WRITING CHALLENGES – JUST DO IT!
The truck had stopped. I could see the fresh skid marks where the dual tires had locked up. Given the length of the marks, he had been speeding. Overall, because the rig had maintained a fairly straight line, the driver had some skill.
I dismounted my bike and walked along the side of the rig. It was a flatbed with a standard forty-foot container attached. It was nothing remarkable. I could see the remaining fog in the trees of the woodland on either side of the road. It was almost certainly much foggier when the trucker had the accident.
The driver was standing up by the left front tire. He was chewing on a half-burned cigar, looking very nervous. He’d likely stood there since the call about thirty minutes ago without seeing a soul. This time of morning, no one used this road. I was curious why the driver chose it this morning.
“Morning,” I said, as I reached the door of the rig. “I’m Officer Cooper.”
“Morning, officer,” the trucker answered in a deep western drawl. “Harvey James.”
“Have a bit of an accident, Mister James?” I asked, seeing that he continued to be nervous. “Please relax. I’m not here to judge. I collect the evidence.”
Harvey frowned, drawing the back of his hand over a chin full of stubble and resetting the half-smoked cigar in the other corner of his mouth. “Officer, I swear I hit a man. He ran out and there was no stopping. I hit the brakes as quickly as I could. Just as I hit, it looked like something else.”
“What else, Mister James?”
“It looked more like a dog.” Harvey pulled out a lighter. “That man had a head like a dog. It resembled my kids' rottweiler.”
“You’re not making any sense.” I relaxed, realizing what the man was telling me. “Did you hit a man or a dog?”
“Both, neither.” Harvey lit his cigar. “Shit, I don’t know.”
“Let’s go look,” I said.
“That’s the problem.” He said, “There ain’t nothing back there.”
“How fast were you going?”
“I knew it was coming to that,” Harvey growled.
“Take it easy,” I replied. Holding up my hands to reinforce the point, I continued, “It will allow me to figure out where you hit the animal.” I purposely used the word animal to keep him relaxed. So far, I had no reason to believe that he hit a person–only his assertion.
“Maybe fifty.” Harvey shifted the cigar.
I did the math in my head, “A two second reaction time would put you up to 150 feet back from your skids. Let’s look.” I took a couple of steps, then paused. “Walk with me Mister James.”
After reaching the beginning of his skids. I started counting off paces. Once I reached fifty, I stopped and turned around. Harvey followed and turned himself after I stopped.
"This configuration should still be recognizable to you, even though your seat was in a higher position in the rig."
“Yeah,” Harvey answered.
I stood there, taking in the scene. It was impossible for Harvey to see someone on the road's edge because of the trees extending to it. The road was empty. The evidence of the truck striking something was obviously not on the road.
“Do you have a guess where you struck the animal?” I asked.
“About halfway between here and the trailer,” Harvey answered.
As I looked at the position, I saw it. It stood right at the edge of the road, looking at them from a vantage partially behind the trunk of the tree. I glanced at Harvey, who obviously saw it, too.
The height of the thing was equal to that of a man. It had two legs like a man, but it was not a man. It had the head of an animal–a dog. The way it bared its teeth as it looked at us, it was not happy. I could have been mistaken, but it was snarling at us.
“You see that?” Harvey spoke, though I did not take my eyes from the creature.
“Yeah,” I said. I thought about reaching for my pistol, but I just stood transfixed.
“That don’t make any kind of sense,” Harvey said. “Dogs ain’t got arms and legs like that.”
The creature took flight, vanishing into the trees in an instant. I saw it run on two legs, but it moved with the power and speed of being on all four. Even in open terrain, I doubted I could keep up with my bike.
“Officer,” said Harvey. “I doubt both of us are drunk, but I doubt we’re going to be believed when we talk about this.”
“Harvey, I’m going to write this up as you hit a dog. I’ll call animal control to remove the corpse, then it will be their problem when they can't find it.”
“No ticket,” I said.
“I wish that made me feel better.”
~ February 1692 ~
It was day eighty-nine of a long journey across the oceans. His mother wouldn’t admit the purpose, but the young boy was smart for his age. He knew they were running. The witchcraft hysteria spreading across the lands had them packing family heirlooms and boarding the wooden charter. Destination: the Americas.
“Such a good and brave wee lad,” she whispered with trembling voice in his ear, revealing her own bravery had almost reached its limits.
The long days aboard the rickety vessel had exceeded those planned, with freezing temperatures and starvation taking a heavy toll. Mother and son had both heard whispered ideas of mutiny. If they didn’t reach land soon, violence was inevitable.
Eryk Hillin, known as Ernest Holly according to the boat charter, could see his mother’s weariness. It had taken him far too long to realize she was giving him her rations. Now, maintaining the miniscule spell to hide their belongings, the safety spell for proximity alert, and the bearded disguise to hide her beauty, were becoming difficult for her to sustain. Several times throughout the day, he saw subtle changes as her face threatened to shift back to her feminine features.
Elizabeth Hillin pulled her son close, beckoning the dream spirit to bring her rest while also keeping vigil. It was unfortunate that complete exhaustion struck at that very moment, as starving men surrounding the pair began their fight for vessel control. She could see the bloodthirsty quest in her dreamlike state, but her physical body would not respond in attention. The only power that remained was tightening her vice-like grip around the small being, the living physical proof she had done at least one thing right in the world.
“Wake up, wake up!” whispered the boy with urgency.
I cannot, my beautiful boy.
Eryk recognized the barely visible spectral light surrounding them as the whisper reached his ears. His mother had often sent him secret messages in this manner, although none so despairing.
Hide the charmed canvas bag under your coat, strap it to your shoulder. You must cast the miniscule spell yourself, just as I taught you, to keep all concealed. Do it now, my son.
Still within her vice grip, the boy struggled to follow her instructions, his eyes beginning to fight the emotional pain.
Do not cry, my boy. You have never shed a tear and will not do so now. Be joyful, for your adventure is just beginning. Now hurry!
Ignoring the chaos surrounding them, he focused only on his mother and her instructions.
Put your hand under my shirt and upon the family crystal. Should my manly disguise fade, you must break the chain and hold it to your own heart.
Wide-eyed, with his left hand gripping the gem, the boy unsuccessfully searched his mind for additional lessons, spells to protect his sleeping mother.
Do not fret, my boy. It is not within your power or mine to save this shell. Follow the plan and head south, you will know when you arrive. Perform the ceremony I taught you… separate and sacred, never together. Promise me.
Be careful. Hide your gifts and only use them as you must. They hunt our kin there too. Be brave, my son.
“I promise, but please don’t leave me,” he beckoned softly.
I will always be with you. I will always be with you.
Her final words continued to ring in his ears as he sat curled in his mother’s lap, his hand clutching the family crystal. The wooden vessel, now being torn apart by desperate men, also suffered a battering as the seas began to roll with great might. The slanting of the deck and resulting gravitational force elicited the fall of a man, his sword plunging with no forgiveness into the woman who could not wake.
A blinding light erupted from the source, the last remnants of the safety enchantment. It pushed the young boy and family shield to safety; his mother simultaneously transforming back into her breathtaking feminine form.
No one noticed the presence of magic, or the stricken young boy who had ripped open his own shirt to follow his mother’s directive. For a long-awaited announcement caused drawn swords to stop swinging in midair, and all eyes to shift upwards towards the spire and pointing finger. Screams of anger and anguish turned into cheers of revelry and celebration as the tower scout yelled.
“Land! Land ahead!”
Coming to Kindle and Amazon : Summer 2021
Annie MacInturner glanced at the space-suited figure moving toward her across the lunar surface. It was her rookie crewmate Milt Johnson. She noted the ease with which he moved. He had difficulty moving during training on Earth, since his suit hindered him. She had figured he would get his moon legs, and it pleased her to see it come true.
“Looks good,” she said as he reached her position near the crawler. “We get these garbage cans set out, we’ll call it a day.” She referred to the fifty-gallon-drum-sized experiments they needed to unload from the six-wheeled crawler. The setup of the experimental packages was the goal of the first EVA. Throughout training before the mission, they had done the work in three or four hours. They had started hour five a few minutes ago.
“You’re the boss,” answered Milt in his relaxed style. She had known him for two years, since he joined the space agency. He had a reputation for resourcefulness. He always had the most information about anything, including rumors. He also had a know-it-all personality that grated against many in the astronaut office. Even though Milt seemed to have the answers, many times he was right. Annie was glad she gave him a chance to join her on his rookie flight.
“Okay, let’s get after it.” She grabbed one of the garbage cans. It contained a soil mineralogy experiment. She grinned, taking the can and knocking herself off balance. “What the–?”
“Problem boss?” Milt asked in a tone suggesting a joke.
“Damn thing is off balance.” Annie realized that even though the weights of the experiments were much less, moving their mass was difficult. It had been affecting her most of the day, but this last one turned out to be worse than the others.
“Want me to take it?”
“No,” she answered after a moment. “I’ve got it.”
She struggled a moment, finding the package top-heavy. She didn’t recall the same being true on the simulator. The simulation team had forgotten something when they made the training item. On the moon, it only weighed thirty pounds, though having some mass off-center meant it carried significant inertia. Plus, it outweighed her, making it difficult to move. The fact she had her Earth strength to wrestle with it made the movement possible.
Bird’s Snack Petals
By Jess Walzak
The bird eats the pedals of the blossom. His feet gripping the stems of the blossoms.
‘A few more petals to go, and then I can move on to the next blossom.’ He thinks
The last few petals fall down to the ground
He looks to the other blossom, which is full of pedals.
‘No, these are to delicious for to leave on the ground.’
He inches his feet down the stems of the blossoms. He bends his neck down and he snaps up the pedals with his beak. one petal falls farther in to the water. The bird sticks his skull right in to the water and he takes the petal in his mouth. He pulls his head back out and gobbles up the pedals. He wobbles between the steams
‘ better get the rest of those petals while they are in the air, they taste awful when they are soggy.’
The wind picks up and the stems fall apart from each other.
He makes his approach up the stems. He plucks the petals from the flower as the other steam gets away from him.
‘So good, So good!’ as he devours.
All of a Sudden his weight shifts the other way. He chews the petals as fast as he can as he falls toward in the water.
He feeds on as many as he can.
He flies off out of the water.
by Torn MacAlester
Deep wrinkles sat at the corners of Morgan’s blue eyes. His face was a stubble of gray and brown beard, perhaps a day’s worth of growth. Morgan’s thin lips had no hint of a smile, nor did they hint a frown. Pulling off the communications helmet, he revealed a long mane of graying hair. Nelson saw a hint of a sparkle in the man’s eyes as he spoke.
“Thanks,” stated Morgan in a gravelly voice, trailing into a question.
“Nelson.” He extended his hand in friendship to Morgan.
“Nelson,” Morgan smiled, returning the handshake. “Can we strike a bargain for a meal and two tanks of oxygen?”
“Sure,” answered Nelson. “What did you have in mind?” Making a deal did not surprise Nelson. Prospectors usually made deals, though they fiercely followed through with them.
“A rousing conversation and a secret is all I can offer.”
“That seems a little thin,” said Nelson, feeling that the stranger was looking for a handout instead of a deal.
“Son,” smiled Morgan, “once you know the secret, you won’t think so.”
When power is made perfect in weakness
And those that are two are made one
When the finite contains the infinite
And that beyond knowledge is known
Then reflection will become reality
And death will be swallowed by life
The mortal will gain immortality
And truth will trample the lie
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It’s Fridaaaaay, and we’ve got some fun short fiction for you to read! Three Fiction Fountain authors took this prompt for some interesting spins…
Remember, the team had a single image and a specific phrase they had to work in to their story, based on the blog post here.
By Torn MacAlester
This morning on the Night Watch Live AM, we are speaking with Nick in Montana, who’s been living inside of the blast zone of Yellowstone since the explosion last year. Nick, we have a caller on line two, are you ready for questions from the audience?
“Go ahead Sam,” I said, pouring myself another cup of coffee. “I’m ready.”
I’ve got Cooter from Texas on the line. Cooter, you’re live with Sam Dean on Night Watch AM and Nick from Montana.
“Hey yeah Nick, this is Cooter. Ya doin’ all right?”
“I can’t complain Cooter, what is your question?”
“I heard that there was a UFO near the park just before it blew. Did you see anything?”
I cleared my throat, “There had been a lot of sightings around the park region over the years. Personally – have never seen anything.”
“They were preparing for the volcano–”
– it looks like we lost Cooter, we’ll see if we can get him back while we take this commercial break.
I set the phone to speaker and moved over to the fireplace. Finding the hollow-sounding stone, I worked it out of the wall. My hand fished around until finding my keys.
Back to the air with Nick. What is the situation up there?
“The ground is still burning in places here. I think it’s the roots of the trees. The ash from the explosion and the subsequent fires makes it look like winter here all the time. Yesterday we had a beautiful sunshine. It almost looked like a great day to go skiing, but it’s ash – not snow.
“Yes, thanks. Sam, I’ve been up here for many years. I’m not going to abandon my home.”
But, Nick. The government scientists have repeatedly said that anyone within three hundred miles of the park needs to leave. It is not safe.
“Sam, it’s always been dangerous in this country. People often forget that wolves were reintroduced years ago. Besides, I need to fix my truck before I can leave. I can’t easily walk out on foot.”
Nick, I’ve been wondering. You claim to be the closest to the eruption who survived. Where exactly are you?
“To give you an idea, there is a stretch of road between West Yellowstone and Big Sky Montana. There’s a ski resort up there. I am about thirty miles north and west of that resort. I’ve got everything I need though. I have a place to stay that has an enclosed porch. I use it to keep the dust out of the house. I’ve had good luck.”
I understand that is the most important. I’ve heard claims that that dust is slowly hurting everyone.
“It’s killing everyone Sam. You breath this stuff in, it combines with the moisture in your lungs and it forms concrete. We’re all slowly suffocating as our lungs fill up with cement.”
I’ve heard a Brazilian medicine that can treat it.
“It’s too late for me,” I said. “I’ve been feeling my breathing becoming harder and harder.”
You can likely be treated.
“Sam,” I said, pulling on my coat. “I’m heading out to the nearest post office, it’s going to take me most of today to make that drive. I’ll be sending you a key. A friend of mine will be asking for it from you someday. You’ll know who it is.”
I am surprised, Nick. What is all this about?
“You will understand when you get it.”
by Yvonne DeBandi
“I’m freezing, and my head hurts. How long will it take?” asked Arny as he shifted the firewood in his hands and rubbed his forehead.
“They should be here soon. Not that far of a hike,” said Skeeter.
“I bet they didn’t believe you. Did you hear them in the background when you made the announcement?”
“Yeah, well they should know better,” sniffed Skeeter. This time-capsule scavenger-hunt is probably more important to me than any of them. I wouldn’t joke about it.”
“You mean cause your great grandpa started it?”
“Yeah, just think,” said Skeeter, “decades ago he stood right here and decided to leave a treasure box in that stone.”
“I wonder what it is?” said Arny.
“No idea. So far everything has been interesting but worthless. Way up here, though? Could be something special. My mom said he had some prize baseball cards they never did find. I bet they are in one of these stashes.”
“Why’d he do it? I mean, what could have triggered the idea to hide stuff all over town?”
“I don’t know. Boredom?” shrugged Skeeter, “Whatever the reason, sure has been fun. Kept us hopping all over the county limits for two years now. And look out there. It’s amazing. Probably never would have taken this hike without him leading the way.”
“Me either,” said Arny turning to face him, his arms full of wood. “I think we have enough. Not complaining, but I’m still freezing and my head still hurts. Fire time.”
“Woah! That is quite a lump. Here, let me do that. Sit over there while I get it burning.”
“Put some snow on it,” suggested Skeeter. “That might help the swelling.”
“You gonna tell ‘em?” he asked, following Skeeter’s suggestion.
“It really is too good a story not to, one for the club legend books. Why, you want me to keep it on the downlow?”
Arny shrugged. “Just didn’t want my first score to be by accident.”
“Oh, come now, Arny! Haven’t I taught you anything? There are no accidents. This score was meant to be yours. Who else could trip over his own feet and hit his head against the one hollow-sounding stone in the wall?”
“I guess it is pretty epic,” chuckled Arny.
“It is! But how about we leave out the part where I thought that sound came from your head.”
Blizzard on Beta 12
by Cera Daniels (Dani)
A little thing fell. Half a snowflake, no more. In a silent, motionless world, it was movement itself, a dance from the heavens. All took notice of its path. All saw as the snowflake tumbled, with all the delicacy of a flower petal shaken loose by a cruel child. Its new home was barren, frozen dirt, the same substance that covered the entire planet. Except this patch of dirt was a doorstep. All coveted the new, little thing. One, then two, and finally a third being shoved out of the burrow. They brushed black dust from their hair, their skin, their clothes, and as they hovered in a half-circle around it, they blinked at the tiny crystalline jewel that lay at the entrance to their home.
“Saw first,” Awa said, starting forward with a gleam of excitement in their eyes.
“No!” Daw shoved them to one side. “No step! No smash!”
“No push!” Three of Awa’s arms connected with Daw’s body, aggravated slaps in quick succession.
Bwa ducked under four pairs of green, flailing arms. With a whisper, Bwa hunkered down over the gem, and caged its resting place with two of their hands. “Shiny-mine…”
Even as the grunting of their companions continued, Bwa’s hands dipped into the powder of the ground. They scooped up the black dust until their hands were filled, the white gem nestled on top. Awa and Daw paid no notice at all as the gem disappeared from sight into their shared burrow.
With a free hand, Bwa tapped on a hollow-sounding stone in the wall. It swung open to reveal a handle, and twisting the handle then allowed the wall to swing open. Carefully, so carefully, Bwa set the pile onto a pedestal in the room where other precious things were kept. Cold, black rocks, silver shards, auburn crystals of mysterious metals, strange green seeds. The snowflake was a treasure, the only one of its kind.
Outside, the terraforming machine continued its work, the fire firing up the atmosphere enough that more water collected, more crystals formed. In time, the snow that fell would heat to water, melt, create rivers, oceans, lush grass. That was the theory anyway. In time, the troublesome bugs would get worked out of the software.
“More shiny.” Awa said, reaching upward as the gems slowly fell toward them.
“More shiny,” Bwa agreed.
That’s it for today’s fiction! I hope you all have a fantastic weekend and a very happy Valentine’s Day 🙂
On Fridays the team at Fiction Fountain either posts a writing prompt or the responses to a prompt from a previous week. Our writers will take the prompt below and do writerly things with it. And next week, you’ll get to see what they come up with!
Want to write along? Please do! You’re welcome to post your response to today’s prompt in the comments or, if you’d like to be considered for a highlight on the blog, let us know on Discord!
The prompt for January 24th is the photo seen below, plus the phraaaase:
hollow-sounding stone in the wall
PS: To our Aussie friends–may there be enough gentle rains in the near future to help get those blazes down–and keep them down. <3
It’s Two Question Tuesday, the day of the week where we ask our Fiction Fountain team of writers some fun or difficult questions about writing, reading, and generally being. Let’s see what our word artists have to say this week!
As a reader, I like the Novella format. They are generally as sophisticated as a novel, but you can read it in a single sitting.
As a reader, I love them all, but tend to read more novels or series than the other. Perhaps for no other reason than I want to be truly immersed in the created worlds. A novel and a series of novels gives me longer opportunity to do so.
As a writer, novels seem to be my thing. Even though the six published works are all connected in the same universe with cameo appearances by other characters…they all stand on their own. The story within the cover is complete. That doesn’t mean, however, that the same characters will not continue with a new story later on. To be continued…
A novel is preferable to me and what I would read. Not too short and not too long.
Cera Daniels (Dani)
Yes! Oh. I can’t have them all? I prefer to write and read shared world series with interconnected characters running through each other’s stories. As a reader, there’s more for me to devour in the same galaxy/world/city! In my own writing work I create big big worlds that I just can’t get enough of and want to spend more time hanging out in while I’m at the keyboard.
Thunder Moon Tussle resulted in another novel that is in progress, Mask of the Widow’s Moon, needed a better backstory. The story began as an exploration between two very contrasting characters and evolved into as strong Romance and Action Adventure story. My inspiration for the story background had been the now defunct Constellation program. One of the requirements for the missions to be done in two launches instead of one meant access to the lunar poles. The story assumes a system that does not have access to the poles and results in the construction of a road to reach the lunar north pole. The adventure takes place on this road twenty years after it was abandoned.
Currently polishing up a new novel – Behind Green Door: The Magic of Mystic May
When Mystic May enters the haunted orphanage attic, she begins a magical journey foretold by a four-hundred-year-old prophecy, one that leads to the strange little town of HollyVale. Surrounded by lies and flooded by late seventeenth century dreams about Wizard Holly and Seer Vale, 17-year-old Mystic is forced to unravel many HollyVale secrets. Can she unveil the unique circumstances surrounding her birth in time to close the dark magic doorways? Or will the sinister gates created with her first breath be opened, ending all peace on earth?
Inspired by catching the ancestry bug and learning about our family in Ipswich (just outside of Salem) in the late 1600’s.
It is the final ‘book’ in my Troupe Quadrilogy. It is taking place during the summer months, so it is supposed to have this big Summer event feel to it, gladiator fights, spy intrigue, a musical sequence. This is close to the characters’ development mostly for the fallen knight turned fighter, what happens when what he is comes to light, and how the troupe helps him.
Cera Daniels (Dani)
The original draft of Truth Spark was the result of a few 60-80 hour work weeks at the office during storm season…the no-sleep delirium & frequent power outages had me wondering what would happen if the thunderstorm outside were caused by hunky electrical heroes & dastardly villains fighting to control powerlines in the area.
Want to know more about these writers? Check them out, and the rest of the team, via the About page links on the top menu.
Okay lovely readers, your turn! What is your favorite: series, novel, novella, or short story?
And visiting writers, hey–tell us about YOUR inspirations!
Tell us all about it in the comments, or come join us on Discord!