Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sunday Stories - Child of Fire (Part IV)

       Merry Christmas, everyone. Hope it's been wonderful. Here's the fourth part of the Child of Fire. As always, you can find the links below or under the stories tab. Enjoy.

Child of Fire - Part IV

     “We have rules for a reason!” Reverend Carter’s voice echoed ripe with passion. “What are we to do upon seeing the sins of those around us? Perhaps we should ask Caroline Miller.” From the pulpit, Reverend Carter’s eyes bore into Mrs. Williams’ soul. “For those who don’t know, little Caroline cursed at her mother, then attempted to hide outside of town. WE HAVE RULES FOR A REASON!”
The Reverend’s knuckles whitened on the edges of the pulpit. “In accordance with his mother’s wishes, I assure you that we have taken a humane approach to her punishment. Let it be known, however, that iniquities will be punished.

Rob’s eyes fixated on the floorboards. He didn’t know the punishments, and he certainly didn’t want to find out. He would have to be more careful if he wanted to keep visiting her.
Nearly two weeks passed before she sang again, though her chilling song played endlessly in his dreams. The strained notes arrived early, and Rob sat next to the windowsill, determined to hear every note. The disappearance of the Miller girl anchored him in his room, but her voice proved stronger than the looming punishment. After all, hadn’t he visited her before and returned? She had warned him, too, however. His feet were moving before his mind could halt them. A quick flip of the lock on his bedroom door, and he slipped through the window and into the woods.

By the time Rob straddled the uppermost branches of the tree, crimson and yellow stains all but hid the color of his skin. She hovered below the same branch, wavering from side to side, almost floating in the wind.
“You should listen to their rules.” Rob studied her lips, but they showed no signs of movement.
“I don’t like their rules.”
“I didn’t either.”
“Do you ever leave?” Rob asked hesitantly. For five minutes she didn’t respond. For five minutes, she rocked gracefully from side to side. For five minutes, Rob worried she was dead.
“No.” Rob’s face flushed with a mixture of relief and heartbreak.
“I can help you,” he spoke loudly, though it only heightened the desperation in his voice.
“Let me help you,” he pleaded, his eyes moistening.
“I’ll come back for you,” his voice found strength and cemented his resolve. He didn’t have a choice. Before she could respond, he was dropping from limb to limb, spike to spike, until his bloodied feet landed sharply against the ground.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Stories - Child of Fire (Part III)

Here's the third part. It's short, but I hope you enjoy it. Next week's gets fun, so catch up now.

Feel free to read the first two parts as well.
The links are here:

Child of Fire - Part I
Child of Fire - Part II

Child of Fire - Part III

     As he lit the frankincense on his desk, Rob heard the distinctive ring of his father’s Jack Daniels shattering on the ground. Rob quickly spread his Bible, prayer book and notes across the floor before sitting down and pretending he’d been reading since they got home.
            “Rob,” his father’s fist struck the door before pulling the door open. “I’m going to the store. Do your work while I’m gone.”
            “Yes, sir.”
            “Don't you leave the house.”
            “Yes, sir.”
            His father disappeared from the door and the house was quiet again, except for the occasional shuffle of his mother’s feet from the living room. Rob closed his Bible and sat on his bed. By the time his father returned he would be too drunk to remember coming home. As long as Rob was sitting with his Bible, his father wouldn’t complain and he might even escape without being switched. Until then he could open his window and listen for her.

           She didn't sing tonight. Instead of the hushed helplessness that echoed through her voice, his father's harsh baritone pierced the silence that had enveloped their home. 
            “They just caught that Miller girl,” Rob’s father spoke as he barreled through the front door. “Wasn’t at church. Found her hiding outside town.” Rob listened as his father rambled, caught up in his own excitement. “I always knew that girl was trouble. Only a matter of time until she got caught.”
            “Got what was coming to her,” his mother added. Rob didn’t remember standing up, but realized his ear was actually pressed to his closed bedroom door. He couldn't help but think how easily it could be him instead.
            “Rob still in his room?”
            “Been working since you left.”
            Rob’s father didn’t respond, but his boots thudded toward Rob’s room, inconsistent in their rhythm and volume. Rob jumped to the floor and opened his Bible, burying his face in his hands.
            “Night,” his father slurred from outside his door. “Do your work,” he said giving the door a quick jab as if wishing it a rough good night as well. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Stories - Child of Fire (Part II)

Here's part two of the Child of Fire story. Hope you enjoy it!

Child of Fire - Part II

     An uneasy stagnancy enveloped the forest as Rob pressed onward. At times her voice seemed to emanate from all directions, which he assumed meant he was close. The dew on the ground had discolored his boots and his feet were beginning to grow cold.  As he followed her voice through the woods, the trees evaporated in front of him, opening into a small teardrop shaped field, a sixty-foot tall magnolia as its centerpiece.
            The magnolia seemed to glitter as Rob approached, the moonlight reflecting off of nails, spikes and chains which decorated the tree. Running his hand across the gnarled and cracked bark, Rob realized that sap oozed from its punctures. Rob ground his hand into the right leg of his jeans, and though the sap came off surprisingly well, it left his hand stained a violent combination of crimson and yellow.
            “Come,” her voice descended from above him. Rob started at the soft severity of her voice, as if she were attempting to speak while hands squeezed the oxygen from her lungs. As he examined the tree Rob hesitated. There was no easy route up the trunk. Between the metal and wire he would be lucky to reach the top without injuring himself. Even if he reached her, the sap would stain his skin and his parents would know he had left.
            “Come,” she repeated and Rob wrapped his fingers around the largest spike he could find. Rob couldn’t see the top, but he couldn’t leave either. 
           "Come." Hoisting himself upward, he carefully avoided the broken limbs and climbed skyward.
            As Rob pulled his way higher, the limbs became smaller and wobbled side to side, making the climb increasingly difficult. Rob straddled the last branch large enough to support his weight. Though he was worn out and panting, Rob hushed his breath, not wanting to miss her voice.
            “Come.” Her voice came from behind him and to the right.
            “I’m here.” He was sure he had spoken loudly, but the words emerged no more than a whisper.
            The moonlight grayed her as she floated underneath one of the branches, but Rob thought she would’ve been the same even if the sun came.
            “Are you a ghost?” Rob asked as he examined the loose, pale skin that sagged from her bones.
            “No,” she whispered,
            “Why are you here?”
            “They put me here.” Her mouth didn’t move, but her response was clear.
            “I’m sorry,” Rob lowered his voice to match hers, and his eyes followed suit, widening when the saw the stains covering his skin and clothes.
            “You should’ve followed their rules. You’ll end up here with me if you don’t,” though quiet, her voice carried an unmistakable urgency.
            “I’d like that.”

            As the moon labored down the dotted sky, the two sat in strained silence. For as gray as the rest of her was, her eyes remained blue, unmoving but vibrant.
            “You should go,” she said as the first rays of the rising sun scattered through the limbs.
            “I’ll come back,” Rob said as he swung his leg over the branch. Going down proved more difficult than climbing up, however, and he didn’t reach the ground until the sun was fully visible over the horizon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Stories - Child of Fire (Part I)

     Now that Elizabeth is over, a new story begins. This one has a very different feel than Elizabeth, but they have some interesting similarities if you know where to look. Hopefully you will enjoy the story, and as always  I will link it underneath the stories tab. The new story is called Child of Fire. Here's the first part:

Child of Fire

        Rob’s room reeked of frankincense and shame, though sometimes he forgot which caused the stabbing pains in his head and which cured them. He slept with the sliding window open, letting the heavy Mississippi moonlight wash over him as it corralled the stagnant, smoke-stained air away toward the trees. As the heavy pounding of his father’s boots drew closer to his room, Rob clinched his eyelids and pulled the comforter under his chin.
            Rob curled into a ball as the door thudded to a stop, his father’s forceful hand throwing it sharply against the wall.
            “Night,” his father grunted. “And do your work.” The harsh sounds might have made him cringe, but the smell of his father’s breath made him writhe.
            Rob’s arm burned as his father’s fingers released it. Hearing the door click shut behind him, he pulled the covers under his arms. In retrospect the encounter had been rather painless. Rob couldn’t hear his father’s steps despite straining his ears, but he didn’t dare move. His parents might be asleep, but he needed everyone else to join them.

            The open window ushered in the oversweet smell of the blossoming magnolia in the front yard. As Rob lay on his back, he waited for her voice to enter with it. She might be quiet now, but her stifled screams would slither to his ear before long, and he would be out the door when they arrived.
            His heart kicked the inside of his ribcage in anticipation. He couldn’t wait anymore. Reaching underneath his bed, Rob pulled out his jeans and jacket, putting on both simultaneously. He could hear her voice starting to float in from outside, urging him out of the house. Grabbing his boots by the laces, Rob shuffled to the door, his socked feet hardly making a sound as they whisked across the floor.
            The mid-May air fluttered across his face as he crept outside, the cool air pricking softly at the corners of his eyes. The stagnant haze of the forest lingered only a hundred yards away, but several houses stood between him and the refuge of the trees. Rob’s fingers whirled as he knotted his shoestrings before darting behind the gnarled magnolia that stood crooked in their front yard. The tendons jutted from the back of his hand as he peered around the corner of the tree. The next house cast a shadow that bled away toward the woods. Thirty hurried strides carried him to the corner of the house, and ducking below the window, which he knew looked out from the Reverend Carter’s master bedroom, he bolted for the trees, only stopping when thoughts of her voice suffocated the soft noises from the houses behind him.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Stories - Elizabeth (Part VII)

Another busy week, but here's the final part of the Elizabeth story. Hope you enjoy it. Next week begins a new story. Can't wait. If you need to catch up, just click on the stories link at the top of the page. Happy reading. 

She had hardly opened her eyes in three days. He hadn’t closed his. Even the sharp sounds of the hospital equipment began to drone like a lullaby. The wait was difficult, but Will thought the sterile hospital lighting was the worst. The overbright rays illuminated everything in the room except his mother’s hollow face. He had already lost a sister. Losing his mother would break him.
She woke while he slept. She liked it that way. When the nurse entered the room, their soft murmurs caused him to stir in his chair. They were only a couple hundred miles from California, but with no car, she didn’t know how they were going to make the trip.
Will gave her his forearm for balance as they walked through the parking lot. The pavement blistered under the afternoon sun, and the heat made his mother lightheaded. What money they had, they needed for starting a life in California, and there was none to spare for a new car.

It took eleven days and three drivers before they made it to Palo Alto. The stucco buildings jutted out of the ground like oversized boulders. Every inch of grass seemed precision cut.
            “Do you know where to go?” Will asked as he examined the labyrinth of off-red roofs surrounding them.
            “No,” she responded, overwhelmed by the gravity of the campus.
            “Excuse me,” Will flashed his hand in front of a young man who looked to be a few years older.
            “Yeah?” the boy pulled out one of his earphones.
            “Do you know where I could find a list of people who go to school here?”
            “Uh, yeah. You could try the registrar’s office” the boy replied with a quizzical glance.
            “Where’s that?”
            “It’s the tall building just past the intersection two lights up. With the big windows.”
            “Thanks,” Will added, his feet whisking him away faster than he could end the conversation. The building was two blocks away, but Will and Laura couldn’t decide if they wanted to enter. Their hopes could be validated or nullified in minutes, and neither was optimistic.
            The sun was already sliding down the sky, and grabbing the door handle, Will was pleased to find it still unlocked. The tile floor squeaked under his sandaled feet as he approached a woman sitting behind the desk inside the doorway.
            “Excuse me,” Laura glanced at the woman’s nametag. “Miss Tanner?”
            “I was hoping you might have some information about a girl who goes here?”
            “What’s the name?” the woman asked, her fingers darting across the keyboard for a moment before looking up again.
            “Elizabeth Campbell.”
            “From New York or from Washington?”
            “Neither,” Laura’s voice dropped as her chest deflated like an untied balloon. “What about Elizabeth Akers? Do you have anyone by that name?”
            “No. We don’t have anyone here by that name.” Laura’s hand gripped her son’s wrist tightly as Miss Tanner spoke. Her single thread connecting her with her daughter unraveled with one question. The last tie to her own daughter disintegrated.
            “We’ll keep looking,” Will added as they walked back to the car. “She may not be at Stanford, but we knew that. She couldn’t pay, but she’s probably nearby. We’ll find her.” The last remaining traces of daylight were creeping toward the horizon as they walked down the street.
            “We’ll find a hotel and then look for a new place tomorrow,” Laura suggested. She could see a motel a few blocks away and started walking toward it. Brakes squealed as a green GMC truck nearly clipped them as they crossed the street. She turned and yelled as the truck sped past. “Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to drive,” she turned back toward the motel and continued to walk.