Writing

I love to write short stories and have participated in several writing challenges. This page showcases most of my stories over the past few years. 🙂

Remember

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“Hey, girl.”

I’m sitting by Maude’s head as she lays asleep on the cool tile of the front porch, stretched out in the shadiest corner to escape the summer sunshine. She wakes up at the sound of my voice, yawning and blinking and wagging her tail as if to say, I thought you had forgotten me! After a minute she rises to her feet, stretches, and vigorously shakes her whole body. She steps over to me, tail wagging in joyful greeting, and licks my hands and arms as I rub her ears and slip a leash over her head.

We descend the brick steps together, past the fragrant flowers that line the patio and into the yard exploding with greenery after the recent rain. Maude sniffs and inspects anything and everything with immense curiosity and energy, stopping only long enough to take a drink from the garden hose.

Maude trots slightly ahead of me as we begin our walk. The sun has just started to set, and it’s pale rays wash over us as we pass the goat’s pen and hear the sound of their contented chewing. The path ahead of me is worn smooth by the tires of countless cars that have rumbled to and from the farm over the years, smoothing and pounding the dry earth. The grass is tall on both sides of the smooth path, and I can hear the low hum of cicadas all around me, warming up for their evening symphony. The familiar sound of their song is something that I’ve heard every summer night for as long as I can remember.

Blackberry bushes are hidden here and there among the grass, their thorny branches reaching out as if to defend their fruit from the groping fingers of humans. The thorns are hard to avoid, and we often gain cuts and scratches while attempting to pick the sweet berries. It’s always worth it. The fruit is sweet and rich and a little bit crunchy, and every summer the wild blackberries are an anticipated and coveted treat.

The rocks that cover some parts of the path are bumpy under my feet. They remind me of an incident that occurred several years earlier when I was learning to ride a bicycle.

I had seen my sisters riding down the driveway on their bikes and had decided that it looked like fun. I wheeled my bike the top of the driveway and climbed onto the leather seat, sucking in a breath and then beginning to pedal as hard as I could. Dread began to rise in my throat as I rocketed at breakneck speed down the hill, the world blurring around me, tiny bits of gravel spinning in all directions, the effect of gravity making the rubber wheels spin faster and faster andfasterandfasterandfasterand –

I hit a bump and flew into the air, landing hard on the rough rocks and giving myself two very painful skinned knees.
I didn’t try that stunt again for quite a while.

Maude comes to a sudden halt, jerking me back to the present. A cat is blocking our path, his fur bristled and eyes narrowed at the sight of the approaching dog. Maude’s ears perk up and her tail begins to wag at the prospect of a chase. She advances toward the hissing cat in a bouncy, taunting sort of way. The cat hesitates for a moment, then scurries off the driveway and into the trees with a final hiss of disdain. I hold tightly onto the leash to keep Maude from pursuing the cat and dragging me into the thick woods. After a moment, she gives up the pursuit and we continue on, the cat’s footsteps fading away into the brush behind us.

We plunge into the cool shade of the pines and oaks that line some parts of the path. I inhale deeply and recognize another trademark of summer – the array of smells. The countless miles of greenery around me have a strong scent – sharp, almost bitter, but slightly sweet. I’ve never been able to describe it well, but as the pine needles crunch under my feet, the tangy scent overwhelms me and I realize that it is simply the smell of the earth, growing and changing and constantly creating new life in thousands of forms.

We reach the end of the driveway and come to a stop at the gate. The green paint that covers the metal is rusty in some places, and in others, the paint has rubbed away to show the former layer of faded red. The family that lived here many years ago put this gate here. I imagine it was once shining and new, but I like it better how it is now. Creaky and ancient.

Most of the concrete underneath the gate is now covered with layers of dirt and pine needles, but a small bit of it emerges in the corner of the path. If I look closely, I can see initials carved into the rough surface. The letters were written a long time ago, by a child of the farmer that lived here before we did. I can almost see the boy in my mind’s eye, kneeling in the grass and carefully etching the letters of his name in the still-wet concrete underneath the gate. Maybe his siblings were playing nearby, fishing in the pond or splashing in the creek to stay cool in the heat of summer.

I slip Maude’s leash over a fence post and she settles down to wait for my return. I climb over the gate and it clatters loudly as I swing off the other side and land on the gravelly ground. I step forward to the edge of the road, glancing to the left and right to make sure no cars are approaching. As I look to the left, I see a group of slender deer gathered in the tall grass farther down the road. I stare at them and they gaze back at me, their enormous brown eyes wide with curiosity and surprise at my sudden appearance. We quietly regard each other for a moment before they bolt across the road with a clatter of hooves and a flash of white tails. They disappear into the pine forest on the other side.

After a moment, I step out into the road. The crunching sound of my shoes against the asphalt is startlingly loud in the enormous silence of earth and sky and trees. I reach the other side, flip open the mailbox, pull out the stack of mail, and flip quickly through the magazines and newspapers. I smile when I see an envelope with my name written on the front in large, familiar handwriting.

“I got a letter,” I call across to Maude. She looks up from the beetle she is inspecting and wags her tail, politely acknowledging the sound of my voice. The unnecessary words echo up and down the silent road for several seconds before fading away.

I slip the letter into my pocket, hurry back across the road, and swing myself up onto the gate. I remain sitting there for a moment, the stack of mail in my hand, watching as several turkeys emerge from the trees. They chatter noisily to each other as they swagger across the road, narrowly avoiding a dusty pickup truck that appears out of nowhere. It races towards them and they scurry quickly into the trees. The loud roar of the truck’s engine pulls me from my daydream and I clamber down from the gate as it rumbles by. When I reach the ground, Maude greets me as joyfully as if we were apart for several hours instead of several seconds.

I gather Maude’s leash in my hand and gaze at the initials in the ground. My mind wanders once more to the children that once stood where I am standing, lived where I am living, and played where my own siblings and I now run and shout.

Where are they now? Do they remember this place?

I want to remember.

I want to remember the tranquil silence of the pine forests that surround me, tall and ancient and majestic. I want to remember Maude, my best friend, who is nudging my hand with a cold nose to remind me that she’s here and she wants to play. I want to remember the excited shouts of my siblings as they race down the driveway on their dusty bikes. I want to remember the shrill cries of the woodpeckers and the haunting voices of owls as they hunt in the night. I want to remember the wide-eyed deer and the tangy blackberries and the cicada’s summer symphony. I want to remember the overwhelming calm of sitting alone on the rusty gate and watching the beauty of the earth and trees and sky as they grow and move and change.

I   w a n t   t o   r e m e m b e r.

I feel as if my soul is overflowing with thoughts and memories and questions. The sun sinks lower in the sky and paints the world with faded colors and I stand alone among the towering pines, lost in thought, a forgotten envelope in my pocket and forgotten initials at my feet.

This is just how I want it to be.

I pray that I’ll never forget this place.

_______________

Loyal

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He’s been gone for a long time now.

I do not know the exact number of days, but I know that he has never left me this long before.

Of course, I could have gone with him in that tiny, rickety wooden boat, rocking on the waves for days on end. Yet he and I both knew that I would be miserable. So he left me behind on this sandy beach with the promise that soon, he would return.

You should be protecting him, the seabirds rasp as they soar overhead. You should never have let him go off alone. You should have stayed by his side.

The salty cold water laps at my feet, calling me. Come, it whispers. Come. Find him.

For many nights and days, I have resisted the call of the sea, resisted the strong urge to leap into the waves and find my master. I have resisted the bitter wind that tugs at my ears and teases me into a frenzy of anger. He’s in trouble, it murmurs. Why don’t you go save him?

The wind does not understand that I am too small and weak. I know the waves would pull me under in an instant. I could never fight against the power of the current. The sea would delight in seizing me, tossing me, drowning me. It is a brutal beast.

Yet I still want to try.

The desire to leap into the water and find my beloved master grows stronger and more painful each day. As the moon rises and falls, I rest my head against the sand, my eyes never leaving the lapping waves, my body always tense and alert.

Watching.

Listening.

Hoping.

Some would have given up after this long, but I will not. I will never abandon my master. What if he were to return and find that I had left him to live alone on this stretch of sand he calls home? No, I will stay. I will wait, and I will be here for him when he returns.

My hunger grows into an angry beast, clawing and raging in my empty stomach. It, too, threatens death.

Hunger and the sea. They are my enemies.

I risk taking my eyes from the ocean just long enough to catch a small crab and devour the meager amount of meat it’s shell holds. I long for something real to eat. When my master returns, he will share his meals with me.

When he returns.

What if he doesn’t return?

I lie awake all through the night, watching the sea by the thin silver light of the moon.

I worry for him.

If he does not return, who will I guard on the cold nights when creatures with bright eyes lurk too close for comfort?

Suddenly angry, I rise to my feet and snarl at the sea, asking the question that is causing me such grief.

Have you taken him?

The waves give no reply, only lap innocently against the dark shoreline.

I wish I could grip the water in my teeth and shake it violently until it murmurs a reluctant answer.

I growl with fury, a harsh sound deep in my throat.

I begin to pace along the beach. Back and forth. Back and forth. I feel as if my master is close to me, yet farther away than he has ever been before.

A feeling of confusion and frustration rises in my chest, pounding and thrashing until I raise my head and howl, an eerie sound that I don’t recognize as my own voice. The high note echoes for a moment before disappearing.

I sink back down and rest my head wearily on the sand. I must continue my watch.

I will never abandon my master. I will stay here, always watching.

Always waiting.

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{Pinterest >> image credit}

Freedom

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My parents named me Freedom.

When I was born, whispers of war were in the air. Our colonies wanted nothing more than to be free from British rule. My parents gave me a strong, proud name, hoping that it would be a good omen. That soon, the colonies would be free from Britain forever.

Mother died of malaria. My father was killed in battle not long after I was born.

I’m beginning to wonder if their dream of freedom will ever come true.

I shake my head hard to clear my mind. I can’t be thinking such things. Of course the war will end. Of course we will be free.

The broom in my hands slides over the smooth wood floor with a swish. Little clouds of dust fill the air as I move around the room, my mind wandering while my hands work. As I sweep the dust away, Elias sits in his rocking chair, his eyes glued to the newspaper in his hands. The chair creaks as he rocks slowly back and forth.

“Hey, Freedom?” He looks up at me cautiously. “I’ve been thinkin’.”

I nod and try to ignore the way my hands are suddenly sweating. He motions for me to sit down. I sink into the chair across from him, my fingers tapping nervously in my lap. I have a bad feeling that I know what’s coming. “What is it?”

He gazes intently at me with a strange gleam in his eyes.

“I want to join the army.”

The broom slides from my hands and clatters to the floor. I stare at him in shock, my heart pounding. I knew he would say that. Yet it still makes my head swim. He can’t leave me. My voice is trembling and uneven as I whisper, “You’ll be killed, Elias. Just like Father.”

He shakes his head. “I’ll be fine, Freedom. You’re almost fifteen now. You’ll be okay, won’t you?”

I want to grab his hand and never let him go. I want to cry and beg him not to leave. But he looks so hopeful. I know what he wants me to say. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

“I’ll be fine.”

He looks so grateful as he squeezes my hand. “Thank you.”

I can’t sleep that night. The thought of Elias leaving makes me toss and turn for hours. When I finally drift off, I dream that I’m riding a purple dragon as I’m chased by British soldiers wearing dark cloaks. They hunt me relentlessly, their cold laughs ringing out into the night.

I wake up shaking. The rest of the night passes slowly as I gaze up at the ceiling and worry.

The next morning, I wake up to hear soft knocking. I pull on a dress and hurry into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. When I open the door, I’m surprised to see my best friend, Miriam.

Her tearstained face is a sure sign something’s wrong. I take her hand. “What’s the matter?”

She grips my fingers tightly. “Oh, Freedom. Father joined the army, and we’re going with him. We leave tonight.”

I can’t stop the gasp that escapes my throat. “You’re… leaving?”

She nods miserably. “I’ll miss you.”

I twist my hair around my fingers and fight back tears. “Elias is leaving to fight. Without you… I’ll be alone.” She hooks her arm through mine, her blue eyes wide. “I’m so sorry.”

Miriam and I take a walk through town together for the last time. We remember with sad smiles when we used to sit on the front steps of the stores and pretend we were at school. Miriam would be the teacher, and I would be her student.

That seems so long ago. The day passes slowly, with neither of us wanting to say goodbye. We wander through the woods, remembering when we used to pretend the trees were a faerie forest. We would make tiny houses with twigs and leaves, hoping the faeries would come.

Finally, we hear Miriam’s mother calling for her. I wrap my arms around my friend. “Goodbye, Miriam.” She hugs me back. “Goodbye, Freedom.”

She takes off running towards her house. I wave until I can’t see her anymore.

As the sun sinks low in the sky, I walk slowly back home, my throat burning. I’m dreading tomorrow morning- that’s when Elias leaves. I don’t think I can bear another goodbye.

The morning comes too soon.

Elias helps me prepare breakfast as usual. As we eat, he clears his throat and breaks the tense silence. “I need to tell you something.” He gestures to the front door, where he’s installed every chain and lock he could find. “Whatever you do, if the British come, do not let them in.” He emphasizes his words with flaming eyes. “There’s no telling what they’ll do to you.”

I nod and push my bowl away as my stomach churns. I’m not hungry anymore.

After we eat, Elias disappears into his room and comes back out with Father’s rifle on his shoulder. I bite my lip and watch as he slides on his boots and jacket.

I follow him onto the porch. We stare at each other for a moment before my voice cracks and I squeeze him tightly. “I- I’ll miss you.” He hugs me with strong arms. “I’ll miss you, too. He tugs my hair with a sad smile. “Goodbye, little sister.”

I stand on the porch and watch him as he becomes smaller and smaller in the morning light. When he has disappeared from sight, I hurry inside and lock the door.

I’m on my own.

The days pass slowly now. I wake up shivering each morning- winter has arrived. Snow falls thick in the lonely town. Only a few of the shopkeepers and villagers remain. They visit often with food and news. In return, I read them a story. I’m the only girl in town that can read. My father collected books- they were his pride and joy. The villagers are fascinated by the stories held in the pages, from wild fantasy to thrilling mystery.

I’m grateful for my books, but they can’t stop the pang that never leaves my heart. I miss Elias more each day as I do the chores in silence, wishing for someone to talk to. Sometimes I’ll borrow a newspaper from the storekeeper and read news about the war. I still have hope that someday, the fighting will end. Then Elias can come home again.

Spring comes. I wake early on the first day of spring and smile to see the snow is melting. I pull a cloak over my shoulders and hurry outside to enjoy the warmth of the morning. Warm rays of sunshine wash over my face, making me smile as I walk to the store for the weekly newspaper.

I love the smell of the fresh paper. I smooth it in my hands as I hurry home to read it. I toss off my cloak as soon as I reach home and sink into my rocking chair. The bold headline catches my eye and I lean closer.

SEVERAL AMERICAN SOLDIERS MISSING IN ACTION, HUNDREDS MORE KILLED

My heart skips a beat as the rest of the world melts away. My eyes run down the list of missing men.

Elias Barnett.

His name is on the list.

Missing.

“No!”

The words echo in the silent room, yet my ears are deaf to the sound. My vision goes blurry as hot anger wells up inside of me. He told me he wouldn’t leave me. I shred the newspaper with trembling hands and toss the pieces into the fire. As they crumble into ashes, hot tears slide down my cheeks. I hate him.

Fear soon overcomes my anger. I stare blankly at his empty rocking chair, deep sobs making my body tremble. He could be wounded, or… dead.

The horrible image of his tombstone suddenly fills my mind.

Here lies Elias Barnett, a brave and-

I clutch my head with a strangled gasp. I wish I could tear the picture from my mind. He can’t be dead. He told me that he’d be okay. I have a sudden urge to be a brave hero like in my books. I want to search until I find my brother. I want to bring him home and never let him leave again.

Yet my fear creates a border I dare not cross. I’m not big or strong enough to find him. I just have to sit here at home and wait.

I leap suddenly from my chair and grab the broom, needing something to do. I sweep the floor with vigorous strokes as I repeat the words in my head. He’ll be okay. He’ll be okay.

The day winds on slowly. I scrub and sweep until my back aches and my hands are raw. I make supper in an exhausted daze before stumbling to bed. I sink into my pillow and drift off to sleep, images of Elias’s smiling face filling my dreams.

It’s the middle of the night when my eyes fly suddenly open. I blink, confused. Why did I wake up?

Suddenly I realize. Someone’s knocking at the door.

I leap out of bed. It is Elias?

I dash into the kitchen as the pounding becomes harder. I’m about to unlock the door and throw it open when a deep voice shouts from outside. “Open up!”

My heart leaps into my throat.

British soldiers.

The door trembles with the blows. “Open up, I said!” I back away from the trembling door with a pounding heart. Maybe I can stall the soldiers.

I take a deep breath. “W-who is it?”

The voice becomes impatient. “You know who we are, miss. Now open up.”

I remember what Elias told me. His voice echoes in my mind.

“Whatever you do, do not let the British in.”

Determination makes me clench my fists and throw back my shoulders. I raise my voice to a shout. “I can’t help you.”

The voices become angry and taunting. I dash into my bedroom and light a candle with trembling fingers. I glance up at my window- the only one in the house. I’ll have to break the glass to escape.

My heart beats wildly as I grab my pillow and fling it at the window with all my might.

The glass shatters with a sickening crunch. I tremble with fear as I crawl out the window and tumble to the ground into a heap of broken glass. I hear the front door crack and the soldier’s voices echoing in the empty house as I scramble to my feet and make my escape.

My feet pound on the rocky ground. I hurry through the town, wanting to stop and warn the others, yet fear drives me on. I pass the cemetery in a blur. The thought of Elias being buried there turns my fear into a torrent of sobs. I slow to a walk as the tears flow freely. I instinctively turn towards the woods, where Elias and I played when we were children. I know I’ll be safe there, where no one can find me.

The woods are dark. Something thin and white sliding through the trees makes me shudder. I grip my candle tightly, wishing my brother were here with me. The forest seems empty and haunted tonight.

I swallow my fear. It isn’t long before I find what I’m looking for- a small, bubbling creek. The water seems to glow as the moon shines down on it. I sink down next the water, remembering when Elias and I used to play here. We would jump and swim and splash in the water. We would pretend that the water was a secret passageway to another world.

Glowing fireflies fill the air and land on my face, bringing back another wave of memories. Elias used to help me catch the fireflies in jars. I would bring them home and use them as nightlights. I dip my hot feet in the cool water. All the memories that once seemed beautiful have gone sour. The bad memories well up in my mind, making hot tears drip down my cheeks. Elias and I were so close, before he left me.

My candle flame shivers and sways in a sudden breeze. I lay down and rest my head on the soft grass. I’m going to spend the night here, where I feel closest to Elias. I blow out my candle and close my eyes, remembering my brother. The soothing sound of water trickling soon lulls me to sleep.

When morning comes, the sunlight in my eyes awakens me. I groan and roll onto my side. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to see what the thieving soldiers did to my home.

Then I remember Elias. If he comes home, I need to be there. If he comes home. The thought almost makes me want to lay here in the forest forever.

My desire to be there for Elias wins. I stumble to my feet and start towards home.

When I reach the house and step through the doorway, I stop dead in my tracks.

There’s nothing left.

The soldiers took everything. Anger flares up once more as I take in the scene. The rug my mother made is gone from the floor. Our fireplace is empty of wood. The furniture is stripped from every room. The kitchen is bare except for an iron stovepipe. And our rocking chairs- gone.

I notice bitterly that they left my broom in the corner. I clutch it in my hands and sweep away the soldier’s muddy footprints. I want to cry, but I don’t have any tears left.

Evening comes. I’ve payed visits to the other townspeople- they’re no worse off than I am. I’m not tired, and besides, my bed is gone. So I lean against the side of the house and gaze up at the stars. I used to love them. They were so beautiful as they glowed in the night sky. I always felt so free as I watched them sparkle.

Now, their cheerful brightness seems to mock me in my sorrow. As I gaze with stinging eyes at the sky, a sound hits my ears.

Music.

A light and merry tune comes wafting through the night air. I recognize the song. It’s what Elias often sings while he works.

Elias?

I’m frozen, hardly daring to hope, when a tall figure comes round a bend in the road, whistling the music I heard. It’s hard to see his face in the dark. I squint as he strides closer.

It’s him.

“Elias!”

He turns towards me with a grin. “Freedom!” I tear towards my brother and fling my arms around him. He spins me around and laughs. I lean back and take him in- he’s covered in dirt, and one of his shoes is gone.

But it’s him.

I don’t realize I’m crying until I hear his gentle voice.“What’s the matter?” I swallow hard and lean my head on his shoulder. “I-I thought you were dead.” He tugs my hair softly. “I’m fine, little sister.”

The stars don’t seem so mocking now. I lean against my brother as we walk home. It isn’t much of a home to come back to- but we have each other. And really? That’s all that matters.

___________

Artist’s Imagination

_______

A young girl grips a scuffed pencil tightly in her hand, her lips moving slowly as she works a math problem. She stares at the paper in front of her with frustration. The pencil scratches on the paper as she works the equation again- only to find it’s wrong. Bored and angry, she turns her gaze to the window, letting her eyes linger on the soft white clouds in the sky.

Before she knows it, her exhaustion has taken over. Her head droops slowly forward onto her desk, and her pencil hits the floor with a soft thunk.

The teacher at the head of the room turns around at the noise. With a frown, she strides forward and shakes the sleeping girl’s shoulder.

“Wake up!”

The girl’s eyes fly open and she gazes blankly at the woman, dazed and tired. “What-how-who are you?” The teacher huffs. “You know who I am, young lady. Wake up. Class ended five minutes ago.”

The girl hurriedly gathers her books and starts off towards home.

When she reaches her house, the girl tosses her books aside and ascends the stairs in long strides, the exhaustion gone from her face as she anticipates her favorite part of the day. She dashes past her three younger sisters sitting on the steps, giggling and smiling.

She throws open her bedroom door and skips over to a thin white shelf on the wall.

Her fingers run slowly over the bright glass bottles as she selects the perfect colors.

She inhales the rich smell of fresh paint as she places a blank canvas on her easel.

She sinks into a chair, her eyes sparkling as she grips a paintbrush in her hand.

A deep purple streak interrupts the tranquility of a silent white canvas.

Blue and green follow, swirling and blending to create a dark whirlwind of color. Royal gold. Shimmering silver. Bubblegum pink. Striking teal. Soft lavender. Her paintbrush flies over the canvas, filling every spot of white with color.

When the scene is complete, she leans back, taking it in with satisfaction. A small smile plays on her lips as she adds the finishing touches. Ahh. Perfect.

While she waits for her painting to dry, the girl flops onto her bed, wrapping one arm around her stuffed dragon. She flips idly through the pages of a book while keeping one eye on the painting, her excitement building.

Hurry, hurry, hurry.

Finally. The painting is dry. The girl leaps from her bed and sinks breathlessly into her chair, pausing for only a second to make sure no one’s coming.

She places her palm against the painting, an expectant look on her face.

The moment her fingers touch the canvas, she disappears.

The world she tumbles into is calm and serene. She lifts herself from the soft grass and takes it all in, a smile growing on her face. Tall, stately cedar trees surround a shimmering pool. Beams of soft moonlight dance over the water, making it sparkle and shimmer.

She glances up with a smile. The dark clouds that dot the sky promise rain. She smiles wider- rain is the most wonderful thing in the world to her.

It isn’t long before distant thunder rumbles. The rain begins.

The water begins to pour in sheets, soaking the girl. Her soggy hair plasters to her dripping face, and her thin dress clings to her. She is too overwhelmingly happy to care.

She closes her eyes and begins to spin and dance, faster and faster in the moonlight. The moon and stars seem brighter through the rain. The air is fresh and sweet. She inhales deeply. She is free.

The rain becomes harder. Puddles form between the trees, and the once silent pool is swirling and churning as it rises. Water pours in buckets from the  dark sky, rapidly filling it to the edges.

The girl glances down at her feet, which are adorned with her favorite blue shoes. She sinks to the ground and pulls them off, then dips her feet into the edges of the pool.

The water splashes playfully up around her legs. She steps farther out into the water, gasping at the chilling cold as water swirls around her. Millions of stars smile down at her, twinkling despite the rain.

Silvery moonlight illuminates the girl, making her seem to glow. Her bare feet dance over the rocky floor of the pool.

As she dances, the water rises. Deeper and deeper it becomes. Yet she does not notice. The wonderful, free feeling inside of her is too great to ignore.

Suddenly, the feeling is gone.

She gasps as an unexpected surge of water lifts her off her feet, tossing her and battering her in the sudden flood.

She struggles for breath as the water grips her with cold fingers. She tries to swim for shore, but the current is too strong. She struggles to stay afloat as the rain batters and tosses her. The water grips her with cruel, brutally relentless fingers, hunting her, never releasing her.

This world doesn’t seem so safe anymore.

I want to go back, her mind screams.

A log spinning through the water rams her in the side, making her gasp with pain. She begins to sink below the water, her legs still weakly kicking as she clutches her throbbing side.

Help, her mind shouts into the underwater silence. I need help.

No one can hear her.

Her burning lungs scream for air as she sinks deeper into the murky darkness.

She hits the muddy bottom with a soft thud, her mind barely conscious. Sharp rocks lay scattered around her. The water seems suddenly comforting and soft.

Give up, her mind whispers.

The words give her a sudden jolt. A tiny part of her mind still wants to fight back, despite the pain.

So that’s exactly what she does.

She forces herself to kick. Her arms reach upwards, groping for the surface. Her vision goes black as a sharp pain hits her lungs.

Air.

She bursts from the water with an agonized gasp. Her lungs drink in the sweet air as she struggles to shore.

She grips a tree root with numb fingers and scrambles onto solid ground. Deep sobs make her body tremble as she lies weak and dripping on the ground. The rain has slowed to a slow trickle around her.

After a while, she rises shakily to her feet, her dress a torn and tattered mess. The dark, rainy night is no longer beautiful- she wants nothing more than to leave.

The girl reaches into her soaking dress pocket with a shaky hand. Please, please, let it still be there. She breathes a sigh of relief as her fingers close around something smooth and cold. Her flashlight. Somehow, it survived the flood. She switches it on and stumbles off through the darkness, searching for her escape.

It isn’t long before she finds what she’s looking for- the tiny mirror she painted into the corner of the scene. Her escape. Her portal to home. She steps through without hesitation- she’s had enough of this fantastical world forever.

The girl stumbles back into her bedroom, dripping and cold. Her mind replays her terrifying adventure with a shiver as she changes into dry clothes. She runs her fingers over the picture she created. She will have to be more careful from now on.

The painting stays on the easel, the same as before.

Yet if you were to look closer, you would see something on the edge of the water.

A tiny pair of blue shoes.

_______

Salvation

_______

Not all haunted places are houses.

I, for one, have a haunted soul.

When I was young, I was happy. I had a Father whose love was all I desired. He kept me close by his side, always leading me with a warm and gentle hand.

I should never have left Him. I should have realized how loved I truly was.

Yet I was foolish.

As I grew older, I wanted more than His love. I wanted the riches of the world. I wanted human compassion.

So I left Him.

I wandered blindly off into the world. At first, I thought I was happy. I had money. I had friends. But as the glamour of these earthly treasures faded, I realized the truth.

The world wasn’t safe.

I had strayed past the border. I thought I knew what was beyond my Father’s love. I thought that earthly treasures would sustain my desires. I thought I would be loved.

I was wrong.

This place had no love, no compassion. The world relentlessly mocked me, taunting me as I struggled to escape from the stinging insults.

There was nobody who really cared about me. No one to replace my Father. Suddenly I longed for nothing more than to return to the man who was not of this earth. The man who truly loved me.

But when I returned, He was gone.

I was alone.

Alone.

Alone.

Alone.

The word echoes in my head like a haunting whisper. I close my eyes and try to block out the blows, but they force past my barriers, making me gasp with pain at the feeling of a million invisible shards of glass sinking into my soul.

I shield my face with my hands and sink lower into the muddy soil, tears soaking my ragged gown.

“Help me, Father.”

My voice is thin and hoarse as I repeat the plea. The words echo in the silent forest until they fade into nothing.

My heart feels cold and empty without my Father’s love. He was so comforting, so kind. I remember with a bitter sob the way He used to take my hand and guide me, making sure I didn’t fall.

I dig my fingers into the thick black mud as I hate myself for leaving Him.

Suddenly, I hear something.

A faint whisper in my mind. A weak, tiny spark of life.

I’m here.

A hoarse gasp escapes my lips as I struggle to lift myself from the muddy ground where I have lain for so long. I rise shakily to my feet, my dirty hands trembling as I light the dusty glass lantern I haven’t used for years.

The flame ignites with a hiss. I clutch the tin handle in my hand and close my eyes, listening.

Come.

The voice is barely audible, yet it gives me strength I didn’t know I had. My feet skim over the ground as I follow the whispers. The muddy remains of my gown cling to my legs, making me stumble.

I scan the forest, searching for any sign of light. Of hope. Of love.

Finally, my aching eyes spot a narrow opening in the trees.  As I race closer, I realize that a thin beam of light is dancing over the ground ahead of me.

Come closer, it whispers.

I reach towards it, but it leaps out of my reach.

“Who are you?” I whisper.

The light starts to grow, twisting and spinning as it shines.

You know who I am.

The light begins to take shape. I step closer, my heart pounding.

“Father?”

The shining man opens his arms, a smile filled with inexplicable love and compassion on his face.

My daughter.

I leap forward and embrace him, muddy tears sliding down my cheeks. He strokes my tangled hair, his hands just as warm and gentle as they were so many years ago. Joy and peace overwhelms me.

I am home.

_______

Writer

____

The torch in my hand is small, yet it is bright. It lights my path as I lead my people.

You know who I am. Some say I will be the last to rule this kingdom. Our world is no longer safe. Our borders are strong, yet mysterious invaders still slip past. Disguised in dark cloaks, they hunt my people with cunning brutality.

I remember when I was young. My sisters and I would play in the streets. Now, the children cannot come outside. My people cower in their houses with fear. They call out my name in the silence, challenging me to help them. To make my country safe once more. They believe I am broken and scared, like them.

They are wrong.

I will be strong. I may seem weak, but I understand what needs to be done. My kingdom needs a hero. That’s what I’ll become.

My pen pauses on the paper as a slow smile spreads over my face.

I love the feeling of pouring my thoughts onto paper. The moment when inspiration strikes.

I strive to be unique in my stories. I want to capture the words on paper in a way you will never forget. I want you to see what I see. I want you to feel what my characters feel.

I can always be better. I can always find imperfections in my writing.

Yet I still love it more that I can ever express.

I am a writer.

____

Finding Hope

_______

There were three of us – Etta, Celia, and I.

Our hair was dark and straight. Our eyes were the color of dust. Our faces rarely held a smile. We, like our parents, were quiet and solemn.

But Etta was different.

Her eyes were green, the color of life. They sparked with emotion. Fair curls framed her round face. She sang as she did her work, as if she had found a little ray of sunshine in our dark valley.

Tall, foreboding trees surrounded the edges of the valley we called home. They marked the unspoken border that we dared not stray past. Once, when we were very young, Etta wandered too close to the trees. We found her stroking the rough bark of a towering pine with her pudgy hand.

My sister and I took her hands and led her away, our hearts pounding. That was when we realized our sister was different. We knew that we must keep her safe.

The years passed. It wasn’t long before I was no longer a child. Celia was twelve years of age, and Etta was ten. She had not changed. Sometimes, at night, she would awaken me to tell me of her dreams. They unsettled me- she said she had visions of a land filled with light and joy.

I told her that the world wasn’t safe anymore. We were secure here in our valley. Everywhere else had been destroyed. I didn’t like to bring up the bad memories- but I needed to remind Etta of what lied beyond our fortress. I told her of the terrible war, of the brutal men who tore us apart. They hunted us with cunning and relentless anger. They broke so many hearts.

We needed a hero to stop them- but no one came. So we became our own heroes. We gathered whoever was left and fled to the valley where they could not find us.

Etta never argued with me- but I could see the doubt in her eyes. She believed there was something worthwhile beyond the valley. I dearly hoped she would never try to leave.

My hopes were in vain.

The morning was warm and humid. Celia and I worked in the fields while Etta tended to the younger ones. As I toiled in the hot sun, soil clung to my face and hands.

Suddenly, I heard a gasp.

I looked up to see Celia running across the fields, her work forgotten. She was chasing someone. I dashed after her, my heart pounding.

Etta.

My sister had nearly reached the edge of the trees when Celia and I clutched her arms. Celia gasped for breath, anger and shock on her face. “Etta! What are you doing?”

Etta smiled at Celia and I and flung her arms around us in a warm embrace. “I love you.”

She wrenched suddenly from our grasp, turned and disappeared between the trees.

I froze, my hands trembling. Celia clutched my arm, her face white. “That little fool.” I squeezed her hand quietly. There was nothing to be done now. Etta was gone.

__

The days passed. I knew that Etta had left, that she would not return. Celia and I did not speak of her, yet I saw the pain in her eyes. I shared the feeling in my heart. Etta seemed to fade from the memory of our silent parents. The pang in my heart grew stronger when I realized the truth. Etta was our sister. Try as we may, Celia and I could never forget her.

Celia and I were lying in bed one night when she suddenly threw back the covers, a determined sort of fear on her face. “Etta.”

I choked back the sob that suddenly swelled in my throat. “We can’t, Celia.”

She clutched my hand. “We have to. I must know if she is alive.”

I nodded slowly, my stomach churning at the thought of what we were about to do.

__

Etta was tired.

She had been working her way through the thick pine forest for two weeks. Water was plentiful, and she had food in her bag. She wasn’t starving, but she was exhausted. Her feet ached and her face was streaked with dirt.

Etta was determined.

She could feel the hope and love- it filled her mind and heart, spurring her on. She knew it was close. She didn’t know how, but she knew that somewhere, someone was waiting for her with open arms. Someone who loved her. Someone who had hope for her and her family. They didn’t realize it, but everyone in the valley needed a hero. So that’s what Etta had become.

So she trudged on, ignoring her aching legs.

A day passed. Etta ate the last of her food, and a spark of fear grew in her heart. She would die without something to eat.

But she carried on. The joy she anticipated kept her from failing.

Finally, after three more long hours, she spotted something up ahead.

Light.

A sudden burst of energy propelled her forwards and she began to run, her feet skimming the forest floor. There was an end to these woods- she could see it in the distance, illuminated with light. She kept her eyes locked onto it as she moved closer….closer…

Etta burst from the trees with a strangled gasp. She took in the sight before her with unspeakable joy. Finally. She was home.

___

I twined my fingers around Celia’s as we took the first tentative step past the trees and into the forest. I held my breath. Nothing jumped out at us. Nothing moved except my pounding heart.

Celia turned to me and whispered my name in the silence, her voice trembling. “Julia?” I took a deep breath. “Don’t be scared.” We trudged forwards. The forest was quiet and still. Pine needles crunched under our feet. I wished I had a map- I had no idea where we were going. We just wanted to find Etta.

We walked in silence. Sometimes Celia would start a quiet conversation, but it would soon fade as we both trailed off into our own quiet worries. The bag grew heavy on my shoulder as the day wound slowly on.

Finally, we stopped to rest.

A thin, trickling stream wound through the trees, supplying us with water to drink. We each ate an apple from my bag. The heat was almost unbearable, even in the shade. Our valley had been much cooler than this. I wiped the sweat from my face and took my sister’s hand.

We traveled on. Our pace was slow and weary. Once, I thought I saw a thin white creature slip through the trees, it’s translucent legs like a spider’s. I shook my head and stepped closer to Celia. The heat was getting to my head.

By the end of the first day, my legs ached and my feet burned. We walked by lantern light until my legs wouldn’t take another step.

Celia looked worried. “Where will we sleep?” I sighed. “I suppose on the ground. Pine needles are soft… right?”

Wrong.

Celia and I tossed and turned on the rough and scratchy ground all through the night. Every little noise made me jump in fright.

Morning came. I was sore and aching, but the cool morning air reinvigorated me. Celia and I ate quickly and began to walk again.

By midday, the sun was hot and bright once more. Celia stumbled an moaned. “We can’t go on like this, Julia. I’m too tired.” She was right. Our determination to find Etta had driven away our common sense. We couldn’t survive in the woods alone.

I tried to ignore the guilt that rose in my chest. “We’ll have to turn back.”

I’m sorry, Etta. The silent words replayed themselves in my head. Celia nodded, a broken look on her face. Slowly we turned to find our way back home.

As we began to leave, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. There was a bright light barely visible in the trees ahead. It looked like an opening in these never-ending trees. An escape. Maybe, just maybe, Etta had found her way out there. Celia had spotted it too. She grabbed my arm, new excitement on her face. “Come on!”

We dashed forwards, our skirts billowing around our legs. As we reached the clearing, I gasped.

A town. A real town, with people. We weren’t the only ones left. Etta was right.

Slowly, we made our way down the hill and to the outskirts of the town. Everything was shining white. Harmonious music floated from the open doors of a strange building with a cross on the front.

Suddenly, I saw Etta.

She was holding the hand of a young girl, and they were chattering merrily. Etta wore a flowing white gown, and her face was illuminated with a strange light. Shimmering butterflies hovered around her, making her seem all the more beautiful.

She turned and saw us standing on the hill. She smiled and ran to us, her curls flying. “Celia! Julia! I knew you would come.”

I flung my arms around my sweet sister. “Oh, Etta.” Celia fought back tears.

After a while, I pulled away and looked around. “What is this place?”

Etta twirled around, her dress spinning with her. “This is Elior, the city of light. Come with me, sisters. Come and meet our Father.”

_____

Revenge

______

I am Lydia Harper, hunter. Hunted one.

The Fairymen are my worst enemies. Tall as a tree, a moan like a nightmare. Relentless. Cunning. Brave. Brutal.

And they’re hunting me.

They’ll have to catch me first.

I work by day- the Fairymen avoid the light. If I can draw them into the open sunlight, I can kill them. It takes all my wit to lure them, but I’ve had practice….

My pen pauses mid-sentence as Juniper stretches and yawns on my shoulder. She gazes at me with tired eyes. “Morning.” I close my diary and slip in into my bag. “Hey, Juniper.” She rises into the air on minuscule wings and runs her fingers through her dark hair. “Ugh. I have got to take a bath.” I smile. “Okay.”

We head towards a nearby spring where Juniper can bathe while I write in my diary. I settle down on a rock while she splashes noisily.

I suppose I should start back at the beginning.

My only remaining relative was killed by a Fairyman when I was only seven. That relative was my father.

A tear hits the page, leaving a messy splatter. I swallow hard.

It wasn’t just any Fairyman- it was the Master. The leader of them all. Someday, I will kill him. I will have my revenge.

My pen digs into the paper, leaving a rip in the page. I compose myself with a sigh.

A good memory is rare for me….most of my memories are the kind you lock away deep in your mind and try to forget. I’m glad to say I have nothing but good memories of my father. He was a kind man, always very protective of me. Shortly after I was born, he found a tiny faerie, alone in the woods. She was small and sick, but he had confidence that she would make a good guardian for me in the years to come. He saved her life. She was indebted to him. Juniper and I became inseparable. She’s been with me ever since. When I need a hero, she’s there. Always kind. Always faithful.

I pause and glance up to see Juniper shaking water droplets from her wings. “What are we doing today?”

I close my dairy and put it away. “Hunt.” Juniper lands in my hair and slides a miniature dagger from her belt.

“Onward!”

___

We’ve been looking for Fairymen for a few hours now. The sun is hot and brutal, even in the shade.  Juniper spots a big oak tree up ahead where we can rest. When we reach the tree, I sink to the ground and drink thirstily from my canteen. I offer some to Juniper- but she isn’t there.

“Juniper?”

I hear her voice. It’s shaky and quiet. “Lydia.”

I turn and see her. She’s sitting on something nailed to the tree- it looks like a wooden sign. I lean closer and see that words are carved in the cracked surface.

Faeries be here.

A silver tear streaks down Juniper’s cheek. “This-this was my home. When I was young.” Her voice fills with hate. “The Fairymen destroyed us all. They killed my friends, my family.” Her voice cracks. “My brother.”

Juniper rests a hand against the cracked wood. “His name was Abiel.” She whispers his name in the silence. I can see in her eyes just how much she wishes she could bring him back.

I take her in my hand. “Oh. I’m so sorry.” She smiles sadly. “Thank you, Lydia.”

We move on in silence. Anger burns in my heart when I think of Juniper’s family. We both will have revenge.

___

The day winds on slowly. Juniper spots a Fairyman, but he slips into the shadows and is gone before I can attack.

Finally, night comes. The instantly cool air refreshes  us. We begin to hunt by moonlight. I slip through the trees quietly, my dagger ready. Juniper’s wings glow softly in the darkness, lighting my way through the dark trees.

Suddenly, I see him.

Taller than the tallest tree. Thin, bony legs making the ground tremble. Razor sharp teeth filling a transparent jaw.  An eerie moan. He turns and looks straight into my eyes.

The Master.

I fumble through my bag for my lantern and light it with trembling fingers. Juniper’s face is illuminated in the firelight. She grips my finger. “This is our chance, Lydia.” I nod shakily. Finally.

I grip my dagger tightly in my hand. Juniper clings to my shoulder, her face brave. “Go.”

I charge forward with an angry shout. Blood rushes in my ears. My feet pound against the forest floor.

Suddenly, I stumble.

My lantern flies from my hand and hits the ground with a sickening shatter. I am alone in the darkness. I touch my shoulder- but Juniper isn’t there. I look around wildly for the tiny fairy.

I finally see her, lying still on the dewy grass.

A piece of broken glass has pierced deep into her chest. Blood spills from the wound, soaking the ground.

I kneel next to her as I tremble. This is my fault. Juniper gazes up at me, her eyes glazed over with pain. I can barely hear her voice as she speaks. “You have to listen to me, Lydia.”I lift her gently in my hand. “No… I- I’ll get help. You.. you’ll be okay.”

She speaks in a shaky, pained whisper. “There’s something I never told you. Your father made me promise, for your own safety.”

I fight back a sob and murmur, “What?”

“It.. it is the key to defeating the Fairyman Master. I am sorry I never told you before.”

Tears stream down my cheeks. Juniper knew how to kill the Master all along, yet she never told me.

I take her tiny hand. “Please, no.”

Her body shudders in my palm. Her voice is barely audible as my best friend speaks her last words.

“Find a dragon.”

_______

A Mother’s Love

__________

“She needed a hero, so that’s what she became. She saved so many lives.”

My father pulls my warm, colorful quilt up to my neck. “You know the story. Why do you ask me about her me so much?”

I twist the patchwork fabric in my hands. “I miss her.”

My father nods slowly, his hands moving methodically as he picks up my books and clothes that are scattered carelessly around the room. “Your mother was messy, like you.” He slides a worn red novel with gold lettering onto the bookshelf. “Books were her life. She had hundreds of books on every subject imaginable. We used to joke that she should open a library.” He smiles sadly as he folds a pair of jeans. “She had a big heart. Sometimes I think it was too big- she wanted to help everyone.”

“She loved books? You never told me that. Where are all her books now?”

A mix of sorrow and anger washes away the longing smile on his face. “I got rid of them.”

My heart sinks. “Why would you do that?”

He turns and walks out without another word, turning off the light and closing the door firmly behind him. It’s like a silent message: We’re done talking about that.

I pull my blanket close around my neck and think about my mother. I was still a gurgling toddler when she died, but I have a few memories of her warm smile and gentle hands. These thoughts are comforting in the frosty darkness.

The night passes slowly. Cold air seeps through my creaky window, making me wish I had a hundred more quilts to wrap myself in. When morning finally comes, I’m exhausted and cold. I stumble out of bed and pull on a thick sweater. Breakfast is a cold bowl of cereal. I eat slowly while my tabby cat rubs against my legs, purring loudly. My father is nowhere to be seen.

At school, I stare blankly out the window, lost in thought. My teacher reminds me several times to pay attention, but my mind isn’t focused on class. I’m thinking about my mother’s books. Why would my father get rid of hundreds of books? I wonder who he gave them to, if there’s a way to get them back.

As my last class ends, the students file noisily out. I’m left alone at the smooth brown desk, my head turned towards the window as I think. As the teacher turns to leave, she pauses and looks back at me. “Madeline, are you alright? You’ve been awfully quiet today.”

I pull myself out of a daydream to respond. “Oh, I’m fine, ma’am. It’s just… did you know my mother?” She nods understandingly. “Yes. She was a good woman. She died a hero.” I smile. “I know. Thanks.” She pats my hair and steps quietly out. I slide from my chair and follow, my books tucked tightly under my arm.

As I trudge down the sidewalk towards home, a chilly wind threatens to knock me off my feet. A few busy shoppers hurry by, clutching their bags close. When I finally reach my house, I stomp in, shivering. My father is still gone- but I’m used to it by now. I fix myself a sandwich and eat it hungrily.

All of a sudden, I hear something- a muffled thump coming from above my head. I drop my sandwich and glance fearfully at the attic stairs. Something’s moving up there.

I grab a flashlight and slowly ascend the creaky stairs, wishing I wasn’t alone. When I swing open the attic door, a strong musty smell fills my nose. I shine the flashlight behind dusty boxes and crates, my heart pounding furiously.

Suddenly, something jumps out from above me with a yowl. I scramble backwards with a scream, then realize it’s only my cat. I laugh shakily. “You naughty girl.”

As I turn to leave the attic, something catches my eye. I step back into the freezing darkness and shine my flashlight on an old, white cardboard box. I see something written on the side in my father’s messy scrawl.

Bad memories. Do not open.

I almost drop the flashlight as I read and re-read the words. Bad memories?

Despite the warning, my curiosity is too strong to ignore. I pull open the cardboard flaps and sneeze as dust flies everywhere. I reach down and pick up the first thing in the box- a newspaper clipping. I squint in the weak light from the flashlight and begin to read.

WOMAN KILLED IN SHOPPING MALL FIRE, SAVES HUNDREDS

Marie H. Jacobs was killed in Friday’s fatal fire at the local mall. Officials say she warned hundreds of unaware shoppers instead of saving her own life. The firemen wouldn’t have arrived in time, witnesses tell us. The town is indebted to the courageous acts of this woman. Funeral processions will be held December 14th.

My hands are trembling so badly, I almost drop the paper. Father never told me when Mother died. According to this newspaper, today is the 10th anniversary of her funeral.

I blink back unshed tears as I turn back to the box to see what else it holds. When I peer into it, I can’t help letting out a choked gasp.

Books.

I reach into the box and carefully lift out stacks and stacks of dusty, well-loved books. When I pick up the first book, I realize it’s not a book at all.

It’s a diary.

I flip to the middle and begin to read.

Saturday, May 4th, 2005

My sweet Madeline took her first steps today! I can’t believe my little baby is one..time flies! She is such a little joy that I couldn’t live without….

I’m laughing and crying all at the same time as I read my mother’s long, winding description of what a sweet baby I was. I can see from these pages how much she loved me. How much she cared. The tears roll down my face and splatter onto the musty pages. I’m crying so hard, I don’t hear my father climbing the attic stairs.

Suddenly I feel a firm hand clutch my shoulder. My father’s voice is barely a whisper.

What do you think you’re doing?

I look up at him and choke back my tears. A mask of grief and sorrow covers his face, but deep down I know he was selfish to keep these things from me.

“I loved her too, you know. You didn’t get rid of her books. You lied.”

He drops his head into his hands. “That box isn’t to be disturbed.” I set the diary down and take his trembling hand, then pour out the words in a rush. “Can’t you see? These books, the diary. She left a bit of herself in the pages. She wouldn’t want us to lock that away.”

At first he doesn’t move, his arms hanging limply at his sides. Then, slowly, sadly, he looks down at me with a broken smile. He wraps a strong arm around my shoulders. “You’re right, Madeline.”

Those three little words make my heart leap. I sink onto the ground and he settles next to me. We read her diary by flashlight, laughing at the way she captures my baby antics. The books are next- heaps of them. We flip through the pages, smiling at her handwritten notes on the corner. Show this book to Madeline, someday.

We both miss her terribly, but she left a priceless treasure behind. Her love for us is forever captured in the pages of these books- and no one can take that away.

_________

Imagination: Part 1

___________

Mirr-ors are pass-ages to f-an-tastic w-orlds, guar-de-d by cre-atur-es call-ed the Fe-rr-y-men.”

Eloria works slowly through the words, her lips moving as she reads. She lifts her head and pushes a wayward curl out of her face, her eyes dancing.

“This is a strange book, but I like it. I’m so glad I’m learning to read.” She smooths her faded, torn dress with a happy sigh.

As she reads, she walks. The paths of the park lead her through a neatly trimmed field, filled with young trees. She soon reaches a fancy metal bench and sinks down onto it, her eyes never leaving the pages of her book.

The busy park around her begins to fade away as the story unfolds in her mind. The cold metal bench vanishes, replaced by a beautiful, mossy log balanced over an icy waterfall. Eloria’s ears become deaf to the voices of a million children as the waterfall roars, proclaiming it’s power to whoever will listen. Majestic oak trees lean down to give her shade, their leaves whispering in the breeze.

Eloria sinks down into the soft moss of the log, her mind absorbing the wonderful world with inexplicable joy. She pushes her wild curls from her eyes and gazes down at the waterfall, cherishing the cool mist rising from the water. I won’t ever leave, her mind whispers.

As she lays happily among the moss and ferns, her eyes catch something moving below. A thin, graceful creature emerges from the waterfall, her transparent wings glittering in the sunlight. She soars upwards, and Eloria gasps as she tucks in her wings and lands perfectly on the log, hardly disturbing a single fern.

The creature notices the girl, and her deep green eyes meet Eloria’s with curiosity. Eloria inches slowly forward and holds out a hand. “Don’t be frightened, I won’t hurt you.”

The creature places her head in Eloria’s lap with a gurgling purr. Eloria laughs and strokes the scaly head. “I’ve met a lot of creatures- pegasi, hippogriffs, and even a bear.” She giggles. “But I’ve never met anyone like you. Are you a dragon?”

The creature gurgles again, her tail twitching playfully. “You’re a water dragon?” Eloria’s eyes dance. “That’s lovely. I’ve never seen a water dragon before.” The dragon flaps her sparkling wings and purrs. Eloria leans her head against the dragon’s scaly neck.

The girl and dragon stay this way for a long while, Eloria talking softly about anything and everything while the dragon listens intently, soft purrs escaping her. They seem to be the perfect pair. The dragon plays gently with the girl, pretending to be fierce, but stopping at the last second to lick Eloria with a rough tongue.

Suddenly, as if in a nightmare, the log they’re sitting on begins to tremble and crack. The dragon lets out a screech and flaps into the air, watching Eloria with worried eyes. Eloria’s eyes are closed tightly, and her voice is strained.

“No, please!”

The beautiful world shimmers, blurs, and vanishes, the dragon along with it. Eloria is back in the park, looking fearfully up at two sneering boys. One of them speaks loudly to the other.

“I hear something’s wrong with her brain.”

Eloria gasps angrily.

The other boy leans close to her face. “My father said all those books are giving her ideas.” His hand shoots out and grabs the book from her arms. Eloria screams. “Give it back!”

The smaller boy shoves her roughly to the ground and walks away with his companion, laughing. Her book is tucked tightly under the bigger boy’s arm.

The concrete path is cold and hard, but Eloria can not move. She feels as if her heart has shattered into a million shards of glass, impossible to repair. She closes her eyes, but without her book, she cannot imagine her way back into that beautiful world, where she has a friend. Where she is safe.

___________

Imagination:  Part 2

________________________

Warm, rough asphalt grinds against her face and hands.

She gropes for that warm, happy spot in her mind where she can melt the world away in an instant.

It isn’t there.

Cold tendrils of fear wind around Eloria’s heart as she realizes she may never be able to imagine again. That wonderful part of her that could summon a fantastical world in a moment seems to be… gone. The sharp throbbing in her chest has faded to a strangely numb pain.

The book had been her most prized possession- in fact, it was the only book Eloria owned. It was old, scuffed, and missing a page, but the story it held was enchanting to her. Though she’d read it countless times, it had kept her vivid imagination from fading away.

Slowly, Eloria lifts her head and pushes away her hair with a sweaty hand. The sun is hot and unforgiving. She struggles to her feet and starts towards home, her parched throat aching for a drink. Her arms hang limply at her sides as she trudges homewards.

It’s not long before Eloria reaches her house. She ascends the creaky front steps, her legs feeling heavy and sore. She opens the door and speaks in a trembling tone to the man sitting at the kitchen table.

“Father, my book is gone.”

Her father doesn’t reply. His unblinking eyes never leave the thick, bubbling gray mixture on the tabletop.

Eloria slips softly away as she fights back a new round of tears. She should have known he wouldn’t listen. That he wouldn’t care. He never does. Sometimes, Eloria wonders if he even remembers who she is.

She steps quietly into her room and closes the door behind her. A desk covered in papers and notebooks occupies one corner of the tiny room. Her bed fills the rest of the space, the creaky mattress covered in a faded blanket. Eloria sinks into the chair with a sigh, her hand gripping the pencil tightly. Slowly, she begins her boring, ordinary homework.

As she struggles through the work, she feels as if she’s back at school, her teacher’s echoing around the classroom. “You’ll never have good grades if you don’t snap out of it. Get back into reality. Stop daydreaming.”

Eloria realizes bitterly that her teacher won’t have to worry about her daydreaming anymore. The thought is almost too much to bear. Her pencil hits the carpet with a dull thud as Eloria jumps to her feet, new determination shining on her face.

She steps forward to her scuffed mirror hanging on the wall. A tiny wooden sign hangs above it, three words carved into the surface. Here be Faeries. Her mother made it for her, before she died.

Eloria’s reflection is nothing special- wild curls framing a plain freckled face. She peers closer at herself, wishing she could see straight into her mind. Maybe there’s a way to spark her imagination again. She remembers with a sad smile when she used to pretend this mirror was her portal to imaginary worlds.

Eloria begins to think about all the creatures she’s met on her imaginary journeys. The tiny, graceful faeries in their enchanting forests. The majestic pegasi, high in the clouds. The happy memories well up inside her mind, making her sad. She almost wishes she could lock them away with a warning never to uncover them again. Warning: Bad memories.

Despite all this, her mind keeps coming back to the dragon. The beautiful, playful dragon. Will she ever be able to see her again?

She feels the emptiness in her mind- but she pushes through the pain anyway. She has to try. Eloria closes her eyes tightly and tries to picture the scene in her mind. Shimmering waterfalls. Mossy log bridge. Swaying oak trees. A wonderful dragon.

Nothing.

Eloria sobs in despair and sinks onto her bed, her hands hanging limply over the sides of the mattress. The empty feeling in her mind swells through her body, filling her with deep sadness. The tears flow freely down her cheeks, soaking her blankets.

Suddenly, deep, deep inside her mind, something moves.

Eloria sits straight up with a gasp.

The tiny spark in the back of her mind begins to grow, filling her head with warmth. Imagination. Inspiration. The feeling spreads through her body, replacing the emptiness with joy. Eloria squeezes her eyes shut, trembling with anticipation. She imagines her dragon. Shimmering sides. Gleaming wings. Playful green eyes. Slender, curving neck. A contented purr.

Her head is swirling with emotion- but Eloria is still in her bedroom. It didn’t work. What happened?

Her shoulders slump. She was so, so close. But she missed again.

Suddenly, a low purr rumbles through the air. Something smooth and heavy rests against Eloria’s shoulder. She whirls around with a gasp.

Her dragon.

Eloria lets out an ecstatic shriek of joy and flings her arms around the slender neck. The dragon purrs contentedly. She’d missed this little human. Eloria runs her hands over the dragon’s shining scales, happiness welling up inside of her. This time, the dragon seems so.. real. Like she’s not just imaginary anymore. Can it be possible that the dragon isn’t just a figment of her imagination this time?

Eloria pushes away the thought. She’ll figure that out later. She glances at the dragon’s shimmering wings, an idea growing in her head. “Can you carry me?”

The dragon spreads her wings with an excited gurgle. Eloria climbs carefully onto her back, surprised to find how comfortable it is. The dragon tucks her wings in close and soars out the open window, into the cool evening air.

Eloria grips the dragon tightly as they rise high into the sky. Her town becomes tiny compared to the great blue canvas above her, streaked with pink and red as the radiant sun sinks lower and lower. The dragon spins and flips in the sky, her body glittering in the sunlight.

Eloria glances at the setting sun. “I’d better get back home now.” Reluctantly, the dragon turns and soars back towards Eloria’s home. They fly past the house once more. Eloria peers down, and her heart skips a beat to see her father peering up at them through his window. His haggard face is pale and shocked.

Quickly, Eloria urges her dragon to land. She wraps her arms once more around the dragon’s neck. “I’ll see you soon. Stay safe, sweet girl.” The dragon purrs and bumps her girl gently with her head.

Eloria tenses as she hears a voice behind her. “Magic?”

Her father is standing behind her, a spark in his eyes. “Magic. That’s what she needed.” He waves a bent, faded photograph in the air- a beautiful young woman, with thin gold hair framing her pixie-like face.

Eloria shakes her head, her eyes wide. “Oh, no. No, no, no.” She closes her eyes and imagines her dragon away. When she opens her eyes, the dragon is gone. Her father is staring down at her. Eloria’s heart pounds as he reaches out and takes her hand, his watery gray eyes gleaming. “My Anne needed a hero. I couldn’t be that hero.” He crouches down and stares at her face with a terrifying smile.

“But with your help, I can. Magic. It’s the missing ingredient to the cure.”

______________

Midnight King

________

It is midnight. The forest is dark and foreboding, with no sound to be heard except the whispering of leaves in the breeze. The moon has slipped behind thick clouds, leaving the sky to become a thick, gloomy blanket of shadows.

In the woods below, a tiny nut-brown mouse peeks timidly out from between the fallen leaves. It’s sensitive whiskers twitch and tremble as it steps cautiously forward to nibble a fallen acorn.

Something moves nearby, and the mouse freezes, it’s body quaking. He vanishes silently back into the brush.

Just as the mouse disappears, something emerges from the trees, a deep aura of power radiating from the creature’s body. Four dark hooves trot softly through the leaves, and the creature’s sleek sides gleam as the moon peeks out from behind the blanket of clouds.

The horse moves quickly through the trees, as if drawn by some invisible force. He stops, ears pricked, at the sight ahead of him. A shimmering pool of water glistens in a small clearing, the water as clear as glass. Bright moonlight reflects off the surface, creating a silvery glow.

The horse trots forward, his ebony wings brushing against the trees as steps towards the pool. He lowers his muzzle to drink, his tongue savoring the cool, sweet water.

His reflection ripples in the water, dark as midnight, smooth as glass. He is a pegasus, the king of all winged creatures. The griffins and harpies obey his word, and even the great dragon will tremble at the mention of his name.

After a while, the horse fulfills his thirst. He turns away from the pool and drops to the ground to roll in the soft grass. After a while, he slowly clambers to his feet and shakes his thick mane with a satisfied snort.

He casts a final glance at the sparkling, rippling water before slipping silently away into the trees.

_______

Broken

________

The tall, jet-black figure slips through the small doorway, a long cloak wrapped around his body, a hood disguising his face. Ebony mist surrounds him, cold and foreboding, surging with tendrils of fear. He reaches up a dark hand to throw back his hood and survey his surroundings.

The hut is small and meager, with only a chair, bed, and trunk to fill the empty corners. The man notes with pride that the walls and floor are sparkling clean, with not a spot of dust or dirt in sight. Moonlight streams through the tiny window, filling the room with a silver light.

He turns to the bed, where a small lump is curled up under a ragged quilt. The man bends over and pulls away the quilt with a cold hand, revealing the young girl underneath. His thick mist surrounds her body, making her whimper in her sleep. Suddenly her eyes fly open, and she jumps to her feet and scrambles backwards, her eyes wide.

“No.”

She snatches something from under the quilt, her hands trembling with fear. It’s a tiny, tattered cardboard box, the flaps carefully closed to hide it’s contents. She hugs it close to her chest and gazes up at the man. He smiles painfully, his haunting voice a mix of cruelty and sorrow.

“Be a good girl, and give it here.” He holds out a misty, gloved hand.

She tosses her white hair away from her face and stares up at him with defiance sparking in her dark eyes.

“Never.”

The man shakes his head. “You never will learn, will you?” His voice lowers to a dangerous tone, his eyebrows furrowed behind his dark veil of mist. “Lamya, give me the box.”

She eyes the small doorway, her arms instinctively squeezing the box close to her heart. “I will never give it to you, Father. You will have to kill me first.” With that, she ducks under her father’s arm and dashes out into the cold night, her pure white nightgown swishing around her ankles. Her father turns slowly around, fury filling his eyes.

“If you insist.”

He steps out of the house, shaking with rage. Slowly, he reaches out and places his hands against the walls of the hut, mist seeping from his fingertips. Dark, thorny vines burst from the ground, their thick tendrils squeezing the small structure as it groans and creaks.

Lamya watches from the edge of the forest, her heart pounding. She speaks, her voice cracked and terrified. “No!” She kneels on the wet ground. “Please, Father.”

Her father turns to face her. “This is your last chance.”

She closes her eyes for a long moment, then opens them with new, grieved determination on her small face. “Fine. Destroy my home. You will never have this.” She reaches her hand into the box and pulls out a small white necklace, a sad smile growing on her face as the ivory pegasus dangling from it’s chain shimmers and glows.

Her father lets out an almost inhuman growl, and the dark vines instantly tighten their grip on the cottage. The walls begin to crack, the roof trembles and quakes. All of a sudden, the whole structure crumbles, and Lamya’s only home is gone, nothing remaining except a small heap of black dust.

Lamya sobs, her milky white tears flowing freely. The only thing she had left to love has been destroyed. She feels something crack deep inside of her, as if her heart has split in two. Her hands tremble and unbelievable grief covers her face.

She is broken.

Her father watches from his dark cloud, fighting the deep urge to run to her side, comfort her, and be her loving father again.

After a while, Lamya dries her tears. With one last glare at her father’s shadowy figure, she slips away into the trees.

As soon as she is gone, her father sinks to his knees, all traces of anger gone from his face. He touches his own necklace, adorned with the cracked and broken figure of a dragon. Black tears drip slowly down his face, wetting his cloak. He tears at the ground with dark fingers, a bitter sob escaping his ebony lips.

He is broken.

_______

Misty Morning

________

Magical.

That’s the only word I can think of to describe this place.

Pink mist rises from the surface of the lake, sparkling and shimmering. The sunrise casts a colorful hue over the water, creating an enchanting rainbow in the mist. I can almost see the fairies and pegasi peeking through the dark trees, dancing in the early morning light. I’ve been told I have too much of an imagination, but I can’t help myself. This breathtaking image is one I never wants to forget. I take a photograph in my mind, silently promising myself never to forget this place.

As the sun rises over the trees and into the sky, the mist fades away. The lake is left smooth and blue, the sparkles gone from the water. I turn slowly away. The magical moment may be gone, but I’ve captured it forever with the picture in my mind.

__________

Royal Reflections

_________

A deep, bubbling creek winds through the woods, rays of sunlight dancing over the surface of the clear water. On the grassy bank, there is a little girl. She wears a torn and dirty dress, and her short brown hair hangs down around her face. A wilted flower crown rests on her head, entangled in her hair.

She leans against a tree, a book in her hands, staring intently at the pages as she reads of an exciting battle between a dragon and a pegasus. The story is enchanting, filled with princesses and knights and castles.

Finally, she finishes the book and closes it with a longing sigh. She wishes she could be a princess, and be beautiful. She sets her book aside and leans over the edge of the bank, staring distastefully at herself in the water. One hand reaches down, and she runs her finger over her rippling reflection, wishing she could erase it.

Slowly, she closes her eyes, imagining with all her might.

Her short, choppy hair becomes long, chocolate ringlets.

Her dirty dress becomes a beautiful gown, trimmed with pearls and lace.

Her wilting flowers become a golden crown, embedded with rubies.

Timidly, she opens one eye, and peers at her reflection once more. This time, she smiles happily as she fingers the pearls around her neck.

At last, she is a princess.

_________

At The End of The Road– (A story I’m writing on the collab blog Girls Writing For God’s Glory.)

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

Home Song

______

I remembered the day when I came to the realization that, in a way, the fence around the orphanage was to keep the public safe from the kids  – not the other way around. The children in that place had done terrible things – at least, most of them had.

Eben and I hadn’t done a thing. Though naturally, if someone sees two kids come out of a portal in their backyard, then they’re going to call the police. That how we ended up in the orphanage.

We’d lived in that place for almost 9 years before the terrible virus had swept through, leaving only a few survivors. Now, the orphanage was just an empty building.

We had escaped soon afterwards, starting the journey home.

The woods were dark that night, and I was glad to have Eben’s company as we trudged through the darkness. “Rowa, we’ve been walking for days. Are you sure this is the right way?” I assured him it was.

The portal wasn’t far from here. Once we found it, all we had to do was re-activate it before we could finally go home. We’d been gone for almost ten years. Sometimes I missed Dad so bad, I cried. Eben did too, though he didn’t know I saw him.

It began to rain, and we curled up under the protection of a large tree before falling asleep. I, of course, had a dream.

The room was filled with beds, end to end. Coughing teenagers were covering the floor. As I walked by, one of them grabbed my leg.I know you do magic, girl.  You have to save us.  A girl in the corner chimed in a raspy voice.Yeah, Rowa. Cure us.

I backed away from them, running out the door and into the yard. I couldn’t cure them.

They would all die.

My twin woke me up. I opened my eyes to see Eben holding his dripping wet sock over my face. I sat up. “Ugh!” He laughed and pulled it back onto his foot. “Morning, Rowa.” I sighed and stood up. “We’re almost, there, Eben. Time to go.”

We had been walking for an hour when the trail came to an abrupt stop. Right in front of us was a tall building, it’s ominous doors rising tall. Eben reached out and pulled hard on the door, and it swung open with a creaking sound.

Inside was exactly how I remembered – 6 portals for six worlds, each one different. And dangerous. I took Eben’s hand as we walked towards the fourth one… home. We placed our hands on each side of the portal.

I closed my eyes, concentrating on what my mother had said. You have a strong voice, Rowa. Use it well. I began to sing. I heard Eben’s voice chime in, and the portal began to hum as our voices got louder. The humming came to a stop, and I opened my eyes and hugged Eben excitedly.

“We did it! We’re going home!” His eyes were shining as we jumped in, greeted on the other side by a man who hugged us with tears in his dark eyes.

Dad.

______

Uriel

______

I hurried through the water, tiny waves lapping at my legs. As the sun rose, I panicked, beginning to run. I wasn’t supposed to be outside right now. The city of Shyam wasn’t safe after dawn.

As I reached home, I began to climb the ladder on the side of my house, feeling the rays of light on my back. I hurried in the door. Aunt Ada greeted me, shuddering as she saw the light. “There you are, Leila! You made it back just in time for bed!”

I trudged up the stairs to my bedroom, changing into dry pajamas before slipping into bed. Then, I pulled out my book – the one I hadn’t read yet, but had been wanting to for days.

I opened to the first page. “Once, there was a land, where the people slept all night and were awake during the day.” I paused. “What?”

The book was strange, but I was captivated as I read about the town of strange people who were up during the dangerous hours of day. With every page, the strange ache in my heart grew stronger- as if the book was filling me up with that lonely, confused feeling.

I wanted my parents, though I knew they didn’t want me. I didn’t even know who they were. Aunt Ada had found me when I was a baby, floating in a rowboat in the lake. All alone.

I finished the book, my eyes drooping. I fell asleep, and had a dream….

A woman in black was striding towards me as I lay on the ground, shielding my face from the sun. The woman reached down and helped me up off the ground. “Child, come to your senses! The light isn’t bad. It is a blessing, a tool that helps us. We shouldn’t be afraid of it.”

I wondered how she could see in the light, and covered my eyes with my hand as I responded. “I-I’m so confused. I’m not afraid of the light, though I feel like I’m supposed to be. Everyone in Shyam fears it.”

The woman sighed. “Let me show you something.”

She whispered a word, and the dry land we had been in vanished, replaced by a snowy terrain. I shivered in my thin clothes, but the woman did not appear to be cold.

She pointed up a hill, where I saw the outlines of buildings in the distance. The woman faced the light bravely. “Do you see that? That is the city of Uriel. There, we rejoice in the light. It is a blessed thing. Your home is Uriel, Leila. Not the dark city of Shyam.”

As I looked at the city, I believed her. Uriel felt right. The light was beautiful, wondrous. I turned to ask the woman how to get there, but she was gone. My vision blurred….

I sat up in bed, smiling. Wrapping myself in my quilt, I walked to the window. The light was radiant.

I spotted something on the beach, gasping as I squinted to see closer.

The woman from my dream was standing on the sand, waving to me. I waved back, then pulled on some jeans and a shirt. I slipped quietly out of my room, then down the hall, past the sleeping Aunt Ada.

As soon as I got out of the house, I ran down the beach to the woman, then stopped. I didn’t know what to say.

She smiled at me, then spoke. “Leila, you need to know that your parents left you here in Shyam to keep you safe. There was a terrible war, and they couldn’t risk losing you. They were from Uriel, the city of light. Your parents missed you, Leila.” Her voice broke. “Very,very much.”

She pulled me into a hug, stroking my hair as she whispered, “I’m your mother.”

I hugged her hard, a tear rolling down my face. I believed her.

She took my hand and closed her eyes, whispering that word again. The light swirled around us, sweeping us away to Uriel.

I was going home.

______

The Gates of Amoun

______

I stared at the seashell in the palm of my hand. It’s soft green color and the soothing sound had always comforted me. It was the most beautiful thing in Amoun.

Amoun was a dark place, filled with smog and dust. The city was filled with factories, with only a little space left for the homes of the Amounites. Half of that space was filled with my father’s mansion.

The town was also extremely boring. I longed for something to happen, something that would give me a chance for adventure.

My father knew what adventure was like. He was the founder of Amoun, the only one here who had seen the outside world. I’d ask him about it, but he never really told me anything significant.

I’d rant about how we needed schools. I wanted to read. I knew he never really listened, though. He’d just keep nodding and saying, “Indeed.” I had given up.

He had things many of us had never seen, like books. He could read them, too! None of us could read. We didn’t have a school because all the children were in the factories.

The only thing that was the least bit interesting was when the trucks came. On the last Thursday of each month, excitement stirred through the town. The men of Amoun would all crowd around the expansive gates, working together to swing them open.

Then the trucks would rumble in, belching out great puffs of black smoke. The men would load up hundreds of crates and boxes filled with all the things we made in the factories.

All the Amounites would run out of their houses, pushing and shoving to get a better look. Sometimes something would fall from the backs of the trucks, some forgotten tidbit often too small to be noticed.

If someone saw it fall, there would be a scramble as everyone tried to grab the small keepsake from the outside world.

My seashell had come from the trucks. I’d seen it fall, then quietly slipped it into my pocket instead of causing a commotion. No one else seemed to think of that.

I traced my finger along it’s sharp edge before setting it back on my shelf. I’d had enough of Amoun. The seashell proved the outside world was there, it was waiting for me.

There were other towns out there somewhere, towns with beautiful things like my shell. Towns with schools and books. And I planned to find them.

Pulling on my shoes, I slipped out the door and clicked it shut behind me. As the sun began to sink, I quietly snuck through the alleys between the small houses until I came to the thick fence surrounding the factories.

I began to climb as I’d done many times before, my fingers gripping the wire tightly until I was safely on the ground again. Then I waited in the shadows by the factory that Elias worked in. It seemed like hours before he finally came, in a long line of dirty, coughing children.

Seeing me, he slipped out of line, his face lit up with a smile as his dirty blond hair fell into his eyes. “Hey, Scarlette! Why are you here?”

I motioned for him to sit next to me. “Well, I just wanted to say goodbye to you.”

“Say…goodbye? Where are you going?”

“Tomorrow, the trucks are coming. I intend to slip out the gates then. I won’t be coming back.”

Elias’s eyes grew to the size of saucers. He sat there for a while, just staring at me in silence. “We’re just kids. We aren’t supposed to be heroes or adventurers. That said, Scarlette, if you’re leaving, then- then so am I. However crazy you may be.”

I stared at him in shock, then began to grin. This would be a lot less scary with my best friend. “Okay. We leave tomorrow. Be sure to pack some food.”

Elias nodded. “See you then. By the gates.”

We both headed away, back to our homes for the last time.

Morning dawned bright and cheery, the exact opposite of my mood. When I awoke, my hands were trembling and I was dripping with sweat. Pull yourself together, Scarlette. You can’t chicken out now.

With that comforting thought, I pulled on my clothes and slung my bag over my shoulder. I paused at the door, glancing back at the expansive portrait of my father over the mantel.

“Goodbye, Father.” The door clicked shut behind me.

When I got to the gates, they were already open. The first truck had arrived, and the men were busy loading it. I spotted Elias in the shadows near the gate. He gave me a shaky smile. “Hi, Scarlette. You ready?”

I let out a breath.“Yeah.”

We stood and waited until the next truck pulled up. The crowd was thick now. Perfect. I grabbed Elias’s hand. “Let’s go.”

We pushed our way through the crowd until we were right next to the gate. Elias gripped my hand tightly as we edged out, staying in the shadow of the truck. Then we were out, and we began to run.

My feet pounded on the ground as we dashed away from Amoun. I gripped my shell tightly in my hand. The world was ahead of us. We were free.

______

Broken Memories

______

The boy dashed down the road, gasping for breath. Dust swirled everywhere, blinding him. He stumbled, falling hard onto the warm asphalt.

Struggling to his feet, he choked back a sob and began to run again. The ground shook as a deep roar filled the air, along with a smoky smell.

The boy gave a small whimper and veered off the road, dropping to his hands and knees. He crawled through the thick grass, then froze as he heard another angry roar.

Panicking now, he jumped to his feet with the last of his strength and took off again. Something came into view in the distance… the remains of a house, with only one wall still standing. Ashes lay thick around it, with pieces of furniture lying here and there.

The boy gasped as pain shot through his head, making him dizzy. He stumbled and fell again, laying very still until the pain faded. He half dragged himself behind the wall, curling up against the remnants of a table.

He suddenly froze, reaching down and picking something up from the ashes. A picture frame, partly melted, with a picture still inside. He dusted it off and looked closer at the girl in the picture, then dropped the frame as his head began to throb again.

As the pain slowed, he opened his eyes. “This is it. This was home.”

His hands trembled as he stared as the faded picture of his sister. She was younger than him, only 6 years old when…. when….

He screamed in frustration, the tears flowing.

WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER?”

It was like his own mind was taunting him, saying, “You’ve actually been here before. I just made sure you forgot.”

He dropped the frame again as the ground began to shake. A dark shape was charging towards him, surrounded by thick smoke. Scrambling to his feet, he ran towards the woods, hoping to hide in the trees.

The woods were cool and dark, a welcome change from the sun. The boy drew in deep, gasping breaths as he stopped for a moment, his whole body trembling.

He pushed on, holding onto the trees to keep himself from falling. Just as he reached for the next tree, his head began to throb again.

Blinded, he tripped and tumbled down a small incline.

At the bottom, his vision began to return. Sitting up, he saw that he was in a small canyon, filled with boulders and dust. The sun beat down on his shoulders.

Suddenly, the creature that had been pursuing him burst into the canyon. As the smoke cleared, the boy saw what the creature was…. a dragon.

It had slits for eyes, and it’s body was covered in thick green scales. It breathed a small puff of smoke and crept closer with a hiss. The boy scrambled backwards, his back hitting the side of the canyon.

He was going to die.

Closing his eyes, the boy braced himself for the heat of the dragon’s flames. Suddenly, he heard a voice calling, far away.

Gavin? Come on, Mom’s waiting for us! Gavin? Gavin!

His eyes popped open. “M-Megan?”

The dragon’s face shimmered and disappeared, replaced by the face of his sister. She reached forward and grabbed his arm.

Wake up already!”

Gavin sat straight up in bed, soaked with sweat. He turned and saw Megan, standing there with an impatient look on her face.

Gavin jumped out of bed and wrapped his arms around his sister.

“I’m so glad you’re okay, Megan.”

She patted him awkwardly on the back. “Um… I’m fine. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just glad to see you, sis. I had the strangest dream……”

______

Magical Moonrise 

______

A lonely ceramic girl sits on a crooked shelf, gazing across the messy, abandoned antique shop. She wears a faded cream dress, her soft golden locks framing her solemn face. On her head, there rests a tiny crown made of shining silver. She is a princess.

The girl is incredibly lonely, for the shop is a quiet, empty place. The only sounds in the creaky old building are the scurrying mice, pulling apart bits of an old wool coat to make nests for their young. There is only one thing in the old shop that is keeping the small girl from being completely alone. In the opposite corner of the room, there sits a faded pink teacup with a small crack in it.

Every night, as the clock strikes one, the teacup begins to tremble. A soft light spreads over the room as a miniature moon begins to rise, shining a bright light on the cup below.  Just above the brim, tall pine trees and rolling hills become visible from where the girl sits. The tiny world stays all through the night, until the clock begins to chime five.

Then, the moon slowly sinks back into the cup, the hills and trees fading away until the next night. The girl wants more than anything to be inside of this land that appears for a few magical hours each night.

The next night, she watches the moon rise once again. The light from the moon casts an eerie shadow over the cup. Suddenly, something soars into the air, right over the side of the cup. It lands on the ground with a snort.  The creature begins to move along the shelf, carefully stepping among the ceramic figures.

As it moves nearer and nearer, the girl’s tiny heart begins to thump faster. It’s very close now…as it steps into a beam of light, she sees what it is – a horse! A beautiful carousel horse, painted with a soft brown. She can see his saddle was once brightly colored, though now it is  faded to a much softer color.

A pastel blue pole rises from his side, but it does not hinder his movement. He’s beautiful,the girl thinks. I wonder why he’s here. The horse comes to a sudden stop, his muzzle inches from her face. Slowly, he lets out a breath. A warm, tingly feeling spreads down her face, her arms, her legs. Wait.. feeling?

The horse leans down, his deep brown eyes sparkling. His mouth opens, and he begins to speak. “Lift your head, young princess. Don’t let your crown fall.” Slowly, she raises one arm, then the other. She turns her tiny head. A soft smile spreads over her face.

Rising to her feet, she wobbles once, then begins to spin, faster and faster across the warped wood of the shelf. Her thin dress swirls around her bare legs. Coming to a stop, she says the first words of her entire life.

“I-I’m alive?”

The horse trots over to her. “Yes, you are, young one. Climb onto my back – we’re going for a ride.” An ecstatic giggle escapes her lips as she grips his pole in her hands. Clambering awkwardly onto his back, she lets out a breath. “What is your name?”

“My name is Saragon.”

She pats his soft head. “Oh! That’s a lovely name. My name is… it is.… I suppose I don’t have one.” Saragon looks at her small, worried face.

“The name Sarah mean princess. It seems fitting for you.” She gives him a wondering look, then tries it, testing the word on her tongue. “Sarah. Sa-rah.” She giggles again. “I have a name!”

Saragon tosses his head. “Now, we must go. The clock will soon strike five.” With that, the two take off, Saragon nimbly picking his way around the other figures as he makes his way back to the cup.

“Hold on, Sarah!” With a thrust of his powerful legs, he leaps up and over the side of the cup, landing softly on his feet on a large, quiet hill.

Sarah slips off of Saragon’s back, gazing around with wonder. The hill overlooks a whole forest, filled with rivers, lakes, and quaint little cottages.

She let out a small gasp and digs her toes into the grass, which is unbelievably soft and smells wonderful.

Saragon whinnies and nuzzles Sarah, and she sinks to the ground, wrapping her arms around him. “Oh, thank you, thank you, Saragon. I can never thank you enough for bringing me here.”

Saragon’s deep brown eyes sparkle again as he rests his muzzle against her shoulder. “I’m glad I brought you here too, young princess. Welcome to Dalziel.”

______

 EmberClipart

I am currently in the process of creating a photo story (a photo story is a story illustrated with photos) using my American Girl dolls as actors. It’s called The Smallones and you can read it here. 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read my writing! ❤

37 thoughts on “Writing

  1. I just read your first story on this page. DUDE! HOW CAN YOU WRITE SO AMAZINGLY! It’s SO BEAUTIFUL! I dare not read any more of your stories tonight, or I would probably be bawling all night. They are SO AMAZING! :O :O :O :O I Can NOT BELIEVE it! :O You’re so amazing, Clara, SO amazing. That is SO BEAUTIFUL! :O I can’t believe it just- just wow. WOW. You should give writing lessons or something.. have any tips for a terrible writer like me!? 😉 XD haha! 😛 Better get to bed… it’s 11:36, and I went to bed after midnight LAST night…and I have another early(ish) morning tomorrow. *sigh* Wow. *wipes eyes* You just have such an amazing talent, Clara. Great job with your story. GREAT job. You made the prompts flow so nicely as well! :O 😀 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Don’t tell yourself you’re a terrible writer- that’s my advice! 😛 I think you’re really good, and the more you write, the better you’ll get!! 😀
      Thank you SO MUCH. You’re so sweet. 🙂 ❤

      -Clara ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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