Beginnings – #writephoto

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She awoke to see the beautiful sky. She hardly noticed it. She padded into her kitchen to get a cup of coffee. She didn’t have much time. She wanted to visit the crypt as soon as possible. She had work to do. She had taken care of her second victim last night.

She didn’t like men who hurt women. Or women who hurt women. She had decided, long ago, that she was going to rid the world of them. Her method was so simple it was silly. She got close to them. She was charismatic with a sparkling personality. Then, one night at a private dinner, she spiked their food with a particularly dangerous concoction that stopped their hearts. She managed to load them in her car and drove them to her crypt.

Her crypt was the basement of an old building in town that was easy to access. No one was ever around the old building. It had fallen into disrepair as had so many of the buildings in the small town. The floor of the basement was soft dirt. She dug their graves there.

This second victim was her best friend’s boyfriend who was mean to her. Her first victim, two years ago, had been her own ex-husband. They had never solved his disappearance. She smiled at that thought. She already knew who the third victim would be. It would take some time.

She kept all of her tools hidden in that basement. After she got there, she dug a shallow grave for the man. It wasn’t hard. She kicked his body into it thinking that she hoped he would rot in hell. It was what he deserved. She covered up her crime as well as possible and left. You could hardly tell anything had ever been disturbed. She was meticulous.

On to the third man, she thought, as she left the crypt. It would be a while before she would be back, but she knew this was only the beginning of her career. They say there are no female serial killers. That’s because women are so much better at it.

Conflagration – #writephoto

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They had been looking forward to their camping trip to the national park. The two of them hadn’t taken a vacation together in a long time. This time together was long-awaited. They both enjoyed the forest, the outdoors, the wildlife, the hiking, all the things they would get to do in the wilderness area of the park. They set up their camp with excitement that afternoon while planning their activities for the evening and the next day.

He went fishing in the river that ran nearby and actually caught fish for their dinner. They were both thrilled. They had brought vegetables from home to complete their meal. They were grilling their food over the campfire when they first noticed the smoke. At first they thought it was just smoke from the campfires of other people. Then they saw a herd of deer and even a black bear and her cubs run past them. He became concerned. There was a low cacophony rumbling in the forest.

Quite suddenly, there were people running by them, screaming at them to leave, to run, that a conflagration was heading toward them. They picked up a few necessities and got in their car.

When they got out on the road, they quickly saw they couldn’t escape by driving. The  cars were backed up for miles. They could see the glow of blaze behind them and could tell it was getting closer. It was time to abandon the car.

They felt like they had run, along with everyone else in the same tourist town, for miles. She fell to her knees over a lump in the terrain. When he stooped to pull her up, they both heard a grunt and they thought she had fallen over a person. They started frantically searching the ground and found the body….of a large pot-bellied pig. He was digging himself as deep into the ground as he could. They knew they couldn’t help him and jumped up and ran on. The fire was practically licking at their heels.

When it was all over, they had reached safety, but not everyone had and not every animal in the beautiful park had escaped. Later, they found that the pig was a family pet that knew to burrow into the ground. He’d been rescued and was recovering at the nearest veterinary hospital. It would take longer, much longer, for the national park to recover from the fire that the young boys let get out of control. Some families would never recover from the loss of their loved ones at all.

Dedicated to the victims of the fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016

Turrets – #writephoto

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How did he ever convince her to visit this God forsaken castle in Turkey, of all places, Rebecca wondered to herself as she and Patrick stumbled down the crumbling, stone steps in the portion of the medieval castle that was still standing.

This trip to Europe had been filled with difficulties. Patrick was determined to make this one last stop in Turkey and she saw no reason, cultural or otherwise, for it. The ruins weren’t particularly noteworthy. The tour group was small. The surrounding area contained little of historical significance. It was also completely off their tour route. She didn’t understand why they were there and Patrick seemed unable and unwilling to explain. He’d hardly even spoken to her as they toured the ruins.

He was walking far ahead of her down the steps when she felt herself stumble. There was nothing to grab onto. She started to tumble down the stairs and landed at the bottom. The remaining two people behind her rushed to her, but she assured them she was fine. They wandered off.

She wasn’t fine. She’d turned her ankle and as she tried to get up, she found she couldn’t put her weight on it. By then, the two other tour group members were gone and she was alone. She called out for Patrick, but after waiting a few minutes, it was clear he didn’t know yet that she’d been left behind.

Rebecca suddenly heard a woman laugh, an evil-sounding laugh. She looked up and on the stair rail stood a creature. A female-looking creature with piercing blue eyes and a long black robe. Rebecca started scooting across the floor away from it.

The creature spoke and said, “My name is Ramona and I am the Dark Fairy.” Then it just tapped its toe on the stair rail.

”I’d make you my pet, but it would be more fun to make that man you’re with my pet.”

Rebecca finally found her voice and said, “What are you talking about?”

”Don’t you know anything? Dark fairies make humans their pets and the humans do our biding.”

Rebecca felt herself jerked up, her ankle painless, and the Dark Fairy fluttered beside her.

”Now get up. We’re going after that gentleman friend of yours. He’s been trying to do you harm.”

#Avenue – #writephoto

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Against her own will, she takes a different route than usual for her morning walk. It is bright and sunny outside. One of the first sunny days after a brutal winter. It seems that the weather has jumped from the dead of winter right into summer. It even seems hot. She vows to cut her morning walk a little short.

Then she sees a tree-lined avenue to her right. Its beauty astounds her. Her feet take her toward the avenue and she spots park benches all along the way. She craves the shade-lined portion of the avenue. She sits on one of the benches. Recently, she hasn’t enjoyed the sun. She feels the sun reveals too much about her. The tired face, the slumped posture, the aging. Those are private things. She doesn’t want anyone to look too closely. They might figure her out.

Beyond the shade is the wondrous sunny part of the avenue. It’s lined with cherry-blossoms. The scent wafts toward her and is sweet. People are meandering along the sunny avenue admiring the cherry trees. She doesn’t feel she has a right to the cherry blossoms, to the sunny portion of the avenue. That is for the young, the people with life ahead of them. Those who still have hopes and dreams. Not someone like her. Someone whose hopes and dreams have been stolen away.

She sits and enjoys the shade for a while. She pulls herself up and starts for home. That’s where she belongs. Behind the draperies. Where the sun doesn’t shine.

Thanks to Sue Vincent

#Fallen – #writephoto

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As she sat and looked out her window, at 50 years of age, she thought of that 19-year old girl she used to be. She didn’t have many regrets about the things she had done. Perhaps this was one of them. She imagined a conversation between herself now and then and how the years had given her wisdom.

”You were only nineteen. You’d had one relationship in your life. How did you get involved with a married man?”

”Don’t judge me, old woman. I had fallen into such a deep depression after the way my previous relationship ended that I just needed some attention. He wasn’t that much older than me. I thought he was serious about our relationship.”

”A married man is never serious, young lady. That mistake on your part affected you for the rest of your life. Can’t you see that?”

”Yes, I see that. It made it easy to step over that line, but what am I supposed to do about it now, old woman? You don’t understand.”

”Nothing. There is nothing you can do but vow to do better. You can also try to learn to live with the regret. It’s difficult.”

The older woman thought about her mental conversation and smiled. There were things in her life that she certainly regretted but not many. Young people didn’t realize that older people were still young on the inside. Mostly, what she regretted were the things she had not yet done. If her body would hold out for her, she intended to remedy that.

Thank you, Sue Vincent, #writephoto

Ascent #writephoto

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The trip to Scotland had been wonderful. My roots were there, in the Highlands, and I’d always wanted to visit. Now, it was time to go home. We were driving along the curvy roads toward the south of Scotland when we saw the old castle. Old, but in good repair. It had not been on any of the tour schedules we had seen. We pulled into the driveway.

No one was around, but the castle door was open. There was a sign out front that said, “MacDonald Tower. Enter at your Own Risk.” We looked at each other. That gave us pause, but one of the clans from which I was descended was Clan MacDonald so I was intrigued. Without speaking, we entered the open door.

It was dim inside. The ascent up the stairs was steep, but there was no other place to go. We began to climb. As we got to the top of the stairs, we heard a growl and a gruff voice said, “Who goes there?”

We replied, “Visitors to your home.” No answer.

When we left, much later, we were in shock. Our car was gone and two mules stood in its place. We began to walk. We didn’t walk far until we realized that it wasn’t 2018 anymore. We now knew what “enter at your own risk” meant. Entering that castle and speaking with the Laird had transported us back to the Middle Ages. How would we get home again?

*Thanks to Sue Vincent

Dark #writephoto

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The stress that permeated his family was unbearable. There were no jobs. No way to make a living. He was thinking of leaving the small town in the Appalachian Mountains to find work elsewhere. He would try to come home on the weekends. So many in generations before him had done the same. Others had moved their families to cities, to other towns, where they could find work. Their families weren’t usually happy. The people of Appalachia were clannish. They loved their mountain life existence, their extended families, their neighbors. They didn’t want to go to a strange place. He was thinking of going it alone, sending money home, coming home when he could.

He walked before dawn at the foot of the mountains. Thinking. Pondering. It was so beautiful here. The sun was about to rise and he stopped to watch. He had seen this sunrise many times and each time it was more beautiful as it rose over the mountains. No wonder the family didn’t want to leave. People from the outside didn’t understand. They thought them lazy. That they were people who wanted to be on the government dole. That wasn’t it at all. Their culture was different from that on the outside. They knew they wouldn’t fit in out there. Their families and their lifestyle was important to them.

The coal mining jobs had gone away due to the movement toward clean energy. Farming had gone away because tobacco was no longer a cash crop and the corn and other crops had been usurped by the big corporate farms. Because they were geographically isolated, industry did not want to locate there. What were they supposed to do? Abandon the life that they had known for generations?

He had been a specialized machinist in the mines. He could get a job on the outside and had even interviewed with other companies. As the sun rose over the mountains, he knew he had to leave to support his family. He had to send his children to college. There was no place for his wife to work and both their parents depended on him. As the sun rose higher in the sky, he made his decision and started walking home to tell his family. He would not lose them or his connection to this beautiful place. He would drive home on weekends. He would give them the gift of keeping their lives intact.

Blue – #writephoto

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The old man ran up and down the streets of the village calling for everyone to come to their doors and look. The village was built on the edge of the ocean and, as the sun rose that morning, the old man saw something he had never seen before. He wanted to share the magic.

“Come, come,” he called, “You must see the sky and the waters.”

As he called out and the villagers gradually awakened, they came to their doors, then to the street, and looked out. Gasps could be heard up and down the street and they started spilling out their doors to go to the water’s edge.

The sky and the ocean water, right after sunrise, were the most brilliant blue they had ever seen. Both, the same vivid, compelling blue. The villagers started wading in the shallow water and they felt the magic in the water.

That was in 1960. The event was a legend in the history of the island village. The elders of the village told the young people how it had changed them. They were never concerned about material possessions again. They were forever after only concerned about the island and its people.

Portal: The Escape – #writephoto

The only way she could think was to walk. She had found a long, lonely road where no one lived on the island. It was filled with the shade of the low palms and the unfamiliar sounds of the tropical birds as they swooped above her head. She couldn’t think at her home. He was there. Right beside her. Confusing her thoughts. She could only escape occasionally. On those occasions, she either went to the ocean or this lonely road.

She suddenly saw a house lying off the road, set back in a palm grove. She’d never walked this far before so she didn’t know the house. A manor house. It looked deserted. She could cool off there. The vegetation was grown up around the house. It seemed as if no one had been here in a long time. She pulled the door open. She was shocked at what she saw before her.

There was a long hallway in front of her. Then an opening and, seemingly, another hall. As she walked down the hallway, she saw an old man sitting at the end of what she could only call a portal. She kept walking and felt no fear. When she got to him, he greeted her and invited her to sit. They were both silent for a few moments. Then he spoke.

”Are you going to make a decision before you run out of time?”

”How do you know anything about me?” she replied.

“You won’t live as long as I have. You must make the right decision and quickly,” he said. “You’ve already wasted too much time.”

”What should I do?” she asked the old man..

”You only regret the things you don’t do. Are you happy?” he said.

”No, but I’m afraid.”

”Do you remember, when you were young, the thrill of jumping into a creek or riding your bike or kissing your boyfriend for the first time?” he asked.

She replied that she did remember.

”Go, my dear, and feel that rush again.”

He smiled at her. She got up from her chair when he looked as if he had fallen asleep. She thought of his words all the way back to where they lived on her beautiful island. She went inside, got out her suitcase, and said she was leaving. She said goodbye to her island, only for a time, she hoped. She packed, loaded her car, and inside a few hours, she was on the road – by herself.

She had fear because of what she had just done, but deep inside, she felt as if she were 20 years old again and knew she had done the right thing. For the first time in her life, she was doing something just for herself. She was escaping.

She felt the rush because of the man in the portal. Who had he been?

#metoo

The Ghost Road, continued #writephoto

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Below is a flash fiction story, “The Ghost Road, written for a challenge. It is continued below the line for this prompt:

They were driving the most challenging road they had ever driven. He had altitude sickness. They had been to the Grand Canyon. When they left for Phoenix, they took a wrong turn and ended up on a road that clung to the red rock mountainsides and took breathtaking drops down.

The road straightened out. They knew they shouldn’t turn on a dirt road. Phoenix couldn’t be this way. But they followed the GPS.

Later that night, her cousin called the police to report them missing. They scoured the desert. There was no sign of them. Not ever again.

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This is a continuation of a previous story, “The Ghost Road,” above.

They followed the dirt road for miles. She kept telling him it couldn’t be the road to Phoenix no matter what the GPS said. He seemed like a man possessed, determined to follow this ghost road no matter what. She was getting frightened. He was acting strangely.

Finally, he said, “I want to see where this road goes, Phyllis.”

”Chad, we’re obviously not on a road to Phoenix.”

”I know, honey. But I’m curious. Let’s just follow it a little farther.”

Phyllis found herself thinking she wished she was still driving. He’d had altitude sickness most of the way, but after they had turned on this dirt road, he had felt better. If she were driving, they would have turned around.

”All right, Chad,” she replied, “but only a little farther.”

Chad drove on, bumping along the dirt road. The GPS had long since stopped talking to them and appeared stuck on the location where they turned off onto the dirt road. Phyllis suddenly saw something ahead. It was so hot in the desert that day that the air was shimmering and she thought it might be a mirage, just a product of her imagination. Chad saw it too.

”Phyllis, there are buildings ahead of us.”

”I see something, but the air is shimmering from the heat and I wasn’t sure it was really there.”

”I’m going closer. Maybe it’s a town.”

”How could it be a town, Chad? This is a dirt road out in the middle of the desert with no services anywhere around. Who would live there? Anyway, it is probably miles away and seems closer than it is.”

”This is obviously what the GPS was pointing us toward. Let’s just have some fun and go exploring.”

For some reason, Phyllis got the feeling that Chad wasn’t just having fun. He seemed more like a man on a mission. She remained quiet as Chad drove closer and closer to the sand-colored buildings. Finally, Chad started to slow down as they came close to a small collection of old buildings seemingly built out of the sand of the surrounding desert. They didn’t see any other people.

“This is creepy, Chad. Let’s turn around and go back.”

”Look at that sign, Phyllis.”

Phyllis looked in the direction Chad was pointing. There was a sign that said, “Phoenix, Arizona. Population: 283.” She turned in amazement to Chad.

”The reason the GPS led us in this direction is because this is Phoenix. Maybe it is the first early settlement of Phoenix,” Chad said with astonishment.

”That can’t be. It would be a tourist attraction.”

”Then why, Phyllis, does the sign say Phoenix, Arizona? There is only one. This is an Arizona ghost town! Let’s get out and walk around.”

Chad and Phyllis parked the car and started to walk around the abandoned Phoenix. Some buildings were missing a roof, others a wall. Some were intact. They went inside some of the buildings. One had a skillet on a wood stove and plates on the table as if the people had left in a hurry. Another had blankets on twin beds in a bedroom and an old, rusty spur hanging on the wall. Another seemed to be an auditorium. A thick layer of desert sand was on top of everything.

Suddenly, Phyllis heard music.

”Chad, do you hear that? Music?”

Chad and Phyllis walked outside the old building and there, in the middle of the street, was an old-fashioned cart with the words “Dr. Green’s Medicine Show” written on the side of it and a tiny man standing on top of it screaming at a previously non-existent crowd of people. Everyone was dressed in old-fashioned clothing.

The couple looked at each other.

”See, Phyllis, this is a ghost town, complete with entertainment,” Chad said.

They walked around the show and Chad started looking around as if he’d lost something.

”Phyllis, the car is gone.”

”I can see that. Someone has stolen it.”

When they turned to walk back into the ghost town to report the crime, it was full of  people. The buildings were filled with activity and looked almost new. There were men on horses, as well as men driving horses and buggies through the streets. Chad and Phyllis looked at each other and didn’t know what to say.

A large man with a holster on and a gun walked toward them.

“Can I help you fine people?” he asked, “I’m Sheriff Martin.”

”Our car has been stolen, Sheriff,” Chad said.

”Your what?” replied the Sheriff.

”Our car.”

”Young man, you have had too much of Dr. Green’s elixir. I don’t know what you’re speaking of.”

With that, the Sheriff started to walk away. Phyllis ran after him.

”Sheriff, please stop,” she said.

The Sheriff stopped, turned around, and said, “Young lady, please go somewhere and cover up. You’re walking around in little more than your undergarments.” He walked off again.

Chad called after him, “Sheriff, what town are we in and what year is it?”

”Son, this here is Phoenix, Arizona and it is the year 1857.”

Phyllis fainted and Chad knelt down to revive her.