Erin Ritch

Writer, Blogger, Mom

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Category: Short Story (page 1 of 2)

Short Story Collection Volume I – published!

Yay! After much compiling, formatting, and proofing…my first collection of short stories is finally published!

Ta da!

I am so excited to have these stories out. I am a lover of short fiction, my first story ever published online was a piece of flash fiction. As the description says, they are “tales of fantasy, science fiction, and the obscure.” Some of the work has appeared previously on this blog over the years, while other stories are new and unpublished.

For the cover design, I wanted to incorporate the new-and-improved No Wyverns Publishing logo. The background text is a loop of the titles of the twenty-two stories contained in this book. I plan to publish more anthologies of short fiction in the future that will use this same layout…eventually becoming a box set! (Oh, the plans…the plans…)

 

Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories included, “The Last Machinist.”

I have searched countless years, scouring the globe for an object that probably doesn’t even exist.

Jen-Li stared at the wrinkled page of her sister’s last journal entry. It trembled in the whipping wind that invaded the abandoned living quarters, howling as it broke through the cracked windows. The room was so cold. Bitter and lonely, as though resentful for being left in such a state. A thin layer of dust covered the overturned furniture and broken dishes like downy, providing just enough protection against the raging elements outside.  Removing her gloves, Jen-Li traced the sentence with her finger, leaving a muddled smear of letters in its wake. She wiped it again for the last time so that it would belong to her alone. So that this idea that her sister pondered became nothing but a blur, just like the stain of runny ink on her fingertips that would eventually wash away.

“What does it say?” Terra asked from the doorway. Her small frame was swallowed by her heavy coat, transforming her into a bulky, short stump of a ten-year-old. Her blue eyes shone fiercely from the depths of her fur-lined hood. She could read her mother’s body language too well.

Whisking the withered journal in her arms, Jen-Li closed it with a loud clap. A cloud of dust sauntered up to her face, burning her freckled nose as she hacked on the taste. The sound seemed to startle the frozen room as another wave of dust trickled from the ceiling and into her damp auburn hair.

“I wanted you to stay in the mech,” she said, peering out the frosted window glass as she replaced her gloves. Her mech was still there, motionless and protected beneath the ancient fir tree on the edge of the abandoned drive. She looked up at the splitting beams of her sister’s last known dwelling place. “This place is falling apart.”

“Did Aunt Nina find it?” Terra pressed. Her voice sounded on the precipice of panic.

“I don’t know,” Jen-Li replied sharply before she caught herself, realizing that her own voice sounded strained. That was not her job, not her duty as Terra’s mother, to sound afraid. That was not who she was. That was not the tone of this journey that had taken them from the warmth of home to this wasteland. Jen-Li recovered and joined her daughter in the entryway.  “But we will find out.”

 

Intrigued? I hope so! The e-book is priced at only .99 and the print version at $4.99 – both available at Amazon!

The Man in the Polaroid Picture

Image by kristina

 

He loved days like this. Where it was just him and the rain and his subtle disposition. He took a careful sip of his steaming coffee and smiled just before the amber liquid touched his lips. He had become good at this. For too long he hid behind a newspaper or a suitably worn paperback book, stealing glances only at opportune times. But not anymore. Now he could sit on that open bistro patio scattered with autumn brush, finally unnoticed without the aid of cover or distraction. Unnoticed, until now.

She would not have been the type to catch his eye and he would blame himself for it forever after. He had allowed his confidence to muddle his senses, careless in the easy anonymity provided by the busy crowd. He even let his mind wander, distracted by a memory awakened by a scent in the air. It was in that moment that she approached him, placing the package so quickly in his hand that he looked twice to confirm it was there. The woman disappeared in the breeze with a flash of her long black trench coat.  He never would be able to describe her completely, other than a pair of soft brown eyes that looked back to confirm one last time that he was he.

Something told him to wait until home to investigate the small package held firmly in his coat pocket, quickly moistening from his sweaty palm. Holding it beneath the window light, he traced the careful folding of the brown parchment paper, with creases so precise they must have been measured. The package was a neat square no larger than his fist, with the words To John written in scrolling penmanship across the front. The paper felt worn between his fingertips and upon inspection, this wrapping had been reused many times before. He unfolded the paper to reveal a photo. It was a Polaroid, developing in front of him as he held it to the dwindling afternoon sunlight. It was him, sitting at the table on the open bistro patio, oblivious in a whirlwind of autumn leaves. He was struck by the look on his face. A revealing break in his facade, captured for his own eyes to see.

He didn’t have many things to pack, he lived that way for a reason. Or he had, anyway. Tucking the Polaroid in his jacket pocket, he left the simple brown wrapping atop the neat bed. It would be used for the next John Doe, whoever that may be.  But he wished him one thing. To allow himself those breaks in consciousness, those reminders of himself, no matter who may be watching. He looked back one last time before shutting the door. It will always be worth it.

Dark Cupcakes…eat them if you dare.

dark-cupcakes
Happy October 1st! Autumn is by far my favorite season – I love the crisp air, the layered sweaters, and…Halloween! It reminds me of one of my favorite short stories that I released last year and today felt like the perfect time to resurrect it.
So pour yourself a hot a drink and enjoy Dark Cupcakes…I just don’t recommend eating them.

The crisp, fall air made Amanda feel like baking something special. Something really special. Standing at the kitchen counter, she brushes her dark curls out of her face and sips on a steaming mug of coffee. Outside, the cool winds are stirring. She contemplates her ingredient list. She had almost everything, except for that one last ingredient that had to be at its freshest in order to make the recipe complete.

 

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Chocolate
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Blood

 

Nothing made her happier than baking. Her eight to five job paid the bills, but as she drives home at night over the damp, dead leaves, she dreams of the hushed lights of her kitchen. Her neighbors found her a bit strange. There were pots clanking at all hours of the night and the smell of burnt sugar emanating through the open windows. Sometimes they called the landlord, complaining of the smoke detector going off for hours at a time. As if she didn’t even hear it. And in fact, Amanda usually didn’t. Because for her, baking was like casting a spell and nothing could distract her from that.

 

Her cup of coffee finished, Amanda was ready for the outdoor chill. She surveyed her mixing bowls and measuring instruments lined up in a row on the counter, ready for that last ingredient. Her coat smelled like pine and she breathed in the aroma heavily, smiling. Remembering the last encounter she had while wearing that coat. Breathless running through the woods, her heart pumping from the thrill. She held up her coat sleeve. But that blood stain really would just not come out.

 

“Morning, Charlie!” she calls to her letter carrier, passing the lanky, shaggy-haired man in the terrace outside her condo.

 

“Ms. Clarke,” Charlie acknowledges. His shifts the bag on his shoulder. This woman and her baking magazines, he couldn’t forget her name even if he wanted to. He pulls out an armful of her mail. “I have your magazines.”

 

Amanda grinned. She steps a bit too close, smelling him. Watching his neck as he swallows. “Wonderful!” she exclaims, reaching over to unlock the front door to her condo. “I’m in a rush, would you mind just dropping those in the kitchen?”

 

Charlie pauses. “Well, that’s not really allowed.” First, it would be dropping off magazines. Then it would be moving furniture. He’d been down this road before.

 

“I’ll make you one of those cupcakes you love you so much,” she whispered, as though if anyone else heard she was making cupcakes then she’d be overwhelmed with requests.

 

Charlie pauses again. “I suppose…”

 

“Thank you so much! Just lock the door behind you. Bye, doll!”

 

Then she was gone, sprinting down the terrace walkway with the rapid clicking of her heels, disappearing out of sight. Charlie sighed and looked down at the dozen magazines he had been carrying around all morning. Sprinkles of rain started to dribble on his head.

 

“Fine,” he said to himself, stepping through the open doorway. He glanced behind himself one more time and quietly shut the door.

 

Sometimes he imagined what the inside of the homes on his route looked like. He got small glimpses into his customer’s lives from the mail they received. Some people were obviously in debt, receiving thick envelopes of credit card statements. Others had shopping addictions, their daily mail riddled with enticing coupons. And then there were the magazine subscribers, like Ms. Amanda Clarke. Old school, overcharged customers who were still willing to pay for the written word and a bunch of pictures. He was about to buy her an iPad just to save himself on his chiropractor bill.

 

Amanda’s house was not much different than he expected. Smelling heavily of perfume, it was a single woman’s paradise filled with candles and wall decals with cute yet inspiring messages like “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Home Is Where The Coffee Is.” Charlie shook his head, stepping into the kitchen. It was impressive, the walls lined with shining stainless steel pots and pans, impeccably organized spices, and a bright red refrigerator. With finality, Charlie drops the stack of magazines on the nearest counter, knocking over a measuring cup and sending a piece of paper fluttering to the floor. He retrieves it and examines the writing beneath the window light. An ingredient list.

 

 

Illuminated by the warm glow from the oven light, Amanda sits on the kitchen floor. She is safe and calm in that little circle of light. The outside world no longer matters or exists. Her legs crossed, she is folded over in her lap, chewing nervously on her stained fingernails. The warm heat from the oven soothes her, tempting her with sleep. But she won’t sleep. She has worked all day for this moment, as the combination of ingredients reacts with the heat and builds a perfect little masterpiece. Or so she hopes. Will it rise? Did she get the ratios right? Her stomach burns with hunger.

 

 

It is better for her to be hungry to do the things she has to do. It raises the stakes and helps with the guilt, she has found. She is a huntress, something out of the storybooks from Amanda’s childhood. Those dark figures in long cloaks looking over their shoulder, half concealed behind a tree high atop a hill. Off to do some no good in which the details were left out. Amanda dares look away from the oven to examine the dried blood on her hands. She is shocked to feel hot tears begin to stream down her face. She wipes them away and presses her face up close to the oven again. There was darkness in the details, sometimes.

 

 

It really was a delicious looking cupcake. Dark and velvety, tiny granules of sugar sparkling in the Monday morning light. Charlie stared at it intently, imagining the cupcake would sprout a heartbeat from the amount of blood probably pumping through its chocolate veins. It sat politely atop the mailbox, wrapped neatly in cellophane that was tied with an orange ribbon. A small piece of card stock was tucked into its depths, with the note “For Charlie”  followed by a winking smiling face. Charlie swallowed hard. He didn’t trust that winking smiling face.

 

Glancing up, Amanda catches his eye, watching him from her kitchen window. She nods and acknowledges him with a grin and raise of her coffee cup. She motions for him to take the cupcake and waves, disappearing into the shadows of her house. Charlie picks up the cupcake, being careful not to crinkle the perfectly smooth cellophane. He has just enough room in his pack to nestle the cupcake in between some outgoing mail. He avoids looking at the kitchen window again and tucks his head down, darting into a whirlwind of swirling leaves.

 
Charlie carried around the cupcake in his pack all day. The last time Amanda made him a treat, he consumed it immediately. In fact, he had consumed many of Amanda’s thoughtfully baked goods and he felt sick at the thought of it. He had been contemplating that ingredient list all day Sunday. Of course, it could have been a joke. Or an early Halloween prop. Or even just a list of random words. He unwrapped the cupcake that evening in the safety of his apartment and sniffed it. There was definitely something else there. And he didn’t want to know why Amanda was sharing it with him.

 

 

“Blood?”

 

“Yes, it was on the ingredient list,” Charlie nodded. He brushed his disheveled hair out of his face. He hadn’t slept all night, he imagined that cupcake staring at him through the walls. He began to think he heard it clanking around the kitchen in the midnight hours.

 

Charlie’s friend, Dan, takes a quick sip of his espresso. He stares at the velvety cupcake sitting in front of him on the coffee shop table. He leans in carefully for a quick sniff.

 

“I don’t smell anything except chocolate and pumpkin. Did you try it?” Dan asks, taking another sip. He can’t help but smile.

 

“Of course not!” Charlie exclaimed. He looks around and tucks the cupcake back into his coat pocket.

 

“You realize carrying a cupcake around in your pocket looks strange. Right?”

 

“I might need it for evidence.”

 

“And that’s even stranger,” Dan adds. He sits up in his seat. “Look, if you’re that worried about this chick, just ask to change your delivery route.”

 

“I’m more worried about where this blood came from,” Charlie whispers, tapping the table for emphasis.

 

“You don’t even know if there’s blood in there!” Dan shouts. He looks around at the other concerned patrons and lowers his voice. “This is stupid, just toss it.”

 

“I’m trusting my gut here,” Charlie stands up from the table with a loud screech of his chair.

 

“Interesting choice of words,” Dan laughs. “And where are you going? I thought we were going to the movies!”

 

“Can’t,” Charlie zips up his jacket and pulls his hood over his face. Outside, a storm is banging against the coffee shop windows. “If you don’t hear from me in a few days, call the police.”

 

“Wow,” Dan shakes his head. “I might just call the loony bin and reserve you a spot right now.”

 

 

It was a cold and wet evening. A very, very cold and wet evening. Charlie’s cotton jacket was soaked through and it had been for several hours. The cupcake pressed against his chest, it was melting in his pocket from heat and dampness. Perched in a Rhododendron in the terrace outside Amanda’s condo, Charlie couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a creeper. He had been watching Amanda since she came home from work. He began to doubt his judgment of her. In that warm glow of the kitchen, she looked like a perfectly sweet girl, her dark curls falling in her face as she laughed on the phone or sang to herself.

 

For hours, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. She cooked herself some dinner then disappeared for awhile, coming back to clean the dishes. Then she left again and for another hour, all Charlie could see was the faint flicker of a TV screen in the window reflection. Finally, he got sick of being soaking wet and decided to go home. He felt like a paranoid idiot, what a waste of time. He’d have to be up early for work the next morning and he was really going to regret this. Taking off his jacket to ring out the rain water, he noticed a huge stain on his jacket.

 

“The cupcake. Damn…” he sighed, examining the stain left by the melting cupcake. He grabbed the cupcake and tossed it into the mud beneath his feet. He brushed the remaining crumbles of cupcake off his hands and paused. In the dim light from the terrace, Charlie could see his hands were stained red. Cautiously, he holds up his jacket up to smell the stain. Unmistakably blood.
He starts running, leaving his jacket behind. He runs almost blindly, his hair in his face from the heavy rain. Charlie felt fear, real fear, for the first time in a long time. Was he being chased? He imagines he hears the clicking of Amanda’s heels behind him. Finally, he stops to catch his breath on a street corner, buckled over as he tries to calm the rushing in his head. He jumps as two booted feet appear in front of him.

 

“You alright, son?” It’s a security guard for the liquor store down the street. His slicker is shining from the rain but it might as well be a gleaming suit of armor for all Charlie cares.

 

“Oh, thank God. I thought – “

 

Charlie stops as he sees the security guard staring at the red stain on his shirt. Then down to the red liquid streaming from his hands down his arms.

 

“What have you been into?” the guard asks warily, his right hand reaching under his rain slicker.

 

“It was… a… cupcake,” Charlie whispers breathlessly.

 

Suddenly, a knife appears in the gray rain. Before Charlie can react, an arm wraps around the security guard’s neck and cuts across without hesitation. The man gasps and grabs his neck, falling into the road. Behind him, stands Amanda with a kitchen knife in one hand and Charlie’s jacket in the other. She smiles at him and winks.

 

“Hello, Charlie.”

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Complete the Story…”The Gray Man’s Street”

Now that Myth is locked in and launches in LESS THAN A WEEK (*breathe*), I’m allowing myself some time to actually watch TV and not feel guilty about it. I used to follow many, many shows but now it seems the only ones I make time for is Game of Thrones or Big Brother. (I feel this sentence sums me up very well.)

Then I learned about a Netflix series called Stranger Things. It quickly became my latest obsession, it reminds me of The X-Files and Twin Peaks with all sorts of paranormal goodness. And it’s set in the 80’s?? You have me hooked, Netflix. Hooked. I may only be three episodes in, but I love the story and style of the show in general.

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It got me inspired to try one of the story prompts from Complete The Story, a gift from my husband for my birthday, intended for moments precisely like this where I want to write a quick, easy story. I wanted to write a story that happens in the world (or world similar to) that of Stranger Things.

 

 

 

Erin Scribble

 

 

This is a really fun book, there are literally (tee hee) story prompts for every situation you can think of, with only a single page commitment.Unless you’re like myself, that is, and quickly spilled over into three additional pieces of paper.

 

 

 

 

 

So I hope you enjoy…and if you love the paranormal and haven’t watched Stranger Things yet…go watch it!

 

THE GRAY MAN’S STREET

(Words in bold are taken from Complete the Story)

They were safe, for the time being. But it was no time to let their guard down. Slowly, Samuel opened the car door, trying his best not to make a sound. He looked both ways down the street. All he could see was darkness with occasional pools of light beneath the bleary street lights. He returned inside and locked the door, checking it twice.

“Did you see it?” Melanie whispered. A small trickle of blood traveled down the side of her face. She had experienced the worst of the impact, her light frame tossed like a rag doll as they spun across the street.

Samuel wiped his hair out of his face. He became aware of the condensation building on the windshield. He hoped it wouldn’t draw attention.

“Nothing,” he said finally. “I don’t know what direction it took off in. It was so…fast.”

“Let’s keep going! Please!” Melanie begged.

“Shh!” Samuel snapped. “We can’t! The engine, I’m not sure it will start. I’m not willing to risk-“

“I see it!” Melanie squealed, sobbing into her hands.

A figure appeared at the end of the dim headlights, crawling on its belly towards the car. It was the creature that hit their car, a flash of gray that forced them into a spiral. They had injured it, too. Samuel knew from the cry it made at impact. He fumbled with the keys and tried the ignition. It ticked but failed to spark to life.

“C’mon…” Samuel urged, pumping the limp accelerator.

The figure crawled closer. It wasn’t an animal. It wasn’t a man. But it had eyes and it met Samuel’s gaze without flinching. And without fear.

“Get it in the back seat,” Samuel shouted, unbuckling Melanie’s seatbelt  and helping her over the seat. “Stay down!”

“What are you going to do? Shouldn’t we run?” she sobbed.

Samuel tore through the contents of the glove box, watching as the creature bumped against the headlights. He saw a glimpse of slimy gray skin, stained red with blood. Dark eyes drew up to meet Samuel’s gaze as it thumped atop the hood of the car.

“Back!” Samuel shouted, pointing his father’s flashlight in the creature’s eyes. It howled and dropped to the side, scratching and fumbling with the locked door. Samuel held onto the door. “No!”

Then there was nothing. The air was so quiet that Samuel could hear the far off bark of his dog, probably watching for him from the living room window. Melanie tried to muffle her sobs from the floor of the backseat. Samuel carefully lifted his fingers from the door, one at a time. In a breath, the door was ripped from the vehicle and thrown into the woods.

Samuel!”

“This song is the best! The absolute best, turn it up!”

Todd nodded and increased the volume of the car radio. He accelerated, trying to keep up with the beat of the music. Tiffany hummed with the music, settling back into her seat. She watched the twilight treetops flash by, a blur in her sleepy state.

“Is that Samuel’s dad’s car?” Todd shouted as he turned down the music. He pointed to the vehicle ahead of them, overturned on the side of the road.

“Oh my gosh…” Tiffany gasped, sitting up. “It totally is! And I bet you Melanie is with him, too.”

“Should we stop or something?” Todd asked with a shrug.

“Are you crazy? That’s all on them.”

“But maybe we should help-“

“Just let the Gray Man do its thing,” Tiffany yawned, settling back into her seat. “And turn the music back up!”

“Ripples” (Star Wars Fan Fiction)

The sun rose again on Dagobah, as it always does. I see the ripples it makes in time, revolving around the atmosphere, day after day, year after year. Through the treetops, the light fights for entry. One ray at a time it breaks through and somehow is enough for this old world. These ancient trees have no plans of going anywhere. The other creatures are forced to grow around them and intertwine into layers of organisms and this is repeated a thousand times over this deserted planet. Deserted, except for me and that cave.

I close my eyes and inhale the hot, musky air deeply. I hear the darkness crying for me, summoning me to its arms. I will not give it a name. I will not give it that. The cave is simply darkness. I have grown accustomed to its whispers, echoing down the long and twisting corridors of the labyrinth. I am not surprised by its tricks or reasonings, its lures or promises. I look down at my cup of soup and see the ripples in its liquid. And then I hear the scream.

There are very few creatures of significance on this planet. We mind our own business, they and I. But I have been here long enough to recognize their calls and that scream is not known to me. I set down my cup as the scream rings out again, an echo down the long cave walls. I do not know if this is another tale the cave has created to lure me. But I cannot risk the price of not knowing.

I stand before the entrance. Not hesitating, but observing. Listening. I feel the ripple in the Force, the choking fear of the creature inside. It is not meant for that evil cave. It will be swallowed whole and spit out into something twisted. My lightsaber cracks and hums to life as I enter. It sputters beneath the moisture that drips from the cave walls like tears, weeping for the thoughts within. I cannot help but marvel at what it has become. I clear my mind and listen, fighting back at the whispers that claw the edges of my consciousness.

Fear, fear, fear. That’s all I sense, it is a beacon in the darkness, attracting not only myself but the other tainted creatures that make this cave their home. I see them wince and avoid the blaze of my lightsaber as I continue further into the pit. Finally, I find the glint of an eye. Two eyes, then a flutter of wings. I approach it carefully, still unsure if this is a ruse of the cave. But it is not. A small bird, young and confused, is caught in a tangle of vines. I dismiss the snakes that have inched towards their prey and they return to their nests for another day.

“Small creature. The same, you and I,” I whisper hoarsely, freeing the small bird. It trembles in my hand and I can sense its small heart on the verge of collapsing.

Turning back, the entrance of the cave begins to close. Vine after vine reach for each other, intertwining into a thick wall. The fears of the bird are manifesting. Unbeknownst to this creature, it is feeding the darkness with its terror. Soon the bird and I are encased within the cave, illuminated only by my burning lightsaber. I reach the wall and try to pierce it but it is stronger than I expected.

“Calm, must you be,” I tell the bird. I know it is Force sensitive, it must be to live on this planet and survive as long as it has. And maybe, that’s what it drew it to the cave in the first place.

A small crack appears in the dried mud between the vines. And another and another, splitting into a dozen different pathways to freedom. Finally, a hole opens up large enough to squeeze the bird through and the wall disintegrates, no longer powered by the animal’s fears. I dust myself off and step through, feeling the lift as the dark cave is forced to release its grip of me, too. I did not let you take that creature, I tell the darkness as it skulks away.

I return my lightsaber to the layers of my robe. Perhaps my soup will still be warm. I smile as I hear the sounds of the bird’s wings flapping in glorious freedom, racing as high into the gray sky as it can reach. The sound grows louder and louder, into a windstorm that cracks through the treetops. The X-Wing plows into the swamp with a loud hiss of its engine. I close my eyes and envision the ripples of water as the cockpit door opens.

 

The Strangest Storm

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Image credit Tech Haven

One night, the rain came in the strangest way, they say. In a whisper and then in a shout, it covered the ground with water black as that night itself. The rain coaxed the plants above the soil, leaving them to float aimlessly atop the rivers of water, like corpses with nowhere to go. With faces pressed against the steamy glass, all you could do is watch the rain dump from the sky, transforming passerbys into blurry figures that scattered from the storm.

“Dear Andromeda”

 

daphne photo 2

 

 

 

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telegram final

“Queen of the Red Snow” by Erin Ritch

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The water dripped down the window, stripping away the condensation and revealing the red snow beyond the glass. Red like bright new blood, alive and fleeting. It fluttered through the air and stuck to the glass, glistening like fire that simply melts away. Danielle laid beneath the window, still rousing from sleep. She watched the water drip steadily down the glass until she could not deny what laid beyond the walls. Today, she would be the queen. And tomorrow, she would not.

The red snow only fell every hundred years. Sometimes it would take longer, sometimes less. There was no predicting it as much as the historians tried. Danielle came from the line in wait, the children raised only in anticipation of that snowy red morning. Because on those rare red days, the reigning monarch was locked away, to pray and plead with the gods for the cursed snow to disappear. Fearing the chaos that could ensue from that one day left without charge, Danielle’s ancestors had been chosen to fill the role. And that meant today, Danielle was the queen of the red snow.

Somehow, she had known this would happen to her. Every night Danielle went to bed in anticipation of it, wondering if tomorrow was the day or the day after that. She had trained herself to enjoy an extra beat of darkness each morning before opening her eyes. She had known this dread her whole life, as though red had been following her invisibly, a shadow in the dark. Most of her ancestors did not know the red snow, raised only to wait and then die. Some of them did reign uneventfully. And some of them raged.

She heard the trumpets in the distance, signaling the new queen. Danielle visualized the monarch being walked down the long hallways, locked away and powerless for that one day. There was no turning back now. Danielle rose from her bed and looked outside at the sheet of red snow. She only had one thing to decide now. Should she reign? Or should she rage.

 

Middle Grade Wednesday’s – “Atop Mt. Lonely” (part three)

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Image credit Tony Guyton

Welcome back! This is the third installment of “Atop Mt. Lonely” – we’ve just left our heroines (Carlee and Marlee) at the base of the mysterious Mt. Lonely. To catch up on the story so far, check out part one and part two posted over the last two weeks.

Happy reading!

 

Atop Mt. Lonely (part three)

After the two girls finishing fastening their harnesses, they began the climb up Mt. Lonely. They started by attempting to scale the steep rock mountain. When this proved to be extremely strenuous, the twins switched to using their pitons.

With a grunt, Marlee heaved herself on top of a rock overhang. She took deep breaths, watching her sister struggle to join her on the overhang. Once she was over the edge, Carlee let out a sigh and leaned against the rock mountain. The earth swirled below them and the parking lot already looked extremely far away.

The winds grew stronger and faster as they climbed Mt. Lonely, but the girls continued on. They were thrilled to learn that they were already half way up the mountain just a few hours into their climb.

Carlee clicked open a jug of water from her back pack. Marlee munched on a tuna sandwich thoughtfully, studying the other half of the mountain the girls still had in front of them.

“It looks like if we moved over there…the wind would be to our backs. Otherwise we keep fighting this wind,” Marlee announced, motioning across the mountain cliff.

Carlee shook her head. “Let’s just keep the way we’ve been going. We’ll waste time getting all the way over to there, just to have the winds to our backs.  Plus, it’ll be more of a challenge this way,” she insisted with a grin.

Marlee frowned. “It’s safer my way.” 

“But its more practical my way,” Carlee argued.

The girls sat in silence as they finished their lunch. Suddenly a thought struck Marlee.

“It’s my turn to decide because you got your way down at the foot at the mountain,” she declared.

Carlee paused thoughtfully. “That doesn’t count. Let’s just flip the coin again, and let fate decide,” she suggested.

Marlee nodded in agreement. She yanked out her coin and flung it into the air. The strong winds grasped the puny coin and swirled it in its course around the mountain. The penny finally went toppling down the side of the mountain. Marlee groaned.

“Well, now we know what to do!” Carlee announced, standing up.

“What do you mean? I lost my coin, we never saw whether it was heads or tails,” Marlee snapped.

“Yes, but did you see what side of the mountain it fell down?”

“Yes. Your point?”

“Obviously we’re meant to continue our climb on my side of the mountain.”

“Unbelievable,” Marlee muttered, standing up and brushing herself off.  “But we’ve already wasted enough time on this. We’ll go your way.”

“Excellent choice!” Carlee laughed as she thrust her piton into the rock and the twins once again began their climb.

              <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The girls continued their climb up Mt. Lonely.  The winds became more and more aggressive as they ascended higher and higher. The temperatures began to drop and the girls had to stop frequently to add more layers. As they climbed higher, the rocks also became more brittle.

Carlee gripped the stone mountain. Rocks slid from beneath her feet, brushing against Marlee, who was only feet below her.

“How’s it going?” Carlee called to Marlee, struggling to make herself heard above the whipping wind.

Marlee rolled her eyes and yelled back, “Fine, but we should have gone my way!”

Carlee laughed. She paused and leaned forward against the mountain, looking down at the world swirling below Mt. Lonely. She could see the small town of Carson City in the far, far distance.  White clouds hung in the air against the blue sky.

She looked down at her sister, who seemed to be struggling. She was just about to yell down to Marlee to go more slowly, when the ground beneath her sister’s feet disappeared. With a small scream, Marlee scratched for a grip but went flying into the air.

The rope secured around each other’s waist tightened around Carlee. She used all the strength she had left to slam herself against the mountain. She scraped at Mt. Lonely with her hands, desperately trying to find something to grab. She looked over at her pitons and prayed they would hold.

Finally, she found a hold and gathered the courage to look down at her sister. Thoughts of her sister tumbling down the mountain, or slamming unconscious against the hard rock, or even the rope somehow wrapping around her neck, flooded her mind. Instead, Marlee was still there, the rope still secured around her waist. She swung herself over to the rock wall, and the pressure was taken off Carlee’s waist.

Marlee gave a thumbs up with a shake of her head. Carlee sighed in relief. This mountain was proving to be more than she bargained for, after all.

Middle Grade Wednesday’s “Atop Mt. Lonely” (part two)

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Image credit Tony Guyton

Welcome to Middle Grade Wednesday!

 

Last week’s introductory post of Middle Grade Wednesday was a big success! Here’s the next installment of “Atop Mt. Lonely” – if you need a refresher, see link below to read part one! Happy reading!

“Atop Mt. Lonely” – part one

Atop Mt. Lonely (part two)

Carlee slung a loaded backpack into the trunk of her family’s van the next morning. It landed with a bang as she slammed shut the trunk. Marlee rushed out of the Ramus’ large house, carefully positioning her sunglasses. She wasn’t exactly a morning person. Mrs. Ramus handed out breakfast bars as Mr. Ramus started the van and the family took off.

The van drove through the early morning streets of their hometown of Carson City, Nevada. Although Carson City was the capital of Nevada, it was one of the smallest capitals in the United States. Desert surrounded the city limits and large mountains stood in the far off distance.

Marlee remembered many of the mountains as they passed them. She remembered the dangerous climb the twins had made on Mt. Pensly where they ran out of water. In the far distance, a tall, thin mountain stood in the middle of the warm desert. There was no visible vegetation, just a mountain of jagged rock.

Carlee’s jaw dropped every time she saw that mountain. It looked mysterious, just waiting to be explored.  Actually, only few mountaineers had dared to climb Mt. Lonely.  It had earned this name  because of the legend surrounding it.  The legend spoke of a man who climbed Mt. Lonely long ago but lost his memory when he reached the top of the mountain and could not remember the way back home. Because of this, the rock mountain was named Mt. Lonely.

Carlee believed the legend but Marlee thought it was ridiculous, naming off various explanations as to why he would have been rescued. Mt. Lonely’s tale scared off many superstitious mountaineers. Some believed the man was still living there, trapped and waiting for another companion.

The Ramus’s van pulled to a stop at the foot of Mt. Lonely. The parking lot at the base of the mountain was empty, sand scattered across the pavement. Carlee jumped out of the van followed by Marlee. The heavy air smacked the twins in the face, it was starting to warm up already. Mr. Ramus handed the girls their backpacks. They snatched their ropes and pitons along with other important equipment.

“You girls remember what I said, don’t you? If there’s an unexpected storm or the winds get too high, come right back down and call us,” Mrs. Ramus said sternly.

“Remember to eat, drink and take lots of breaks. Very important,” Mr. Ramus added.

 

They gave their girls a farewell hug then drove off. Carlee and Marlee waved back, watching the van disappear into the distance, leaving them alone in the empty desert. Carlee let out a hard sigh and walked towards the mountain base. A tattered sign swung in the wind.

Marlee squinted her eyes and read aloud the words written on the wood plaque:

                          Mt. Lonely                          

One mile, 30 feet high

  WARNING!
Strong winds ahead
Experienced climbers only!

 

“Good grief! Dramatic, much?” Carlee snorted. 

“I hope we’re not in over our heads here…”  Marlee said, crossing her arms.

“No way! I’m going to climb this mountain even if the entire state of Nevada disagrees!” Carlee huffed.

Marlee shook her head in exasperation. Sometimes there was only one way to reason with her sister.

“Flip a coin? We still have time to call Mom and Dad back,” Marlee suggested.

Carlee nodded.  Marlee looked at her sister expectantly.

“Don’t look at me, I don’t have a coin,” Carlee admitted.

Marlee sighed and dug her hands down into her deep backpack. She pulled out a shiny quarter and flipped the coin into the air. It landed in her hand and she covered it, asking, “Heads or tails?”

“Heads, of course.”

Marlee flipped over the coin. “Heads,” she sighed.

“Good, lets go!”  Carlee ordered, stomping towards the howling mountain.