Warped Pencil

Warped Pencil

“The Hail that Pounded like Chatting Frogs”

Zen couldn’t help but think of Gladriel Ferngully when he walked in this wood. Gladriel was a queen of fairies, a Mother Earth, an elvish woman, or what have you, it didn’t really matter.

Zen walked up the trail to a window pane hovering between trees and reflected on his backward surroundings. He always loved this trail if not for it’s mysteries even more so for it’s horrifying beauty. It was a place that encouraged imagination like nowhere else.

He saw something in the distance, or rather someone, walking toward him on the trail. She seemed to emerge out of the wood itself, her tall, slender limbs and long, flowing hair swaying in rhythm with the wind through the trees. Gladriel. It was too much. Sappy. But it approached all the same.

Zen gulped and glanced at his own reflection in the glass of the hovering window. He was a patient person, though he could be violent when he drank too much whiskey. His friends saw him as a skinny, squashed saint. Is that really how they saw him? What was up with these adjectives? Whatever. Let it pass for now as we see where this story leads. Once, Zen had even brought a husky baby bird back from the brink of death. But not even a patient person who had once brought a husky baby bird back from the brink of death was prepared for what Gladriel had in store today. WHAT?! LMAO! I’m so sorry. That cannot stay. It’s like a Mad Lib with random adjectives thrown in prepared spots. Who would ever call a baby bird “husky”? And the structure is so cliche! Nothing makes sense, but I cannot stop. Am I the one who’s mad to think that perhaps something worthwhile could come out of this nonsensical, dreamlike state?

The hail pounded like chatting frogs, calming Zen. He followed Gladriel up the trail where a piano stood in a ray of sun on the edge of the cliff. Dramatic. Cliche. She motioned to the piano and Zen massaged his fingers and began to play. As he played, Gladriel’s eyes gained an xanthocarpous glint. A what? “Xanthocarpous: the scientific name for what is commonly called a yellow berried nightshade. It is a prickly diffuse bright green perennial herb, woody at the base, found throughout India mostly in dry places as a weed on road sides and waste lands.” Well, that sounds most interesting. Maybe there’s something worth picking here, or maybe it’s just a weed.

Gladriel glared at Zen with the wrath of a thousand humming birds. She said in hushed tones, “I hate you…and I want a hug.” LMAO! What the heck is this?! But more importantly, how will Zen respond?

Zen looked back even more calm, his fingers still on the piano. “Gladriel, I admire your eyebrows,” he replied. Oh? Well, of course. How else would you respond to that?

They looked at each other with healthy feelings, like two bitter, bored bears sitting at a very intelligent wake, which had trance music playing in the background. Gladriel looked puzzled, her emotions blushing like a selfish, spitezabbling sandwich….

I can’t. I just can’t! They’re not even trying. They made up a pointless word! Can you even call this writing? Can you call this a story?

I should just go to sleep already. The muses obviously aren’t here, and I’m not getting anything out of this mess. Another wad of trash. Even if there’s a few gems in there, it’s not worth trying to pry them out and clean them off. I’ll wait for something better, something whole, something purely beautiful.

Inspired by Random Plot Generators

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash


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Shipwreck

Shipwreck

I’m not in the mood… I don’t care… Leave me alone…

I feel myself sinking, not drowning, I don’t fight it. The rational part of my mind is blubbering over every scenario of escaping this, but my body is heavy with chains. I refuse to move.

The water is freezing, bone-chilling, yet some part of it—a part well-past the pain of pneumonia and hypothermia—part of it is refreshing. Especially when compare to the blazing heat above the surface.

Let me stay submerged, unconscious, a little longer… hold my breath, a little longer.

Even though it hurts, it’s a numb pain. Surrounded by water, I don’t have to hold my head up. The chains pull me down, and I feel stretched as if I were as tall as a giraffe. The ocean seems endless, as if I could continue falling—no, sinking—forever. Then, I hit the bottom.

My body collapses on stale sand. The miles of water above press down on me.

People ask if I’ve hit a rut in the road. Does it feel like I’m stuck in the bottom of a pit? It’s so much worse. At least, in a pit you can still breathe, you can maybe see the sunlight. But here, there is no light except for the tantalizing dart of an angler fish or the electrical pulsing of jellies. Deadly beautiful creatures. Sirens of the dark sea.

At least, when you hit a rut, you can steer back onto the road. When you’re in a pit, sometimes all you need is the effort to reach up and grab the edge. Even if I swam back to the surface, what then? The ocean is as vast. By the time I swim to the surface, I won’t have the strength or energy to swim to shore. I’ll sink right back down. But honestly, part of me doesn’t want to return to the surface.

I know I shouldn’t be here, and it gives me a sense of superiority to be an alien in such an alien place. The floor is pale and pitted like the surface of the moon. It seems soft like cheese, yet it’s harder than any stone because there is no current, no motion. As I lay there unable to move, the pressure builds and the chains begin to snap apart into jagged edges that bite my flesh just to remind me that they’re there, that I’m still alive despite it all, just to be cruel. I don’t remember who put those chains on me, maybe it was myself. It doesn’t matter now. You can only breathe in water for so long.

Part of me feels a sense of peace in the dark, still, quiet. It’s an escape from the glaring, chaotic world of the surface. They say that freedom is making your own choices, moving how you wish, saying what you want. But here, there is a different freedom: here I am free from having to move or speak or think. Here I can lay and forget my worries, even as they snap my bones and push me further into the floor, because here, I have no control. I cannot do anything.

A muffled fog horn is just audible over the distant moaning of whales. It blares again and again as if searching for something that is lost, calling for it to return.

The blanket of the ocean is too heavy. I can’t move. Sleep fills my lungs. I can’t breathe. My body has no warmth left in it. I’m not returning to the surface. Let me just die, here on the ocean floor.

Photo by Shaun Low on Unsplash


Red Bikini

Red Bikini

The over-sized shirt clung to my bikini. My friends chased one another in the ocean, seagulls laughed, condensation dripped down a glass of lemonade as Dad’s voice crashed over me in torrents. I wilted under the glaring sun. (38 words)

YeahWrite MicroProse #377 Prompt: In exactly 38 words, incorporate heat without using the words: heat, hot, sweat, burn, swelter.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Blame Nature; Blame the Can

Blame Nature; Blame the Can

The road ended in a blockade of trees. A layer of dried leaves paved the ground, leaving only the occasional green flare of pine needles among the dark trunks. The forest smelled pungent like old jack-o-lanterns with smiles collapsed into snarls.

Fern parked the car.

Murphy opened the door and looked around, “Where’s the cabin? You said we’d be staying at a cabin.”

“Don’t freak out. It’s just a short walk.” Fern tossed Murphy a backpack from the trunk.

Murphy threw the bag over one shoulder and her mustard scarf over the other. Wind jostled her hair, knotting the bleached threads into snarls. She tried to fix her hair in the reflection of the car window.

“Come on, Murphy,” Fern called moving towards the trail head.

Murphy followed swatting mosquitoes. “Did you bring bug spray?”

“They’re not bothering me. Maybe you’re jinxed because of that can you threw out the window on the way here.”

“Oh, shut up.”

After they had walked for a few minutes, they could hear the trickle of a stream and river flies reinforced the mosquitoes. Murphy smashed a fly, flicked the carcass off her palm, and grabbed the hand-sanitizer hanging off her backpack covering up the smudge with the scent of fresh linen. “How far away is this cabin?” Murphy said.

“Just a little farther,” Fern said. “It’ll be cozy and relaxing, I promise. Just what we need after those killer mid-terms.”

Murphy sighed, “Don’t remind me. I don’t even want to know my scores for chemistry and biology.”

“I’m sure you did fine. I helped you study,” Fern winked and ambled ahead.

The clouds darkened and several droplets hit the ground. “Of course, it’s going to rain,” Murphy said.

“It’s just a little drizzle,” Fern said. But seconds later, the rain pelted them in sheets mingled with tiny bits of ice. They covered their heads and ran dripping into the cabin as the wind tore after them.

Murphy threw down her backpack and went to the bathroom while Fern started up the fireplace. Cobwebs strung every inch of the bathroom, and when a spider skittered across the floor, Murphy stomped on it with so much force the floorboard cracked.

“Are you alright in there?” Fern called from the kitchen.

Murphy came out drying her hair with a towel and slumped into the chair closest the fire. “I only came because you like this sort of thing.”

Fern poured two cups of tea from the screaming kettle as wind rattled the windows and thunder rumbled overhead. The electric lights flickered and went out. Fern smirked and threw another log on the fire.

Murphy stared at the writhing flames, her knees drawn up to her chest, a scratchy wool blanket clutched around her. She rung a twig from the wood pile with her fingers scraping off the bark and leaving gashes in the grain. Fern handed her the tea, and Murphy set aside the mutilated twig.

“Have your parents found a new house yet?” Fern asked.

Murphy kept an eye on the writhing flames. “No. They’re still in an apartment. They’re thinking of moving to a different town since Kendelville was completely wiped out by the fire.”

Fern sipped her tea.

“It’s not fair. I’d lived there my whole life, and I didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to the house. And all of my stuff—besides what I had in the dorm—it’s all gone.” Murphy put her feet down, and a mouse scampered out from under her chair sending her screaming out of the chair. “I swear nature has it out for me.”

Fern laughed, “It’s just a mouse. Think of it like a little brother teasing you. My brother’s always trying to annoy me.”

Murphy sat in a different chair. “It’s not just the mouse. It’s that fire, the flooding, the earthquakes. It’s like James Henry who took a gun to school in St. Bern and shot everyone for no good reason.”

Tea spilled over the edge of Fern’s cup as she set it down. “That’s too far.”

They locked eyes, and then Murphy looked down into her cup, “You’re right. I’m sorry.” A leak in the roof dripped onto Murphy’s head, and she stood to move seats yet again.

Fern patted the couch, and Murphy sat beside her. The cabin groaned. Fern glanced at water streaming over the panes and wrapped an arm around Murphy’s shoulders, “You really shouldn’t have thrown that can out the window.” They sat together as trees thrashed against the walls and cracks of lightning threatened the roof over their heads.

Cover Image by Imaginings


Taking a Fall

Taking a Fall

I was slipping. My legs trembled on slopers. My left arm wedged between me and the wall. My right hand searched for a secure hold and found none. Seconds. Centimeters. Get it wrong, push my luck, and I’d get hurt. I felt my legs going, so I launched my right hand to the top of the bouldering wall. I felt the rough hold under my fingers and then…

I was curled up on the padded floor eight feet below, my back as tight as stone, whistling air through gritted teeth. With my eyes pinched shut, I floated in darkness aware only of voices around me and the pain in my back.

I was so embarrassed. I’d been climbing for more than five years and bouldering for two years. I’d climbed that exact wall before. I had just completed the route. But I hadn’t thought about coming down: a rooky mistake.

Minutes later, when I had calmed down enough to at least sit up, a climber more experienced than me took the same type of fall. He pulled his knees into his chest and rocked on his back, trying to release the tension; he knew what to do. No doubt, he’d fallen before.

With all extreme sports, you can’t be afraid of falling. For some sports—like sky diving—falling is the whole point!

When I taught myself to skateboard, I started by throwing myself down in the grass and practicing the proper way to use my elbow pads so that I wouldn’t break my wrists or chin when I fell for real. With most things it’s not a matter of if you will fall, but when. It doesn’t matter how much you cling to it, eventually you may slip, loose your balance, or the thing you’re clinging to may crumble.

People cling to crumbling relationships because they’re afraid of what will happen to them if they let go. Will they get hurt if they let go? Probably. But they’re likely to fall anyway, and if they aren’t prepared for the fall, they’re likely to get hurt worse and have a longer recovery.

Still, days later, it was a struggle to stand or walk long distances because my back was so sore. It was really annoying, but what did I expect? Of course it’s going to hurt when you fall eight feet.

I’m not really afraid of heights, but I’m terrified of water. I remember tubing behind a boat with a friend and as we approached a massive wave, she bailed. I would never let go if it meant falling in the water, so the tube flipped over and dragged me underneath. I swallowed so much water. It wasn’t until I intentionally let go a few times, that I became comfortable with falling in the water. I’ve also drifted too far out on currents because I was too afraid to let go of the inflatable tube. Often times, it’s safer to let go and fall when you’re prepared for it rather than holding on until things get too out of hand and the risk of the imminent fall magnifies.

Still, people won’t let go because more than the fear of the pain that may result, falling has a negative connotation in our culture. The first thing people will ask, including yourself, is “What did you do wrong?” Even if it was an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault, even if it wasn’t avoidable. But falling is just a part of life.

In extreme sports, you’re not a real snowboarder, skateboarder, rock climber, or mountain biker unless you’ve taken a couple falls. It’s why you wear a helmet and protection equipment. It’s why you practice the proper way to fall and assess the situation before jumping in and create an emergency plan.

I’m not saying you should go up in a plane with the intention of jumping out (unless you want to). It’s always good to prevent risk when possible, but falling isn’t always a bad thing.

A planned fall is sometimes the safest option when you find yourself in a dangerous or tough situation. Maybe that means moving away or committing to rehab or letting someone you love go to a better place. If you continue to hang on and not plan for it, the fall is going to be way worse for you.

One man’s miracle, another man’s curse

One man’s miracle, another man’s curse

I brewed the embers of the fire with the iron poker as I sipped my bitter tea.

The scuff of scales on wood grew closer and closer and closer. As the snake entered the light, I flicked it into the flames with the tip of the iron. It writhed.

How much hotter were the fires of Hades? Did my son writhe in pain when he traded his life to the devil? I looked away.

Liberty threw a log on the blackening carcass. “This place is a snake pit.”

“They’re attracted to the heat,” I said.

She knelt beside her boyfriend who lay unconscious on the cot by the fire–bit by a snake while protecting the girl. Idiot. She had barreled into my house earlier demanding shelter. It would have been too much effort to try to turn away a girl that desperate, I would have had to get out of my chair. She introduced herself as Liberty. Her real name, what a joke?

I didn’t tell her my name. What did it matter? That person died long ago.

“Is it possible to make an anti-venom?” she asked.

“It’s easier to make poison. Works faster, too.” I took a long drought of my tea. The boy’s breath was shallow and weak; he would be dead soon. Then, maybe Liberty would leave me alone. Their presence was exhausting.

She was always talking. She couldn’t get over the Indonesian-style of my house and how unusual it was in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. Apparently, her hero was an Indonesian man named Sage Buana who had won the Nobel Peace Prize. He disappeared before he could receive it, and while most people assumed he was dead, she thought he was modestly laying low. She quoted him on love and charity.

I pretended not to listen. For all the fools in the world, Sage Buana was one of the biggest, I would know.

Now, she was saying something about sloths falling out of trees because they accidentally grab their arm instead of the branch and fall to their death. Who cared?

Her boyfriend wheezed, and Liberty tended to him. How could he be so selfish? He should have let the snake bite her. Then, he would’ve been the one going through the agony of trying to save her. Didn’t he know how much she suffered for him?

Why did my son make that deal with the devil? Didn’t he know that this immortal life without him was a curse not a miracle? I had been laying at the edge of death. I had lived a good life up until then. But he couldn’t let me go, so here I am—still breathing—with no purpose.

I let the cup drop from my lips; it was empty.

“No!” Liberty yelled. The boy was seizing, foam spewing from his mouth, his eyes wide open clouds. “Do something! Please, can’t you do something?!” Liberty screamed at me.”Can’t you leave that chair?” She grabbed my arm and nearly pulled me to the floor. “I knew there were lazy people, but your apathy…I’d never seen anything like it before. How can you just sit there?!”

Then, it was done. The boy was dead. How selfish, leaving her to suffer alone.

Liberty lay beside the boy. “It’s my fault. If he hadn’t protected me…It would have been me…It should have been me.”

Another snake slithered up from the cracks in the floor and I crushed it.

I dipped the tea cup into the pot of water over the fire. Steam curled over the edges of the cup as I milked the serpent’s fangs. Inky drops swirled in the water. People who idolize love are fools. Love is not something to desire; it is the ultimate form of torture, the most wicked curse, a living Hell.

Liberty picked up the remains of the snake and thrust its pearly daggers into her neck.

Tears pushed at the edges of my eyes. Love is a highly-contagious disease with no cure. I closed my eyes and drank in the bitterness of the scalding tea; it made me numb for a moment. I took another drink.

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash


Rust that Glitters

Rust that Glitters

When Ann pulled up with rap rumbling out of the car, I knew this wasn’t going to be a girls’ day at the beach after all. I slipped into the back seat.

Bron glanced back at me. “’sup, Lizzie?” His voice was raspy like metal scratching metal, or maybe it was just my teeth grinding.

“Looks like a good day for the beach,” I said to Ann. She nodded.

Bron buried his face in Ann’s neck. I looked out the window. The car took off with a jolt.

The stench of heat overwhelmed the car. I closed my eyes, nauseous as the sun glared down on us. I tried to focus on the sweet buzz of Ann’s voice. Bron tapped cigarette ash into the cup holder. He looped a finger under Ann’s bikini.

The car swerved, and she shoved him. “Knock it off. I’m driving.”

“Pull over then.”

“Shut up.” Ann’s voice turned bitter, and I trembled. Ann, whose words were normally such a sweet melody. Ann, who was always kind and generous. Ann, who was such a hard worker. Something about Bron changed her.

He was just like the others. A mold. Something cheap and rusty that somehow managed to glisten like gold in the eyes of the one they were deceiving. A shining armor that was more of a burden than protection.

Wasn’t it only a week ago that Ann had found Bron cheating on her? Only a week ago that Ann had said they weren’t dating anymore? It was the same old story. The same “apology.” The same irrational response.

“Get off me! Or I am going to pull over, and it won’t be for what you want!” Ann yelled. “Sorry, Liz,” she yelled over the radio to me. I just rolled my eyes.

“It’s so blasted hot! Let’s get ice cream.” He stuck another cigarette in the spark plug.

“There’s some at the beach,” Ann said.

“Nah, we’ve got to go to Hank’s. Hank’s got the best.”

An hour later, when we should have been in the cool water, we were soaked in sweat. Corn fields stretched for endless miles. I panted in the shade of the car; my water bottle was empty.

I wasn’t sure if Ann and Bron were even shouting words anymore. It was all a dirt devil swirling in endless circles until it would eventually die out into nothingness.

Meanwhile, my thirst was enough to get my feet moving.

“LIZ?!” Ann screamed behind me.

My heart jumped to my throat as I whipped around with ready fists, but it was just Ann running at me. “Where are you going?” Ann gasped.

“I’m going to find the nearest house and ask for some water and help.”

“No. Who knows how far it is! BRON!” She dragged me back to the car and yelled, “Bron, this is your fault. You walk to the nearest house and ask them for some water and gas.”

“You think they’re going to have gas sitting around?”

Ann motioned to the fields, “Farms always have extra gas.”

Bron stomped away.

Ann slumped beside me. How could she not tell that her armor was just weighing her down? Surely, she had to realize by now that a little polish wasn’t enough to fix the dents and rust.

“I’m sorry, Liz,” she said.

“It was supposed to be a girls’ day.”

Ann covered her face, and I wrapped an arm around her shoulders even though it was way too hot.

“You know it’s always like this with him,” I said.

“Things were getting better.”

“Didn’t he cheat on you last week?”

“What? No.”

“That’s what you told me. You told me you broke up.”

“I never said that.”

I took my arm back and sighed. Same story.

When we were choking on our dry throats, Bron returned with one bottle of water – already half empty – and no gas.

“He’ll pull us to the nearest town,” Bron said. He tossed me the water bottle and took Ann aside. Bron promised to buy her ice cream, but I knew his wallet was always empty.

Then, they ducked into the corn and disappeared.

I leaned against the scorching metal of the car and wondered if I was just as dumb as them. Here I was, stranded in the middle of nowhere. At least they had each other, I was alone.

Golden tassels of corn teased the sky as I watched the vacant road for the farmer’s truck that never came.

Image Source: Photo by Travis Essinger on Unsplash