Deep Hibernation

Bethany Lewis had been hearing stories about her great-great-great Uncle Mark for as long as she could remember.

Mark Delaware was born September 24, 1785. The thing about being born in the 1700’s, even the late 1700’s, is that by even the most positive estimates of the human life span, he should have been dead long before 2020.

But Mark Delaware was very much alive thanks to a rare condition that caused his body to continuously fall into a deep hibernated state for increasingly long lengths of time. It happened for the first time when he was five years old. He slept for a week straight. At the time, his family thought he was dead and he probably would have been if not for a happy fluke which caused a significant delay in his burial. It was his Aunt Mildred who discovered that he was not, in fact, dead. The shock gave her such a fright that she was never quite the same afterward.

The second time he fell into this hibernated state he didn’t wake up for two weeks. This time, his family was a little wiser and placed his body on his bed. After a couple of days, when it became clear that he wasn’t decaying they were very much relieved.

Concerned, as most parents would be and having a decent amount of wealth, they called for a doctor, however; the doctor would not believe that he wasn’t dead until he woke up. At that time, the doctor quickly convinced himself that this was a horrible prank and that the child was simply faking.

Since he didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear upon awakening, his parents decided to tac it up as an anomaly, or quirk, and it became known amongst family and close friends as “naptime,” and everyone knew not to delve deeper.

It was not until he awoke from a six-year sleep at the age of 32 that his family began to suspect that he might not be aging during the time he was unconscious. When one of his brothers, who was a bit of a math whiz and had an excellent memory did the math on how long he’d been in these unconscious states, he discovered that Mark was not, in fact 32, but rather more likely to be 21.

At first, he was delighted to learn that the time he spent asleep would not be wasted years until he realized that because these times of hibernation seemed to be doubling every time it happened, it soon became apparent that he would vastly outlive not only his family and friends, but their decedents as well. In addition, one could hardly sleep for over a century and expect that everything would remain the same around them. Contingencies would need to be put into place.

But that was always as far as the stories would go. Her grandfather would never tell her what those contingencies were.

Bethany sat at a table in the coffee shop that was at the same location as Mark’s favourite diner the last time he’d been awake. She tapped her pencil on the table in frustration. She’d done the research. She’d done the math and if her calculations were correct, he’d should be waking up within the next week and she planned to find him when he did. The question was, where had their family hidden his sleeping body?

Her parents didn’t know, nor did they believe any of the stories her grandparents told. For that matter neither did her brother or their cousins. But she did. It was one of the reasons she’d become a doctor. She was determined to discover the reason he was able to essentially time travel by sleeping. She would find him, study him, and use the results of her research on herself.

Imagine all that you could see? You would get glimpses of each new way of life. A few years here. A few years there. It sounded amazing!

The pencil in her hand snapped causing her to jump. Drat! She threw the broken pieces into her purse and sighed. Up until now she had been trying to figure out where her family had put him when he fell asleep. She hadn’t been able to decipher that from the stories. Her grandfather, the only person she was aware of who knew, refused to say and died with his secret intact. He claimed that contingencies had been put into place to protect him; however, she had the sneaking suspicious that the person he was actually trying to protect was her. He seemed to suspect what she wanted to do. It was most annoying.

Bethany stared at the faded, black and white photo sitting on the table in front of her. There had to be a way to track Mark down before he travelled too far. She knew he was in the area for now, but once he woke up, who knew where he’d go from here?

The bell above the door rang as a tall gentleman walked in looking rather lost. He was wearing wool pants and his jacket was faded. His hair was disheveled and strands were hanging over his eyes.

Bethany glanced at the photograph again and her eyes flew back to him. It was difficult to say for sure. He took a couple of tentative steps inside and approached the barista behind the counter.

“Excuse me, do you know what happened to the diner that used to here?” he asked. “Sally May’s?”

The girl stared at him nonplused, blinking without recognition. Finally, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it had been a coffee shop for as long as she’d lived in the neighbourhood.

He chewed his lip as he rotated around looking at the tables before slowly walking back towards the door. He was just about to pull it open when she flew from her chair and approached him.

“Excuse me, are you Mark Delaware?” She asked, almost vibrating with excitement, her hands clasped in front of her chest.

He startled at the name before nodding.

“I’m your great, great grand-niece,” she said, sticking her hand out in front of her. A thrill of excitement ran through her. She’d found him.

Disappearance

Peter and Annie disappeared from a little-known hiking trail on August 24, 1972. According to their cold case file, neither have been seen since, nor have their bodies ever turned up. Local authorities have no idea what happened to them. But I do, and it’s all my fault. Well, mostly my fault. I mean, it was my fault, yes, but they made mistakes too! In fact, if they hadn’t made their mistakes, none of this would have happened. So really, it was more their fault than mine. But yes, technically speaking, I’m the reason they disappeared.

I didn’t know Peter and Annie before that day, but I’ve since learned that Peter planned to propose to Annie. Isn’t that romantic? They’d known each other since they were kids having met at school. However, it wasn’t until they both came back from University after graduating that they really noticed each other and started dating. They both loved the outdoors and spent many summer days hiking through the woods. They were the perfect couple, and, I would argue, it was a blessing they disappeared together rather than just the one, leaving the other behind. Now that would have been truly tragic.

Peter had been planning the “perfect” proposal for weeks. His plan was to find a trail that neither of them had been on. After asking around, Peter learned about a place that was a little ways away and not well known. Lured by what he was told would be a breath-taking view, he and Annie packed a picnic and began their hike. I’ve gone over this in my head thousands of times, and I’m convinced this was his first mistake. It’s really not a good idea to go place where there aren’t already a lot of people. You never know what or who you may run into.

Initially, everything went according to Peter’s plan. It was a warm, sunny day and they had the trail all to themselves. At the top of the mountain, Annie was suitably blown away by the view. Lunch was delicious, and just before they were about to enjoy some homemade brownies for dessert, Peter shifted to his knee and was preparing to pop the question. It was at this point their luck shifted dramatically and, I believe, they made their second mistake.

You see, Annie had been distracted by a rather strange occurrence in the valley. Well, strange to them. For me, it was really quite normal. As she stared down into the valley of pine trees, she noticed that the trees seemed to be rippling as though a strong breeze was blowing. Then, the ripple turned to swaying and what appeared to be a gust of wind took on force and looked like a strong gale wind was whipping through the valley. Even the trees surrounding them on their lookout began to sway back and forth; but neither Annie nor Peter felt even the slightest breeze. The shaking of the pine needles as branches all around them shivered and shook, sounded like waves crashing on the seashore. It was as though the entire was waking up and stretching after a long nap, which, in sense it was. It’s what happens when a large group of us pass through an area.

“What’s going on?” Annie asked.

“I don’t know,” Peter replied, just as confused. There was a sizzle in the air, like there was too much static built up. “Maybe a storm is coming?”

Annie was already on her feet packing up their lunch. In retrospect, if they’d just stayed put for awhile, they may have been spared. If Peter had stalled them with his proposal, I would not have been the cause of their untimely disappearance. But I’ve been assured there is not point in searching for “what if’s” as they are almost never useful.

They were only about two minutes down the trail from the top when they realized that they were not alone. According to Annie she saw movement in the corner of her eye. As she turned to get a closer look she saw, deep in the brush, what she assumed was a young girl. Any normal person would have been stuck, or at the very least, been making a lot of noise as they struggled against the twigs and branches. But the girl they described seemed to almost skip along as a path opened up before her; her pigtails swaying as she happily danced along. That is, until she noticed them staring.

I’m reluctant to say, this is where the blames shifts over to me. I should have been watching. I knew that. I’d been told over and over, never reveal yourself when humans are near. But come on! Humans weren’t supposed to be in that area. Shouldn’t there be some places were we can simply lose ourselves in the moment and dance freely through the trees? Why should I have to be on my guard every single second?

But, alas, they saw me and their fate was sealed. You see, humans are not allowed to see us. At least, not anymore.

As Annie stared at me perplexed, I froze. At first, I thought about simply running away. But that was not to be. Others were in the area. Others with, as I’ve been told, more sense. They weren’t dancing about with humans nearby. They knew to be aware of their surroundings. Well, anyway, they saw that Annie and Peter had seen me so they too stepped out of hiding and at that point, it was a done deal.

Peter was the first of the two to see the rest and gripped Annie’s hand when he saw them emerge from the trees. Just like me, they were able to walk through the brush without a path, unhindered by thorn, bush, or branch. The underbrush seemed to melt away before them. Peter told me later, this was what scared him most about my people. I really have no idea why. It’s always been such a  normal thing for me that I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of someone finding it strange.

The others walked separately, scattered throughout the trees. We look a lot like humans, except that, as Peter describes it, there was a green haze between us and them. In fact, the further away we are, the more green we appear kind of the same way mountains appear more blue.

Together, Peter and Annie began walking again, neither speaking. They were clearly terrified and I can’t say that I blame them. Of course, unlike them, I knew what was about to happen. The others began to gather closer forming a line behind Peter and Annie. Then, they slowly began to circle around the pair and picking up speed, began to dance clockwise around them forcing them to stop walking. As they danced, more gathered and formed another circle and began to dance counter-clockwise around the first circle. They appeared to be enjoying themselves, smiling and laughing as they circled around and around, but I knew this was not a joyous event. Soon there were five layers of circles moving around them, each moving in the opposite direction as the next layer out. Then, a fog slowly crept in until Peter and Annie were obliterated from view.

The fog carried them away to our land. They were never allowed to return to their home. After the fog disappeared, the dancers slowly dispersed until it was just me and my father. He towered over me looking down with a disappointed frown. “What have you done, my little acorn?”

He’s always blamed me for this indiscretion, but I maintain it was not entirely my fault!

Lab Rat

I have no idea where I am. I’ve been awake in this strange room surrounded by complete darkness for what feels like hours, maybe days. The ground is hard and cold against my bare feet. The walls are close together and solid. I can’t lay stretched out without my feet or head hitting a wall.

Suddenly, the lights above blaze on and I cover my eyes against the startlingly white walls that sear my eyes until they water. A loud metallic crunch shakes the ground and then I hear gears clicking and metal scraping against metal. Squinting against the harsh brightness of the fluorescent lights, I see one of the walls retracting into the ceiling.

Immediately, I’m hit with the aroma of searing meat. My empty stomach growls and cramps with hunger. I haven’t eaten anything since I first woke up in that tiny room.

Edging into the hallway in front of me, I hesitantly venture forward. What is that? Hamburgers? My mouth waters as I follow the hallway away from the room. Either my eyes are adjusting to the light or the hallway is less bright. Either way I can keep my eyes open with ease.

After a few steps I nearly jump out of my skin when the clanging, screeching sounds again and the door slams shut behind me. There’s no where to go but forward.

Everything is white. The tile floors are white, the walls are white, the ceiling is white. There aren’t any pictures or doors. I don’t even see any fingerprints or dirt smudges on the walls.

The hallway is long, and I realize we must be in some sort of warehouse because it’s too long to be a home, at least not any house I’ve ever been in. Finally, I reach the end, or rather, the bend, and turn sharply to the left. After a few steps, it branches into two hallways. One goes straight ahead and the other one turns left again, stretching out in the same direction I’ve come from. Not sure which is the best way to go, I stand in indecision for a minute, before finally choosing the hall straight ahead.

Along the way it, twists and turns. Every time there is a choice I go back and forth, choosing right, then left, the right again. Hoping that I’m following the scent of beef, I image all of the different toppings I will add to my burger as I’m walking. I’m so distracted by the image in my head, I barely see what’s in front of me. At the next turn I see a large, wide open green space with a BBQ at the end of the hall. As I quicken my pace I notice that the ground in that space is covered in grass and I can see blue sky overhead. The large, open area appears to be surrounded by the same white walls I’ve been walking through.

I’m almost at the door when I notice a man in a large Hawaiian shirt and a bushy brown beard working at the BBQ with metal tongs.

Just before the door into the greenspace, the hallway turns to the right and continues, but I don’t care. I’m about to walk straight through to the grass when a blaze of fire shoots across the doorway blocking my way. I stumble back as the heat pushes against me.

In a second, it’s gone. Feeling apprehensive, I take another small step forward and pause. The fire wall blazes up for a few seconds before snuffing out again. This continues at irregular intervals. Sometimes 30 seconds go by, sometimes 1-2 seconds. The wall of fire is thick, about two feet wide. The man at the BBQ seems unperturbed by either the fire or me and continues with his business as though neither of us are mere feet from him. Even when I shout out to him, he seems not to notice me.

I’m so close to food, but I don’t want to get fried up. I tentatively try to time the flames and think I might be able to jump through if I go immediately after the flame goes out, but the next two spurts follow each other by a mere half second. If I’d chosen to jump through, I would be more BBQ’d than the burger I’m craving.

Finally, I give up. I’ve noticed that the courtyard has other doors leading inside. Hoping to have better luck at one of those doors, I move sullenly away.

I’m so hungry I feel faint, dragging my feet and feeling grumpy. I keep trying to turn to the right, but as the hallway twists and turns I’m not sure which way the courtyard is anymore. Eventually, I’m just randomly choosing again.

Finally, I turn the corner and there in front of me is the courtyard again! I found it. I stumble forward tripping over my feet in my sudden rush.

There’s a weird light, a glow around the entrance, especially along the floor. At first, I can’t figure out what it is. It’s not until I’m closer that I realize it’s not a glow, but a reflection. The ground is covered in shards of broken glass and quickly realize that there’s no way through. I’m barefoot and while some of the shards are large, most are tiny and even the big shards are covered in jagged dust sprinkled over everything.

I try brushing some of it to the side to see if I can clear a path, but immediately regret it as sharp pinpricks of pain stab the side of my hand even drawing blood in some places. If I were to put my full weight on this, my feet would be wrecked.

Angry, I take off running this time. Twice now, I’ve now come so close to food and the smell is overpowering. I’m running around bends and randomly choosing forks in the road. I pass the fire door again, but refuse to let that deter me. Finally, I find my way to another door and slow to a walk as I approach it, unsure what horrors await me. I edge closer to the door, but nothing happens. I swipe my arm through the air, still nothing. Then, I tentatively step over the threshold and into the courtyard. The man at the BBQ finally looks up.

“Welcome!” he smiles beneath his beard. “Would you like a burger?” He’s already holding up a plate with a burger on it.

I grab it and wolf it down in about two bites.

His eyes open in surprise. “I was going to tell you that there are fixings on the table.” He motions to a table set up with cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and a myriad of there things I didn’t immediately recognize.

“Er, thanks,” I say, feeling slight remorse that I’d missed them. Before I can ask if I can if I can have another, a voice interrupts, “53 minutes for a base time. Not bad. Let’s see how well he does with the virus.”

Confused, I turn to see the owner of the voice as the man with the beard responds, “Knock him out.”

Then, everything goes black.

The Return

My eyes lock with an elderly man standing in line at my bakery. He is staring directly at me and even when I make eye contact he doesn’t look away. He’s lean and tall but slightly hunched over giving him a bit of candy cane look.

I try to ignore him as I glaze the doughnuts in front of me, but it’s distracting. I’m used to customers watching through the large open window that allows them to see from the restaurant into the bakery in the back, but in the five minutes since we’ve been open, this man’s gaze has been unwavering and strangely familiar in a way that sets the hairs on the back of my neck on end.

And then the memory clicks into place and my eyes fly back at the icy blue iris still staring at me. I haven’t seen him in over twenty years, but I’m sure this man is my father. A cold shiver runs up my spine as I stand frozen, locked for a moment in his stare. My father was not a good man.

Just like every morning, the line is already snaked outside the door with drowsy patrons shuffling forward waiting for their caffeine and sugar fix. My father is about 7 people from the front counter which means he must have been waiting outside before we opened. The idea that he has been so close creates a knot of panic and pain in my chest.

I was sixteen when I watched my father throw my brother down the stairs of our cabin. Up until then, the three of us had been a mostly happy family. Then, two days before they had simply disappeared I had been frantic wondering where there were. Out of sheer desperation I decided to check our cabin which my family only ever used in the summer.

That fateful day, it took me 5 hours to walk all the way out to there, dragging my feet through the freshly fallen snow. I could hear shouting even before I opened the front door. They didn’t see me cowering in the shadows. The relief I’d felt by finally finding my brother and father had been overtaken by fear at their combined anger. I had been about to sneak back out when there was crash, a scream, a holler, then a thud. My brother’s crumpled body lay at my feet and I stood in shocked horror at his twisted limbs.

I have to leave the bakery now. I am deeply regretting the open window I’d insisted on when I designed the layout. My hands are shaking as his place in line moves closer. He’s now one person away from the cash register. It is not just a coincidence that he is here. He’s here for me, I just don’t know why.

As slowly as possible, I set down the doughnut I’d been working with, wipe my hands on my apron and nonchalantly head to the freezer. I open the door and it shields me from view, but rather than going into the large walk-in freezer, I duck out the back door. Thankfully, my keys are stashed in the pocket of my apron. My hand is on the car door handle when I hear my name shouted from behind me. Even as an elderly man, he moves quickly.

On that fateful day, I had heard feet thundering down the stairs of the cabin and knew I had precious few moments to hide. I slipped backwards into the storage area under the stairs. I could hear my dad making a phone call and footsteps as heavy boots walked back and forth in front of the little door that shielded me from what was happening out there.

I didn’t come out until the cabin had been silent for hours. I was petrified that someone knew I was in there and was simply waiting for me to come out. Eventually, I was driven out by hungry and an extreme need to use the bathroom.

I didn’t go home and I never saw my father or brother again.

“Maggie, wait,” my father called again. I turned slowly around turning my glare to ice, despite the intense panic I was feeling. “I need to explain.”

“Explain how you killed Jeremy? I don’t want to hear it.”

“I didn’t kill him.” His voice is soft and I barely hear it.

“I saw you.”

“I mean, he isn’t dead. That’s why I’m here. He’s asking for you.” He stands with hands open in front of him, pleading.

I turn quickly and get into my car. As I drive away, he simply stands watching me. He doesn’t run after me or try to get to another vehicle. He just watches. And I know this isn’t over.

I know this isn’t over.

The Thief

Lucy lay on the couch watching Morpheus, her dog. She had almost dozed off when his ears flicked to the side and he lifted his head. It was probably nothing, but Lucy couldn’t take any chances. She slid her hand under the couch cushion and pulled out the butcher knife she’d hidden before she she lay down for the night .

She knew the time was rapidly approaching when one of these false alarms would be the real thing. When Morpheus didn’t settle back down, she slid off the couch and onto the floor, laying beside the alert German Shepherd.

What little light there was in the room was coming from a single candle flame flickering on the coffee table and the dull light from the streets outside that managed to weave their way through the curtained window. Shadows fell about the room and she could feel her heart racing. She slithered around the couch and pulled herself behind it so that she was between it and the wall, the knife held threateningly, if not a little shaky, in front of her..

Morpheus emitted a low growl, his claws scratching against the hardwood as he scrambled to his feet. Seconds later she heard smashing glass as someone broke in through the back door.

So much her laying low and sneaking in without the owners knowing anyone had been in the house. Heavy boots crunched against the broken glass strewn across the floor, the footsteps getting louder as the intruder came closer.

Lucy was one of the privileged; the few who had discovered how to tap into their abilities and learned how to use them. Experts believed that everyone had this capability, but no one knew how the few who could, were able to do it.

But Lucy’s skill would not help her tonight. She could erase another’s abilities, or rather, their memory of how to use them. This tended to make them a little mad. And while she should feel somewhat reassured that those coming after her wouldn’t have any abilities, not only because she’d already taken them, but because those with abilities were terrified to come anywhere near her, this intruder was still dangerous. And strong.

Morpheus growled deep and low in his throat, then whimpered before a loud thud hit the floor. Lucy trembled behind the couch praying her dog wasn’t dead.

Smashing glass came from the kitchen. “What are they doing?” a voice groaned. “We’re already inside.” Footsteps moved to the kitchen, more quickly than they had when they entered the living, glass crunching underfoot.

Lucy slowly edged towards the end of the couch and started to peer around it when a voice above her said, “I don’t think that’s how couches work my dear.”

Lucy looked up with dread. Above her was Mark, the Magician, or at least, he was once upon a time. Before she stole his ability to telepathically control his victims. Before she came around he was maliciously wreaking havoc wherever he could. The worst, that she knew about, was when he took over a couple of air traffic controllers and caused two 747 to crash head on into each other. Fire and debris had rained down on the victims below.

“You got her?” the voice said from behind him. He glanced away from Lucy for a second. In that second there was a pop, followed quickly by another and then she was standing in an open field feeling like her body had just been stretched out like silly putty then squished back together again. Her limbs felt wobbly and she flopped back to the ground, her legs unable to support her.

She looked up to see a face silhouetted by the sun. His puffy, curly blond hair framed a face she couldn’t see. An arm reached down to help her back up.

“I’m Tommy,” he said, pulling her back up.

“Hi,” she said, feeling uncertain and confused as why she was being blinded by the sun in the middle of the night.

As soon as she was standing he quickly dropped her hand and took two large steps backwards. “Now don’t get any ideas. You are being closely watched and if you take my ability, you’ll be immediately surrounded and taken out.”

She blinked at him and slowly looked around. They were standing in a field not to far from the edge of cliff. In other direction she could see mountains stretching up past the forest of trees in front of her. “I-I wasn’t going to take your skills. You s-saved, you saved me,” she stumbled over her words. “How did you know I-I was in trouble?” she asked.

“We’ve been watching you for some time.” He said.

“You have,” she frowned. “Why?”

“You’re kidding right?” He looks around. “You’re the only one who can stop the organization.”

Lucy knew about the organization. She had worked for them. “How do you know about the organization,” she asked, squinting at him, her eyes still adjusting to the sunlight.

“The ones who sent your attackers back at the house. You didn’t think they found you all on their own, did you?” he scoffed.

Lucy began to walk away, but suddenly realized she had no idea where she was. They appeared to be in middle of no where and she had no idea which way would take her to civilization, and, more importantly, how far away it would.

She whirled around suddenly terrified. She tried masking her fear with anger, but her voice shook as she demanded: “Where are we?” she asked. Her eyes flicked to the nearby trees trying to see where people might be hidden.

He held up his hands in front of him and to her surprise, he looked just as frightened as she was. “Calm down,” he said. “I can take you wherever you need to go. This isn’t a trick. I just like to come here to think and I thought it would be the safest place since so many people are after you.”

She crossed her arms across her chest to hide the fact that her hands here shaking. But then it dawned her. He was scared of her. She took a couple of steps towards him and sure enough, he immediately backed away. She took a couple more steps and he tripped over a rock and tumbled on his back and threw his arms up over his head to protect himself just before he disappeared.

There was more than just her hunting the organization. That was very interesting. She sat down on a rock and waited for him to return.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

­­­­­­­­This story was inspired by another writing prompt I found in Complete the Story:

The dog heard him coming before I did. She woke out of a deep sleep on the rug and was completely alert and whining at the door. I knew this day was coming, but I hoped____________.”

If you’re wondering what happened to the original sentence, after many edits and rewrites, the original prompt is no longer there. I use it more as a jumping off point 🙂

Siren Song

Chloe stood on the store of a distant, unknown island, the waves lapping at the dark shore. High above her cliffs reached boldly towards the sky blocking the sun from view. She wore a ripped, green gown that hung precariously from her shoulders and pooled on the sand at her bare feet.

One the ground, at her feet was a damp, black bird. It looked like it had been washed ashore and was just coming to. It gave a weak squawk then flapped its wings spraying droplets of water as it hopped on its taloned feet.

Chloe reached down and picked up the damp bird. She smiled, “You have only yourself to blame for this.” She gently raised the bird to her shoulder and walked up the shore following a path towards a cave higher up in the cliffs, the train of her gown dragging sand along with it.

* * *

Earlier that day

Chloe sat in her parents’ kitchen running her finger along the shell in her hand.

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?” she asked Sandy, her mom, who was busy bustling about the kitchen preparing lunch.

“No offense dear, but if I need help in the kitchen I’ll ask your sister.” She paused. “Or your father.”

“I’m not that bad of cook,” Chloe muttered.

Sandy raised an eyebrow, but didn’t respond.

The shell in Chloe’s hand grew warm under her touch. Although the middle looked much like a normal clam shell, white with ridges running the length of it, the edges faded to what looked like green glass that was sharp and jagged. Since finding it earlier that morning on the beach, she had sliced her hand drawing blood twice.

“Look who I found in the driveway!” John, her father, said, beaming widely as he nearly dragged her sister Sara inside. She in turn had her arms wrapped around Clayton. Chloe stood when she saw him. Why did Sara have her arms around Clayton? Why was he here?

She instinctively stood, ready to bolt, but her feet stay rooted to floor, too confused to move.

“And she has big news!” John grinned at her Sandy.

Sandy set down the knife she was using to chop vegetables and wiped her hands on the towel hanging over her shoulder as she moved around the island to embrace her daughter.

“And you’re here too!” she said to Clayton, Chloe’s Clayton. Sandy grasped his forearms in her hands before going in for a hug. “We’ve missed you.”

Chloe’s mouth went dry. She hadn’t seen Clayton in two months, not since her high school sweetheart of five years had out of the blue told her he didn’t want to be with her anymore. She felt her brain going cloudy as he released her mom from a too-long hug, then pulled her sister back into his arms.

Sara shot her hand out in front of her, a giant ring and band on her finger. “We got married.”

A long piercing note rang through in Chloe’s brain and the air turned hot and humid, too thick to breathe. As her family celebrated, she stumbled out onto the patio for some fresh air, but once she was outside she realized the warmth had followed her. The shell still in her hand was red hot and seemed to be pulsing.

She stared it for a moment and cold clarity returned. Then she looked back at her family through the windows, unaware of her absence. She had the power to change this. The wind whipped her hair up and around her face, her long green sundress fluttering like a captive bird. Dark rain storm clouds crept in from the horizon as the ringing in her ears became a song that filled her chest and soon she was the one singing. Too late, her sister looked up and saw her. Too late she realized what Chloe was doing and dawning horror filled her eyes.

* * *

Earlier that morning

Legend has it that the Sirens lived on the islands of Sirenum scopuli where they lured sailors to their deaths. However, if they were able to bypass the Sirens without coming to harm, the Sirens would thrown themselves to their deaths. Their song however, lived on and would become locked in a shell until someone came along to release it.

One of these shells found their way to Chloe as she walked along the beach. After scrapping her foot on the top of the shell she stooped down and began to brush the sand away. As she held the shell up to the light, the sun flickered through the translucent green edges. Rather than looking like a shell, the edges looked more like the outline of an island on a map.

Her mom had told her about Siren Songs when her and Sara were kids. They used to spend hours scouring the beach looking for one. This was the first one she’d ever found one. The legend held that the holder could enact revenge against anyone they choose by locking them in a prison in the form of the body of a bird. But, it was not a free exchange. The one with the shell would be forced to release the Siren’s Song and would then become a Siren herself, condemned to the islands of Sirenum scopuli.

As kids, both Chloe and Sara had agreed you’d have to be crazy to do that. But kids rarely understand the depths adults will go to for revenge.

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­­­­­­­­This story was inspired by  a writing prompt I found in Complete the Story:

“It looked like a shell, half buried, but as she dug through the sand around its edges, she found it was something completely different, something she’d never seen before and thought only existed in stories. She had to be imagining—it simply couldn’t be a ____________.”

Crumbling Sandcastles

Sand sprayed over my legs and onto my towel as they walked by in their flip-flops kicking up sand as they marked. Towels were slung over their shoulders and they were loaded down with shovels, pails, bags of snacks, and a cooler.

The boy appeared to be about 7 with wild hair sticking out in all directions, while the girl looked like she was a couple of years younger and had already lost a shoe. Their mother flung her towel out in front of her and lay down a few metres from me fading into the background. Her kids were not so easy to ignore.

They dropped into the sand even closer to me than their mom and began digging up the sand with vigor scooping it into their brightly coloured pails.

As they scooped, my phone buzzed beside me alerting me to a text from Alicia, my roommate: “Where are you? Do you want to hang out?”

I could feel the muscles in my shoulders tighten. Alicia had become more and more clingy over the last six months of living together. Ignoring it, I through my phone back into my bag.

The girl was the first to fill her pail and slammed it upside down, then lifted it with gusto. Her eager face fell as the mound of sand crumbled into a small hill.

The boy was working more slowly. He carefully pressed the sand down with his fists compacting it, then added more to his pail. Finally, with his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, he flipped his pail over. His sister watched looking worried. I couldn’t tell if she looked worried because she wanted his to work or because she was worried it would work while hers didn’t.

He slowly lifted the pail and although his mound of sand had more shape and height than his sister’s, his also was decided to be a failure. The girl’s face relaxed into relief.

“We need to add water to make it sticky,” he said.

The girl’s eyes brightened. “Good idea. You get the water and I’ll build the sand castle.”

The boy frowned. “No, that’s not fair. How about we both get the water and we both build the sand castle.”

“No.” She crossed her arms and scrunched her shoulders, “Mom!” she shouted, while still glaring at her brother.

“Derek, are you being nice to your sister?” the woman asked in a tired voice, not bothering to open her eyes. “We’ll leave if you two can’t play nice.”

Derek glared at his sister as he swiped his pail. He stormed down to the shore to scoop water into his pail.

Beside me my phone buzzed again: “You left a glass in the sink,” Alicia texted. Followed by: “Where’s the remote for the TV? I can’t find it.”

I sighed and picked up my book and became engrossed in the story, everything else fading away.

About 15 minutes later, Derek’s sister began to kick up a fuss.

“No! Not there,” she yelled.

“Why not?” Derek asked. Evidently, he seemed to think he had hauled enough water for the project and had sat down again to continue building. Unfortunately, according to his sister, he had not chosen a good spot to do this.

“That’s where the stables are going. You need to build a fence for the horses.”

“What?” He looked at her incredulously. “I don’t want to build a fence for stupid horses. I want to build the castle.”

“No, that’s my job,” the girl said, her sandy hands planted firming on her hips.

“Derek!” their mom said in a warning voice.

He sighed and started to build the sand into a wall around the perimeter of the “field” his sister had indicated.

My phone started ringing. I pulled it out and saw it was Alicia. Rather than answer it, I saw I’d also missed more text from her:

“Why are you ignoring me?”

“Did you put the milk in the door of the fridge? It doesn’t go there. How many times do I have to tell you?”

“I went into your room because I thought you might be in there hiding and I accidentally spilled tea on your bedspread.”

“Arrrg!” Derek yelled in frustration. He grabbed his pail and shovel in a fury and stormed off down the beach, sand spraying up from his stomping feet as his sister threw her arms over her head and ducked for cover. Down the beach, he settled down to build his own castle, his back to his sister who was now staring open-mouthed at him.”

“Mom” she whined.

“Derek play nice,” her mother warned, her eyes still closed. But Derek was too far away to hear. His sister stuck her lip out.

Another text came through from Alicia: “Your room is messy.”

Suddenly, I realized Derek had the right idea. I through my book, towel, and phone into my bag to do my own marching. It was time to move and build my sandcastle elsewhere.