Erin Ritch

Writer, Blogger, Mom

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Tag: shortstory

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 Some of the work has appeared previously on this blog over the years, while other stories are new and unpublished.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.

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.

 

“Dear Andromeda”

 

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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.

“The Fire in the Sunrise” by Erin Ritch

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Image credit Steve Brand

 

It has been a long, long drought. Some say it has been as long as they can remember, but I know better. Because I remember the day I first saw that dry earth burn. It was the night of my nineteenth birthday and that fire burned forever on the horizon, until it faded into the sunrise and they became one. The wind gathered the ashes and choked us until we couldn’t breathe and some never did again. Now, on this evening and this sunset, I am six and twenty. My name is Tulie and the earth is still burning.

“Shh,” I whisper to Graham, my brown bull steer. He lazily looks up as I stroke his smooth coat then bows his head again. Some people say he is no use, just a bag of old bones. But he is my one companion. We are standing in the field outside my house, where the dry grass has learned to live another way. With seven years of no rain, everything has learned to live another way. The sun breaks through the clouds one last time and lights the grass with a hot amber hue. Graham flicks away a stubborn fly with his tail and the wind whips the grass around him. Now the sun has almost completely set and the long night will start. And they begin to appear, there on the mountain crests.

I have come to call them “shadow creatures” or “dark people,” but truly I have no idea what they are. They started one night in the darkness, as I slept peacefully in my house alone. I was awoken by Graham, baying loudly from his field. The doors of my house rattled and a great wind slammed the front door open. It was then I saw them, dark silhouettes against a black, burning sky. Figures that looked human, yet not. Voices that sounded real, yet unreal. I screamed and they fled but they came back, night after night, only to leave at the break of every dawn.

I barely remember sleep. I know I sleep at times, but not enough to register or make a difference. No one in town knows what these creatures are nor are they interested in helping me. The world has become a place where everyone is on their own; surviving is hard enough without helping another to survive as well. So we continue on, casting strange glances. As I said, Graham is my only companion. And my house hasn’t burned down yet, so we will fight to stay, night after night.

Try as I might, Graham will not leave his field. I can tell the time of day by the way the shadows cast against his body, like a living sundial. Luckily, the dark people seem to have no interest in him. So I bid him goodnight as I always do, with a hug around the neck. In his eyes I see the only softness in my world and I ask him to live just one more night, every time.

I have become braver as the months have gone by. I used to lock myself in my house hours before actual darkness fell. But that became miserable. Then I would wait until sunset and watch the dark people from the safety of my kitchen window. I observed them and realized they were slow and methodical. Finally, I am able to stay outside until night has completely taken over and those dark people are only steps away, inching closer and closer. One day, I may try to reach out and touch them. But not tonight, so I wave one last goodbye to Graham and lock myself inside. Then the attacks start.

Tonight, the bangs seem more aggressive than usual. Funny how I am classifying the aggressiveness of bangs, yet it has come to that. First, they started out as little taps. Trying it out, seeing if I would react. Now, the bangs are like anvils being dropped from the heavens. I cover my ears but my teeth rattle at each drop. The dark people’s garbled voices make my stomach tie in knots, shrieks in the night that drive my imagination wild. I sit down on the ground with my back against the front door in case I need to flee, my arms wrapped around my knees. My long skirts are filthy from the ashy dirt covering the wood floors. Try as I might to sweep it up, the dust never goes away.

Yes, tonight is different. The bangs that usually ring through the night have stopped. I lift my head from where I had buried it between my arms. Silence. It is so silent I think I can hear Graham’s steady chewing of dry grass out in the field. I wait for a long time, breathing heavily through my mouth until it grows dry. I begin to feel safe in the quiet of my house and dream of the tea that I used to drink to calm myself to sleep. I crave that normalcy more than I realized and begin to crawl into the kitchen, my skirts picking up more and more dirt along the way.

Unfortunately, the one window I left unboarded was the one over the kitchen sink. I couldn’t bear to cover it, I had too many dreamy memories of dishes in the milky sink and the afternoon view out that window, light gleaming off the clean glasses. But now, that window was my terror as I imagined dark faces on the other side, waiting for me to see them. But that tea called to me and I stood quickly at the sink, pumping water furiously into my tea kettle, refusing to look up.

I had become expert at starting a fire safely and cleanly in my little stove. I was respectful of fire. I knew I needed it, though it was burning all around me, destroying everything in its wake. Slightly less tense now that I was away from the window, I start my small fire and let it heat the tea kettle. Before long, it begins to whistle and I slide into the kitchen for my tea and strainer.

Instinctively, I gather my apron over my face as the kitchen window glass shatters in front of me. Graham begins to bay loudly, now very audible through the open window. I drop to the ground and slide up against the counters, fumbling for anything in the darkness. Loud thumping begins again on the roof, a dozen scattered footsteps. I shriek as dirty water dumps down my chimney, extinguishing my small fire and knocking over my tea kettle. A cloud of damp ash floats into the air and for a quick moment, I see their figures darting around the room.

“Leave!” I scream louder than I ever had before. My hot tears wash the ashes from my stinging eyes as I struggle to see.

With a furious rush, the house is still again. I leap to my feet and quickly throw a blanket over the broken window, not really believing it will help but at least its something. Graham laments for me outside, helpless in his field of straw. I am drenched with dirty water, my skirts and petticoats heavier than they already were. But I won’t dare move from this place until sunrise and the dark people leave again.

I am not sure if I fall asleep or if time truly moved that strangely. But slowly, a warm glow begins to fill the living room, exemplified by the yellow blanket hanging across the kitchen window. For a moment my stomach drops, fearing it is the fires that have finally reached me. But then I hear Graham’s morning song, his signal to me that light is on the horizon. Telling me that night is almost gone. I reach for my teapot and hold it against my chest. Someday I will make that cup of tea. Someday, they won’t stop me.

Cautiously, I open the front door. I know it is safe because small slivers of light begin to stretch beneath the wooden door and touch my fingertips. The warm air blasts me in the face but I don’t care. I watch the dark people retreat into the horizon, strange flickerings of shapes that go in and out of focus. And for a moment, I think one turns back and looks at me. And I wonder what I look like to them and if I am their dark creature in the night.

“I can’t figure this place out. For the life of me, I can’t,” John admits, shaking his head as he lights up a cigarette. He stops and stares at the abandoned house they have been hired to disassemble for scrap.

“Really? C’mon,” Ed chides, grabbing the cigarette and dousing it in the grass. “Haven’t we put out enough fires today?”

John continues to stare at the empty house, outlined against the setting sun. The overgrown field surrounding it is dry and bare, scattered only with trash and the parched bones of old farm animals. The rest of his crew have left for the day, complaining of the heat and strange sounds coming from inside that ruin of a house.

“Maybe the stories are true,” Ed sighs, taking off his hat and wiping the sweat away. The day truly had been especially hot and he was grateful for the thought of his air conditioning back in his car, parked only footsteps away.

“Ah, now you c’mon,” John chortles, but pauses. “You say a girl burned here? For real?”

“Oh yeah, on her birthday of all days,” Ed sighed. “It was a dry summer and the fire caught all around these fields here, killed a bunch of livestock that were trapped. The fire burned for days but that damn house survived, though.”

“Hmm,” John lit another cigarette. He squinted his eyes into the setting sun. “It did at that.”

“The Mist In Your Eyes” by Erin Ritch

Image credit Martin Brigden


I live for only minutes at a time. I change my shape with the fury of the wind. I am the tempest in the storm. I am the light on the hillside. I am the veil in the cold forest. You will see me and I will make you pause and think. If you look my way I will suspend you in time, just you and I, enveloped in a place where thoughts are free. Step into my depths and I will transport you to a timeless place. I will cloak you in the daytime and hide you in the night. 
I will inspire you but make you feel fear, because there is nothing else like me. 

I have more brothers and sisters than I know of, scattered across land and sea – ever living, ever dying. We can be alone or rally an army. We can be gone in a blink of the eye or linger in your mind. We do not how long we have but we will live it, reaching and moving through time. Some say I am water suspended in air. But I say I am the mist in your eyes.