The Ritual

Darkness surrounded her along with all manner of foreboding sounds.

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The Shaman told her the ritual would rid her of the dark spirits clinging to her aura. So, she drank the bitter liquid, put on the headdress and repeated the incantation. He took her hand and ran a sharp blade across her palm then squeezed her clenched fist causing blood to drip into the fire. The flames surged. Heat and smoke engulfed them.

The smoke cleared and she regained her bearings. She realized she was standing ten feet away looking at her body sprawled beside the Shaman’s fire.

“If you outrun the spirits by dawn, you will be free.” He spoke loudly then laughed an eerie sound that filled her mind.

His voice mingled with the shrieking specters to which she’d grown accustomed. She pressed her hands hard against her ears. It never helped, as the screams seemed to come from within. The Shaman’s words rang in her head and she felt the overwhelming need to run though she didn’t know to where.

She ran.

Darkness surrounded her along with all manner of foreboding sounds. She contemplated giving up. Her legs burned and her feet were heavy, but she pushed on. She wandered the woods all night.

She reached a stream. Leaves and twigs decorated her hair. She had mud on her knees, scratches on her arms and dried blood on her face. A combination of various animal bones and two large white feathers set atop for ears made up the ghoulish rabbit headdress she still wore.

Staring up at the jagged splinters of sunlight cutting through the clouds, she realized the Shaman’s camp was near. She was exhausted, yet hopeful. Her weary legs gave out and she fell to the ground as she approached the remnants of the fire. She closed her eyes.

She awoke and noticed there was no hint of warmth in the fire pit as if not used in quite some time, or any sign of the Shaman. She briefly considered the whole thing was a dream until she saw the rabbit headdress made of animal bones staring up at her with empty sockets.

– Written for The Angry Hourglass: Flash Frenzy Round 101 Photo Prompt. WC 348
Photo by Ashwin Rao.

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The Reverent Cows

The coffee arrived and my usual, The Bovine’s Udder Delight, was being prepared.

I’ve always enjoyed having Sunday brunch downtown at The Painted Cow, on the corner of Vine and Henderson. The girls there knew me by name and saved my favorite outside table for me every week. I hung my tote from the chair and sat in the shade of the two brightly painted cows that stood guard over me. The coffee arrived and my usual, The Bovine’s Udder Delight, was being prepared. I took out my notebook and began people watching for inspiration.

The innocence of children,
The courage of youth,
The sensibility of adulthood,
The wisdom of age,
Meet at the crossroads for a quick respite.
The painted cows welcome all who wish to rest in their shadows.

I looked up from my writing in time to notice a child smiling and pointing at my reverent guardians. We briefly made eye contact so I smiled back and gave him a quick wave, which he responded to with a giggle and shyly hid his face in his mother’s hair.

The cows continued to observe silently.

– Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers: 59th Challenge. WC 174
Photo prompt provided by S. Writings.

Cows

Red River

The river ran red with blood and the souls of the damned. Mercy knelt at the bank, whispered a blessing and gathered some of the syrupy liquid into a bottle. Tonight’s ritual would prevent the destruction of our world.

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– Written for Shapeshifting 13 (#47). Color Red and Photo Prompt. WC 39. Photo by Julija Nėjė

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Charlie’s House

I threw open the attic door and wielded the bat ready for whatever waited.

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– Written for ZeroFlash March Competition Image prompt. WC 914. ‘Charlie’s House’ was published but ineligible for the contest due to word count restriction. Drawing prompt by Sophia Johnson. 

Being back in the old house had me on edge. Sleeping was impossible. I was suddenly that little boy again. Dreams of the past flooded in threatening to wash away the man I had become. I tossed and turned but couldn’t find comfort in that creaky old bed.

Mom said she never blamed me for Charlie’s disappearance, but I blamed me. My ten-year-old mind even concocted an elaborate story to make sense of it all. I could not for the life of me remember what really happened to my little brother.

I begged mom to get rid of that antique mirror but she didn’t want to part with her deceased grandmother’s belongings just because I had bad dreams.

I would see things in it that weren’t there. After my brother disappeared, I swore I heard his voice every so often at night. I had nightmares where he was attacked by a big black wolf with glowing red eyes and thick shaggy fur. Sometimes I would wake up in the attic and not remember how I got there. They would tell me I was dreaming and sleepwalking. Of course I was. Believing that was the only way I was able to function.

Now that mom had passed I will be selling this place and everything in it, none too soon for my taste.

I heard a noise in the attic and prayed for it to be the wind or the old house settling. It persisted until I was forced to identify it. It sounded as if something were up there walking around.

“Oh god,” I mumbled to my empty room and sat up on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands. I was trying very hard to be an adult.

“Well, Hell!” I said and stood up quickly, grabbing the baseball bat from behind the door and charged up the stairs.

I threw open the attic door and wielded the bat ready for whatever waited.

I was met with glowing red eyes and a snarl making its way from behind gleaming white fangs.

“You!” I screamed at the menacing black wolf from my nightmares. He looked ready to pounce so I began inching backward. Before I could turn to run he launched himself at me and knocked me to the floor.

He stood looming over me and I was suddenly aware of myself trembling and sweating, exhausted. I accepted that I was nothing more than that little boy and always had been. “Fine!” I yelled. I closed my eyes, laid my head back and dropped my arms to my sides. After what felt like an eternity, I was surprised by a cold nose then a warm wet tongue bathing my face in dog slobber.

I slowly opened my eyes. I could have sworn this giant deadly beast was smiling at me. Suddenly I felt angry. I shoved him with both hands and scrambled to my feet.

“What?! After all this time, all the nightmares,” I ranted. “I tried to forget you. I was doing a pretty good job of it too. I have finally lost my mind! I dreamed you took Charlie. You could have killed me and here you are smiling at me?!”

He backed away slowly and then trotted to the corner of the room hidden in the shadows. He returned with something swinging from his mouth. It was Charlie’s favorite red baseball shirt. “Hey! Give me that!” I scolded and moved toward him. He growled a warning and ran toward the creepy old mirror. He dropped the shirt on the floor in front of him and motioned with his broad muzzle. I walked in his direction but before I could reach him he snatched up the shirt again.

He half barked, half howled over the fabric hanging from his mouth, and then whimpered.

I flashed back to when Charlie disappeared. I remembered the long-forgotten night. I remembered the story I told. I remembered the story as it happened and as much as I tried to convince myself over the years that it was a child’s fantasy, I could not. “No, no, no,” I mumbled. It was real. This wolf that haunted my dreams, the wolf that stood in front of me now, was Charlie.

I fell to my knees in front of this huge hulking animal and I looked into his glowing red eyes. I searched for my little brother. He dropped the shirt and licked my head. This time, I was sure it was a smile I saw on his long dog face.

He backed away from me toward the mirror and looked out the window as if directing my attention. I noticed the moon was full and the sky was clear. He shook his mane and leaned down for a brief moment and then continued backing toward the mirror. I looked from him to the moon and back again. Then I realized he was half in the mirror and moving further away from me.

“No! Charlie no, don’t go!” I pleaded.

He shook his head again, pawed at the red shirt, looked up at the moon, then back at me and was suddenly gone from my sight. I jumped at the mirror and slapped both hands against it but it was solid. I lay there near the mirror in the fading moonlight clutching my little brother’s slobbery red baseball shirt. By the morning, I knew I would not be selling the house.

This was Charlie’s house.

Carry On

galaxy-896922_1920– Photo from Pixabay.com.

Shared dreams like mist swirl in vivid colors. I reach for them, but they dissipate in my hands.

“I’m tired from the pursuit,” I say. “I’m contemplating surrender.”

She says, “Let me carry you and when I tire you can carry me.”

– Written for YeahWrite.me Weekly Writing Challenge 259 question prompt. WC 42

It’s The Thought That Counts

He is twelve now…so grown up but still my baby.

It tasted as bad as it looked.

I forced a smile as I chewed and swallowed a bite while holding my breath. “It is so good!” I lied.

My sweet boy did odd jobs for the past month to save up enough money to buy the ingredients to make a birthday cake.

I took a gulp of milk to wash it down.

Being a single mom is hard. I feel guilty most days for missing out on time with my son in exchange for keeping a roof over his head and his belly full.

I don’t like him being home alone as often as he is but he is a good kid and stays out of trouble. He is smart and has good sense and I hope he truly understands.

He is twelve now…so grown up but still my baby.

After pouring a glass of milk, he put a piece of cake on a plate for himself. I tried to distract him before he could take a bite. “So how about we splurge and walk to the Redbox for a movie,” I said enthusiastically and got up from my chair.

“Sounds good,” he agreed, as he stuffed a large forkful of his creation into his mouth. He chewed slowly and then frowned.

“That’s disgusting!” He whined.

“Noooo, it’s good,” I reassured.

“Mom seriously, Ugh!”

“I hope you know my cake-making ability does not reflect my feelings. I promise I was not trying to poison you!” He said with a chuckle.

I tousled his hair and said, “So how about that movie?”

– Written for The Angry Hourglass: Flash Frenzy Round 100 Photo Prompt. WC 261
Photo by Ashwin Rao.

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