

In what’s becoming a bad habit, I run the tip of my tongue over my split lip. It stings, and I wince, which I turn makes me hurt more. My head still throbs, but at least it’s not so much a knifing pain anymore. My muscles ache and I feel like somebody’s used my bones for drumsticks. But there’s a fire in my heart that won’t be put out. I’m not just scared now. I’m angry. Oh, and I’m determined to stop this, once and for all.

But to do that, I need the capture chamber.

I need more information.

“Have you got everything you need?” Alice, one of the nurses on shift, asks from right beside me where she has miraculously materialised. For a moment I wonder if she’s of this plane or not. But no, she’s just sneaky and quiet.

No, I’ve got nothing I need, I want to tell her. Instead I smile weakly and murmur, “Yes. Thanks.” Lisa smiles back, brightly enough for ten of us, and pats my hand. Then she returns to her friends in the doorway and resumes their chat.

Sooner or later, the hallway will clear. Sooner or later I will get my chance. It’d be easier if Aaron was here to smooth my path. But I’ll do what I have to do, with or without institutional permission.

There’s a soreness in my heart that doesn’t relate to the fact that somebody just tried to kill me. Or that my friend Lucy is dead. Or that too many others have died already. Yeah, all that sucks. But I can’t help thinking of Mack and the look on his face last time I saw him. Those words we exchanged, when I accused him and he lashed out. I felt guilty the first time, when I suspected him of Lucy’s death. But now I’m not so sure I should have.

I don’t have any good reason to suspect him, I guess. But he was hanging out with Lucy a lot before she died. And he’s been avoiding me lately—maybe he fears what I’ll see if I look in his eyes. Maybe he hates your guts for thinking he murdered his girlfriend, an annoyingly logical voice pipes up in my head. But they spent all their time together. Who else could’ve got close enough to her?

Besides, there’s nobody else I can think of. Nobody else that makes any sense as a suspect at all. I’d go crazy if I didn’t have someone to suspect. As much as it hurts my heart, I can only think Mack.

“You look perturbed,” Alice says, startling me once again.

“Oh, I’m…I’m fine. It’s just…my mentor was supposed to come by.”

“Aaron? Hmm, do you want me to page him?”

I shake my head. “No, it’s okay.” In fact, with each moment that passes I’m liking the idea of doing things without Aaron better and better. He’s always been just a pain in the butt and an embarrassment to the profession. Maybe that’s harsh of me, but it’s also true.

“You want me to call anyone else in?”

No, but I’d love for you all to go away so I can sneak out. How about it? I just shake my head and smile.

“All right. You just buzz us if you need anything.”

And then, as if my prayers have been answered, the nurses clear the doorway and the hallway beyond it. I’m alone, everything is quiet but for the distant murmur of voices, and my skin is suddenly tingling.

You should wait a few minutes, a voice sounds from the other side of my bed. I turn to find Jennifer Myles standing there, gazing toward the room door with a slight frown.

“Where have you been?” I whisper, shifting so I can see her better. “I was looking for you.”

Her eyes move from the doorway to me. In them I see a startling amount of concern. Fear, even.

I know, she says without opening her mouth. That’s why I’ve been gone. Danna, you’ve got to go in there. You’ve got to open the door. But…be careful.

“I will be. I know what I’m doing.”

You can’t control all the variables. And I can’t tell you who—

Her eyes fly to the doorway, she tilts her head, and then she says, Okay, go. NOW.

The urgency in her voice makes me want to fly out of bed, race to the doorway and run off down the hallway. But instead I drag the blankets off me—no mean feat; these nurses sure know how to tuck a girl in tight—and lumber to my feet, then shuffle laboriously to the doorway. By the time I get there I’m almost out of breath. I take a few moments to collect myself, peering left then right. The way is clear. Just go. Quickly. I like to think I’m ignoring her, but really I’m taking her word as gospel and hoping I don’t get myself in some serious trouble.

My head is really starting to throb now. No wonder the nurses told me to stay in bed. But this has to be done, and I’m the only one who knows to do it.

I’m with you, Jennifer murmurs, and though I can’t see her—don’t have the time to look around for her, either—I can feel her presence. She certainly is with me. She’s my guide and my friend and I’m going to reap justice for her.

For Lucy, too.

Sadness wells inside me, and my eyes begin to prickle. I shove the feelings down and blink to clear my vision.

I set my sights on the elevator at the end of the hallway, already anticipating pressing the button for the second floor.

Jennifer and I step into the lift together, and despite the pounding of my heart and the sick feeling in my stomach, I feel a rush of exhilaration.

We’re off to hunt a murderer.

An abomination of nature.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Prompt #45

Hi!  Hope you're all faring better in NaNo than I am at the moment.  Here's this week's prompt:

______(Fill in the blank)______ is an abomination.

Good Luck!

Monday, October 31, 2011


It's All Hallow's Eve, All NaNo's Eve and other kinds of eves I have no doubt. In honour of various kinds of creepiness I am going to give you the following two prompts to choose from (for which you will attempt to write 1-10k of prose, if you're crazy enough!):


Fell down a well
It should be pretty
Like a little fairy tale


"I'll bring you back from where you've gone
On All Hallow's Eve"


Monday, October 24, 2011


Your prompt for this week!

Write a short story of 1-10,000 words based on the following:

She was like a sponge, he mused...

Good luck!

-the absent-so-often-it-seriously-isn't-funny Winter

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Sky For Machines

No Sky For Machines

Second. Minutes. Hours.

Days, weeks, months.

A year.

Rinse and repeat.

There’s a corner of the window where I see a sliver of sky. I feel naughty, like I’m cheating, breaking the law. Ironic that I should be worried about that, considering there is no law any longer. But I do worry, I do feel naughty, and all the while I’m looking at that window, I’ve got my ears pricked for any sign that I’m soon to be in company. I’m on the lookout, lest somebody catches me looking.

I’m also on the lookout because I’m protecting my territory.

Can’t have anyone else in my corner, watching my sliver of sky.

It’s mine.

A good thing there’s no longer a need for food. I’d be oh so hungry. And there’d be fighting and squabbling and rending limb from limb. Just like old times.

Old times are so old now. They’re long gone. But sometimes I get glimmers of recollection, like a blur of movement glimpsed just over the shoulder. Only, when I turn to look, it’s gone. I end up wondering if it was ever there at all.

I’m talking about recollections from my own life, not general knowledge that every creature possesses and retains. There are certain things one can never forget, because we are not permitted to forget them. Personal histories don’t count. It’s the other things that we are programmed to remember.

The thing is, we’re breaking down. We’re malfunctioning more and more. Not that it really matters; nobody is relying on us anymore. But it can be exhausting, having a mind that works as it should only some of the time. Even if it doesn’t matter to anyone else, it matters to us.

Because we’re all we have left.

The cell is dark.

My eyes have long since adjusted, but I still think about the fabled sun. I wonder what might happen to my eyes if I ever saw it again.

In my head there are stories of creatures who looked into the sun only to lost their vision. It’s inconceivable, the idea of not being able to see. I would lose my sliver of sky if that happened.

That can’t ever happen.

I suppose that explains why I fear the sun.

I remember when a fellow of mine asked of our drill sergeant a question. He asked about the sun and the sky, and whether heaven waited up above them both. “Heaven? What the hell’s that? No, no my friend—no heaven for you. You’re a machine. Forget about sunlight, forget about rain. Forget it all, because you’ve got a job to do. No heaven for you.”

We exchanged glances, shrugs, and I thought, Makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong. The sky isn’t particularly bright. It hasn’t been bright in a long time. I’ve always found that the best way to explain it is through quoting poetry. The old rhyme explains it all nicely:

“Night falls and creatures roam

Along the streets ‘fore sun-up

But soon they will discover that

Eternal night has risen up…”

The Eternal Night is all they used to be able to talk about. It was all over the news media, wallpapers and holovision and advertising hovercraft. I wasn’t there to see it myself. Rather, I’ve heard the stories passed down through generations, and I’ve read about them in history logs. I recall one woman’s words, and here I paraphrase:

“It was like the street crazies had taken over—suddenly it was perfectly the norm to proclaim that the Apocalypse had come. We were all going to burn in hellfire and damnation. There would never be a heaven because we had forsaken it, because we were sinners to the very core and this was our penance. The world had gone mad, and we were in the middle of it. Insanity was a pandemic and we were swept away along with everyone.”

Those words, “ETERNAL NIGHT”, plastered everywhere. I can almost picture it in my shorting mind, see the dire words emblazoned all over. I can almost smell the fear and the dirt and the blood and the smoke. Chemical fumes from destroyed industrial plants. The salt of tears flowing freely. The putrid promise of a world coming to an end.

I can almost taste disaster on my tongue.

Except I taste nothing anymore. All I can do is dream.

I’m a sinner, I know. But I’ve forgotten how I sinned.

Sometimes I think about it, and I wonder if I did something really bad. Did I hurt someone? Did I kill someone? Did I join a dissenting cause in opposition of my government? Maybe I spoke ill of the dead. Or the living. Even I know that in the world we live in, speaking ill of the wrong person can get you killed.

I’m not supposed to remember. My mind was formatted for only a certain amount of memory. But though I know what I’m meant for and what I’m not, sometimes I have these…desires. Sometimes I have these longings that lie outside my set parameters. Sometimes I want to remember other things.

Like where I came from.

And what I did to get in here.

What was my crime?

I gaze up at the window, waiting for the dawn. Insofar as it can be called a dawn anymore. Like I said, we’re in the Eternal Night and the sky only lightens somewhat during daylight hours. That word, ‘daylight’, makes no sense anymore, but people still use it. It’s a vestige of a world long gone, and there are a lot of those around. The saying Good morning is still in use, even though there is no real morning anymore. There is still talk of living to see another day, even though none of us have seen a day in far too long to count, and may never see one again.

Oh, and none of us is technically alive any longer.

There’s no such thing as sunlight and shade. There’s moonshadow, and I like that just fine. But history tells me that the shadows created by the strategic fall of sunlight is far more dramatic; the shadows unfathomably richer. I have a hard time grasping that, and I suppose I will never manage. But it’s one of those things I think about when I shouldn’t. It’s one of those things I wish for.

There is a wall in this place that is the most dramatic shade of blue. I’m told that this shade is the same as a daytime sky. I stare at my sliver of real sky, and then I think about the blue of that wall. And all I can really do is doubt. The really young ones have a habit of exaggerating, and I’m convinced they’re exaggerating about this too. I have never read in any history book about a sky being blue. They focus not so much on facts but on historical events. I have read up heartily on all those things. And not once, anywhere that I could see, did any historian of old mention a blue sky.

I’d have to see it for myself to believe it.

I suppose that means I never will.

Time passes and I’m mostly alone. I’m getting a little rusty. In some places, mildew has formed. I feel the occasional tickle, and I wonder why that part of my machinery is still functioning. I suppose there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. Most of my senses still work, in fits and starts at least. The only one that’s gone entirely is my sense of smell. For that, I am grateful. Experience tells me that I should be grateful. I can’t quite remember why, but I’m taking my processor’s word for it.

For the most part, the sense of touch is useless. Taste isn’t much use either, but sometimes it can be…inconvenient. Certain tastes I get in my mouth remind me of the fact that I can no longer smell, and that I’m grateful for that. I am no longer able to connect the two concepts in any logical way, but I know enough to know I’m better off avoiding doing so.

Let us consider the other senses, though. Hearing is fundamental. It keeps me on my guard, ready for any new arrival. But by far the most invaluable sense is that of sight, which allows me to see my sliver of sky.

As long as I can see that, I can dream.

Second. Minutes. Hours.

Days, weeks, months.

A year.

Two years. Three.

Time passes and I lose count of everything.

I lose my senses one by one.

Finally I have only two left: seeing and hearing.

Then it happens. The day arrives that I lose my sight. That’s when I know my the old drill sergeant was right. There is no heaven, not for cold, wired machines. There is to be no heaven, no sunlight for the likes of me.

I stay there at the window, sightless and alone.

Cruelly, the last one to go is that of hearing, so that I hear the moment my end approaches. I hear the distant shouts, the shuffling of booted feet growing ever louder. I hear my cell door clanking open, voices louder now. Rough voices belonging to creatures with no regard for what’s left of me.

I hear my own rusted feet scraping across the stone floor, and I hear the disassembly as it happens. I hear the flicking of a switch, and then my hearing is fading too. Fading slowly away, as everything else has.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Prompt #42

So, it's my turn to prompt again.  Only, I'm behind.  Really, really behind.

Being behind makes me want to give ya'all an easy prompt this week, like this:

"You can have seconds, if you want."

Do you get where I'm going with this?  (Hint: seconds, think dinner).  I hope you do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Um, yeah. This prompt is late too. For shame!!!! I cower...and somethin' :P

Anyway...here it is.

Write a short story of 1,000-10,000 words (or prose, like those other times we said it) based on the following:

Hey... Do you remember

where I left my soul?

Calling All Beer Geeks

Ack.  So late.  Sorry.  This is a little different this time.  It's something of a roast present for my husband who had a birthday on Friday.

River of Fire Brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah would like to proudly present its newest creation, Price of Your Soul, a Barrel-Aged Imperial Farmhouse Quadruple Russian Imperial Sour Stout.  Price of Your Soul is probably the most important beer that will ever be brewed.  It is so important that it comes with its own chalice carved out of jewel-encrusted sparkling petrified brimstone.

No beer geek’s collection is complete without it!!!  Price of Your Soul is made with the finest two-row barely malt the great salt marsh has to offer, retaining a lot of the sulfury characteristics of hell itself as well as the night after a pot of chili gone wrong.  We hand smoke the malt in the chimney of a crematorium for that clean crisp taste and then blacken it in the exhaust pipes of whatever SUVs happen to be in the Walmart parking lot that day.  When we say that people have died for this beer, we mean it.

Our yeast is cultivated from the under scrapings of a million public school desks.  For the quickest possible fermentation, we feed our little beasties low quality dog food from China because it’s chock full of all the things that bacteria just seem to love.  Then we warm the room up to a hundred and twenty degrees and those precious little creatures just thrive in our open fermenters!

Price of Your Soul boasts three hundred and forty seven point fourteen hop additions during its hundred and twenty minute cycle.  As it cools, it is dry hopped, sock hopped, wet hopped, fresh hopped and hip hopped.  This beer contains so many hops, after just one sip, you’ll swear that you just stepped into a funeral parlor on a day when the air conditioning is on the fritz.

Oh, but what a sip it’ll be.

Here’s what a bunch of random beer geeks are saying about Price of Your Soul on BierSnobvocate.org:

“This stuff makes my pee smell like Wonder Bread.”  -iheartmiller893

“Viscosity is somewhere between motor oil and warm tapioca balls.” -passthecan

“There was a goat hoof in mine.” –g1vemep0rk

“Notes of wet dog, old diaper and a surprising twist of kumquat.” –checkcheckcheck1969

“It glows in the dark.  WTF?”  -no6packs

Price of Your Soul put hair on my chest.  Literally.” –waxmycap09

We barrel age this mess in absinthe barrels and then we freeze distill it so that the final product is 62% ABV.  Then we bottle condition it with Pop Rocks for a really explosive taste.

There is only one way you can get this super exclusive brew.  Follow these instructions to the letter:

  1. Fill out the application on our website.  But don’t bother in you have less than 5,784,574,385,739 points on BierSnobvocate.org
  2. Email this announcement to eighty people on your BierSnobvocate.org trades list.  Tell them that there is a less than 5% chance you may get this beer and that you need to know in advance what they’ll trade you for it.  BCC us on those emails.
  3. Write us a forty page glowing review before even trying our beer.  Post this review in its entirety to your website, your twitter, your Facebook, in the comments section of other people’s blogs and tattoo it on your dog’s tongue.  Extra points if you make a really cool fan boy tee shirt with some of your best talking points and wear it for a month straight.
  4. Take the ninety question beer compatibility test on our website. 
  5. Send us three black and white pictures of your girlfriend’s or wife’s bare feet.
  6. Pass a drug test.  We don’t cater to hippies.
  7. Record your basal heart rate, rectal temperature and fiber intake for a minimum of six months.  Also, let us know if you are taking any prescription drugs.
  8. Solicit letters of recommendation from your lawyer, postal carrier, Avon lady, general practitioner, local voting booth operator, bichon frise, and high school Spanish teacher.  But don’t tell them that the letter is for us.  Lie and tell them that you are applying for NASA.  For help making this seem convincing, contact our sales department at 1-800-WeR-NASA.
  9. Take the ninety question beer compatibility test on our website a second time for the sake of consistency.
  10.  Forward copies of your driver’s license, passport, social security card and your high school SAT scores to our personnel department.  You must be legal to work in this country.  Be aware that if your last name sounds overly foreign, you will be required to submit recent TOFEL scores.  We also need proof that you’ve been vaccinated for rabies.
  11. Tell us about your favorite midnight snack and how it represents patriotism.
  12. If you could be a cardboard box, a sliding glass door or an ad on Craigslist, which one would you be and why?
  13. Can you pat your head, rub your stomach and whistle Disney songs while tap dancing?  If not, how do you think this has shaped you as a person?
  14. Take the compatibility test on our website for a third time.  After you are done, triangulate your scores with the month, day, year and exact time of your birth.  Multiply the result with the numerical value of your name according to Tibetan numerology, raise that number to the power of your mother’s maiden name.  Take the square root of the result and rip it into eight pieces.  Close your eyes and randomly draw one of the pieces.  Then tell us if the last number on that piece of paper is odd or even.  If it’s even, you can forget about getting this beer.
  15. If chosen, drive to our distributor in Frozenwasteland, North Dakota the day before our release day.  Spend at least sixteen hours camping out in our parking lot.  Numbers will be passed out at two o’clock the next day when our employees have finally sobered up.  And don’t forget to bring something for the potluck!!!!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Jeez, that's a lot of prompts! Can't believe it's been a whole year - I've really got to get back on top of things.

Of course, that means I have to finish these darn college applications first. -___-

And, in the spirit of that:

Write a short story (1-10k prose; .333-3.333k verse) based on the following:

"The last time I checked, you didn't have to apply to become a demon from hell."

Good luck! Hope that's not too specific for your tastes.


Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Not Over Yet

And by 'it's not over yet', I really mean that this isn't necessarily finished and that I don't know what I'm doing anymore and that ARRRRGH! hehe.

OK, shutting up now!

It's Not Over Yet

"I was never meant to be a soldier.

I should have been a housewife, a mother, something like that. I guess if everybody hadn't started dying around me, I might've gone that way.

As a little girl I wore pretty dresses with flowers on them, I played with plastic figurines of ladies—Barbies, they were called—and I daydreamed of the day I'd wear white and totter down an aisle in sparkling white heels. I was a bit of a weirdo by that point—most of the other little girls liked what I liked, or wanted what I wanted. But I stuck to my guns—god, that's a terrible pun, and I didn't even intend it to be one—and clung to my girliness.

Everything changed, of course.

It's a well-known fact that civil war changes a woman. It bends her, twists her up a little inside. My mind isn't the same as it once was. Nor is my heart, or any part of me for that matter. I've got scars on the outside, remnants of battle wounds, but the ones inside are what never leave me, even when I dream. Did I mention I turned all emo? Yeah, I resent that in a big way, but I've accepted it. I've accepted a lot of things I never thought I would, especially in the last few days. Because there's a point in every rebel soldier's life when she just can't deny any of it anymore—she realises once and for all that she lives in hell and she's going to die there too.

The really good soldiers decide that they might as well do what they can, while they're still standing.

I'm still standing, hard as that is to believe. I'm still standing, but the machines are my last chance, the only chance I have to get the message out, beyond these walls. I don't trust machines, but they're all I've got. They're all the outside world has got."

Red light ticks to green and I open my mouth to start talking.

I've planned it all out in my head, but now that I'm really here, now that the machine is on and I've got the chance to speak, my voice conks out on me. On the very first word it catches, and I choke, cough, splutter. It's one of those coughs that doubles me over—working the abs, you know?

As if I need more of a workout than I've had lately.

Somewhere in the middle of the hacking fit I start to laugh. Things get worse, like my face turning red—I can't see it but I can feel it burning…pretty soon it's got to turn purple; that's a sight I know well. Am I really going to die here, squeezed of all air and of the strength to keep my feet? Because that would be really ironic.

That's when it happens: I stop, gasping for air—filling my lungs with the desperation of a woman who knows her days are far more numbered than her hours. Anger flashes through me at the thought of how much time I've wasted already. I grip the console and steady myself, taking a few long, deep breaths to regain my equilibrium. Then I begin to hum, testing my voice.

It holds.

"I'm reporting from Sector Fourteen, it's…" I tap my watch to bring up the date and time. "February thirteenth, time is eighteen-twenty-two. I estimate I have an hour before the machines die here as well. I'm not sure who this message will reach, if anyone, but I can only hope it goes somewhere. The truth has to be known because you're not going to hear it from anyone in red or gold, I can assure you of that…"

My voice is trembling, just like my hands. I grip my knees to stop the latter, but there's nothing much I can do about my voice. This has to be done, but I'm still not happy about being the one to do it.

How did I end up here?

I talk for thirty-seven minutes before the machinery gives out. There is so much to document but it doesn't much matter if I fail to relate it all. I start with the best examples, and they are good ones indeed. The rest can be construed—I make it clear with every word I utter that we're only scratching the surface here. To really understand what has happened, a person would have to live through what I did. There are always going to be facts that are lost to history.

But I can give them something, at least.

Some idea of how our nation has been betrayed.

It happens so quietly that at first I don't really believe it. Green light flickers, and my voice falters. Green light flickers and begins to fade. My voice gives out entirely. I stare at the dull shiny orb that used to be lit, just stand there and stare. Then I brace myself against the console, bowing my head. I close my eyes and let myself be. Just for one moment.

The time has come for me to leave this place. I fought hard to get here and now I'm leaving. But I can't execute my plan from here.

They won't feel me if I strike from this far back.

I need to go and meet them.

The further I walk, the more my thoughts tangle in my head. My veins rush with energy and vengeance fuels my motion. Still, I can't help thinking.

For me, thinking has never been a comfort.

I pass countless graffitied walls, and on one I see long-dried drips of paint that form the words, taller than my head but similarly messy:


My thoughts take a turn in that direction, and I start to contemplate the meaning of hell as I know it. I used to be religious. I used to fear hell.

I'm not so scared now, though, because I know you can find hell on earth.

You only have to know where to look.

Hell is realising that the people you trusted, the ones you wanted nothing more than to please, are the same ones who got you into this mess to begin with. Hell is learning that, contrary to popular opinion, you and your comrades just don't matter. You're utterly expendable, and quite frankly, the sooner you go down the better.

The more of you that die, the less resistance there will be in the end—resistance to the Revolution.

And god, I hate that word—Revolution. It's got all these connotations, like it's something amazing. Something wonderful.

It's not wonderful. It's not amazing.

It's hell.

"They turned on us at the worst possible moment. I guess that was the idea, right? Cut us off at the knees. Go for the jugular. Sever the spine.

So many clichés, so little time to make them all come true. But they did a good job.

I lay in a pile of bodies. Some of them twitched for hours, others were still in an instant. They grew cold around me but I stayed warm. They made a great windshield.

My comrades and my enemies all around me, friend and foe alike dead as last week's rancid meat. But there was an upside to lying there pinned by the weight of human flesh—it gave me time to think, really think. It gave me time to formulate a plan."

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Almost forgot that it was my turn to prompt again. 

Well, it's almost October, which means that a lot of us are either thinking about NaNoWriMo or avoiding thinking about NaNoWriMo.  In the spirit of doing the first rather than the second of these two things, I thought it would be fun to give you this prompt:

(1K-10k prose/333-3,333 verse)

"This is the short version of my story, the simplest way I can possibly tell it."

Good luck and sign up for Nano early before the site gets bogged down.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've got a confession to make, people - I still haven't finished last week's story! But I will. Just got to...slap myself around a little. Suffice it to say the story already got weird - a girl's liver is talking to her. Or rather, it's telling her off, practically screaming at her. Not quite sure how it's going to end yet... Maybe I'll wind up with a novel about a talking liver??

Anyway...this week's prompt is...this:

Write 1,000-10,000 words of prose (or, ya know, 333-3,333 words of that verse stuff) based on the following:

"That sweltering calm I'd never known

Blue skies and home"

Friday, September 16, 2011

All Because of Swan Poop

Not really finished . . .

It is their shadows that make me look to the sky, black wings so wide that they block out the sun.  I stop in midstroke, the cold lake water lapping around me, my lips part in awe until my jaw hangs slack.

As they land, the swans swoop so low that I could have reached up to stroke their downy bellies.  The whirl of their powerful wing steal the breath from my lungs.  I have never been this close to them.

Then a streak of white flashes through the air.

A sour taste in my mouth. 

My throat seals around it.  I flail in the deep water, no longer treading.  There is no one there, except for me and the seven black swans.  Without oxygen, the world goes purple-blue.


I remember a hand just under my ribs, fingers groping in my throat, pushing and pulling something free.  My mouth is forced open wide, jaw practically dislodged.  There is no noise, no voice of panic trying to call me back.

The hand withdraws, pulling out of me in one slow, steady movement.  Just as I wonder it it has given up, my body is rolled over so that I am on my side.  A sharp fist thwacks me between the shoulder blades.

Reflex rattles a cough out of me.  Hot, vile liquid spews out of my mouth.  There is so much of it.  It tears me from the inside.  Someone wipes me clean with their bare, calloused hand.

A sound like a dozen anxious rusty hinges worries at my ears.  Warm, feathery bodies press to mine.  My eyes flutter slightly, but I can’t keep them open.  For a second, I see two large brown eyes scouring my face, but I can’t hang on to them.

I take a breath and I suddenly feel the cold.


The sound of thunder makes me open my eyes.   I open my eyes and this time I can hold on to the big brown eyes.

The boy is long and wiry, with gold-streaked hair falling down to his shoulders.  He smiles when he sees that I am awake, but he doesn’t say anything.  I guess that maybe he is fourteen or fifteen.  The cave we are in is dark and cramped, but warm and sheltered from the storm that seems so violent that we are pitched around as if we were on a tiny boat rather than a rock in the middle of the lake.  My head is balanced on his lap, my legs pressed shoved against a rocky wall.  One of those candles in a jar with a holy card shines down on us.  I do not know who the saint is, but he holds up two fingers.  A sign of peace.  By it’s flickering light, the boy appears to be knitting.

“Hello,”  I try to say, try to thank the boy for saving my life, try to ask him how he did it, but my throat is bruised beyond functioning.  The word is barely a sound.

The boy lifts a hand from his knitting and places a hand over my mouth, shaking his head from side to side.  His hand feels feverish on my face, cracked with dryness and uncomfortably warm.  Then, he slowly shifts his hand to my eyes.

Don’t speak.  Try to get some sleep.

But the thunder roars again and I jump under his touch.

The movement frees a cloud of black feathers.  And I realize that this is why I am so warm—why the boy’s touch seems like fire on my skin:  we are covered with black downy feathers.  I grope around beneath them to make sure that I am still wearing my swimsuit, that this stranger didn’t undress me thinking to get me out of wet clothes or something crazy like that.

Then I feel it.  My torso is covered in warm slimey wetness.

In the light of the single candle, I don’t know what it is immediately, but I put it to my nose and send a million more feathers flying through the air.

Bird poop.


Between the storm, the cramped cave, being covered in swan poop and the boy, I do not sleep all night.  I toss and turn, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and my own bed.

The boy doesn’t help.  He is ominously silent, except when he takes a raspy rattling breath.  I don’t know if he can’t talk or if he won’t.  He does not say anything to me at all.  I imagine that he is some kind of hermit who has taken a vow of silence.  I want to ask him what he is knitting and who the saint on the candle is. 

But I do understand this about him:  he is ill, very ill.  Pressed up against his body, I can hear every labored breath he takes.  His eyes are glassy and he knits almost as if he were in a daze.  Although his body feels like fire on my skin, his skin prickles with chills that I don’t feel.

The little hole where we hide is too small for me to move anywhere else.  Unless I close my eyes, I have no choice but to stare up into his face.  When I do this, I can’t help but notice the peculiar details of his face and compare them to the other guys I know.  This makes me even more uncomfortable.

As the night passes, I obsess over how miserable the little cave is.  Not only is it small and diseased and uncomfortable and full of feathers, but when lightening illuminates the walls, I swear that dried bird poop is dripping down the walls.  I begin to believe that I am breathing it in, suffocating on it.  The thought makes me vomit once, but I swallow it, because the thought of lying in it and smelling it all night seems worse than all the bird poop in the world.

When the night finally passes, the storm goes with it, leaving a dense fog on the silent glassy lake.  I crawl out of the cave and realize that it is nothing but an old buoy, covered in rushes, black feathers and bird poop.  A strangled noise escapes from my bruised throat and I dive down into the freezing water to distract myself from thoughts of vomiting again.  The boy’s head emerges from the cave and he reaches a hand out to grab me.  Shivering, I duck out of his grasp.  It doesn’t matter that I am convulsing with cold, I run my hands all over my body, scrubbing every bit of poop off of me.

The boy makes wild gestures at the mouth of his poop-covered home.  It seems that he wants me back inside.  I shake my head.  Nothing will ever make me go back inside the little hut.  It does not matter that I can not see the shore through the fog, I have spent every summer on the shores of this lake.  I know that it is not that large.  Two summers ago, I swam all the way across.  The boy makes his wild gestures again, holding his hands out as if to tell me that there is something big and terrible in the water.  I try to mime back to him that I am going to swim to shore, but he dives in after me.

Only, he can not swim.  His thin limbs flail around wildly, but he sinks like a stone.  I do not realize what is happening until the water until several seconds after the water has closed over his head.

The fingernails driving into my skin are a good thing and a bad thing; a good thing because it means that he has not yet lost consciousness and a bad thing because he is pulling us both deeper under the water.  In the end, I have to yank him up by his long golden hair and physically place both of this trembling hands firmly on his poop covered buoy.  Coughing without sound and shaking so hard that he can barely hang on, he clambers on to the buoy and reaches out to me once more. 

In the morning light, he is so pale that his skin appears to have a strange blue tinge.  His cheeks are flushed a deep red.  As he trembles from the water’s chill, I can see nothing but bones sticking out from his nearly transparent skin.  What I took for boyishness the night before looks something closer to starvation now.  He might be seventeen or eighteen for all I can tell.

Against my better judgment, I take his hand and let him pull me back into the unsanitary confines of his home.  I cover him with the soft black feathers, holding him in my lap silently and chafing his bare arms.  His brown eyes grow dim as if he can no longer see this world and the chill of water on his skin transforms back into a raging fever.  But he takes the knitting in his hands and loops the rough yarn until he passes out cold.  Even then a stitch or two continues blindly.

I hold his handiwork so that the light from the shack’s narrow opening might give me some hint as to what is going through the hermit’s mind.

A dress.

The boy is knitting a dress? The fabric is rough as if it were knitted out of burlap and the dress is short like a kind of tunic and very, very wide.  It looks like it would only fit a girl with a 40DDDD.

It is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen.

The strange thing is, when I looked into the boy’s eyes the night before, he didn’t seem crazy.  He probably wasn’t crazy when he saved my live.  But he’d obviously been knitting this—um—tent for days, maybe even weeks.

I am claustrophobic again.  There is no food here, no medicine, no clean water.  Nothing but horrendous knitting for a girl with a bra size gone rogue, feathers and poop.  The idea of leaving him, makes me feel guilty, but I know that if I do not find help, he will die.

As the fog burns away, the fever escalates—the boy’s eyes roll back into his head and his limbs nd torso spasm out of control.  The little shelter threatens to collapse around us.  I hold his narrow limbs tight with my arms and try to remember the symptoms of bird flu.

Squinting at the horizon, I can just make out the shore.  With the water so still, it will be easy to swim.  I disentangle my body from his limbs, blow out the saint’s candle to save the wick, squeeze his limp dry hand—a promise to return.