Stories

Give and Take-Short Story

NOTE: FOR AN UPDATED VERSION, DOWNLOAD (FOR FREE) THE VERSION PUBLISHED IN THE DARK HELIX EZINE.

 

cover2-v1-231x300

 

Preamble: I wasn’t planning on posting this story. It’s very personal and the idea came to me while I was watching children play on the shore during my vacation. But over the weekend, I came across a some very personal posts and stories by other people. They reminded me that everyone suffers pain and loss at times in their lives, and that as much as Life hurts, it’s important to remember that pushing through it is possible, even necessary. So, I hope you enjoy this story and are encouraged by it.

GIVE AND TAKE

castle-sand

I used to love the ocean. As a child, I would plant myself on the white, powder-fine sand and watch while the waves broke against the shore. Even then, young as I was, something about the rolling of the waves felt like magic to me. Maybe it was the planes of aqua coloured water foaming into roiling, white tips; the waves were like the sea’s breath, the surging soul of a mysterious, marine world. Sometimes, the receding dregs left gifts behind on the beach: shells, twisted driftwood or glistening jellyfish. I felt like a princess and the sea, my first and most generous lover. But that was before. I have grown up since. When I visit the sea, bits of discarded plastic are left behind for me now, and pieces of broken bottles, not jellyfish, glisten like jagged jewels in the sun.

Today, my daughter builds sandcastles and moats in the same powder-white sand I used to build in. How futile. Piling up columns of sand when the slightest misstep causes them to crumble. I sigh while pulling down the front of my sunhat against the sun’s glare and continue to reflect on my younger days. The tide always swept my projects away, leaving no sign of them behind. Still, back then half the joy was in the creation of the thing. The happiness I’d felt tempered the loss so that I didn‘t quite mind so much. Funny how our perceptions change over time.

But just as I imagined my parents had been unwilling to burst my bubble, I can’t tell my daughter the truth. I let her fill and refill the sand into various sized yellow, red and blue pails, press it all down and dump it all out, over and over. I watch in aggravated silence while she carves doomed tunnels and trenches and rebuilds the walls when the water she dumps into the canals are breeched. She is just a child. Innocent and un-phased, her world is painted in shades of aqua and sea-green and the sea god still leaves pretty pieces of shell and smooth driftwood on the beach just for her.

I settle into my beach-chair and turn my gaze to the waves. They spill onto the beach and withdraw, each time pulling along with it handfuls of sand. Ebbing and flowing, the waves take more than they bring, and the gifts they do bring are none that I want. How sad that somewhere along the way I’d unknowingly crossed the line where the blush of youthful dreams faded away and only the stark reality of adulthood glares back at me. Work, work, work. Strive, strive, strive. Build a life, tear it down, build it again…

(Fall in love.

Marry.

…Separate…

Rebuild).

I have since constructed my house on a barren beach.

Smiling and laughing, my daughter runs up to me. Sand is worked into the creases of her shorts, is packed under her nails, and all I can think of is how long it will take to get her all sorted out. But she is radiant, the joy shining through the dirt splayed over her face. Even her eyes are aglow.

“Mom!” she cries, “Did you see what I made?” Then she’s off, running down the list, providing a play by play of just how she did it. Towards the end of her telling, I begin to see a crease deepening between her brows and her eyes begin to widen with understanding. She looks from me to the beach.

Her shoulders slump.

“What is it, honey?” I ask, though I already know the answer.

She takes a minute to gather her thoughts. When she finally looks me in the face with those gorgeous, oh-so innocent brown eyes, she holds me captive. “It won’t last, will it? All that work, everything I made today, none of it will be here tomorrow. Right?”

Pressure builds in my chest. The truth rises up into my mouth but I hold it back. I can’t do it to her, not yet. Not when there is more time for play and make believe. Isn’t that what adults always lament? Not having enough time to be children?

“Honey,” I begin and then stop, still not knowing what to say yet hoping wisdom would somehow come to me.

Slipping her hand into mine, she asks, “When it’s all gone, can we rebuild it?”

Rebuild? I almost laugh, a most bitter and unpleasant laugh. Instead I say, “Sweetie, it’s late and it’s almost supper time.”

“Mom,” she insists, shaking her head. “Can we rebuild it?”

She holds my gaze. Truly, she is braver than I had given her credit for. But then, hadn’t she watched while I picked up and re-knit the tattered pieces of our lives? Hadn’t she cried with me and held my hand when the ghosts of loneliness haunted my sleepless nights? And yet even now, she still looks to me with the expectation that, somehow, I can explain the madness that is Life, as though I have the power to resolve its many discordant chords.

Shelly hands me a blue shovel, one that matches the blue bucket she carries in the other hand. “Mom?”

The tide is rising, the sound of the breaking waves growing louder in my ears. But her smile speaks louder.

Smiling back, I squeeze her hand and with the other, take the shovel she is offering. Then I lead her to a spot higher on the beach, one that is more difficult for the waves to reach.

“Yes, baby,” I say to her once we reach the spot. “Together, we will rebuild.”

Copyright@ 2013 by Dyane Forde

Stories

‘Frenzy’: New Story Experiment

So here’s a story I wrote a about six weeks ago. It’s sort of a mix of prose with elements of poetry, as I wanted to see if I could weave the two together into a cohesive piece. It was inspired from a visual prompt of an eerie scene of a body of water, rocks and a tree. About 1000 words. Hope y’all enjoy it. 🙂

Frenzy

Hooks. Harpoons. Bullets.

Scorching pain tore through her body. Rivulets of mystical blood mingled in the cold, wet murk.

The red-clouded water stuck in her gills. Metallic-tasting, it washed over her tongue. If she could smell it, it’d reek like rust. 

Beside her, his beautiful, silver-hued body, now hopelessly marred, floated facedown. Dull blue eyes stared into the void below, while brown locks waved at her amidst the bubbles kicked up by a shower of bullets and grasping hooks. The strands spread around the restful face, silken threads all around.

He was gone.
Rage dulled the pain eating its way through her flesh…

That night marked the beginning of her thirst.
Her desire to feed, inflamed.

Vengeance.

She dreamed of it every night.

***

‘Can you stop throwing rocks?’ Ham avoided Pete’s gaze, focusing instead on popping open a can of beer.

Pete snorted. He glanced at his friend, picked up another stone and threw it into the waves that lapped at their island of clustered rocks. ‘The ocean’s full of them. What do you think we’re sitting on?’

Ham shook his head. ‘These rocks have always been here. They belong. What you’re doing…what if you disturb something?’

Pete threw his head back to laugh, causing his shiny black hair to dance in the full moon’s light. ‘What? Are you afraid of sea monsters now? Is a Boogey man from the Salty Deep going to attack me cuz of this?’ He tossed another rock into the waves before leaning back on his elbows. ‘Man, you have to stop reading those fantasy books. They’re messing with your brain.’

‘How can you deny the strange singing we heard? How do you explain us ending up here?’

‘You’re saying we were drawn here? By singing?’

Ham stared down at the boulder, absently swirling around the dregs of beer. ‘Remember last month? What we did?’

‘Shut up!’ Suddenly sober, Pete sat bolt upright. ‘Don’t talk about that!’

‘But, Pete! We did something terr–‘

Pete grabbed Ham by the shirt. ‘I said shut up! No one can ever know. You got that? Besides, there were no witnesses. If we keep quiet, it’ll blow over. When the body washes up, they’ll think it’s just another hobo.’

Letting his friend go, Pete sat in moody silence beside him and stared at the restless water below. He hurled his beer can into the waves. It hit with a slap.

***

My prince, my love. Butchered by animals. With a fine, bone comb, she dressed her silver hair while listening to the muted sounds of the ocean. She sat, passively tending her gnarled features while awaiting the moment designated by Triton himself.

‘You will have your revenge, daughter,’ he’d promised.

She had been patient, but time was passing. The chasm of bitterness inside her was growing. Her vengeance must be sated. It must feed, or she would die.

Unusual sounds trickled towards her through the current. Unusual, yet familiar.

Trembling, she set down the comb. Triton had delivered.

***

‘For the last time! We didn’t kill a mermaid—or merman—or whatever! There’s no such thing!’

Beer had made Ham bold. The two argued while standing on the boulder’s uneven surface. Cold wind pulled at their clothes. ‘It had a face! And a torso and a tail. I’m sure of it!’

‘No, Ham. You were drunk! Like me and the others.’

‘I know what I saw!’

‘You didn’t see anything!’ Pete roared, stabbing the hand holding a beer at his friend.

‘So, what? It’s better we killed a man, then? Is that it?’

‘He should have known better than to go swimming at night!’

‘No. We should have known better than to go shark hunting at night.’

‘Shut up!’ Peter shoved Ham, sending him into the waves. Pete blinked when icy water hit him in the face. He hadn’t realized how hard the waves beat against the rock. If he didn’t hurry, his best friend would be pulverized.

‘Grab my hand! Ham, I’m sorry! I-I don’t know what—‘

‘Pete! Help me! Oh my—!’

Ham was gone. Not because of the waves crushing him against the rocks. Not because the current was too strong.

It was something else.

Pete rubbed his eyes and looked again. The sea was angry. One sacrifice wasn’t enough. He shook his head, hardly believing that Ham’s far-out stories suddenly made sense. What sea creatures were in those books again? Leviathans? Sea serpents? Mermaids?

He almost laughed. Mermaids weren’t dangerous. They sang and swam with schools of fish. Isn’t that how they were portrayed in movies and cartoons?

But Ham needed help. Pete wouldn’t leave him, not after the last time when they had injured that man and left him to die.

Pete scrambled down the side of the boulder, managing to hold onto a crag with one hand while lodging his feet into shallow holds. ‘Ham!’ he shouted over the roar of the waves. The spray hit him in the face again, stinging his eyes and skin like venom. ‘Ham!’

The waters surged and parted. Relief flooded through Pete. ‘Thank God! I thought—‘

Knobbly hands shot out of the waves, latching onto his jacket. A horrid, grey face twisted with rage lunged towards him. A ferocious tug tore his fingers from the rock. Water closed over his head.

There was no time to scream. No time for one last breath.
Bubbles sounded at his ears.

The moon drew further and further away.

***

She dragged her prey into her domain where it was cold and dark. A minute or two more and the man would stop struggling, just as the other had. Soon, vengeance would feed on his dying breath. Soon, she would be complete.

The bubbles stopped only her pain did not.

Two sacrifices were not enough.

Triton’s daughter smiled. Her father was with her. He understood her pain.
Eager and hungry, she let the dead man go.

Triton’s spirit buoyed her as she broke the water’s surface.
And all the ocean rejoiced with her as its Daughter returned to the land of men to feed.

Copyright@ 2013 by Dyane Forde

Stories

Easy Chair: My Latest Story Published by Stories with Pictures

Alice Cuninghame, a writing coach, copywriter and fiction writer from Brighton, UK, started Stories with Pictures to match writers with artists in order to create artistic collaborations and then publish them online. I was extremely happy to have been paired with photographer Fleur Alston, who supplied the picture which inspired Easy Chair, a 500 word flash fiction piece. You can find Fleur’s work at http://fleuralston.wordpress.com/ and http://fleuralston.wix.com/fleur-alston-photography

I invite you to follow the link below to see our *finished product. 🙂 http://www.storieswithpictures.org/easy-chair/

 

info@storieswithpictures.org

*I’m sorry to announce that the e-magazine is no longer available. 

Stories

Shadow in the Sun

The box weighs in my arms and the corners bite into my skin. Spying the appointed place, the one I chose between the flower bed and the maple tree, I begin the slow procession of one.

The grass is soft beneath my bare feet. The flowers are fragrant and the sun shines down, kissing everything it graces with golden rays. Everything, that is, except me. A shadow hangs over my head.

I hug the box to my chest, ignoring the pain in my arms. Thinking of Cesar pushes a sob from my lips, and finally, I let the tears flow.

At the place, I set the box down. From the flower bed beside me, I pull a rusted spade and start to hack at the ground. I barely scratch the surface; it has not rained for days.

Cesar used to slink through these flowers, breaking the stalks and tramping the blossoms into the ground. I would shout, ‘Cesar! Stop that or else–!’ and every time I said those words, I was reminded of days long past. Days when the front door slammed to admit a line of chattering teens, and then, young adults. Days when at six o’clock sharp, he would come home and we’d sit at the table, all four of us, to dinner. Now I only use the side and back doors, and the dining room table is cluttered with stuff I don’t need but collect anyway.

Then one rainy night, Cesar came to the back door. I took him in and cleaned him up. He sat on my lap when I watched TV, kept my feet warm while I drank my tea, and purred when I rubbed his belly. And in return, when he destroyed my garden, he let me holler after him as I used to do with my own children. He let me feed him scraps from the kitchen table. And he slept next to me in bed, warming the place where a different sort of body used to lie.

The hole is dug. I set the box gently inside and then cover it up.

‘He was only a cat,’ whispers the wind in my ears.

I gently pat the earth and smooth away the lumps. I set a rose on the freshly turned dirt and sit back on my heels to take in the sun. Then I stand and take a breath before turning to face the empty house.

Just a cat?

No. Cesar was so much more than only that.

cat

Copyright@ 2013 by Dyane Forde

(415 words)