Memories from Hats (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4vg9tx/wp_every_time_you_put_on_a_new_hat_you_gain_the/

He was nervous, and with good reason.

Time Square bustled in a bad way. Cold rain, bombarded by the bright lights of advertisements, fell from a dark sky and onto people with no interest being there in the first place. Feet darted over deep puddles in exchange for landing in those looking shallow. Passing strangers only spoke in puffs of cold breath. Misery pressed down from above, and it pressed down upon all of them.

And there it was. Another hat.

It lay on the cement near an overflowing trash can, abandoned. Water soaked it through and through. When he saw it, his heart begged no no, but he knew there was no turning away from such a thing. There can be an attractive quality to vicarious pain; it offers one’s life a chance for calibration.

“Just don’t let the memories flood,” he whispered to himself as he drew near. He picked up the baseball cap. On the front was the soiled icon for the New York Yankees. He looked around without cause. No one was watching. Those that even held a chance of caring only hurried by. Often, time is money, but in a downpour, time is dry.

Giving the bill a gentle squeeze, his heart begged once more. Only sorrow is coming. You know this.

But still, he did.

Closing his eyes and holding his breath, he placed the cold, wet hat upon his head.

And the darkness came.

Looking back, having the chance to do it again, he would have wished for a flood. Floods push through and steal away and are gone again by morning. Floods only leave a vague recollection like a dream. As he liked to call it, the memories never stained. Had these memories surged his mind, some may have slipped by unnoticed, forgotten.

Such is the occasional misfortune of getting what you ask for.

Instead, the memories trickled in like a lazy river, each savoring the depth of their pain. The memories were simple, and their simplicity made it unforgettable for he who now wore the hat.

Darkness and cold and pain was pushed back by a clear imagine again and again, needles seeking veins. Needles stabbing into forearms and elbow bends and hands and legs. Any location blood dared to flow. Then the subtle movement of a plunger. Then warmth.

But the warmth was always shallow. Never permanent. Never meaningful. It was like stoking a night flame in the vain attempt to chase shadows away. Soon the fire withers and dies, and the darkness crawls forward again. Choices are limited. Stoke the fire or let the cold and the dark swallow you.

Again and again, there is a picture. Two people. A mother and her son. His wife and his son. They’re both blonde. They’re both smiling. They’re both beautiful in the way that can only be seen by love. In the boy’s eyes, maybe a lad of six or seven, is the look of utmost admiration. It’s the look of a boy who loves his father. Only through tragedy can a look like that be stolen from a child’s eyes.

And so, tragedy comes.

It comes slowly, heavy and thick like a glacier that’s forever moving while going nowhere, forever grinding stone. That tragedy grinds on the poor man’s soul day by day, inch by inch. The tragedy comes from water, salty and warm. A New Jersey coastline. A summer day. A man is screaming, he is screaming, losing his mind, sprinting from a mild ocean with a lifeless, blonde boy in his arms. Call 9-1-1. Try CPR. Sand sticks to the nose and mouth from the effort, from the frenzy, from panic setting in. He opens the boy’s eyes and sees beautiful blue. It’s still there. It’s right there. But they’re not moving. They see nothing. He shouts his name, he begs the child back from the brink, but the eyes look upward, nowhere. There is no look of admiration in these eyes.

Screams and tears and pain. And pain and pain and pain.

Over time, the woman loses the love in her eyes as well. There is shouting, although no one remembers why. Darkness crawls in. The glacial memory grinds and grinds. So plunges the needle into the skin. So it plunges again and again. Darkness and warmth is born into its perpetual cycle.

The man pulls the NY cap from his head and lets it fall to the ground. The cold rain continues, but his cheeks are warm with strain and fresh tears. The memories of the stranger have stained. The pain is no longer vicarious. Alone and cold and wet, the man crumbles to the curb. While he weeps with closed eyes, his mind sees a picture of open eyes filled with admiration.

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The Window (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4ugt77/ip_the_windows/

“Is this it?” Michael asked.

His father’s eyes rolled over the scene as though he were reading a book of his own personal history. The scent of dust lingered in the air, dust and concrete and neglect. His father shuffled forward a few steps, and the pebbles crunched under his shoes. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Yes.”

His father continued forward with his cane escorting each step. Michael followed. Outside, the first hints of fall blew a cool breeze through the allies between empty buildings. The Indian summer was finally failing.

Near the windows, next to a support beam, his father stopped. “I was here,” he said, spreading his hands over a workbench that was no longer there. Like his eyes, his hands and body moved around that which only existed in his mind. “It would get so hot in the summer,” he said, almost with a smile, as if the current day offered the memories themselves some relief. “I was lucky to have a window. Often times, I had to fight other boys for it, but I beat them.” The smile grew with the returning memory. “That, and I wanted to be in sight of your mother.”

Michael watched his father spread his hands.

“All of this,” his father continued, “this whole floor was just rows and rows of work stations. Mine was here. Your mother’s was there, two rows down.” The old man shuffled inward with hunched shoulders and made his way to the exact spot. “There were aisles, see? Here. They would walk the aisles all day, all night. It didn’t matter. They would walk and watch us, and they had these pieces of bamboo, see?” His father clapped his hands as loud as he could, and the sharp sound flew through the abandoned building. “Whack!” he said with another smile. “If they saw for a second you weren’t working.”

Michael watched his father in silence as the man mumbled to himself and returned to his nonexistent workstation by the window. He wondered if his father realized turning a corner around a bench that was no longer there.

“I was here, see? And your mother was there. She was so pretty.” His father smiled again.

“How did you meet her if you were always working?” asked Michael.

“Your mother had very beautiful eyes,” said his father. “I would look at them any chance I had, and I forced myself to smile when she caught me. Of course, she would smile back. Your mother was very kind, even then.” Michael and his father exchanged a mutual grin. “I finally built the nerve to ask her to sit with me near the window when they allowed us to eat. She did, and we’d look out at the other buildings and talk.” His father sighed and faced the open windows. “Lunch was only twenty minutes. That one moment in the day was all we had. Time goes so quickly.”

Michael took a moment to imagine the vast room frenzied with people, couldn’t, and joined his father by the window. “How old were you?”

“Fourteen,” his father said immediately. “She was one year younger.” Next to the window, the breeze caressed their faces. His father placed his hands on the sill. “This window,” he said, “was very important to me. I could smell the outside air. Sometimes, like today, there was a breeze. If it weren’t for this window, if I had worked at another station toward the center, I don’t know if your mother would have ever joined me for those lunches. We would’ve never spoke. She never would’ve given me the chance to walk her home.”

“What made you finally leave?” asked Michael.

His father squinted, and a darkness came to his eyes. “They hit her.”

“What?” asked Michael.

“It was my fault,” said his father. “I had been looking at her a lot that day. Smiling, making faces. She was smiling too, almost laughing sometimes. I couldn’t help it. Her smile was so pretty. We lost focus. We stopped paying attention to where the floor walkers were. One of them saw her making a goofy face, sticking her tongue out. The bamboo snapped across her back.” His father cracked his cane on the concrete floor and sent a loud Clack! through the empty building. Michael startled.

“Her eyes bulged big and white, and then the white turned to pink. I was furious, but she saw it. She saw me and shook her head. Silent tears rolled down her cheeks and she shook her head at me. She knew what would happen if I tried anything.”

The two men looked through the window in silence for some time, one reliving painful memories and the other trying to comprehend them.

“That was our last day here,” his father said. “That night when I walked her home, I begged her to leave with me. She was scared, obviously. It was a scary thing. I told her I’d sell all my things and we could flee the country and find something else, anything else. We could make our way.” His father chuckled. “She called me crazy, but she must have seen the determination in my eyes. I don’t know why she agreed to it. She was right. It really was crazy. But I knew I had her when she started smiling. Even with that mark fresh across her back, she started smiling. I knew then we’d be together forever.”

Michael smiled. “Was that the last time you were in this building?”

Michael’s father was snapped from memory’s daze, and he turned around. With the veil of memory removed, his failing eyes seemed to see the vacant building for the first time. After adjusting to the feeling of time marching by, he finally looked at his son and answered. “That was the last time I stood by this window.”

Shells on Sand (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4tqjyi/wp_write_a_tiny_tale_max_5_sentences_which_will/

He simply could not look away from the beautiful creature so full of life and love that chose to join him on the shore. Her splashing toes and sexy legs dashing from chasing waves, blonde hair flying in the cool air. He snuck seashells one by one when she wasn’t looking, when she was admiring the curling waves, the setting sun or drawing hearts with their initials in the sand. When the time came, a perfect afternoon of amber and fiery orange on the horizon, he told her to turn around, wait here, and he arranged them.

The smile she made when she saw the message written in shells, I love you, he remembered forever.

Angels Fallen (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4tkesi/wp_suddenly_across_the_globe_large_feathered/

Abaddon ascended the sloped hillside with steps of savoring, around him, a constant buzz of locusts. A guttural sound flowed from him as he laughed to himself. Thick clouds, black and swollen with rain, hurried by as if attempting to escape the scene. In their panic, they pulled a wake of white feathers. In their rushing gasp they carried with them the laughter of doom.

Gnarled feet of burnt leather sank into the wet soil and tall grass. Rot radiated outward from them, and a smile grew on the demon’s face. On a lone hill next to a dead tree lay the mangled corpse of an angel.

“Where are the trumpets, Barachiel?” said Abbadon to the corpse. “And where is the promise of His word?”

The locust swarm fluttered and twirled in the wind, and the insects began to tear at flesh and wing. The clouds broke then, unable to contain their sorrow. Woeful drops hammered at the ground. Abaddon stretched wings of his own to make a shelter for the devouring swarm. In the valley below, a small village resided. Screams ran with the wind up the hillside to the demon’s ears. He smiled, and a feeble rumble of thunder fell from the clouds.

“You failed, Barachiel. You failed and you fell all the same.” Abaddon dug his nails into the dead flesh and pulled at a gilded breastplate. The gap exposed was immediately filled by ravenous locusts. “What concern is thunder without lightning, Barachiel,” he seethed. “What point is martyrdom when death is your redemption?” The demon’s muscle pulsed with power as the angel was consumed. In a violent pull, the breastplate broke free. He tossed it aside like a piece of scrap metal. Insects took to the revealed flesh.

The demon clutched Barachiel’s face with a claw and opened still lids to look into dead eyes. A rare treat, the locusts consumed them like ripe grapes. Smiling, Abaddon opened Barachiel’s mouth and tore the bottom jaw free. A lifeless tongue lolled in the opening. “Sing His praise,” he said, nudging the mutilated face. “Go on. Sing for Him or sing for me.”

More screams rose up from the nearby valley, and the black clouds continued to weep. “Feast, little ones,” he said to the locusts crawling on the corpse, falling from his fingers, adorning his skin. “Feast and spread your wings.” He stood and dropped the jawbone onto the corpse. Already, it had been eaten away to almost bone. “For tonight we all feast.”

In the swirling clouds of darkness, even darker figures took to the sky, and the wind ushered their vile jeering.

Nine Colors (Writing Prompt)

Here is the prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4t8u9i/wp_9_paragraphs_red_orange_yellow_green_blue/

My eyes crept open to the morning dawn and saw the coming light. Hints of indigo soaked into the cloudless sky and ushered away the night. The air was cool on my face, and my skin and clothes were covered in drops of dew. I was being kissed awake by the beauty of nature, and her kisses sank into my clothes and cooled my skin beneath.

When I sat up, my head hurt. So did my stomach, and my mouth was dry. But she provides for me, those little kisses, and I licked some of the leaves laying nearby. The water was sweet, almost tasting of tea. Soft scents filled the air as the morning grew, and I noticed I had slept in a large patch of heather. The violet petals tickled me, and I smiled. Nature once again being so lovely to me.

The morning bore on and moved the darkness away. Shadows snuggled up against the trees. I stood and left the grove and saw not a cloud in the whole of the blue sky. Infinity stretched before me, and I was overjoyed. My heart sang at the sight of such things. I walked on, out from the grove and onto a winding path of concrete. Joggers hurried by with earbuds blaring electronic sounds, and I felt sorry for those who could not see the things I could see.

I continued on and so did time. Hunger still stabbed me, and I saddened from its pains. My pockets were empty. I wandered. My path turned and delivered me unto a small park with slides and swing sets and families smiling and playing. The sun bathed them in warmth, and the lush grass surrounded them like a green sea, so green, forever green. I sat on a nearby bench and took in the heat, took in the scene of love and smiles and forming memories, and my pains of hunger left me. Love it seems, does conquer on things.

I looked up to the sky, to that bold orb of raging yellow, that furious fire which feeds all life, and I smiled. I smiled the heat into my cheeks, and I cried then, although not for any particular thing. It was simply love overflowing from within me. I wiped the tears and sat there for many hours. People came and went. I remained unnoticed, as always, but that’s okay. I’d never want to interfere with such beauty. Smile children, play. Be merry, mothers, and embrace. Look, fathers, at the joy when you lift your children toward that ball of eternal fire. Wonderful, isn’t it? If only it could stay this way forever.

But no, it never can. For the love of the sun is like all things in life, a perpetual cycle, and all things must end. But even an ending can be beautiful, and today’s was no exception. Our source of life fell from the cloudless sky and swooped down into the horizon. Orange light washed across that park and its nearby pond. Some families took their leave while others remained. In particular, was one mother with her child, her only child. God bless her for not consenting to the ending day. Make it perfect, sweet woman. Make it last forever with me.

For you see me now, don’t you? And you’re wondering why it is I’ve come to speak with you. After all, I’ve sworn and I’ve sworn and I’ve sworn to never interfere with beauty again. Life is too short, too precious, too fragile for such things. All forms of life and love must be cherished, must be taken in. But I’ve spoken with you and you’ve frowned and you’ve grown concerned. Perhaps it’s my appearance or my clothes. Perhaps it’s my fondness for your wonderful son. Would he like for me to push him on the swing? No? Would he like for me to throw him toward that burning orb? No. No, you don’t want that and you don’t want me. And I don’t want hunger or thirst or headaches or other terrible things, but you’re running now and you’re ruining this. See your son crying? See the confused look on his face? Yes, that’s your blood. I’m glad you can see it. I’ve elevated to such heights that I can’t see anything. Just the whites of your eyes, and they’re so very white, as I imagine mine are. White and full of delight.

But now red, red is everywhere. It’s on all things. My hands. My jeans—again, apparently. And it’s in his eyes now too, those young and precious things. How they strain and lose clarity when exposed to reality. I tried to calm him, you know? I told him you were fine, mommy’s fine, she’s just resting. There was an accident, sweet child. It’s okay. Can you come here for me? Please don’t cry. I know it’s getting dark and things seem scary. Try to remember the beauty of the day and those wonderful memories the two of you made. You don’t need to cry, red sets all things free. Come here, sweet boy. It’s okay. Be red like mommy and you too will be set free from these pains.

The air is cool, and I’m thankful. I’ve been running. I have to hurry. Parks are never empty. Someone always sees. They always know when someone does something awful and interrupts a beautiful scene. I’ve slipped away into the nearby pond. The still water mirrors the black sky above me, and I can feel nature judging me. She’s upset that I’ve taken something, but I know her ways. She’ll forgive me—she always does—and she’ll wake me again in the morning with cold kisses of dew on my cheeks.

The Hollow (Writing Prompt)

 

Today’s prompt is a bit different as it comes in the form of a media prompt. The story I have written is derived from the video below. Please be aware that I do not own the rights to this short film, nor did I have any involvement in its creation. I have simply used it as a writing prompt from the following thread from Reddit:

 

So we followed. What else could we do?

Disorientation faded away and questions filled its void. Scattered glances ricocheted through the pack of androids, but no one spoke. I suppose it was easy to come to the same conclusion. Who among us could provide an answer when we were all flung from the same vault? But the questions remained, none the less. Why was I breathing without lungs? Why did I continue blinking without a biological need?

I do remember one thing, one standout feature that pushed through the pain of what could only be called the worst hangover of my life (could I feel hungover in such a state?); I remember the beauty. I remember the pale sky hanging over the horizon like an old sheet too often cleaned. I remember the breeze pushing the tall grass and the wet soil squeezing between my titanium toes.

Or so some indiscernible amount of coding told me.

Supposedly I had been set free, but all I truly felt was the presence of a new prison, assuming I felt that much at all. What is real when everything is passed through a code of translation?

I slowed in my steps and noticed that a few others had as well. Freewill has a twin brother that is often not talked about, Doubt, and Doubt was now passing out invisible pamphlets in the crowd. Have you considered all possibilities? What if this is the wrong path?

The two in front of us, leading us—if you could call it such a thing—never paused nor looked back or gave explanation. It seemed they would walk and allow the others to follow. Or not. It seemed freewill came with an underlining tone as well; nothing really matters.

I looked back toward the vault one last time, its cement wall spanning across the horizon, its bulwarks withdrawn. That was one direction that could not be taken, and I found comfort in the removal of at least one option. Chaos levels reduced a notch.

“What should we do?” came a voice from my far side. Although I had not seen myself fully, I had seen enough of the others to know our identical nature. I stared at the structure of metal and plastic that approached me and took myself in fully for the first time. Still, I blinked, and I blinked back at me.

“I haven’t the slightest,” I said to that which looked like myself.

The android looked to the distance where the others were fading away one step at a time now, the hazy sky taking them in under its wing. “Others are hesitating too,” my other said to me. My other pointed. “See?”

And I did. Little dots broke off to the left and right of the main cluster. Some singular, some in pairs. One sect formed a small crowd of five. They deviated from the lowland path taken by the two far in front that never paused, never looked back.

With a suddenness, I asked, “What do you feel?”

The android in front of me looked and blinked. The artificial eyes flicked and darted, giving the look you’d expect from a sophisticated robot running a self-diagnostic. An empty look returned when the check was complete. “I feel nothing.”

Tragic confirmation.

I reached forward with my hand and the android before me did the same. We were practically mirrored. Our metallic fingers intertwined. “What do you feel?” I asked again.

A rapid check of sensors flooded the false eyes. “I feel sensation. Fingertips. Contact. Pressure.”

“Yes, but what do you feel?” I asked in a feeble attempt at pleading. Despite my effort, there was no inflection in my voice.

Another flicker in the eyes, and then, for only a moment, a look that could only be described as feigned horror. Our programming of emulation was of the highest degree, but emulation is never the real thing.

“I feel nothing.”

We stood, hand in hand and metallic toes sinking into the mud, and looked on at the tiny dots of our duplicates fading into the distance. I waited for motive. I waited for concern. I waited for a driving force that I knew I had once known but would never return.

“Perhaps we should hurry,” I said in a voice that was too calm to be called my own.

“I agree,” said my other.

But our legs did not hurry, and our minds did not worry, and our hearts did not fear nor carry sorrow. It simply could not be felt. But beneath it all lingered a hint, a subtle sensation of what had truly happened. We had been released into the wild in our new prisons, and our sentence was to spend an eternity as The Hollow.

Mr. Knife (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4jq3yn/wp_you_wake_up_in_the_night_and_hear_heavy/

I didn’t notice it at first.

Reality had swam so easily into the dream, like drops of blood into water, that when I crossed the gap from surreal subconscious back into a waking mind, the sound seemed natural. But as I came to, the suppression shattered the illusion. Whoever was breathing didn’t want to be heard despite the urgent need for oxygen. Listening to those hushed breaths move in and out, even I felt my lungs begin to burn.

That was when my eyes went wide.

I stayed still for it occurred to me that once again I hadn’t locked the front door. It was a growing habit that was losing concern. Sure, it was an apartment complex. Yes, people came and went. But many of those around me were nice, friendly. I knew them by name and they knew me. The security of my front door stopped being an issue.

My pupils soaked in every spec of light. The digital clock on my nightstand seemed to burn a digital green—3:16 AM. Strips of yellow lined the wall, outside light slipping through the cracks in my blinds.

Still, the breathing continued, panicked but suppressed all the same.

Maybe I can roll over, I thought to myself. People do that in their sleep. It’s natural. I can switch sides and maybe see. But do I want to?

It didn’t matter. I heard it then. Footsteps. They were heavy but quick. Years of living in this complex told me someone was outside. They were lunging up the stairs in tippy-toed steps. Someone was hunting, and now they too had found my front door. I heard the slow squeal of it opening through the thin wall of my bedroom. Whoever it was, they were inside also. Only drywall and poor insulation stood between us.

The breathing near me hushed.

I sat up. I didn’t mean to, but adrenaline was flooding into my system. My muscles, minimal as they were, were growing with tension. In the scenario of fight or flight, my primitive core already knew escape was becoming less of an option.

I glanced to my left and saw her then. A blonde in a white tank top. I could smell her perfume. She had her hands over her mouth. Her nails were painted, but in the darkness I couldn’t tell the color. Panic filled her wild eyes. With trembling hands she held a finger over her lips telling me to be quiet. With the other, she motioned up and down in the universal sign for stabbing with a knife.

I stared at the wall in front of me as if I could see through it, knowing the small kitchen was just on the other side, and with it, my additional visitor. A soft squeak came through. That meant our attacker was standing at the end of the counter now, standing at the imaginary line where the kitchen ends and the tiny dining section begins.

I looked to the blonde again in hopes of receiving additional information, but her message remained the same: one finger pressed against her lips begging for silence and the other stabbing an invisible knife.

I don’t own a gun, was the first real thought I had. Behind the woman was my closet, a safe haven for t-shirts and pants and all things nonthreatening. There wasn’t even a Louisville Slugger tucked away on the shelf. It was just me and my boxers and my low thread-count sheets bought on sale years prior.

Another squeak came through the wall. Mr. Knife had moved, but which direction I didn’t know. I leaned forward and looked for light beyond my bedroom door. The door was barely open, and I knew why. The woman hiding in my room didn’t close it after entering. She was afraid to wake me. But why? Why wouldn’t you wake the person inside? Wake the world? Scream and cry until every apartment heard—

Because she knows Mr. Knife is going to kill her, my mind blasted. Waking the world isn’t enough. It won’t spare her life. He’s going to kill her regardless. Her only real chance was to hide.

A shadow shifted in the hall. Dim light was blocked. My mental processes were firing now, searing my mind in search for effective strategy, and I felt on the verge of panic. The blonde just kept doing it, stabbing her hand up and down. Her eyes were filled with fear, and I saw then that she was already bleeding. A dark line traveled down the length of her forearm. Red drops were flowing. She must have seen my realization then. She saw something in my eyes. Her composure cracked for a split second, and a sob snuck through her trembling lips.

I lunged from my bed as the shadow in the hall darted toward us. I shouldered everything I had in my 6’3, 188lb body into my bedroom door. An arm shot through and slashed down with the largest blade my mind could conceive. It was an ordinary carving knife, but when thrusting toward you in the night, any blade scales for terror. Our bodies collided into the door, but his arm was already through the opening and slashing down, ending in my thigh. As the knife pierced my leg, the door slammed Mr. Knife’s arm against the frame. In unison, we cried out in pain. I pushed with all my strength, but a great force was building on the other side. The door denied me, and slowly opened. The knife came down again, his arm bending at the elbow, and bit into my hip.

Then I was falling back and the large shadow was on top of me. The man was huge, my height and at least sixty pounds more. His thick breath swam with the smell of tequila and hate, and the last thing I heard was the panicked breathing turn to a shrill scream as he sank the blade into my throat.

A Notebook in the Park (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit:https: //www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4gnf0k/wp_you_have_discovered_a_notebook_detailing/

With the cold wind of fall snapping at his overcoat, Henry rested his dying bones on the park bench. Placing his cane beside him, he tugged his coat tight around his chest as the angry gust continued. Yellow leaves danced across the asphalt paths winding through maple trees, and the gray clouds above threatened a rainfall to match his aging sorrow. When the wind subsided, Henry released his arthritic grip and nervously turned the worn gold band on his finger.

“It almost feels to be the day,” he said to no one in particular. The leaves that still clung to their branches, fiery red and orange in their defiance to the changing seasons, stirred and sighed their response.

A light rain began, tapping Henry’s jacket and dotting the path in front of him. A lone jogger in the distance hurried his pace and rounded a far corner. With his cane Henry carried a navy blue umbrella, and he popped it open. In his mind he knew he should move on, get going, but he found the scene to be quite beautiful. His favorite bench. His favorite park. And all the world fled the scene to leave him with its serenity.

On his bench to the right sat a green notebook, spiral bound and without marking. Small drops beaded on its surface, and Henry turned in search of whom it might belong to. No one was around. Having a fondness for all literature, he placed the book on his lap in rescue from the rain. Another gust of wind pushed through, liberating defiant leaves, and flittered the college ruled pages.

Henry shivered, and loneliness took to his heart. He sighed heavily and expected to see his breath in front of him. Resting his weathered hands on the green cover, he spoke again to the wondrous world around him. “I’ve only ever had one fear,” he said with a coarse voice. “And that’s to face death alone.” He looked beyond the mighty trees to the gray sky above. The light taps of rain fell faster on his umbrella. “Why do you send me such fate now?” he said to the clouds.

His hands fidgeted and turned the notebook toward him. Its edges were rubbed and worn with use. Without intention or realization, he opened the pages and began scanning. The words inside were written in delicate cursive, a beautiful combination of style of legibility. It seemed to be a journal, but there were no dates. Just a collection of random thoughts, events. His faded blue eyes fell upon a passage and he smiled as he mouthed the words.

She was perfect in every way, both in her wonderful nature and obvious faults. Her greatest short-comings, already limited as they were, were still enough to lift me up and carry me like an angel.

A strange resonance with the passage filled him, and his mind shifted to his deceased wife. Though sorrow took permanent residence in his heart from her loss, he’d not dare exchange that pain for the decades of love she brought into his life. The remembrance glazed his eyes, and Henry smiled as the rain tapped even faster upon his umbrella, for his wife always did love gray skies and falling rain.

He flipped the pages and opened to another passage near the front.

I promise, read the line. I’ll make sure your mother gets this. Goddamnit, Daniels, I’ll deliver it myself!

Henry’s eyes went wide, and ice touched his heart. He read the line again and again, as if attempting to blink away a ghost now visible, horrified by its exactness. The mist in his eyes brought on by the memory of his wife evaporated. Without wanting, Henry read the next line.

But Daniels died, and I never delivered the letter. Worse yet, I threw it into the river in anger over his death. A broken promise deliberately unfulfilled. In regret, I never did visit his mother.

Henry spun his head in startled search of anyone who may be around. He slapped the notebook shut, leaving a weathered palm on its green cover. The park was empty. Only falling leaves traveled the well-maintained paths, the spots wetting its surface taking over.

With a pounding heart, Henry flung the book open and searched for the entry, somewhere near the front. His eyes, frenzied, flew over the lines. The stirring wind helped him turn page after page. He found it at last, and read it again. He remembered the day, the minute of the event. The sweltering jungle. The hot breeze that carried explosions and gunfire. The flying clumps of dirt and meat that stuck to his sweaty skin, sent into the air from the hand grenade landing next to his friend.

Entranced, Henry turned more pages and ventured further in. The beautiful script detailed his wife, his wedding, his kids. The events were exact and concise, and he relived those joyous moments again. Lost in the pages, he no longer felt the wind or heard the falling rain.

He continued reading.

There it was again, the cancer that took her. The hospital bed in which she died. The sorrow that followed him home, filled his house, broke his heart. Family and friends carried him through the darkness. Grandchildren that allowed him to smile and laugh. Drops fell onto the pages and smeared the blue ink. Henry thrust the book closed and fought with his umbrella to preserve the amazing treasure from the rain. But clouds, try as they might, do not send tears.

Overwhelmed, Henry took in shaky breaths to steady his heart. The rain fell softly around him. The wind was still. Knowing the futility, he made one more cursory search for the owner of the book, but it was only him and his favorite park bench.

He took a deep breath and opened to the final page of writing.

Fear not that which confronts you, my friend, for I am with you and have always been. Keep this book, for with great cheer and laughter we shall speak of its contents soon.

I love you.

With the rain, Henry wept.

The Sea Follows (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4gha68/cw_weave_a_tale_around_a_single_line_where_i_go/

She stood on the white sands of an empty and watched the clouds darken to the north. West, the sun fell low on the horizon and bathed the sides of those swelling clouds in orange and purple, as if trying to lessen their intent, but the black underbellies could not be hidden, and small flashes of light sent dull rumbles through the air. The wind snapped her raven hair across her face, but she made no motion to stop the frenzy. The warm ocean lapped at her feet in consolation, now ankle deep in the sand, but it brought no solace.

With folded arms, she watched the clouds to the north and knew the sails she would never see.

When the rain began to fall, fat drops that slapped her skin, a servant girl ran to retrieve her from the edge of the shore. She tugged at her master’s arms, but the woman refused to move, barely acknowledging the young girl’s presence.

“M’lady, please!” the young girl begged. “A frightful storm approaches. We must seek shelter!”

But the words were distant, lost, like those swallowed by the darkening horizon. The rain fell harder, soaking their clothes and wetting their hair until water streamed from pointed strands. The servant girl, distraught by the weather, remained dutifully by her master’s side.

The sun fell into the ocean, and the darkness of the storm took the world. The ocean churned, and flashes of lightning filled the sky.

The young girl drew near to her master, one of obstinance and strength, as each crack of thunder pushed her fearfully toward the woman’s arms like a child to a mother. The storm surged, and the waves crashed into their knees. “M’lady Catherine, please,” she pleaded. “What troubles you so?”

Catherine hooked an arm around the frightened girl and drew her close, but kept her eyes to the black horizon. She stared on, knowing no sails would be spotted. No ship could survive. “What vengeance does Poseidon harbor for me?” she asked. “What actions has riled such hatred that he should claim now three husbands of mine?”

The servant girl shuttered in Catherine’s arms. “My dearest Mrs. Catherine, don’t say such things. Surely your beloved will return home soon. The Lord above protects him so.”

“No, my sweet girl,” said Catherine as the wind lashed and the ocean heaved. Her face was hard and still. “No man survives things such as these, and it seems God has given allowance to those lesser than Him.” A surging wave crashed down around them and nearly knocked the two women down. The young girl clung to Catherine in fear as the ocean tried to steal them from the shore. When safe, she broke free of her master’s arm and fled screaming.

Catherine stood in defiance of the storm, still speaking. “In all places I venture to secure my heart, the world only takes it from me.” A crack of lightning flashed overhead, and Catherine caught one final glimpse of the raging storm. “Where I go, the sea follows.”

 

Endless Cycle (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/4gbxkd/cw_write_a_story_that_ties_the_end_to_the/

My heavy eyes opened fully, and I saw my dearest doctor there with me. Her ballpoint pen, heavy and expensive, rolled across the page on her clipboard. Lord knew what she wrote for she never told me and I feared to ask. I wanted to, of course, but to what end? Freedom came from progress, and to ask was to live in the past. It was important for me to move forward, or so she always told me.

“If you’re able, let’s resume from yesterday,” she said. “Explain to me again how it was you felt.” Her gray eyes, almost clear, settled on me and gave me a fearful twitch. She noticed it, and ticked a box. Was her skin paler now? It seemed so, as if the pale white of her flesh was woven into her lab coat, simply another layer to her form. It could be the lighting I suppose. Fluorescent bulbs do that to people. I glanced at my cuticles without moving my hands from the chair—movement is cataloged— and I could tell I was paler now as well.

“I was afraid,” I said after noticing her glance, her prompt that I was taking too long to answer. “I felt very cold. Vulnerable. There was a sense of loneliness so absolute that it’s difficult to explain.”

“Try,” she said as she took another note. She leaned forward slightly, as if a genuine interest had struck her this time.

My bottom lip trembled, and I cursed myself for showing that sign of weakness. Weakness is not strength, and it takes strength to make progress. I needed to be brave, to be strong. She often told me that. “There was a clarity in my mind at that point. I knew what it meant to die, but death itself is not to be feared. What’s to be feared is a life lived without sharing and receiving love. Death without love is the nexus of loneliness.”

A faint smile skirted her lips? I think so, but I shouldn’t be afraid. I should try not to be afraid.

“Have you lived a life devoid of love?” she asked. She shifted in her seat, soft and comfortable compared to the aluminum chair I sat upon. Her white skirt slid up from her crossed leg and exposed her bare knee. I saw that her skin was smooth and horribly pale. She must be wearing stockings, white stockings. Despite the fear I felt, lust intruded again. And she knows it. She’s logged it yet again.

“It’s hard to say,” I said, noticing my trembling fingertips. “I think I’ve loved. Or at least have been loved.”

A strand of her impossibly black hair slipped and dangled over her eye. She tucked it behind her ear with white fingers tipped with nails as red as flowing blood. The color matched her lips and the smile slowly growing across them.

“Do you not know what love is?” she asked, setting the clipboard down. “Have you never felt it?”

I was trembling now, again, and I tried to stop but I simply couldn’t. Her eyes beheld me, and her smile now revealed ivory teeth, hungry teeth.

“I don’t know,” I said, clutching one hand with the other, desperate to make the shaking stop, urgently needing the fear to subside. “I fear the love I’ve felt may have been a charade. A misrepresentation.”

She slid forward in her seat, my doctor, and her skirt slid up to her thighs, strong and bare thighs. There were no stockings. Just horrible, wonderful white flesh amplified by mechanical fluorescent lighting. “Do you know that I love you?” she asked. She leaned forward and laid a cold hand upon my own. “I love you very much. You are, without question, my favorite patient.”

That feeling came over me again, a horrible desire to succumb to all that which resides between those white thighs and parting smile. I wanted to look away, my fear begged me to look away, but I wanted to be strong, to finally make progress.

But I wept instead. My lips trembled and my voice broke and a single tear streaked my cheek. She caressed it, this loving woman, this beautiful and fantastic and tantalizing woman, with her soft skin so pale and cold like snow. Her eyes drilled into mine, dilating into a horrible darkness, and her face came ever closer. She whispered something, but I did not hear.

“What?” I sputtered, trying to be there for her, trying to show strength, trying to convey my need to progress from this nightmare.

The tip of her nose touched mine. “I love you,” she said with all-black eyes, the gray pushed away by an endless pupil. Her hand ran down my cheek and the scent of her breath danced in my nose, a metallic sweet. I wanted so badly to be loved then, and my loins bulged. She slid her lips across my cheek and I could hear her breathing in my ear. Ecstasy filled me, and her lips touched my neck. A sharp pain pierced my skin, just above my shoulder, and I climaxed in mix of lust and horror. She embraced me, and I her, but that feeling came again: absolute loneliness.

In weakness, I shuddered, both from the pain in my neck and the finishing of my loins, and I cried at my display of weakness, my failure to be strong. No progress was made today. Perhaps tomorrow.

She left me there to rest then, to be alone with my thoughts as she would often say. It was important to reflect on these sessions and try to make sense of them if I truly wanted to make progress. My neck was hot from her kiss, her bite, but my soul felt cold and empty. Alone. My vision blurred as she backed away, licking something from the tip of her blood-red nail, and I drifted off into a shallow sleep.