#TheOnes

15
October
2013

The Ones: The Wolf at… by Kishan Paul

The Ones: The Wolf at… by Kishan Paul

 

The Ones is a writing blog game in which participants receive a story title, a little wrinkle to up the challenge factor and then must create a single draft story in no more than one hour from the prompt.  The game was fun and I hope you enjoyed reading the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.  Since I had already written the next prompt, I figured I’d share it anyway.  Here’s my last contribution to the One’s.

 

The Wolf at…

 

The sound of my father arguing with the strange men in black suits at the other side of the house makes my heart jump like that big bullfrog who lives by the edge of the lake. I don’t like the way Papa’s voice gets louder.

“Where is she?” one of them yells. I can’t hear Papa’s answer but I know the tone. He’s mad. Really mad. It’s bedtime, they need to leave and they definitely don’t need to talk to my Papa like that. When I try to run to help, Momma wraps her arm around my stomach, lifts me up, and carries me away.

I consider arguing but Momma and Papa are always right and they always know what’s best. So I don’t. When she puts me on my feet, it’s in front of our screen door to the backyard. My eyes and ears focus on the hallway and wait for my father to emerge.

But the yelling is getting louder. With it are new sounds. Sounds of things breaking. Screams of pain. Papa’s screams of pain. I’ve never heard him sound like that before and try to run to him but Momma holds me.

He needs my help. Why won’t she let me? I might be a girl but I don’t fight like a girl. Ask Robbie or Tommy down the street, they’ll never call me a girl again.

“Papa needs me. Please Momma, I can help him.” When I try to go again, she grabs my arms and makes me face her. Momma squats down in front of me. “Marissa, you have to listen to me, okay. Those men are bad. If they get you, they will hurt you. Do you understand me?”

What sounds like a dozen firecrackers going off at once comes from the other side of the house. Momma closes her eyes, a tear falls down her cheek. “Honey, you have to go now and don’t look back.” She points out the door into the darkness.

My stomach flips like it did when Papa and I went down that really big roller coaster at the amusement park and I start to shake. “Momma, don’t make me go. Please, let me go help Papa. I can make it better.”

And I can. Every minute of the seven years I’ve been alive, I’ve known I was different. Grownups said it all the time. Always bigger, stronger than the other kids my age, I used to wonder if I was a boy would they notice as much. But I’m not and now the bad people are here.

No one was supposed to find out.

All this time, we’ve practiced. “You will play house and tea party with the girls. No wrestling, no fighting, do you hear?” she’d say every morning while she brushed my curly brown hair for school. I’m not sure why she kept saying it. I hadn’t hurt anyone since preschool and even then, Tommy showed up a week later with a cool superman cast on his arm.

Then on the drive to school, Papa would give his daily sermon. “You don’t want to make the teachers feel bad so don’t ask any questions and don’t tell them they’re wrong. Wait until you come home and tell me. OK, Princess?”

I did everything they told me to do. So how did the bad people find out?

Momma shakes me out of my thoughts. I stare at her. She’s scared. I can feel it. “Baby. You are never allowed to go to them. Do you hear me? No matter what happens, you have to stay away. Promise me.”

The voices get louder and footsteps pound our wooden floors. I nod my promise. She kisses my cheek.

“Momma and Papa love you always never forget that.” She slides the door open and shoves me out. “Go to the forest. You will find friends there. They will help you. Go.”

The glass shuts and locks. I watch as the curtains close. The shadows of the people approaching her grow.

I walk backwards until my bare feet are no longer on rough cement but prickly grass. When the loud firecrackers from earlier start again, I turn and run. The night is thick and black but I know where I’m going.

At the edge of our yard, is the forest. As I get lost in its trees, the voice of one of the men behind me screams, “There she is! Go. Go.”

My feet scratch against the rocks and other hard things on the ground but it doesn’t matter, I keep running. The moon shines into the darkness, sprinkling silver light along the way.

I zigzag through the trunks, crouching low to the ground, the way Papa and I practiced. One hand clutches the bottom of my pink unicorn nightie and the other the red ruby necklace around my neck.

“This will always keep you safe. Never take it off,” Papa used to say. “You are my brave and fearless Princess. Remember how proud I am of you.”

I wish I had given it to you, Papa. It could have kept you safe too.

But I will not go back and the bad people will never get me. I promised and I’m a good girl. I do what my Momma and Papa tell me.

When I get to the edge of the forest, I freeze.

The lake.

The moon turns the black waters silver and almost peaceful but it still scares me. It has since I was small and almost drowned in there. Now I don’t ever get any deeper than my knees. With nowhere to run, I turn to the forest but stop when four grownups in suits step out from the trees and stare at me. They take a step forward, I take one back until my feet touch the cold water.

“We’re not going to hurt you sweetheart,” one says with a smile. But I can feel his heart – his evil. “Your Mommy and Daddy are waiting for you. We just want to take you to them.”

There’s no where to run. Squeezing the red ruby, I crouch to the ground, bundle into a ball and cry. I promised I wouldn’t let them get me.

I’m sorry Momma. Please don’t be mad.

Twigs snap. I squeeze my eyes and wait. Somewhere in the distance, a beautiful howl erupts. The sound of growls and screams hurts my ears and makes me press my hands harder into them. The noises become louder and louder until finally there is silence.

I stay in a ball, my eyes shut, ears covered, and shake.

Something cold and wet like my puppy’s tongue licks across my arm. When I crack an eye open, it’s to the silver fur of the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. My hands fall and I stare at the giant. Its forehead touches mine, sending warmth and peace into me. I feel its love. Eyes blue like mine stare back. Soon more come and lick and nudge.

Momma was right. My friends did come.

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01
October
2013

The Ones: The Gun’s Fear by Paul Hamilton

The Ones: The Gun’s Fear by Paul Hamilton

 

Hello again,

The Ones is a writing blog game in which participants receive a story title, a little wrinkle to up the challenge factor and then must create a single draft story in no more than one hour from the prompt. They then trade stories and post someone else’s entry on their website. My guest is Paul Hamilton.

 

The Gun’s Fear by Paul Hamilton

The smoke circles like a dog looking for a place to sleep. Uriah Gett is not a smoker, but he draws on the cigarette to feel something. It’s the reason he’s discarded sixteen years of sobriety in favor of the four empty shot glasses on the table in front of him.

“One more, sugar?” Gina asks, leaning over so he can see down the front of her dress, if he were so inclined. He looks into her eyes instead.

“No. Thank you.”

Gina looks him over. He’s handsome for his age, not too grey. He’s neither clean-shaven nor bearded, somehow existing in a half-state with a perpetual three-day scruff. His eyes are too still, as if glancing were a physical impossibility. Uriah is all stares. He reeks of loneliness.

“Why don’t you go upstairs?” Gina asks.

“No. Thank you.” He stamps out his cigarette in a clay ashtray.

“Then why don’t you come back to my place. Marv will let me off early.”

Uriah looks at the bartender, a moist, hunchbacked man living with a perpetual shrug. “No. Thank you,” Uriah says. Gina is hurt by this. She never offers to take customers home. Most of her shift is spent insisting she would never take a customer home.

“Fine,” she sniffs, “but if you ain’t drinkin’, you can’t stay.”

Uriah nods, spinning the empty glass in front of him with his thumb and forefinger. He wouldn’t mind going home with Gina, but he’d be poor company. A sour notion makes him wonder if he’s ever been pleasant company. Gina hovers over him, her way of following up on her threat. Possibly it’s her way of silently persuading him to change his mind and accept the offer. Uriah isn’t the only one who’s lonely.

He stands and rests a powerful hand on her shoulder, though he doesn’t look at her. By the gesture he means this: sorry, ma’am, any other night. Gina interprets the gesture like this: you’ve lost your touch, but I appreciate the gesture. They move to separate sides of the saloon, each feeling worse than before.

At the bar, Uriah tilts his head at Marv.

“Settling up, Ry?” Marv’s voice is nasal and unpleasant, like the rest of him.

“Yep.”

“Why don’t we call it on the house?”

“Why?”

“Because you never carried a tab, even when you were regular,” Marv says. There is a touch of bitterness to his words, because Uriah’s decision to go sober cost Marv a valuable cash-paying customer.

“Don’t need to start now,” Uriah replies, staring at himself in the mirror behind the rows of hooch.

“Look, you’ve had a bad day.”

Uriah smiles, and Marv shudders. He can’t recall ever seeing the old gunman smile before, and he doesn’t wish to see it ever again.

“…Uh, a real bad day.” The bartender tries to find something to busy his hands with. He fails. “So I figure it’s on the house.”

Uriah stops smiling. “You think I’ll be back tomorrow, don’t you?”

“Sure I do, partner,” Marv’s voice is soft. He feels like crying, but doesn’t show it.

Uriah nods. “I won’t. If I don’t pay now, you won’t get paid.”

“It’s just a gesture, Ry. Try not to make everything a funeral march.”

Uriah stares into Marv’s eyes for a long time. “That’s funny.”

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

Uriah pulls a wad of cash from his pocket, the motion making the leather holsters creak, and sets it on the bar. “Tell you what. You hold this for me. If I’m still alive tomorrow, I’ll come back for this and thank you for the kindness.

“Otherwise, keep it. I won’t need it anyhow.”

Marv has never thought of Uriah or any other customer as a friend. “Whatever you say, pal.” Both men are relieved.

* * * * *

Uriah Gett doesn’t sleep. Instead, he walks. He tries not to think about things, but things come up. Most are memories. He remembers Sandy, knocking little Patty to the ground with the force of her exertion, tossing lanterns and pans and dishes and crabapples—anything she could find on the porch—while he mounted his horse. He remembers Patty’s wail.

He remembers vomiting and sweating and lying in a trembling, naked ball on the floor of a flophouse as he came off the liquor. He remembers Trent laying cool, wet cloths over his fevered forehead.

He tries not to remember a grown-up Patty spitting in his face, the fire in her eyes so much like Sandy it made his back ache. He tries not to remember Trent’s head opening up when the bullet hit.

Mostly Uriah thinks about Kane, and how he stood over Trent’s body. Kane saw Uriah was wounded, and should have shot him dead then and there. Kane wasn’t even capable of the one small mercy to relieve Uriah the burden of a futile quest for revenge. Kane should have shot him. Instead he turned around and urinated on Trent’s corpse.

As he walks, Uriah tests his shoulder. It’s very stiff, even with the hot whir of drunkeness loosening his joints. He’ll die because of the shoulder. Kane killed him already, the day Trent died. He just didn’t have the common courtesy to do it all at once.

This has been the slowest death.

* * * * *

Uriah is sick. If there were anyone to talk to, he’d blame the hangover. Since there is nobody, he grimaces and acknowledges that he doesn’t want to die at last. He never wanted any of it.

“Uriah Gett!”

The hat doesn’t fit, because the ring of sweat at his brow makes it slip down, warps it out of shape. It’s not sunny outside anyway. Maybe it will snow.

“Uriah! Gett!” Kane makes the last name a command. Uriah steps out of the livery, his guts watery. Gina leans out of the saloon window, her face is split by a worry wrinkle reaching for her chin. He should have gone home with her. The gun’s fear is worse than his own.

“You’re late,” Kane says. He’s still on his horse.

“I’ve been here all night,” Uriah says, low enough that Kane can’t possibly hear.

“What’s that?”

“Forget it,” Uriah hollers.

Kane dismounts and walks toward Uriah. Hands remain low, orbiting pistol grips. Gina decides she’s seen enough men die and pulls away from the window.

When Kane is close enough to shoot, he sighs. “You’re going to die today,” he says. He sounds sad.

“Probably.”

“Why are you here, then?”

“You know why.”

“No, I don’t mean that. I mean why are you here? In this town? This county?” He implores Uriah with a frightening intensity. “This life?”

“God,” Uriah says after a moment. “I guess.”

Kane holds Uriah’s steady stare for a long time. He nods. “So the man says.”

“So he does.”

“I’m faster than you,” Kane remarks.

“Yep.”

“I can let you go.”

“I won’t go.”

Kane nods. “Okay then.”

“Okay.”

“Shall we?”

“Might as well,” Uriah says.

Kane reaches out a hand. Uriah extends his good left arm, as if to awkwardly shake with the back of his hand leading, fingers pointing down. Kane hesitates, unsure if he should switch to shake with his left, or grasp the extended fingers as he might to kiss the hand of a lady.

Uriah’s right arm comes up, a bit lazily. The gun is in it, trembling. Uriah’s shoulder screams. The smoke chokes them both and they stare at each other.

Kane smiles.

“Thank you,” Kane says.

“No,” Uriah replies, “thank you.”

To read the next entry in the circle, click here. To go straight to my story from this prompt, go to Alisia Faust‘s blog.

Paul Hamilton lives and works in the Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter. He writes stories about broken people and repairing worlds. When not writing, he reads or draws or rides roller coasters. He considers the word “omnibus” beautiful and never passes up a chance to try new foods.

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16
September
2013

The Ones: Night Goes Neighbors by ED Martin

The Ones: Night Goes Neighbors by ED Martin

 

Hello all,

The Ones is a writing blog game in which participants receive a story title, a little wrinkle to up the challenge factor and then must create a single draft story in no more than one hour from the prompt. They then trade stories and post someone else’s entry on their website. My guest this week is http://blog.edmartinwriter.com/

 

Night Goes Neighbors by ED Martin

She sits on the front porch, ears attuned to the sounds of the night. A dog barks. Cicadas sing. A car door slams. Footsteps approach as starlight tickles her skin.“Allen?” she calls out.The footsteps fade.“Allen?” she calls again. “Is that you?”The screen door screeches open behind her, and floorboards creak. A hand rests on her shoulder, and a brown voice speaks from the darkness. “You okay out here, Beth?”

She nods. “Yeah, Dad, I’m fine.”

The hand remains. “Were you talking to someone?”

“I thought I heard Allen, here to pick me up for the dance.”

“Beth….” The hand’s grip tightens, and the voice is apologetic. “Allen died in the accident.”

It all floods back: getting in the car, racing around the curves, a crash. Waking up in the hospital, asking for the bandages to be removed but they were already done. And Allen—Allen was gone too. Of course he wouldn’t be coming up the sidewalk.

“Yeah, I remember.”

But she doesn’t, not really. Not always. There’s so much she doesn’t even realize she forgets.

***

The next day, Ms. Someone spends the afternoon with her. Beth’s been told her name but can’t remember it. But at least she can remember she can’t remember. Progress.

Ms. Someone chatters on in her yellow voice while Beth knits, one of the few things she can still do now. “He’s staying with us for awhile, until he gets his life together. I was against it, but George said it was a good idea. George said it would do him some good, and wasn’t I lonely since Nathan went off to college? He’s not all there, but that’s okay.” She goes on and on, but Beth stops paying attention. And she won’t remember any of it anyways.

***

She’s back outside that evening, waiting for Allen to pick her up. Her dad comes out at one point, at lots of points maybe, and reminds her that Allen isn’t coming because he died.

“I know,” she tells him. “I remember.”

Each time, he goes back inside, by the murmuring TV. Beth’s stopped watching TV since the accident; she can’t see the screen, can’t follow the plot. Like so much in her life now, it’s not worth doing. Better to sit here and wait for Allen.

Footsteps again.

“Allen?” she calls out.

Tonight the footsteps approach the porch. “Hi.”

“Allen?” she asks again, although she knows it’s not him. The voice is wrong; Allen’s was deep, crimson, and this one is mellower.

“Who’s Allen?”

“My boyfriend. He’s going to pick me up, and then we’re going to the dance. Are you going to the dance?”

“Sure.” The voice sparkles with amusement. A green voice, she decides, with hints of purple and red.

“Do you have a date?”

“No.” The purple is more pronounced.

“I’m Beth.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The green voice is silent, but the lawn chair next to her squeaks.

“Allen?”

“No.”

“Who are you then?”

“Robert. I’m staying next door, with my aunt and uncle.”

“I’m Beth. I’m waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up for the dance.”

The green voice grunts, then launches into the story of why he’s staying with her neighbors, why he wanders the neighborhood streets in the night.

He finishes. The cicadas sing. A car honks. The chair next to her squeaks as someone’s weight shifts.

“Allen?”


To read the next entry in the circle, click here. To go straight to my story from this prompt, go to Paul Hamilton‘s blog.

ED Martin is a writer with a knack for finding new jobs in new places. She currently lives in Illinois where she job hops while working on her novels. She is the author of the women’s fiction novel The Lone Wolf, due out December 2013, and numerous short stories.

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  • About Kishan

    From daring escapes by tough women to chivalrous men swooping in to save the day, the creativity switch to Kishan Paul’s brain was always in the on position. If daydreaming stories was a subject, Kish would have graduated with honors. It has taken her decades to discover a way to finally pull those stories out of her head and share them with the world.

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