Story A Day Challenge – Day 30: Removing Thorns

Here it is at last, the final tale in the 30-day Story A Day challenge. Now, the total tally only comes to 29, as Day 12 went missing. But I’m confident it will resurface soon.

Jeff stepped out of the office elevator deep in thought. He started walking toward the parking garage when he noticed the little flower stand at the side of the building. All of his doubts cleared up at once. He immediately decided to buy a dozen roses for Karen.

He had already plucked out a single rose from a flower arrangement that had been delivered to his office that morning. That one would be coated with the fast-acting toxin and placed on the outermost layer of the bouquet, where Karen was sure to touch it. After Jeff ‘found’ Karen’s body, he would remove the offending rose, leaving her with a perfect dozen and no clues about how she was poisoned. It was perfect.

Jeff paid for the roses in cash and walked to his car, practicing his grief-stricken reactions.

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Story A Day Challenge – Day 29: Dust to Dust

For the first prompt of the challenge, I’d written the beginning of a story. For the penultimate prompt, we were tasked with writing an ending, so I did just that. Filling in the middle will be a task for another time.

Murphy’s Bar was mostly empty. Only a small handful of regulars were sitting around, drinking away their sorrows. Sam poured herself another glass of whisky, wincing slightly as a fresh jolt of pain shot through her shoulder. That wasn’t going away any time soon.

The small TV at the corner of the bar was showing a news report on the Cahill case. Lieutenant Jeffries was being commended for his part in bringing the killer to justice, while Sam wasn’t even mentioned as a footnote. It was just the way she wanted it, really. The less people came knocking at her door asking for help the better off she’d be.

Her thoughts turned to Jessica. The poor girl had never had a chance to grow up. The one adult decision she’d made in her life ended up costing her more than even a rich girl could afford. Gordon and Lilian Cahill would have a lot to answer for in the coming weeks and months. Whether they’d face any true justice or not was another matter.

Sam stared at her bruised knuckles. After all that had happened, what she really needed was a good night’s sleep. But she knew that wouldn’t be possible. There were too many ghosts in her past, and they always haunted her dreams. The best she could hope for was a drunken blackout.

As the afternoon faded into dusk, Sam made her way out of the bar and walked to the cemetery. She was still more sober than she would have liked, but it gave her a chance to appreciate the beauty of the town. And it was beautiful, despite the ugliness that lurked underneath its skin.

Sam walked through the arched black gates and up the hill until she was standing in front of Jessica’s gravestone. Tomorrow, the town would be torn apart once the Cahill family’s darkest secrets were dug up. But for now, Sam watched the light of the fading sun glint off the rooftops in the distance and hoped that Jessica had found some measure of peace.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 28: Sensations

Whitfield Park was beautiful in the early fall, covered in warm colors and filled with the sound of crunching leaves. Normally, Amy enjoyed the changing of the seasons and the chill that slowly crept through the air, but it felt ominous in light of the decision that weighed on her mind.

She walked through the park, which was teeming with people in the late afternoon, many of them disturbing its serenity as they yammered away into their cellphones. Amy could barely conceal her annoyance. Here was nature spread out in all its glory, and all these people could think of was their machines. A young man was listening to music that could be heard with perfect clarity in spite of the earphones he was wearing. She wondered if they actually served any purposed at all. She had barely finished the thought when a rattling sound made her start. There was construction going on nearby, further disrupting the tranquility she had once so loved.

The acrid smell of freshly applied paint wafted by from the construction site. It overwhelmed the smell of the grass and the trees. Amy gritted her teeth and kept walking. Was any of this really worth it? These miserable people and their lack of appreciation for what was around them? A pair of joggers ran past, the twin odors of sweat and heavy perfume creating an unsavory mix. Typical of humanity, trying to mask nature with layers of artifice. She sighed as her decision became clearer to her.

She kept walking, heading for the clear lake where she had spent many an afternoon people watching. Birds darted around the shedding trees, their melodious chirps a welcome distraction from the phones and the power drills. By the side of the lake, Amy spotted a young couple sitting on a picnic blanket. There were no phones or tablets or anything of that sort on their person. They were just enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful weather.  They also had a big shaggy brown dog with them, who was scampering through the leaves, overjoyed. It ran toward the couple and nuzzled against them before running off again.

For the first time in weeks, Amy cracked a smile. This was what she was looking for. The beauty that lived deep inside people, when all the gadgets and finery had been stripped away, when they bothered to connect with the world around them. Her decision was made. She would let humanity live. For now.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 27: Loser

David was frantic. He had managed to lose the lovely diamond necklace that he’d bought for Cindy. How could he be so stupid? He’d imagined how her face would light up when she opened the box, how she would likely burst into happy tears and shower him with hugs and kisses. And more, later on.

But then he went ahead and misplaced the box, complete with the cute little card he had attached to it. Where was it?

“WHO THE HELL IS CINDY?!!”

David buried his face in his hands. He was really hoping his wife wouldn’t find it first.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 26: The Keeper

“You’re eager to know what’s in the box, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

“But you know you can’t look inside.”

“I do.”

“Inside this box is something so powerful, the world would be devastated if it were unleashed. That is why we’ve entrusted you with its protection. It must remain sealed at all costs. Will you be able to control your curiosity?”

“You have my word. I will guard the box’s secrets with my life. You can depend on me.”

“Let us hope so, Pandora.”

Story A Day Challenge – Day 25: Penance

The old village was built of stone and sand, blending in with the surrounding landscape. Dr. Carver was there seeking legends. He had come to know of an artifact known as the Chalice of the Sun, a sacred relic that was supposedly guarded by the dead. Dr. Carver was never one for superstition, but the chalice would have great historical value for its use in ancient funeral rites.

He had been trying to pinpoint the location of the chalice for a few months and had very recently had a breakthrough. This was his opportunity to uncover a lost piece of history. He was eager to find it and explore the stories behind it; perhaps another best-selling book was on the horizon.

The village was small and unassuming, not the sort of place where one expected legends to dwell. A morning’s worth of work had revealed precious little. The rest of his expedition, consisting mostly of his graduate students, were mingling with the locals, trying to learn about the village and the secrets it held, though finding precious few answers. Dr. Carver sat outside a small cafe, scouring his journals for some sort of clue. He wasn’t one to give up easily.

A young girl in a faded green dress ran up to him, holding a small clay cup filled with water. Dr. Carver looked up, cracking a smile for the first time since his arrival.

“Well hello there,” he said in slightly stilted Arabic, accepting the cup graciously. “And what’s your name?”

“Zara.”

“Thank you, Zara,” he said, taking a sip from the cup.

“My father says you are looking for something.”

Dr. Carver nodded, idly flicking through his notebook. That’s right. We’re looking for the Chalice of the Sun. Have you heard of it?”

“I’ve heard stories. My father says it is protected by the gods and should not be disturbed. He says you should go back.”

“Yes, I’ve been hearing that since I got here.” Dr. Carver grunted and drained he rest of the cup in one go.

“I have heard that it is made of powerful magic.”

A rasping laugh escaped the doctor’s throat. “Is it now? Do you know much about magic?”

“Only the stories my grandmother told me. Would you like to hear one?”

It had been a long afternoon, and there would likely be more of those before they found anything, if they found anything at all. At least he could take in some local culture, if nothing else.

“I’d like that very much,” Dr. Carver said with a smile.

Zara smiled back and sat down on the chair next to his. She began telling the sort of fantastical tale that could only be real in the imaginations of children.

Story A Day Challenge – Day 24: Pocketful of Tales

Stories Interrupted: Life seems to have gotten in the way for a bit. But ultimately, the stories must go on.

This prompt presented us with a series of photographs. We had to pick three that appealed to us and write a trio of corresponding micro stories. Here are my selections.

Mother’s Smile (Picture Here)

Grandma always wondered when my father would come back home. She would spend hours sitting on the veranda, waiting for him. She couldn’t accept that he was gone for good.

Nobody knew where he had gone, or if he was even alive.

Except Mom. She just smiled and said nothing.

Labor of Love (Picture Here)

“I wanna make a baby with you.”

“Oh, George.”

“I’m serious, doll. You and me, bringing life into this world.”

Lila gazed into George’s dark eyes as he caressed her arm.

They would eventually learn to be careful what they wished for. But it would be too late. For everyone.

Happily Ever After? (Picture Here)

Melinda wasn’t a happy bride.

Everyone remembered her wedding. The food was sumptuous and the music was lively. The groom could not stop smiling, but Melinda looked grim.

She was not a happy bride. She was not a happy wife.

But she was the happiest widow anyone had ever seen.