The Well of Souls: Another Writing Contest Entry

This week’s writing contest entry is based on this picture: I hope you like it!  🙂

The Well of Souls

The girl sat cross-legged in the dirt at her grandfather’s feet. Only by absently braiding her long, jet-black hair could she manage to not wiggle in anticipation of the story he would share today from his crude, wooden stool. It was her favorite, and even though she could recite it herself, she preferred it when Grandfather told the story.

As she unbound her hair to begin plaiting again, she swept her eyes over the audience. In addition to herself, there were 8 other children, ranging in ages from 4 to 13, gathered in the small thatch hut to hear the tale. Chattering and fidgeting, they settled down swiftly once they heard Grandfather’s deep, smooth voice fill the chamber.

“When the world was not yet born and the heavens lay fallow,” he began, his dulcet tones capturing the undivided attention of even the youngest child, “the Goddess chose to fill her realm with Light to balance the Darkness.”

The girl closed her eyes and sighed in pleasure. Lightly reclining against her grandfather’s leg, she envisioned his words coalescing into a richly woven tapestry displaying scenes of the Goddess and the Well as the story progressed. In her mind, the girl could see the Goddess – beautiful, serene, powerful – kneeling purposefully by the Well of Souls, pouring the very essence of life into the glistening, translucent pool.

With the Pillars of Creation at Her back, the Goddess caused the Well of Souls to overflow its banks, bringing all that is to the barrenness of the Universe. Stars winked into being across the velvet of the heavens, flashing like jewels, and birthing planets, comets, moons. The Goddess then fashioned a planet, the cradle of our ancestors, and tethered it delicately to Her wrist so as to keep it close. The planet, secured like a bracelet, transformed droplets spilled from the Well into lifeforms. These creatures were mortal and eventually returned their spark of life to the Well, causing another soul to spill from the pool. Thus was the Circle of Life perpetuated.

“As the Goddess surveyed Her work,” Grandfather’s voice dropped to a dramatic whisper, causing the children to listen even more intensely, “She smiled. And all of Creation knew Her Love.”

The girl reluctantly opened her eyes, sad to have reached the end of the story, and looked up to find her grandfather watching her. Her heart fluttered for a moment, frightened that she had somehow displeased him by appearing to sleep while he spoke. Alarmed, she searched the faces of the other children – still rooted in place as if waiting for Grandfather to continue – for a hint of her offense. Finding nothing, she twisted to face him once again and beg his forgiveness.

The corners of his gray eyes crinkled in amusement as he silently drew her first to her feet facing him and then warmly into his sinewy arms. He murmured softly into her ear, “Never forget, Granddaughter, that we will all one day return to the Well of Souls from whence we came. But even when my soul has rejoined our ancestors, my love for you will continue to rival that of the Goddess. You bring Light into my heart, child.”

The other children could not have heard the words the old man had whispered to his grandchild, but their joyful whoops clearly made it known that this was the ending to the story they preferred.

A Mother’s Love: Writing Contest Entry

It amazes me how, whenever I seem to run low on inspiration, the Universe provides.  This post is my entry into Theresa Oliver’s writing contest based on the following image.  Please check her out on Facebook and don’t forget to let me know what you think of my short story.  Thank you!

A Mother’s Love

“Captain, I’m telling you, there’s nothing here,” the scout informed his superior over the comm link. His voice was steady, but his eyes darted nervously, searching the sparse landscape for movement. Suddenly spinning in place, he pointed his drawn energy weapon at…nothing.

His skin crawled. He felt as if there were eyes upon him every second he was on this barren chunk of cosmic rock. But he had found nothing to indicate there was – or ever had been – anything alive on this dwarf planet.

“You sure, Winston?” The crisp voice of Captain Joquani reverberating from the link startled the scout.

Winston Kessel jumped. This reaction, melded with embarrassment and his unease, intensified his already deep loathing of the planet. “Yes, Captain. Of course I’m sure. There’s no structures. No water. The scanner’s not picking up any life signs at all.” This last part Winston delivered through gritted teeth because it wasn’t entirely true. The scanner had indicated something, but…

“All right,” Joquani’s voice dripped with annoyance, “get back up here on the double, Kessel. No point in wasting any more time on that emergency beacon if there weren’t any survivors.”

Winston’s relief was palpable. “Roger. On my way.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder. Winston instinctively squawked a curse and struck out, delivering a lightning quick blow that would have seriously injured whoever had touched him…had anyone been there. The sensation of being watched grew more vivid in conjunction with the stiffening of the baby fine blond hairs on the back of his neck. A warm puff of air, akin to the breath of a lover, caressed his right cheek. He winced, knowing nothing was there, but feeling a presence just the same.

“I’m going now,” he mumbled softly and he felt an instant ebb in his sense of foreboding. The bony fingers dancing a jig up and down his spine did not evaporate entirely, but Winston no longer had the burning desire to claw free of his own skin. He walked the short distance to his shuttle – his steps measured, his back stiff – opened the hatch and climbed inside as indifferently as his overworked imagination allowed.

The scanner is malfunctioning, he told himself for the hundredth time. Alia is not here. It’s crazy.

Winston buckled himself in, worked through the checklist as quickly as possible, and blasted off the desolate dwarf planet without a backward glance.

* * *

Alia Kessel stood near the edge of the rocky precipice – her long black hair and deep navy dress undulating in the soft breeze of her son’s departure – and exhaled a sigh of relief tinged with regret. As she watched his ship retreat over the sandy ocean into the somber blue clouds of the alien planet, Alia allowed her form to slowly fade once again into the ether, satisfied that Winston would now be safe from the true denizens of this planet – creatures so alien that they did not even meet humankind’s definition of alive.

A single tear glided down Alia’s right cheek as she whispered, “I love you, my son. I will watch over you always.” A heartbeat later, she was gone.

Another Photostory Competition

I found another writing competition based on this photo:And here’s my submission – I hope you like it:

FLYING SQUIRREL CARGO

He stirs as the sun dips peacefully below the horizon. His deep, even breathing becomes a yawn, followed closely by a very satisfying, bone-popping stretch. Sighing heavily, he sits back on his hind paws, using the other two to groom his fur. “Another night, another walnut,” he mutters to himself, absently scratching his tail. He grabs an acorn from the pile opposite the hole in his tree, snags his flight bag with another paw, and hurries into the deepening gloom.

“You’re late, Sal!” yells a big red squirrel, heralding his arrival to work.

“Bite me,” replies Sal with a rakish grin. He knows Red just likes to bust his nuts. “Got anything good for me tonight?”

“Nah. You’re still on standby,” Red replies.

Sal drops his flight bag next to a recliner and wordlessly pours himself a mug of the thick, stale, caffeinated swill that passes for coffee in the hangar of the Flying Squirrel Cargo Company. Sipping it with only a slight grimace, he scampers over to the computer to check the weather.

All the METARs, TAFs, and FAs indicate nothing but light winds and clear skies throughout the entire system, relegating Sal to a long night of sitting around. The only way he’ll get to fly tonight is if a regular line pilot has a mechanical.

Sal drops heavily into one of the green recliners in the pilots’ lounge, takes another sip from his cup, and calls to Red, “We playing Hearts tonight?”

It takes a few moments for Red to respond. He is busy informing the ramp squirrels which yellow bin of cargo goes to which aircraft and when all the cargo must be loaded for departure. “Yeah. That and a little Texas Hold’em. Gus still wants a chance to kick your tail after you walloped him yesterday,” Red guffaws.

Sal’s grin doesn’t reach his eyes. He’d rather be flying. Well, he thinks, a little sadly, at least the coffee and card games will help me stay awake. If only I was a flying squirrel! Being nocturnal would make this job so much easier!

His reverie is interrupted by Gus’ arrival. “You on standby tonight again, Sal?”

Sal nods once.

“Good. You’re going to owe me a whole bag of peanuts this time, buddy!” Gus settles onto one of the wooden stools and pulls out the deck with a flourish.

Sal sighs in resignation, pushes himself up from the recliner, and grumbles, “I’m going to need a little more coffee before I skin you, Gus. Deal ’em.”

The night passes slowly, painfully. When dawn finally arrives, Sal waves goodbye to his coworkers and makes his way back to his tree. As he curls up in his cozy nest and prepares for sleep, Sal fervently hopes that he won’t be on standby again tonight. He is rewarded with vivid dreams of exuberant, joyous flight through inky skies sprinkled with stars.

The Jacket

I’m a finalist! Check out all the entries here and don’t forget to vote for your favorite. I hope it’s me, but I’ll completely understand if it isn’t – the competition is fierce! And please be sure to visit the other writers and share the love. After all, the Beatles were pretty clear that “All You Need is Love.”

Peg-o-Leg's Ramblings

The finalists in The Jacket Writing Competition have been selected.

Boy, howdy this was tough!  I asked a distinguished panel of 3 judges to review the entries for me.  Our criteria was simple: we were looking for an interesting story, told well.  We had consensus on several of the entries, but were widely apart on others.   I debated having a top 10 list, but decided that many was too unwieldy.  In the end I had to resort to taking up strong drink to narrow the field to 6.

Entries are again presented in the order in which I received them.  The Polldaddy poll is below the last entry.  Please vote only once per day until the polls close next Friday, March 30th.

Thank you so much to all who submitted entries!  I hope you had fun – I know that I did.

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Name: She’s a Maineiac
Website: http://miraclemama.wordpress.com

Proceed Without Caution

“God,” he sighed…

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I am Werewolf – Hear Me Howl

“No…” I groan.  Doubled over in pain, I scurry frantically for the ladies’ restroom.  “Not now.  Not here!”  But it’s no use.  The transformation has begun.  The beast within, liberated from its bonds, is now free to wreak its horrific path of destruction, all while wearing my skin.  It is me.  And for a time, I am it – a monster.

I knew it was coming.  All the signs were there – erratic, dangerous mood swings, acne outbreaks on par with life-choking algae blooms, immeasurable fatigue, and an uncontrollable sprouting of hair in places not normally furry.  Ever since the tender age of 11 when my mother welcomed me into the pack, I have experienced the pain, humiliation, and utter helplessness of my metamorphosis into a savage fiend every single lunar month.

There was a time that it was manageable.  At great expense, I was able to obtain medication for my condition.  If taken every day, the pills would weaken the beast to the point that when it awoke each month, I had the strength to cage the monster.  It still raged within me, but it had no power to do more than slaver madly from its confines.  I remained human.

But those days have long since past.  Although not afflicted with my malady, those in power decided that the use of this miraculous medication was morally objectionable.  In 2012, they succeeded in outlawing it.  And so I am now – once again – completely at the mercy of the creature which I am doomed to become each and every month for the rest of my life.

Haggard from the pain, I returned to the boardroom from which I had, moments ago, hastily fled.  Noting my appearance, a man snickered, “What’s wrong?  Got your period?”  A wave of mean-spirited tittering coursed through the room, further agitating the furious beast within.

The ensuing massacre occurred only in my beleaguered mind.  This time.

Otterbox

A friend challenged me to compose a complete story in 100 words or less which had to include the phrase “then Jen showed Tawn her otterbox.”  Never one to back down from a gauntlet thrown at my feet, I came up with the following micro-story.  Note: I did cheat just a little bit by not including the 6 word phrase in my total word count.  My entry comes to exactly 106 words.  Enjoy!

Giggling, the two girls scurried one by one up the gently swaying rope ladder to the rickety tree house. The wind had died down, easing the grownup’s fears that the structure – built by Jen’s grandfather – would not be carried away to Oz with the girls inside.

Eyes bright and breath labored in excitement, Jen secured the “No Boys Allowed” sign to the ancient green blanket they used as a door and turned with a conspiratorial grin.  Then Jen showed Tawn her otterbox.  Sunlight illuminated it through a gap in the roof.

Tawn gasped, “It’s beautiful! Can I hold it?”

Jen laughed, elated.

The Jacket

The Jacket

Carol cheerfully unlocked the door to her beloved little cottage in the country. She had just returned from a pleasant shopping trip to the local village and was eager to review her purchases. Carol thought of herself as a woman who could spot a good deal a mile away and this trip had done nothing to change that opinion. While strolling through the shops, Carol had purchased a nice bottle of Burgundy, a darling green plaid blazer, and an antique coffee table – which would be delivered later today – all at a fraction of their value.

Closing the front door behind her, Carol sashayed into the kitchen – her favorite room in the house – and placed the bottle of wine carefully on the counter. Then, in one swift motion, she removed the jacket and carelessly dropped the bag it was in on a chair. Carol gently laid the jacket on the table, smoothed out the wrinkles, and stood back to admire it.

Her appreciative smile slowly gave way to a frown as she noticed a piece of paper peeking out from one of the front pockets. Yanking the slip from her blazer, Carol held it to the light and read aloud, “Tom Wojciechowski.”

Carol instantly felt ill. Panic seized her as she dropped the paper, stumbled backwards into the refrigerator, and slid to the floor in a heap. Kneeling, she pressed her hands to her head, hoping to dampen the pain drowning her consciousness.

Through the fog of fear, pain and shock, Carol heard a man’s voice, deep and sorrowful, say quietly, “I’m so sorry. The only way to free yourself of the accursed garment is for someone to say your name aloud in its presence. There is no other way. Godspeed.”

A few hours later, a young man from the antique store in town arrived at Carol’s home to deliver the table she had purchased that day. After knocking several times, he hesitantly opened the door and called out while stepping inside. No answer. He did a cursory check of the main floor and, finding nothing but an ugly green jacket in the kitchen, he shrugged and left the coffee table by the front door before returning to work. Had he examined the jacket more closely, he may have found the small slip of paper now bearing the name, “Carol Nowicki.”