If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’ll know that I’ve been keeping up with publishing one book per month. Feel free to check out the previous blog posts announcing the new releases. But now, it’s time for our quarterly “Storytime Bloghop” again. Read free flash stories from me and 9 other participants. I hope you’ll like mine even though it’s somewhat longer this time, and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The Guardian of the Sandsnake’s Temple
There was once a land of sand, and sand, and sand, and sand, and sand.
Gaspard stood at the entrance to the sand-goddess’ temple, the five fingers of his right hand clutched around a javelin, and his two bare feet firmly planted into the sand. Watching out for pilgrims, he was not expecting anyone. The bones of last person to make his way through the endless sea of sand were long ground to dust by the endless wind. According to the goddess, he had been a bad man, hurting his wife and nearly killing his child on his quest for gold.
As if gold held any value. Gaspard’s biggest dream was of meeting someone—anyone—at least once in his life, but chances were slim. He wondered about the guardian before him. Had she ever seen a world with more colors than brown, beige, white, and blue, and shades thereof? Had she died? Or had she fled her duties?
He imagined what it must be like to finally meet creatures like the ones from the books the goddess gave him for his education. The long-horned antelopes with their slender necks and the three long fingered hands from Quasrom fascinated him, as did the flying whales from Whattler III or the feathered dinosaurs from Permia.
The sound of the Final Klaxon ripped him from his daydreams.
A group of Praying Mules lifted their spiked front hoofs in prayer on the top of the final hill where the klaxon was magically fixed to a pillar of sand. The long ears with the soft fur fell back from their raised faces with the long snouts. Their soft furred, upright bodies radiated health.
Gaspard’s jaw dropped. Even in his books, Qumrands had only been mentioned as a rumor. The fur on their cheeks and snouts glowed nearly white in the glaring sunlight, a sign that they were high caste—if Gaspard’s books had it right.
After a few moments, four of the Praying Mules bent down and picked up something white and dome shaped they’d obviously set down before. The fifth took the lead. All of them were dressed in rags, barely covering their loins, but the many waterskins hanging around their bodies told Gaspard they’d come well prepared.
He watched with awe, as the group clomped the last few hundred yards of desert landscape toward the base of the enormous cliff of prehistoric sand that held the temple’s entrance.
The white, dome-like structure they carried turned out to be a stretcher covered with once white fabric. They were chanting the ancient songs, melodies Gaspard had never heard sung by anyone but himself.
The mules were approaching fast, and arrived just as Gaspard remembered his duty.
“Halt, in the name of the goddess!” He lowered his javelin and pointed the iron tip at the first mule’s muscular, furred chest. “State your business.”
For a few heartbeats, no one spoke, and Gaspard wondered if he could really stop five determined Praying Mules.
“We have come to bargain with the goddess”, the leading Mule said.
Before Gaspard could say anything, a Sandsnake as big as the leading Mule rose beside him. Her obsidian scales hissed gently as sand ran down her body. Gaspard had to force himself not to flinch. It had been a while since the goddess had appeared in her favorite form.
“I have been waiting for you for so long, Gardella,” she said in her warm, lilting alto. “Have you never considered what your absence must mean to him?”
The white fabric of the dome was pushed aside by a five fingered hand the color of wet sand, revealing a person with fur-free skin, a slender body, and long, black and white hair. Where the mules’ eyes looked mostly sideways, her eyes faced front, and there was a clear distinction between her nose and mouth. Gaspard saw a similar face in the mirror every morning.
He struggled not to stare at the human woman. His heart raced and for reasons unknown he was very afraid all of a sudden. He slipped closer to the Sandsnake’s warm body and the tip of her tail began to caress his back in a way that must be invisible from where the group stood. Gaspard was grateful and slightly comforted.
“I meant to come back earlier,” the woman called Gardella said. “But I fell ill. And once I’d recovered, Mission Command wouldn’t let me leave. They sent me to another quadrant altogether, claiming I’d gone mad for the loss of husband and child. And when I quit, they made it really hard for me to travel. If it hadn’t been for these wonderful people,” she pointed to the Praying Mules, “I’d never have made it back. I’m sorry, Zulussa.”
The great snake trembled. Was she crying? Gaspard’s throat went dry. What did that mean?
“He’s mine now. I raised him. I slowed time for him so he would heal and live.” The goddess’ voice shook. “I’ll fight for him.”
Gardella swung her feet from the stretcher and hobbled forward. One of her legs was twisted and gnarled like one kind of fossil in the temple’s sand. “I did not come to steal your child.” She smiled, but her gaze was sad. “My child.”
As she blinked away some tears, Gaspard’s world crumbled as if the ground under his feet had vanished.
“I have not been much of a mother to you, Gaspard. I never got the chance.” Her gaze met his, and her love washed over him just like Zulussa’s that he’d always taken for granted. “But I’ve come to give you the freedom to travel the world. The Praying Mules owe me much. They will do anything for you and show you everything.” She turned to the goddess. “And I will stay here with you, Zulussa. You will never be alone for as long as I live. Plus, I’ve got tons of new stories to tell.”
The Sandsnake shifted her form, and a rotund woman with beige hair and obsidian skin flung her arms around Gardella. “I missed you so, my love.”
And all of a sudden, all the tiny pieces of the puzzle made sense to Gaspard. The nameless man, whose bones were flying with the wind, the goddess who had been his mother, and his absent mother. His heart went out to the two women who were his family. Yes, he would travel with the Mules. He would spread the word about a forgotten temple in the sand, and upon his return, loneliness would be a thing of the past for all of them.
If you liked the story or want to comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
New Release plus Storytime Bloghop April (free fiction)
I’ve done it, I’ve published the first short story collection of the six I’ve planned for this year. This one is all about portals. If you like the idea of stepping into another world through a door or something similar, you might like this little collection.
Below the information about the release, you’ll also find a free flash fiction story about a pretty confused old lady that I wrote for the Storytime Bloghop. I hope you’ll like it. But the release first:
Doors are useful. Close them to keep people out. Open them to let someone in. Or step through … into another world.
His music condemns a young musician to death on a pyre.
Katlani’s plans of revenge crumble around her when her goddess interferes.
To save her father, a young woman must face the danger of doors that take her anywhere.
A disabled phoenix must rekindle his flames or die forever.
To save herself and those she loves from death for being different, a young woman must find the City of Many Worlds.
A bereaved tyrant faces loneliness if he doesn’t atone for his actions.
In these six portal stories, Katharina shows people at a crossroads. Their actions lead them to a literal or fictional door where they’re faced with an impossible choice.
But now to the free flash story I promised you. We hold the Storytime Bloghop quarterly, and all stories are free. I hope you’ll like mine, and as always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
The day faded and night fell. With the moon absent, it was so dark in the house, Jane couldn’t see where she was. All she had was a sense of space and age. Dust motes hung in the air, she could smell them more than see them.
The whole world seemed like that, slightly off. When she tried to look out of one of the windows, the curtains wouldn’t budge until she used all her strength. And when she went to the kitchen to fry some eggs, the sink under the window contained different dishes every time. As if someone put them there when she didn’t look.
Was there a ghost in the house? She remembered her gran—ages ago when Jane was still young—telling her stories in hushed tones about the young, handsome laird who’d been killed in this house and who’d come back to haunt it.
Jane shook her head. There were no ghosts. And if she was wrong and and the laird did exist, she would have noticed him by now, wouldn’t she? After all, she’d lived here for sixty five years; ever since her marriage.
She made her way to the living room by touch. One of those big, modern TVs hung at the wall. She didn’t remember buying it, but since it was there, she might as well use it. The living room smelled of stale beer, and she wrinkled her nose. Was someone trying to annoy her? But who?
She had no lodgers, even though Katie had often suggested she’d get some. Maybe her daughter was right. After all, the house was rather big for a single person.
But she didn’t feel ready to give up the life she’d known for so many years. The memory of Todd’s death still brought tears to her eyes. The clingy wetness tasted of salt and reminded her of the many times they’d taken their daughter to the sea. Those were the days … She sighed and there was a good portion of longing in the sound.
If only her day-night-rhythm would improve. The pills she was using didn’t seem to help. She still fell asleep at sunrise and lost most of the day to weird dreams before waking at nightfall. If she could reverse that, she wouldn’t depend on Katie so much.
Poor child. She walked to the fireplace and looked at Katie’s graduation photo. How the child had grown. Jane frowned. She really had to talk to the cleaning lady. She didn’t pay her for cobwebs and layers of dust.
The old-fashioned grandfather clock from the hall chimed melodically. Jane loved the clock. It had been a wedding present from her parents. She counted the beats automatically.
Nine, ten, eleven … twelve. Midday! A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Todd would come home any minute now. She had to prepare his lunch.
With a spring in her step, she hurried into the kitchen—was it winter already? It was so dark—grabbed a pan, a bottle of oil, and eggs, set everything on the table, and turned on the gas.
Someone gasped audibly.
“See, I told you.” Even though the person was whispering, Jane knew the voice.
She put her arms akimbo. “Katie Joanna Lou Hawkins. Come out wherever you’re hiding. That is not polite, and it might scare your father to death. You know how bad his heart has been lately.”
Katie stood up on the other side of the kitchen table, barely illuminated by what little light from the streetlamp in front of the house the curtains admitted. A slender youth that looked just like Todd when he was still young clung to her arm, and a dark haired young woman was half hiding behind her.
Jane frowned. There were streaks of gray in her daughter’s brown curls. But … but … she’d only graduated from university a few weeks ago, hadn’t she? And who were those teenagers?
“Mom?” Katie’s eyes were bigger than Jane had ever seen them.
Her poor baby. Still as afraid as a rabbit. “Oh, hon. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She smiled reassuringly and opened her arms wide for a hug.
“But you’re…” Katie and the teenagers took a step back. All three grew very pale when Jane followed. Their gazes clung to Jane’s midriff. Jane looked down, and paled too. She was standing right in the middle of the kitchen table. How did she do that?
But she knew.
Everything came crashing back. The short, sharp pain in her chest, Katie’s and her grandchildren’s crying, the overbearing scent of white lilies, and the fact that she’d been standing beside her body, watching the mourners carry it away after the wake.
Heavy boots clonked on the stone floor of the small rear hallway. Katie and the teenagers grew even paler and moved out of the way of the door. It swung open with vigor Jane knew only too well.
“Darling!” Todd opened his arms wide. He was so strong, his shoulders so wide, and the scent of tobacco and leather so intense, she nearly cried for joy. And his voice … his voice still made happy little shivers dance down her spine. “I’ve been looking for you ever since you died.”
“I think, I was a little lost,” Jane said and threw herself into his arms. Gone were the years, the gaps in her memory, and the pounds she’d gained throughout life. She felt young again.
She never heard the grandfather clock strike one.
If you liked the story or would comment with anything else that’s on your mind, feel free to do so. I’ll answer as soon as I can. Meanwhile read the stories of the other participants:
It’s time for the Storytime Blog Hop again already. Why does it always surprise me so? This time I’m quite unprepared what with my grandson’s birthday and so on. We’ve had several small parties (with his father, with his great-grandparents, with his friends) and now he thinks he’s gong to get presents forever. I’m seeing a big disappointment in his future. 😀 But now we’ll get to the reason you’re here: my story for the blog hop. It’s a mini fairy tale retelling. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
I woke up in a different place and heard people whisper outside my window, just as I had planned. The one thing I hadn’t expected was the fact that I didn’t understand a word of what was said. How could that happen? Had I done something wrong? I looked at the ring on the low table beside the cushiony something that should have been my bed – bed as in “the bed I had slept in for years before dad got himself caught by my Beast.”
No, I wouldn’t think of him. I got up and dressed. Luckily, some of my nicest clothes had come along with the ring. I put it back on my finger. One day was all he had agreed to, so I’d better make the best of it. I opened the shutters in front of the window and sunlight fell in. It was my room and it wasn’t at the same time. Pictures painted on paper as thin and smooth as the thinnest leather I had ever seen hung on the wall. They showed demons with spiked, colorful hair and metal studs all over their faces. Still, below all that, they did look vaguely human.
Like Beast – if it would be possible to remove the ugly and scary bits. I turned and looked out the window. Two kids sat in the grass dressed like the demons in the strange paintings. Hardly older than my sisters when I left them, they were trying to eat each other mumbling gobbledegook. I watched them a while until I realized they were kissing, not eating. Blushing, I closed the shutters silently. I tiptoed out of my room and down the stairs. A real painting hung at the wall half way down. I stopped in amazement. It was my face staring at me. A black veil surrounded my head like a sad halo, and words in my father’s familiar hand sagged along the bottom. I bent down to read.
In memoriam of a daughter who did more than her duty for her guilty father.
A giant fist squeezed my heart.
“You like it?” A boy, surely no more than six or seven, grinned at me from the bottom of the stairs. I’d never seen him, but he spoke my language. He wore short, blue pants and nothing else and dripped water all over the floor. Where did he come from? My gaze went past him. How much this part of my home had changed! The floor was no longer stamped earth and cobbles as it used to be. Shiny wooden floorboards, soft carpets and comfortable looking furniture made my home resemble that of the ugly love I had left behind.
“Hello-o… Do you like it?” The boy climbed the stairs.
I nodded, meaning the house, not the picture but he obviously misunderstood.
“It’s my great-great-great-and some-grandaunt Belle. She was eaten by a monster, and no one has ever found her corpse. Maybe it ate all of her, hair and bones and all.” His eyes sparkled with excitement.
He could have hit me with a hammer and I wouldn’t have felt worse. Great-great-great-and some-grandaunt? What had happened? Where had all the time gone? Beast must be frantic. Then, it dawned on me. Beast would be dead after all this time.
“Say,” the boy had reached the step below me. “You look awfully like her.”
I stared at the ring. Would it be strong enough to take me back to my time? Without a word, I fled up the stairs toward the bedroom that had once been mine. I had to go to sleep. I had to!
After locking the door to keep out the boy, I slammed the ring on the nightstand and flopped on the soft bed. A single beam of light fell through the shutters onto my face. I tried hard, but sleep wouldn’t come. The sunlight was my greatest enemy.
This year hasn’t been good to me. I’ve been out with an illness that was supposed to be a minor nuisance but turned into nearly half a year of convalescence. I did finish “High School Dragons 3: Crowned by Fire” (more on that later) and just got it back from the editor. Getting it published asap is my highest priority. At the same time preparations for the Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar are underway (this year’s theme: dragons!), as well as the preparation of my NaNo novel. You see, I’m very, very busy.
That doesn’t stop me from participating in the Storytime Blog Hop again. This episode will also be featured in one of the two Halloween episodes of the “Alone in a Room With Invisible People” Podcast (FB page is here). Check it out, it’s awesome. So without further ado, my whimsical story for the hop. I hope you’ll like it. As always, remember to visit the other participants (list below the story).
Edda’s Second Chance
Edda didn’t want to leave the afterlife to become an invisible friend. Not even the reward, a day of being human again, excited her. She only agreed after securing another boon.
As a slave, sex toy, and food tester for a rich Roman, she hadn’t enjoyed life. Her only fond memory was of his face, as he realized she’d poisoned the wine.
Grinning at the memory, Edda slipped into a little girl’s room. Only in second grade, Suzie already was victim to severe bullying. Edda wondered how she might help.
It turned out to be easy. Suzie was still young enough to believe in her. So Edda scouted routes, kept Suzie away from the two bullies, and encouraged her to learn Judo, which did wonders for Suzie’s self-esteem.
Halloween rolled around.
Since Edda didn’t feel like having a day off, she and Suzie devised a plan. In human form, Edda hid behind trees and followed Suzie as she and her best friend collected sweets. As expected, the bullies showed up soon.
Edda jumped out of her hiding place, grabbed the boys’ bags, knocked them over hard, and pretended to attack Suzie. As discussed, Suzie grabbed her lapels, and threw her over her shoulder. Edda dropped the bags and fled. Suzie handed the boys their bags.
After that, they protected her, and Edda was assigned a new case.
James father came home drunk every night, and James prayed half the day that he’d be too tired to hit his mom. But that hardly ever happened. Edda did her best to hide the three year old, but James’ mother’s screams found him everywhere. Every night, the boy fell asleep crying, no matter what Edda tried.
One day, she hid him in the garage under the car, and James climbed into the motor compartment. Something ripped and squirted oil, so she convinced James to hide someplace else.
The next day, his father had a car accident which kept him in the hospital for months. Unfortunately that saved his life because the doctors discovered a heart problem.
During his absence, James bloomed, making friends and even laughing. His mother, too, looked healthier and happier—until the day her husband returned and the beating commenced.
A decision grew in Edda’s heart. She could barely wait for Halloween. Rising early, she hugged James and told him to hide in the garden shed at nightfall. He complied. Then, she called in her second boon.
When the moon rose, she turned into the Grim Reaper—scythe and all—and knocked at the door of James’ home.
The father opened. Already drunk, he swore and staggered. “No party here.” He lifted his meaty fist to slam it into her face. With a laugh, she lifted her head so he could look under her hood into the non-existent face.
He paled, gurgled, and clutched his chest. With his family hiding, there would be no help. Edda walked away smiling.
Maybe being an invisible friend wasn’t too bad after all.
Sometimes, we’ve got emerging writers participating that don’t (yet) have their own blog. That’s when one of the organizers or participants hosts the new writer’s story. Here’s one by Rebecca Anne Dillon, a student of Holly Lisle’s. She normally writes very long family stories. Enjoy her story.
Very Thin Line
by Rebecca Anne Dillon
In 1869 on All Hallows Eve, ten-year-old Jasper Remington is dressed in a ghost costume, and has finished trick or treating on the streets of Ohio. He carries his little hessian sack with pennies in it, heading home… but he never arrives.
A hundred and fifty years later on All Hallows Eve, he is wearing the same costume, carrying the same sack, and he’s knocking on doors, still trying to get more pennies for his sack, but no adult can see him. However, at one house he’s seen by the family dog, Lady Penelope, who begins whimpering and shivering. When he moves toward her, she hides under the chair in the hallway and refuses to come out.
In that same house, ten-year-old William Remington comes downstairs wearing an old white sheet with eye holes and a mouth hole cut out.
“Mom, here is my costume!” he says, “Can I please take Lady Penelope out trick or treating?”
His mother smiles. “Of course.”
But it’s a ghost costume… and when Lady Penelope sees it, she goes back under the chair in the hallway, and stays there until William leaves with his jack ‘o lantern candy basket. She refuses to go with him. So William leaves alone, and trick-or-treats alone.
He has just left one front door with more candy when he sees a kid in a ghost costume like his with a little burlap sack sitting on the sidewalk crying. William asks the kid, “Why are you crying?”
The boy says, “No one opens the door when I knock. And dogs bark at me, or run and hide. Like your dog. When she saw me, she ran under a chair in your hallway.”
William sits on the sidewalk next to the boy so he can talk to him. He asks, “What’s your name?”
And the boy answers, “Jasper Remington.”
William says, “My name is William Remington. I wonder if we’re related?” And suddenly he realizes that he can see a bit of the sidewalk right through Jasper. The more he looks, the more he can see through the other boy. He whispers, “Grown-ups can’t see you, and Penelope is afraid of you, because you’re a real ghost…”
Jasper gets very angry. He doesn’t want to be a real ghost. But he’s happy that this one boy can see him. Can talk to him. Because the more he looks at William, the more Jasper realizes that he can see through William, too.
Jasper pushes up against William, and both boys blend.
Jasper can feel himself breath in for the first time in forever. He shouts, “I’m alive!” And he locks William way down deep, so deep he’ll never escape.
Because on All Hallow’s Eve, life calls to death, and blood calls to blood. And on All Hallows Eve, the very thin line between life and death merges.
Whoosh … there went the time and it’s summer already. I did manage to get most of the final volume of the High School Trilogy written and translated and hope to finish the end this month. If all goes as planned, the release will be some time in early autumn.
But now, it’s time for the Storytime Blog Hop again. Don’t forget to visit the other participants (the list is below my story).
The Salem Witch Trials and what we can learn from them
by Amalia Tenner, class 4c
Witches have always been hunted and killed without good reason. In Europe the main time for killing witches was from 1550 to 1650, but America did not kill witches before the Salem Witch Trials – well, not many that is.
It seems that the people who initi started the trails didn’t want women to ride brooms and go to parties with men they didn’t know, in particular the deivl. They thought that atrocious, and I’ve often wondered why that led to the torture of 55 people and the killing of 20 supposed witches, mostly women.
So here comes my reasoning.
I’ve heard Pa tell Mom that he’d like her to ride his broom again, and she blushed and giggled. So it probably was something I wasn’t meant to hear. After some research, I found that “riding a broom” sometimes refers to the sexual act. Which is kinda strange because, you know, it also refers to using a broom to clean the house and to go flying through the air on an oldfashioend broom with a wooden brush.
So I think that during the Witch Trials, women and men were talking about different things. Men didn’t want their wives and daughters to have sex, especially not with people they didn’t know. But women wanted to clean their houses. After all, a dirty house isn’t very nice, especially if you wanted to invite neighbors for a party.
Conclusion (what we can learn):
We can learn that we should always be very clear about what we’re talking about. Misunderstandings lead to arguing and that can easily go bad fast. So better be careful what you say, or else…
Sandra Tenner put down her daughter’s homework, wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. Then she pointed at the stapled sheets and spoke a Word of Command. The piece of lined paper with the round writing obediently vanished and reappeared in Amalia’s school bag beside the table in class.
As you can see I forgot to post again. I’m currently working on the final volume of the High School Dragon trilogy while also trying to keep the garden (some 1800 square yards) from getting overgrown with plants I don’t want. At the same time I’m so longing to drive my motorbike again which has been waiting patiently in my garage for years(!). The weather is wonderful and calls me outside. Instead I’m sitting here, writing (which I love btw, but still …).
So yes, it’s that time again, the Storytime Blog Hop is upon us. I know there’s a new logo around but I like this one too much to give it up any time soon. Have fun with my story and don’t forget to visit the other participants.
Before the Dreams
Shadows crept across the wall, it grew dark. The orange wallpaper turned grey except for a sliver of light that would turn into an arch soon. Jude pressed his eyes close trying to fall asleep, but no matter how much he had romped around during the day, he wasn’t tired enough.
He curled up into a ball. From below his covers, he peaked at the wall beside the door. A glowing line appeared and widened to an arch.
Clonk, clonk – the central heating rumbled. Now, his last chance of sleeping was gone. Soft steps came closer, and Jude did his best to feign slumber. He didn’t need to look at the monster. His memory from the fist encounter was still vivid. The fanged beast with the green fur had begged him for three nights to follow it. If only it didn’t look so dangerous.
A soft paw caressed his cheek. “Please, Jude, come. I promise you’ll be back before morning.” The monster sounded like a singing angel. “You’re the only one who can help me free the queen.”
Jude thought. Here was his chance to be a hero. Was he to chicken to help just because the one asking was a monster? He gathered his courage, got out of bed (eyes still closed), and followed the monster through the arch. Everything faded.
Not much to say but that I’m very tired and extremely busy. Some things leech more strength than I had anticipated, mostly due to stupid people. So I dug out this old writing exercise for you. I still quite like it despite its obvious flaws. Have fun, and don’t forget to visit the other participants.
Morning has broken
I kicked the pebbles and watched them fly into the gently breaking waves. In the distance, the sea sparkled but close to the beach, its sheen seemed dull. I should have known she wouldn’t come. Not only didn’t she talk to boys, ever, also this part of the beach smelled like rotting garbage, and the water carried brown sludge from Dad’s sewage factory. His slogan still rang in my ears.
‘Synbatec – Cleanliness everyone can afford ‘
Hah! I dug my bare feet into the sand, cooling grains mixed with water squeezed through my toes. I loved this feeling but hated the effort of rubbing them clean later. The sun burned my face and helped me suppress my tears. I had wanted her to come more than anything in the world. I needed her to see what Dad really did when he “cleaned” the waste water. She would have known what to do. After all, she and her father featured eminently in the news—him being a famous actor and an environmental activist. They surely could negotiate something that would keep Dad out of jail and end the pollution.
With my eyes still closed, I strained my ears for footsteps, but not even seagulls came to this godforsaken place. I sighed, opened my eyes, and gagged on a foul taste. A hairy hand pressed a wet, sweet smelling cloth to my mouth. My vision blurred, but I recognized the butterfly tattoo on the man’s forearm. Every Wastopaneer Environmentalist wore it. I relaxed and sucked in the sweet odor of the sleeping drug. If they had to kidnap me to stop Dad’s toxic waste, I wouldn’t put up a fight.
From the corner of my eyes, I saw her. She smiled at me, and her smile stayed with me when darkness claimed me.
It is already time again for the quarterly Blog Hop. My, how time flies! My grandson has started to crawl, still on his belly, and two teeth are already out. Slowly my days are finding a new rhythm, so I’m writing again. I hope you’ll enjoy this snippet which is based very, very loosely on my experience of becoming a grandmother rather unexpectedly. As usual, you’ll find the links to the other participants below my story.
“Well, you could come in today but only the male doctor will be there,” the gynecologist’s receptionist said. I knew that wouldn’t do. My daughter would never see a man – not when it was her first visit to a gynecologist. I told the receptionist, just as I had told her about the low but persistent abdominal pain Shelly was experiencing. It wasn’t urgent but it definitely needed someone looking at it.
“Well Dr. Paulsen won’t be in before tomorrow. I’ve got a free slot at 9am.”
I smiled and sent a sliver of pleasurable magic through the phone for the woman. “That’s splendid. We’ll be there on time.”
The next morning, my daughter – a little grumpy from getting up this early – and I climbed the two floors to the gynecologist. After the usual paperwork, the receptionist left us in a room with a desk and the gynecological chair. Her smile was meant to be reassuring. “The doctor will be with you in a few minutes.”
Shelly looked at me with a frown. “I won’t sit on that one.” She nodded to the chair.
Before I could answer, the doctor came in. She was a petite woman with brown hair, a white lab coat and tired eyes. “Welcome.” She shook our hands and smiled at my daughter. “It looks as if it’s coming soon. Who’s your regular gynecologist?”
My jaw dropped and for the first time in a long, long while I didn’t know what to say. My daughter’s face must have mirrored my surprise because the doctor said, “Don’t tell me you didn’t know.”
There was no answer to that, but my daughter was too shocked to make a fuss when the doctor examined her. I didn’t even need my magic to soothe her.
“Dear me.” Dr. Paulsen’s eyes widened. “It’s coming right now!” She nearly fled the room to call an ambulance.
While we waited, Shelly’s contractions intensified. She moaned with pain, and my heart hurt in sympathy. At least I now knew her sudden gain in weight hadn’t been due to obsessive eating or cancer or any of the other diseases I had feared. Still, I suffered with her every time the contractions hit. She squeezed my hand as if she meant to crush every single bone to pulp, and it took all my strength not to use a calming spell on her. According to my own mother that would interfere with the baby’s own magic should it have some.
The ambulance took its time and even my spell couldn’t make it faster. All I could do was prevent the gynecologist from panicking. Waves of soothing magic flowed through the rooms, arduously avoiding Shelly. But once the ambulance arrived, everything went fast. Shelly was carried downstairs on a stretcher, and I followed with knees too shaky to manage the stairs without clinging to the handrail. The ambulance headed to the nearby motorway with flashing lights and siren, while my daughter screamed in pain, still clinging to my hand. I tried to make myself as small as possible to not obstruct the doctor and his helpers. The baby arrived soundlessly three minutes before we reached the hospital.
“That doesn’t look good.” The doctor’s face was grim as he cut the cord. My heart seemed to stop beating. I barely dared to look at the rather bluish looking limp body in his hands. “Oxygen. And a tenth of a unit …”
I ignored the doctor’s gobbledygook and concentrated on my daughter. I closed my hands around her wide eyed face. Finally I could help. My magic tugged at her worry, smoothing it out and adding a little hope here and there. “Keep breathing. There’s nothing we can do but hope.” We closed our eyes and ignored the clattering of instruments and the babbling of the paramedic. If we lost the baby, I’d probably never be able to create a bubble of hope again. So we clung to our own little bubble. It was all I could do to keep it up. Shelly’s heart beat the same fearful-hopeful rhythm as mine.
The ambulance screeched to a stop.
“We’ve got her!” The relief in the doctor’s voice was palatable. Very gently he placed the wrapped baby into Shelly’s arms. A content, pink face with the bluest eyes anyone had ever seen stared at us, and a wave of happiness hit me. The baby was magical, and breathing, and moving her tiny fingers, already weaving her spell on us. As I hobbled after the stretcher that was wheeled to a lift, my smile couldn’t have been wider. I whispered to my daughter, “I guess it’s time to think about a name for her.”
It’s time again for the quarterly Storytime Bloghop. This time I did something a little different. Easter, my brothers (I’ve got three) and I were fooling around with a new gadget one of them had gotten. We took some really crazy pictures. So I included one of those at the end of the story. Since it is the punchline, you might want to not look at it until you read the story first. 😀
The Day I was Clever
When I arrived in our kitchen that morning, staring bleary eyed at the wood furniture and the stone counter, Dad gave me NewReality™ glasses.
“It’s time for you to see the world a little differently”, he said and vanished. I think he might have left for work, although his vanishing did feel slightly spooky to me.
Due to too little sleep (I’d played with my 3D virtual reality game half the night), my brain wasn’t working yet so I put them on, and the world changed. Now I stood in a kitchen made of white marble and chrome. Where my bowl of cereal had stood, a plate with artfully decorated pancakes waited for me. I dug in, slightly disappointed that they still tasted like my cereal.
The way to school had changed too. The bus had turned into a sleek limousine, my classmates were wearing spiffy suits or skirts and blouses, and everyone wore a tie. When they saw me, they smiled like friends. I knew they weren’t, so the roaring laughter in the background made sense somehow. I just didn’t know what they were laughing about.
At school, I sank into the seat beside my best friend who grinned at me.
“My, do you look strange,” he said. “If you’d brought your mobile, we could’ve taken pictures.”
“They’re just my new glasses.” I answered. They couldn’t be that bad, could they?
Only when the teacher arrived did I realize that I’d forgotten to bring my books. At least I’d brought my homework so I didn’t get a black mark, but everybody was laughing about me. And when I say everybody, I mean everybody.
As I passed through the hall on my way to my next class, people I’d never met more than in passing came to me to shake my hand. As long as I was looking at them, they just smiled, but as soon as they moved on to pass me to the next person, they burst out laughing – even the teachers snickered when they walked past me. I didn’t see it but I heard them.
After the second break, I had enough. Knowing I’d be in big trouble later, I still sneaked off the school grounds and set out to walk home, staring at the ground to keep others from seeing my face. What were the new glasses doing to it that everyone was laughing so hard?
I turned a corner and stopped in surprise. I’d accidentally walked in the wrong direction. Heat surged into my cheeks as I turned around again. I had barely reached the gates of the school when a car pulled up beside me. To me it looked like a beautiful convertible, but it sounded like a robot with asthma. The tinted driver window rolled down, and my mother’s face smiled at me. She looked like an angel in a flowing blue evening dress, so I smiled back involuntarily.
“Get in the car,” she said, and I obeyed wordlessly.
In our new kitchen, she ordered me to sit on a chair, prepared a hot cocoa for me and a mug of coffee for herself. My stomach turned to ice. I know I was in trouble now. Still, she kept smiling – or were the glasses just changing her expression like they’d changed the kitchen?
“How often have I told you not to turn night into day with your gaming?” Her voice sounded cold and distant, but I felt her anger underneath. I lowered my head and apologized, but it was no good. “And now you’re even wearing gaming glasses to school! Don’t you know how ridiculous that looks?”
“Dad gave me those this morning,” I protested.
“That isn’t possible.” Now, Mom sounded more annoyed than angry. “He left for a business trip to Paris last week. Don’t you ever listen to anything I tell you?”
I had to admit that listening wasn’t my strongest trait.
“Now, give me those glasses and go to bed.” Resignation filled her tone although the face I saw was still smiling. “I’ll write an explanation for your teacher. But no more gaming this week.”
I groaned and took of the glasses. Immediately, my mother’s blue dress turned back into the faded jeans and oversized T-shirt she always wore. I yawned and handed her the glasses reluctantly.
“Let me show you how stupid you look with these,” she said and put them on. “Gosh. How did you manage not to run into things with these? Everything’s completely blurry.”
Although I wondered about her last remark, I burst out laughing when I saw her face with the glasses.
This is how clever Mom looked. I still wonder about me.
That was my story. I hope you liked it. And her are the links to the bloghop’s other participants. If it is anything like the last hops, you’ll find many great stories. Go and read them: