The Storm

Summer storms are one of the things I miss most from the prairies.

They’re rare on Prince Edward Island, but they happen occasionally. I woke up to thunder a few nights ago.  A huge crack of it, right outside our bedroom window. I had a hard time sleeping after that. Weird dreams.

And the next day, I had this weird-ass story.


—read best as it was written, while listening to Lana Del Rey


“It’s too hot to sleep.”


I swept Cruise’s hair away from his face. He lay on top of the blankets, naked with the exception of his beloved Spiderman underwear, staring up at me in the candlelight, his seven-year-old features gleaming under a sheen of sweat.

“You won’t notice the heat once you fall asleep, baby.” I leaned with a kiss for the top of his head and smiled. Standing, I returned his book to the shelf and took the candle from the top of his dresser. “They’ll probably have the power on by morning. I’ll make you toast with cinnamon and brown sugar for breakfast.”

“You’re trying to bribe me,” he said, pulling a stuffed dragon with oversized eyes close to his chest. “It won’t work.”

“You need to sleep. It’s time.”

“Good night, Momma.”

“Love you, kiddo.”

Ben tossed his cell phone on the coffee table as I entered the living room. Placing Cruise’s candle next to it, I sank onto the opposite side of the couch.

“Who were you talking to?” I asked, glancing at his phone, forcing an air of lightness into the question.

“No one.” He offered a quick smile. Something had been bothering him all week. He’d been playing it off, but after seventeen years together, the signs were easy to spot. The strained conversation. The way he rolled toward the opposite side of the room when we went to bed. “I was just playing Sudoku. Battery’s out now. I’ll have to wait for the power to come back.”

I lifted my feet onto the ottoman. “I wish we had a generator, at least for the air conditioner. I can feel your body heat from here.” Fanning myself with a magazine from the basket on the floor, I asked, “What do you think happened to the power, anyway?”

Living so deep in the country had its advantages. Cruise, Lily, and Grace were free to roam the meandering trails on their four-wheelers in summer and on the snowmobiles in winter, paid for with the money left over after trading the cramped, million-dollar condo in Vancouver for our sprawling acreage in Saskatchewan. Nestled so far in the woods, we had no neighbors. Ben converted the old barn across the yard into a studio with large windows that invited the natural light he so coveted to brighten his herculean canvases. background-2439018_1920I had turned the spare bedroom into the office I’d always dreamt of and, after quitting my job as a content writer, the free time I needed to complete my second novel. The kids all had their own rooms. The move granted us everything we could ever want out here, and while I never once regretted leaving British Columbia the year before, I did miss how easily accessible information had been in the city. The power had been out for three hours, and we still had no idea why.

“The heat,” Ben answered. “Probably a transformer. Are Lily and Grace asleep?”

The basement stairs appeared dark. “I think so. Finally. It’s nearly midnight, they’ll be tired at school tomorrow.”

Ben’s gaze wandered back to his phone on the coffee table. He masked a frown with his hand.

“You sure everything’s okay?” I prodded, knowing it was her. It was always her.

“Yeah.” He stood. “We should go to bed, too. Not much to do without the power.”

I let out an annoyed groan, rising to my feet. “Why’s it so hot, anyway? It’s supposed to be freezing this time of year. It’s almost November, for Christ sake.” The heatwave had arrived the week before, our summer clothes having already been packed away.

Ben made his way to the living room window, wearing only a tattered pair of shorts that somehow eluded my last trip to the donation box. I enjoyed the sight of him staring into the night: the way his naked back tapered so neatly into the elastic band of his shorts.

“Ah. Who knows,” he said, his shoulders uncharacteristically tense. “Seems to be shifting though. There’s a breeze now, at least.”

I joined him at the window. He was right. A cool stream of air filtered through the screen. Closing my eyes, I enjoyed the feel of it against my face. “Tell me the truth.” I turned to face him. “Has she been messaging you again?”

The candles flickered behind us, caught in the breeze. Ben sighed. “I’m not encouraging her, Terra.”

“What’s she saying?”


“She’s been depressed. She’s . . . in a dark place.”


I crossed my arms, suddenly thankful his phone had died. There had been many reasons for the move from civilization as we knew it: the traffic, the hectic lifestyle, the endless cycle of day after day of gray skies; but leaving Helena behind to keep our family intact had been the biggest.

“How depressed?” I asked.

He lowered his head. “Before the phone died, she said . . .”

I waited, saying nothing, refusing to prod him on. It was a mess he had gotten himself into. A mess he promised was over.

Ben cleared his throat. “She picked up some sleeping pills.”

“She can’t sleep?” I asked, with a feeling that wasn’t where the conversation was going. I’d been trying to forgive Helena for stealing him away. My husband. Not because I felt she deserved forgiveness, but because my hate had consumed me the past two years. Changed me. Ben was doing everything he could to save our family. It was only fair that I tried too.

“I don’t know.” He shrugged.

“You think she would . . .”

“I don’t know.”

The world would be better off without her. I bit my lip, holding the comment in. “Would you like to call her?”

“Is there any charge in your phone?”

“No.” I answered, silently thanking Cruise for draining the battery playing Minecraft. It seemed that the seventeen hundred miles we’d travelled wasn’t enough to keep Helena from my husband. background-1177463_1920Maybe if she killed herself it would be over and done. Let her beautiful face and her flawless body rot six feet under the ground if that was what it took to keep her from my family.

Ben rubbed the back of his neck, absentmindedly flexing the muscles along his arm and the left side of his body. He was handsome. One of the handsomest men I’d ever seen. A brilliant artist. I doubted I could have forgiven another man for the pain his affair had cause me. Of course Helena was depressed. I had been depressed too, when I found out about her. Would I have killed myself? No. But then, I had the kids. Helena had nothing.

“You’re right,” I said finally. “We should go to bed.”

By the time we completed our nightly rituals of face-washing and teeth-brushing, the wind had picked up substantially.

Ben closed the bedroom windows halfway while I peed in the en-suite. He peered across the yard. “It’s getting wild out there.”

The shrubs surrounding the outer wall of the bathroom scraped the siding in the wind. I rose, pulling up my pants and flushing the toilet. Out the small window, I caught sight of the trampoline in the yard. “We should run out and take the safety net down. If it gets windy enough that thing will end up in our roof.”

Ben’s shoulder slumped. “Oh, hell. I’ll do it.”

“I can come—”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be right back.” He grabbed a flashlight from the closet and pulled a shirt on before making his way down the hall. In a minute backdoor slammed shut behind him. I sat on the bed. The sound of crisp autumn leaves rustled noisily though the window. I strained to see Ben climbing onto the trampoline to wrestle with the safety net in the darkness. Above, the slivered crescent of the moon was white and bright, and then it was covered by a thick patch of quickly moving cloud. The earthy, delicious smell of fast approaching rain filled the air.

Footsteps shuffled on the floor behind me. It was Cruise. The hair rose along the back of my arms. His face had paled since I’d tucked him in. His eyes were empty. Hollow.

Crossing the room, I knelt before him. “Cruise?” I refrained from touching him, remembering what the pediatrician in Vancouver had said. “Are you all right?”

He nodded. Despite his recent growth spurt, he still had a little baby fat. His little belly protruded slightly over his underwear. The innocent expression that usually brightened his baby-blue eyes was gone.

“Are you asleep, baby?” I asked. How long had it been since I’d left his room? A half-hour at most. Obviously, that was all it took. It was the second time I’d caught him sleepwalking that week.

He mumbled indiscernibly. Garbled, halting vowels and sharp constants. My pulse raced. Ben handled Cruise’s sleepwalking better than I did.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” I asked.


He seemed to look right through me. “It’s going to storm.”


My breath caught in my throat. He talked in his sleep a hundred times before. But, his words were always mangled, as if he was speaking in tongues. I’d never been able to understand him.

His head tilted slightly to the side, blonde hair ruffled in the back from sweating against his pillow. He reached out blindly to touch my arm. “Be careful, Momma.”

I let out a quiet gasp. The words were jarringly clear, his breath a ripple of heat against my face. I swallowed, buying time, gathering myself. “It’s time for bed, baby,”

“Momma.” Cruise leaned with a whisper, sleeping blue eyes clear and wide. “She’s coming.”

A chill rose up my spine. I hesitated, staring at my only son. My sweet boy. “Who’s coming, honey?”

The backdoor slammed. Ben lumbered up the stairs. He came in breathing hard, the flashlight brightening our room. “It’s going to pour out there.” He caught sight of Cruise.

“What’s he doing up?”

screen“He’s not up.” My attention returned to Cruise. The older he grew the more he looked like his father: the same wide shoulders, square jaw, and puckered lips. He was my baby. A perfectly unspoiled replica of the man I’d fallen in love with so long before. “He’s asleep, I think.”

“I’ll take him to his bed.” Ben laid his hand on Cruise’s back to usher him slowly down the hall. “Let’s go, buddy.”

I waited for Ben to return, listening to the wind wail against the outer walls of the house. Something was banging in the distance. A door, maybe. An open gate. I retrieved the discarded flashlight and slipped past Ben speaking softly, calmly to Cruise while tucking him safe beneath his blankets, and descended the stairs to the entryway. Pushing firmly against the closed door, I turned the deadbolt sideways at the top. Ben installed it when we first moved to the acreage. The last thing we had wanted was Cruise sleepwalking out of the house in the dead of winter. I glanced into the front yard through the window. The trees swayed violently in the wind. Rain droplets spotted the glass.

Moving systematically from one room to the next, I closed the windows. Grace and Lily lay still in their rooms in the basement, breathing heavily, blissfully unaware of the coming storm.

Ben stripped to his underwear and laid down on the bed. “This rain is exactly what we need. It’ll take some of the humidity out of the air. Cruise will be fine tomorrow.”

He was right, of course. Cruise’s sleepwalking somehow always grew worse in extended periods of humidity. Laying next to Ben I let out a long breath. “I hate when Cruise talks in his sleep.”

Ben let out a sigh. “He’s fine, Terra. It’s natural. Weird, but natural.”

We blew out our candles. Ben was restless. I was certain he was thinking of Helena. There was nothing he could do from here. All the same, I could practically feel her in the bed between us. I turned to face the window. Rain came in waves against the pane. We listened to the storm separately until almost two hours had passed, and Ben’s breathing became heavy. Sleep came slower for me. Now and then my body became weightless, my thoughts setting adrift as the edges of my consciousness began to soften.

I’d only seen Helena once, across a busy street. She’d been with Ben, coming out of a hotel paid for with our credit card. She was prettier than me. A couple years older. He told me she was an artist, like him. An artist like Ben, who felt deeper than other people. Loved harder.

Could she have loved him more than I did? Did it matter? He was mine. Maybe she was lying to him about the pills; using whatever means necessary to pull him back into her web. Maybe she wouldn’t take the them.


And maybe she would.


Oh God, I hoped she would.

I imagined her sitting in her condo, her shining black hair pulled into a perfect bun on the very top of her head, rolling the bottle of pills back and forth across the coffee table with the tips of her thin fingers. I willed her to open them. I willed her to pick up the glass of Malbec I pictured beside her.

It’ll be easier if you do it, Helena.

Rain pounded against the roof. Wind whipped at the walls. Weightless, weightless, weightless. My awareness drifted, euphoria closing in as sleep worked to erase Ben’s lover from my mind.

My eyes fluttered open. A slow roll of thunder moved in like an animal approaching in the night.

I had lifted from the bed.

Ben lay below me, still. I tried to scream his name but no sound came out. My arms and legs and head hung back, unresponsive. My chest was tight. Cramped. Expelling my soul. Forcing my consciousness outward, outward, outward. Into what? Where would my soul go if not inside my body? Uncontained, it would spill free, separate, disappear. I would be gone, just like that. And then? My body would be empty, an old house, waiting for a renter.

Another slow roll of thunder carried with it a resonance I imagined to be a woman’s voice, a woman’s scream, a battle cry in the night. I tried to yell again. Air poured freely from my lungs. No sound. Ben let out a stammered snore beneath me. Adrenaline pumped furiously from my heart. I swayed slightly, left and right, rocking in an invisible cradle, led by a force rising somewhere from my chest. texture-1697391_1280

“Ben!” I managed finally.

His eyes flew open. Could he see me in the darkness? He patted the mattress and glanced up, stiffening. Launching from the bed he stood against the wall, immediately awake. “Terra, what the fuck?”

“Help!” I reached toward him. The rocking motion intensified. I was sick, swaying back and forth above the bed, limbs flailing. “Get me down.”

The electricity surged a moment, flashing through the lights. Ben’s face appeared white beneath his stubble. He was frozen, glancing wildly around the room.

The light died out. The room seemed blacker than before.

Cruise’s shockingly blank face. She’s coming.

It wasn’t possible. I was dreaming, wasn’t I? This was my body. My husband. Mine.

Helena was lying. She wouldn’t kill herself.

“Terra!” Ben’s voice was closer. “Grab my hand.”

It was too dark to see. I swung in, arm flailing. I brushed the edge of his hand before swinging back. He grabbed me when I came in again. The energy shuttling me by my chest was too strong.

Ben let go before my arm could snap. Back I went. The motion grew manic. I was swung like a pendulum, back and forth and back again. My stomach rolled. “Ben!”

“Tell me what to do, Terra!”

What could he do?

I imagined myself to be a sponge trying to reabsorb my soul; focusing on breathing in and out and in again: using my lungs to pull the spilled me back. My body. I was released. Flung onto the floor. There was a crunch. Something hard protruded beneath my back. Pain screamed from my ribs. I’d landed on something. The flashlight?

Ben rushed to me. “What happened?” He held me by my shoulders. “What the fuck was that?”


I couldn’t bring myself to say it.


Her name.

I said the only thing I could. “I don’t know.”

There was a bang from downstairs. A door slamming. Grace screamed. I pushed Ben backward, trying to stand. A warm stream drained from my ribs down the back of my nightgown. A surge of pins and needles accosted my limbs.

Ben moved to the dresser. A match flared across the room. The candle was immediately snuffed out. It remained lit on the third attempt. Ben and I made our way down the stairs quickly, Ben guarding the wildly flickering flame with his hand. A clap of thunder shook the house, loud, and long, and close.

Helena was in it.

She was all around us now.

I held onto Ben’s arm as he opened Grace’s door. “Honey?”

Wind blasted the curtains out from her open window. Our eldest daughter shuffled back in her bed, long hair wildly disheveled. Both girls took after me more than their father; with the same mousy hair, and extra flesh around the waist and hips.

“Sorry,” she  panted. “The thunder scared me. The wind blew my door shut.”

light-1985200_1920At fourteen, Grace rarely looked like a child anymore. Now it was all I saw. I raced past Ben to embrace her, eager for an excuse to hold another person, heart hammering heavily beneath my breast. Ben closed the window with a thud.

“Why’d you open the window?” I asked Grace, holding her soft frame tight.

“It was open when I went to bed.”

“I know.” I glanced at Ben. “I closed it.”

Lily padded in, rubbing her eyes. “What’s going on?” She was two years younger than Grace, but unlike her older sister she appeared unfazed by the storm. Thunder roared around us. The basement windows flashed bright.

Slam, slam, slam. The bedroom doors blew shut upstairs.

Wind ripped through the house. Had every window opened?

Ben blinked. “Cruise!”

I pulled Grace’s hand. She shimmied from the blankets. Ben raced up the stairs past the front door to check Cruise’s room. The girls and I stayed on the steps. I looked up at the lock. The knob was vertical. Open, and intact. It had to have been turned from the inside. But, by who? Cruise wasn’t tall enough. He was only seven.

Only seven. Pure, and good, and mine.

“Ben,” I yelled. “Is he up there?”

Lily took my hand. “What’s going on?”

“Daddy’s just checking Cruise,” I answered, as calmly as I could. “Ben!”

He rounded the corner, panicked. “He isn’t there.”

Thunder clapped, retreating. Seconds passed. Lighting illuminated the front door. Something was written on the surface, scrawled deep into the wood.

Mine.


#SSC Wrap-Up

 


pabloWe’ve reached the end of the Scribble Challenge season.


It’s been a lot of fun! But, it’s not quite over yet. We need to announce the winner of the 14th Scribble Challengepablo.png! A big congrats goes to: Allan G. Smorra. His response to the prompt?


Sharon noticed the tall bearded man walk into the lobby of the restaurant, stop and slowly glance around the dining area. He fit the description on his dating site and she raised her hand to catch his attention. Joe noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye, smiled and headed in her direction. Halfway there he caught the leg of a chair with the toe of his shoe and stumbled towards her table. “First time with the new foot?” Sharon quipped.

Joe pulled up the leg of his pants to reveal an artificial leg. “As a matter of fact, it is.”


I’m sure everyone is just as excited as I am to read your guest post, Allan!


And hey, Scribbles is now accepting votes for Last Week’s Challenge. Because it’s the end of the season, we’re opening the voting polls to EVERYONE. Just check the responses to the prompt below and email your vote to: SundayScribbleChallenge@gmail.com.


LAST WEEK’S PROMPT:


angel-1891440_960_720“The challenge is based on something our family has been experiencing. One of the hellions talks in his sleep. It’s generally limited to sentence or two, most of which is completely unintelligible.

It’s the same for the characters of the prompt. But, one night the child says something the parents understand. Something entirely unexpected. They come to realize their little one isn’t sleep-talking at all, but rather, a being is speaking THROUGH them.

The submission should contain the line (or two) of dialogue, as well as the parents’ reaction when they realize who–or what–has been attempting to communicate for so long.”


Rachel Forsberg:


49f1fef829369cd622d0b66e911c0257.pngI don’t know why I woke. The house was quiet, the weather calm. The kids were sleeping. I stared out the window, thinking about all the things I’d have to do the next day, wishing I could fall back asleep.

And then heard the whispers. They were soft at first. Fleeting.

I shook my husband awake as they grew louder, coming from just across the hall. “It’s Keiran,” I said. “He’s sleep-talking again.”

It was an old habit. Usually the words came in just a sentence or two, that we rarely understood. But lately the murmurings had become something close to fervent. He lay in his bed, tossing and turning as we came in, pale skin gleaming in a thin sweat. I sank into the bed. Goosebumps rose along on my arms and up my neck.

My husband knelt beside us, eyes still puffy with sleep. “What’s he saying?”

A gust of wind filtered in through the open window. Kieran’s whispers had become words, loud words I couldn’t understand. They were clear, crisp, and urgent, and completely foreign.

I shrugged at my husband, eyes wide.

Trees swayed violently out the window. A light spread over the yard. Kieran jerked upright in the bed, his gaze wild and lurching, coughing and clawing at his throat as the light grew bright outside. Blood trickled from his mouth when he spoke again.

“I told you we were coming.”


Allison Maruska


0ec5e6b6a9fd960893ba80993bf75090.jpeg“I’m happy,” Connor mutters in his sleep. As usual, his eyes stay shut, but not as usual, his words are completely clear.

I haven’t tried to reply before, but what the hell? It could get us a good laugh. “What are you happy about?”

“Where I am. I’m happy. I like the brown doggie with the white spot. He plays with me. He likes to chase.”

“Brown doggie?” I glance at my husband. “He’s not talking about-”

“I think he is.”

I sit on the end of the bed. If he means Trigger, our brown Pit with an adorable white spot on his head, then he’s talking about the pet we had before he was born. Had Connor seen a picture of the dog?

“Connor,” I ask. “What’s the dog’s name.”

“Not Connor.”

“No, that’s your name. What’s the dog called?”

“Hunter. I’m Hunter. And I’m happy.” After a long sigh, Connor rolls over, pulling the covers under his chin.

“What?”

Shaking his head, my husband rushes out of the room.

I haven’t heard his name in so long – Hunter, our baby who died at three months old. The older brother Connor never met.

I can’t leave this bed. Connor may talk in his sleep again.


Juliet Nubel


.kjbThey sat on each side of her pink, princess bed. Sue stroked her daughter’s sticky, tousled, blond head, watching intently as her beautiful rosebud mouth moved, making a series of strange, loud sounds – ‘Ant, ant, ant.’ Always the same noises, almost every night for the last six months.

‘It’s getting worse, Sue. It’s much louder and she seems really perturbed now.’ He took Emily’s tiny hand, his brow creased deep with concern.

Short, quick gulps replaced his daughter’s calm breathing.

‘Ant, can you hear me? Ant, are you there?’ This was no longer their little girl speaking. Antony’s eyes flashed in recognition. Only one person had ever called him by this childish nickname.

‘I’m here’, he replied gently. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘You need to tell your Dad that I hid it. It’s in a nylon stocking taped to the back of the top drawer in my dresser. He must find it before he signs the papers for the house and all the furniture tomorrow. It’s for Sue. He must give it to Sue. I can’t get through to him, Ant. Call him now, please.’ The voice faded to a low hum, and Emily returned to a deep, dreamless sleep.

‘Mum, are you still there? Mum, I miss you so much!’ Anthony bent over the pink and white checkered quilt and wept silent tears of pure, undistilled grief.

As Sue looked over at her husband, he lifted his head, slowly wiped away the tears, then dialled his father’s number.

‘Dad, sorry to wake you. I know where to look for Mum’s diamond ring…’


Chocobosage


9058ded50c754de4a391838b659ab882.jpegThe baby monitor let out the usual random babbling of their kid as she slept, a bit of laughing and some murmured half words. Then the dog sat up on alert, staring at the monitor intently. A low static came from the speaker which startled the parents, then silence. They both went to check on the baby and upon opening the door, found the window open and several different birds in the room surrounding their child. Watching her like they awaited instruction.

Then the child said: “Hello my friends, I hope you’re all keeping well?”


Dysfunctional Womans Digest


7aa4829822a87fcabacd52f76d77fd3fTonight he would be prepared. Climbing into bed with a pencil and pad of paper, his plan was to have these items ready as soon as the child was asleep and her lips began to move. The child’s sleep-talking had begun a few weeks ago and he didn’t pay much attention to her gibberish at first but over the following weeks the noises had turned into an intelligible form of discourse. Her audible murmurings were beginning to reveal things that a child of four, his child of four, should not and could not know. Her mother had been equally disturbed.

“I don’t know when all of this started but I am not getting any rest since Daphne starting sleeping in our bed,” she had said. “First it was your insomnia and now it’s her talking and rolling around and I am exhausted.” She pointed to the bags under her eyes as confirmation.

“I know, honey,” said Paul. “Let’s start a new bedtime routine tomorrow and we will make sure to wear Daphne out at the park in the afternoon. It shouldn’t take but a few days and then we will be getting a good night’s rest again, OK, honey?”

Paul secretly hoped that tonight he would be able to jot down what he was certain was an intelligence from another dimension. Somehow, someway, a transmission was occurring through his child and he could swear that he had been specifically chosen for this revelation. He just wished that his wife would not interfere until he could accurately transcribe the mysterious knowledge.

Paul reached to turn-out the light as his wife rolled over with a deep sigh and said goodnight. Setting the pad of paper and his pencil next to the bed, Paul made certain that his unopened refill of risperidone was still carefully concealed.


Larisanjou *New Entry*


1403112ec2638062f7b2a1e1ffb54d27.jpegOur beautiful child, the image of angelic perfection.

Just a short while ago, she’d been stomping her feet and crying in frustration. I thought bedtime would be the solution to her little temper tantrum.

From behind the pile of work on my desk, I’d heard the rustling of tossing and turning from her room. I tiptoed over to peek in on her. Cool full-moon light cut across her rosy tearstained cheeks. Her smooth brow contorted into a tangle, and she whimpered like an injured puppy. Fat tears pushed out from her tightly-squeezed eyes.
My heart cracked.

What could my child, my innocent daughter, possibly be disturbed by? What monster is chasing her through dreamland? At that age, dreamworld should be a lovely place of magic and infinite possibility.

“Do you still love me?”

I felt a painfully familiar hot stone forming in my stomach.

“I know I’m not good enough, I’ll never be…”

Through the mouth of my child, I heard the voice of my own demon.

How many times had she seen me, ripping my hair out at a project gone wrong? Crying over yet another rejection letter? Mentally flagellating myself, repenting for the sin of being myself? I was teaching her the art of self-loathing.

I removed her crumpled drawing from the trash. She had thrown it away in a blind fit, screaming, “It’s not good enough! I hate this! I’m bad!” The air had vibrated electric yellow.

Now, in the deep blue light, I unfurled it.

A single tear dropped onto her drawing.

It was a family portrait. Two smiling parents holding hands with their child in the middle, standing under a rainbow.

She had scribbled over her own face.

“Come to bed, honey.”

My husband’s gravelly whisper muffled the sound of my guilt. I turned to look at him, eyes overflowing with a lifetime of shame and overdue apologies.

“We’ll do better tomorrow.”


Good luck to all our participants. The replies were some of my favorite submissions of the season. The winner will be hard to pick!


 

Lovingly He Held Her Head Underwater


A Guest Blog by Juliet Nubel.kjb.png


For the last few Sunday mornings, when Jenny’s Scribble Challenge email lands in my inbox after a short flight across the Atlantic Ocean, I have opened it and laughed.

What would I possibly have to write about A Mother’s Twisted Love when my own mother unquestionably loves every square inch of my body and soul? An hour later, after getting my shoes out of the cupboard under the stairs I had the creepy idea of a child being tied up and locked away.

Phobias? I don’t have any phobias, I boasted to the cats, the only ones who actually listen to me around here. Bang on cue, a wasp flew into the kitchen through the open door and my declaration flew out the window. I don’t just have a phobia of wasps, I have a debilitating and ferocious fear.

But when I opened the third week’s Scribble email I actually snorted in disbelief. hjvA six word story with a twist? For heaven’s sake Jenny, we’re not miracle workers! But my brain doesn’t know that, so it got down to its current job of scrabbling around in the heaps of words living up there and it finally found something that I was happy with. As happy as an unknown, unconfident, part-time, baby writer can be: “Lovingly he held her head underwater.”

The fact that we were at that precise moment on holiday on the beautiful Italian island of Sicily, that there were two monstrous, sparkling swimming pools on the complex, edged by two sandy beaches, both lapped by the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, may have helped my hand a little.khb.pngSo that done and dusted, wiped around the edges (which doesn’t take long when there are only six words to wipe) I posted it and promptly forgot all about it, as we went off to play.

When we returned to our room much later that evening I found my pet iPad waiting patiently by the bed, proudly showing me a comment from Hugh’s Views and News in response to my entry.

lkn.png


“I wonder if he was doing it for goodness, rather than for evil?” he asked innocently.


And that, Hugh, is when you had me. How could I possibly not answer your question? A vague idea of why my character was doing this was swirling around when I put together the six words for the challenge. But you deserved a longer and better explanation. So my brain started its digging again. All the way back in the coach from a wonderful historical day trip, it poked around and pulled out words to string together to complete the story.

The result is below. It is for you Hugh, and for anyone else who may be interested in reading the follow-up to my one-liner. It is nothing like my usual chatty blog style but hey, I can wear a new hat if I want to.

And it is for you too, Jenny. You who, for some inexplicable reason, started following my blog one day, a couple of months ago. When I clicked on yours it was admiration at first sight. Thank you for inspiring me with your words and thank you for inciting me to write my own.


Lovingly He Held Her Head Underwater


hand-2262740_960_720His large, work-roughened hands shook hard, however, as he pushed down on her grey-tinged hair until the bubbles from her nose and mouth finally stopped rising. The flash of gold from his wedding band shining up through the ripples, reminded him of what he was actually doing – wilfully drowning his beautiful, beloved wife.

He would have preferred to see her eyes one last time instead of the back of her head, but he knew that if those clear, grey jewels had been looking up at him through the water he would never be able to go through with it. He would pull her out, gasping for breath, cover her with kisses and swear he had made the biggest mistake of his entire life.

Her eyes. They had melted his heart all those years ago and they still did. They seemed to change colour without warning, wavering between gold-flecked green and pale Caribbean blue. Sometimes when the weather was bad they turned to flint, reflecting the clouds racing overhead, the tiny gold specks changing to light silvery sparkles.
For almost a year now they had also betrayed her mood, becoming a dark, secretive hue he had never seen before. A colour he disliked and mistrusted. This sombre shade brought on by another man, surely. Someone she saw regularly who made her return home to him as flustered and perturbed as a teenage girl.

He had followed her one day when his doubts had gotten the better of him, and had watched her walking through a high, wooden door in the centre of town, using a code she must have been given for quick, easy access. The sight of her guilty step made vomit rise in his throat and hot tears run down his weathered cheeks.

And now she wanted to go. She had told him everything. Every last detail, every sordid secret she had held for months was now revealed in a bright, blinding light.

‘I will never accept!’ he had screamed at her, louder than ever before during the thousands of days they had spent together.

‘You must’, was all she replied, her pastel eyes now begging like a hungry pup.

For weeks he had tried to dissuade her. At times he used sweet, gentle cajoling. At others deep, unbridled anger. Neither worked, and slowly he realised that she really meant what she had said. She needed to go, desperate to be set free at last.

bedroom-1082262_960_720.jpgHis decision finally came one night as he lay beside her in bed, his arms wrapped around her frail body like thick chains.

‘I have always respected your wishes’, he announced. ‘You can go now.’

The depth of gratitude in her tired smile broke his heart into a thousand pointed shards, each one piercing his body and soul as he inhaled her scent deeply to memorise it for the rest of his life.

‘Thank you, my love’ she answered, her cancer-ridden voice much quieter now than before. ‘And just promise me that even if I start to struggle, you will keep pushing down as hard as you possibly can.’


Did you know?


pabloThere’s still time to participate in the FINAL Scribble Challenge of the season! Head on over to #SSC 15 to submit your response to the prompt for your chance to win a guest blog here, on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins.


Hey, YOU!

Don’t forget to pop by DanAlatorre.com this Sunday for a whole NEW guest blog from Juliet Nubel.


Mayor Maynot


Guest Post by Ward Clever


Hi. I’m Ward Clever, a blogger type person.

According to my About Page that I just read, I’m a work of fiction come to life, a whore who can touch unicorns, a ghost manifest, a sensitive empath with a dark side, a watcher of the skies, a healer of healers, a lovable asshole, a guy who writes a nice bio.jhv

Welcome to this thing. I am a little teapot, and I put my whole self in and shake it all about. That’s what it’s all about.

I’m a struggling romance addict, lover of visual kei, and I occasionally speak in other languages. Sarcasm, metaphors, hai, yatta, ayamachi ni obore. Oyasumi,  oiche mhaith, tsai chen, bon nuit, buenas noches, and good night. I won’t explain myself, and I won’t stop ’til I get enough. But that’s all, because enough is plenty.

Here’s a little story about Mayor Maynot, called Mayor Maynot. He had an adventure, I guess, and this is it:


kjhnb


There once was a woman named David. But that was only once, so why bother talking about it? You know?truss-2355992_960_720

There once was a town called Malice. The town hated that name, and preferred to be called Sharon. And the town down the road was called Bob, which it liked, so it was cool with being called Bob. Well, it wasn’t long, like 15 minutes, before a town sprung up between them called Alike. This town wasn’t anthropomorphic, so it wasn’t sapient enough to give a shit what it was called. I think it would have enjoyed being called Alike, though.

Alike had a mayor. The mayor was Mayor Maynot. He spoke sort of like a pirate. Once people from Sharon came into the office and asked him “Who is in charge of this town?”

He said “I, Mayor Maynot, be in charge of this town.”

“Well are you, or are you not, in charge of this town?”

“Aye, I, Mayor Maynot, be in charge of this town Alike.”

“You can’t just be in charge because you like it.”

“Alike, it, this town, that I, Mayor Maynot, be in charge of.”

“Well, whether you like it is irrelevant. All we want to know is who is in charge of it.”

“Alike, the town?”martin-luther-617287_960_720.jpg

“I think so. You just said you did. Who is in charge of the town Alike.”

“I don’t be knowin’ what town you like, but Alike, this town, aye, I, Mayor Maynot, be in charge.”

“So if… but you said… I didn’t tell… aw, fuck it. We’re claiming this town in the name of Sharon!”

“Who be Shar-”

Just then, or maybe a few minutes later, actually, because Mayor Maynot paused to get a drink of something that Mayor Maynot be callin’ grog, there were some people from Bob who barged in the door. This was quite difficult, because the nearest water that could float a barge was 47 miles away, and that was just in a parade that celebrated the Loudest Cupcake Firecracker Rhubarb Turnover. But somehow, they managed.

“What is the meaning of this?”

“Well, it is a specific pronoun denoting something close to the speaker, as opposed to ‘that’, which would denote something a bit less clo-”

“No, I mean, or we mean, depending on how many people from Bob there are in this part of the story, this, denoting the fuck that is going on here.”

“OH, that. Well, we are from Sharon, and we have claimed Alike for our own. So, good day, and have a nice life.”

“Not so fast!”

“Fine. Oh…that. Well… we… are… from… Sharon-“rovinj-2254575_960_720.jpg

“No, your speaking speed was fine. I mean, your actions are premature. Who is in charge of this town?”

“I, Mayor Maynot, be in charge of this town, Alike.”

“It’s good that you like the town, but you should be a bit more definitive on who is in charge.”

“Alike, I said, I, aye, Mayor Maynot, be in charge of.”

“Crap. Has he been saying this all day?”

“Yeah, I can’t get anything else out of him. Anyway, we the people of Sharon claim this town. We’re annexing it. That means joining it with ours.”

“I thought ‘annex’ was that thing that holds up your head.”

“Nope, definitely the taking over thing. It’s ours. It belongs to Sharon.”

Just then, Mayor Maynot realized that there was a barge, and being a pirate, he got a bit of the sea in his shorts.

“I be givin you the town Alike on two conditions.”

“Okay, what are they” both sides asked him without a question mark. Wow, that is a fucking good trick!

“One, Bob, ye be giving me that barge, so that I may once again set sail or whatever ye set with a barge, what, a pole?”

“Yes, something like that” said the person or people from Bob. “But what’s in it for us?”
“Me second condition be fer ye.”

“What’s your second condition?” asked the people from Sharon.

“Sharon, share Alike.”


hjio


If you like that, then visit my blog for depressing poetry. And a few more things like that, of course.

WardClever.wordpress.com

And maybe buy a friend’s book? Not to be all promotional. Here’s that:

Edward Hotspur – Scenes From A Hundred Morning Drives


DID YOU KNOW:


aWard won the opportunity to guest blog on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins by winning one of our Weekly Scribble Challenges. YOU can win the chance to guest post here too! Just click #SSC on the toolbar above to check out the final prompt for this season. Participation is quick and easy, and a great way to procrastinate interact with your writing peers. 

Flash fiction challenges fuel creativity. They’re a relatively painless pool for writers who’ve never posted their work to wet those feet, OR for established authors/bloggers to pick up a few new readers.


So, what are YOU waiting for? This week’s challenge wraps up Saturday. Unleash your writerly self.


 

#SSC 15/ June 18-24th


It’s here!

The Final Scribble Challenge of 2017.


pablo


The last challenge of the season is based on something our family has been experiencing. One of the hellions talks in his sleep. It’s generally limited to sentence or two, most of which is completely unintelligible.

It’s the same for the characters of your prompt. But, one night the child says something the parents understand. Something entirely unexpected. They come to realize their little one isn’t sleep-talking at all, but rather, a being is speaking THROUGH them.

Your submission should contain the line (or two) of dialogue, as well as the parents’ reaction when they realize who or what has been attempting to communicate for so long.


RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:

  1. Participants have until Saturday, June 17th at noon, Eastern standard time to post ONE response to the prompt in the comment section of THIS POST.
  2. ENCOURAGE other scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  3. As usual, after the Saturday deadline, players have a week to VOTE for their favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.

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NOW to announce the winner of the 13th Scribble Challenge, where the main character was buried alive. After a few hours the victim heard what sounded like digging in the dirt. He or she soon realized the sound was coming from BENEATH them. Participants were to write the next line of dialogue, whether it came from the victim or their guest.

The votes were tallied, and the winner of #SSC 13 is Sarah Brentyn!


Sarah’s snappy submission:aaa

Sarah has been invited to write a post here, on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. We can’t wait to see what she comes out with!


*Remember, the primary focus of the #SSC is to help authors forge connections within the writing community. So, if you respond to this week’s prompt, just remember to comment (reply) to a minimum of THREE other entries before voting opens on Saturday, June 17th.

Get to know each other!

These challenges are coming to an end, so take a look at one another’s sites now.


 

#SSC 14/ June 11-17th


The Second Last Scribble Challenge of 2017.


The primary focus of the #SSC is to help authors forge connections within the writing community. So, if you respond to this week’s prompt, just remember to comment (reply) to at least three other entries before voting opens on Saturday, June 17th. Get to know each other! These challenges are coming to an end. Take a look at one another’s sites now.

It starts with a prompt every Sunday. The responses need only be short and sweet. Or short and scary. Or, short and funny. The point is, the challenge will always require short replies on purpose . . . so YOU have no excuses.


This week’s CHALLENGE:


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It’s a BLIND DATE.

And, it’s going great until one character’s unsettling confession.

You have two paragraphs to work in.


RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:

  1. Participants have until Saturday, June 17th at noon, Eastern standard time to post ONE response to the prompt in the comment section of THIS POST.
  2. ENCOURAGE other scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  3. After the Saturday deadline, players have a week to VOTE for their favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.

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NOW to announce the winner of the 12th Sunday Scribble Challenge. The six word challenge (with a twist) received the most responses to a challenge this site has EVER seen! Thanks to all who participated, and a big congratulations to WARD CLEVER, who WON with this witty response:gbhdf


Your Prize?

All challenge winners, (that means YOU, Ward), are invited to write a GUEST POST on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins with LINKS to their own work.


Did you Know?

Guest posts are a FANTASTIC way for writers and bloggers to reach a previously untapped audience. Not sure how to tackle YOUR guest  blog? Check out the Whys and Hows of Guest Blogging on DanAlatorre.com for pro tips.


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#SSC 13/ June 4 – 10th

 


For THREE more weeks, the challenge you love is back.


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It starts with a prompt every Sunday. The responses need only be short and sweet. Or short and scary. Or, short and funny. The point is, the challenge will always require short replies on purpose . . . so YOU have no excuses.

Last week we received a RECORD number of submissions, with almost forty entries to the challenge. Keep those replies coming! You are what makes the Sunday Scribble Challenge so much fun.

*PLEASE NOTE: The primary focus of the #SSC is to help authors forge connections within the writing community. So, if you decide to respond to this week’s prompt, just remember to comment (reply) to at least three other entries before voting opens on Saturday, June 10th.


The prize?


All challenge winners are invited to write a GUEST POST on Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins with LINKS to their own work.

Guest blogs are a FANTASTIC way for writers and bloggers to reach a previously untapped audience.

Not sure how to tackle YOUR guest post? Stay tuned to DanAlatorre.com this Friday, where I’ll be posting an article about the Whys and Hows of . . . you guessed it. Guest blogging.


Speaking of WINNERS, it’s time to announce the winner of the 11th Sunday Scribble Challenge, all about PHOBIAS. Congratulations, Allie Potts! The votes have been tallied and you WON with this great entry:.khvlhvAn email has been sent with your guest blog invitation. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


And Now for this week’s CHALLENGE:quotescover-JPG-30.jpg


Someone has buried your character alive. After a few hours, the victim hears what sounds like digging in the dirt. Soon, he or she realizes the sound is coming from BENEATH them.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write the next line of dialogue, whether it comes from the victim or their guest.


RULES OF THE CHALLENGE:

  1. Participants have until Saturday, June 10th at noon, Eastern standard time to post ONE response to the prompt in the comment section of THIS POST.
  2. ENCOURAGE other scribblers. Try to comment (reply) to at least three other submissions during the week.
  3. After the Saturday deadline, players have a week to VOTE for their favorite submission by emailing: Sundayscribblechallenge@gmail.com. Place the lucky author’s name in the HEADER of your email.

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