"Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe" ~ Neil Gaiman (A Game of You)


Wild Things

It was my favorite time of year to be hiking in Yellowstone -- fall, when the leaves turned brilliant colors, the days were cooler but the nights not yet freezing, and the tourists packed their broods into station wagons and left the surroundings littered but quiet.  The stillness in the air enticed the wild things to come back out of hiding and return to their normal habits.  Sometimes I'd pass another seasoned naturalist on the trail, and we'd nod, but mostly it was just me and blue skies and birds, squirrels, elk, deer, and a few big horn sheep.

I made good time, five to six miles before stopping for lunch, and then another leisurely four this afternoon.  When the temperatures started cooling and the sun darted in and out of trees closer to the horizon, I knew I needed to look for a place to camp for the night.  I liked to settle in and then listen to the awakening of the nocturnals.  I wandered off the main trail and found a nice clearing under a few trees, the ground fairly even and free of rocks and shrubs.  I shrugged off my backpack and popped up my one man tent, then scouted around for wood to use for a fire.

By the time night fell, I had a warm, blazing fire.  I heated some of the water from my canteen and poured it into my styrofoam cup of soup.  I settled myself against the trunk of the nearest tree.  I stirred my soup, took a spoonful, blew on it, and slurped a long, salty wet noodle into my mouth.  Not exactly gourmet, but it reminded me of my college years, and it suited the mood of the evening -- young, free, and just a little out of touch with reality. 

I finished the noodles and threw my head back to drain the last of the liquid from the cup when I noticed a large black feather falling from the tree.  It landed beside me.  I picked it up.  It was sticky.  I brought it near the fire so I could see better.  Deep maroon, still almost black unless the light from the flames glinted just right.  Blood? 

The feather looked too big to be from a duck or woodpecker.  I worried it might be from a falcon, or worse, a bald eagle.  Curious, I fished my flashlight from my backpack and shined it up into the tree I had been leaning against.  The faint beam landed on a dark, feathered body, wings splayed and head tilted askew.  It was a big bird, but probably not an eagle; more likely, just a hawk.  Looked like the predator had become prey.

The light illuminated something else on a branch a little further up the tree.  A deer, or at least what was left of a deer.  Its legs dangled lifelessly, its head flung backwards, exposing the ripped, hollowed underbelly and a few pieces of flesh still clinging to the fur.

A deer?  In a tree?  I'd heard of leopards doing that with their prey, but this was Wyoming, not the Serengeti.  I shined my light back and forth, along the branches, and then dropped it with a clatter at my feet.  I fell to my knees, groping around in the dark, desperate to find it again, while reason fought against what I thought I had just seen.  A human hand, glistening white, dangling from a branch.

I heard a deep-throated growl and froze.  I shifted my head to see two yellow eyes towering above me.  So this is what it was like for Steve Irwin and that guy who lived with the grizzlies.  The last thought flashing through my mind: what was that guy's name?


Today's prompt:

In most parts of the world, Halloween is celebrated – in some form or another – this weekend. Your challenge this week is to write a horror scene (or something horrific) using a wet noodle, a styrofoam cup and a feather.


Predator and Prey

Ash took the bulging manila folder from his briefcase and set it in front of him on the table in the cruiser's only cabin.  A thin fluorescent light swung from the ceiling, casting shadows around the tiny room.  He pulled out the dog-eared pages of the analyst's report.  He glanced over the words, although he had them almost memorized.  Sixteen biological terrorism attacks, innocent civilians, no known motive, no political group claiming responsibility.  Just one man.  He turned to the worn photos.  The aftermath, piles of bloodied bodies, some that looked like they had been blown up from the inside, others that looked like they had imploded.  A photo of stillness, as if the multitude of people were just sleeping, a mid-afternoon siesta.  And a single photo of his target, blurred but enhanced enough to see the man's likeness.  Tall, unusually pale, ice blue eyes.  The eyes marked him.  He would know the man in any crowd by his eyes.

His instructions were simple.  Neutralize him.  But be careful.  Ash must not, by any means, be seen.

That would not be a problem, under normal circumstances, because Ash preferred to hunt by night.  He knew how to slip through the shadows like a lynx, undetected by his prey even at the moment of striking.  But this was different.  His guide had taken him to the wrong island, and he had wasted precious black hours searching for a man who was not there.  As they approached this island -- the right island, he had been assured, and it better be the right island, because he would not be so forgiving a second time -- dawn had already crept in, and slashes of pink rested on the horizon surrounding the lip of the rising sun.  Ash desperately wanted to wait until darkness descended again, but he knew it would be impossible.  His instructions emphasized it must be done now, and he was already hours behind schedule.  He would have to improvise.

Ash brusquely swept the pages and photos back into the folder, returned it to the briefcase, and pushed the bag under the bed.  He hadn't really needed to look over the information again, anyway.  But anger and disgust helped him be more efficient.  He felt the fury pulse in his veins.  He was ready.

He climbed to the deck of the cruiser and watched as the island came into focus.  Black sand beaches leading into a thick jungle overgrowth.  Very good.  The hunter would feel right at home.  He relaxed a little, feeling that his job may not be too difficult after all.

The captain cut the cruiser's power, and they drifted the boat to shore.  The crew busied themselves with boxes of medical supplies to be delivered to the doctor, their cover should the natives become curious about the strange men landing on their island.  Ash slipped away silently, disappearing into the dense canopy.

The island was small, merely a few miles radius.  Ash moved lithely, traveling in a circle, alert to the sounds of the waking jungle, closing in tighter and tighter around the village.  Soon, distant voices drifted to his ears.  He moved in their direction.  He found a clearing, saw several grass huts.  He readied his weapon, then crept closer, confident in the camouflage of the trees and vines.  There.  To his left.  His target.

Ash hesitated.  Something wasn't right.  The man in front of him was stripped down to his ragged jeans, his tan chest bare, as were his dust-covered feet.  A dozen small, dark, laughing children surrounded him, and they kicked a hollowed out coconut shell back and forth between them.  The coconut rolled in front of the man, and just as he was about to kick it, a tiny boy snaked in front of him for a steal.  The man threw back his head, his laughter loud and raucous, and Ash saw the sun glint off his perfect white teeth.

Ash sucked in his breath.  The man snapped his head in his direction, their eyes met.  Ash felt the blood in his veins turn to ice, fingers skittering through his body before closing around his heart.  In the milliseconds before his heart exploded, he did not see his life flash before his eyes.  Instead, he saw the bloodied bodies, the hollow eyes, the piles of victims he failed.


Today's prompt:
Include this theme in your story… After a long night, a hunter sees something he/she cannot believe.


NaNoWriMo Or No

There's something in the air this time of year.  It's not the sudden chill of autumn, nor the excitement of the approaching holidays, or even the frisson of annoyance at Christmas displays popping up in stores before Halloween.  No, it's the buzz and electricity as authors all around the U.S. contemplate the great National Novel Writing Month.

To NaNo or not to NaNo, that is the question.  Or is it?  Does it have to be so black and white?

As much as I'd like to jump in wholeheartedly, I recognize my limitations.  I physically cannot sustain writing 2,000 words a day.  Not even 1,667 words a day, if I don't take any days off, including Thanksgiving.  Yet, I don't want to sit on the sidelines, watching and hearing about authors taking on the herculean task of completing a novel in a month.  I want to play, too!

So, here's my compromise.  I may not sign up on the official website.  I may not bust out a full 50,000 words in one month.  But I will participate in spirit.  I'm setting my goal at 1,000 words a day, broken into two writing sessions.  That's doable!  I've already written over 13,000 words on my current work in progress.  I can use the rest of October to "warm-up," as it were, bust out a lot of writing, and maybe I'll get up to 20,000 words before NaNo starts.  Then maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to finish my novel about the same time as everyone else.  At least a nice, sketchy, skinny first draft.

There.  I've made a public commitment.  Count me in, fellow crazies!



Vivian lit the trio of lavender tea candles, put a CD of nature sounds in the player, and adjusted the volume to a gentle trickle filling the room.  She turned to her client, naked under a slightly warmed flannel sheet in the middle of the room.  It had been cold last night; she didn't want her catching a chill.

She moved to the top of the table and folded the sheet down to expose Monica's bare back.  She reached for the bottle of ylang ylang massage lotion and squeezed a liberal amount into her palm.  She brusquely rubbed her hands together and smoothed them around Monica's shoulders.

Vivian closed her eyes and sighed, letting her hands move instinctively, searching out the tight knots embedded along the neck.  Monica had such a lovely energy about her.  It was because she was a mother.  There was something about mothers -- they were always so giving, sending so much positive energy out into the world.  Not every mother, she knew, but Monica was one of the good ones.

Vivian found a particularly stubborn knot and paused to give it a little extra attention.  She pressed her thumb into the heart of it, rotated, wiggled it just a little.  She felt it release.  Monica sighed, and Vivian felt her body release a little, too.  Ah, this was going to be a good session, she could tell.

Vivian worked her fingers up through the base of the neck, up to the cranium.  She felt a tightening under her fingers right behind the jawline.  Monica must have been fighting with her husband recently.  Vivian massaged the area with her index finger, felt it leading down the side of her neck, so she followed.  She followed the tightness across her shoulder, around the curve of the shoulder blade, pausing to jiggle it a little, feeling the release.  It ended just under her arm.  Smooth, the whole path was smooth now.  Monica wouldn't be having any more of those tension headaches for awhile.

Vivian added a little more pressure as she moved down her back, pushing then pulling the muscles into submission.  She moved to the side and worked along the spine.  She heard a little pop, and then another, as the vertebrae slid back into place.  Vivian took pride in knowing most of her clients didn't need a chiropractor.  During a session with her, everything just kind of melted into balance.

She lightened her touch as she reached the spot in the middle of Monica's back.  This was a touchy area, she knew.  She'd once asked if Monica had ever had a traumatic injury, ever been in a car accident or injured herself playing sports.  No, Monica didn't remember any such thing.  Vivian knew then; it was something deeper, more traumatic, not talked about.  Something when she was very young.  Vivian always approached it with great care, and she noticed it was healing a little bit more each time she worked on her.  If Monica did choose to ever bring the trauma to the surface again, she'd be surprised at how much better it is now.  It was one of the gifts Vivian gave her clients without them knowing.

Vivian paused and squeezed more lotion into her hand.  She took Monica's arm in her hands, smoothed over the large muscles, worked her way to wrists and pressed into the fleshy palm of Monica's hand.  She noticed the callous marks from finger nails of clenched fists.  Tension here, too.  She stretched each finger, rotated the hand until it eased softly back onto the sheet.

Vivian pulled the sheet up over Monica's back, moved to the bottom of the table and folded the sheet away from Monica's legs.  She repeated the motions along the large muscles, and then pulled up her stool to sit while she worked on Monica's feet.  The feet told everything.  Monica needed a gentle touch today, and Vivian gently prodded the heel, rolled her knuckles into the arch, walked her thumbs across the toes.

She replaced the sheet, moved to the top of the table, and gently brushed her hands down Monica's covered body, corralling the negative energy and moving it down the planes and banishing out of her body.  She looked at the clock.  The hour was up.  She spoke softly, telling Monica to take her time getting up.  She walked to a back bathroom and waited until she heard Monica stirring, waited longer until it was quiet again.

Monica's face shone when Vivian came back into the room.

"You are amazing," Monica said.  She rolled her neck back and forth.  "I feel so good.  And it's never the same massage twice.  You're very intuitive."

Vivian smiled, hoping Monica didn't notice the hint of sadness behind it.

"Thank you.  Yes, you're right, I am.  But it's a blessing and a curse.  See, people can't lie to me."

Monica looked puzzled.

"That's why I don't date much," Vivian said lightly, and Monica laughed as if it were a joke.

"So, I'll see you next week?"  Vivian asked.

"No, sorry, I can only come every other week right now.  Make it the following."

"All right, I'll pencil you in."

Vivian led Monica to the door, watched her get into her car, and waved as she pulled out of the carport.  She walked back inside and found the calendar on her desk.  She looked at all the blank white squares and wrote down "Monica, 10 am" under the 24th.


This week's prompt:   What is your Character's Very Mild SuperPowers?


Righting Wrong

I stood on the round metallic teleportation device in the middle of the room.  I turned to face the only other man in the room.

"When you enter, you should arrive in the southwest corner," the old man said.  "The oval table will be to your right.  He will be sitting at the head of it, of course."

I nodded.  Nervous perspiration broke out in tiny droplets on my upper lip.  I brought my arm up and wiped it away on my sleeve.  I didn't speak for fear my voice would crack.

"You will have only a few seconds before their surprise turns to action.  You must act quickly."

Again, I nodded.  I steadied my voice.

"Should I have my gun drawn already?" I asked.

"No.  That would raise alarms immediately.  Let them see you and wonder first."

I could see the old man had thought this through, over and over, reliving it again and again throughout the long nights leading up to this moment.

"Are you ready?" he asked quietly.  I placed my hand on the butt of the gun tucked inside the front of my jeans.  I closed my eyes.

I nodded.

I opened my eyes to see the scene exactly as the old man had described it.  I was in the southwest corner of the room.  The oval table was to my right.  He was sitting at the head of it.  His impeccable black hair, parted down the right, gleamed, the broom bristle mustache twitched under his nose.  His uniform was crisp, and he held his hat casually in his left hand.  The swastika band was blood red around his left bicep.  He threw his head back and laugh, momentarily disconcerting me.  I had never seen more than a frown turning his lips down at the corners.

The men in the room became aware of my presence incrementally, as if in slow motion.  Expressions turned from surprise to confusion to concern as I pulled the gun from its hiding place and trained the sights on the laughing man.  I pulled the trigger and blood erupted from the clean white shirt beneath his jacket.  The smile faded from his lips as I pumped three more shots into his chest.  The room felt silent for a millisecond, and then a buzzing roar filled my ears.  I let the gun drop from my fingers, bouncing innocuously at my feet with a clatter against the hard wood floor.  I was tackled and fell to the ground next to it.

I waited for the crack that would signal the bullet meant for me.  It didn't come.  Two burly men rolled me onto my back, and I felt cold metal handcuffs coil around my wrists.  They hauled me to my feet, and I stood to face these men, his cronies and accomplices.  They stared back at me in horror, as if I were the butcher of millions instead of the man bleeding lifelessly at their feet.

The two men pushed me through the door, out of the building, into a waiting car.  They drove for miles, and I wondered what would happen next.  A dark dank cell?  Torture?  Encampment and a cyanide shower?  They pulled up in front of another building, pulled me out, pushed me through the door.  They led me down a corridor, turned left, and opened the door to a small room.  They shoved me forward, then turned me around and removed the cuffs from my wrists.  They left me standing in the middle of the room, alone, and I heard the door shut behind me with a click.

The room was sparse but comfortable, a blanketed twin bed in the corner, a round table and wooden chair in the middle.  A few books, a pad of paper, and a pen were stacked on the table.  Behind a small privacy screen were a toilet and a sink protruding from the wall.  And in the corner opposite the bed was a TV.

A TV?  But that hadn't been invented yet.  I blinked back the surprise.  I found a remote control on top.  I picked it up, pushed a button, and watched the images spilling from the screen.

I watched for hours.  Somber announcers with tears in their eyes.  Mourners spontaneously gathering on the stairs of the building I had been taken from, not just blond-haired, blue-eyed mourners, but brown and black mixed in.  A sea of flowers growing like a garden at the top, flowing down the steps like a waterfall.  Similar displays at German embassies in foreign countries.  Interviews with dignitaries from all around the world, in languages I couldn't understand, and then Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"The American people join our hearts to the great people of Germany and share their sorrow during this horrendous moment in history.  We honor this man who has done so much to further peace and prosperity in the world.  We vow to continue his fight against the very thing that took his life: blind hatred enforced by violence.  We will not stop or falter until every weapon has been safely buried in the ground.  Even in these darkest moments, his legacy shines brightly before us, a beacon to follow, and he will go down in history as the greatest man ever born."

Dear God, what have I done?


Today's prompt:

Your Main Character is a time traveler. He/She arrives at a destination but not all is as expected….



Why Do I Write?

Because someone told me I was a good writer when I was a child.
Because I love the taste of words.
Because I think I'm very clever.
Because I believe 45 is old enough to pry the hands away from my mouth.
Because I love it.
Because I become intoxicated by it.
Because I love to read.
Because I'm looking for meaning in my life.
Because I'm looking for meaning in my tragedies.
Because sometimes I want to scream.
Because I can.