#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!


 

Cassie


With a little prodding from a friend, I entered my first writing competition a few weeks ago. PEI Writers’ Guild hosted the “Battle Tales,” and announced the winner at a social in a micro-brewery near downtown Charlottetown on Saturday. I didn’t win the contest, but the social was still a great way to get out and network with local writers.


beer-2618210_960_720.jpgIF I could have forced myself to speak to anyone . . . which I couldn’t.


Although I threw back a few pints of liquid courage, my mouth managed to seal itself shut. The room filled with flourishing, successful authors remained entirely un-networked. By me, anyway.

So, now that I’m safely back behind my computer screen, I am going to do what every other writerly introvert does and follow those guild writers’ tweets, blogs, and stalk them on Goodreads. Boom. So there, sealed mouth.

The contest rules stipulated that the short story could be no longer than 2500 words. It had to feature a dog barking in the distance, a door that wouldn’t close, and a pair of shoes dangling on a power line. While my story didn’t win, it still took me a while to write. I don’t want to waste it. So here, with no further ado: my contest entry for the PEI Writers’ Guild Battle Tales.


Cassie


It was hard to spot at first.

I closed my mouth against the sand whipping at my face and squinted at the horizon. There was a boat at the end of the world, its mast leaning heavily to the side in the wind. A ghost ship, probably. Nestled deep in the Gulf of St. Laurence, it’d been years since our island had seen one. Years since we made any contact at all with the world outside our shores.

I shimmied off my kitbag to retrieve the radio. Stealing another glance at the vessel through my binoculars, I pushed the button. “Checking in from the Second Station, North Shore.”

The reply from Central was quick. “Go ahead, Jackson.”

“There’s a boat up here.” I transferred my weight from one foot to the other. My replacement had been called to a riot, lengthening my shift to twice as long as usual. “Looks like it’s gonna hit the shore.”

“Anyone on board?” The question was standard procedure. No one ever was.

The battered deck was easily visible through the binoculars now: empty beneath a torn sail whipping ruthlessly in the wind. “Doesn’t look like it.”

A surge of static followed. “We’ll send a demolition crew out. Make sure no one goes near it till they arrive.”

“Ten-four, Central.”

Wiping the sand from my eyes with the heel of my hand, I sat next to my kitbag and examined the remnants of my lunch. I’d eaten most of my rations already, except a hunk of dried ham I’d saved for the walk home. Holding the meat in my hand, I debated whether or not to finish it. There was never enough to eat anymore. My stomach let out an argumentative growl as shoved the ham in my pocket. I could handle the hunger better than others. It made some people angry. Bitter. The riots grew worse every month. Rumors were rampant. Many believed Central was hoarding food. They couldn’t have much, even if they were. The farmers had a hard year, without much rain. We had some meat, but less potatoes than usual. Hardly any corn.

Twenty years had passed since they blew up the bridge. My older brothers used to talk about the sound of it. Said the whole house shook with the explosion. I don’t remember that. What I remember is the way the color drained from my mother’s face at the table. The hard line of my dad’s mouth as he scooped another helping of salmon onto his plate. The neighbor’s dog, barking in the distance.

The bridge had been the only trucking route from the mainland. Even before authorities destroyed it, automobiles, planes, and boats had already stopped coming in. Quarantine boundaries were enforced by the military, putting an abrupt halt to the deliveries of food that had been imported from locations all over the world. The taste of foods like pistachios, rice, and tropical fruit now seemed like a memory from a life on another planet.

For about a month after isolation began, communication with the mainland was easy. Then the internet went down, then the phones. The outside world eventually fell silent. Waste systems along the coast failed, polluting the Atlantic and poisoning the fish. We had been limited to whatever sustenance we could harvest from the island ever since.

I pulled my attention back to the drifting boat. The surging tide came in fast, drawing the vessel closer to the beach with each wave. Whose boat had it been? What adventures had its sailors navigated before succumbing to the Red Death? I myself had never been on a boat. The only islanders who had since the plague began were volunteers. Every spring a few of them left the island, hoping to find that life on the mainland was safe. Their orders were to keep away if anyone of the crew showed the signs: bloodshot eyes, bleeding ears. The boats never returned.

When conspiracy theorists weren’t accusing Central of stealing food they were accusing Central dignitaries of sabotaging those expeditions. It was said the dignitaries were doing everything they could to maintain a healthy degree of fear in rest of us; making us easier to control. I never bought into that. I enjoyed the sense of order Central infused in our day-to-day lives. I trusted them. But then, my brothers often said that as the baby of the family, my trusting nature would one day get the best of me.

Instead of wasting time on patrol pondering everyone else’s half-cocked theories, I usually dwelled on the expeditions themselves. I planned to volunteer next spring, and wondered how long the others had survived out there. What sights they’d encountered beyond our shores. I imagined most of the corpses had rotted away by now, leaving a wasteland of bones behind. The buildings would likely be overrun with vegetation. Ghost cities to match the ghost ship drifting ever closer to our shore.

And then I saw it.

Movement on the deck.

Grabbing my binoculars, I rose. A woman stared back at me from just behind the rail. Her hair was long, tied in a braid hanging over her shoulder. Holding onto the guardrail, she struggled to keep her balance as waves bombarded the hull.

Raising my arm tentatively, I waved. The white fabric of her clothing whipping with the wind, the woman disappeared from view behind the cabin.

My thoughts raced. Somehow, this person had managed to live outside our shores. Could the rumors be true? Was Central sabotaging the expeditions? If they were, maybe the Red Death hadn’t been the catastrophe we’d all been led to believe. I froze. What lengths would the dignitaries go to in the hope of covering their tracks? They certainly wouldn’t want to deal with one more mouth to feed, whether they’d been sabotaging the expeditions or not. This woman would be sent away before she was even allowed to tell her story. Or worse.

I rolled up my pant legs and waded into the water, fighting the wind. The decline into the sea was gradual. The nearer to the boat I came, the more the rolling water tried to knock me down and pull me under.

When I was within earshot I stopped, yelling over the roar of the white capped waves.

“Hello?”

No answer.

“You should come down. People might see—”

“Go away!”

I glanced at the beach. No one had come. Yet. Peering back up at the boat I inspected the sail. It was badly ripped, possibly a result of the storm three nights before. If the boat had been drifting that long and the occupant had been infected, she would be dead by now. No one was immune to the Red Death. It killed everyone it touched.

The ladder bucked back with the boat when I grabbed for the rungs. They rocked forward again I caught hold of the sides. Seawater rushed up my nose and into my lungs as the boat rolled me under the water. I held on, managing to climb a few steps before my feet slipped off the metal. Clinging to the ladder, I hoisted myself to the deck. Breathless and panting, I doubled over with my hands on my knees, trying to steady myself.

The woman moved back warily, pressing herself against the guardrail on the other side of the deck.

“Why didn’t you answer me?” I asked. “I was calling you.”

“I told you to go away!” She said, her accent distinctively British.

“I can’t just leave you here.”

Arms crossed, she refused to answer, examining the shore wordlessly.

“Where did you come from?”

She paused. “Newfoundland.”

We had been moving steadily. The boat lurched as the hull met the ocean floor, and the woman fell hard on the deck. I rushed to pick her up.

“Stop!” she hissed, batting my hands away. “Don’t.”

“I’m not sick.” I took her by her thin wrists. “We broke contact with the mainland when the Red Death moved in. It never made it here. You’re safe with me, just as long as we can get you out Central’s sight.”

She peered at my hands on her wrists, a strange look crossing her face. Worried eyes, and a soft, sad smile. “I—I’m sorry.” A tear trailed down her cheek. “I just—” She swallowed. “I was so lonely.”

Releasing her wrist, I wiped the tear with my thumb. She cupped my hand to her gaunt face. Her skin felt warm, despite the wind. She dropped my hand suddenly, as if surprised by her own bold gesture.

“Are there more survivors? In Newfoundland?”

“I don’t think so.” Her mouth became a thin line. “Before Newfoundland I was in Europe.” She softened. “You’re the first person I’ve seen—alive—in a very long time.”

Europe had been among the first to fall victim to the Red Death. She’d been alone even longer than I’d thought. Had she lived all that time on her own, only to be killed by us? I rubbed the hair standing tall on my arms.

“You crossed the Atlantic . . . by yourself?”

“There were others. They died on the journey.”

“The plague?”

“No.” She blinked quickly. “We ran out of food. We were on another ship. We would have been faster if we could have used the motor, but something was wrong—”
“With the gas.” I waved back at the shore. “It all went bad here, too.”

She nodded back at the torn sail flapping uselessly in the wind. “The sail was fine till the last storm. I’ve been drifting for the last three days.” Loose strands of hair blew across her face, and she tucked them behind her ear.

“I’m Jackson.” I held out the waterlogged ham from my pocket. “You hungry?”

“Thanks.” Accepting the meat like an uncertain stray, she tore off a piece with her teeth.

“I’m Cassie.”

“There’s more food on the island. Not a lot, but some. The others—”

“How many of you are there?” Her gaze became sharp. Glancing over my shoulder, she pointed toward the beach. Someone was coming over the dune. “Who’s that?”

“Two hundred thousand islanders, at last census. And not all of us friendly.” My heart skipped a beat as I thought of Central. “We need to get out of here. Now.”

The relief patrolman walked across the sand, eyes on us. He’d spotted Cassie. The radio remained fastened to his belt. He hadn’t notified dignitaries, yet. That was something.

“Please, come down,” I asked Cassie. “I’ll tell you everything once we get back to the shore.”

She glanced over her shoulder at the deck warily. “Two hundred thousand?”

“My parents built a house nearby. It’s where I stay when I patrol up here. It’s secluded. But we have to go before that patrolman decides to call this in.”

She acquiesced, finally, following me down the ladder as the ship rocked with the waves. We gave up halfway and jumped into the surf.

The patrolman backed off as we approached, hand raised. It was Oliver. His eyes were wide. “You can’t bring her on shore, Jackson! Central protocol—”

I made my voice as stern as I could. “She was with other survivors, Oliver. They died of starvation, but it means there has to be others out there! Maybe the Red Death has run its course.”

Oliver’s hand tightened around his radio. “We need to call this in.”

“You know what Central will do. It’s why you haven’t called it in already.” Angry, I shook the cold water from my hair. “Look at her! She made it out there. She’s living proof that we could survive out there, too. I’m taking her to my parent’s place to recover, and then I’m going to find a boat to see what’s happening on the mainland for myself.”

“You’ll die if you do, Jackson. Everyone does.”

“All we know for sure is that no one comes back. They could be alive.”

Oliver’s eyes trailed over Cassie, softening. “How did you survive?”

She shrugged nervously, her eyes flitting between us. “I just did.”

Oliver bit his lip, looking past us to her boat in the water. “I must be crazy,” he said. Accepting my outstretched hand, he shook firmly.

Cassie stiffened.

“You two get to that house as fast as you can. I’ll go to town for some food.” His eyes lingered on Cassie’s thin frame as he spoke to me. “I think I remember where your parents used to live. Best not to contact me on your radio. Central might get suspicious. Leave a pair of shoes hanging from the power line in front, and I’ll come find you.”

“I can’t ask you to give up your rations,” I said. “It’s too much.”

“I’m not giving up my rations.” He smiled. “But I’ll bring you yours.”


The house was just like my parents had left it. The old wooden door wouldn’t close against the wind. I propped a chair up against the handle, jimmying it shut as best I could. Cassie watched wordlessly.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She turned away, gazing out the window at the darkening horizon. “I never imagined finding as many people as this.” Her shoulders slumped. “Two hundred thousand.”

I wanted to reach out and touch her again. Comfort her. Having been away from others so long, I wondered whether the meeting had simply been too much, too soon. Maybe she just needed space.

I moved the chair from the door and left in search of firewood. A long-forgotten pile sat behind the shed. Old rainwater clung to the logs along the top: remnants of the same storm that ripped through Cassie’s sail. Pulling my father’s rusty axe from a nearby stump, I used it as a lever to dislodge the dry pieces tucked beneath. There was an echo of a stray dog barking somewhere further in the woods. I breathed in deeply, inhaling the green smell of spruces and rain soaked dirt. For the first time since the volunteers had set sail last spring, I felt hopeful. Carrying a small load of wood, I made my way back to the door. Cassie was watching me through a window, her silhouette just barely visible as the sunset reflected from the pane in bright pinks and dull purples. She didn’t return my smile, but even so she looked beautiful. In a few weeks, with a little more flesh on her bones, she’d be dazzling.

And then I felt it.

Dripping out my ear.

I dropped the wood. My hand flew up to touch the side of my face. Examining my fingers I found them to be tipped with blood.

Cassie ran out, slamming the door against the frame. She tried to grab my shoulders, but

I pushed her back.

“Cassie! You . . . are you carrying it?”

She stared at me saying nothing, horror widening her already large eyes.

“How are you alive?” I demanded.

“I’m immune. I wish to God I wasn’t.” She came to grab my shirt, pulling me close. “I couldn’t be alone anymore. I thought it might be safe after all these years. It was so long since the others died.”

My skin felt numb. “When you sailed across the Atlantic, the people on the boat with you didn’t starve, did they?”

She shook her head, gaze faltering. “I gave it to them.” The words were soft. Barely audible. “Please . . . I didn’t know there were so many of you when I came.”

I raked a hand through my hair, thinking of the first time I’d touched her on board the boat. The tear I’d wiped from her cheek.

My handshake with Oliver.

Cassie wiped her face with the back of her arm. “I just needed to be around people again.” She grabbed my hand. “We aren’t meant to live alone.”

I sat down on the ground and looked up at the shoes dangling from the power line at the end of the driveway. “You killed us, Cassie.”

“I’m . . . sorry.”

“You killed us all.”

The end. It was hard to spot at first.