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One Little Change- A Writing Prompt

I’m going with another writing prompt to get me going. I promise I’ll get back to some other more original works later too, but for now this is what’s getting me working. So here’s my response to Daily Post’s Weekly Challenge.

The idea that everything is connected becomes most interesting when applied to ourselves. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your own Butterfly Effect.

I suppose this post is very meaningful to me lately because I’ve been considering a lot of “what ifs” lately. I’m a senior about to graduate from college, and I guess I’m kind of looking back at how I thought life would turn out and wondering why it is that some events have turned out the way they did.

So with that in mind, I wanted to take what I was feeling and apply it to a fictional piece as I often find that’s a meaningful way for me to deal with emotions I’m handling at the present moment. So here’s my short piece I wrote.

One Little Change

It was one of those days my thoughts seemed to tarry and linger. And what eventually started as a cloud of memories soon became a torrent of swirling emotion, the raw inner feelings of my heart.

My gaze had centered in on a black and white photo printed on flimsy paper. I picked up the news and clutched it tighter, fingers wrinkling it along the edges, going so far as to tear through the fragile material. I pulled the article up closer to my face, the other hand moving to fiddle with my spectacles, adjusting the thick lenses to better peer down and seek out that name.

Anne Kristina Rask.

I could hardly breathe staring down at the small face that once had been so familiar, now wearing the marks of many years of life. I scanned the words over and over again, even as my vision blurred with the onset of tears. “Beloved wife and mother.”

Anne.

The memories came back as fresh as yesterday’s, somehow causing sixty years to blur and fade into the past. Her name caught on my tongue like it had back that night oh so many years ago. It was as though I was standing there, staring out at her bathed in moonlight, the sweet rain pouring down upon our heads in a rejuvenating baptism to our new youth. She laughed and caught my hand, the soft skin warm in my grip. I clutched at her, relishing the brief gift.

The sweetness of her perfume died with the lifegiving liquid, natural scent rising in its place, the waters washing away the small bit of pink lipstick dashed across her mouth, smeared from one too many kisses with her date. Her hair flattened back down, her dress clung to her body, nothing hidden. A return to the natural. A return to Eden.

My heart thumped loudly in the quiet of the street. Only the soft drip of the rain in the puddles, the occasional vehicle moseying along the deserted roads. There was silence, a chance to speak into the void. But my voice had been swallowed up, stolen from me. My throat was scratchy as I clutched that hand in mine and wondered.

There were moments it felt as though nothing else existed in this world. Just us in the rain, wandering down the lonely path hand in hand. And I wished it could last forever, drinking in every bit- the sight of Anne drenched, mud sloshing on the bottom of her pink dress, though she seemed oblivious to the dark stains growing round her. I breathed the fresh smell, the soft soothing sound, the dim street lights, all absorbed into me for that brief fleeting moment.

But there were too many wonderings looking back on it. There was too much lingering thought, despair tarrying in every bit of that scene. What if?

What if it hadn’t been raining? Then they would never have shared that brief moment. What if that car hadn’t passed by, sloshing water over their already wet forms, causing them to dissolve into laughter? Then I might have been less of an idiot and actually said what was on my mind. What if I hadn’t walked away from that doorstep all those years ago without saying what was on my mind?

Then it might have been me burying a wife. It might have been my children losing a mother. It might have been my ring on her finger, my love in her heart, my hand in hers forever and always. But my tight lips, my failing tongue, my garbling throat all let me down in my moment of need, causing me to flail about mindlessly and rather than speak what was on my mind, to declare instead I thought the night had gone rather swimmingly. When in reality all I’d wanted was to say the exact opposite, to declare that he was unfit for her and if only she’d see what was right in front of her she might truly be happy.

Might truly be happy…

I gazed down at the page, the smiling woman catching me with a full blow of mocking delight. And I was struck with the reality of what lay before me. Truly happy. She was. She had been. She had loved her husband, her children, her life. There was no hint that she hadn’t. And yet her life was like an original document, and mine a mangled and blotchy copy, trying its best to give the same picture, and yet failing miserably.

All these years. Years she’d spent cooking dinner, sitting on the couch holding his hand, going for walks, traveling, taking the kids to school, scribbling away with her elegant scrawl, lying beside her husband each and every night, growing old and dying still loved and cherished and remembered. And I’d done nothing but waste every hour, letting them slip through my hands like worthless sand, incapable of ever being returned again.

I sat there at the little kitchen table in my small apartment, listening to the rumbling tram go by. I swallowed down my grief with a sip of tepid coffee, tried my best to choke the feelings rising anew by crumpling the paper and tossing it uselessly towards the overflowing garbage pail.

What ifs had haunted me all my life. I had spent too long pondering a brief instant, and not enough pondering why I was allowing each and every day to pass without change, wallowing in my misery, sinking deeper in my despair.

I wondered now that grand what if I never had before, far weightier subject that my usual love drivel. I wondered what life would have been like if I’d let go, moved on, forgotten her. Perhaps things might have been different. A single day pushing myself to be social, to go meet other women, to simply take a walk rather than sulking in my lonesome apartment might have resulted in an entirely different outcome. The briefest change might have resulted in the greatest rebirth.

But who knows. Life is a mystery that way. One path unfolded, all others hidden.

The crumpled newspaper remained lying not far off from its eventual grave. I left it where it was, not daring to touch it again for fear of clinging. I pulled my eyes from it, suddenly seeing it for what it was. An omen of what had come to pass, of what would pass if I didn’t do something.

And so I left the trash where it was and went to sit on the lumpy couch. I noticed the book I’d been reading, dogeared and ready for the next book club meeting. But it was the little slip of yellow caught tight between pasty white pages that caught my attention.

My fingers fumbled to reach it, but eventually I was slipping a small scrap of paper out from its prison. I looked down at the gentle scrawl, the little numbers etched there for my bespectacled eyes to squint at. But I could make out what it was, and the intention, and the Scrooge-like thoughts I’d had as I shoved the little note back down into the other pages as though hoping the story might swallow it up like it usually did me.

I glanced towards the wastepaper basket. But that was done. An old life forgotten and moved on from. A new future writing itself out in the little slip in my hand. I reached for my dusty phone and pulled it up to press little buttons in sync with the numbers on the page. Her voice answered. I smiled and settled into a casual tone.

“Hello Clara. No…no reason. Just felt like a change…”

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Deepest Blue- A Writing Prompt

So I’m responding to yet another writing prompt in an attempt to get myself going on being productive. I’ve been impossibly uninspired lately, which has been frustrating. This response is a bit depressing as it’s from a very troubled character’s point of view. Anyhow, so here’s a little bit of a novel I’m currently in the progress of writing with this section written to fit the prompt.

Take a point in your story where a character is traveling, whether it’s a long or a short journey. Describe not only what your character sees, but also how it makes her feel, what it reminds him of, the emotions evoked.

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Deepest Blue

A rather unexpected journey met me that day. I don’t really know how it started, only that I went to my car with my backpack, hopeful to escape the realities of the day. I slipped into the driver’s seat and I was off, driving down the road without a second thought.

For a spring day in Washington the weather cooperated beautifully, sun shining, only a few sprinkles here and there. A rainbow stretched above me, a distraction painted in the sky. And a reminder of renewal, divinity, and promises. I took it as a blessing for my journey and I drove on.

Time faded, blended together, became some unchanging entity as I passed little seaside towns, gazed out at the ocean I’d finally fixed my mind upon seeing on my Saturday trip. Blue. Beautiful calming blue.

It brought back old memories of different times. Of being fifteen and begging a sign. Of closed eyes filling with a different color than the traditional black but instead of cleansing azure, cerulean, sapphire, the deepest richest shades imaginable dancing there before my very eyes. A sign. A symbol. Blue.

I pulled my eyes from the waves, not wanting to linger on these fleeting images of the past. After all, I’d been told doing too much of that was a poor idea. Then again I’d also been told not to drive anywhere by myself. Especially somewhere isolated. And here I was breaking that rule without a care in the world.

My driving came to a slow stop along a small rocky section of beach that didn’t appear to be private property, and yet didn’t seem to be highly popular either. I scanned the shore in either direction and saw no one. And so, I grabbed for my blanket and backpack, and set out to go sit on these lonely shores.

My gaze was drawn once more to the vast waters as I made a small safe place for myself. My little square of blanket on the rocky ground, a haven I’d invented, my hermit’s house, sitting on the rocky beach to look out upon the waters. I found the horizon let my eyes linger  there. I had only been to the beach twice before on family vacations, but I remembered even then how I felt drawn to the water, as though the ebb and flow of the tide was dragging me in with it, pulling me out to sea.

A buzz from my phone interrupted me, and I looked down to see Brielle’s name flash across the screen, the urgency magnified somehow by the quietness of the scenery around me. I looked at it for a brief moment, then placed the obnoxious electronic back into my bag to ignore for later.

I pulled out the paper, began scribbling down my thoughts.
The ocean had always represented the immensity of this life. And the minisculity of my own little brief blip of an existence. There was certainly a sense for me of standing before something that seemed so eternal and unchanging (though from a scientific standpoint I’m sure I might determine it is not). I felt ephemeral. Fleeting. And I allowed those feelings to linger in spite of all the past advice I knew would contradict it.

And then there was the little moment I considered simply going and walking into the waves, letting them close in over me in healing azure. And it would all be over and done. My blip would finish, cease to exist. And no one would remember any differently.

I rose once it was all down on paper and looked towards the sun sinking back into the sea, the ocean swallowing up the orange glowing orb in an illusion of power. Perhaps too this should be where my light is dimmed too, absorbed into these cold northern waters.

And yet I walked back to the car before temptation could take me.

I drove slowly. I tended to be careful in the first place, but today was different. I let people honk, speed past me, wave a finger at me in some disgusted manner. But I was indifferent, focused only on the asphalt bathed in orange light, the sparkling waters slowly disappearing back into the trees as my path carried me from the coast. I let myself drink in the scenery, wondered if I should hold onto the day or forget it ever existed.

The phone rang as I caught one last fleeting glimpse of sea. I answered this time, though with all that had traversed my mind I was too wearied to truly put the fakeness into my voice such a call would require.

“Hello?” I said as I pressed the button to put the phone on speaker.

“Where are you?” she asked immediately, her garbled voice still chiming with some level of anxiety through the little speaker.

“I went for a drive.”

“For half a day!” Brielle hissed.

I shrugged and then of course realized this was useless when conversing through a cell phone. “I felt like driving. I’ll be back in an hour or two.”

There was a long pause and I let it go, relieved to have a bit of silence for a moment, unused to voices after such a long period by myself.

“Did you think about what we talked about yesterday?”

I stared out at the road watching it wind and curve, to where I could not see, only because I’d looked up directions did I know it would take me home. Life. This was just like life. I was so caught in the beautiful image that I almost forgot to respond.

“Yes,” I whispered.

“And?” she asked, attempting to sound casual but the rising tone only adding to my image of her pacing through our shared living room.

“And I…I think I’m going to do it,” I said with a long sigh. “Just let me get home first.”

Brielle’s smile could be heard in her voice. “Really? Good, I’m so glad. Drive safely I’ll see you soon.”

I hung up and focused back on the winding road. I would drive it for now, enjoy the sights along the way. But Brielle was right. I required a destination, a goal. Life was short. I had minimal time to drive these roads. I settled into my seat as my eyes wandered to the taillights in front of me, night closing in fast. I’d drive in the direction Brielle had told me attempting to reach my target. And if not the gardens I so longed for, then I’d settle for the depths of the sea I had only narrowly escaped.

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Soaring- A Writing Prompt

I’m taking another writing prompt up this week to keep working on improving my ability to adapt to different writing situations. This one was quite fascinating and I was drawn to it right away. From Daily Post:

This week, consider the unreliable narrator — a classic storytelling device — in your own work, no matter your genre.

Unreliable narrators are fascinating. Whether it’s Nick in The Great Gatsby with his naive misunderstandings, or Faulkner’s three protagonists in The Sound and the Fury, or the mentally unsound woman in The Yellow Wallpaper, plenty of authors have demonstrated this is a fascinating writing technique and I was eager to try my hand in a short story. In an effort to not give anything away, I’ll inform my readers they are welcome to ask questions at the end or make guesses or discuss their own experiences with unreliable narrators. I don’t want to directly state what’s going on, but if any confusion needs to be made up please let me know! Thanks and enjoy!

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Soaring

The birds keep leaving and coming. Lots of them. I sit there watching behind the glass, wishing maybe I could have wings like the birds. Then I could fly away and never come back.

The lady keeps sighing as she looks around. She frowns and pulls out a box and pushes on it, and then sticks it back in the little bag she always carries. I don’t like that the lady is upset. I wish she’d smile. She looks kind of pretty when she smiles. But nothing like mommy.

Mommy was the prettiest lady there ever was. She took care of me. She made everything right.  My lip moves up and down like it does before my face gets wet. I hate when that happens.

We’ve been sitting for a long time. I’m tired and just want to lay down. If mommy were here that wouldn’t be ok. But mommy’s not. I wonder where she is. I miss her.

I hate when the big birds come towards the glass. I get scared and worry maybe they’re going to fly into the window. I hit the window one time. I don’t remember a lot. Only red paint on the glass after I hit it, and my nose feeling runny.

I paint a lot. Red paint. Or maybe mommy does. Lots and lots of paint. Everywhere. Sometimes that’s all I see. Paint. Sometimes mommy paints black or blue too. Sometimes when I look at the boy in the window I see he has black and blue paint also. Or sometimes he’s white like a ghost. Or sometimes he’s red.

The lady looks at me again. I wonder if she paints. I kind of hope she doesn’t. Painting always makes me feel tired and sad and makes me hurt.

A voice like God rings out around the room. I cower and cringe at it. It’s happened several times, but I don’t like it anymore. I think God is angry mommy’s not here. She’s supposed to look after me. She’s supposed to make sure I’m good so God doesn’t get angry. I’m probably not being good anymore.

The lady stands up. Maybe this time she heard God too. She usually hasn’t acted like she heard it. No one else does either. They just sit there and look at papers and talk and put boxes to their ears and talk some more. But this time people get up. They must know God is angry.

“Come on,” the lady says suddenly, frowny face still in place. When I don’t move she says a weird word I don’t know. I don’t understand so I keep sitting. When will mommy get here?

She sighs and grabs my hand. I pull away a little, scared she’s going to do something bad. I don’t know what. Just bad. God was angry earlier, maybe she knows he’s angry with me.

My hand is in hers and she makes me get up. We walk over to two people standing at a weird high table. They smile at us and the lady hands a piece of paper over.

“Have a good flight,” the lady says. Flight? Are we going to fly like the birds? I feel one part nervous one part scared. It’s like when mommy let me have the brown sweet drink with floating little circles in it, and it made my stomach feel all weird but in a good way.

We walk down a long tube to a door and then through that. The lady holds my hand tightly as we move into a tiny little room, but as I turn I see it is really really long, with rows and rows of seats. Another lady smiles at us as we walk on. She looks at me and then looks kind of funny. It’s like the look the people who came to visit gave me before they brought me to the weird bird place.

“You okay sweetie?” she asks.

I look up at the lady, not sure what I’m supposed to say. She frowns.

“He’s had a long day,” she said quietly. “We’re taking him to Salt Lake to live with his relatives…was removed from his mother’s house.”

The other lady makes a surprise face. I push my new shoe in a line on the floor and look at it so I don’t have to look at the ladies anymore. They make me feel bad.

We go sit down in a row. I sit next to a tiny oval window. I look out and see more birds, and the glass windows I was looking out of earlier. I smile as I watch the birds fly. So far no one seems too mad at me. Maybe things will be ok. Maybe God wasn’t telling them I was being bad.

The lady leans over. She says that weird word again I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. Tyler? “Have you ever been on a–?” she asks. The words are mixed up like when mommy puts things in her little can and pushes the buttons and they spin up and mix all together like goo. I don’t know what she said.

I shake my head, not understanding at all.

“We’re going to lift off the ground in a few minutes,” she says. “But don’t be scared, ok?”

Lift off the ground? I look out the window again and picture what it’d be like to fly with the birds. Sometimes when I was with mommy I’d look at the birds in the tree outside and think how nice it would be just to fly off into the blue sky. Fly all the way to heaven since mommy told me I’d never get there. But maybe if I had wings I could.

The lady helps put a belt around me and then there’s more voices from God, but he sounds different from before. And I sit back and try to relax even though my chest keeps going up and down really fast. And then suddenly the long skinny room is moving and when I look out the window the building is getting further and further away. I clutch at the little bars next to my arm and stare outside.

We go faster. And faster. Soon we’re racing. Faster than I ever could run. And then suddenly there’s this strange weird feeling in my tummy and we’re suddenly looking out at the ground moving further and further away. And I feel so strange and good at the same time, and my ears hurt a little, but not too much. And before I know it I’m staring down at the small little world beneath me, soaring into the big blue sky.

“You’re going to be ok, Tyler.” The lady says, but I don’t need her to say it. I already know. A smile blooms on my face. I’m finally free.

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To the Grave- a writing prompt

So I recently ran across a super great blog idea of posting writing prompts every week and then linking favorites on Friday. I thought this was fantastic. And though I don’t feel I have the time or energy to do so, I’ve been trying to put more of my actual writing up rather than just posts about writing. If others want to do so as well I’ve posted a link. So here goes nothing.

The website:

http://bumblesbooks.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/monday-nostalgia/

The prompt:

Find a place that fills one of your characters with nostalgia. Write a brief scene showing why that place is so important to him or her.

The character:

Lucian (I have never posted him before, so this is a first)

The location:

A graveside

The response:

It’d been a while since I’d last visited. The last time had been before all the recent chaos of my life. Revolution does strange things to people. I suppose I’m no exception.

But crouching there on the grass, I could forget some of what was going on. Responsibility, the weight of what I needed to do, drifted away from me and allowed me the freedom to merely stare down at the gravestone, trace my fingers along the words graven there. And remember perhaps a happier time back when the world seemed so much simpler.

Sometimes, though not always, I feel the need to talk to the stone. As though he was still there rather than lying gone and buried beneath the ground, whatever remnants of his soul remained going to some other distant place. And I suppose today was no exception.

“You have another grandson,” I remarked quietly. I paused a moment, listening merely to the swaying of the trees in response to my soft words. They seemed my only living audience, though I still clung to the hope that somewhere out there he was listening.

“He’s beautiful,” I whispered again. “He…he has your eyes.”

I blinked a few times as my vision swam in sudden unexpected sorrow. After all this time one would think I’d long forgotten how to cry. But there are some wounds even time cannot fully heal. And the destruction of this one human I truly loved was no exception. The words I wanted to speak caught in my throat like too much dry bread. I fixed my own matching eyes down at those carved words again, thinking of the baby boy I’d so recently held with eyes as green as the forest that surrounded me. Eyes like this place that had once been his home.

“I wish you could have seen him,” I said. The trail of my words was not quite one I could follow. But perhaps it was better that way. I’d simply allow them to flow, to come from my soul rather than my mind.

“I miss you…I know…I know we didn’t have much time together…that mother never wanted us to meet much…but the brief moments I had were good. And I felt I learned so much from you. I…I only hope I can pass that on to my own son.”

There’s a long moment where I sit still, breathe in the fresh air, listen to the birdsong. I become so absorbed that for a minute I think I’ll simply sink into the forest landscape and become one with the soil, the plants, the animals. Away from my life, away from the heavy burdens fate has chosen to place upon me.

But to do so is foolishness. All it takes is the thought of my wife’s smile. My children’s happy voices. My new son’s little hand reaching out to clasp mine. I am not my father. My time in this world is not yet done. One day I’ll join him. For no man ever escapes death’s cold grasp. But there are those who need me.

I stand. My hands reach automatically to brush the dirt from my breeches, pushing away my reminder of this humble place I’ve chosen to spend my afternoon. The fine fabric beneath my hands reminds of how soon forest will give way to hallowed hall, sunshine replaced by torches and candlelight. Though I’d like to pretend I belong in these woods like this humbled man buried off where few know his resting place, it is not the life I’ve chosen.

“I love you, father,” I whisper.

The sentimentality drifts away on the wind as I walk back down the trail towards the main road. I allow myself to harden again, brush tears away, push the feelings from my mind. I must be strong. For the sake of my son, my family, all those who depend on me. But most of all for the father I wish to uphold in honor. For the man who died in the braveness of battle, who inspired me to live without fear. For him will I live. For him will I remain strong.

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