Sunday, March 30, 2014

Prompt: Just another schoolnight babysitting gig, Part 2

After playing the game, watching a few Pixar shorts, and reading Kyle’s favorite bedtime story twice, Ana finally turned off the light to his room and blew a kiss as she shut the door. She stood outside for 30 seconds, but he didn’t make a sound. Good. Maybe he really would fall right asleep.

She walked into his parents’ room and looked around, just at what was out. She personally made a distinction between observing and snooping. She didn’t open drawers or medicine cabinets. After walking around the upstairs, she stood outside Kyle’s door for a few more seconds, but heard nothing.

Downstairs, she poured a soda and settled at the kitchen table to do her homework. She pulled her phone from her back pocket and smiled at the list of text messages from Karen on her lock screen. She was just about to reply when she heard a noise. “Great,” she muttered. Kyle must have woken up after all. She lay her phone on the table and stood up, grabbing a glass of water to carry up to him.

She climbed the stairs and felt her shoulders twitch when she saw Kyle’s door open. He hadn’t called out for her. Maybe he had gone to the bathroom on his own. She shook her head. That didn’t seem like Kyle, but maybe he’d ben sleepy enough to forget his parents were gone? Her brows furrowed. That didn’t seem like Kyle either.

She walked in his room and reached for the light.


She woke with a foggy feeling in her head and felt the sofa under her before she opened her eyes. Sofa? She’d been sitting at the table. No, she’d been walking into Kyle’s room. She sat up, eyes wide. She was lying on a brown leather sofa in some sort of office. The overhead lights were off, just one light on the desk. There was no one else in the room with her.

Jumping up, she reached for her phone, then remembered she had left it on the kitchen table. Great. Where was she? Where was Kyle? What was going on?

She walked to the door and pressed her ear against it. There was no window, so she carefully pushed down the handle, opening the door a crack to peek outside. There was a long hallway, again with no overhead lights except for the soft emergency lighting. That wasn’t too creepy.

No one in view to the left, and she couldn’t hear anyone to the right, so she opened the door wide enough to peer around it. There was an empty cross hall opposite her, and another at the end of the hall she was on. She crept out and closed the door quietly, then crept into the cross hall. She could see the red Exit light at the far end. She needed to get out of here. She needed to find a phone and call 911. She needed to find Kyle.


Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle

Time writing
45 minutes

March word count

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Prompt: Just another schoolnight babysitting gig

Have fun babysitting!

As the bus neared her stop, Ana fired off a text retort to her best friend Karen. She pulled the earbuds out of her ears, wrapping the wire around her finger and tucking them into her coat pocket. Parents liked to think their babysitter was paying attention, not glued to their phone.

She climbed down the bus steps and waved to the driver as the doors closed. He nodded, eyes on the car pushing past on his left. Ana looked up at the brownstones and found 415 three doors down. A tenant walked up the steps ahead of her, and for a moment she thought of following him in and going straight to the Jackson’s door. But she eyed the videocamera setup and decided to play by the book her first time over.

Mr. Jackson buzzed her in and met her at their door. He offered to take her coat, but she was still chilled from the ride. He led her into the living room, where Kyle was glued to the TV, playing a game. Mr. Jackson turned off the TV, and Kyle jumped up to protest, then stared at Ana. Shystruck, he hid behind his father’s legs.

Without hesitation, Ana sat cross-legged on the floor, facing the TV. “That looked like a cool game. Will you show it to me once your parents go?” Kyle peeked out and nodded with a grin.

Mr. Jackson ruffled his hair. “I’ve got to pull your mother away from the mirror, Kyle. Ana said she was thirsty. Think you can show her where the cups are?” He winked at Ana, and she stood up, holding out a hand. Kyle ran over and grabbed it, tugging her toward the kitchen. Mr. Jackson laughed. “Toby Richards was right. You’re the pied piper. He doesn’t usually come out of his shell that quickly.”

Ana shrugged and followed Kyle, leaving the Jacksons to finish getting ready to go.

Mrs. Jackson was very pretty. Ana squelched a stab of jealousy. She would never have luxurious hair like that. And how did she walk in those high heels, anyway? Ana would stick with her riding boots, thank you very much.

Pretty and friendly. She told Ana to make herself at home, help herself to anything in the fridge, and swung Kyle up for a hug and a kiss without fear of messing her perfect hair or makeup.

Ana assured them she was in no rush, hefting her backpack as she mentioned math homework. In a flurry, they were gone. Ana locked the heavy-duty triple deadbolt behind them and turned to Kyle with a smile. “Now, let’s play that game!”

Dogs in House
Houdini, Malachi, Brindle

Time writing
45 minutes

March word count

Prompt: How many times must I die?

I was 22 when I died the first time. My lover, Paton, gave me the flu with a kiss. I watched my baby sister die first, and when the fever started burning me up, I braided my hair and climbed up to the empty loft where she and I had slept our whole lives – until I crept out to be with him. And they carried her out wrapped in the blanket she died in.

It was just dreams at first. Daydream memories. Wisps that fled when I reached for them. I barely remembered that first, unremarkable life. How many others have faded from my memory as well? I can’t piece them together one after the other. How many lives passed before I realized those dreams were memories? Something about them felt more real. The details were so vivid, so specific…

It was the cat that did it. I came home late one night, wishing I had kept that tiny umbrella in my backpack as I tugged my jacket tighter around me. The cat sat on my doorstep, watching me with its unblinking green eyes. It was black with a white cross on its chest and little white socks on its front left and rear right paws. As I climbed the stairs and tugged out my entry card, it wound around my feet as if it had known me for years.

My memories started to splinter into the waking moments, as I opened the creaky old door, and the cat ran in front of me, then tried to trip me by stretching out on the stairs in front of me as I climbed. By the time we reached my door, my fingers were shaking so badly, I could hardly hold them still over the keypad. My mind’s eye kept showing my hand struggling with an old-fashioned key in the handle, even though there was no handle, and I’d never kept keys as an adult.

I staggered through the doorway and into the living room, not bothering to turn on any lights. Plenty filtered in from the buildings along the Charles River. I collapsed on the couch and remembered the first time I had picked up that cat as a fluffball of a kitten. I was eight, and I followed my older brother Gilles up the ladder to the hayloft of our uncle’s barn. In the village of Montegny, France. In 1673…

Dogs in House
Houdini, Brindle, Malachi

Time writing
50 Minutes

March word count

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Prompt: The Queens Of Gehrlia, Part 4

“My fierce battle companion,” Behnrel began. Isrehna and her handmaidens leaned forward intently. They all knew his code phrases for stories of Diehlen. “My fierce battle companion wielded her bow and arrow equally well in the hunt. Once we came to a village that was being terrorized by a rampaging wild boar. It had torn up most of their summer crops and attacked their mezzen in their pens.”

He eyed the girls, but they showed no fear, only fascination, hungry for tales of adventure beyond the stifling confines of their quarters, clothes, and lessons. He hid a smile and looked sternly from one to the other. “In the days before we arrived, three of their best hunters had gone after the boar, but it surprised them deep in the forest, goring one through the leg and another through the chest before the third injured it with a blow to its hindquarters and it ran away.”

“Were they,” Isrehna asked with wide eyes, “were they—”


Behnrel jumped from the floor to stand at attention, chagrined he had not even heard the queen’s approach. The handmaidens knelt and bowed, but Isrehna held her head up high, looking straight at the queen. “Grammere,” she said calmly. Behnrel dared not smile at her bravery, but he knew there would be a price to pay for her insubordination.

“Isrehna,” the queen said in icy tones, “it’s time for your bath.” She pointed to the door, deliberately turning her hands so Behnrel would see her own tattoos. Proving, he thought bitterly, that queens are born, not made, no matter how they are marked.

Isrehna stood without a word, and her handmaidens meekly followed her out of the room. Behnrel kept his face carefully neutral as long as the queen regarded him and even after she had spun on her heel and followed the girls through the door. He closed his eyes and pictured Diehlen’s hands…


Dogs in House
Brindle, Houdini

Time writing
~45 minutes

March word count

Prompt: The Queens Of Gehrlia, Part 3

Behnrel swung Isrehna by her ankles, upside down like a clock’s pendulum. Her straight white hair trailed the ground, and she laughed even as her face turned red. “More,” she cried. 

Behnrel grunted and lowered her down with a twist so that she ducked her head and curled into a tumble, jumping to her feet to face him. He taught her as many fighting moves as he could without tipping his hand.

“Tell us a story,” Isrehna demanded. With her hands balled on her hips, he saw the same tattoos he could trace blindfolded on her mother’s wrists. Behnrel blinked away the memories of Diehlen and bowed a courtier’s bow, but on the wrong leg, a long-standing joke with Isrehna. She tossed her hair and skipped over to the pillows and furs and handmaidens piled in front of the deep fireplace. Behnrel followed and sat cross-legged at their side.

Few other than Behnrel still remembered the hidden stone in the back corner of the fireplace, and the passage that led down deep beneath the keep and far outside its walls.  He’d only used it one, the night Diehlen had brought him and Isrehna into the keep. The night she left to begin her sworn service to Sweet Madra. When she’d begged the goddess to spare her daughter’s life, she had neglected to ask that Isrehna would live with her. It did not do to question the will of a goddess, so Behnrel hid his feelings and swore instead to protect Isrehna in Diehlen’s stead.

Diehlen’s father, the former king of Gehrlia, had welcomed his granddaughter and her guard. His young wife, not so much. She must have a special sixth sense, for whenever Diehlen’s name was mentioned, she appeared as if by magic to divert Isrehna’s attention and direct Behnrel to some particularly menial and odious task. He dared not refuse or offend her, for she would not hesitate to banish him for the slightest offense. And so they played at stalemate, excruciatingly formal and polite on the surface, while neither was blind to the other’s loathing.

Dogs in House
Brindle, Houdini

Time writing
~45 minutes

March word count