Stars Will Bring Me Home
I wrote this story a year ago, but in the light of recent events, I have this need to share it again.
This is for Cecil the lion…and for five elephants slain in Kenya on Monday…and for countless extinct species….but mostly, this is for kindness and humanity.
Because, we are the only guardians of our own future.
“My dear friend, it is time we part our ways.”, a lion said to a little girl.
She looked up into his golden eyes, her small hands braiding a sun-kissed mane: “But why? I don’t want you to leave.”
“I don’t want it either, my tinny human. But some things are not meant to last.” his soft growl beget her heart to skip a bit.
“Please, don’t leave me.” she whispered, tears brimming her eyes, then softly tumbling across her freckled cheeks.
“Do not cry, little one. You will always remain my one true friend, but now I must be yours. I hear them coming for me, frightened human souls, trying to catch and tame what is untameable.” He slowly rose from the ground, stretching his back, inhaling the wind heavy with whispers of death. “Remember my dear, although I am a cat of a different coat, my claws are still sharp.”
She flung herself at him, trying to encompass his neck with her small arms, burrowing her head into his fur, trying to memorize the feel, the smell of him. “What can I do? There must be something. I know I must let you go, but I need to know I’ll see you again.”
“You will see me in every sunrise over the savannah, in every stretch of grass caressed by gentle wind, in every herd of antelopes with heads held high and noses searching for danger…You will see me in every shadow of a tree, when the sun is high above…You will see me when the rains come, when the lightning splits the sky, when this dry valley turns into a pool of life…But above all, you will hear me…When this quiet corner of the world is bathed by the silver of moonlight, when all once cherished is forgotten, when humans are hidden behind their walls and all the land once more belongs to those wild in heart…Then you will hear me, you will hear my roar.”, his voice rumbled like a distant thunder, yet soft like the gentlest drum. Turning to the east, his mane dancing to the soundless music of wind and shadows, his gaze fixed on the horizon, he sang to her: “Promise you will grow up to be the best you can, to keep us safe from harm, fierce creatures that are chased by those who don’t know us. Promise you will become our guardian, in the times ahead, when our furs and our tusks will be more valuable than the sight of us freely roaming this land. Promise you will never forget a little cub you found in the tall grass – hungry, tired, alone. For I shall never forget a little girl who made me a great lion.”
“I will never forget you, I promise.” her whispered words followed his retreating form, her heart breaking in harmony with his every step. In a blink of an eye, he was gone, golden beast hidden in a sea of green. As the retreating rays of cheating sun stole the daylight, small voice shouted to the sky, to the stars blinking above, to the world: “I promise!!!”
The car stopped at the side of the road and she jumped out. Worn boots sank into dirt, reminding her of long bare-feet walks on the Skeleton Coast last spring. “Always chasing after lions.”, her father teased her for years, not knowing how his words cut her to the bone. She made her way to the jeep, where a ranger was waiting for her.
“Hello, Doctor. It’s just up ahead, over the ridge, some three hundred feet in the bushes. We marked the way, but kept our distance, as you instructed. Let me show you the way.”, the ranger started walking towards the marked path.
She waved her hand, stopping him: “It’s all right. I’ll go alone.”
“Etuna, please.”, passing by, she squeezed his forearm and he acknowledged her with a nod.
Familiar heaviness settled on her shoulders, demanding more effort with each new step. It was a road she traveled too many times, always fearing who will be waiting for her at the end. As she stepped closer, a sudden gush of wind parted the grass before her. There he was, lying on a ground. Matted fur that lost its golden shade years ago, ribs protruding, sides covered with scars, once glorious mane now brown and tangled. But to her, he was still beautiful, unchanged from all those years ago, from that golden sunset when they parted ways. Slow rise of his chest was the only sign of life, his eyes closed, his body flattened to the ground.
“Hello, my friend.”, she whispered, sitting down beside him.
He opened his eyes, low rumble greeting her.
“Here, let me help you.”, she gently lifted his head and slid beneath, resting him on her lap, her hands combing his knotted mane with practiced ease. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Hello, my tinny human. In the end, It was always you and me.”, he spoke softly, his eyes squinting in the late summer sun. “Could it be any other way?”
“No, it couldn’t.” she smiled, looking down to the valley, green ocean spreading as far as the eye could see, its surface broken by islands of colors and life. “I saw you, just as you said I would. Everywhere I looked, there you were, every step of the way. And every time I faltered, I felt you pushing me further.”
With his eyes still closed, he turned his head to her: ” And I saw you. Last spring, on the Skeleton Coast, with your little one. You looked happy.”
“The lions were back. After all these years. I was happy.”, caressing his forehead, she sighed: “So,you were there. I wasn’t sure, but I hoped you were somewhere close. I imagined walking on that beach alongside you, watching the ocean, defying the wind. Every large paw print I saw, melted my heart. My daughter was hoping she would see you that day.”
“You told her about me?”
“How could I not? Every night I tell her a story about a lion and a girl, about their friendship and their adventures. You know, she found a cub last month.”
“So, the story continues.”
“Imagine that, the story continues. But it will be easier this time.” She gently took his head in her hands and whispered to his ear: “Open your eyes. See.”
With an effort he unhurriedly opened his eyes, his gaze encompassing the landscape of life before them. Herds of zebras and wildebeests on the edge of the lake, single line of elephants making their way through the tall grass, hippos splashing in the river, lions lazily sprawling under the trees, mountains in the distance hiding where the desert meets the ocean.
“You kept your promise.” he whispered, as a sudden tremor shook his weakened body.
“I kept my promise. And I will never give up.”
“I am so tired.”, he lowered his head deeper into her embrace. “It was a long journey, but the stars brought me back.”
Tears blurred her vision, falling quietly onto his mane: “Rest, my friend. You are home.”
Tucked away safely, unobserved by all the life around them, with the warm earth bellow and the blue skies above, with the sun and the wind playing the ancient game of hide and seek, the lion and the little girl said their goodbyes.
“Grass. Ruby ridges, blood-colored highlands, wine-shaded glades. Sapphire seas of grass with dark islands of grass bearing great plumy green trees which are grass again…Orange highlands burning against the sunsets. Apricot ranges glowing in the dawns…And there, somewhere…” … she smiled, gently closed the book and examined the well-worn cover, thinking that it would hold for one more reading.
Although it was quite archaic, nothing could replace the feel of real paper and that unique smell that only old, used books held. Marcus would laugh at that silly sign of human weakness, exclaiming: “We are scientists! Act like one, for God’s…” No, he probably wouldn’t mention God, she chuckled to herself.
Stone and water, people called them behind their backs, hard and cold, enduring and persistent, forever marked by their parent’s fame and demise. But, they were only survivors, desperately clinging to each other, as a drowning man clings to a driftwood in the middle of the river, not knowing where it will take him, not having enough strength to swim for shore. The question was, between the two of them, who was drowning and who was just drifting?
Just a fragment of the story that lives in the corners of my mind for quite some time now. Set in the near future, it’s about brother and sister, alien ambassadors to Earth. They are shape-shifters living in a human form for several centuries, feeling more human than alien. Desperately in love with Earth and its inhabitants, they are struggling to stand by while Earthlings and their own species head on for inevitable and tragic collision.
Sigh…I really need to sit down and start writing.
Make It Count
Weekly Writing Challenge Digging for Roots
Is this one way trip to nowhere?
“We are launching a single person mission and we have a very limited knowledge what lies beyond the wormhole.”
“If we want to solve this equation, I need to be there.”
“Mom, do you have to go?”
How will I do this?
“Based on all the data, there is a possibility of several habitable planets. But you are still going in blind.”
“I’ll miss you.”
“Due to the effects of the velocity time dilation and proximity of a black hole, there is a high probability that in your near future no one you know will be around here. But there are protocols for future generations to follow.”
“You are going to be a Grandma. We decided to name her after you.”
I love you.
The view up here is beautiful, the splendor of my home below more distant every minute. Everything I ever knew and loved is there. DNA of my ancestors and my descendants compressed in building blocks of future. And still…there is this calmness I feel, the sense of fulfillment as I reach for my final frontier.
My great-grandmother taught me to look up, to search the sky: “One day you could be up there.”
“But I am not a bird.”, I would exclaim in wonder.
She would smile and caress my cheek: “No, you are a ray of light.”
Well, here I am, soon to become just that.
I am a Grandmother. My future is split in two ways. One is behind me and the other awaits ahead. I wonder if the two will meet someday.
The last transmission was received several hours ago. She is beautiful, my granddaughter. Margaret. A dark-haired spark of life, stretching her little arms towards the sky. I imagine she is waiving at me.
After a lifetime of running and rushing, this quiet solitude is still enjoyable. But moments like these hit hard. I wish I could hold her in my arms.
I am alone. I am truly alone. And still…I am not afraid.
Year 4 Day 54
I am passing Saturn, A ring seems almost at my hand’s reach. If I don’t emerge on the other side of the wormhole, just what I’ve seen so far will be enough. My readings on Cassini show it is still surfing on the Titan’s waves. Who knew it would last this long, years beyond our wildest expectations.
I am half way to Neptune
Year 8 Day 17
Wormhole is 2 days ahead and this might be my final log entry. I sent my latest video recording yesterday. My daughter finally forgave me for leaving, I think she understands, now that she is a mother. I always told her I would go to the ends of the world for her, that I would do impossible to ensure her future.
“What is impossible?” Rowena used to ask me when she was a child.
“Unknown is impossible until we learn enough to make it probable.”
“Stuff of dreams.” she told me when she grew up, ever the pragmatic.
“And dreams make probable become possible, my love.” I replied, my heart breaking for her absence of dreams.
Did I love her enough? Does she dream of me? I am not afraid. But there is this feeling of regret.
Year 8 Day 21
I spent last 4 days receiving and analyzing data from the other side of the wormhole. It appears the probes I launched from this side work as some kind of relay stations, picking up signals from the old probes, some of them going back several decades.
The exit from the wormhole sits right on the rim of the black hole’s event horizon. The transmission from two probes is so slow, that I am still receiving data from their first hours on the other side. If my calculations are off by a fragment, I will be caught in the accretion disc. Point of no return.
With my last findings and equations transmitted, it is time. I wonder if I’ll ever see it. The Blue Planet. My cradle of life that holds my roots, my past and my future. Once I was brave. Now I am not so sure. Was it worth it? I guess there is only one way to find out.
I am alone. And I am afraid.
For you, Rowena. End of the world.
Year 8 Day 21 – the other side
“Don’t fight the wheel, kid. Just let the car slide and gently steer it, let it find its way back.”
“Like this, Dad?”
“Yes, just like that. And don’t ever touch the breaks when you’re on ice. You’ll spin and lose control.”
“So, no fighting and no breaking. Just let it slide. I’ve got this.”
“You got it, kid. Just like that.”
I almost passed out at one point. I can’t explain it, the wormhole. There were ridges and canyons. Mountains and valley. Voids and bursts of light. And there was nothing. I was wrestling with the ship’s controls and then I remembered. No fighting. No breaking. Just let it slide.
I missed the accretion disc by a hair-line. The ship is on course to MXp1, leaving the black hole behind. It seems something is wrong with the beacon configuration, it receives the unusual amount of data from home. The wormhole is not visible from this side, but the transmission is getting through.
I need to rest.
Year 8 Day 22 – the other side/ Year 55 Day 153 – Earth
My daughter is dead.
My granddaughter Margaret is older than I am. I have four grandkids and eleven great grandkids.
My daughter is dead.
I am alone.
Year 8 Day 35 – the other side / Year 55 Day 166 – Earth
I came too close to the black hole. What seemed like hours to me was actually decades. For every hour I was passing by accretion disc, I lost eleven years. 55 years in a blink of an eye. I am 97 years old.
My daughter is dead.
Year 8 Day 101 / Year 55 Day 180
78% of Earth’s population is gone. Victims of the plague. I traveled through wormhole to another galaxy and barely escaped the black hole, while back home people died of a 400 years old plague. What a joke.
Margaret is an astrophysicist and an astronaut. Just like another Margaret I know. She is flying a spaceship, approaching the Neptune. But she is so much smarter. She didn’t leave her daughter behind. They are all with her. Her family. My family.
The humans built an arc, after all. We solved the equation. The plague wiped most of the population, but it also erased the borders, quenched wars, drowned the hatred. Fear of loneliness overcame all obstacles and united the human race. 127 people volunteered for the Arc Mission. 34 of them are related to me by blood or by marriage.
They will enter the wormhole tomorrow. The data they received from my passing through gave them a perfect trajectory, leading them away from the black hole.
“You must go.”, my husband said, when I told him the truth.
“She will hate me.”
“No, she will be angry. But she will not hate you.”
“Do you hate me?”
“Hate you? Oh, my love…Never.” he held me close, his lips pressed to my forehead. “You will be alone out there. But don’t be afraid. I believe in you.”
“I love you.”
His cancer spread to his brain as I passed the Moon. He died when I was half way to Saturn.
Year 8 Day 286 / Year 56 Day 1
Today is my birthday. 98 years old. 51 years young. Margaret complains that she can’t call me Grandma, when I am actually younger than she. I just laugh at her teasing, watching my family gather around the table.
We found a home. Breathable atmosphere, 83% of earth’s gravitation, water, solid rock under our feet. The Arc is huge, equipped with everything we need for a fresh start. Plants and animals will be kept there until we establish the more permanent base camp. There are few basic life forms, but nothing we are interfering with. Eco-system is rudimentary, but stable. With careful approach, our own species can be introduced.
We are mostly scientist, doctors and teachers. There are no weapons, no private property, no government. We will make a fresh start.
When I was 14, my mother died. But I still remember her last words:
“When you were born, I said I would never leave you. But life is funny, sometimes it gives you no other choice. You are strong, Margaret. Smart. Resilient. Don’t waste it. Make it count. Everything you do.”
Year 9 Day 30 / Year 56 Day 110
Margaret said her mother made her promise something. That she would bring her to me. Yesterday I found a little urn on my desk.
There is an ocean 2 hours drive from our camp. I went there today. The water is deep blue, just like back home. She always liked the ocean. Summers on our sailboat, her dad teaching her how to stretch the sails. She would love it here.
For you, my love…To the ends of the world. I guess I was wrong. I was searching for the end just to find the beginning. I left my roots behind just to let them grow again. I watched my future split in two just to see it whole again.
I am not alone.
Year 1 Day 1
Fighting The Undertow
Weekly Writing Challenge Find A Muse In The Masters – write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper..
Edward Hopper – Nighthawks, 1942.
If I am being honest, this was never my dream job. A barely legal kid, with no money and no connections, blinded by the city lights. When I said “I want to serve.” this was not what I really had in mind.
Ever since I was a scrawny little kid, I dreamed of becoming a soldier. My father came back from the Great War with one arm and few brass medals, fueling my imagination with war stories about lasting friendships and crazy adventures. Years later I realized he left out parts filled with blood and gore, to my mother’s immense relief.
“Husband, please…don’t fill his head with horrors, he is just a child.”
“My dear, it’s wise to prepare the boy for anything life might throw at him. Best he not be caught in the undertow.”
But, his love for my mother always prevailed and thus I grew up with stories that made my eyes bigger than my ears, dreaming of far away lands and imaginary enemies.
After Pearl Harbor nothing would stop me to enlist. So, I packed few of my belongings and headed for New York. Mother was silently crying, her iron grip almost crushing my hand. She always was a strong one, carrying the heavy load of living with a war invalid. Father was unusually quiet, pulling me to his one-arm embrace and whispering: “Come back to us.”
My mind was in a different place, miles ahead of the old bus covered with dust from our county’s well-traveled roads. I waved to my parents through the back window, already imagining how I would get a hero welcome years from now. Just like my father did so long ago.
My bus arrived to New York on a rainy December evening, on the heels of President Roosevelt’s executive order that changed the age range for the draft from 21–45 to 18–38. After spending the night at the bus terminal, I was first in line, eager to start my military career, just to have my dreams crushed by doctors. “Heart murmur.” they said. “You should be lucky we caught it this early” they said.
That’s me, one lucky boy. Working in a dinner. Wearing the uniform. Serving other boys in uniforms. Watching them living my dream. Last month I had a pleasure to serve Peter Harper, my personal high school bully. He came in with few of his buddies, celebrating their overseas deployment. I should probably count my blessings that he didn’t recognize me, for surely he wouldn’t pass the opportunity to throw few punches at his favorite target.
Thus the days pass me by. A lost boy in a big city, crying over spilled milk, not having an ounce of courage to call his parents. What a disappointment I must be to my father, a war hero with an unfit son. Working for a minimal wage, barely making ends meet, how can I send money home, so my mother could stop exhausting herself with double shifts…My dreams of a hero welcome were replaced with dreams of paying my rent on time.
So, here I am, on a quiet Monday evening. Ava and Clark from the office across the street are entertaining me with their usual office gossip. It seems George from the accounting department was caught with his pants down. Literally. He tried to explain how he got the severe case of allergy, caused by his mother in law’s pumpkin pie. Somehow she forgot he was allergic to cinnamon, although George swears he warned her at least hundred times. Their boss was not impressed by his explanation, especially when he realized poor George used his comb to scratch his legs that were covered in red spots.
The last thing I expected to see when the doorbell rang was my father entering the dinner. He was not fond of traveling, always used to say: “I’ve done my share of wandering around, it’s time my old bones enjoy the retirement.” It was so strange to watch him standing there, this calm, quiet man surrounded by city lights and sounds.
In a second all my doubts and fears disappeared and I found myself in his embrace.
“I am so sorry, Dad.”
“For disappointing you. I failed my physical exam. They turned me down.”
My father tightened his embrace and said: “Good.”
His words left me confused and I stepped back, looking at his smiling face: “Good?”
“Yes, good. Now, give your old father a cup of coffee and a piece of apple pie.” he casually demanded easing himself into a chair.
I rushed behind the counter, determined to show how good I was at my job. It’s funny how we continue to seek our parent’s approval, no matter how old we are.
I placed his order in front of him and with newfound courage asked: “How is Mom?”
“She is mad at you for not calling. That’s why I came alone. Didn’t think it would look good if your mother marched in and scolded you at your work place. You owe me. Big time.”
“How are things back at home?”
“Peter Harper died. His plane went down somewhere over the Pacific. Mr. and Mrs.Harper got the telegram last week.”
“But I saw him last month. He was here!”
“I know. He wrote his parents, saying he ran into you. That’s how I knew where to find you.”
“I thought he didn’t recognize me.”
“He did, but didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. Somehow Peter found out you failed to enlist and didn’t want to rub it in your face.”
“I don’t understand it, he was always so mean to me, all through the high school.”
“People change and sometimes boys grow up.”
Ava and Clark waved goodbye and left, leaving us sitting in silence. My father clapped his hands, startling me, and exclaimed: “Give me one more piece of that apple pie, it’s the best I ever had. But please, don’t tell your mother.”
I laughed out loud, imagining my mom’s reaction. She was not the best cook, but refused to accept that. As my father finished his second piece, I cleaned up the dinner, locked the front door and turned out the lights. “Let’s get out in the back, I need to throw the garbage out. We’ll walk to my place, its 10 minutes from here.”
We were greeted by the cold night air, the smell of last snow still lingering around. The street was empty, echoing with our steps, lined up with buildings half asleep.
“So, what are your plans?” my father asked me and I could feel my insecurity creeping back.
“I don’t know. This is a decent job, but the money is barely enough. And to be honest, I don’t see myself doing this in a long run.”
“What’s stopping you to do something else?”
“Fear? I am afraid I will fail again. I dreamed one dream whole my life and I failed. I don’t know what to do next. How to start all over…”
My father stopped mid-step, looked up and pointed at the sky: “You see those stars? When I was a little boy, I dreamed someday I would fly up there. Then I dreamed I would go to lands faraway. Years later I went overseas, and there I dreamed to survive and return home. When I came back, my dreams didn’t stop. I met your mother, became a father and then I dreamed to see you grow up. There were hardships…Oh, you can’t even imagine how hard it was sometimes. Disabled, jobs few and far apart, watching your mother struggling to keep us afloat, seeing all the pitying looks from our neighbours and friends. And still…I dreamed. Because, there are so many dreams and so few dreamers. We need to reach for the stars or we’ll always linger in the darkness. We need to be brave ones, to dear to dream… You will find your way, just don’t let be caught in the undertow.”
With every word he said, I felt the love filling my heart, warming my bones, making me stand taller. I finally realized how my parents survived all the years of constant struggle, how they always anchored each other, weathered the storms side by side. How they gave me all the life lessons I would ever need. How I will find my way, my dreams.
Because… there was always love.
And Then The Butterfly Flapped Its Wings
Weekly Writing Challenge The Butterfly Effect.
♦♦♦ Part I – Peter ♦♦♦
It’s like the entire Universe is against me, he thought to himself. Last night Nina blew him off, ruining his perfect plans for their second date. And now he overslept. That stupid alarm clock his mom bought him let him down again.
Peter dragged his feet across the room and pulled the curtains from the window. “Great, it’s raining.” he murmured to himself and headed for the bathroom, stepping on his dog’s squeaky toy. “Barney, I swear one of these days…”
25 minutes later he was driving to work, zigzagging through heavy traffic, assuring himself the boss will be late, too. The car before him suddenly slowed down and forced him to change lanes, splashing pedestrians who were waiting to cross the street.
“Get out of my way! Peter, you are such a loser!” he waved in their general direction and pushed the gas pedal, praying there are no red lights ahead.
♦♦♦ Part II – Maria ♦♦♦
She could swear she heard that crazy driver yelling “Losers!”, adding insult to the injury. With clothes dripping wet and her hair plastered to her forehead, Maria ran after the bus that was pulling out of the station.
“Stop, please stop!”, she waved her hands hoping the driver will spot her in a review mirror, but to no avail. There was nothing she could do, as the bus vanished in the morning fog. One bus and seven stops later, she entered the bakery, thanking all the green lights for not being late.
” I smell like a wet dog.”, Maria took a deep breath and squeezed into her uniform. The open sign was still swinging on a front door, when a woman rushed in.
“Two croissants, please.”
“That will be 2,30 Mam.”
“Oh my, I only have 2,25. Can I bring 5 cents tomorrow morning?”
“No, I am sorry.”
“But surely, you can help me. It’s only 5 cents. Please?”
Maria thought to herself Who ever gave me a break? Certainly not that jerk who drenched me this morning, and said out loud: “Lady, life’s a bitch…Either you pay or move over.”
Simmering with anger, the woman left the bakery, followed by Maria’s voice: “Next!”
♦♦♦ Part III – Yvonne ♦♦♦
I just can’t believe it. She knows me, I am a regular customer, Yvonne thought to herself, angrily walking to the University. “I need a break. Just five minutes.” she said to her colleague, sitting down behind her immaculately clean desk, logging to Facebook. “Just five minutes of Farmville and I can endure whatever comes my way.”
Loud knock on the door startled her and seconds later a student entered her office, with hands full of books and papers, tripping over her own legs: “I am sorry Mam, but could you tell me where Biology 1 exam is held? It seems I lost my schedule.”
Yvonne looked at the student standing in front of her, her frustration returning in full force: “All the students were emailed the schedule and one copy was posted on the message board down the hall. It is not my job to waste time on stupidity. I mean, seriously…you students think I am here only to answer your questions.”
“Actually, Mam…I think that is precisely your job.”
“Get out. Now.”
The girl stomped out of the office and Yvonne turned to her PC, sadly noticing how her Farmville crops withered. “And I was this close to level up.”
♦♦♦ Part IV – Greta ♦♦♦
I am not going to cry, I am not going to cry, Greta ran down the hall to the message board, frantically searching for the exams schedule, finding the board depressingly empty. She froze in place, not knowing what to do. The halls were empty and she couldn’t even start to guess in which building the exam was held. The University Tower clock struck nine and all her hopes vanished with that last strike. The stone bench offered no comfort, reminding her too much of her mother’s grave she visited that morning. Greta picked up her phone and called one person she knew could make her feel better.
“Hey, baby girl. I thought you had your final exams today.”
“I went to the Administration Office to find out where the exam was held, and it seems the lady had a bad day, so she yelled at me and kicked me out. And there are no schedules on the message board. So I am just sitting here, having no idea what to do.”
“I am so sorry, honey. But don’t worry, everything is going to be ok. We’ll figure it out. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Ok, Dad. Love you.”
“Love you back.”
As she ended the phone call, Greta heard someone calling her name. She looked down the hall and saw her friend Alicia waving at her: “Come on, we are going to be late. The exam starts in 5 minutes.” Greta ran towards her, whispering: “All is not lost.”
♦♦♦ Part V – Stefan ♦♦♦
Her picture was a permanent resident in his wallet, reminder of happier days. Stefan closed the wallet and put it in a glove compartment, started the car and eased down the driveway. It’s been six months and it still hits him like a hammer. Gone. Like a leaf, one moment a green splendor on a tree, the next moment falling, crumbling, vanishing. How Greta was coping with the loss of her mother, he couldn’t even begin to fathom. This was the first time she missed the exam, his little Miss Reliable.
Stefan spotted a double parked car just ahead and pulled behind it. Another day, another ticket. Seems people will never learn, he mused, slipping the ticket under the wiper blade.
“Excuse me, Mr.Officer…” a young raven-haired girl was running towards him. “I was gone for a minute, please…Please, take it back.”
“Mr.Officer?”, he asked her, trying to repress a smirk fighting its way out.
“Oh, I am sorry. Is that a wrong thing to say? Will I get another ticket? Another one I wont be able to pay….since I just got fired. My jerk of a boss asked me out and when I refused…Bang…You’re out. I mean, is that fair? I just moved here, found a roommate, a job, a boyfriend…I was on a roll. And now I am on a different kind of roll – lost a job, got a ticket…”
“Whoa, whoa…take a deep breath. I know only one other person in the world that speaks that fast. And she had a lousy day, too. So, I’ll do what someone else failed to do for my daughter. I’ll give you break. No ticket for you, young lady. But, don’t double-park again. Ok?”
“You are the best!!! I would hug you, but I am afraid you would give me another ticket.” the girl smiled radiantly at him and hopped into the car. As she was driving away, she yelled: “Tell your daughter she has the coolest dad in the world!”
Stefan shook his head and smiled, thinking how he and Greta might have a pizza night. After all, it was one of those days.
♦♦♦ Part VI – Nina ♦♦♦
“It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away…” Nina sang as she entered her apartment. Shoes off, slippers on, grocery bags flying on a kitchen table, she felt light as a feather. Grandma used to tell her that a single act of human kindness could change the course of history. Nina always laughed at grandma’s words, calling her old-fashioned. But today she remembered those words with tenderness, thinking for the first time that maybe Granny was right.
From the corner of her eye Nina spotted a post-it on a fridge: “Hey roommate, I asked my boss and she said you can come over tomorrow for a job interview. xoxo M.”
“Life is good, life is good!” she chanted, swirling around the kitchen table. “Ticket – no, job – yes, boyfriend – maybe?”
Nina picked her phone, hoping she could fix that mess: “Hi, Peter. It’s Nina. Listen…I am sorry about last night, but I got fired yesterday and…Ah, ok… What about tonight? Would you like to go out with me?….You would?…Same time, same place? That’s great…See you!”
Smiling, she stepped out on a balcony, enjoying the last rays of sun. Nearby one lonely butterfly rested on a potted flower, soaking the warmth…First stars blinked on a sky above…and then the butterfly flapped its wings.
How To Survive Alien Invasion
1.) Every invasion starts with the recon mission. They are already here. Look around. It’s not your new weird neighbour. It is probably that old lady from the first floor that is feeding you those nice cupcakes. If you ate the cupcakes…so long sucker. If you resisted, go to step two.
2.) Whatever you do, don’t let the old lady know that you know. Because if she knows that you know then they’ll know and all is lost. If she still doesn’t know that you know, move to step three.
3.) Do not use tin foil hats. I repeat – do not use tin foil hats. It is a less know fact that the firm “Dr. Lauber, Neher & Cie., Emmishofen.” was founded in 1886. by those pesky little bug-sized aliens from Garadian Prime. Tin foil hats do not prevent the mind reading. Garadians just love how silly we look wearing them.
4.) Don’t waste your time and money on a secret hideout full of cans of beans. If they don’t catch you the first day, your farts will probably be a dead give away. Maybe they don’t have a sense of smell or maybe they are deaf. But it can’t be both. No one is that lucky.
5.) If you see a strange hole in the middle of your street, do not go there to check it out. Run. The opposite direction. Preferably not in a streight line on the open field. At least make it a little bit harder for them to evaporate you.
6.) Do not take a selfie while trying to escape the aliens.
7.) Keep calm. Don’t panic. It would be very helpful if you had loved ones conveniently living few thousand miles away. At least that’s how it is in Hollywood Alien Invasions. Go. Save them.
8.) If you come face to face with an actual alien, cough and sneeze in their direction. Then chill out and watch the impending chaos. So long suckers.
9.) You survived the old lady and the first grounders. Now you need to dispose of their mother ship. Piece of cake. You just need to upload the computer virus into their main frame. How, you ask? How would I know that? Watch “Independence Day”. Research people, research.
All the above images were “borrowed” without any permission. If anyone wants to sue me, I must disappoint you. Penniless aspiring writer over here, with no valuable possessions.
Weekly Writing Challenge Genre Blender
There is something in the work of Leanne Cole that speaks to me. I find this strange connection both puzzling and entertaining. Every other Thursday she posts an image, trying to inspire fellow bloggers to write a story, a poem…to search for that hidden muse, lurking in her exceptional photos. This week she added a twist:
“This photo is the end of the story, and you have to write what lead to this.”
So here it is, another of my crazy stories, hope you enjoy it. I even took her post title Quiet Thursday and made it a part of the story.
Copyright – Leanne Cole
Thomas Whitfield was a quiet man. If truth be told, no one really knew him.
In a small town in the middle of nowhere, everyone knew everyone, from the day they came into this world until the moment they became dearly departed. It was not unusual for people to leave, to run off in a hope of a better future. But it was unheard of for a stranger to settle down.
So, when the town’s only train dispatcher, young Ducky Thompson ran of with the postman’s wife, the elder Mrs.Nucklecheck, not only did it provide the locals with a months worth of gossip, but it created quite few problems with the train schedule. The trains were derailed, the routes changed, the whole town was in uproar. It took an entire week until the replacement arrived.
Mr. Whitfield came to Pipe Falls on a quiet Sunday morning, with two bags and a little corgi named Thatcher. He settled in quickly, being one of those friendly, but not overbearing folks. The locals observed his daily routine… early morning walks with Thatcher, quick lunch at noon, afternoon drink at Mrs.Woodward’s tavern, bike rides before the night settled in. Thatcher was a star in her own right, following her human companion on their everyday business, making friends with kids and other dogs, wagging her tail and her funny ears at anyone who would look her way. Yes, Mr.Whitfield and Thatcher became town’s favorites very quickly.
There were talks. He was a widower. No, he never married. No, his wife left him. No, he left her. There were no children. No, he left his child with his parents. No, his wife took his son when she ran away. The truth was, no one knew the truth. At first, the mystery peaked their interest. But as with all things, with time they gave up.
Months passed by and the town settled into its own quiet day by day existence. The rummers reached Pipe Falls of Mrs.Nucklecheck leaving young Ducky for some Polish Count, which left the poor fellow quite heartbroken. The news gave no solace to Mr.Nucklecheck, who concentrated on training his son Edgar for a postman job, trying to forget his wife with whom he shared a bedroom for 24 years.
No one thought it curious when Mr.Nucklecheck and Mr. Whitfield started spending time together. After all, they were of the same age, both without wives, with many things in common. They would spend afternoons at Mrs.Woodward’s tavern, talking about the weather, sports, cars…the usual stuff. Sometimes the old widow would join them, sharing funny stories about late Mr.Woodward. After awhile, Mr.Nucklecheck and Mr.Whitfield started to share their evening meal in the Nucklecheck residence, often accompanied by young Edgar, who would listen with eyes wide open the stories about big cities and far away lands that Mr.Whitfield shared with the Nucklechecks. It was a pleasant time they spent together and throughout the winter, Mr.Nucklecheck felt his resentment and bitterness over his wife’s betrayal disappearing slowly.
When the spring finally arrived at Pipe Falls, it was like someone lifted a curtain after a long, dark winter. Everything came to life. Flowers bloomed, birds resumed their singing competitions, colors sneaked back into the nature and people’s clothes. There were talks of a circus coming into town after 20 years, as a part of their annual spring fair. Mr.Nucklecheck planned his early retirement, with young Edgar more than ready to take over his postman duties.
It was a quiet Thursday morning when Mr.Nucklecheck set down at the dinning table, newspapers and glasses awaiting for him. He thought to himself how kind his son is, leaving a steaming cup of coffee and a fresh crumpet for his old father. “I raised him well.” he murmured to himself. That’s when he noticed a letter. Puzzled by the discovery, he took the paper in his hand and read it.
I am sorry to leave like this, but I knew you would try to stop me. Thomas and I are in love, and nothing and no one will come between us.
With his heart clamped in an invisible grip, sharp pain traveling from his hand to his chest, Mr.Nucklecheck’s last thought was: “Damn, we’ll need both a new postman and a new train dispatcher.”
What Lies Beneath
A fellow blogger Adam Ickes posted a challenge on his blog. It seems it is an ongoing challenge, but I just stumbled upon it. The idea is to write anywhere from one to ten six word stories, using all, one or none prompt words by Adam. His latest words are:
Six words story? Really? I must admit I was a little bit baffled. Can I do that? Well, since I am a sucker for challenges, I had to try. So, I looked at his six prompt words and this jumped at me:
The darkness embraced my sinking car.
Who knows, it might be a start of an interesting tale. Now, don’t let me high, don’t let me dry…go over to Adam’s blog and try it yourself.
I will never admit I watch The Vampire Diaries. I just like this song. And it has a scene with a sinking car. That’s all. Really.
The Great Escape
Today’s Daily Prompt is Fictional Intruder: “Go down the rabbit hole with Alice; play quidditch with Harry Potter; float down the river with Huck Finn… If you could choose three fictional events or adventures to experience yourself, what would they be?”
I took a slightly different approach and instead of picking up three fictional events, I picked up three fictional characters and went on an adventure with them.
“Hey, you!”, I hear a strange voice calling behind me. If you knew me, you would know I don’t turn around when men yell after me, whistle or try any other lame approach to get my attention. You simply don’t do that. Not if you know me.
“Hey lady, I am talking to you. Don’t pretend you didn’t hear me.” So, we have a combination of brave and stupid here. If I am honest, not one of my favorites. Stupid people give me no thrill, they rank below bugs on my radar, something squishy that stucks to the soles of my shoes. On the other hand, bugs I like.
“Psssst, psssst, lady…please, can you help us?” I give up and turn around. There’s no one there. I start to turn back, when a movement behind the dumpster catches my attention.
I am not worried, for my looks can be deceiving. And if things turn for the worse, I bet no one suspects me carrying a sword stick. This old cane is my prized possession, ever since sensei gave it to me 73 years ago.
“Ok, you have my attention, so will you be so kind and show yourself to me?”, I call out.
Now, I am not easily surprised, considering where and when I’ve been so far. But I was not expecting to see Batman, Rapunzel and Pipi Longstocking. And I was certainly not expecting them to be half my size. They stand before me, like the little merry band of kids in their favorite Halloween costumes.
“Are you real?”, is all I can choke out in utter amazement.
“Of course we are real, what do you think, early dementia hit you and you are hallucinating?”, Pipi Longstocking spat out. “We need your help, old bat.”
Batman looking a little bit offended, says: “Come on now, no need to call names. Bats are underrated as it is.”
Rapunzel rolls her eyes and sighs: “You two are at each others throats since we fallen out of the box. Can you please stop? I swear I am this-close to strangling you both.”
“Oy, oy…kids. Enough. If you want this old bat’s help, zip it. I’ll ask questions and I want to hear one answer at the time. Got it?”, I tower over them, using my best grandma voice. They just look up at me and nod.
“Ok, where the hell did you come from? And what do you mean you fell out of the box? And how come you three are together?”
“Not to be a smart-ass, but you just asked three questions.”, Rapunzel says with a little smirk, that I want to erase so bad. “Now, listen to me, you little…”
“No, no, she was just kidding. Let me explain.” Batman interjects quickly, moving to stand between us. I nod, keeping one eye on the little brat. “First of all, you know how we are supposed to be only in books, comics and movies? Well actually, that is not entirely true. There is this other dimension, you know, like a fantasy land and we are all stuck in there. Me, Superman, Spidey, those awful Avengers, these chicks, and don’t let me start on those seven dwarfs. Gandalf and his crew act like some kind of lords, treating us like we don’t have superpowers…Ok, I don’t. But my gadgets are cool, too. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ran with these two in our latest elections for the Parliament, but there was some kind of wishy-washy with our financial reports, so we had to lay low for a while.”
“Wait, wait. You have a Parliament?”
“Seriously, of all the things I just said you picked on that? Yes, we have a Parliament, we thought it was a good idea. Actually, Shrek was the one pushing all that stuff, he is way into politics. Like he had a chance. First green Prime President, come on.”, Batman sardonically says, picking up some glitter from his cape. “As I was saying, we had to lay low, but that bloody traitor Harry Potter was on our trail. Imagine that, “The boy who lived” was not enough, he just had to become the most successful head hunter in the realm. He was closing on us and we had no way out, when all of a sudden I spotted Tardis. We jumped in, but of course that bastard of a doctor wouldn’t have anything with us, so he kicked us out. It seems we hit some kind of a space-time continuum distortion and lo and behold, ended up here.”
“So, you were running for the Prime President of the Fantasy Realm? Really?”
“That’s enough. I can’t stand this anymore.”, Pipi Longstocking shouts, throwing her hands in the air. “It’s not enough that he just called us chicks, the idea of him being the Prime President…Come on, if anyone had any chance, it was me. Rapunzel here was No.02 on my ticket and he was our campaign manager. No wonder our finances were wishy-washy. What was I thinking?”
“Now, now…I am equally to blame, it looked like a great idea at the time. Who knew he was such a looser?”, Rapunzel says, putting her arm around Pipi’s shoulders.
“I can hear you, just so you know. And I thought I would return money in time.”
I look at them and can’t help but smile at the plan that is forming in the back of my mind. “Come on, kids, no point in arguing. You, remove that silly bat mask and that glittery cape. Girls, you need to fix your hair, one goes up, one goes down. Chop, chop, we got to move, tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
“Where are we going?”
“I am hungry.”
“Why don’t my gadgets work around here?”
“Do you think Potter will follow us?
“Why is so dark here?”
“Oh, I see some kind of a billboard.”
“What does it say?”
“Barnum and Bailey Circus.”
“Hey lady, is that some kind of a hotel?”
“Yes, indeed. Come on kids, just follow me. Dinner is about to be served and we’ll find you some place to rest.”
“You know, for an old bat, you are not that bad.”
“Pipi, don’t start again…”
“What? I’m just saying. She is ok. Oh, look at that bearded lady! That’s hilarious!!!”
They run past me into a tent and I think of all the coins they will get me.
There’s a sucker born every minute.