V is for Visitor

I love a good ghost story, but this haunting excerpt doesn’t quite fit in the “Love Poetry” novella. While Jessica will still face something close to a haunting as she tries to come to terms with Whitmore’s suicide, she won’t almost be killed by a vengeful poltergeist. ūüôā


They drove in silence. Jessica folded her hands in her lap and glued her eyes to the glove compartment in front of her. Occasionally, at a red light or stop sign, Bruce turned to her,¬†opened his mouth¬†to speak. Jessica’s body immediately tensed¬†upon hearing his intake of breath. She pinched her eyes closed, braced herself for his pathetic apologies and condolences. She wouldn’t accept them. What they had¬†done was unforgivable. A man was dead because of them.¬†A man¬†who loved her. A man who would’ve done anything for¬†her.¬†Either Bruce recognized his culpability, for¬†he didn’t¬†say a word the entire drive back to her apartment, or each time he¬†attempted to speak,¬†his tongue caught at the back of his throat, and he choked on his words.

The flashing cameras, the uniformed men wearing white latex gloves, the caution tape, and the red and blue flashing lights were all gone when they arrived.

“Well, we were at the police station for a while,” Bruce said. His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming.

Jessica nodded.

“I guess they would finish up quickly. There’s not much to investigate when it’s a su—”

Jessica flinched. “Don’t say it.”

“I’m sorry. That was stupid of me.” He reached over to cup her cheek in his palm, but she jerked her head back. “Are you hungry?” he asked, squeezing the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. “We can find a place that’s still open. Get something to eat.”

“I don’t want fast food. I have food inside.”

“Look at me.” He leaned over the dashboard, lifted her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You don’t have to go in right away. You don’t have to go in at all. You can stay at my place tonight.”

“No, I have to do this.”

“Ok, I’ll walk you—”

“No. I’m fine by myself.” Before he could speak, Jessica scurried out of the car, slamming the door behind her. She hiked the stairs two at a time, however, once at the top, she couldn’t move any further.

Her vision blurred, but from¬†eight feet away, she could still see the blood. The authorities hadn’t cleaned it up. They’d left it for her as a haunting punishment. She shuffled her feet forward, but as she slowly approached her apartment, a sudden spell of vertigo swept over her. She was¬†halfway to her¬†door¬†when her view of it began¬†to skew. Her once white¬†door was painted the¬†color of a blood orange.¬†Thick blood pooled¬†from the crack at the bottom. She felt a bar of weights drop onto her shoulders and pin her to the ground. Down on her hands and knees, she coughed and retched at the reeking smell of Whitmore’s decomposing body on the other side.

Jessica crawled to the door and pounded against the wood. “Whitmore!” she screamed. “Whitmore, please! I’m sorry!” She called his name repeatedly. The pool of blood¬†gathered around her legs, and she started to sink. She frantically wiped and scratched at her arms, coated from elbows to finger tips in an even red.¬†Suddenly, she could no longer feel the ground beneath her, and she went under. Her cheeks swelled as blood filled her mouth. Hot iron singed her taste buds.

Something grabbed her hair at the crown of her head and pulled her up just as she was beginning to lose consciousness.

“Help!” she said as blood drained from her mouth. She blinked her eyes open, drops of blood clinging onto the ends of¬†her¬†eyelashes. Through the red curtain, she looked up and saw a cocked smile and¬†thin, uneven eyebrows. “Whit—” she¬†began, but before she could¬†finish, he pressed his palm flat on her head and dunked her under again. She flailed her arms and legs. She tried to scream, but the blood poured into her mouth, filled her lungs. She couldn’t breathe. She coughed and gurgled. All around her, she saw red. A black veil crept down over her eyes and from the sides until all she could see were tiny circles of red as if¬†she were looking through binoculars. Then then those vanished, and her body fell limp.

“Jessica!”

Jessica opened her¬†eyes. She was back on her¬†hands and knees, the dry concrete cold underneath her fists.¬†She tilted her head toward¬†the door of her apartment. Only the single slash¬†from where Whitmore’s head slid down covered the white-painted wood.

“Jessica!”

She turned around. Bruce was running toward her. He fell to his knees beside her and pulled her into a tight hug.

“I heard you screaming. Is everything alright?”

“He tried to kill me! He tried to take me with him!” she cried. Her shoulders trembled from her sobs.

“Come on. You’ll stay with me tonight.” He stood to his feet, picked her up, wrapping her arms around his neck, and carried her down the stairs back to his car.

Jessica buried her face into the crook of Bruce’s neck, afraid that if she looked up, she would still see¬†Whitmore’s murderous ghost standing outside of her apartment, waiting for her to return.

—Nortina

S is for Suicide

Originally published April 22, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

“Do you have any idea why your boyfriend would want to kill himself?”

It was the third time the detective had asked her that question and Jessica still didn’t hear him. They sat at the cold metal table at the center of the gray interrogation room. A second detective stood by the one-way window.

Jessica wrapped her arms around herself. When she had finally gotten over the shock of seeing Whitmore dead on her floor, a bullet hole in his head, she’d only had enough time to put on a pair of shorts and a tank top before emergency personnel arrived. The police tried to interview her at the scene, but she was too distracted by the men snapping photos and taking samples. Then¬†Bruce behaved so inappropriately. He kept touching her shoulder, squeezing it, telling her everything was going to be OK. Every time he opened his mouth, a film of mucus crept up her throat, tickled the back of her tongue. Stop it! She wanted to shout. Stop acting like the concerned boyfriend. He’s dead. We did this! You. Me.

Jessica wasn’t wearing panties. She didn’t have on a bra. The draft in the room caused her skin to prickle up into goose bumps. Her nipples hardened underneath her shirt, and she felt as if they were pointing out toward the two officers like daggers. I’m not attracted to you, she tried to explain away. I wasn’t fucking when it happened. I didn’t kill him.

She wished they would quit stalling and arrest her for murder. She knew they suspected foul play the second they stepped over Whitmore‚Äôs body. She could see it playing out in their scheming¬†minds. She was having a steamy affair with Bruce. Whitmore caught wind of it. She couldn’t keep it a secret any longer; they had to get rid of him. She was the brain, Bruce the brawn. He pulled the trigger. They staged¬†his suicide. Then she assumed the role of the grieving girlfriend.

“Ms. Ryan.” The first¬†detective¬†snapped his finger in front of her face.

“She may still be in shock, Dan. That was a pretty horrific scene,” the detective by the window said.

The good cop, bad cop routine. She was under arrest.

“I’m sorry. Could you repeat the question?”

Dan sighed, shaking his blond hair over his¬†eyes. “Why would Whitmore kill himself?¬†Did¬†he suffer from mental illness?”

Jessica put her fist to her mouth and coughed, but the cough was weak, originating from the front of her mouth instead of deep in her chest. Her tongue convulsed at the back of her throat, and she lightly coughed again, sounding like a child trying to fake sick to get out of going to school. Her lips curled into a smile, and to conceal the imminent laugh, she attempted a truly fake cough, and laughed instead at how pathetic she sounded. Both detectives stared at her quizzically.

“Is something funny?” Dan asked.

“No, no. It’s just—” She crossed her legs, wiped the corners of her lips as if her laugh were crumbs leftover from a dinner long forgotten. “I thought he would kill me,” she finally¬†said.

“Has he ever threatened you?”

“No . . . It was Roger Peacock.”

“The guy in Houston?” the officer by the window asked.

Jessica shook her head.¬†The more she spoke, the more ridiculous she sounded—the more suspicious. “I don’t know why I thought he would kill me. He’s always threatened suicide, though subtly. He would say things like if I ever left him, he would go back to that dark place he was in after his last girlfriend.”

“Layla?” Dan interrupted.

Jessica blinked.

“His final text to you said, ‘Just like Layla.’ I’m assuming Layla is the last girlfriend.”

Jessica nodded. “He admitted that he tried to kill himself then. But it didn’t work. I guess, I just assumed that if he ever had his heart broken again, he would give up hurting himself and hurt the woman who hurt him. He’s never said that to me directly, though.”

“Why do you think you hurt him?” Dan asked.

“I didn’t love him the way he wanted me to.”

“Meaning you cheated,” the man by the window said.

“Excuse me?”

“The man you were with. I assume you two are involved.” He approached the table, pressed his palms down on the metal. He peered down at Jessica over the rim of his glasses.

“I . . . we . . .” She shivered underneath her thin clothing. She could feel her pointy, perky breasts trying to pierce through the cotton fabric of her t-shirt. She wanted to cover herself, but she feared any further gestures to hide her suspicious mannerisms would make her look guiltier.

“Look,” Dan said, “we’re not gonna judge you for what you might have been doing with the radio DJ.”

“I thought his name sounded familiar! My brother-in-law listens to him all the time. Saved his marriage.”

“Jake,” Dan snapped. Jessica could only assume that he was the older and more experienced of the two. He turned back to Jessica. “I don’t care if you were screwing him, sucking him, or watching a movie. All I care about is the dead man on your doorstep and how he got there.”

“We just want to get to the bottom of this. That’s all,” Jake said, recovering¬†the serious tone in his voice.

“The bottom¬†line is he killed himself, and he did it in front of my door to make me suffer for it.” Jessica shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t blame him.”

—Nortina

R is for Ring

Originally published April 21, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

“What was that?” Bruce swatted at his ear.

“What was what?” Jessica pressed her lips against his forehead, shingling his brown hair with her fingers.

“I don’t know. It sounded like a fly, or something.”

“Am I making you nervous?” Jessica kissed him on the lips. Then down to his chin. Then underneath his chin, and lower on his neck, near his throat.

“Not at all.” He reclined onto the pillows propped up on the headboard as Jessica moved further down. She kissed his collarbone, then his bare chest. She traced her tongue around the sharpened outlines of his abs. His abdomen convulsed as he chuckled under her light touch. She migrated down to his navel, biting the skin on the outer edges. When she reached the thin trail of pubic hair just below his navel, he suddenly shot up.

“There it is again. That buzzing.”

Jessica searched the bedroom, and her eyes immediately fell on her phone lying on the edge of her nightstand. Bruce picked up the vibrating phone and looked at the picture displayed on the screen. “Is this him?”

Jessica nodded.

“He looks kind of weird. I mean, he has his hands in his pockets. He’s leaning to the left but his head is cocked to the right. He’s smiling, but it’s like he’s trying to show all of his teeth at the same time. Almost like he’s sneering at you.” Bruce leaned his head to the right and bared his teeth to demonstrate.

Jessica snatched the phone from him. “You look like a washed-up rapper.” She tossed it across the floor, and it landed where the door was cracked open.

Jessica climbed onto Bruce’s lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I don’t want to think about him. He’s history.” She sighed loudly, her breath ruffling through his hair. “You have experience with stealing girlfriends.” She arched her back. “Steal me.”

Bruce¬†quickly flipped her over and positioned himself on top. “Alright,” he whispered. He sucked on her neck, and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he thrust his hips into her.

Jessica felt as if she would melt, her body like jelly underneath her skin. Two years of built up resentment, dissatisfaction, force appeasement to a tormented love gushed from her pores and onto the sheets in an ocean of sweat. Bruce kissed the tops of her breasts, and she remembered what she had always desired in a relationship. Someone to kiss her, comfort her when she was down, whether that was by lending a shoulder for her to cry on, or through unbridled sex. He intertwined his fingers with hers and pressed her hands on either side of her into the mattress, and she remembered she just wanted to be with someone who made her feel comfortable being herself, whether that meant watching her favorite black and white Alfred Hitchcock movies with her, going bowling just to order the chili cheese fries from the concession stand and using the bumpers to cheat, or dancing under arches of water shot from rusted fountains in the city park with giggling, half-naked two-year olds. He pressed deeper into her, quicker in pace, and she remembered how much she loved to fight. Why have sex in the morning when they could wrestle? Pin each other to the ground; winner got to take a shower first, loser cooked breakfast.

She never had any of that with Whitmore. Whitmore had a plan. He had seen too many movies, read too many blogs. He believed relationships were all about romance, love, working toward marriage. He never allowed them to grow into friends before he began planning a wedding and a family. He’d convinced her that pursuing a friendship wasted time. No one could wait that long. He¬†was so eager to settle down, he¬†never learned¬†her middle name, or her favorite type of food, or what she enjoyed doing in her free time. He missed getting to know her.

She dug her nails into Bruce’s back and released a buoyant moan. She didn’t know what the future held for them, but she wanted him to help her rediscover her passion, the fire that burned within her whenever she became involved with a man who asked for nothing but her company.

Suddenly, there was a loud, piercing bang. It echoed off the walls, rang in¬†Jessica’s ears,¬†ricochet within¬†her skull. Bruce pulled out of her and sprang from the bed so fast he nearly hurt her.

“That sounded like a gun shot. It sounded like it came from your living room?”

“No one else is here. My door makes a lot of noise. I would’ve heard if someone was inside.” Feeling vulnerable, Jessica crossed her arms over her exposed breasts, placing a hand on the opposite shoulder.

“Maybe it was outside your door?” Bruce said.

“There’ve been some break-ins. It could be my neighbor.”

“Stay here. I’ll check it out.”

“Be careful.”

Bruce stepped into his jeans and walked around the corner. Jessica scooted to the edge of the bed, wrapping the bed sheets around her shoulders. She heard Bruce open the door. She heard a heavy thump. Then she heard him gasp. Seconds later, he was standing in the doorway, his lips pressed together. He refused to make eye contact with her.

“You need to call the police.” His voice was short and weighted.

“Why? What is it? What happened?”

“Just—” He bent over and picked up her phone from the floor. “Call the police.”

Jessica was about to dial 9-1-1 when she saw a series of incoming texts from Whitmore.

I need to see you. Are you home?

I’m in the parking lot.

Why won’t you answer the phone?

I want to make us work. What do I have to do to make us work?

I want to marry you Jessica Ryan. That’s what I came to ask you.

So this is it? You’re done with me?

I don’t understand what I could’ve done.

Goodbye, Jessica. It’s obvious you don’t love me as much as I love you.

Just like Layla . . .

¬†Jessica slowly looked up at Bruce. “What did you see?”

“You shouldn’t go up there.”

Jessica dropped her phone and pushed past Bruce. She sprinted to the living room, and as if she had collided with an invisible brick wall that had suddenly risen from her floorboards, she collapsed to her knees. In front of her, face down, half his body inside across the threshold, lay Whitmore, blood spilling from his right temple. There was a smear of red on the front of her door, midway and on down to the bottom, from where his head hit and slid down as his body fell underneath him. Poking out from underneath his chest was the gun he used to end his life.

Jessica wanted to cry. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t find her voice, and she realized that all fluids related to Whitmore, tears included, had been purged from her body while she had sex with Bruce. The only word she could muster out of her mouth was, “Oh.”

Behind her, Bruce spoke into the phone. “Yes, I need an ambulance. A man is dead.”

—Nortina

Q is for Question

Originally published April 20, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge.

Whitmore was on his way back to Jessica’s apartment. Holding tightly onto the steering wheel with his left hand, he pressed down on the gas. The headlights from the cars on the opposite side of the road¬†resembled a steady, illuminated white streak zooming by him.

Whitmore knew Jessica would be upset with him for coming unannounced, but¬†he needed to make sure they were alright, that she wouldn’t leave him because of what he had revealed to her.

Memories of Layla flashed before his eyes—images of her¬†having sex with other¬†men.¬†In the backseat of her car, her toes tapping the fogged up windows on opposite ends as the faceless man held her legs apart. In the shower, she balancing on the shower rod while another faceless man wrapped her legs around his waist. In Whitmore’s bedroom, a third faceless¬†man sitting on the edge of the bed while¬†Layla, completely naked,¬†perched¬†on top of him, gyrating her hips on his lap. She arched her back, bent over backwards. The man held onto her waist while the rest of her body hung upside down over the bed. She looked up at Whitmore and smiled. Suddenly, her face became Jessica’s.

No, no! Whitmore closed his eyes, shaking his head as he sped through a red light. Jessica would never cheat on me. She’s one of the good girls. This is why I have to make us work. I can’t lose her.

He¬†slid his right hand down into his pocket, patted the last piece of motivation he had against her. When I show her this, I won’t even have to ask the question. She’ll automatically say yes.

—Nortina

 

Adopted

He glanced back again, surely more times than was necessary. They had lost his trail and were no longer following him, at least he prayed they weren’t.

Anita said they were being tracked, and it was becoming glaringly obvious why.

When he walked through the front door, the first thing he spotted was it lying on her chest, nibbling at her breast, sucking the milk that was never meant for it.

He could only refer to it as it. Humanizing it would create an attachment, and he needed a clear and focused mind if they were ever going to escape for a third time.

He tossed Anita the dufflebag by the door, prepacked with the essentials—three pairs of clean underwear, jeans, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, a grand in cash, hair dye, colored contacts, prosthetic teeth to create new identities again (he knew a guy in Juno who made fake IDs; they’d visit him first), a bag of mixed nuts and chopped fruit for sustenance, bottles for the baby (they couldn’t risk stopping to breast feed while on the run).

“Sirens are close,” he said. “We gotta split.”

“Just a minute. He hasn’t eaten all day.”

Dammit, woman, he wanted to scream. The baby wasn’t even theirs. And could he even call it a baby? It looked nearly three, but apparently its mother never weened it, and so Anita cradled him against her raw nipples, pressed its head down to latch on, as if it were an infant, an infant like the one they lost at the hospital when her body ejected him from her womb five months too soon.

His son.

Not this source of all their troubles, lying there, drinking the drugs still circulating in her system that killed his precious baby boy. That grew into an even bigger burden the closer the police came to finding them.

He peeked out the window. Flashing blue lights reflected on the apartment building across the street. If they climbed down the fire escape, they might still make it, but Anita would have to leave the boy.

He sighed and folded on the floor. It was pointless. From the day she scooped it up from the playground sandbox, Anita would never let it leave her side.

—Nortina


Written for Monday’s Muse Writing Prompt, hosted by Candice Coates over at I came for the soup… The objective is to create a story in 20 minutes using the above line in bold and the picture provided.

Friday Fictioneers: Brief Reprieve

I pretend I don’t hear gun shots afar off.

Fourth of July’s in three weeks. It’s just fireworks. Drunk frat brothers shooting off exploding rockets for practice.

But I back inside just to be safe, close the sliding glass door to the balcony and lock it.

Money¬†and privilege doesn’t mean a thing these days. You can be a United States congressman and still be targeted. How many presidents absorbed the bullet? How many of them lived?

I’m only here for the weekend though. Be back in Chi-Town by Monday, where I¬†recognize¬†the gang bangers who shoot me.

word count: 100

—Nortina


PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.

#FridayFictioneers: Pondering

We’ve stayed too long. Cut off from all exits but my bedroom window, we sit on a corner of my bed, watching the vines pour in and swallow my dresser whole.

There’s no escaping now. Even if we tried to climb out, a loose, sinewy tendril would wrap around our ankles, drag us under.

“Reminds me of that movie,” Caroline says, “where the plants turn on people.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Mark Walhberg’s in it.” She picks at her fingernails with a serrated knife gone dull against the siphoning vine. “Apparently, they release a toxin that makes people kill themselves.”

word count: 100

—Nortina


© Sarah Potter

Friday Fictioneers challenges you to write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.

Visitor in the Rose Garden

I hate being left home alone. Especially at night. I see things at night. Things I can’t easily explain away. It’s best just to go to bed early, right after dinner, when Aaron leaves for his shift at the hospital. Even though sleeping on a full stomach is never recommended. Indigestion, weight gain, not to mention the phantasmal dreams. But at least they’re just dreams; I can wake up from dreams.

A man in my rose bushes—now, that’s very real.

I dial Aaron’s cell and it goes straight to voicemail. He’s either in surgery, or he’s just ignoring my calls. I think he’s picked up more night shifts on purpose. He wants to get as far away from me as possible; he thinks I’m bat shit crazy. With him working at night, and my mundane 9 to 5, we only have two hours¬†in¬†the day when our schedules overlap, and still it is too much for him. But I wouldn’t be like this if he’d only show some concern for why I don’t feel safe, spend the night with me like any husband would, lie with me at least until I fall asleep. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

The man never moves, only stands there and watches me wander¬†about the house from window to window. I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s something less terrifying, like a light post or a tree. Trees tend to take a different form when the sun goes down. But there are no trees in our backyard. No street lights either. Because we live way out in the sticks, a forty-five minute drive¬†outside Savannah. The only sign of civilization for miles is a single-story Baptist church with chipped paint, cracked siding, and a parking lot riddled with potholes. It’s congregation can’t be more than three members, including the pastor, because that’s all the cars I see parked around its doors when I drive by on my way into town.

We don’t go to that church. We don’t go to any church. I haven’t been inside a sanctuary since my¬†daddy died when I was sixteen, and I was so¬†anxious to get out of that hot, stuffy box of a church,¬†with no air conditioning, packed with a¬†bunch of self-righteous¬†parishioners who babbled on and on about how holy and godly a man¬†Daddy was¬†when he drank too much, cursed like a sailor, and the only gift he ever left me was a trail of cigarette burns down the back of my thighs.

But now I feel the urge to get on my knees and pray for protection. Even though the figure still hasn’t moved, and when I look too hard, sometimes I can’t even tell if its human.¬†But there’s a mass of¬†darkness between my bushes, darker than the blackness of night, which even out here isn’t all that black because we still have the moon and the stars to lighten even the darkest hour. Sometimes, especially when the moon is full and the sky is cloudless, it’s almost as if the night has passed hours early and dawn is just beginning to break over the horizon.

That’s how I know something is there, something that’s not there during the day when I’m out in the yard, circling in the spaces between the bushes, bumping¬†into nothing solid blocking my path, and pruning the branches, making sure to avoid the thorns, cutting off a few of the fuller roses that have bloomed¬†beautifully under the sun, unfurling their¬†petals to expose their most delicate inner regions. Those I take inside and put in a vase of water, their sweet scent filling the room, and even though¬†they last only¬†a day, maybe two, I pretend¬†Aaron has given them to me, out of the love he bears in his heart for me.

It stands three feet above my tallest rose bush, making it at least seven feet in height. Sometimes¬†I can distinguish a head from shoulders, and when it’s windy, long locks of hair. I used to hold onto the hope that it is Aaron, sneaking home just to check on me. The lost romantic in me loved that. The idea that he would risk a patient’s life just to make sure his lonely wife was taken care of, that nothing was amiss at the house.

I’ve given up hope on that now. If he does leave the hospital early, it’s to see another woman. A woman who is less worrisome, more tolerable to make love too. I even know her name: Stella. He doesn’t bother to delete the emails from our shared account. They come right to my phone too. Her pleas to have her pipes cleaned again, long overdue. The adrenaline rush she got when they did it in the patient record room, bodies pressed up against dusty file folders. Pictures of her positioned on her bed in risqu√© poses wearing nothing but a sheer lace-trimmed negligee.

I wish this thing would come in and kill me already. It would be a relief to Aaron. One less problem to deal with in his busy, busy day. How did we come to this; when I would be seeking death to unburden his shoulders? Was there a moment in our relationship when everything just changed? Divorcees always say that it is, that you may not have noticed when it happened, but in hindsight, you always knew it was there. But I can think of nothing—a word, a gesture, a forgotten birthday or anniversary—that would’ve caused me to lose my husband’s love.

I open the back door, and I half see it turn its head; probably shocked that I’ve finally come outside to greet it, or maybe it’s just my eyes adjusting to the night causing my vision to jump. Before my trepid heart can change my mind, or before it disappears, I dash toward the figure in a full on sprint, unsure of what to expect—if I’ll be overcome with fear or gladness to have arms wrap around me, lift me up into the air in a warm embrace. But anything is better than spending another night alone in my cold bed, the white noise of an empty house seeping in to haunt my dreams.

—Nortina


Alright guys, what do you think of Fright Night Fridays?¬† Every Friday night, I’ll try to post something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

Saved by Grace

It wasn’t enough to sign, “We can’t see each other anymore.” He doesn’t take no for an answer, in any language. And when Felicity confided to¬†her best friend that she feared Darrel¬†was stalking her, Tippy scoffed and¬†said she was overreacting.

But she’s seen his car drive past her window twice, and now there’s a light knock on her door,¬†turned to a pound, turned to a kick. And then a sudden blast.

He has a gun.

It wasn’t enough that he had stolen Tippy from her. Tippy still thinks she’s clueless. Mute doesn’t equal dumb. She’s seen the naked photos, the video in his phone. Tippy was willing to do everything Felicity’s morals commanded her to forsake. Tippy could make as much noise as her stronger vocal chords could carry, egging him to press harder, stroke faster.

But he wanted them both.

Felicity dedicated her voice to the Lord the first time Darrel raped her. She speaks only to Him now. She offers her body only to Him.

But Darrel could never take no for an answer, and now no one but God will hear her scream.

She hides in the bathroom closet, praying for deliverance, fully aware that He could tell her no, like He refused to remove the thorn from Paul’s side—because His grace is sufficient. All things work together, she reminds herself. Not her will but His be done. His power is made perfect in her weakness. She was not given the spirit of fear, so she will not panic. She only wishes not be touched again, that she be made holy¬†and¬†taken into¬†His glory.

Darrel taps the heavy metal on the closet door and rips it open. He’s always wanted to boast his strength, impose his dominance over her. He wields the gun in her face, and she exhales—closes her eyes and exhales—slow, smooth, as time freezes, and all of her breath flows from her body.

No words exchanged—his hatred has consumed him now. He pulls the trigger—a quick blast—and she is caught up in a cloud of fire.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt, “Writer’s Clue” was kind of a cop out. No offense to LJ Cohen, but c’mon, girl, all you did was tell us to write a basic story! So I took a little inspiration from the Daily Prompt: panicked. It worked out in the end. Maybe that was her point all along…

Carved Soul

Her eyes are what I remember most, and I carve them into the wood first. Round and full, the shape of figs. I remember them being deep brown, but under the sun’s rays, a hint of auburn glowed in her irises, matching the highlights of her wavy hair cascading down her back. I used to call her Anime Jane because she loved cosplay. Now these Sailor Moon dolls are all I have left of her.

I’m distracted from my work by the woman in my shop. We are the only two. She pretends to browse the shelves, but for the third time, our eyes meet, and she quickly glances away.

“Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?”

She shakes her head and picks up a doll from the shelf. It’s one of my favorites. Jane’s hair is styled in a side fishtail braid hanging over her right shoulder. Her ruffled red skirt just grazes the tops of her thighs, and the pink bow snapped to the front of her blouse is like a bow to a present I wish to open. I remember the night I first opened Jane. She was wearing the exact outfit, and I untied her bow, twirled her braid around my index finger, and with her hair still wrapped around my finger, tilted her small chin and draw her lips toward mine.

The woman suddenly slings¬†her wrist through the handles of her hand bag and rushes to my counter. She notices the unfinished work I hold—only a face to the polished smooth naked round body.

“Do you carve all off these by hand?”

I nod, and she pauses to look around the shop. I have three aisles of wood cases in the center of the shop, all shoulder height and each shelf lined with three rows of dolls, ranging between seven and ten inches tall. Mounted on the walls are even more, bigger sizes, some of them life-sized. One stands in a corner behind the register. She is the most realistic Jane doll I’ve made to date.¬†I molded her from flesh colored wax, sewed real human hair into her scalp. Her arms and legs bend at my command, and on days when the sun is bright and I miss her laughter, I take a spatula of acacia wood and sculpt her mouth open, push back her lips to reveal¬†her gleaming teeth.

“It seems like it would take a lot of time,” the woman says.

“This is my livelihood. I enjoying doing it.”

She places the doll on the counter. “How much?”

“Ten.”

“Only ten dollars?” She takes her wallet from her bag, licks her finger and begins counting bills. “All of these dolls are handcrafted. You put your love and devotion into each of them. I’m willing to pay more.”

“If you wish.”

She slides five ten dollar bills across the counter top. “I do have one question.”

“Anything,” I say as I put one in the register and fold the other four into my pants pocket.

“Why are they all the same? The outfits, the hairstyles—they’re different—but the faces . . . it’s like I’m looking into the eyes of the same sad girl.”

“You believe she’s sad?”

“Isn’t she?”

I remember our last night, as we lay in bed together and she looked up at me with those childlike eyes, her lips parted and puckered. The moonlight through the single bedroom window illuminated her face, draining it of all color—her skin was like alabaster, her lips ash—but it also could have been the phone cord I’d loosened from around her neck.

I shake my head. “No, you’re wrong. It is I who am sad.”

“What happened to her?”

“Lust,” I say, but I can’t bring myself to tell her of the other man. The one who left Jane lying in my bed when their rough role playing tragically backfired. I can’t tarnish the chastity of the¬†spirit that fills my shop today. The woman waits for me to continue, but I say no more.

“Oh, well I’m sorry for your loss.” She bows her head, thanks me for the doll and hurries out of the door.

I look longingly after her. Jane was never mine to keep or lose. I was one of many men, but I like to think I am the last, because I stayed behind and guided her into the afterlife, into my shop, where I keep her alive in her wood carved replicas. I look down at the newborn Jane in my hand and decide to give her the red skirt and pink bow and fishtail braid. It is my fondest memory of her, and the woman just bought my last one.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and while I said¬†I would only write 100-300 words a day, I got carried away with yet another great prompt from Kylie Quillinan: “The Doll Maker.” I’m on a roll! Looking forward to what’s in store for tomorrow…