Category Archives: Short Stories (300+ Words)

The Man Who Talks to Walls

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Wailing Wall from Wikipedia

People from miles around gathered at the wall. For centuries it had heard their fears, their hopes, their dreams. For centuries it had collected messages and prayers scribbled on scraps of paper and stuffed into its crumbling facade. Some people were true believers in the wall and its power to pass their intentions to the One who listens. Some thought it nothing more than a novelty, a tourist destination, a photo op.

Cyrus was one of the latter. He lived near the wall and hated it. He often laughed at the pilgrims, ‘emotional fools’, he called them, shouting at them from his doorway, “It’s a wall you know! You’re talking to a stupid wall! Can’t you see how crazy that is? Stupid wall…stupid, stupid wall!”

But early every morning, when the streets were empty Cyrus would shuffle over to the wall; to the very same spot each time. He reached into a paper-laden crack and gently removed a folded yellow note, dropped to the ground, tears flooding the corners of his eyes as he read the child-like scrawl fading on the page.

Please don’t take my mommy God. I need her.
Love,
Cyrus

Days after young Cyrus had written that note, his mother succumbed to illness. That was the day Cyrus stopped believing in the wall; in anything for that matter. He felt oddly comforted when he read the note though. Memories of his mother flooded his mind. As painful as it was, he couldn’t stay away.

Year’s passed and it was Cyrus’ time to leave this world. As he closed his eyes, weary from a life of pain and disappointment, he started to feel lighter. His soul rose above his body and drifted through the door of his house and over to the wall where his mother stood waiting for him, holding the yellow note in her hand.

“Momma? Momma, why did God take you away from me?”

“Oh Cyrus, I never left. Don’t you know that every time you came to the wall to read your note, I was right there, holding you. Reminding you of how much I loved you. Did you feel it Cyrus?”

“I did. Yes, I did feel you each time as lovely memories filled my head. That was you?”

“Yes. The wall and your note kept me close to you. Now you and I can both find rest and peace. Are you ready Cyrus?

“Yes. I’m ready,” Cyrus whispered as he took his mother’s hand. Together they drifted through the wall into the starry night sky.

The wall moaned and shuddered as another breach ripped its ancient stone face bottom to top creating another portal for notes from those seeking miracles and little boys, orphaned too soon.

~kat

For MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie Sunday Writing Prompt. This week: “It’s All in the Title” – Use one or more of the titles below to compose a song/story/poem:

A Girl Called Gift
A Night Without Dreams
The Day the Stars Burned
Revenant
Sleep Deprivation
The Mulberry Bush
A Disquieting Haze
A Vision in Blue
The Man Who Talks to Walls
The Fairy Queen


Battle of the Bands

“…And…we’re back! Welcome to the 13th Annual Greater Suburbia Battle of the Bands! I’m your host, Martin Blaylock, WXRK, and I’m joined this afternoon by critic extraordinaire, Louis Axlerod, from Music Today Magazine. Tell me Louis, what do you think of this year’s battle line-up?”

“Thanks Martin. I’ll tell you, this is the first year we’re seeing all-original tunes. It raised the bar, I think, when we added that requirement to the mix.”

“I’ll say! This is one creative bunch!”

“Right. I caught a few of them at rehearsal. We’re in for a show tonight!”

“If you had to pick a favorite going in?”

“No question, I’m impressed by Abstract Evil Barbie and their track, “Ken You Hear me”. Those girls can rock! But they’ll have some fierce competition from the Squirrel Nut Zippers. They’re bringing a rap mash-up to the table in “Ball n Chains” that’s sure to raise the roof! And we can’t rule out newcomers GoGo Penguins and their new tune, “Iced”.

“I’ve been following The Pineapples from the Dawn of Time since they first came on the scene. They’re upping the ante with “Sweet Zombie”. And I heard that Reign of Frogs got a new lead singer.”

“The Pineapples are a solid group. No question. I’m looking forward to hearing Brent Barlow with the Frogs. He’s a decent songwriter too. We’ll hear that first hand with his track, “Lily Popped”. And I wouldn’t count out LoudMouthKitten’s “Scratched”. Judd Lowell, their lead, is a powerhouse! But the sleeper this year is Bimbo Toolshed. They’re promising a show-stopping solo by drummer, Liz Rayne on vocals singing her new song, “Hammered”.”

“I don’t believe she’s ever taken the mike! And she writes too!?”

“Exactly. This year’s battle is epic! In a word, EPIC!”

“No doubt, Louis. no doubt! If you’re just joining us, I’m Martin Blaylock here with Louis Axlerod, hosting the 13th Annual Greater Suburbia Battle of the Bands! First to the stage from Craigstown, is Kissyfoot, with their tune “Toe Jam”, followed by Stop Calling Me Frank, “Who Am I?” and then, from Hell’s Kitchen, Devil with Cheese, blasting their latest tune, “Cut it”. Hold on to your knickers kids! You’re about to be blown away!”

~kat

For MindLoveMisery’sMenagerie Sunday writing Prompt prompted by this list of actual Band Names:

Squirrel Nut Zippers

GoGo Penguins

Abstract Evil Barbie

Bimbo Toolshed

The Pineapples from the Dawn of Time

Reign of Frogs

Devil with Cheese

Stop Calling Me Frank

Loudmouthkitten

Kissyfoot


The Castle of Souls

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin

“Who goes there?” Sparrow called to the darkness, as she walked the perimeter of the Castle of Souls.

Sparrow was a demigoddess sent to the earth realm to guard the castle and to spare undue calamity to human-kind by keeping the living outside the gate and “others” inside.

The Castle of Souls, or Purgatory as some call it, has existed since the beginning of time. It is nestled in the remote forests of Death Valley near the steep, rocky banks of the raging River of No Return and, most notably, features a sprawling garden of souls that glow eerily from skulls on bone posts where they reside until they are granted passage to heaven. It is certain death for any human unfortunate enough to witness such a sight, which is why Sparrow was so vigilant this dark, chilly night. 

She heard another sound echoing from the rocks near the river’s edge. “Hello! I know you are there. Identify yourself!” she demanded sternly.

“I’m lost,” a young voice cried from the blackness. “I’m lost an’ I’m hungry an’ I want my Mama, but she fell into the water when our boat tipped over and she never came out. I’ve been waitin’ and waitin’ but she never came…” the voice grew louder and clearer as a child with wild golden hair, shivering, wet from the river, wearing torn clothing that clung to her like skin, emerged into the light.

“Please don’t come any closer, child,” Sparrow pleaded, “I cannot help you. This is no place for a child to be. Follow the river this way,” she instructed, as she pointed down river, “soon enough you will find yourself in the village. Now run along.”

“But I’m cold and I’m tired. It’s dark. Can’t I just stay here with you?”

Sparrow took pity on the child and granted her wish, but only until morning, and only outside the wall of the castle grounds. She made a soft bed of leaves and wild flowers for the child and kept watch from the other side of the gate to make sure the girl didn’t wander inside.

Dawn of day is the time when souls arrive from death to the castle. It is a necessary cleansing of the veil between time and eternity. The presence of too many souls wandering the earth always creates chaos for the living. 

When the souls arrived, floating through the gate, looking very much like fog, many paused to gaze fondly at the sleeping child.  One soul lingered longer than most. Sparrow watched as it hovered over the child. She grew increasingly impatient with the soul, until she realized that it was the child’s mother. 

The allotted time for soul receiving was ending as the sun inched above the horizon. Sparrow urged the mother soul to come inside, but she refused to leave the child. If she didn’t close the gate soon, Sparrow risked a mutiny of the other souls in her keeping, so she made a deal with the mother.

“I see that you love this child more than eternity,” Sparrow said, “so I will grant you three days, and three days only, to stay with the child until she finds her way to the safety of the village. It’s a two day’s walk from here. Remember, three days only and you must return.” Then Sparrow closed the gate.

The booming noise from the shuttering iron gate startled the child awake. She remembered Sparrows’s instructions and set off down river. 

Her mother’s soul followed closely behind. She soon discovered that she could communicate with the child by sending a flutter of wind moving leaves to reveal bunches of tasty berries or by rustling shrubbery to redirect the child if she set off in the wrong direction. 

They traveled along the rocky shore of the River of No Return and through the canyons and salt flats of Death Valley until at long last a village came into view. The child’s pace sped up when she noticed people in the town square. A kind woman with several children of her own noticed the girl and took her in. The mother watched from afar a day longer to make sure the girl was safe and then, as she had promised, returned to enter the castle garden on the third day.

Sparrow noticed something different about the mother soul when she returned. She glowed warmer, brighter than the other souls. And one other thing; she did not wail and moan, which was a common practice that made the garden a miserable place to be. 

Sparrow was so inspired by the peaceful presence of the mother soul, that she declared that all souls would henceforth be granted three days to make their peace with life and the living before entering the the Castle of Souls.

You may have heard that the souls of the recently deceased linger three days, wandering amongst, and making their peace with the living before moving on. It was not always so. Now you know the story of how it came to be that when someone you love dies, you feel their presence ever so near, because my dears, they are!

~kat – 2 March 2017

A strange tale for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge inspired by the painting above by Ivan Bilibin, a Russian illustrator.


Seasoning – Part 29

Woman with a Tea Cup by John White Alexander

Seasoning – Part 29

“The letter?” Henry exclaimed. 

“Yes dear brother,” Helen nodded, “you know the one. I’m not sure how you found it. After all, it was me who Alice had asked to reveal it. Imagine my surprise, after rummaging through those vanity drawers like a mad woman, when Hannah interrupted me holding that very letter! Why do you think I came all this way? I had to see if the rumors were true!” 

“How did you? Alice asked you? What rumors?!” Henry rattled off questions without giving Helen a moment to answer. Exasperated, he slumped into his chair.

“Oh Henry, dear little brother,” Helen patted his hand, “let’s have some dinner and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Hannah, who had gleefully watched the two of them in silence, spoke up, “Yes! Let’s do, before everything gets cold!”

Henry looked at Hannah. She was beaming. He smiled softly. “God, you’re beautiful…” he thought, as his nerves settled to a purr, “oh, how I love you, Hannah.” Breaking the silence, he chuckled out loud, “Well clearly I am outnumbered here!” He reached for a slice of roast beef. 

The three filled their plates and savored several bites before curiosity got the best of Henry. 

“What I don’t understand, Helen, is how you knew about the letter. This is the letter we are talking about, right Hannah?”

“The very one!” Hannah blushed.

“Well Henry, you know you have always been a restless sleeper. Oh, the night terrors you had when you were young. Scared the dickens out of us! Especially Mother! I honestly thought you’d outgrown it. When Alice took ill and I came to care for her, she told me about your dreams. It seems you talked in your sleep, Henry, and Alice, the lovely girl that she was… well, she was so worried about you.”

“Worried? She never let on. I tried so hard to be positive around her.”

“Oh, you did Henry and you were. You were so kind and brave for her. But your dreams Henry; they told another story. There was a woman,” Helen glanced at Hannah, smiling softly, “there was always a woman in your dreams that you longed to find. Alice knew it was not her that you spoke of in your sleep.”

Henry’s eyes welled with tears, “I had no idea. She never told me.”

“Well, Alice wanted to be sure you would be alright…after she was gone. So she told me that she had written a letter to this mystery woman and asked me to hide it in the vanity. If her intuition was true, that one day you would find her, she asked me to give the letter to the woman of your dreams.”

“And how did you know, Helen? How did you know it was Hannah?”

“Oh my dears,” Helen cooed as she gazed at them across the table, “I knew the moment I saw the two of you together.”

Henry reached for Hannah’s hand, “So, what now, Helen?”

“Well, I think that’s up to the two of you.”

Hannah smiled and leaned into Henry.

“I think you’ll do just fine.” Helen softly remarked. “I suppose I’ll be leaving in the morning then.”

“So soon?” Hannah exclaimed, “but you just got here!”

“Oh, don’t you worry!” she winked at Hannah, “I’ll be back in the summer. I want to see that garden when it’s in full bloom! Well, enough talk!  Hannah, I would love some dessert. How about you Henry?”

“That sounds wonderful!” Henry replied. 

” Yes ma’am!” Hannah gushed. She glanced coyly at Henry adding, “…and kind sir. Dessert it shall be!” She sprang from her chair and skipped happily into the kitchen.

Henry smiled at his sister. 

“You both deserve to be happy, you know. Don’t let that lovely girl get away, Henry.”

“Oh, I won’t, Helen. Of that you can be certain. I never will.”

———————————

Other installments of this series can be found HERE.


Saved by the Bells

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Painting by Gabriel von Max

There is a saying, “every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings”.

Once there was an evil King who hated angels. He blamed them for not protecting him from the horrors of his troubled childhood. Every child in his day learned from fairy tales told to them from cradle to school, that it is the angels who are charged with protecting children from harm, seeing them through to adulthood. The King fumed with anger over what he believed to be utter neglect by his angel. (In truth, he was a spoiled, dark-tempered child who was never satisfied.)

Hoping to eliminate all angels from the land, on the first day of his reign as King, he commanded every bell far and wide silenced forevermore. There would be no lauds or vespers tolled from church steeples, no hourly reminders in the town squares or dinner bell calls in the farmers’ fields.

The people feared him, so just as he had ordered, all bells were muted. The deafening silence had an unintentional consequence. Instead of gaining wings, every single angel lost their feathers until they were grounded. This pleased the evil King very much, until he learned that they retained all of their special powers of prophecy, wisdom, healing and the like. He was infuriated and ordered every angel killed, sending his armies out across the land to carry out the deed.

When the compassionate people near and far heard about the King’s plan to kill the angels, they opened up the cellars of their humble homes offering them sanctuary. In return for their kindness the angels prepared special oil lamps for their gracious hosts. To receive an angel lamp was a considered a great blessing and promised that your life would be charmed with good fortune for eternity – even after your soul left this realm and moved on to the next.

As more and more townsfolk harbored the poor angels in their midst, more and more light filled their dark villages. The blessings of the lamps also gave the people wisdom, strength and determination, the likes of which no one had ever seen. They realized that their selfish, overbearing King was in fact, selfish and overbearing and they started to grumble, “If they wished to ring their bells from the town squares, church steeples and farm fields, who was he to stop them!”  Who was he indeed!

So the people made a plan to ring every bell in the land at the very same moment and on every hour henceforth. When at last the bells began to sing and gong and ding-a-ling dong, the land started to vibrate and the people cheered one and…almost all.

The King who had been lazing in dreary silence that fateful morning was startled to his feet by the clanging racket. He cupped his ears in rage and called for his commander to dispatch the army to quiet the blasted bells.  But no one could hear him above the cling-clanging cacophony and the castle that had languished in disrepair, began to shake and crumble and quake until it came tumbling down, silencing the King forever.

Never again were the bells kept from doing what bells are created to do. And the angels soon regained their wings, never forgetting the kindness of the poor and lowly, blessing them graciously with music, hope and true happiness forevermore.

~kat – 16 February 2017

For Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge based on this Gabriel von Max painting.

 


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