Simply a Seed

Moira’s footsteps echoed across the empty stage of the deserted theatre. Gone were the red carpet and golden canopy at the front doors – replaced with plywood, yellow tape and ‘no trespassing’ signs.

She didn’t let that bother her, since she found her way in through a broken window in the alleyway. It was a better place to be instead of school.

Standing at the top of the rolling rickety steps, Moira’s small hand wrapped around a red, leather bound book. On the inside of the cover was an apple core sketched in ink, words written in the margins.

Moira used the tempo of the rain against the metal corrugated roof as she read the poem aloud.

‘You hold in your hands a mystery in words,

Cutting through space and time as easily as a sword.

For this collection of stories, with many games afoot,

Is simply a seed for your imagination to take root.

While many snowflakes fall,

Creating a ground of white

Listen to the Muse’s call

As your woven words take flight.’

Moira tucked the book inside her coat pocket before exploring the many costumes that had remained. From the wool houndstooth deerstalker and matching cloak, to an outfit perfect for Robin Hood or William Tell, the child wondered which world would be best to wander through, if only for a little while.

In another cupboard, Moira found two-piece suits, leather helmets and goggles, reminding her of Amelia Earhart. Beside that were a collection of floral dresses, cloches, fedoras and sunhats. Moira tried all of them, a new character emerging under each one as she looked up at the giant glitter-covered cardboard stars hanging from the ceiling.

In the many drawers found in the dressing rooms, she found loose papers from scripts old and new. Some pages she kept others she left where they were. Moira did the same with the photographs.

She found a Victor-Victrola phonograph buried by posters, maps and banners. Rotating the handle, Moira listened to the melody on the disc. Each note sparkled like a star in her mind; the new notes a new possibility. Maybe if she had lived a hundred years ago, she wouldn’t be so bored now.

Moira knew it was a silly thought, like many of her thoughts that got her into trouble. If the whole world was a stage, something her uncle once said; then she wanted the fastest route to get backstage, out of the spotlight, away from the microphones.

After an afternoon of adventure and anonymity, Moira smiled contently, aware that she would probably return here tomorrow, when time and her sketching kits were on her side. It wouldn’t be difficult to find alternative routes here from home, wouldn’t be hard to fix the window to keep the rain from coming in. Even with the power turned off, Moira knew how to keep herself from being in the dark.

For now, she would play the games and bend the rules without breaking them.

A Snippet by T. Tommia Wright, Featured Author    Published with Permission

Jenny Returns

He walks the mall by day seeking the eternal Jenny, but there is no one who comes close until this day, and he aims to keep her his.

Capture

A mall is no place to spend your days. It’s a way station beckoning with misdirection, curtains and sheets to cover and soften dreary existence.

It was nearly time for the mall to open and I was bored to death.

Most mornings people cluttered the entrances. I stayed back, in the telephone alcove, long since removed with cell phones everywhere. When I was innocent I’d done what other young bucks had done: I honed in on girls and talked up my soon-to-be historic exploits. That phone booth was crowded with young things talking to friends they could not be parted from, not for one minute. Close enough, brushing a ficus or wandering to look in the window, you might overhear them, feign interest in a display while they used the reflection to adjust their hair, always with hope they’d look at you, maybe turn to friends and giggle, maybe make that second look.

The guard opened the doors, and this Monday two weeks ‘til Christmas there was a crowd. Mostly moms with a list, or older women with clipped coupons headed for the big box stores.

And there she was, the free space for my bingo card. She turned into Dorfmans and I followed, unseen. She stopped at cosmetics, idly glancing down, talking on the phone to Marsha-something. High breathy voice. She picked up a lipstick. Not the right color at all. Much too red. But who’d listen to me, some stranger?

“Let me send you this.” She held the phone to capture her incarnadine lips, and I ambled up behind her. A quick flash, and she sent the photo.

I walked away before the ending, the rising voice, the stumbled answers about a stranger ruining her selfie.

I disappeared into the crowd, maybe ten or fifteen feet, imagining her perfume—one of those light citrusy types. She wasn’t so confident now, and pretended to try on earrings, using the mirror to see behind her, trying to match the face in that photo.

Her voice was lower, confidential, tinged with hysteria. “No, I do not know who he is or how he got there.” She jabbed to end the call, her elbow holding her purse close to her hip as she strode down the marble floors.

Good. I could see her in the sunlight over the food court. The play area was now Santa’s Workshop, with moms pushing strollers, pulling screaming kids. I slipped even closer.

She stopped at the info booth to show Cliff. “You know this guy?”

Good ol’ Cliff. He shook his head and sighed. “Yeah. We all know him. Used to work here. Girlfriend died here, and he got a little crazy. Thinks he sees her sometimes. Harmless, but call 911 if you see him again. More of a bother, really.”

Good ol’ Cliff. A bother, huh?

He was talking to the guard station, and I caught her name. “Yeah, Madeleine Jenkins. It’s him, again.”

“That’s it? ‘On the lookout’? I’m just some blonde looking for trouble?”

“We take complaints seriously at Fairhaven Mall. But he won’t touch you. We spot him, we’ll take care of him. He just shows up now and then. Can’t do much unless he does something stupid. It’s a public space; people do stupid things. Stupid, not illegal.”

“Harassment is illegal.”

“If he harasses you, we can deal with that. If you see him again, let security know.”

Just a few nudges and whispers led her to the bench where Jenny and I had been sitting when she passed. We’d shared our hopes, kissed, even touched in public. We were not-quite-arguing about chick flicks versus real movies, and she’d gasped, and sucked in her breath. Then, dead. Stroke. Nineteen and a sophomore in college, like me.

I was screaming at first, for someone, for anyone to come and goddam help, but she was gone before her head hit the marble floor.

That moment, laughing and arguing, the shaft of sunlight as a halo of cornsilk, was my happiest. And the saddest, tying joy and sorrow to that bench.

Then I was a blur of grief and shuttered emotions. My guys offered me other women as solace. I tried that. Tried not doing anything but flicking through photo albums, wandering around school, lost, avoiding classes and friends.

After a dark time I found myself hanging around the mall, hoping to see someone like Jenny.

Cliff was right. I was harmless. Nothing I could do, really. That part of life was over. I just wanted to watch. Maybe remember.

She saw the bench in the sunlight by the fountain and sat down, just like Jenny. I was going to sit at the bench when Cliff walked up.

“Thought I’d find you here.”

“Why?”

“Just wanted to be sure you felt safe. Haven’t seen him, if you’re wondering.” He wandered away.

She scowled. “This mall creeps me.” She pulled out a lipstick—that same too-red color. Wasn’t right for her.

I swatted the lipstick from her hands.

She cried out, looking to see who’d done it.

The lipstick rolled over to the fountain’s edge, and I pushed it into the water. She stood up, disbelief washing her face.

“What the—?” She walked over and looked in. “Well. Maybe not really my color. Maybe something less red.” She shook her head and walked towards the entrance.

I moved beside her with my arm on her shoulder. She shivered. My Jenny. Sensible as always. She called Marsha-something again. “You’ll never believe it. Dropped that new Crimson Slash right in the fountain. Fifteen bucks. Gone. But it looked like death on me.” She walked out the door and off to her waiting car, I suppose.

I stayed behind where I belonged, in the mall. Maybe another day Jenny would show up again and we might walk together, she alive, full of energy and fun, and me, here, in the shadows.

A mall is a terrible place to die, and an even more terrible place to wander.

by Stephen J. Matlock  Published with Permission

Note from the Author: This is my second entry to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. I came in the top in the first round in my division. If I can come in the top 5 averaged over both rounds, then I advance to the third round.  My prompts were Ghost Story, Shopping Mall, and Lipstick. We get the prompt midnight Friday evening, and we have to turn in a completed, 1000-word story at midnight Sunday.

Note from the Editor: Go Stephen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  -sjk

Halo of the Heavens

breathing-space-6-18-13He was startled to see the sun had fallen even lower toward the plain.  It was extraordinary. The sky was changing too—no longer only blue.  A wide band carried the whole spectrum of colors, and the red end began to overtake the blue.  He was spellbound watching it and was suddenly aware the light had nearly faded away.  A deep terror gripped him. The sun was dying.  Perhaps this was the cause of the seamless darkness that he could feel, as much as remember, from before—when he was Under.  He was filled with dread.  He had an urge to bow his head and wail but could not break his gaze from the sun’s demise.

As he absorbed the end of light in helpless resignation, a pinpoint of white light appeared in the darkest part of the sky.  Soon there was another—and another.  There were holes in the darkness.  Or, no, these seemed to be on the sky—or in it, like the sun.  He witnessed the stars as a new creation.  Wonder replaced his fear.  This was not the darkness he once had known.

He rose to his feet and began to turn about, whirling under the beautiful heavens.  Becoming dizzy and falling to the ground, he rolled to his back.  He lay there full of excitement, grinning in pure joy.  Even the memory of Majeska did not interrupt his enchantment.

After a time he sat up again and, filled with new strength, looked toward the mountains.  Their shadowy figures were outlined against the mass of stars.  He marveled at their grandeur as his eye followed the horizon away from the place where the sun had disappeared into the land.  He noticed a strong glow of light near the earth opposite the sun’s resting place.  It was white, like the starlight, but wide and misty. He watched as the halo got wider and brighter.  And then, like a shot through him, an arch of intensely bright light broke over the edge of the plain.  He stood dumbstruck as it grew and grew.  Then his breath caught as the vibrant orb tore free of the horizon and floated—free among the stars.

by Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn   Unpublished excerpt from draft of UNDERNEATH, book one of SECRET ORDER OF THE OVERWORLD  Published with Permission  Image credit: Sheri J.Kennedy

Note from the Author: After long agonizing, I cut this favorite excerpt from my first epic fantasy novel manuscript, UNDERNEATH, because it didn’t move the story forward. While writing for NaNoWriMo today several of us were discussing how tough it can be to cut scenes you love during edit. I still think of the images in this vignette often, and I’m pleased to have a chance to share it as a flash fiction piece. -SJK

Captured

Our last official response (by Sept. 5) to this Jean-Daniel Photography photo. Thanks to those who participated! We’re not picky about deadlines, so you can still send a story any time on this or any other prompt or topic of your choosing. Send to FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com. 

w23He tried to turn his head but his neck would not move. His right arm felt stuck to the column he leaned against when he tried to lift it. The gaze of his eyes remained fixated on the street even though he wanted to look to the left, to see if he still had the camera. But his eyes would not turn. He lifted his right foot but it did not move. He tried his left and it felt stuck to the sidewalk.  And then he wondered what he was wearing. He knew he had put on a short sleeve T-shirt, below the knees shorts, and tennis shoes this morning in the hotel. But he could tell that now he was wearing a long sleeve button up shirt and jeans, over boots like some kind of cowboy.

The thought of being a cowboy made him smile, or wish he could smile because nothing in his body moved but his mind. So, he thought how did I get into this state? Why can’t I move? What happened to me? O.K. slow down, empty your mind for a few minutes the way they taught you to at the workshop. Just relax, let your mind become sky like, let the thoughts pass by like clouds, breathe deeply. Then he realized he couldn’t breathe, his whole body was solidly immobile. But how was he seeing and thinking?

Then he remembered. He was walking down the street and saw a sculpture of a cowboy leaning against the column of an historical building. Just as he was reaching to open his camera case, the earth shook and a blindingly loud crash of light filled the street. A large insect that looked like something between a roach and a moth flew straight at him. Its narrow, malevolent, gray eyes stared hypnotically into his just before it flew into his mouth and he lost consciousness.

His mind screamed and he used every bit of will power he possessed to move but nothing happened. His consciousness roared at passing pedestrians to see him, to realize he was paralyzed and needed help. But no one stopped. No one seemed to even notice that he was stuck there. Then he saw his body walk toward him. It stopped, pulled the camera out of the bag, and took a photo. The eyes though were not his. They were the same malevolent, gray eyes that flew out of the light. As it stared, he saw clearly the reflection of that cowboy statue.

by Skywalker Payne   Published with Permission

Learn more about this author, skywalkerstoryteller and enjoy her Blog Here

Chimera

Yet another response to the excellent photo by Jean-Daniel Photography. Still time to send yours in to FreeValleyPublishing@gmail.com. Less than 1000 words please.

w23I can feel him there, the dark one. The man he was—the man I am to become. I run into the blazing light. Trying to be a star. But I’m in supernova and burst asunder leaving a black hole in the universe. Wholly consumed by the bitter taste of what he was.

I turn away; I feel the doppelganger mirror my move. A silhouette of my darkened future, destined. Each cell carries his message to my being. I walk to life and find myself mired in the undead realm of his rumor.

Shining, I stand and contemplate my dreams. Each one obsessed with grasping the shimmer of my emancipated soul. Free from the sins of my father.

by Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn  Published with permission.