Happy Halloweensie

Pixabay images modified by author

Mike Allegra suggested that I give Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie Writing Contest a try.  The goal was to write a 100-word Halloween story appropriate for children (12 and under) using the words candy cornmonster, and shadow. Here’s my entry:

Monster under the Bed

Darla scrunched her blanket under her chin. “You can turn off the light, mom.”

“You won’t be scared?”

“I’m okay. And you don’t need to check under my bed; there’s no monster.”

Her mother kissed her. “Honey, I’m so proud of you.”

Left alone, Darla clutched her trick or treat bag. A gnarled troll with pointy fangs crept from the shadows beneath her bed. Its orange eyes squinted and curved claws rustled in a paper sack. “I got chocolates,” it growled. “What did you get?”

“Taffy, licorice, and candy corn,” Darla whispered. “Want to trade?”

“Bah.” The monster giggled. “Let’s share.”

Help: Flash Fiction #Flash4Storms

pixabay image

The hurricanes season delivered destruction across Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the rest of the Carribean. But that’s only a piece of the suffering that rips through the world and not the latest or the last. Sarah Brentyn is donating $1 for every flash fiction story around the theme of Help, up to $50.  Entries need to be in by October 14 if you want to join in. Just include a link to her site Lemon Shark so you get counted. I’ll match her donation, so let’s max her challenge out!

Help

Audrey climbed the steep, narrow stairs to the third floor and switched on the light. She kept a tidy attic, dusted, everything in labeled boxes from shoe-box rectangles to the one that had delivered her new washer. Many were stuffed to the brim, and some she filled gradually. She had empties too, waiting for the next wedding or birth, the next death, the next act of brutal terrorism, another war or earthquake, or a hurricane like the ones that spun across the ocean and left thousands in need of help.

There was so much despair that for a long time she felt guilty if she smiled, horrible for a burst of laughter. To appreciate an autumn day or lunch with a friend seemed selfish and careless as if all that suffering meant nothing to her, just another day of rain down life’s gutter. So, she compartmentalized, pared fragile layers from her heart and filled her boxes with fragments of a mangled world. And each day, she spent a few hours after work lifting lids and letting the emotions sweep her into fits of hilarity or weeping. Her boxes spared her from drowning in helplessness and kept her happiness safe. In a world gone mad, they kept her sane.

The Light and Dark of Sarah Brentyn: Guest Post

Sarah Brentyn swears she’s an introvert on the verge of becoming a recluse, and yet she’s one of the stars of the blogosphere – hilarious, clever and outgoing, commenting, visiting, guest posting, writing, and managing two blogs (in addition to a real life). Her posts are full of the humor and sarcasm of a natural wit, and yet, her book of flash fiction, Hinting at Shadows, is a foray into the darker, deeper emotions and struggles of the human journey. Sarah is a conundrum. Who is this woman? I invited her here to answer that question and tell us about these sides of her writerly self.

Sarah Brentyn: Living in the Light, Writing in the Dark

I’ve been asked how it is (or why it is) that I write a light-hearted, pseudo-humorous blog then turn around and pen some seriously dark fiction. I’m here to answer that question.

I am Dr. Jekyll.

Okay, I’m not. Or I could be. You don’t know.

Buckle your seat belts. We’re in for a bumpy ride. I’ve no idea where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing about me. I’m a conversational writer. People often say I write in a stream of consciousness narrative. That’s fair. I do. It’s why I like pantsing. (In the writing sense, that is. I’d never pull your trousers down to humiliate you. No, I would not.)

My blog? I freewrite. Jot down whatever comes to mind. My life, writing, the world around me…  Since I simply sit down and write, it’s unfiltered me. Sarcastic and silly and, sometimes, accidently serious. (With tons of alliteration, apparently.) There are ridiculous posts where my inner child is peeking out and there are thought-provoking posts where my philosophical nature is showing. It’s a mish-mash. Or “eclectic”, if you want to be nice. It doesn’t fit into any specific category. I’m okay with that because, if you think on it, people don’t fit neatly into specific categories, either.

My fiction? I dig deep. Find those roots and rip them out to have a good look. Examine what lies beneath. Get inside people’s heads. Dissect the sticky center. (Okay, that’s gross. It’s more studying inner workings than wielding scalpels.) There are a lot of psychological struggles, tricky emotions, and shadowy memories in there. I’m obsessed with the anatomy of human behavior. And I enjoy exploring it in flashes.

What’s so remarkable about flash fiction is that you can hint at the stuffing inside the teddy bear or you can show readers the rip in the seam. Cotton fiber or bean pellets? What’s inside the story?

I want to make readers wonder what the hell just happened then decide for themselves three hours later because they can’t stop thinking about it. When readers engage, I’ve won. Huge. Like that impossible water gun game at the carnival that’s completely rigged and no one ever really wins. Like that. I got the biggest prize they have and now can’t go on any rides because I’m hauling around a unicorn the size of a VW Bus. But that’s okay. I have cotton candy.

With fiction, I create things I wouldn’t want to experience. Though I do anyway. Vicariously. I’m very close to my characters. They’re like family. (The ones I don’t dread visiting during holidays.) Their stories affect me but I’m not stuck in their reality.

I think it’s safe to say that I live in the light and write in the dark.

My (Diana’s) review of Hinting at Shadows:

A string of story pearls

I just finished Hinting at Shadows and had to rave a little about this book of short fiction. When Brentyn says short, she means short. Most of the stories are about 100 words, what I refer to as flash fiction. I enjoy flash fiction, but wasn’t sure about reading a whole book of it. I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.

Every story is a pearl. The writing is exquisite and full of pathos with a focus on the poignancy of the human condition. Hinting at Shadows is the perfect title as each story is a tiny hint at a larger human story, one that is characterized by shadows – sometimes secrets, but more often complex feelings of loneliness, regret, longing, disappointment, and hope.

It would be possible to whip through this book in a couple hours, but I think it’s meant to be savored, just as one might read poetry. So that’s what I did. It’s perfect for someone who enjoys filling their free moments with words or someone who just loves beautiful writing.

Author Bio:

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi. She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them. When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies. She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Book Link: myBook.to/HintingAtShadows

Sarah’s Hang-outs: 
Amazon: Author Page
Blogs: Lemon Shark    and   Lemon Shark Reef
Twitter
Google+

Sight #Writephoto

The enemy showed up at the wall when autumn’s copper leaves twirled from brittle twigs and food ran shy. I slid my rifle from the borehole and dug in my pocket for a wedge of bread and wafer of dried fish I’d saved from my rations. The offering all I could spare, I reached into the cold tunnel, and my fingers lingered on the girl’s hand. She smiled, her pupils like glistening pebbles in pools of bronze.

Sisi buka nash corazones, ee?” she said in a language I couldn’t understand.

“You’re welcome,” I whispered. “You should go now.”

But I didn’t let go. She tilted her head, eyes crinkled in question. And as she did each day, she peered through the hole, and her voice lured me from the desolation of war. She told me stories in her strange tongue, soft words sharing blushed secrets and dreams. Her laughter rippled toward me, and at times, tears tumbled into the stream of words. She wiped her cheeks on the worn sleeves of her ruby dress, and I stroked her hand, yearning for her warmth through that dark stone hole.

I didn’t shoot her.

With the first snows, our officers issued fresh orders and we cleaned our rifles. I rested the barrel in the hole and waited. Bullets weighted my pocket beside the bread, and my fingers froze. She came with the others across the muted green of a beautiful and barren world.

“Ready!” my captain shouted.

Rifles clacked against the stones along the line. I raised my gun and sighted. Her red dress shone like a brand.

“Aim!”

She danced across the broken land, her eyes smiling into the black hole between us.

“Fire!”

I shot wide and high. She halted and stared at my borehole while those around her screamed and fled. Weapons barked like feral dogs; light flickered in the pocked blackness as we shrieked. The torrent of noise swamped my senses, and I shot through the hole until my rifle ran dry, shouting at her to run as tears blistered my eyes. Blood bloomed on her dress. She staggered backwards and pitched to the ground, snowflakes chasing her down.

Through the bitter winter, I stood vigil at my borehole, watching crows feast and snow frost the red silhouette of her body. In the spring, the last tatters of her ruby dress fluttered away in the wind, and I watched over her bones.

I don’t think I shot her, but she was just as dead.

***

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the wonderful prompt, despite where it took me.

***

Forgive me for this very rough translation of the girl’s words:
We (Swahili)
open (Indonesian)
our (Russian)
hearts (Spanish)
yes? (Arabic)

Alone – #writephoto

The child stood on the threshold of morn, his gaze to the dawning sky. “I am off to find heaven,” he said and beckoned Friend Wind to wander with him.

Grandfather Sun stretched his ancient fingers across the Earth. “I will light your path, my child.”

Grandmother Moon yawned and dipped her toe into the sea’s blue rim. “Safe journey, my little one. I will greet you at the close of day.”

The child launched his wooden boat. Friend Wind blew taut the sails and laced the waves with seafoam. The whales crooned love songs and mercurial fish glittered like schools of silver coins.

On the distant shore, the child paused where flowers dripped from trees in pink tresses. He traversed bamboo forests while Friend Wind slithered through the narrow leaves with the sound of rain. He climbed the terraced paddies carving the hills like dragon scales, and stood at the precipice where endless rainbows arced from waterfalls and painted the hills in vibrant hues.

And heaven eluded him.

Come the heat of midday, his goal carried him south to the land of pomegranates and tea leaves, and he rode camels beneath the palms. Friend Wind shared a whiff of fragrant spices and blew patterns in the shifting seas of red sand. The child gathered orange daisies in the desert, watched clouds mirrored in salt mines, and cooled his feet in fairy-pools. He hiked pastel hills and serrated shorelines looming over turquoise waters, sandstone pillars, and limestone islands jutting from the sea like fat thumbs.

And heaven eluded him.

In the afternoon, the child knelt at ancient temples, rode swans by the ruins of frosted castles, and climbed in ice caves. He capered with winter foxes in crystal fields of snow that turned into fields of tulips and lavender. He scaled giant redwoods and napped among the buffalo while Friend Wind whispered lonesome music through hollow reeds. In the twilight, he looked down into the canyons carved by water and Friend Wind laughed for he had carved those canyons too.

As the day’s end drew near, the child climbed a stone mountain that rose wondrously high, and his hopes soared. At the top of the bald dome, he looked for heaven and beheld nothing but Grandfather Sun in the mellowing sky. “I have searched the day through, Grandfather, and heaven has eluded me.”

“I have lighted your path,” Grandfather Sun said. “Now is your time to sit alone and reflect on all you’ve seen.”

The child nodded, too well-mannered to complain further. Friend Wind ruffled his hair and drifted down the mountain. Grandfather Sun winked a wise eye, and as he shuffled below the horizon, he dusted the world with gold.

“Little one, did you find heaven?” Grandmother Moon whispered over the child’s shoulder.

“Yes, Grandmother.” The Earth child smiled. “It was beneath my feet all along.”

***

The descriptions in this piece were gathered from looking at photos of the Most Beautiful Places in the World – Link Here. And Here.

Thanks to Sue Vincent for her Thursday #Writephoto Prompt.

Watchers #writephoto

I

There are moments

when the eye is beguiled

and the old brain fails

to glean meaning in signals

relayed through rods and cones,

the biological light-catchers

coloring our worlds.

I hunt for the familiar

among patterns and textures

splattered with nature’s brush

in chaotic precision.

My eyes seek fingerholds in crevices,

a path between stones

and perception of depth

before I venture a tentative step.

Yet, there are those moments

I am not meant to see

or pry open the secrets

and chart my journey

in illusory safety.

I soften my gaze

submit to the wonder

without etching borders

skip into creation

and be.

 

II

Nature’s tapestry

Paths hidden in greens and grays

Bewitch my old eyes

 

***

Thank you to Sue Vincent for the wonderful prompt that fooled with my eyes and brain.
Join her every Thursday for a new photo prompt.
Happy Writing!

Peace – #Writephoto

In the end, I returned to the sanitarium. This time by choice and without the reams of commitment papers, the hustling of orderlies, and motherly coaxing of nurses. The baby-blue walls and polished linoleum shine with familiarity, and the bars feel less restrictive than I remember.

I wander the halls with a certain air of freedom, considering my state. The same doctors make rounds in their cliched white coats and spectacles. Clipboards hang on hooks bolted to metal doors, and fluorescent lights hum in group-counseling like a chorus of wasps.

Despite the harsh glare of the world inside these walls, I’d found healing here. It came with compassion, by listening to stories with a crack in my heart, by risking a touch, a tear, an act of kindness. Not toward me, but toward others. Healing wasn’t about banishing my demons, a goal that had led me astray for years. It was grounded in the audacity to love, and I’d found my courage like a tidal wave.

I pass through the locked doors into the yard, and no one minds. The heat doesn’t bother me anymore, nor the cold, though today’s a brilliant day. At the rear of the grounds, a leafy glade snuggles up against the stone wall separating us from a less forgiving world. It once was a place for smoking or sex, but cameras curbed that urge, and now a bench offers a place for solitude and reflection.

This place suits me, and I plan to stay. I could travel anywhere in the world I wish, but my calling is here. Alone on the bench, I wait.

A woman heads my way. She’s thin, her skin sallow and eyes so tired they appear bruised. One arm wraps her body, and fingers twitch on chapped lips. She doesn’t see me, but I witness a cloud of despair encasing her like a thunderhead and a soul as bright as the sun. She sits beside me, and I enclose her in my arms, sate her need for love and peace. I open a crack in her heart.

In doing so, I receive more than I give and begin to heal my last regret—that my life’s purpose manifested with such sublime clarity only upon my death.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent for another wonderful Thursday Photo Prompt.