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The Spot Writers – “The Edge” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “A story that involves someone, not a stranger, standing on the edge of a precipice.”

This week’s story comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

MISTER WOLFE (the sequel or stand-alone) coming this summer!

***

The Edge by Cathy MacKenzie

Lucille pondered the path before her. The road would be an easy one, effortless and without any pre-planning. No sales to wait for, no tickets to purchase, no suitcases to pack. No mad tear to wake up at ungodly hours, no stress with eyes barely open while wondering if taxis would arrive on time, no boring three-hour waits at airports. No throngs of people mashed together like potatoes behind roped barricades, itching to reach the ticket counter before the next person. No dragging of suitcases or tripping over feet while moving too slowly through the maze.

Although at one time Lucille enjoyed flying, airport travel had become horrific, what with delays and terrorists and crashes, not to mention hassles of added security and other rigmarole. In the early days of plane travel, one could arrive thirty minutes ahead of a flight and still board. One used to be able to carry shampoos and hairspray and face cream in carry-ons. Once upon a time, one didn’t have to worry about the number or weights of suitcases.

Lucille and her husband had travelled frequently, spending winter months down south until he died and left her to travel alone.

But she wouldn’t travel by plane any longer, nor would she take any more road trips despite preferring—even enjoying—driving over flying. Never again would she have to ensure the car was in perfect running order or fill up the gas.

No, there’d be none of that on her trip. Peace would prevail, which is how travel used to be before the world changed. The only worry Lucille had was the lack of light, for there’d be no light until the end—if one believed myths and suppositions.

But the journey would be peaceful despite the black. As if confined in a windowless train zooming down the tracks, the predestined trip would be without an end in sight. Time and space would take over while barrelling along, enclosed in darkness, a metal time capsule let loose like a bullet aiming for its target.

What would she see when she arrived? The fabled pearly gates, the white-robed greeters, the happy reunion with long-deceased relatives? Would endless time permit one to do endless things, or would nothingness exist—a void similar to sleeping when one didn’t dream or have any sense of life? She’d suffered those nights—too many of them when she hadn’t dreamed—and when she opened her eyes in the morning, she realized if she hadn’t awoken, she would never have known she had died. For if you’re in that state and never wake up, how would you know?

Such strange and crazy thoughts that she could never share; no one would understand.

She wasn’t so special that Mr. Death wouldn’t call; she wasn’t that naive to think he’d forget her. No, death loomed in her future. She once prayed it wouldn’t happen too soon. She had wanted to remain on earth where she felt secure, wanted to breathe in smog so she could cough and gag, wanted to cry when peeling onions, wanted to laugh at nonsensical funnies. She once wanted to take the good with the bad for that was life. But life brought death. That was the bad in the good. People had no choice.

She watched clouds rolling by. She enjoyed searching for faces—Jesus or other famous people who appeared in fluffs of white. Photos of clouds were posted as mind games on Facebook—faces others easily saw but ones she never did until she wracked her brain and examined them more closely. Even then, she didn’t always discern a face, but if she concentrated and allowed her imagination to run amok, she could see what she wanted: endless peaks and valleys, smoky ranges, bursts of sun, vast oceans—even faces.

What a waste of time though she enjoyed the puzzle. And what else would she do if she weren’t peering into clouds?

Life had gotten the best of her. Nameless life with nameless faces much like clouds. Those nameless, breathing souls were real yet as distant as the ones high above.

She looked up and saw fluff piled high upon seas of foam. Blue like the ocean or as black as night. Or virginal white marred by dirt. Send me Your love, for Your love shines down upon us all, does it not? Tears hit some; others are lambasted with hail and snow. Cover your face; close your eyes! Capture those daydreams. And see those faces.

There! Was that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?

Did certain individuals exist within that narrow sphere between light and dark? Was there a slight groove where bodies were caught, a trap from which they’d never extricate themselves? Lucille pictured a narrow roadway between life and death, one minuscule and easily invaded where an unsuspecting person could easily find oneself, on the rim looking down and not having the opportunity to decide whether to jump or flee; falling simply happened. One would not know how or why. Later, one might wonder how the fall could have been prevented, how the event couldn’t have been foreseen—for it was an event, was it not? The end of a breathing soul, the end to whatever a person believed in.

Who actually believed in Heaven and Hell? Who truly believed they’d burn endlessly in a bottomless pit or float through fluffy clouds surrounded by angels? Perhaps that’s how cloud faces evolved—nameless faces not so nameless after all: remnants of dead souls who had nowhere else to go.

Would she know when she arrived? Would she be one of those faces leering at earth, filling up lonely lives by providing them with guessing games to pass the time? Who would know it was her except for family and friends? The rest of the world would pretend to recognize her as someone she wasn’t. For the remainder of her days, she’d be one of those nameless faces peering down.

She looked again. Brad was gone and so was his famous ex-partner. Despite intently studying the moving formations, she saw no other faces. She was sure someone in the world would, though. Didn’t the same clouds hover over every facet of earth, no matter what country one lived in?

She gave up examining the sky. Her neck hurt, craning as she had. Besides, she had better things to do.

She clutched her cloth handbag against her side, metal pressing hard against her skin, the unmistakeable chill seeping through the thin fabrics.

She sauntered down the dirt road. How had she ended up in the deserted countryside? She had hopped the bus at Winchester Avenue and stayed on despite various stops—most of which she had never seen before—and when the bus lurched to a stop, she hardly paid attention when she alighted.

She was so confused some days she didn’t know if she existed in life or in a foreign state from which she couldn’t extricate herself. She hadn’t known then of the edge.

After getting off the bus, she found it, although pondering fate while examining the clouds had lessened its relevance, relegating it to the back of her mind. Sauntering through the countryside had brought it back to the forefront.

The edge.

The long road before her wound like a large snake meandering through the landscape. Sections were hidden behind themselves as if construction crews hadn’t wanted trespassers to view the entire road, but she saw through the plan.

“We must go on adventures to find out where we belong,” she mumbled.

Clouds skimmed along as if they had a destination. They had the task of remaining over earth, moving or still, white or black. What could be more concrete than that? Options, seemingly at will. Options she didn’t have. Her fate was predestined; she was positive of that.

The edge. It was there, ahead of her, waiting…

Dust swirled around her feet. Teeny natty flies swarmed about her face. She swatted them away, but they persisted. She ran a few feet trying to escape. It worked.

For a while.

***

I think back to my story of Lucille. The truth still eludes me. I was never very religious. Sure, I believed—and still do—that some higher being exists, but really, who knows? No one—until death actually happens—can know with any certainty, and then, of course, it is too late. Who has ever returned to earth after dying—really dying—to fill us in on details? Does anyone really believe those who travel the tunnel—the real tunnel—to reach the other side come back to earth?

Studies have determined those people who travelled the tunnel and returned—those who saw the bright lights or hovered over their supposedly dead bodies—were never actually dead in the first place. In those instances, brain waves interfered or dreams took over.

While we’re living, we don’t know we live on the edge. We don’t know if we’re going to be hit by a car or murdered by a crazy. Or develop a lump and be told, “You’ll be fine. We got it all,” and a month later informed your life is ending; the doctors were wrong—they didn’t get it all.

We all live on the edge. The edge of today; the edge of tomorrow.

All of us are on loan to the world. When you die, however, you’re relegated to a six-foot-deep plot you’ll own forever unless you’re scattered to the winds where specks of ash will float and meld with the atmosphere, living on throughout time, for where would the ash go except exist forevermore, whether in the air or falling to earth? Each part of us remains though not in our earthly form.

I’ll always remember my fictional character Lucille. I’m a writer, you know, and I remember all my characters. Despite numerous individuals with varied ideas, opinions, and thoughts, I still don’t know what’s true or false. I never have, never will.

I remember stories I’ve written, stories about life and death and characters in my head who never gave up until I did them in or they did someone else in. Everyone has repressed anger! I don’t like killing off characters, but sometimes it’s fun. I can’t—and won’t—kill in real life. My parents taught me the difference between good and bad.

I could have saved those characters had I wanted.

And now it’s my turn.

I didn’t save Lucille before she travelled the tunnel, so how can I expect anyone to save me? Not that anyone would. Or could. Death happens.

Lucille reached her end. She saw the pearly gates, the white-robed greeters, the angels flying strong. Everyone needs an angel. I do, too, but there are none for me.

I see the edge, the precipice. The space. My today and my past. I don’t see my future. Nothing exists below or beyond. I don’t see gates or bright lights or masses of white. I don’t see anything except a dark, cold void. A black, blank canvas, a mass of nothingness threatening to suffocate me.

And it does.

My earthly journey has ended. I won’t return to earth. I won’t be able to tell you what happens next.

The edge beckons. I jump. I fall for what feels like an eternity.

And I land.

 

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

 

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “Goodbye” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story about “Someone, not a stranger, standing on the edge of a precipice.”

Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series. You can learn more at www.CorgiCapers.com.

***

“Goodbye” by Val Muller

The wind whipped her hair. It whirled past her ears, crisp and brutal, just the way it would sound in a movie. In fact, that’s just how she felt—like one of those wives in a movie, the ones waiting at the top of the hill to catch a glimpse of her husband’s ship coming in after months at sea. The wife of a whaler, maybe. Or a colonial bride waiting for her lover to return from a jaunt to England.

But that wasn’t what she waited for, was it? Her toil was quite the opposite. No one was coming home. Certainly not Greg. How could he come home to her if he’d never been hers in the first place? Her brain itched with the questions.

Her hand twitched, eager to type them out, to allow the angst to flow through the keyboard onto the screen. She needed to create more words, words, words.

No. Dr. Moore told her she’d written enough.

She clutched the pages in her hand. They tattered in the wind, and her hand threatened to let go. The words were sentient, like little beetles dotting the page. Size 9, single spaced, beetles, confined in margins as wide as the printer would allow. She’d done what her therapist said, after all: She’d printed them out and deleted the files. All those months of journaling, hundreds of pages condensed into a hundred and ninety-seven double-sided pages. Each page a saga. Each page wrinkled and tear-stained. She’d read the whole manuscript—that’s what she called it now—once over before coming out here. She’d touched the words, surprised they didn’t stab her fingers as they’d done to her heart, spoken each one aloud. And then she’d driven here.

She had to let go, Dr. Moore said.

And so she’d driven here, to the overlook, the site of her one and only date with Greg.

It was only once, Dr. Moore had told her. One date didn’t constitute true love.

True love didn’t need any dates, she’d told him. True love was true love, and Greg was her true love, plain and simple. The problem was that Greg didn’t yet realize that it was true love. She’d gone to Dr. Moore to ask how to make Greg aware. How to wake him up, to make his heart sentient.

But Greg was married now. She’d had to admit that at her last session. She’d used her alternate account to view his Facebook page, as she did every day and when her insomnia hit, and her heart sank when she saw the big announcement. There it was, posted by his wife. She could barely think the words—his wife! His wife? That was her! It was supposed to be her. But it wasn’t her in the flowing white gown, arm strewn around Greg. Greg, so handsome in his midnight black tuxedo.

And the comments. People had the audacity to congratulate him. Congratulate him? On what? On finding the wrong woman? On taking a step away from true love? And some of the subtleties, asking about children? Babies? Those were supposed to be her babies!

The wind whisked her tears away as quickly as they could come. This type of thinking was not productive, Dr. Moore had said. She needed to move on.

Move on.

Move on.

She peered over the cliff. It was so far down. If she were a bird, she could leap and soar across the ocean, find a new continent and a new lover. But she wasn’t one.

The wind licked the first page of her journal, and she loosened her grip. It was the page describing the first time she saw him, walking into the deli at college. His eyes had caught her immediately, though he didn’t see her. He was like a supernova. How could she look away?

Dr. Moore said he was more like a black hole.

The beetles on the page protested. They did not like being trapped on the page. The wind called to them. They wanted to be free. Free, just like she should be, Dr. Moore had said.

The page loosened and hovered in the air in front of her. She caught only frantic phrases. “Eyes like stars.” “His name is Greg.” “He’s majoring in biology.” Then the page lost its battle with the wind and was whisked out into the air.

Its journey to the sea took eternities. She wanted to jump out after it, to rescue it from its watery fate. The wind seemed strong enough to hold her, after all. But she knew what Dr. Moore would say. That would not be healthy.

So she stood firmly at the precipice, watching the page fall impossibly far out to the sea. She could barely make it out in the glossy sun on the water as it finally hit.

She released the breath she’d been holding. With the exhalation, her grip loosened, and more pages took flight. One, two, ten, two dozen. More, more, more. The thirty pages written about the night Greg told her it just wasn’t working. Her musings about how wrong he was, how he could not possibly know it wasn’t working after just one date. Her frantic sonnets about his knit hat and how it fell over his brow. Her haikus about each beautiful curl on his head. His wife would never appreciate him with that level of detail: she didn’t deserve Greg.

All that beauty, captured in words, now flew out to sea like a flock of birds. They landed peacefully on the waves. Her fingers twitched, thinking of what to say about that, about her urge to follow them.

But that would not be healthy. She could hear Dr. Moore tell her so.

So instead, she sighed once into the wind and mouthed the words as she returned to her car to find a way to move on, somehow, with her life minus her soul mate. “Goodbye, Greg.”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, avail

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Drought” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare. This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

The Drought by Chiara De Giorgi

The alarm went off. Half awake, I tried to sit up as I heard the news on the radio.

The drought had lasted for so long, that Gap Lake had dried up, revealing a body. After the necessary examinations, it appeared that it belonged to a young man who had gone missing fifteen years ago. There was evidence that he had been killed: someone had hit him on the head with a hammer, or something similar. Then the murderer had dumped the body in the lake. The police stopped considering the young man as missing, and started investigating his murder. The reporter never mentioned the dead guy’s name, but he didn’t have to bother, I knew it was Liam Hunter.

Who would have thought that the lake would eventually dry up? How long would it take for the detectives to come knock on my door?

***

We had been dating, Liam and I, that summer of fifteen years ago. It was really just a fling, I was twenty years old, for God’s sake!

I used to work the late shift at the pub overlooking the lake, and he used to jog for an hour every night after work, before stopping by for a beer. He was always alone, as was I, so of course we started talking, then he started waiting for me to end my shift, walking me home… One thing naturally lead to another.

We were both only temporarily staying at Gap Lake City, that’s one reason why I considered our relationship nothing more than a summer interlude. My hometown was miles away, as was his. We would just be there for a couple of months, to work and save money for our ambitious projects. He wanted to go study law in Paris; I wanted to become a singer. A famous one, I mean. Most people can be decent singers, if they try, but to be extraordinary, well: that takes work. And money. Money for singing lessons, money to support yourself while you tour to find the right agent, money to maybe bribe someone into giving you a chance… If you have money, life’s so much easier.

Anyway.

One time the condom broke and I got pregnant. I asked him to split the doctor’s fee, to get rid of the baby, and he flipped. He claimed I couldn’t do that, it was his baby, too. He wanted us to get married, give up our dreams, and settle down at Gap Lake City, which was the perfect place to raise a child and start a family, with the woods, and the lake, and the friendly community. I could keep working at the pub, he would keep doing whatever it was he was doing at the time (I honestly do not remember), and we would be a happy family.

When I told him I’d do nothing of the sort, he threatened to reach my parents and tell them. I said that I didn’t care, so he promised he’d ruin my career as soon as I had one, telling everyone who would listen what an awful person I was, to put an unlikely dream before my own child and love.

I didn’t mean to kill him, I just wanted him to shut up. Or maybe I did want to kill him. After all, that was the only way to make sure he’d shut up forever.

I hit him on the head with a hammer I found on the pier, he fell into the water and stayed there. I tied a rope to his chest and filled his pockets with rocks, then took a small boat and dragged his body across the lake. When we reached the middle of the lake, I let go of his body. He’s been resting in peace for fifteen years, and I’ve become a famous singer. What would happen now?

***

The alarm went off and I woke up. I listened to the radio, but the reporter never mentioned a drought, or Gap Lake, or the dead body of Liam Hunter.

I called the studio and cancelled all my recording sessions for the week, then took my car and drove all the way there, just to make sure.

The lake’s still there, I am safe.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers – “Achievemephobia” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

*****

Achievemephobia by Phil Yeats

 

Alan awoke with his heart pounding. Had lightening or thunder disturbed him, or was it a noise in his apartment? He lay in bed listening as his heartbeat slowed. The electric heat ticked, the fridge hummed, and somewhere, water dripped. Outside his windows, the night appeared benign.

Did a dream wake him? He only remembered the vaguest details of dreams, and those details invariably surfaced slowly.

Alan thought back to the previous evening. He’d sat in bed finishing the first draft of a chapter for his new book, then checked his email, his social media sites, and did some web surfing.

He lifted the lid of his laptop and tapped the space bar. It didn’t come to life. He hadn’t fallen asleep while surfing. He’d shut it down, not abandoned it to go into sleep mode.

An image of the cover of his first novel flooded his consciousness, emerging like an old Polaroid print on the very popular ReaderGuy blog. An annoying flashing banner pronounced it mystery novel of the month. Was that the problem? Had the ReaderGuy discovered his totally obscure self-published novel?

If he did, the notoriety and attention it brought would be a disaster. It would bring sales, the ReaderGuy trumpeted the fact his book of the month designations increased sales by hundreds, even thousands. They brought many struggling writers a lifeline they really appreciated.

But Alan didn’t covet sales. He desired nothing more than publishing the book and giving or selling a few copies to writing colleagues and the odd stranger. And he detested thoughts of media attention. The last thing he wanted was a reporter from the local newspaper interviewing him. And the possibility of a book review in the Globe and Mail—God forbid.

As his sleep-befuddled brain activity improved, he realized the flaw in his logic. If he’d seen such a posting on the ReaderGuy’s site, he would have remained awake all night worrying.

Alan grabbed his laptop, fired it up, and Googled Amazon.com books. When the Amazon site came up, he entered Tilting at Windmills in the search bar and hit enter. He scrolled down the thumbnail pictures of books with the same title until he found his familiar cover picture.

On the electronic version’s page, he scrolled down to the sales rankings and checked its position. One million, six hundred and eighty-five thousand, four hundred and twenty-three—what he expected for a book that hadn’t sold a copy for several months. When he checked, the paperback ranking was equally dismal.

He sighed as he returned the computer to the nightstand. No sales meant it was a dream, a real nightmare, but nothing that actually happened. He could sleep without worrying about reporters calling at all hours.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers – “Great Aunt Jessie” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme: awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.

This week’s story is from Cathy MacKenzie. Check out her novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, available on Amazon and other retailers. www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

Great-Aunt Jessie by Cathy MacKenzie

I felt—maybe sensed—hot breath against my cheek. I pretended to be asleep and tried my damnest to keep my breathing even and quell my fierce urge to jump out of bed. My arms lay across my chest, my right hand gripping my left wrist as if hanging on for dear life.

The whispers by my right ear were undecipherable. I remained even more still, playing possum as if dead in my coffin. Perhaps I was; I wasn’t certain, not at ten.

Slowly and deliberately, I opened my eyes. And when I did, I saw her: my great-aunt. Sitting at the foot of my bed as if she had every right to be in my room.

“Naughty Mikey,” she said, wagging her index finger at me.

An orangey-yellow glow radiated around her, highlighting the threatening finger that continued to move up and down as if robotized. Funny how I usually detected light burning against my closed eyelids. But not that night.

The curtains swayed against the open window, revealing the pitch blackness of night.

I shrieked.

And shrieked.

Mom’s thuds came down the hall from hers and Dad’s room, but I feared I’d be dead before she arrived.

Then, magically, the ceiling light illuminated my bedroom the same instant a voice cried out.

“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Mom plopped beside me, rubbing my clammy forehead. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

The room swirled. “Mom…” I glanced about. No eerie glow. No Aunt Jessie.

“Mom, Aunt Jessie was here.”

She scanned the room. “No one’s here.”

Did she really expect to see someone?

“She was here, Mom. I saw her.” I pointed. “At the bottom of my bed.”

A wasted effort.

“Just a bad dream, Mikey. A nightmare. Go back to sleep.” She gently pushed my head to the pillow and tucked the sheet and blanket tight under my chin.

“Didn’t you see it?” I asked. “The light. Bright and yellow and orange.”

“Bad dream. Bad, bad dream.”

I clenched my sweaty hands beneath the linens. I was a big boy and couldn’t admit my fright.

Mom switched off the light, bringing darkness to the room. I waited for the glow to reappear and prayed Aunt Jessie stayed away. I could handle the light better than I could her.

Great-Aunt Jessie, a spinster, scared the bejesus out of me. Droopy eyelids covered half her eyeballs. Flabby jowls. Saggy breasts that no bra could ever contain—not that I knew much about bras. Her skin, wrinklier than my grandmothers’, was mottled with brown and white raised marks. Spindly veined legs—what could accidentally be glimpsed beneath her dark skirts, dresses, or long pants—always reminded me of Dad’s many creased roadmaps, his blue-penned lines delineating various vacation routes. Her flapping finger followed me everywhere. “You dratted hellion,” she’d bellow. She didn’t like me—or any kids, for that matter. “Children must not be heard or seen,” she’d say. Whenever she visited, I wasn’t allowed to have friends over. Instead, I had to play quietly in my room with my make-believe friends. I was grateful she didn’t visit often. She passed on when I was six, and I was relieved the crotchety ancient thing was gone. Gone forever, to wherever old souls disappeared to.

Eventually, I fell asleep.

 

I stir when sunlight enters through the open window and onto my closed lids. I’m groggy as if I didn’t sleep well. The incident haunts me. I’m almost certain it’s an actual event resurfacing from my youth. Or could it have been a fresh dream, even a remnant of a past dream that springs back to life? If it was a dream, it seems it returns often, but that’s the way with dreams: difficult to distinguish if they’ve occurred once or several times during one slumberous night.

After getting my bearings, I open my eyes. I’m in my childhood bedroom in my parents’ house, visiting for the long weekend, my single bed long ago replaced with a queen bed. My wife, Cynthia, breaths peacefully beside me, one leg draped over mine. Our two children are in the next room.

After breakfast, Cynthia and Dad take the boys outdoors, leaving Mom and me at the table. She gets up and refills our half-empty coffee cups. I watch the steam rise until it vanishes.

“Mike,” Mom asks, “do you remember that night years ago when you woke up screaming about Aunt Jessie being in your room?”

My stomach lurches. The taste of bacon and eggs surges to my throat. After several seconds, I croak a feeble “I do” as if I’m that scared kid from twenty years ago.

“That light you said you saw? I saw it, too. As soon as I opened your door, I saw it.”

“You did?” I swallow, unsuccessfully purging the taste of breakfast, hoping I don’t embarrass myself by barfing. “You saw her? Aunt Jessie?”

“No, just the light. It was strange. Bright yellow. Almost orangey. It freaked me out, probably more so than you. You were so scared I couldn’t let on that I saw it, too.” She rubs her eyes as if awakening from a deep sleep. “I don’t know what made me think of it this morning. So odd…”

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 


+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [
https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

 

 

 

 

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The Spot Writers – “Paperwork in the Sand” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a story involving “”awakening from a bad dream or, even worse, a nightmare.”

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s masterpiece, available in paperback for only $5.75 for a limited time!

***

Paperwork in the Sand by Val Muller

It was a classic nightmare, one you don’t realize you’re having until you wake because it seems so real. Miriam was standing in front of the entire staff—front and back office. Dave had just introduced her, and all eyes pierced her body. It was obvious she was supposed to be presenting on some important topic, but she could not for the life of her remember what it was. Was it a financial report? Something about the new auditing policy?

The answer didn’t matter: soon everyone gasped and laughed. She looked down to discover the quintessential nightmare situation. She was naked. With her worry, her breasts bounced for all to see. They were too large to hide behind her arms. Dave scoffed and pointed. Bill pulled out his phone. Miriam’s thighs jiggled as she backed away, the rolls on her stomach squashing around to the delight of Jenny and Kim, who both did yoga and kickboxing after work and ate carrots and humus for lunch.

In the background, computers beeped and monitors flashed. The fax machine sang its cacophony of tones, and the computer played percussion. Miriam escaped to her cubicle, where her paperwork shielded her naked body. It towered over her, unending. She’d be working overtime for weeks, wouldn’t she?

She saw it all stretched before her: the long hours, the air-conditioned office ice cold on her skin, warming up with endless cups of coffee, a water fountain to refill her bottle whenever she got bored, filling up with donuts left over from the morning’s meetings…

Miriam’s phone rang. The called ID told her it was Alison Jenson, the boss’s boss. You only got a call from Ms. Jenson if you messed up real bad or did something amazing. And Miriam certainly hadn’t done anything amazing lately. She took a deep breath and reached for the phone. In her most professional voice, she answered. “Accounting, this is Miriam.”

Miriam’s eyes popped open. The sunlight blinded her pupils back into hiding. She rolled over, feeling that the sand had stuck to her sweaty skin. What time was it, and how long had she been asleep? Her heart sank. She reminded herself to breathe. So she wasn’t back, then. Not in the chill of the office. Not under the stacks of paperwork. She was still—here.

Here.

Waves lapped the shore. Turquoise. Teal. Azure. One of them was the right color to describe it. She couldn’t remember. Just another instance of missing Google. The color was miserably beautiful. If she survived this, it was a color that would haunt her dreams.

Her half coconut sat on the stone table beside her. How long had she been sleeping? Her skin pulsed a bit, red. Her heart skipped a beat as she remembered her pasty skin from the nightmare. She stood and examined herself. She wasn’t naked anymore—but close to. Her pants—shorts, now—barely covered her thighs. And those thighs that had been so plump in her dream—why, the hunger had eaten every last ounce of fat, every small dimple of cellulite. Even Jenny and Kim would be jealous. She sighed as the afternoon sun glared at her.

It wasn’t the golden glow of the afternoon sun back home, the one that welcomed you into its arms and eased you into evening. Here in the tropics, the sun seemed to go from high noon to night all at once. It would soon be evening, her chance to scavenge for shellfish.

She shook her head in admonishment. She hated when she fell asleep during the day like that. Those were her chances to spot a ship or a plane. She’d have to do better tomorrow.

That night, she breathed a word of bitter thanks. She had survived another day, she mused as she added an 87th tick mark to her tally along the rock embankment. The small crabs she had caught made for a pitiable meal, and as she laid down on her bed in the sand under the remains of her deflated life raft, she hoped that if her rescue didn’t come that night, she would at least be blessed with another nightmare about the never-ending paperwork in the air-conditioned office.

*

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

 

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Writer Wednesdays – Mary L. Bell

Today, Writing Wicket interviews Mary L. Bell. Mary is a multi-published Christian author. She lives in North Carolina and enjoys fishing, reading, and ministering in song with her hubby at functions. Her books are about small-town romance, suspense, and mystery, influenced by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Mary Ball

I asked Mary:

Q. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Through talking with new writers, I think one problem is they believe they have to pay a boutique or vanity publisher to become a published author. That is not the case; many traditional publishers are small and accept queries. Nine years ago, I started the publishing journey and queried about fifty smaller publishers before I was offered a contract with Prism Book Group (now part of Pelican Book Group.)

Q. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Yes. Thanks to Google and Bing, writers can find information about any subject. Goggling a phrase like, “What does a sad person feel?” would give lots feedback to help a writer capture the emotion of a scene.

Q. Do you want each of your books to stand on its own (if you’re writing more than one, that is), or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I like each book to stand alone. In my Celestial Investigation series, the sisters have a part in each story but the series reads fine without the other books.

Q. What book(s) have you written?

Publisher: Pelican Book Group

Escape to Big Fork Lake

Redemption in Big Fork Lake

Sparks of Love

A Love Valley Christmas

Publisher: Forget Me Not Romance (A Division of Winged Publications)

Thanksgiving Secret

Rose Colored Christmas

Sunny’s Dream

Luna’s Treasure

Starr’s Promise

Publisher: Life Inspiring Books

Christmas at Angel Ranch

Postmarked Ever After

Moments with God’s Word

An Angel’s Burden (Co-written with Blake Leonard)

The most recent release is Asheville Hearts, published by Dancing with Bear Christian Publishing

Q. What are you working on now?

Awaken the Past is a novella, which is part of Forget Me Not heroine in danger suspense set to release before summer. My work-in-progress titled A Special Christmas is part of the Romancing the Christmas Angel boxed set for the holiday.

For more information on Mary, check out her blog and other links:

Face Book-https://www.facebook.com/gracefulbooks

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Mary-L-Ball/e/B007O97Y0E

Website/blog- http://www.marylball.com

Twitter- https://twitter.com/inspires4mary

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Ghost

Time creeps

like ghosts at night,

blind, bleak, bloodless.

 

Twenty-five months gone,

dead months vanished

along with the living years

as if he’s never existed,

like those ghosts at night.

 

Not many parents

feel my pain

or my envy

for the pain is eternal,

ghastly,

one I’d not wish upon a foe.

 

If you have children,

pick one child from your flock

to be a ghost,

and if you have only one,

imagine that one a ghost.

 

Imagine a face alive only

in dreams and nightmares,

in a portrait upon a wall,

in a mirage in an elusive distance,

meagre memories,

flashbacks,

perhaps words from those who dare

to cite your loss.

 

I’ll never see my son again,

never to touch,

never to converse,

never to see him walk through the door.

I live with massive voids

and words unsaid.

 

I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell

where we’ll see loved ones,

where we’ll gather for an endless party.

I could be wrong—

how I’d love to be wrong,

I wish to be wrong!

I’d give my life to see my son again

but it’s too much make-believe,

a fantasy, not reality.

 

Days pass while

I breathe and eat and sleep

and dream and weep and laugh,

I’m resigned to images on the wall

and ghosts at night

and a hollowness in my heart.

Matt alone

In memory of my son Matthew, April 28, 1980-March 11, 2017.

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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The Spot Writers – “And Then, What” by Chiara de Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

This week’s story comes from Chiara De Giorgi. Chiara dreams, reads, edits texts, translates, and occasionally writes in two languages. She also has a lot of fun.

***

“And Then, What?” by Chiara De Giorgi

Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of every week, at 6:25 am, there I am. Yorkstraße. That’s where I get with the underground (Line 7), then I climb three flights of stairs and get to the platform to wait for my train.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall: I know how the Berlin sky looks like in every season at 6:25 am.

In Winter it is dark. Sometimes it is clear and I can spot a few stars. Not many, though: the yellow artificial lights pollute the view. My breath is a white puff that lingers, unwilling to leave the warmth of my body.

In Spring I can hear the early birds singing, and it doesn’t take long before I can witness the sunrise from the train platform: a heart-warming orange-red disc rising from behind the buildings on the eastern side of the station.

In Summer the sky is clear and bright, except on stormy days, of course. The mastermind that designed this train station decided that it did not need a platform roof, and only a couple small shelters were added, but all the benches are exposed, so when it rains you can either sit and get wet, or stand and stay dry. As if you weren’t already miserable enough, being out and about at such an ungodly hour on a stormy day.

The sky gets darker and darker as Summer turns into Fall, and colored leaves twirl and land on the platform, leaving the surrounding trees bare and melancholic.

 

I almost always read a book, while I’m waiting for my train.

My mind and my heart are not on the platform. They’re in a faraway land, living dangerously, and passionately, and bravely. Sometimes I have a really hard time letting go of the story and starting my work day. Sometimes my heart rebels at the thought of the day ahead. It doesn’t want to be chained at a desk, typing the day away. It wants to live.

That’s when it suggests we jump on a train, any train, and just go. Never get off, until the train stops. Where? Irrelevant. Anywhere will do. Anywhere but where we’re supposed to go. Don’t tell anyone, just go. Disappear, do something daring, do something new. Start over, be another. Just go, go, go…

While my heart restlessly beats, my face is still, my expression unchanged. No one will ever know about my inner turmoil. And the train approaches. What will I do? Will I dutifully get off when it reaches my station? Or will I be reckless and follow my heart’s desire?

My mind toys with the idea. Where would I go? What would I do? Who would I be? I could, I would, I wish… At some point, my mind asks the most difficult question: And then, what? What will you do, when you get to Anywhere? How will you live? Who will you meet? Won’t you wish to come back? What will people say? Will it be worth it?

My heart kicks and screams, but my mind hushes it. Be quiet, little one, dreamy one. Be quiet.

Alright, my heart says, I’ll be quiet. But then, what?

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].

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The Spot Writers – “Future Imperfect” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “Winter to spring—a time of transitions. Write a story that takes place in a train station.”

Today’s post comes from Phil Yeats. In December, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

*****

Future Imperfect by Phil Yeats

I strode toward the train station in the cold drizzle that passes for spring in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A large banner adorned the columns supporting the portico of the white marble edifice. It announced the grand reopening of the hundred-year-old building.

The celebration marked the completion a major west to east upgrade to the Canadian National Railroad by its new Chinese owners. The Quingzhu Corporation’s local representative had invited me to the May Day 2028 festivities.

I presented my personalized invitation to the security guards controlling the building’s formal entranceway. I would have avoided this event if I could, but as a consulting engineer with a business to run, I needed to maintain positive relations with large firms like the Quingzhu Corporation.

Inside, I noticed the renovations adhered to the building’s early twentieth century European style. The newly installed antique display board for arrivals and departures caught my eye. The numbers of trains at this end-of-line station was limited, so I anticipated no imminent updates. But I remembered with fondness the clattering noise I heard as a child when these old-fashioned display boards updated.

I was staring at the board willing it into action when an old friend from my university days tapped my shoulder. “Daniel, my old buddy. Long time no see.”

“Jason! How’s the intrepid investigative reporter?”

“Making a decent living, but no security.”

I shook my head and cast my eyes heavenward. “Similar story. Reasonable profit from most contracts, but without another coming down the pipe…”

“That’s what brings you here today, searching for your next contract?”

“Exactly. This company’s been good to me. They’re part of the growing Chinese Mafia, so I must keep them sweet.”

“If I were you, I’d approach your contact, do the obligatory glad-handing to line up your next project and get the hell out.”

“You expecting trouble? That why you’re here?”

“Yup.”

“Isn’t this a popular project? Quingzhu’s renovated the system, built up the passenger network and lowered freight rates. What’s the complaint?”

“The entire rail system’s in foreign, read Chinese, hands with no guarantee the good times will last.”

I eyed the bar, and the tables laden with finger food. “Okay. Long-term worries. They shouldn’t affect our enjoyment of this little party.”

Jason nodded toward a cluster of suits standing several metres away. “Investment execs. They’re here to make trouble because the last independently owned industrial company was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange this morning. Our now emasculated national stock market is reduced to trading the shares of subsidiaries of foreign companies and the few remaining Canadian companies in banking and other regulated industries.”

“Come on! That bunch of stock brokers aren’t planning a riot.”

“Probably not, but a confrontation between the pro- and anti-Chinese factions is inevitable. It might occur today. Keep your eyes open when you partake of the treats you’ve been eying. If a food fight develops, skedaddle, just like we did in university.”

I laughed. “Join me for a drink?”

“Sorry, you’re on your own. I’m working, looking for a quote or two from your stock brokers.” Jason turned away. “I’ll see you around. Good luck with your next contract.”

I smiled as I headed for the bar but followed Jason’s advice and kept my eyes peeled. When I noticed security personnel slithering into the room, I positioned himself with my escape route in mind. Just like the old days.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

 +++

C.A. MacKenzie is the author of the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers, including Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/.

 

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