Cycle 1 - Story Thread for Initial Round

Posted by Kat 04/22/2020 8 Comment(s) Inanna's Game,

 

Our first batch of Inanna’s Game stories!

 

This cycle’s stories should be utilizing the inspiration that was posted yesterday. Once you have written your tale and corrected it to make it as readable as possible, please post here in the comments so that others can read your work. Two days before the next cycle starts, comments and voting for the best story will be cut off at 5 PM. The next day, a winner will be announced.

 

Each story remains the copyrighted material of the author posting the story.

 

Please give us the title of the story, the identification of the snippets, characters, and scenes that you attempted to use, as well as any comments you think applicable.

 

Once a story is posted, other players in the Game and outside interested parties are free to make comments and vote for their favorites.

 

This first batch was created for an example, by previous players of the game!

 

We all look forward to seeing what wonderful things you will create!!

 

 

 

8 Comment(s)

Kris Endicott:
05/02/2020, 06:03:05 PM, http://KrisEndicott.com
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Never Again by Kris Endicott
-a short SciFi story from Inanna’s Game 4/21 using parts:
Snippet 1, Scenario 3, Character 2


Kayla awoke to the sound of dripping. It was not the sound of hydraulsyn dripping from the FTL engine casings onto the metal deck that she had had to endure every sleep cycle for the last week on this broken-down cargo ship. The sound floated in the air, almost like a musical scale as if the drops were hitting non-metallic objects of different sizes.

A pounding in her head and queasiness in her stomach kept Kayla from opening her eyes for several minutes. When she finally did, she wished she hadn’t. Light pierced her eyes and stabbed a new pain into her head. Fighting the ill effects of whatever beefy alien had snuck up and hit her on the head, Kayla maneuvered up from her prone position to lean on her elbows.

This time being careful to squint, she opened her eyes again. Instead of being in the stiff, unyielding bunk of her cabin next to the small ship’s combination engine-cargo hold, Kayla was lying on her back on a moss-covered path planetside. Surprise had her sucking in warm moist air. Though breathable, the organic particles in the air were obnoxious. A shiver of revulsion shook her body.

What was worse was that this was neither the planet she had left nor the one she was headed for. Both of those had desert landscapes on the habitable parts of the world.

She levered herself up to a full sitting position. A mist rose from the moist moss floor obscuring all but the giant fern trees nearest her. The pungent smell of vegetation sharp on her nostrils, made her want to gag at the moldy taste she had hoped to never endure again.

“Sorry about that,” a voice chirped from the pin on her chest, “transporter malfunction.”

A flash of light seared her already maimed vision, and the smell of ozone overwhelmed her senses. Kayla hated transporters. She now understood the reason she felt hungover without remembering having the fun of getting drunk.

Although garbled and tinny sounding, Kayla heard the ship engineer’s overly cheerful voice again. “Have you back in your cabin in a jiffy. No harm, no foul.”

As she felt the buzzing of the transporter rearrange all the molecules in her body, Kayla vowed never again to ask Carlos for recommendations on cheap intergalactic flights.

Sue S:
05/03/2020, 02:55:50 AM

I love this! It made me laugh, which I really needed. Thanks for writing it!

Marine:
05/03/2020, 05:36:36 AM

I love reading your work! Keep it up!

David S:
05/03/2020, 09:14:01 PM

I liked all of the stories here, but yours was my favorite. It was funny and pulled me right in. Are there other stories about Kayla somewhere?

MaryAnn Burnett:
05/02/2020, 10:14:57 PM, http://MaryAnnBurnett.com
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A Plate Served Cold, short Regency Romance
by MaryAnn Burnett

Inanna’s Game #1: Snippet 1, Character 2, Scene 3

Miss Penelope Wavermeyer saw her new charge, young Master David, crawl along the floor and disappear among the legs of the members of the Ton sitting around Lord Drakeson’s table. Penelope had not been employed a day yet, and it looked as though she would already be losing her position as governess to his lordship’s nephew. Why exactly his lordship had insisted she be seated at a family meal was something she could not decipher.


The father of the young schemer under the table, the black sheep of the Drakeson family, had been an actor and died penniless, leaving the orphaned child with a friend. Gossip held that his lordship had only recently discovered the lad and brought him to live at the family estate.

If Penelope, a spinster of many years on the shelf, had not been so desperate to remove herself from her brother’s household and his shrew of a new wife, she would not now be seeing her life pass before her eyes as young David brushed past Lady Kildare’s leg. The woman in question screamed a shrill note that could have awakened the dead, before leaping up with arms waving and lungs still blasting.

Penelope saw the plate in the path of the woman’s flailing arm. She jumped out of her own chair to catch said plate before more damage could be done. Unfortunately, Penelope was too slow to react.

Lady Kildare’s fist caught the edge of the plate as Penelope reached for it. The plate flung its contents of red sauce into the air. The cold condiment struck Penelope squarely in the face and neck with the red slimy goo quickly dripping into her decolletage. Penelope shivered in revulsion at the same time she heard an amused giggle from under the table.

A booming loud voice cut the resulting chaos to silence. “Miss Wavermeyer, how could you…”

His lordship stopped with a surprised look on his face that quickly turned to one of long-suffering. He lifted the edge of the once white linen tablecloth. “Young man,” Lord Drakeson’s voice boomed again.

Through the red veil dripping off her hair, Penelope saw the little boy blanch and recoil as if expecting to be struck. His lordship must have seen it too for his voice and mannerism softened.

“David,” he said in a kindly voice that made Penelope’s stomach quiver oddly. “The dining table is not a proper place for play.” The large man held his hand out, palm up, to the scared young boy. “Come with me now, and we can talk about finding you a better play place for tomorrow.”

Hesitantly, the four-year-old towhead placed his tiny hand trustingly into the massive one in front of him. Lord Drakeson pulled the lad out and up into his arms.

“If you will all excuse me, I have an urgent family matter to attend to.” His lordship turned, and Penelope could have sworn she saw the corner of his lips quiver in mirth. The man’s face was uniquely handsome when his eyes sparkled like they were now. Then, he cleared his throat and said, “Miss Wavermeyer, when you have sufficiently cleaned up, please meet us in the nursery.

That had been Penelope’s introduction to Lord Drakeson’s parenting style. Over the next several months, she and his lordship spent a substantial amount of time together. As their unusual and unexpected courtship progressed, they fell in love both with each other and with the small boy who brought them together.

Today, as the pair strolled the wide pathways of London’s zoological park, David racing from one exhibit to the next. A soft breeze brought the musky scent of the many animals to Penelope’s attention. Without thinking, she said wistfully, “Would it not be wonderful to see all these animals in their native lands?”

Lord Drakeson lightly placed a hand on Penelope’s to stop her. He gave her that endearing smile she had grown to love and said, “That would make a perfect wedding trip, don’t you think?”

Taki Drake:
05/03/2020, 05:32:47 AM, https://www.pprcollective.com
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Save and Throw
A Life’s Garden Tale
by Taki Drake
Inanna’s Game Entry – Using Snippet 1, Character 2, and Scene 2

Chapter 1 – Save

I only have two and a half hours to go, the lanky young man thought to himself as he rushed from table to table. Bussing tables was not an easy job, but it was one that he had had for several years and was comfortable in his skills.

After he recently turned eighteen, Morgan was allowed to clear the tables in the barroom. That seemed to be a mixed blessing. Although the extra assignment gave him a few more hours of work, navigating the crowded bar was challenging, especially on a Saturday night.

Both the bar and the restaurant were packed with people enjoying their outings. The taproom resonated with the loud jukebox music, which alternated with sets by a local band. People dancing or talking were apt to move erratically, and Morgan was tensely aware that he could afford no collisions with customers.

At least in the bar, all of the tables are located on the edges of the dance floor and in the corners. It is much easier to skirt the increasingly drunk people bouncing around in the middle of the dance floor, the young man thought as he dodged yet another lurching patron.

Carrying his full tub of cleared dishes and food into the kitchen, Morgan heard the sound of raised voices. Two angry men were shouting at each other, and the young man focused on his own survival by just trying to keep his head down and escape notice.

It was impossible not to hear what the two men were roaring at each other. Morgan retreated behind a façade and tried to play deaf and dumb as he unloaded the dishes into the dishwashing section, disposing of the discarded food at the same time.

“Do you not have any shame? How can you date that woman? She is nothing but trash!” The snarling angry voice belonged to one of the co-owners of the restaurant, Sean. The vicious undertone of what he was saying felt like a blow across Morgan’s back. It was something that the young man had experienced many times himself.

To Sean Arthur, family and reputation were everything. The man was obsessed with his family tree and conscious of the fact that his breeding and education made him an example to the rest of the town. The Arthurs had never tolerated mixing their blood with anything less than high-class individuals. Money, lineage, deportment. Those were the things that each one of the women and men that had married into the Arthur line had to possess.

Morgan wondered what had set off the snobbish restaurant owner, but did not have to guess for too long. Sean’s twin brother, Devlin, snarled back, grating out, “Whom I choose to date is none of your business. And I would caution you not to insult the woman I have been with for the last two years.”

Sean exploded, his voice rising to a higher pitch and volume, “Father and I have left you alone on this, thinking that you would come to your senses. Instead, you act like you are settling in with that low-class trailer trash! Why cannot you date somebody that is our sort instead of focusing on the garbage of this town?”

Before the atmosphere could get any more heated, Morgan slipped out of the kitchen unobtrusively. Hurrying, he almost tripped over his own feet when the intense odors of sweating bodies and spilled alcohol that permeated the taproom slapped him in the face. Taking shallow breaths through his mouth, Morgan scooted his way into the quieter area of the restaurant.

Whoever designed this place knew what he or she was doing. The bend in the hallway and the fabric draped along the wall absorbed the sounds of the packed crowd and pounding music. The restaurant itself was not very large, holding only forty tables. However, the chairs and tables were close together, and the restaurant staff learned early on to be extremely careful.

In the two and a half years that Morgan had worked at the restaurant, he had seen many waiters fired for bumping into a patron. In fact, only the desperate need for a busboy had gotten him hired.

Sean Arthur did not like to employ people from the south side of the town. As he had told Morgan too many times, he did not trust them, thought they were lazy and would rip him off, and valued them less than he did his dogs.

The then high school student had been desperate for a job. Youthful hijinks and unforgiving policemen had gained Morgan a reputation as a wild youth. As soon as he had turned fourteen, however, the young man had tried to contribute to the family finances.

It had been difficult at such an early age, but he had cut grass, hauled rubbish, and tackle dirty jobs that nobody else wanted to earn money. Neither of his parents was highly educated, but they had tried to raise him with values.

Apparently, what the townspeople would accept in someone who worked odd jobs, did not translate into more regular employment. Morgan had searched for a long time looking for more money and more hours, especially more dependable hours, but had been unable to find anything.

Most of the people that had turned him down were not brave enough to tell him to his face. However, when the head librarian of the public library had rejected his job application, the elderly woman had looked at him consideringly before inviting him to sit down.

Looking sad, the gray-haired and frail woman laid out the brutal truth. “This is a highly polarized town. The perception is that there is good blood and bad blood, and that bad blood is dangerous to be around.

“When you were a cute little boy, it was easier for people to overlook your origins. Now that you have gained height and bulk, you look like a man, and that paints a different picture. The library board would never approve of hiring you because of your wild reputation. They do not want that danger anywhere around their families or the library patrons.”

When Morgan would have argued, the old woman added, “I personally do not believe that you would do anything horrible. However, the mischief that you got into when you were in middle school has given you a reputation, and people who have already decided they do not want you around will use that as justification.”

Discouraged, Morgan had asked her, “What can I do? I want to be responsible and earn a living. You seem to be telling me that I will not ever be able to do that here.”

Leaning forward and patting the distraught young man’s hand, the librarian had said, “All that you can do is your best. You are in high school now, and you need to focus on your education. The situation will change once again when you graduate from high school. Whether you choose to go to college or not, building a reputation as an adult is something that you will have to focus on. Leave your regrets and the mistakes of your youth in the past where they belong.”

Thanking the old woman for her advice, Morgan had turned to leave only to be stopped at the door by another quick comment from her. In a low tone barely loud enough to reach his ears, she said, “Think about leaving this town. Such a class structure is something that is not easily changed, and it would be a shame if you wasted your life being looked down on.”

Morgan had been deep in thought, heading for home when his cell phone rang. Answering without checking who it was, the young man was startled by the abrupt speech of Sean Arthur as the man barked out, “If you want a chance at the busboy job, get your ass in here. I just fired the last incompetent idiot. I need somebody to start work right away.” The man then hung up.

Astounded, the teenager had struggled with the irritation he felt at the man’s rude speech, balancing it off against his genuine desire to earn some money. Thinking that he could always quit, Morgan had immediately headed over to the restaurant.

Remembering that day as if it were yesterday, the quickly-moving busboy could hear Sean’s condescending remarks of then playing in his brain. The man had said, “I do not like to hire your sort, but I am desperate. If you can do a good job, I will keep you. Just do not mess up, not even once.”

Morgan knew how much difference his income made to his family. With him working, his mother got to see the doctor more often, and there was more food on the table. Although his father took as much overtime as he could, his mother could only work a few hours a week sewing for other people. Her health was not good, although she faced each day with a cheerful attitude.

All through high school Morgan had worked for Sean. Silently enduring abusive and demeaning comments, the young man felt like he was paying for his job emotionally. But noticing how less stressed his father was and how much healthier his mother had become, Morgan knew that he would do whatever it took to support his parents like they had helped him.

Pulling his attention back on his job, the young man cleared away his plates and clean the tables between seatings. Always moving, Morgan made multiple trips from the restaurant to the kitchen. Thankfully, the twin owners had quit yelling at each other, and the kitchen was once more its typical frenetically-calm environment.

On one trip to the dining room, Morgan was surprised to be hailed by an older man sitting with three others at a table for six. Focused on clearing the table next to them, the teenager looked up in astonishment when an assured voice asked, “Are not you Morgan Jackson? Did you play baseball for the high school team?”

The man looking at him was somewhere between fifty and sixty, heavily tanned and weathered with a look of someone who spent a lot of time under the bright sun rather than a tanning bed. He had a curious and shrewd look about him that Morgan liked immediately.

“Yes, sir, I am,” Morgan answered quietly.

“Did you just graduate from high school? If so, what are your plans?”

Morgan flushed slightly before answering, “I am still trying to decide what to do.”

Chapter 2 – Throw

The man started to say something else, but Morgan’s attention was yanked toward a disaster in progress. A waitress with a full tray of food was skillfully weaving her way between the tables. Just as she came to the last table between her and her customers, a man stood up abruptly, his face angry, and his voice growing louder.

“… I tell you that your plan is stupid! I will not be a party to anything like that. In fact, if you do not reconsider…” As he got to the threat portion of his comment, the angry man straightened up higher and flailed his right hand outward. The abruptness of his motion took the waitress by surprise, and she turned just-in-time to avoid a collision with his suddenly erect form.

Unfortunately, the broadness of his arm motion caught the edge of one of the plates on her tray. Flipping the dish high in the air, the spaghetti sauce that the plate contained was splattered across the surrounding tables and diners. Gasps of horror and shouts of unhappy surprise erupted throughout the dining room.

Trying to maintain her feet, the waitress clutched in vain for support, stepping on some of the spaghetti sauce on the floor and starting to slip. Morgan saw that the rest of the dishes in the tray were going to create a second explosion of broken china and flying food. Knowing that he only had a split second to react, the young man dropped his container of gathered dishes and food to the ground and dove toward the endangered tray.

Wrenching his body around in a muscle-cracking effort, Morgan succeeded in grabbing the two individual plates that were falling. The tray continued toward the ground and hit with a ringing sound, but the young man made a sliding catch with both hands, saving the individual plates.

Without thinking, Morgan made a secondary effort and slipped his knees underneath him as his slide continued. Holding a large platter of nachos in his left hand and a bowl of minestrone soup in the other, the young man managed to turn his motion into a safe standing position stop.

The dining room was silent for a split second before the patrons erupted in applause. Morgan nodded in acknowledgment but hurried over to the table of the diners that had been waiting for their food. He carefully placed the nachos and the soup in front of the correct people before backing away.

Quickly, the young man moved over to help the waitress to her feet. The middle-aged woman was sobbing in pain and shaking in reaction and shock. Pulling her arm over his shoulders, Morgan put one arm around her as he carefully guided her out of the room.

The teenager had barely gotten the waitress, Mary Ellen, into the kitchen when Sean descended on them.

“You stupid cow! I cannot believe that you are so inept as to assault our diners! You are fired! And if you think that you are going to get any more money out of me, you are absolutely wrong!” the infuriated man screamed.

Morgan tried to intervene, saying, “Sir, it was not her fault. The man jumped up and hit her tray!”

Turning to the teenager, Sean continued his rant, “You had better shut up! I warned you when I hired you that all you had to do was screw up once, and you are about to do that!”

Trying again, Morgan said, “Mr. Arthur, there are a lot of witnesses that would substantiate what I am saying. Mary Ellen is one of your better waitresses, and she is now hurt and in shock. Should we not be calling for an ambulance?”

Sean’s face got even redder, and a vein in his forehead was visibly throbbing. Almost incoherent with his fury, the restaurant owner screamed, “I am not going to have this restaurant’s reputation ruined for some no account bitch that has been reduced to waiting tables! She deserves whatever pain she is feeling! I am going to have to refund dinners for all the tables around the mess she made! She should feel lucky that I am not having her arrested.”

Morgan felt something snap inside of him, and he gently seated Mary Ellen at the bench next to one of the tables before turning to confront his boss. Knowing that what he was doing was irreversible, the young man still drew himself up and said assertively, “Mary Ellen was injured on her job. She is an acknowledged employee and pays taxes. This restaurant is liable for her Workmen’s Compensation if she is unable to do her job. Additionally, if you fail to call an ambulance to take care of her, you are in violation of the workplace safety laws and will be legally liable.”

Spitting in his rage, Sean shoved his face closer to Morgan’s and tried to bully the young man that he had demeaned and abused for two and a half years. “That is what comes with educating the lower class!”

The restaurant owner’s tirade was interrupted by a voice from the kitchen door. It came from the man that had talked to Morgan in the dining room. No longer was the man’s expression pleasant and kind. Instead, his eyes were full of anger, and his face was set in rigid lines of disapproval. Over his shoulder, Morgan could see the other men that had been at his table, and they shared the first man’s anger.

“I would suggest that you pay attention to the young man who is trying to save you a whole bunch of problems. My friends and I would be happy to testify on behalf of the waitress.”

Immediately Sean’s voice and demeanor changed. Almost fawning, the restaurant owner said, “Coach McNamara, first of all, let me apologize for the disruption of your meal. I would be happy to comp you for the meal and all other dining expenses. In fact, I will even give you a voucher for another meal.”

“I do not believe that will be necessary. We were not discomforted by what occurred in the dining room. In fact, it was pretty much a comedy of errors. However, if anyone is to blame, it is the man that jumped up and smacked the waitress, not any of your restaurant staff.”

“Please, let me make it up to you. If you would excuse us for a moment, I am going to settle the issues here in the kitchen, and then I will be right out to talk to you.”

With another indecipherable look at Morgan, Coach McNamara moved out of the doorway and let the kitchen door swing shut. Immediately, Sean turned to Morgan and said in a quiet, vicious voice, “You are fired. You are so fired you will never find another job in this town! You put me in a humiliating position, and I will not forget this!”

When Morgan did not say anything in return, he could see that his former boss’s face changed. There was a look of confusion that appeared for a split second before the older man straightened up and pointed to the door grandly and said, “Get out of here!”

The young man immediately responded, saying, “As soon as you give me my last check.”

“I will have it mailed to you! Get your low-born ass out of my kitchen!”

“You have proved to all of us that no one can trust you. I will wait here for my last check. I suggest you get it quickly, or I will be calling the police. Also, if you do not immediately call for an ambulance to come to get Mary Ellen, I will file a complaint with not only the police but with the labor board.”

Shaking with a rage that was beyond his ability to express, Sean stamped out of the room. Morgan felt the weight of multiple gazes and looked around to see that everyone in the kitchen was staring at him in astonishment.

Mary Ellen gave a voice to their surprise, saying, “I never realized how brave you are. I am sorry that we were not more supportive of you. I am also very sorry you lost your job because of me.”

Morgan answered her calmly, even though the worry in his mind was bouncing around like an aching problem looking for a solution, “This is not your fault. It is Sean Arthur’s responsibility.”

Before they could talk anymore, Sean stomped his way back into the kitchen and threw a check envelope down on the floor. Staring defiantly at the younger man, the restaurant owner waited for him to bend over to pick it up. Suddenly amused, Morgan felt a smile growing on his face, which added to Sean’s confusion.

Letting his amusement color his tone, Morgan said, “I totally understand that coordination goes as you get older. It is not a problem for me to bend over and pick up things. After all, my knees are a lot younger than yours.”

“… Why you stupid little…”

Morgan swooped down and grabbed the check, and said goodbye to the rest of the kitchen staff, totally ignoring the incoherent sputtering that was coming from Sean. Hearing the sound of an ambulance approaching, the young man offered an arm to Mary Ellen. “How about if you let me escort you to the ambulance?” the young man asked.

When the woman stood up shakily, Morgan repeated his supportive stance and helped her out of the kitchen door and over to the ambulance. Only after making sure that the EMTs were helping her and telling them his side of the story, did Morgan turn to start his long hike home.

To his surprise, Coach McNamara was standing there, obviously waiting for him. Behind his shoulder, Morgan could see the other three men who had been dining with him. The older man said quietly, “That was very well done, Morgan.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I would expect that you no longer have a job. Am I correct?”

Morgan nodded sadly.

“Have you ever thought about playing baseball professionally?”

“Yes, but when I had to take a job, I got dropped from the team. Since I do not have enough money for college, there was no chance of being scouted there either.”

Smiling in pleasure, Coach McNamara, head coach of the professional baseball team, the Privateers, said, “How about if I give you a lift back to your house? I think my friends and I might have a proposal that you and your parents should consider.”

Feeling like he had hit some sort of jackpot, Morgan nodded and followed the older man out of the parking lot and into his new life.

Martha:
05/03/2020, 08:35:48 PM

I like this one also. I grew up in a small town and this is so on point!

Etienne LeFevre:
05/03/2020, 06:15:16 PM
Reply

The Park
By Etienne LeFevre
Inanna’s Game pieces: A2; B3; C1
Chapter 1 – Night Falls

The shifting shadows of trees filled the park. On the light breeze, there came the smell of approaching rain. It mixed with the scent of the standing pools of water near the path, reminding her of times past. Karen knew she did not have much time before the storm arrived.


Dunman Park, the sign at the head of the path, had declared. She needed the comfort of the park to sort out her thoughts. The name of the park was not particularly relevant. To her, any park was a happy place.

The light posts along the tree-lined path either had not come on yet or had burned out. Probably the latter, given the looks of the lightbulbs. “All the better,” Karen thought happily. Darkness would help her remember and think clearer.

Her thoughts drifted back to a time when there was no place else to go, except to a park with the other homeless people. As she walked towards this park’s bridge, Karen remembered that she learned to fight for herself early, or would not get a bench.

Some of the fights were scary, nasty, and painful, though weapons never got involved. Other incidents were screaming matches between the homeless. Often these were scarier because of the threats, which fortunately never occurred. Once a person established their place in the homeless pecking order, though things got easier.

One night, oh so long ago, she heard a man yell in fear. She rolled off the bench and ran towards the noise. The noise of the city street masked her approach, and she saw two men. One held a knife pointed at the other. She ran up behind him and kicked up between his knees. He dropped the knife as he doubled over. With her shoe, Karen nudged the blade into the undergrowth to hide it. She then screamed to attract Polik, the police officer she knew was in the area.

Karen didn’t know either of the men, nor did the police officer, but the cop did know Karen. The victim, an older man, told Polik he would be pressing charges against the thug. The mugger wasn’t one of the local homeless, and Karen volunteered to testify against him too. She showed the police officer where she’d kicked the knife, and the cop carefully picked it up in a plastic bag.

A few weeks later, the incident was all but forgotten by her. Then, Polik came by her bench and told her to accompany him to court to testify in the trial. It was over quickly. The mugger pleaded guilty, was sentenced, and taken away to jail. The older man, named John Begger, told her, “You’re the daughter I never had. I admire your strength and courage. Please, if there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.”

“No, my problems are mine, and I don’t want to trouble you with them,” Karen said abruptly. And she left the area quickly to avoid any further offers. Sadly she’d been lied to too many times before and was determined not to let it happen again.

A week later, Polik stopped by her bench again. He said to her, “Remember John Begger?”

“Yes, my memory isn’t that bad.”

“He died a day after the trial. You’re in his will. Clean up a bit tomorrow morning at the Y, and I’ll take you to the lawyer’s office around two in the afternoon.”

The following day, Polik escorted her into an upscale office. The ostentatious displays in the building made her nervous. John Beggers had been wealthy. His will left almost everything to her. There was a minor amount set aside for Polik when he retired. There were no other people in the will, and the lawyer said he had no other relatives or heirs.

Her memories of the next few weeks were hazy as she sadly said goodbye to her friends in the park. She did hand out small amounts to them. They were happy to get it, but wouldn’t take too much from her.

After checking listings, Karen moved into a small apartment near a university. The encounters with lawyers inspired her to go back to school to earn a law degree. The classes were challenging and blurred together since it took her years to finish and graduate.

Then there was the bar exam. After everything else, she found it pretty easy. But as a newly minted lawyer, she still didn’t feel comfortable in the city. There was a lot of John’s money left, and Karen decided to do a bit of traveling. Maybe find a place to settle down.

Chapter 2 – The Bridge to Home

Her mind flew back to the present. The sun had set. A single light was shining on the far side of the bridge she’d seen earlier, covering it with dense shadows cast by the trees. From the puddles by the path and the river gurgling under the bridge, a mist was rising.

What brought her from her reverie was the rustle of the leaves, and what sounded like otherworldly music. Karen felt deep vibrations in the pit of her stomach and heard clashing tones raking her eardrums, causing her to flinch. Ahead of her, on the bridge, Karen thought she saw something moving. Other things were moving in the shadows under the trees. The light breeze from earlier had died completely. There was no way the rustling or movement was natural.

There were footsteps behind her, running toward her. Startled, she ran for the bridge.

“No escape for you,” the man running toward her yelled. “I’ll make you regret testifying against me!”

“Crap! Where’d he come from?” she thought to herself as she got to the middle of the bridge. “He’s faster than I am.”

<<Worry Not, Tonight, He is Prey.>> The words exploded in Karen’s mind. No voice uttered them, but the sinister overtones made her shudder.

The mugger from the city stepped onto the bridge. The shadows moved again. Karen, now frozen with fear, determined the discordant music originated within them.

“Doesn’t he see the shadows? Doesn’t he hear them?” she thought to herself, panicking.

She caught a glimpse of what lay within the moving shadows. There were dozens of creatures in there, none of them human. The instruments that were making the music moved on their own. Another being was weaving darkness from its fingertips, spreading a web around their group. They couldn't all fit on the bridge, and yet they did.

There was one in the middle that looked back at her. She felt the blood rush to her face, flushing with arousal. He was beautiful in a way no human could ever be. Every instinct in her screamed to go to him. Her rational mind told her that would be the death of her.

“GOT you,” yelled the enraged mugger from years ago, leaping toward her and into the shadows. Then he screamed in fear as the darkness closed over him.

“I Think I Have You,” the soulless voice from the inhuman figure stated. The man’s screams became even louder as it touched him. The last she saw of the thug was his terrified eyes bulging from their sockets as He made him aware of what was to come.

A flash of lightning and the smell of ozone overwhelmed her senses. When her vision cleared, the shadows were gone, and several more lights along the path had come on. A sweep of wind chilled her body and forced the grasses to bend low to the ground. Oddly, no tree branches moved, and the sky was clear.

Chapter 3 – Home is where He is

A few people came to investigate the noises in the park. They saw Karen standing on the bridge, looking up to the clear night sky. As one, they nodded fearfully and left quickly. One man went and found the sheriff. “Kendall,” he said, “we’ve had another occurrence.”

“Witnesses?” he asked.

“This time, yes. There is one, a woman. She’s still on the bridge.”

“That’s odd. I hope she’s okay. Maybe she can tell me what’s going on in the park.”

Karen was still in shock and confused when Kendall entered the park. The sheriff found her standing in the middle of the bridge. Once he got close, she turned to look at the law enforcement officer.

“You look like Him. Are you related?” Karen asked, hopefully. “Are you single? Want to get married?”

“What? Who? No, I don’t want to get married.”

“Too bad,” was her disappointed reply. “It’s amazing how beautiful He is. He’ll be in my dreams from now on.”

“I’m Sherriff Kendall. What happened?” he asked, intrigued, but trying to get control of the situation.

“You won’t believe me. I don’t believe what I saw, but you look like Him.”

Jumping to another subject, she abruptly asked, “Does your town need a lawyer?”

“Yes,” was his cautious reply, “the last one left because there was no money to be made here.”

“Not a problem in my case,” she said, still staring at him enthralled. “I can do contract law and prosecution, but I will not do defense work.”

“Just like that, you want to stay in this ‘backwater hick town’ as some have called it?”

“If it gets me a chance to see Him again? YES!” she replied determinedly

The sheriff shook his head, “First of all, I want to know who you are. Then I want to know what happened, who screamed, and who is the other person you’re referring to?”

Karen smiled, finally really seeing the sheriff for the first time. She looked him up and down. “There’ll be time for that. I’m hungry, let’s talk over dinner.”

He smiled back. “There’s a nice place on the main drag. I’m hungry too. You realize I am going to get answers from you.” They stared at one another for a few seconds before he continued, “If you are going to stay, I think you’ll find our town to be a good home.”

“I already do feel welcome in town,” she replied and linked arms with him. They started to walk off the bridge together to exit the park.

The creaking of the wood under their feet as they left the bridge masked a faint screaming from below. Beneath the bridge, the shadows moved.

Martha:
05/03/2020, 08:44:44 PM

This sent chills down my spine! Are you writing more of this story? Where would I find it?

David S:
05/03/2020, 09:08:46 PM

This was a perfect short story except for the last part. It felt a little weak. Overall, great tale. Please write more of these!

Paul C. Middleton:
05/03/2020, 11:45:17 PM
Reply

Sorry it is a day late or a dollar short, but here it is

My Mongrel Knight

Ivan’s fist slammed into the table.

“I will not have a child of mine reach her sixteenth birthday, never having laid a curse on anyone.”

Isolde sprang up, then noticed the plates on the table shifting. It seemed an inevitability that her father’s rage-driven fists would hit his plate or her mother’s. Without noticing, Isolde balled her fists. “There is no-one in town who deserves a curse,” the young Fury hissed back. In her head, she amended, except Grandmother and you. You aren’t worth tainting my soul for, and no curse I could throw would make Granny Alecto so much as twitch.

Isolde knew her father’s history. He had been conscripted in the Second World War. Her mother, Elizabita, had found him injured and unlikely to survive. During what should have been Ivan’s last night, the older Fury had been charmed by the curses the conscript and criminal had been throwing, both at the corrupt commissars and the rapacious German soldiery.

So Elizabita had offered the dying soldier the opportunity to become something else and leave a gift to both sides of that conflict in Stalingrad. A curse that strung out the conflict and suffering of both sides of the war, in exchange for him becoming her lover and partner.

Ivan had been more than willing to leave his humanity behind and become a contract Fury for that price.

“At least you could curse a tree stump or that condemned house on the edge of town,” Ivan said in a wheedling tone of voice. “Make your papa proud?”

“No!” screeched the teenager, thumping both hands down on the table. All their plates of Spaghetti Bolognese jumped and spun from the force. Sauce sprayed over all three of the family.

Elizabita moved her chair back moments before her daughter’s blow landed, and her dinner fell to the ground. On the other two, the sauce landed about stomach height. A red stain spread across Ivan’s white shirt and Isolde’s yellow dress.

“Look at what you made me do!” Isolde shrieked, her black, lightly scaled wings manifesting in the room. Elizabita froze, half-hoping her daughter would curse her husband for his bullying, half-dreading how that act would shred the ray of sunshine the young woman had been to the whole family.

The curse never came. The young woman fled the dining room down the hallway to her bedroom and slammed the door.

Ivan looked down in disgust at the red stain on his front. Of all things, the stubborn Russian despised any bright red. He claimed it reminded him too much of the war. Elizabita thought that was only a half-truth. The older, wiser woman believed the other half of the issue was the memories it forced back onto her husband. Ancient memories of abuse at the hands of Russian communist commissars were involved. Bright red being their favored shade fully explained his hate for the hue.

He looked back up and made a step towards the hallway. Elizabita moved into his path and stood there like a statue. “Liza, love, she has to be taught!”

The second-generation Fury could see the anger and disappointment curdling with a touch of hate from the red stain on her husband's shirt. As one of the Furies who found a calling as a mother, she knew she was ill-suited to directing her daughter along the path all their kind must take. But there were limits to the methods she would allow another to take with her child.

“Step back, Ivan. You’ve done enough damage tonight. I won’t let you do more. And if you lay a finger on her, I’ll make you regret it.”

Elizabita’s wings manifested, as her daughter’s had before her. They phased through her clothes, being present and somehow leaving the cloth undamaged, as all Fury wings did. The scales on these wings were hardened, larger, thicker. A menace so thick that to move through the room was to wade in fear and warning filled it. “Just try me,” the mother said in a voice that was calm and chill.

As still as ice was the tone, and as sharp and dangerous as well. It was Ivan who backed down, fear clear on his face. He was a bully, and deep down, he knew his wife was stronger than he would ever, could ever be.

“Very well. But I will not celebrate Isolde’s sixteenth birthday, nor any day after it until my daughter has taken up the mantle she was born to. Until she has cursed like a Fury.”

<<<>>>

Isolde changed quickly out of her dress once she was within her sanctuary, her bedroom. After the fight with her father, she did not feel safe, even here. She quickly put on a pair of jeans and a dark red, long-sleeved t-shirt. As an afterthought, she grabbed a jacket.

A shiver went down her back as she felt the mist of malice rising in the dining room behind her. Grabbing a framed photo, she wrapped it in the jacket, opened the window, and climbed out.

Her feet quickly found the winding path through the hillocks and sparse trees. The familiar, calming whisper and whistle of a breeze played to her ears, a song to soothe her jagged nerves. A balm for her throbbing, aching heart.

“Why can’t Papa understand I will never curse another,” she whispered into the breeze. Once, she would have believed her cousin Thal would have heard that plea, no matter how far away he was. No-one in the family had seen him in two years, and only his mother had talked to him over the last four years.

Now, the teenager prayed that her rough-edged, blunt, but loveable cousin could feel her plea.

The crushed eucalyptus leaves underfoot released what was left of their sharp, wet, calming scent as she followed the path. It covered the slight stench of the puddles of last week’s rain as she headed without thought to the one place she would be alone.

Out of the gloomy night, the ruins of a small stone bridge rose. Just a few more meters and she would have reached her final sanctuary, the one place none ever intruded on her.

The moon rose, hiding her goal in dark shadows as if it were being taken from her. Isolde’s breath was briefly stolen, then the moonlight outlined the stone seat she sought.

Sitting down, she carefully unwrapped the framed photo from her jacket. Carefully, she placed the frame on stone as she donned the warm clothing against the chill breeze.

Her finger traced the lines of the photo on the glass that covered it. Tears scattered from her eyes. Thal had been one of the few that understood her, growing up. Both of them had been black sheep in the family. He was the only male born to a second-generation Fury. Worse, he had no wings, and even at sixteen, in the picture before her, he seemed to be a grown man. If Alecto had not put her protection over him, some of that matriarch's older granddaughters would have insisted he be killed.

Yet with Isolde, he could be happy, and with Thal, Isolde had only experienced joy.

“Oh, cousin, where are you? My Mongrel soulmate, My White Knight, please find me,” she cried with a scatter of tears falling down her cheek.

Not one tear touched the photo or frame she held, and that protected her heart and hope.

Snippet 1, Scenario 1, Character 3

Amanda David and M.D. Quincy:
05/04/2020, 05:21:00 PM
Reply

Sheriff Marcus Whitmore
It was the quiet forest trail that took Sheriff Marcus toward his favorite lookout spot. He’d been jogging this path for five months. In truth, it was not the mist rising from the bracken scattered along the edges of the wild forest areas that drew him.
Here two hours from his new home, Marcus slowed to a fast walk. The peace he felt here was indescribable after the past few years of rehabilitation. With practiced ease, his mind shifted to more uplifting thoughts.
Dry leaves and needles cushioned his feet as he came to a stop. Here from this vantage point, the trees were sparse but so large that they offered shadow beneath the canopy.
The wind whistled through the forest. It was almost a song and a soothing balm to a man newly retired from the military. Since becoming the sheriff of a small town, this was the first vacation he’d had in over a year. And he intended to enjoy every moment of it.
This wasn’t the first time Marcus had visited the forest. There were so many happy memories here. In fact, he could almost hear the voices of his father and brother even though today he was alone.
One word can carry so much weight, he thought. With a deep breath, Marcus pushed out all thought and focused on his surroundings.
Closing his eyes, the wave of crushed vegetation filled his senses. Looking at the view, Marcus didn’t have to see the brackish puddles on either side of the trail leading down to the meadow. He just knew where they were from years of exploring. There was also a tiny stream of freshwater that fed those marshy areas. The Old One knew, and that’s why he came. It had been a long time since he had seen the Old One, he rather hoped he still came here.
The sound of hooves clomping across the weathered footbridge echoed in the silence. The pathway was barely visible from where it stood covered in dense shadow. Even in the early light of day, you had to know the walkway was there just to see it. Slowly and with deliberate caution, the massive elk emerged proud and towering as if he crawled out of the shadow world itself.
Marcus smiled. There you are Old One, he thought silently. Careful only to breathe on mornings like this.
He had no idea how old this elk was, but years ago, Dad had spared Old One’s life while hunting. He always spoke fondly of Old One. Dad said there was something in those eyes that wouldn’t allow him to pull the trigger. At the time, Marcus didn’t understand it, but now he did, and he was grateful for the connection to his father.
Old One was the biggest elk Marcus had ever seen, he didn’t even dare take a picture of the beautiful animal for fear that someone would see him and hunt him for his rack. Those antlers were easily over 400 inches across. Old One wasn’t quite a record elk Marcus knew that only because he looked, no, the record went to some poor creature with 430 inches of headgear now mounted on someone's wall.
Old One would be a stunning beauty for any trophy hunter, which is why Marcus admired him from the shadows. A few minutes more, and the herd slowly came across the bridge to join their leader. There were six females and several yearlings in all. Marcus didn’t have an exact count since the youngest was often resting.
The Old One is smart to keep an eye on his ladies, Marcus thought. Then cursed himself for thinking of any female for the time being.
Marcus closed his eyes. There is no hope for it, he thought silently, already Emily is hovering in my thoughts. They’d been together for several years, even talked of starting a family, but that was before I went overseas to serve my country. It was a year ago. A long time ago, at least it felt like it was.
A scream pierced the silence. Marcus turned quickly toward the sound, all of his instincts carefully honed and at full attention. Years of training, he didn’t have to question.
There were several low noises from the elk as they retreated from the open into the forest and its sheltering darkness. As the last of the herd charged out of sight, a woman’s voice called out, “Help.”
Marcus trembled with a memory. There was a flash of someone calling for help in his past. The facts filtered in quickly, it was a recon mission, and he’d lost a friend when a woman pretended to need their help.
Logic told him the moment was long past, and deep breaths assured him that all was well. The doctor called these episodes PTSD or post-traumatic stress. Marcus called it a pain in my ass.
Gripping a tree limb next to him, the sheriff squeezed the branch until bark bit into his palm. It was only a few seconds, but those moments allowed him to move forward. As a professional, he often didn’t know what he would find when called to a scene. It was nothing new, another day at work.
The sheriff wouldn’t know until he reached the woman. “The perfect way to start a vacation,” he muttered before shouting in reply, “Keep calling out so I can find you!”
Her reply was incoherent, but he could track the sound, and that was all that mattered. Then he was running back the way he came. His heart was racing more so than his leisurely run in the early morning.
The woman called several more times, and the sheriff shifted direction accordingly.
He found her dangling between two exposed tree roots, still several feet of air between her and the bottom.
Marcus stopped short, studying the ground as he went. This part of the forest he rarely explored because of the uneven terrain and exposed roots.
There’d been a lot of rain in this past year, Marcus thought. This woman had found a spot that it all but washed away underneath.
“You aren’t from around here, are you?” Marcus asked.
The woman’s arms trembled, but the apparent strain of keeping herself in position couldn’t erase the look of dismay on her face. “How do you know?”
“These trees are notorious for hiding holes and drop-offs. Most people avoid this part of the forest unless they’re looking for mushrooms or something.”
The woman lost her look of dismay, but the trembling in her arms increased. The sheriff did what he always tried to do with the endangered, talking calmly and explaining what he was going to do.
“My names Marcus Whitmore, I mean to get as close as I can. If you could take my hand and just hold on, I will do my best to get us both out of here in one piece.”
Sheriff Whitmore studied the root system until he found the two largest segments. He crossed the space between them carefully as if he were walking the tracks as a boy. He could see from experience that the tree's extensive root system had kept a thick blanket of soil and debris across its surface. It was an effective illusion against such extensive erosion. The closer he got to the dangling women, the less dirt remained between roots.
“You know I’ve never climbed a root system to rescue a person, but I’ve climbed a tree to rescue a cat.” Marcus smiled, but the woman wasn’t taking the bait. She was just a serious as she had been moments before. Now she knows you can’t tell a joke, “Tough crowd.”
For that, he got a smile. This damsel in distress has a friendly smile. Marcus couldn’t help but wonder how often she used it. Not that it matters. I’m finished with relationships and women. I’m just doing my job, even on vacation, serving the people in the area that he called home.
“Okay, just a few more minutes. How are you doing? Can you keep holding on?”
The woman leveled a stare at him that would’ve rivaled his drill sergeant. Marcus could feel his eyes widen in response, and the corners of his mouth turned up. She’s one plucky damsel in distress.
Marcus liked that in a woman. Stop it, he thought. Get her out of danger and get back to your tent. This is no way to be thinking when you’re out here to heal.
Marcus took a deep breath and filtered out all distracting thoughts. The last two feet felt the most precarious, but Marcus managed to straddle these roots. They were a little smaller than the width of his foot.
As if he were born to do it, Marcus reached down and took hold of the woman’s wrist and forearm. Pleased that the woman grabbed hold with more strength than she seemed to have left, Marcus made eye contact before lifting her straight up onto the roots beside him.
He expected to feel the weight of her, but she was light. Hell, I’ve carried bags of gear heavier than her, he thought as he pulled her from danger and set her on the roots in front of him.
“Can you hold your weight?” He hesitated to let go of her arm until he knew for sure she could stand and walk on her own.
“I’m okay standing, but my ankle hurts. I’m afraid my balance isn’t going to be good on these roots. I had a previous injury a few months ago, and I’m afraid I reinjured myself.”
Marcus nodded. “Do you trust me?”
She nodded.
As sheriff, it never ceased to amaze Marcus that people trusted so quickly. Most had never met him, but in their moment of need, they always had trust. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt such innocence. He’d seen people, just ordinary human beings, do terrible things to each other. If he was honest, he knew what he did to people when the need arose.
“I’m going to turnaround, and I want you to get on my back.”
She hesitated visibly. “Isn’t that dangerous for both of us? I don’t want you to get hurt. I think I can make it.”
“Ma’am, no offense, but you weigh less than a full pack of gear, and the sergeant was fond of two-hour runs. I’ll be fine. For the next twenty feet or so to shimmy across these roots.”
The woman nodded. That was all the signal Marcus needed to pivot without losing grip of her wrist. “I’m gonna let go, but I need you to quickly put your hands on my shoulders so I can help you up.”
He’d only let go for the briefest of moments, and both her hands were resting on either side of his neck. Marcus grabbed both of her wrists and forearms and did a little hop maneuver he would’ve done with this pack to reposition it. She was so light and so nimble she quickly settled on his hips, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and grabbing her elbows.
Marcus leaned forward slightly to better see the root walkway and slowly made his way back to the solid ground. It was only minutes, but it seemed longer.
The woman wasted no time shimmying off his back and onto her own feet. She took a deep breath as Marcus turned to face her.
He assessed her carefully but kept his distance. She seemed to favor her left foot, and he suspected she would need help back to her car. “My name is Marcus Whitmore. I’m the sheriff of Pearl Hollow. How are you feeling?”
The woman seemed uncomfortable when he mentioned that he was the sheriff or maybe the small town he couldn’t be sure which. She’s a puzzle, Marcus thought frowning.
“This is a little embarrassing. It came out here to photograph nature and instead was fished out of a ravine. I’ve lost my camera. Maybe Joel is right. Some nature photographer I’m going to turn out to be.”
Joel, it was just a name, and already Marcus didn’t like the man. “I can try and find your camera if you need it. But I’m not sure it’s going to be a good idea considering the weather is about to change.”
The woman backed up with a few awkward hopes and rested against a tree. The weight on that ankle was beginning to be too much for her to bear. She seemed to be a relatively independent woman, and so Marcus prepared himself to be patient and wait for her to ask for help.
“May I ask your name?” Marcus asked as the wind built in the distance, and he heard thunder as certainly as if it were a missile flying overhead. The idea of being caught in that storm, the sort of storm known for uprooting trees, held no appeal.
“Is it going to rain?” the woman asked, looking up at the sky between the branches.
Marcus scratched two days worth of stubble on his chin to hide his smile, “Yes, ma’am, I’m afraid so.” This woman had no business being in the forest alone. This is one determined city girl. Of course, Dad was right, Marcus shook his head and didn’t try to stop the smile this time, “You can take the man out of Texas, but never take Texas out of the man.”
“What? Are you from Texas?” the city girl asked.
“Sort of ma’am. My father, was from Texas. I was born there, but I was raised over here, on account of my mother.” They are all gone now, he added silently.
“It looks like you have a choice, ma’am. You can wait here while I walk around this eroding hillside and go search for your camera. The chances are good that you’re going to get wet, and I could also get stuck in a mudslide. Or I can let you hop on my back one more time, and I can carry you out of here. We will still get wet, but the chances of us both making it back safely are a lot higher.”
“Neither one of those options thrill me. I don’t like to be carried.”
“I can appreciate that. I don’t much like it myself. Since we are going to be spending a little more time together, do you mind telling me your name?” The woman hesitated just enough Marcus could sense she had secrets.
Interesting. He tried not to think about those brown eyes and matching hair. I’ve been too long without companionship. He frowned. Angry for thinking of things less suited to his current environment.
“My name is Becky.”
Marcus nodded, “Have you decided then?”
“As much as I would like my camera, I don’t want either of us in any more danger. And as much as I hate the idea of you carrying me out of here, I would be grateful for your help.”
With a nod, Marcus closed the distance between them into two long strides. Becky was on his back with her hands tightly wrapped against his shoulders in less time.
Thunder crashed overhead, closer this time. Lightning flashed through the canopy, the sounds of wildlife taking shelter filled his senses.
Marcus ignored what was coming, preferring instead to focus on the task at hand. He shifted Becky’s weight once before heading back to the trail he preferred to run on. He didn’t intend to run initially, but when she flinched at the next thundering sound of the storm, it seemed the right thing to do.
Hooking his hands under Becky’s thighs, Marcus ran at a neutral pace. His mind almost blanked out. It was natural to focus only on his breathing and balancing the weight against his back. He was grateful for the burn in his lungs and his legs that reminded him he was alive. Without realizing, a small smile rested on his face as he settled himself into the long run.
Thunder and lightning alternated with the wind through the trees. Still, there was no rain and that he was okay with that. Running in the mud with a hundred-pound weight on your back was not his idea of perfect travel conditions. Marcus made sure to cross as much distance as possible while he could still run.
The morning was half gone by the time they reached the park meadow. It was a familiar landmark and one that he had loved for years. Initially, it was created by those that lived in the area years ago as a gathering place. People gathered for parties all summer, by noon there would be balloons and children everywhere.
Marcus slowed to a walk. This was the closest he would allow himself to rest.
There was another flash of lightning, but this time it brought with it the smell of ozone. The smell of it overwhelmed his senses and made his hair stand on end. The sweep of wind chilled his body as it forced the grasses to bend low to the ground. It looks like the afternoon parties will be canceled, he thought.
“Where can I take you?” Marcus asked.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know where we are,” the woman admitted.
Without looking, Marcus could feel the tension in Becky’s body and the cost it took her to admit such a thing. “My car is close.” Likely he was going to be rained out of his campsite and his gear drenched in this downpour.
Marcus ran another mile to his car. There was a small hike from the parking spaces, and there were restrooms close to the meadow. He figured that was why his father had chosen it so many years ago. The campsites were in the opposite direction from the parking area.
The parking lot came into view at the same time that rain began dumping in sheets. Marcus was walking by the time he reached his car. It was unlocked, and so he set Becky on her feet and made sure that she could get in before he ran around and got in on the driver's side.
Once both doors closed, the windows began to fog with the moisture and body heat.
“You weren’t kidding about the storm. I can see why you didn’t want to go look for my camera now.”
Marcus nodded. He was using his fingers to comb back the moisture clinging to his hair so it would drip down his back rather than into his eyes. “I appreciate your not asking me to.”
Becky offered one of her small smiles in return. Her voice was quiet compared to the pounding of the rain on the roof of the car, “well, thank you for saving me.”
“You’re welcome, Becky, it was my pleasure.”

Barbara Bennett:
05/05/2020, 10:52:41 PM
Reply

Roberta Grayson-Meyer woke up as the staccato sound of raindrops hitting something penetrated her consciousness. Bing, bang, bong. Raindrops were hitting something metal, besides the ones that were hitting her. Her head ached, and her body hurt. Did someone kick me?
Roberta opened her eyes cautiously. She laid a hand out flat and found she was lying on something wet and smooth. Okay, I hurt, but I can feel, and I can breathe. I can see grass, and it’s the green side, not the root side, so that’s good too.
As she pushed herself up to a sitting position, she heard a roar. Bing, bang, bong made more sense now. The rain was hitting the many-sided sculpture she saw outside the lion house.
I’m at the zoo. Why?
There was a cement bench nearby. The young woman crawled to it and pushed herself upwards.
Roberta looked back the way she’d come and saw a red streak on the pavement being washed away by the rain. The left knee of her pantsuit was bloody. Both sleeves of her jacket were gone.
So much for making a good impression in court this morning! She looked at her watch. Yep, it’s still morning. Six o’clock and I’m due in court when? One o’clock? Two? Good job, counselor, she thought sourly.
The young woman looked down. There was something pinned to her jacket. “You’re where you should be, bitch, with the animals. Sorry I couldn’t put you in a cage where you belong.”
Her shoes were missing. So was her elegant, tooled leather shoulder brief bag. No, they weren’t!. There was a fountain, just twenty feet away with droplets that sparkled like crystal in the light of the rising sun. Her shoes and her bag were there, at the bottom.
Guess I go wading. I hope it’s not too deep. Maybe I should be thankful the guy put the stuff here and not in a lion cage. She stood carefully and slowly hobbled to the fountain and sat down on its wide rim.
As she swung her legs over to the water, a voice shouted, “Miss, you can’t go in there. That money is city property.”
“Money? Who cares about money!” she yelled back. “My shoes and bag are in there and, they are not city property, and if you’d use your head for something besides keeping your ears apart, you’d see that I’ve been attacked, probably sometime last night. I’d have called the cops, but my phone is in the bag, and all that fancy electronic stuff doesn’t do well when wet!”
The man drew closer. He pushed a wheeled trash can with a two-foot wide push broom sticking broom-side up from the cart like a flag.
Roberta moaned.
“You weren’t kidding. You are a mess. Are you okay, miss?” he said as he drew closer.
“I just realized that my laptop was in there too with all my files for today’s hearing. My wallet with all my ID was in there too.”
The man wore a heavy jacket that said Abbott on one side of the jacket front and Zoo Custodial Staff on the other. He took a small handheld radio from a jacket pocket and pressed a button on the side.
“Security, this is one-one-niner at the fountain by the lion house. Send city police to this location. I have a female here, possible mugging victim. She says those are her shoes and bag that I see in the fountain. She was about to go into the fountain after them when I first saw her. Should I try to get them out? Leave them? Yessir, we’ll get them when the officers arrive. One-one-niner out.” He put the radio back in his pocket.
“You mean that you don’t believe me when I claim the shoes and the bag belong to me?” she said, looking at the clearing sky.
“Miss, it’s not a matter of believing or not believing. We have to follow procedures.”
“Yes, we do, don’t we?” she said softly.
Roberta’s mind flashed back to the summer night she was awakened from her nap on a Fairmount Park bench to of cries of pain and the sounds of struggle. A couple of toughs from Strawberry Mansion were beating up on a short, well dressed older man.
When she reached the struggle, she swung the cane she sometimes leaned on, and one attacker dropped and fell facedown, stunned by a head blow.
The other attacker turned away from his elderly victim to grab her. But he was off-balance. As he reached for her, she placed a very accurate kick where it would do him the least good. He dropped, doubled over and screamed. She was just about to try to lead the elderly man away from the scene when a commanding voice said, ”Hold it right there. Stay where you are.”
A flashlight beam caught her full in the face. She was blinded but could hear soft moans from the victim and, somewhat louder ones from the downed tough. Leather creaked, then the light swung away. She could see the silhouette of a mounted Fairmount Park Guard shining the flashlight on the homie on the ground and the man standing a few feet away from her with blood trickling down the side of his face and into his gray scarf.
The Park Guard stepped down from the saddle. “Sir, are you all right?”
“A bit banged up maybe, but, nu, mostly all right. I wouldn’t have been except this young lady came from somewhere and started hitting those goniffs, ah, thieves the word is. There’s one of them. Where’s the other one?”
“I guess he ran off,” the Park Guard said. “Do you happen to have some identification, sir?” he asked as the handcuffs clicked on the fallen tough. Then he took some gauze bandage out of his saddlebag to wipe at the old man’s head wound.
“I am happy to be able to show you identification from the wallet that this young lady has saved for me.”
The Park Guard looked at the card in his hand. “Joseph Meyer? Not Joseph Meyer, the artist?”
“How do you know of me?”
“My sister, Jeannie, is a student at Tyler School of Fine Arts. She sometimes sits and makes sketches of your paintings at the art museum.”
“I was a student there also, but a very long time ago. I went to school, and I paid my way as a carpenter. It paid better than a fry cook,” he said, smiling. “But, I have done that too.”
“How did you get here, Mr. Meyer?”
“I fell asleep and missed my stop and didn’t look where I was when I got off the bus. Then a few minutes later I made the acquaintance of this gentleman and his friend. The old artist’s tone was rich with contempt. Then, with amazement, “I didn’t know girls could fight like that!”
“And now you, young lady. Do you have identification?
“No, sir.” the tall, thin girl said softly, and in her heavy Southern drawl, it sounded like “sah”.
“What’s your name, miss?”
“Roberta Grayson, sir.”
“Where do you live, Roberta?”
“Nowhere now, sir, I guess,” she said, pushing a lock of dirty blonde hair away from her face with an equally dirty white hand. “A few weeks ago, I lived at 1733 N. 17th Street. I came home from school one day and, my key wouldn’t turn the lock like before. Everything costs so much more here than back home, sir. Guess they thought they were too many mouths to feed an’ I was the one got chopped off.
“You can’t live on the street, Roberta. I’ll take you to Juvenile Hall, at least for the night.”
“Officer…” Mr. Meyer said.
“Callahan, sir, Thomas Callahan.”
“Officer Callahan, I have heard of this thing with some of the newer arrivals from the South. This young lady put herself at much risk to save me from being robbed and beaten, maybe worse. I think taking her to this juvenile place is a terrible way to reward her courage. I am a widower. I have a cook-housekeeper, Mrs. Goldberg and her husband Ruben, my gardener and driver. They loved their children, and the children, they used to live with me too, but they all grew up and moved away. I think Roberta could stay in their daughter’s old room, at least for the night. She deserves a hot bath, clean clothes, and maybe some of Mrs. Goldberg’s excellent chicken soup. Tomorrow, well, we’ll think about tomorrow when it gets here. What do you think?”
“I think that is an excellent suggestion, Mr. Meyer, an excellent suggestion. But will you and Miss Grayson please walk over to the police call box near here, so that I can tell my sergeant what happened? We have to follow procedures, after all.”
“Come on, you,” the officer said to the handcuffed tough as he hauled him to a standing position.
Roberta smiled to herself as she remembered those days, the discreet, elegant bronze sign, Joseph Meyer, on the front of the old Walnut Street brownstone and the beginning of a new life she’d never dreamed she could have.

Summer Donnelly:
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If the Shoe Fits
Summer Donnelly

Chapter One – New Job

Cinderella Dubois turned to wave to her five-year-old daughter Flora after she dropped the little girl off at Hubbard’s Daycare. The little girl’s blonde curls bounced with excitement, causing Cinder to smile with delight. Mother Hubbard had been a blessing to the working parents of Thistle Grove by offering affordable child care to Fables, Mundies, and Shifters alike.

Flora had been the product of a particularly heated night of romance between Cinder and the cook in a nearby castle. It had all been so terribly romantic, but when Cinder had gone back to look for the man, no one had ever heard of him. At first, Cinder had been heartbroken over the lost encounter, but when she realized her good fortune at having a lasting reminder of her beloved, she’d been overjoyed.

Unfortunately, the joy had lasted only as long as it took her step-mother to figure out that Cinder was pregnant. She tossed Cinder out of the house without so much as a by-your-leave. But that was okay. Cinder had managed to survive all of life’s uncertainties in all of her twenty-two years prior to the birth of her daughter and chose to never look back.

The woods surrounding Thistle Grove welcomed Cinder into their warmth. She unerringly found the quiet forest trail, mist rising from the bracken on the edges of the wild areas. The tender shoots of spring softened her walk as she cut across to start her new job for Stephanie Harp.

The trees were sparse but large, creating deep shadows under their canopy. Whistles of wind danced in the air, continually playing what sounded almost like a song. Cinder stayed on the town side of the woods, not daring to get closer to the River. After the Treaty of the Wicked Witches, and after the recent dust-up with Ruby’s grandmother, Cinder didn’t want even to get close to the River Grimm.

The smell of crushed vegetation was a sharp odor to Cinder’s nostrils. Brackish water puddled on either side of the trail. Just a few more yards ahead, the edge of a weathered footbridge was visible, but the bridge itself lay concealed in dense shadows.

A flash of lightning and the smell of ozone overwhelmed her senses. Cinder paused and welcomed the shivery electric sensation as the hair on her arms lifted. The sweep of wind chilled her body as it forced the grasses to bend low to the ground. Cinder tightened her cornflower blue cloak around her body a little tighter as she continued her walk. She didn’t want to be late.

Cinder left the shadows of the forest and entered into the bright, bustling village of Thistle Grove. With stubborn determination, she refused to look at the now-empty storefront where her own shop had once thrived. After Rumple’s Pawn Shop had opened, it seemed a dark shadow had fallen across Thistle Grove. Instead, Cinder focused on her next task – obtaining goodies.

The bell above the Cake Fairy trilled with a charming peal. “Good morning,” she greeted one of the owners, Rose-Red. The flame-haired woman smiled back at her from behind the register.
“Cinder! First day of work, already?”

Cinder’s smile slipped, just a little. She missed her shoe store, The Perfect Fit. Going back to work for someone else chafed at the edges of her entrepreneurial spirit, but Cinder trusted this was just a by-way that would eventually get her back on the right road. One day, she would re-open her shop. But in the meantime, a woman had to put food on the table, especially when there was a hungry child to consider.

“Yes. Already. Can you believe it?” Cinder forced a smile. “I was going to bring coffee and something sweet into the office. Start the day off right.” Cinder glanced down at the watch pinned to her starched shirtwaist. “I have just enough time. What’s good today?”

Red chuckled. “It’s all good, but I would recommend the Chelsea buns.” With quick, efficient movements, Red poured out two cups of coffee while she waited for Cinder to decide.

“Anyone new or interesting in town?” Red asked. “I thought I heard one of those boar-shifter brothers were trying to court you.”

Cinder rolled her eyes. “I tried for happily ever after once before. It didn’t work out, Red. I have my daughter, and I adore her, so for now, courtship and love will have to wait.”

Red pouted a bit. Since marrying the Baron of Thistle Grove, she’d been intent on finding love for all her friends.

“The Chelsea buns sound good. Two, please,” Cinder said, firmly changing the subject.

“How is Miss Harp?” Ruby asked, referring to Cinder’s new boss, while she wrapped up the order.

“I don’t have a good read on her yet. I keep hearing rumors but nothing concrete.” Cinder didn’t know who she had heard that from, though. Gossip had been eating away at the edges of Thistle Grove for some time, but it was hard to determine where it was coming from. Like the air, rumors and innuendo seemed to be everywhere.

After paying, Cinder put the breakfast into her basket, nodded to her friend, and continued on her way.

Chapter Two – Meeting Winter

Cinder noticed the girl following her. How could she not? Thistle Grove was a mere village. A speck of a town insulated by woods so that people who didn’t belong stood out. A girl with such striking colors would be hard to miss anywhere, let alone on the shop-covered streets of Thistle Grove.

Winter North was the daughter of a wealthy farmer who had fallen on hard times after his wife died, leaving the girl to run wild. Dirt smudged the girl’s face, but Cinder easily saw beneath the grime. Winter’s skin was as white as snow, her lips were stained a beet-red, and, although her hair hung in limp strands, beneath the grease, her hair was black as night.

So far in her young life, Winter had even managed to get on the wrong side of Sheriff Wolfe. Not the current one, as he had turned out to be a Golden Retriever in wolf’s clothing now that he had a wife. But the previous Sheriff Wolfe, Avery’s father, had despised the entire North family. As far as Cinder was aware, Winter hadn’t done anything significant. Petty stuff like nicking food from local vendors. In Cinder’s mind, the girl was probably just hungry.

Unfortunately, as a single mom with her own hungry child to feed, Cinder didn’t often get involved in other people’s problems. She had enough of her own, especially now that her shop was closed.
Fear crept up Cinder’s spine, and for a moment, she wondered if Winter would try to steal her breakfast. Deciding to confront rather than hide, Cinder stopped in her tracks and turned to the girl. “Do you need anything?”

Winter stopped, and the clever look in her eyes was soon replaced by nervousness. “I’m just walking. Nothing wrong with that, is there?”

“No, of course not. I was just concerned,” Cinder said, covering her possible faux pau in accusing the child of a local farmer of trying to steal from her.

“Nothing to be concerned about. I do okay.” There was an extended pause. “You’re that one with a shoe store, right?” Winter asked.

“I was, yes.” Unfortunately, Cinder no longer ran her beloved shoe store. It stood as an empty beacon of all her dreams, a boarded-up building with fire damage. Much, Cinder thought with a grimace, like her heart.
As the women stood talking, however, they caught the attention of Sheriff Avery Wolfe. “Everything okay, Cinder?” His brown eyes took on a distinct feral look when he noticed Winter.

A fire lit in the young woman’s eyes, and her shoulders pushed back in a look of blatant defiance and rebellion. “What’s a matter with you two? Ain’tcha ever seen a girl walking in town before?”

“We’re fine, Sheriff,” Cinder said, pasting a smile on her face. She knew the sheriff was a wolf shifter and could probably scent her deception, but Cinder couldn’t deny the underlying need to cover for the grubby girl.
Avery watched the younger girl with brooding, heavy-lidded eyes. “Been reports of a cow gone missing at the farm that joins with your father’s. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

“Milky-White has gone missing?” Winter asked, her eyes going wide. “But Jack loves that silly cow. What are you wasting time asking me for? Shouldn’t you be out looking for him?”

“What possible reason would a ten-year-old girl have for stealing her neighbor’s milk cow?” Cinder demanded, forgetting for the moment her need to get to work and her vow to stay out of the problems of others.

“Ten? Who’s ten? Lady, I’m nearly an adult!” Winter screeched, her voice echoing off the brick wall behind her. The girl seemed more outraged at Cinder’s downgrading her age than she did at Avery’s accusation of cow-napping.

“An adult?” Cinder frowned and attempted to look beneath the grime that covered the girl to the skin beneath, but all she saw was a girl too young to look so old.

The sheriff rubbed against the grain of his whiskers. “You can’t be more than sixteen, Winter North. I remember you were in trouble with the law ever since you were a kid.”

Knowledge passed between the rebellious Winter and the stoic lawman. Cinder suspected Winter’s problems were probably more due to her father’s neglect in the wake of her mother’s death than anything else.
“I hear your father is getting remarried,” the sheriff said, eyes narrowing as he took in the girl. “Maybe she can help keep you from running the streets.”

It was on the tip of Cinder’s tongue to remind Avery that sometimes, step-mothers were worse than no mother at all, but Cinder didn’t have time for such dealings. She couldn’t be late for her first day at her new job. With an abrupt nod at the two of them, she hurried on to the office.


Chapter Three – Lunchtime

Making it to the office with only seconds to spare, Cinder entered the neat outer office of her new boss, Stephanie Harp Esquire. They were in the heart of the business district and across from the mayor’s office. It was a perfect location for an up and coming lawyer. The hard-working woman was determined to secure the lives of the exiled Fables and, if necessary, enforce the treaties they had made with the Wicked Witches.
Cinder paused at her boss’s open door and knocked on the doorframe. “Good morning,” Cinder announced as she walked into the office, “I picked us up coffee and a pair of Chelsea buns. The Cake Fairy is wonderful!”

Stephanie smiled as she took a tentative sip of the hot, black brew. She closed her eyes and gave a sigh of welcome as she swallowed the dark, bitter, brew. “It’s delicious. Thank you, Cinder. I’ll get coffee tomorrow.”
Cinder bit her lip and looked away for just a moment. Straightening her shoulders, she turned to her boss. “If you’d like, my friend Ruby does deliveries. I have her business card. I can arrange for her to add us to her rounds, if you’d like.”

As a former small business owner, Cinder loved to see other businesses thrive. It still galled her that someone had seemingly sabotaged her supply chain of shoes, and then, when inventory had been lowest, the fire had broken out. Luckily, no one had been hurt, but the financial damage had been irreparable.

“Check my schedule and have her stop by for an interview. I’ll decide then if we can hire her. In the meantime, there is work on your desk. I have some letters I need sent and a client stopping by before lunch.”
Cinder nodded once and returned to the desk in the front room. She went straight to work on the letters. The tedious desk work was her least favorite part of owning a business but was necessary to a successful shop.
A few hours later, Stephanie left the confines of her office to make a cup of tea. She frowned as she glanced out the window. “Who is that girl?”

Cinder rose to cross the room and frowned at the sight. “That’s Winter. She’s a local girl. I wonder what she’s doing here.”

Stephanie sniffed as she took her tea back into the office. “My client will be here any minute. Make sure he doesn’t see that grubby little urchin.”

The harsh words sent a chill up Cinder’s back, but she schooled her features. She was here to work, earn money for herself and Flora, and to maybe, one day, re-open her shop. “Yes, ma’am. Is it okay if I leave for lunch a little early? I’ll see what Winter needs and then return?”

Stephanie’s lips pursed slightly before she nodded. “Just get that child off my front stoop.”

Cinder tidied her desk and grabbed her cloak. “Hey, Winter. What are you doing here?” Winter opened her mouth to say something when a tremendous growl emanated from the girl’s belly. Cinder sighed. Whether the girl was six, sixteen, or sixty, she was in need, and Cinder felt the unrelenting tug pull at her heart.

“Let’s go get some lunch. My treat,” Cinder offered, at peace with her offer. It might mean boiled eggs for lunch for the next two weeks, but she shrugged it off. Winter looked like she could do with several good meals.
Winter nodded and stood up. As she did so, it exposed her very bare, very sore looking feet. “Oh, honey. Where are your shoes?” Cinder asked.

At the note of actual concern in her voice, the cold demeanor Winter wore fell away like a façade. “I don’t have any,” Winter admitted. “That’s why I was trying to find you, to see if you had any left in your shop.”
“Why didn’t you… oh. Sheriff Avery interrupted us, didn’t he?” Cinder asked. “There were a few pairs left, but most of them were damaged in the fire. Certainly, smoke damage.”

A wry smile appeared on Winter’s face, and for a moment, Cinder glimpsed the beautiful woman she would become. “I think some smoke damaged shoes are better than none at all, don’t you?”

“Let’s go. I still have the key. A quick shoe rescue and then a sandwich, okay?” Cinder held up her keychain and nodded in the general direction of her former shop.

As the two women walked, Cinder frowned as she recognized the man heading towards Harp’s office. It was Rumple! What could the pawnbroker need with an attorney?

Winter nodded and fell into step beside her new friend. “What are you doing working for that grumpy old Harp for? You need a new shop.”

“That, my friend, is a story for another day,” Cinder replied.

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