Trick or Treat

Prompt provided by Writer’s Digest  ! Dampness lingers in the midnight air. Nearby, an unidentifiable sound pricks at your nerves, repeating every few seconds. Your breath catches in your throat as a long shadow cleaves through the light spilling from a street lamp just around the corner ahead of you. You consider turning back. … What happens next?

“Hello?” the sound of my own voice sends chills down my spine. The dimly lit corner is still and quiet. When will I ever learn? My dad would kill me if he knew how far I parked my car from the party. I always give him a hard time, but time and time again I’m on edge as I walk through the darkness, alone, to my car.

The damp October air clings to my neck and seeps through my clothes. You always feel just the slightest bit moist in the Midwest, like you’ve stood fully dressed too close to a shower. I hate it.

I pick up my speed, not the easiest thing to do in gaudy heels, and grab my keys out of my jacket pocket. To click or not to click? If I hit the unlock button now, it gives any potential psychos out there watching me time to get into the car before I do. If I wait too long, they could sneak up behind me while I’m fiddling with the door. Ugh. I swear, from now on, I’m going to listen to my dad and park closer to the house.

My car is across the street, just past the street light. Thirty feet and I’ll be safely inside. Thank God. I’ve always hated this part of town. Most of it is dark and abandoned. Perfect place for an underage party, or to be murdered. When you’re seventeen, you don’t really consider the latter until you’re walking through a dark street alone at three in the morning.

Click. Click. Click.

I freeze. I’m in the middle of the glowing light, exposed. I can’t see beyond its rim, but anyone in the darkness can sure as hell see me.

“Who’s there,” I hiss just above a whisper. I can’t get myself to speak any louder. I’ll freak myself out even more.

Click. Click. Click.

The sound is close. Right behind me. I curl my fingers around my sharpest key and make a break for it. I blaze out from under the light towards my car. I hit the unlock button, but my car does nothing. No lights, no sound. What the hell? I yank furiously at the handle.

Click. Click. Click.

“Come on!” I cry. Wait. I don’t have tinted windows.

This isn’t my car.

I start pressing my unlock button like a mad woman. My car has to be close. How could I have forgotten where I parked it? I hit the security button. Thank God! Just ahead of me, my car alarm blares, sending bright red light into the darkness. I run towards my car as fast as my heeled feet can carry me. I’m inches away from the door when I feel an icy cold hand clamp down on the back of my neck.

“No!” I scream as I whirl around, sharp key at the ready.

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson, Sarah,” the man’s voice teases. Relief and rage boil through my chest as I lower the key.

“I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life,” I pant, trying to calm down my breathing. “Sorry, dad.”

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2967

Prompt provided by Writer’s Digest! I do not consider myself a Sci-fi writer by any means, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of this prompt. The following is an excerpt from the Outer Space Treaty written by the United Nations in 1967.

[T]he exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind; outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States; outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means; States [i.e., countries] shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner; the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes; astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind; States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities; States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and … avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

With that in mind, here’s your writing prompt:

It’s the year 2967, and you are the delegate from the United Nations to the Intergalactic Committee for Planetary Relations. Your mission is to persuade the delegates from the other developed and armed planets on the Committee to adopt a variation on Earth’s Outer Space Treaty in the interest of better intergalactic relations—but the vote needs to be unanimous. Everyone seems to be on board … except for the delegate from the planet Kryzlak, which is on tense terms with Earth following a dispute over mining colonies on one of Kryzlak’s moons. What happens next?

****************

“Delegates of the Intergalactic Committee of Planetary Relations, war is upon us,” I pause. I’m overwhelmed by the number of delegates and the eruption of murmuring.

“If we wish to keep the peace we must make variations to the treaty. We must be able to harvest the Lunar Basalts from Earth’s moon,” I continue. “They are our only hope of creating weapons strong enough to destroy the Annihilatins. They are relentless, ruthless killers and they will stop at nothing until they’ve claimed Earth, Lux, Ventus and Lapis. Do not think for one moment that our capture will satisfy their lust for power and resources. They will find reason to claim us all, and unless we wield weapons to stop them, we do not stand a chance.”

“Agaaaiiin wit zee lunar basalts,” Kryt, the delegate from Kryzlak, calls out from his seat. “Kryzish basalts ‘ave been harvested for centuries and ‘ave powered a myriad of weapons not only for the ICPR, but any military operation. You greedy Earthlings are always looking for ways to rob lesser planets. Mining on your moon means more jobs and more money for your people, while we Kryzlakians waste away.”

“Kryzish basalts are a far cry from lunar as they are the most deteriorated basalts in all the galaxy,” I pause again, blood boiling. Kryt has some nerve. Waste away indeed. Kryzlakians would be living in abundance if Kryt and the rest of the royal family would share the wealth. Instead they stuff their three bellies each with enough food to feed half of Kryzlak while hoarding mountains of gold within their palace walls. Yes, harvesting the moon will take away jobs from the Kryzlakians, but it will guarantee the safety of the entire galaxy. Sacrifices must be made.

“Lunar basalts have eighteen times the amount of iron and its mineral content is unchanged by water. No other basalts in the galaxy have such potential for weapons of mass destruction. We need to alter the treaty, and we must harvest on Earth’s moon. We’ve already lost Vitae and Arbor. Earth’s Board of Lunar Agriculture is prepared to begin mining immediately, and has set aside three hundred positions for citizens from other planets to claim if they wish. We must be ready, and we must work together.” I take a deep breath and scan the room. Three hundred delegates. I need at least one hundred and fifty votes. Ideally two hundred to make it unanimous.

“All those in favor?” I ask, my voice tight. Kryt mumbles something under his breath and sinks into his chair. It creaks and bends, barely able to hold he enormous man’s weight. All around the room hands shoot up into the air. Ten, fifty, eighty, one-twenty…

Unanimous.

The Lady of the Opera

I entered a Poetry competition the other day, and the challenge was to write a poem titled, “The Lady of the Opera.” I rarely dabble in poetry, but I have to admit I had fun with this! 
Lights glisten, stage glows.
People filling in the rows.
Up above but no one knows,
The Lady of the Opera.
She gazes down upon the room
Her sorrow opens, starts to bloom
The stage, again, her open tomb,
The Lady of the Opera.
One more night, that’s all that’s left.
She’ll sing her song, her heart bereft.
The maestro sways in treble cleff.
The Lady of the Opera.
She hurries down and waits backstage.
Tempo changes, they turn the page.
It’s all come to this, unleash the rage.
The Lady of the Opera.
She steps into the polished scene,
The lights aglow, the stage serene.
She smiles and sways, a numb routine.
The Lady of the Opera.
The maestro nods, the cello hums.
Piano beckons, the harpist strums,
Her heart pounding with the drums.
The Lady of the Opera.
She sees them there, the second row.
Secret love, their cheeks aglow.
He’ll pay his dues, because she knows.
The Lady of the Opera.
Her voice rings out, a Nightingale
Her eyes meet his and lifts the viel
He understands, she will prevail
The Lady of the Opera.
She reaches in her hidden pocket
Grabs the gun, no one to stop it
She takes her aim, right through the socket.
The Lady of the Opera.
The crowd erupts and screams abound
Yet her ears untouched by sound.
She sings her song, another round.
The Lady of the Opera.
Mass exodus to leave the room
She’s left alone with her dead groom
Love and hate, they both consume
The Lady of the Opera.
She walks slowly to her lover
His sins and lies love couldn’t cover
She lifts the gun, lets it hover
The Lady of the Opera.
Four to the chest, one for each girl
She walks away, a spin, a swirl.
Her freedom full and rare, a pearl.
The Lady of the Opera.

Goodbye Pants

Prompt provided by Writers DigestFavorite Piece of Clothing Eulogy: You favorite article of clothing has finally out-lived its life (and then some). It’s time to say goodbye, but you love it so much you feel a need to send it off properly. Write a eulogy dedicated to that piece of clothing and all the times you shared together.

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“A perfect pair of jeans who can find? They are worth far more than rubies. The owner has full confidence in them and lacks nothing of value.” Proverbs 31:10-11 (Personal Paraphrase)

I’ll never forget the first time I saw you, hanging there on the far back wall of American Eagle, the last day of summer before my Senior year of high school. Has it really been over ten years since that moment? I’ll always remember how soft you felt in my hands, despite never having been worn. You were the perfect shade of indigo, and I knew I had to have you.

We’ve been through so much together. I wore you the first time I hung out with Josh Barnes, the school heart-throb and quarter back of the football team. You and I were together the day they announced over the intercom that I had made the Royalty Court and we jumped around like fools in the library.

Dearest wide leg flares, you were there for me during my first experience of heartache. I denied myself nothing, and despite the copious amounts of pasta and Metropolitan Steakhouse Philly sandwiches, you stood by me, fitting like a glove, in the best way.

I’m twenty-eight now. No longer the stick legged eighteen year old with the choice of any pair of jeans in the room. You’ve been so faithful, loyal and dependable all these years and two babies later. I really don’t know what I’m going to do without you. What other jeans will make by butt look so good even though I’ve neglected the gym for far too long? What other jeans will make me feel like the giddy high school senior or college junior with her whole life ahead of her? You mean more to me than you’ll ever know.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. I will never know another like you.

90 Years.

Prompt provided by Writer’s DigestYou’re a construction worker and, while in the middle of a dig to build a new building, you stumble upon a box with contents in it. There are five very specific items in it along with a note: “When you find this, call me. This is only phase one.” The is a phone number so you call it. What happens next?

*******************

May 1917

“You’ll never find it, Hattie,” Dot teases me as I crawl deeper into the abandoned badger den.

“You always say that and I always find it,” I stretch my fingertips out into the darkness, awaiting the cool touch of the tin, but there’s nothing. Ugh.

“Why must I always be ready for an adventure with you?” I huff, wiping dirt off my face as I surface from the earthy tunnel.

“If you can’t find my tin in the fields of Easton, Kansas,” Dot sighs, “how can you expect to find anything in the thick forests of the Amazon or the icy caves of the Arctic? ” I roll my eyes, but Dot always plans the best birthday presents.

“Did you hear that?” Dot asks.

“Hear what?” Normally I would ignore my sister’s flare for the dramatic but the look on her face stops me. “Dot?”

“Run Hattie!” before I can think Dot has her hand in a vice grip around my wrist and we’re tearing through the woods. I can hear something chasing us. Something big. And fast.

May 2007

“Thank you for coming Mr. Holmes,” Hattie Harker motions towards her sitting room. “Please, have a seat.”

I step into the sitting room, and I couldn’t feel more out of place in my bright orange construction vest and clunky brown boots. The house looks like it’s been trapped in time.

“How long have you lived here Mrs. Harker?” I ask.

“I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in this house May 21, 1907.”

“May 21, 1907?” She’s a hundred years old.

“That’s right, Mr. Holmes,” she says as if reading my mind. “I turned 100 last week.” She smiles but her eyes are sad, broken.

“I won’t beat around the bush, Mr. Holmes. I would very much like to see the box that you’ve found,” Hattie holds out her hands expectantly.

“Yeah. Um, here you go,” I hold out the dim silver tin and place it into her tiny soft hands.

“Oh my,” Hattie whispers. “Oh, Dottie.” Hattie pulls out the piece of paper, her hands shaking.

“My sister, Dot, prepared a scavenger hunt for my tenth birthday,” Hattie’s voice was tight. “She—she died while we were out looking for the first tin. I—I’ve searched high and low. Where exactly did you find it?”

“It was buried next to the peach tree in Harker Field,” I tell her. I feel heavy and uncomfortable. The whole town knows that Dot Harker was killed, but no one knows exactly what happened all these years later.

“She saved me,” Hattie’s voice cracks. “Daddy came across us in the woods, but he was in another place, in his mind. He did that a lot when he came back from the Great War…” Hattie’s voice fades as she shuts the tin.

“Thank you Mr. Holmes for calling me. Ninety years is a long time.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what is phase two?”

“Well according to the clues, I’d say I’m due to meet Dot at the Corner Fountain for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Do you like ice cream, Mr. Holmes?”

“I’m always ready for an adventure.”

Interview with a Villain

Prompt provided by Writer’s DigestYour old villain quit over creative differences, so you’ve put yourself in charge of hiring a new villain for your novel. What questions do you ask? What does the new villain’s resume say? Write this scene as if it were a job interview.

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“Come in,” I call towards the door as I shuffle my manuscript notes into a neat pile and set them to the side. The large solid oak door leading into my office creaks open and a tall slender woman with pale yellow hair curled into a low tight bun steps inside.

“Ms. Knowles,” she says warmly with a slight nod of her head. Her long black linen dress covers her from wrist to boot, her starched apron stiff and brighter than my freshly painted white walls.

“Agatha,” I smile in return. “Punctual as promised. Please, sit down.” She nods again, this time with a slight smile, and sits rigidly in the squashy leather chair across from me.

“So, tell me about yourself,” I say to her. She has maintained eye contact with me without so much as a blink. Her silvery blue eyes look like they belong to a shark, not this pretty, genteel sort of woman in her neatly ironed clothes.

“I’ve worked as a nurse at Holloswaithe’s Asylum for Lunatics since my sixteenth birthday,” Agatha says brightly. “Sixteen is the youngest one can be hired. I waited my whole life to work there, for Dr. Benek.”

“That’s not exactly a profession many little girls dream about,” I say to her, probing.

“Most little girls aren’t raised in asylums,” Agatha replies simply. “I was. My mother was a nurse there and I was brought up within the halls of Holloswaithe, learning from Dr. Benek. I know everything about Holloswaithe. I know its secrets.” She still doesn’t blink, her eyes fixed unflinchingly on mine, smiling slightly all the while. I begin to rub my right thumbnail, a nervous tick I’ve had since I was nine.

“What secrets?” I ask intrigued despite the light tingling along my spine.

“I know why the walls moan in the middle of the night,” Agatha says flatly, but there is a cruel sparkle in her eyes. “I know why empty rooms whisper. I know why women with sound minds whimper with fear. I know why graves appear in the Asylum cemetery before there’s a body to go inside.”

She keeps her cool lethal eyes on me, studying me. I wish she’d stop smiling. It adds to the danger of her countenance somehow.

“Does Dr. Benek know about these secrets? The villain I’m searching for needs to be untraceable, their closest friend wouldn’t suspect them of a harsh word, let alone murder,” I ask her as I learn forward, reminding myself that I’m the one in charge, it’s my story. Her smile disappears. The once cool silvery blue of her eyes darkens until they seem to go black.

“Dr. Benek is the reason for the secrets. I keep him safe, pure, without sin,” she says calmly. She reaches up to her neck, twirling a silver cross pendant hanging from a necklace between her thin alabaster fingers. “‘Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.’ That’s what God says, does He not, Ms. Knowles? I’m the best kept secret of Holloswaithe.”

Hiding in Plain Sight

Writing prompt provided by Writer’s Digest! You’re driving to your favorite city when you’re stopped by a police officer. Sure, you were going a few miles over the speed limit, so you’re not overly surprised. But you are surprised when the police officer gets to your car and screams, “Get out of your car with your hands up!” This leads to a unexpected night for you. Write this scene.

**************

“What?” I shout through my closed door window. He can’t be serious. I was going five, seven miles tops, over the speed limit.

“Get out of your car with your hands in the air, NOW,” the cop yells so aggressively his thick face and neck are turning purple.

I turn off the car and unbuckle my seatbelt, keeping my gaze on the cop. It’s nine at night for goodness sake, and we’re in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention he hasn’t shown me a badge. And he’s alone.

“I’m sorry,” I yell through the locked door, “but you haven’t shown me any identification. Until you do, I’m not moving.” I’ve heard one too many stories of wack-jobs using old cop cars as a ploy to rape women driving by themselves. This spot couldn’t be more ideal, fifty five miles deep in Texas hill country.

“Excuse me?” The purple cop looks like I’ve smacked him in the face with a cast iron skillet. “Ma’am, I’ve told you twice and I ain’t gonna say it again. Get out of the car with your hands up, now.” The gun in his hands, which he has kept aimed at the ground, is now pointed at me.

“Alright,” I take my hands off of the steering wheel and grab the mace keychain on my keys. If I make it out of this alive I owe my dad a big apology for all the whining I did when he forced me to take those self-defense classes. I unlock the door and step out of the car with my hands up.

“Go get in my car and lock the doors,” the cop whispers. His voice has changed. “Please, ma’am.” Goosebumps spread over my arms despite the raging humidity. I drop my arms to my sides and slowly walk back towards the cop car. It’s only a couple yards away but it feels like a mile. The cicadas chirp and a warm breeze blows, completely oblivious to the crazy situation. Finally I place my fingers on the door handle when,

BAM! BAM! BAM!

I drop to my knees with my hand still on the door handle. A red and yellow glow from the cop car illuminates the road. The cop is flat on his back, dark red blood pouring from his neck and onto the asphalt. I yank the door open and jump inside the car. I lock the doors and hop into the drivers seat. There is a walkie-talkie clipped to the sun visor and I grab it.

“Hello? Hello?” I whisper into the mic. “My name is Maggie Holmes, and a cop has just been shot. I’m on Old Fairvale Road fifty-five miles west of Austin.” No answer.

Where the hell did that shot come from? There’s no way someone was in the car with me. The only place I’ve stopped was at that sorry excuse for a gas station about ten miles back and I always lock…..

Oh my god.

The back door of my Denali GMC opens and an enormous hooded man steps out. He pulls his hood down and my blood runs cold. It’s Mark.

“You wouldn’t move to your favorite city without your favorite man,” Mark laughs as he yells, gun pointed directly at me. “Now be a good girl, Maggie, and get out of the car. You never know what kind of crazies might be out this time of night.”