The Legacy

31 DaysDay 20: WITNESS PROTECTION {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

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The Legacy

Tessa wound her way along the trail on a majestic black steed barely noticing the changing colors of the leaves or the smell of the coming rain. Her mind was focused not on the route but on the destination, her arrival in the training village and what role she would be assigned. As the daughter of a peasant, chances were good that she would be assigned to work outside in the weather. She’d heard rumor of girls like herself being given work of endlessly hauling water from the well outside the village, of tending to the grounds around the knights’ lands or of being assigned as an apprentice to the village growers. Tessa couldn’t help but sigh at the prospects that lay before her and she grasped the sword that hung gallantly from the saddle of her horse – her brother’s legacy, him having died in the war against the Callifents just a year ago. A gifted warrior who had mentored her brother in the fine art of swordsmanship and battle, Tessa was determined to seek something other than the usual assigned roles she would be expected to fill.

The trees grew denser and the trail narrower and Tessa slowed her horse’s gait. She was in no hurry to reach the training village. Unfortunately, her brother’s servant, Edward traveled with her, several feet behind, or she would spur on her steed for parts unknown. Edward had been charged with seeing that Tessa arrived in the village a fortnight from their embarking upon the journey, and already they were closing in on that arranged arrival. As demurely as she was able, Tessa glanced over her shoulder for Edward’s whereabouts; he had been no more interested in accompanying her on this journey than had she and his pace continued to slow and distance his presence from hers. It was one of the only blessings for which she could find herself grateful.

Just ahead, Tessa thought she sensed movement along the trail and she pulled up on the reins so that her horse, her brother’s horse, slowed to barely a walk. She allowed Edward to close the gap between them as she scanned the forest that surrounded them. In between the clopping of Edward’s horse’s hooves, she sensed another presence and looked back at Edward. Suddenly, an arrow whooshed through the air to her left and pierced Edward through the throat. He immediately slipped from his saddle and fell to the ground with a dull thump. Tessa brought her horse to a stop, her eyes scanning the woods around her, one hand holding fast to the sword, the other gripping the handle of a dagger with which she could hit a target from a good one hundred paces away.

From the darkened forest, a figure in full knightly armor on horseback appeared in front of her and she lowered her eyes.

“My good Sir,” Tessa said, still not looking at the figure in front of her.

“Your name and your destination,” the man said.

“Yes, my Lord,” Tessa said. “I am Phoenicia Hollingberry of the Summerloch Hollingberries traveling to the Village of Freyden, my Lord.” Tessa bowed her head and waited his response to her words.

“My Lady, I shall escort you to Freyden,” the knight told her.

Tessa let a small gasp escape her lips and gripped her cloak tightly around her as she bowed her head even lower. “Oh, my Lord, what am I to do about my servant?”

The night nodded solemnly and surveyed Edward’s fallen form. “I extend my apologies to you, Maiden Hollingberry, for this unseemly loss, but I fear we must keep moving lest we find ourselves on this path after the sun fades and danger threatens.”

“It is such an untimely death,” Tessa said, holding her tongue despite her desire to address this man’s actions of such ill-intent.

“You have my sympathies, indeed, dear Maiden, but your safety is in question and your continued travel is imperative,” he said.

Tessa nodded as demurely as she could and finally met his gaze though she tried to keep the challenge from her eyes.

“You carry a sword, my Lady,” the knight observed.

“Indeed,” Tessa replied. “I carry the memory of my dear brother in this sword, my Lord. It is all I have left of my family and their memory. It is our legacy.”

“Perhaps you will allow me to transport it for you, Maiden Hollingberry.”

Tessa gritted her teeth and held tight to the handle of the weapon, taking strength from its smoothness and from the knowledge that she had shown her brother how to wield it in battle. After a moment, she spoke as softly as a Lady should in such circumstances. “My good Sir, if you will accompany me to the Village of Freyden, but allow me this time to mourn my servant’s death and my brother’s also, I will present this sword to you upon entrance to the village. I beg thee, my Lord.”

The knight regarded her for a long moment and acquiesced to her request as he drew his horse alongside hers. “Shall we then proceed to Freyden?” he said.

“Indeed,” Tessa replied. “Indeed we shall.” And as she spurred her horse to a gait matching that of the knight beside her, Tessa’s mind began to weave together a plan that would not only honor her brother’s and her family’s legacy, but one that would seal it into the written history of the land, starting with the Village of Freyden.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: WITNESS PROTECTION - Put a character in a situation entirely new to the character, e.g., college, a new school, a new job, a new city or country. Let the character improvise a new identity, as most of us do when we’ve moved into a new world. This exercise should not be about the new situation but about how the character adjusts herself and her mind to new situation. What everyone should understand of this exercise is that each new person or friend in our lives who has any impact on us changes us slightly and sometimes significantly. Our social selves are made up of dozens and even hundreds of these subtle transformations. {Exercise 76 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

Pizza and Perogies

31 DaysDay 19: TEACHER {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

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Pizza and Perogies

Jasia stood in the hall with two bags of groceries and stared at the door: 6B. Natia was expecting her but she didn’t know about the groceries and Jasia wasn’t sure how to introduce the idea that she was here to introduce her to the secrets of their grandmother’s uszka recipe and that Jasia would be making the traditional Polish dish for Christmas Eve dinner this year. It was something their mother and grandmother had discussed for several days over the phone and then in person. Jasia was elected to help her sister appreciate the family tradition, especially the making of the food. Jasia sighed.

Jasia knocked and sucked in her breath.

Natia swung open the door, beaming from ear to ear, “We are going to have so much fun. I’m so glad you’re here!” Natia ushered her sister through the door. “What’s all this?” she asked Jasia, taking one of the bags out of her sister’s hands and peering inside. She stopped and looked up at Jasia. “No. No. Please, tell me this isn’t what I think it is,” Natia said.

Jasia wound her way to the kitchen. “We haven’t cooked together in forever,” Jasia said over her shoulder.

“With good reason,” Natia replied, dropping her bag on the kitchen table with a thunk and pulling out the various ingredients and studying each one as if it might hold the secret of life. She lined the boxes and jars and flours up on the counter next to the stove. “Why can’t we at least make something more…” She paused. “Something more bad for us and maybe even sweet and calorie laden?”

“Okay, well, we can,” Jasia said, “after we make this.”

Natia looked at her younger sister and narrowed her eyes. “So this is why you called me up and asked to come for a visit?”

Jasia shook her head wildly. “Seriously. That’s what you think?”

“What should I think, Jaycee,” Natia said, using the nickname she’d given Jasia when they were in elementary school and the kids were teasing Jasia about her name and about being Polish. Natia’d taken to calling her sister Jaycee in front of the other kids and told her sister she should use the name in school. They never told their parents, and especially not their grandmother. Everyone thought coming to the United States was going to be a dream come true, and in many ways it was. But kids were mean wherever you lived, but together, Jasia and Natia had not only survived, but thrived.

“Okay, look, I made the mistake of saying I was coming to see you when Gran was over for dinner,” Jasia said.

Natia groaned. “Oh, Jaycee, what were you thinking?”

“Obviously, I wasn’t,” Jasia told her. “I’m sorry. I was just so excited to visit.”

“It’s okay,” Natia said, and pulled her sister onto her lap. “I still love you.” Jasia wrapped her arms around her sister’s neck and hugged her tight. How she missed having Natia around. “Shall we get started? Get it over with so we can order a pizza and watch some bad movies?” Natia asked, poking her sister in the ribs.

————–

They were almost half way through the dough making process, which essentially meant kneading the dough for what seemed like the length of eternity to get it to the right consistency, when Jasia decided she should probably break the rest of the news to her sister.

“Please tell me this looks good enough,” Natia said.

“Almost,” Jasia told her, causing Natia to sigh.

“Gosh, this is so boring,” Natia said. “I can’t believe women make such a big deal out of stuff like this.”

Jasia cleared her throat. “So, Christmas is almost here.”

Natia looked at her like she was crazy, “Jacye, it’s October.”

“Well, yeah, but there’s the planning and stuff.” Jasia looked at her sister out of the corner of her eye.

“I’m calling this done,” Natia said. Jasia reached a hand into the dough and pronounced it good and they covered it for the necessary 20 minutes. “I’m going to call and order the pizza.”

“Okay, but we still need to make the uszka once the dough is ready.”

Natia dropped into one of the kitchen chairs. “Seriously, Jayce, do you like doing all this stuff?”

Jasia stopped stirring the borscht and looked at her sister, considering this. As she continued stirring, she said, “It’s not all so awful, Natia. Sometimes, when you’re spending time with your sister, it can be kind of fun.”

“Okay. But you do this all the time with Mama and with Gran.”

Jasia shrugged. “Not all the time.”

“But do you like doing all this stuff, Jayce?”

Jasia turned around. “Yeah. Sometimes,” she said. “Why do you resent it so much?”

Natia sighed. “I don’t resent it. Not specifically,” she said. “I resent the expectation of it, you know?” Jasia didn’t say anything. “I actually like the dish. And I like to cook, even uszka and perogies. But I don’t like being guilted into it, that’s all.”

“Wait. You. You make these?” Jasia asked.

“Only once or so a month,” Natia said.

“But whenever you come home–“

“Like I said, I don’t like the Polish guilt of it all,” Natia said. “I don’t like–“

“The judging?” Jasia finished for her.

Natia got up and grabbed two small tumblers from the cupboard and poured them each a glass of red wine. “Exactly,” she said, handing her sister one of the glasses. Jasia looked at the mess on the counter and the stove and the kitchen table. She was hungry and starting to feel tired from the drive. Without hesitation, Natia took her sister’s hand and pulled her toward the living room where she has several DVDs set out on the coffee table and several junk food choices. Natia took her sister’s glass and put hers and her own on the table next to a bag of cheesy puffs and then Natia flopped onto the couch, pulling her sister down with her. Both girls kicked off their shoes and sunk into the cushions.

“Mama doesn’t believe this, but I love who we are. I love the story of our parents and our grandparents and the fact that our relatives survived some of the toughest times this world has known,” Natia said. “And I carry that with me, almost every day, you know, that strength, that survival.”

The doorbell rang and Natia thanked the delivery guy for the pizza and tipped him generously.

“But I don’t want to be told who I am,” Natia said. “I know who I am. I want to be accepted for that. So I do a lot of pushing.”

The two sisters looked at each other for several moments. “I guess I didn’t get that,” Jasia said. “I’ve just sort of let things happen.”

“Which is funny,” Natia told her, “because that’s not who you are at all. Not since we stood strong in third grade and declared you Jaycee and you embraced being Jaycee and Jasia. You’re amazing, Jayce. And people, including Mama, need to see you that way.” Natia headed into the kitchen for plates and the bottle of wine. “Hey,” she called, “what do you want to do with this dough.”

Jasia thought for a moment and smiled. “Toss it. You are more than ready to make Christmas Eve dinner without practicing Gran’s uszka technique.”

Natia appeared in the doorway. “Wait. What? Christmas Eve dinner?”

“Thus the groceries, the borscht and Gran’s recipe,” Jasia said.

“Do you think I can bring wine?” Natia said.

“I sure hope you will. Better uszka–“

“Better memories,” they said together.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: TEACHER - In a short scene, have one character teach another character something that changes the teacher. There are different types of teachers and students in novels and films. Don’t be satisfied with the most common types of teacher-student relationships. {Exercise 75 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

What’s at Stake

31 DaysDay 18: WANTS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

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What’s at Stake

“What time do you have?” James asked the guy behind the counter.

“Eleven twenty-three.”

“Thanks,” James said. He dialed Hannah’s number again, but this time it went right to voicemail. “Can I get a little more coffee?” James punched in George’s number and waited. Finally, on the fourth ring, George picked up.

“I’m busy,” George said.

“Yeah, me, too. I need a favor,” James said.

George groaned on the other end of the line. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Hannah?”

“That’s the favor,” James said.

“Man, if you don’t know by know –“

“Cut the crap, George and listen,” James told him. “Hannah was supposed to be here at least twenty minutes ago.”

“She’s late. So?”

“So, I can’t reach her. She didn’t call, no answer at her house and cell goes to voicemail,” James said. “It’s not like her.”

“Okay.”

“I want you to trace her calls.”

“You serious?” George said. “It’s only been twenty minutes.”

“Just do this for me,” James said.

“Yeah. Sure. Give me a few minutes, I’ll call you back.”

“Thanks,” James said and hung up. “Can you put this in a To Go cup?” James took the coffee and went outside and paced back and forth in front of the diner, looking up and down the street, but there was no sign of Hannah. It was getting colder and the few people on the street hurried along into the bars or apartments or cars that lined the street. James’ phone rang and he answered it before the first ringtone finished. “You’re fast, dude.”

“Am I speaking to James Pierce?” an unfamiliar voice asked.

“Who is this?”

“Who I am is not as important as who I’m with,” the guy said. “Say hello, Hannah.” There was a pause. “Oh, sorry, she can’t come to the phone right now, but she sends her regards.”

“Who is this?”

“I’m sending a video stream to your phone, James, so you can see that this is not something to ignore.”

James’ phone signaled the arrival of a video and he clicked over to the link. There, on his phone, he saw Hannah, tied to a chair, her hands and ankles bound to the chair. She was blindfolded and there was something that looked like a bomb under her chair. James watched her as she squeezed her fists closed, then opened them and then squeezed them closed again. Opened, closed, opened, closed, opened, closed. And the toe of her left foot tapped sporadically.

“What do you want?” James asked, gritting his teeth.

“Oh, well that’s simple, James. You have access to information I need. It’s an even exchange, information for Hannah’s well-being.”

“What information?”

“Right. That’s an important detail.” The guy laughed a short, maniacal laugh before continuing. “That’s simple. The schematics for ADX Florence and Senator Christof’s itinerary for Thursday, November 16.”

“Neither of those are simple.”

“But they are necessary if you want to see Hannah again,” the guy told him. “Oh, she mentioned that the pregnancy is really making her nauseous, by the way.”

Before James could say anything else, the phone went dead. “Son of a bitch.” He took in a deep breath and sank onto the curb. “Son of a bitch.” His phone rang again and he closed his eyes and answered. “Listen you son of a bitch–“

“James, it’s me, man,” George said.

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Want to tell me what’s going on?”

“Did you get anything?” James asked.

“There were a couple of jammed numbers.”

“Find them. Get me names, addresses, whatever you’ve got,” James said.

“It’s going to take me some time,” George told him.

“I don’t have time,” James said. “Just get it, George.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

James stared into the night sky that was drowned out by the city lights. Prison schematics and the Senator’s itinerary. What the hell is this guy trying to do? James wondered. And how had he managed to get to Hannah?  His phone rang again and this time he stared at it for several seconds, working out what little plan he could make without knowing what was at stake except for Hannah’s life.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: WANTS - write a story in which two characters both want the same thing, and if one gets what she wants, the other can’t have what he wants. Great literature is often built on such conundrums. We watch the great tragedies of Shakespeare or the Greeks unfold and come to this sort of point where resolution is impossible – Hamlet can’t obey his father’s ghost and his mother’s wishes at the same time. The best stories have the simplest problems at their heart. {Exercise 72 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

Night Sky Mission

31 DaysDay 17: NEEDS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Night Sky Mission

“What if somebody sees us?” Gary asked.

“Relax, would you? No one’s going to anywhere near this place tonight,” Frank told him. “I told you I had it covered.”

Gary grunted as he moved around the desk and sat down in front of the computer. “What am I looking for,” he asked.

“Just fire her up and I’ll go through the logs,” Frank said.

“Whatever,” Gary said. He slid a small device from his pocket and slid it into the USB port to trace the password keystrokes. Within seconds he’d broken through the three levels of security and unlocked one final code to access the covert files. His fingers ran across the keyboard with amazing dexterity and file names began scrolling up the screen. “There’s several hundred files on here,” Gary said, “why don’t we just grab them all and be done?”

“Because that’s not why we’re here. Do you mind?” Frank stood over Gary waiting for him to get up.

“So what do you want me to do?” Gary asked.

“Keep an eye on the door and the hall.”

“Thought you said nobody’d be around here tonight.”

“Yeah, well, you can’t be too careful, right?” Frank said.

“Yeah, sure,” Gary said and moved over to the door where he watched Frank more than the hall. Frank seemed a lot more familiar with the system than he’d let on at first. “Do you remember your first mission?”

Frank looked up at him. “What?”

“They say you never forget, right,” Gary continued. “Mine? Overseas. London of all places. Sent over to retrieve files that were smuggled out of a defense contractor’s office. First, find the files. Second, find the mole. Third, well, you know.”

Frank shook his head. “I’ve got to focus.” Frank typed in access codes and maneuvered through screens without hesitation and Gary wondered why he’d needed Gary to crack the first three security screens.

“What was your first mission?” Gary said, looking over Frank’s shoulder at the screen. The file names he was grabbing all referenced something called the Night Sky Project.

“It was a long time ago,” Frank said, not looking up. Gary leaned in closer and realized that Frank wasn’t marking the files for copying, he was systematically deleting them, and not just deleting them from the hard drive or the server, but running some high-tech program that shredded the documents so that there’d be no way to reconstruct them.

Gary stepped behind Frank and put a pistol to the back of his head. “Take your hands off the keys,” Gary said.

“Are you out of your mind? What the hell are you doing?” Frank stopped typing for a moment.

“I’ll ask you the same thing,” Gary replied.

“I’m tagging the files,” Frank said.

“No, you’re shredding the files. Why?”

Frank made a move toward his pack and Gary cocked the hammer and shoved the gun a little harder into the back of Frank’s skull. “Don’t,” Gary told him, and then suggested Frank get up and move to the chair by the door. Once Frank was seated, Gary sat across from him on the edge of the desk, the gun aimed at Frank’s throat. “So, again, why are you shredding the files?”

“I’m just following orders,” Frank said.

“Tell me about your first mission, Frank,” Gary said.

“What?”

“Every detail. Convince me that you’re telling the truth about the mission and about the files,” Gary said.

“We don’t have time for this,” Frank told him.

“Nobody’s coming around here tonight, Frank,” Gary said. “We’ve got a few minutes.”

“This is ridiculous,” Frank said and pushed himself out of the chair.

Without missing a beat, Gary fired a shot through Frank’s thigh, causing Frank to fall back into the chair, grabbing his leg and yelling out with the shock. “Sonofabitch,” he said.

“Your first mission, Frank.”

Frank applied as much pressure to his leg as he could with his hands and took in several breaths, gritting his teeth and glaring at Gary. “Fine,” he said. “First mission was Croatia, nineteen-ninety-five, Operation Storm.”

“Go on,” Gary said.

“We were greenlighted by Clinton to clean up the trail of US involvement.”

“What was your role?”

“I led the team.”

“What team?”

“There were six of us. We were there to extract two Seals.”

“Names.”

“Gahhhhh,” Frank muttered, grabbing his leg.

“Names, Frank.”

“The team included Maresca, Cargill, McKenna, Schmidt, Anderson and me.”

“Ops name.”

“Diamondback.”

Gary narrowed his eye. “Never heard of it.”

“No kidding.”

“You’ll need to do better than that,” Gary said, cocking the hammer of his gun again. They both knew he didn’t need to cock the hammer before he fired, but Gary was trying to give Frank another chance and they both knew that, too.

“Diamondback, like the snake. We were recruited for a special ops assignment that was off the books. No records, no trail, nothing to link any of us to what we were doing.”

“Convince me, Frank.”

Frank rolled up his sleeve and turned his arm over to reveal a thick, black tattoo of a diamondback snake. There were six letters in six of the diamonds: M, C, Mc, S, A, G.

“Why you here tonight?”

“Same as you,” Frank said.

“Nope. You were focused on something called the Night Sky Project. Not the information I was given.”

“It’s a bit like Operation Storm,” Frank explained.

Just then, two guys in black busted through the door with guns drawn and two more guys sprayed the windows behind Gary with bullets and crashed through the windows into the office.

“Seems we found Gilmore,” Gary said and the Night Sky Ops stood down.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: NEEDS -write a fragment of a story about a character in a desperate situation. This person has to tell a story to get out of the desperate situation. Narrative appears to be hardwired into our systems, the way some kind of basic language underlies all of the world’s languages (according to Noam Chomsky). We sometimes laugh in the face of great danger – an instinctive reaction. Do we tell stories for reasons other than entertainment? {Exercise 71 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

Poll: Help Me with Your Input

31 DaysThis month I’m participating in a challenge to write something for all 31 days. I decided to create 31 days of stories based on Writing Prompts. My goal is to take one of the stories from these prompts and expand it into a full novel next month as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And that’s where you come in.

I’d love to hear from you about which story fragment you’d be interested in seeing turned into a longer piece. Links to the stories appear after the poll so that you can refresh your memory if you need to.

 

(all links will open in a new window)

Click here to read Sophia and Henry.

Click here to read The Truthseekers.

Click here to read Destiny Awaits.

Click here to read We’re a Go.

If you favored a different story, please leave your vote in the comments. Thank you for your input.

Here’s to You

31 DaysDay 16: DEATHBED CONVERSIONS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Here’s to You

Seth wasn’t sure which was gloomier, the gray, rainy day outside or the dim, sterile room where his father appeared to be sleeping fitfully. At least I can do something about the mood inside, Seth thought and he opened the curtains and the blinds enough to let in whatever gray daylight he could. He also switched on the three table lamps the Hospice workers had arranged around the room. The lamps created a warm glow and Seth took a seat on the love seat by the window and took out his iPhone. It was a nervous habit, but as long as he admitted it, he figured it was okay and he’d just go ahead and scroll through Facebook.

His father shifted and stirred, pushing himself up slightly against the pillows. He squinted at Seth.

“Hey, Dad, yeah, it’s me. Seth.”

“I’ll be…” He tried to sit up, but couldn’t.

Seth moved awkwardly to his side. “Here, let me,” Seth said.

“There’s a button on here somewhere,” his dad told him.

A Hospice worker stepped into the room. “Need anything, Archie?” he asked.

“Can you help me get him so he’s sitting up?” Seth asked her.

“Sure thing. My name’s Steve, by the way.” Steve moved around Seth and fished the remote control from where it had fallen beneath the rail. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Archie said. “This is my son, Seth.”

Seth reached out a hand and shook Steve’s. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

“You, too,” Steve replied. “Need anything else, Archie?”

Archie grinned at him. “What time do you have, Steve?”

“About ten minutes till five,” Steve said.

“How ’bout you come back and ask me that question at a few minutes past the hour?”

“Sure thing, Archie. Back in a few.”

“Thanks,” Seth said and stood awkwardly for several moments.

“I’m glad to see you,” Archie said.

“Yeah,” Seth said. He sat on the edge of the love seat feeling more than a little self-conscious. For reasons he couldn’t understand, he had no idea what to talk about, so he went with the some of the obvious things. They talked about the Red Sox and their post-season chances and then moved on to Seth’s current work projects and his upcoming wedding.

“She’s a sweet girl,” Archie told him and Seth nodded. He and Lily had talked about moving up the date of their wedding, but too many things were already in place that they’d end up losing too much money from the deposits.

“She likes you a whole lot, too,” Seth said and cleared his throat.

Steve came back into the room. “Okay, Archie, it’s now several minutes after the hour. What do you need?”

Archie looked at Seth. “Would you excuse us for just a few minutes, son?”

“Oh. Yeah. Sure.” Seth headed out into the hall and looked out the window. There was a small break in the clouds and a few rays of sun were pushing back the gray. He sighed and pulled out his phone, checking for new messages even though he knew there weren’t any. Steve left the room and signaled it was okay to go back in.

“So, what’s up?” Seth asked his dad. Archie simply shook his head and smiled. He looked tired, but there was a mischievous gleam in his eye. “Okay,” Seth said. “I’ll play along.” Archie winked at him.

“Steve’ll be back here in a minute, and we should talk about things,” Archie said. “Before he gets back.” Seth pulled his phone out of his pocket. “It’s okay, Seth. Really. It is. I’ve made my peace with it.”

“I haven’t.”

“You will,” Archie said.

“What if I don’t want to?” Seth said.

“Cancer’s not giving you a choice, Son. Neither is the doc,” Archie told him. “Not more than twelve or so hours before I lapse back into the in and out again.”

Seth turned away and looked out the window. The sun was shining much brighter now, it’s golden light playing off the autumn colors on the trees. Steve knocked quietly on the door and entered carrying a small silver tray with two short glasses and a bottle of single malt Scotch.

“Dad?” Seth looked at Archie.

“Steve would you put that here, where I can reach it?” Steve placed the tray on the night table next to Archie’s bed. “Between you and me, right?” Archie said as Steve opened the door. Steve gave a quick nod and smiled as he disappeared into the hall.

“You’ve been sober twenty-three years,” Seth said.

Archie shifted a bit and poured two inches of Scotch shakily into each glass. “My terms,” he said and gestured to a glass. Seth hesitated for a moment and then stepped forward and picked up the glass. He handed the other to his dad, whose eyes brimmed with tears. “To you, Son, in honor of the man you’ve become and to your upcoming nuptials. A toast for much happiness ahead.”

“And to the man you’ve always been,” Seth added.

Seth clinked his glass gently against his dad’s and took a drink, watching Archie over the rim. Archie held the glass under his nose for a moment and breathed in the smoky aroma and a tear slid down his cheek. He looked over his own rim at Seth watching him. “Love you, Son,” he said and take a long drink.

Seth smiled through his own tears. “So?”

“I’ve missed that taste for twenty-three years,” he admitted. “But I got to have you.”

“Today, you get to have both.” He raised his glass once again to his dad, smiled and took a long drink from his glass.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: DEATHBED CONVERSIONS - write a short death scene in which the person dying changes his mind about something fundamental to the life that is about to be completed. Describe the death as naturally and calmly as you can. Don’t go for drama. Treat the event of this death as if it were an ordinary occurrence. The conversion does not have to be all that grand either. Respect this conversion – it should be an important matter to the dying person. {Exercise 77 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

Looking for Faith

31 DaysDay 15: WILDERNESS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Looking for Faith

Dawn broke over the ridge and set the tree line aglow with a golden hue; the light beckoned Chase from the deep sleep he’d fallen into behind a fallen log. He shook the sleep from his mind and glanced around for Faith. The ground next to him held no warmth and he figured she must have left sometime during the night, believing it better for them to travel separately rather than together. Clearly she wasn’t going to bring him into the Force, but they were both on the run now and he’d told her last night that they should stick together.

Unfortunately, he didn’t really have a lot of time to process that right now. Inside the various tree lines was the first place he figured the Force would concentrate their search for him. He was surprised actually that they hadn’t found him overnight, but he couldn’t really think about that either; he needed to get moving. At least I’m traveling light, he thought, since I was supposed to be brought in last night.

As the sun rose higher, Chase wove his way through the trees, thankful that he and Faith has spent so much time exploring the inner woods together. It didn’t take long before he stood at the edge of the tree line bordering another of the Provinces. Unlike the one he grew up in where the tallest building was 12 stories, like the dormitory where he’d been living, this Province had buildings that reached to the sky, causing him to squint as he looked up at them. Should provide some good cover maybe, he thought. He hoped to get to the center of the Province and locate the Book Depository because that was the one place he thought he might find Faith.

The streets were fairly empty at this early morning hour and Chase made sure to stay close to the buildings and in the shadows, turning at each block as he moved deeper into the Province. He followed an internal compass based on the myriad conversations he and Faith had about how most of the Provinces were laid out exactly the same even if their building structures tended to vary. Faith knew where the Book Depositories were in all of the seven Provinces and had made her way to each one more than once. In his mind, Chase heard Faith’s voice describing the path she took to the Book Depository in this one, the Pilgrim’s Province.

Chase rounded the corner of yet another block and a glimmer of metal caught his eye. He slowed down and peered more closely at the object that was stuck almost entirely inside a crack created by the missing mortar between a couple of bricks. Swiftly, he ran his hand over the object, removing it from its hiding place and inspecting the amulet in his hand. It was the one Faith wore on a cord around her wrist and Chase smiled; she’d left him behind but was guiding him nonetheless. With the amulet tightly in his grip, he pressed on toward the central square and the Book Depository.

Foot traffic was heavier now with more people exiting the sky scraping buildings with blank looks and brisk paces. No one seemed to notice him, but Chase slowed his pace to match those around him and kept his eyes straight ahead and slightly downcast, like the others. At the next block he jogged briskly to the next block and turned again. He made a note to keep to the smaller streets until he was closer to the depository. Ahead of him, a bulletin board fluttered with layers of papers stuck one over another; whenever a group of Underground Resistors posted something against the Force, it was almost immediately replaced with the Force’s propaganda.

Sometimes, Resistors used the boards to communicate with one another, and as he drew nearer the board, Chase noticed a few different envelopes hidden among the notices. He was almost past the board, when he paused, reached back and pulled one of the envelopes down and turned the corner. He buttoned the amulet into a side pocket of his cargo pants and removed the note from its envelope:

Sir, as you know, the Force does things by the book and your attempts to circumvent their efforts are in vain. The Chain of Command was firmly established from the outskirts of time for good reason and marching orders from the top will not be ignored. History is filled with noble causes and those that opposed them. If you choose to remain on the wrong side of the Force, you, too, will go down in History as one who lost his way, soon forgotten by those that follow you. You should remain not on the outside for much longer before finding yourself at the center of the Force’s movements.

Despite the threatening tone of the note, Chase easily picked out the code that Faith had included within its supposed warning to a traitor. He turned another block, heading deeper into the center of the maze of buildings and so avoiding the Force patrols that would be searching for him along the borders on the outskirts of the Province. He knew that the Book Depository was only a short distance now, and he picked up his pace, eager to come upon Faith once more.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: CHAOS FOLLOWS - Put two characters you already know from your own fiction in a wilderness of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a forest. It could be a desert or a big foreign city where the characters don’t speak the language. Do not explain to the reader why these characters have landed in this wilderness. Stick to one POV. Slowly describe the other character, which does not want to be seen but leaves a handful of traces. Consider how people are recognizable from the things they leave behind, either by accident or on purpose. {Exercise 35 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}