In Fifty Words…

(Prompt: A fifty word drabble)

______

“Break it.”

Cool, unearthly, calm… his voice broke through the void of conscience. Shards splintered the patterned floor–diamonds cut by glass.

“He’ll kill you now.”

Maybe. Most likely not, but it would hurt.

“Want me to stay?”

Perhaps. Would it feel better being watched?

“I’ll be in the corner.”

Fifty

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Penny Dreadful

Summer Short Story #10

(Prompt: Use the Ugly Duckling story structure. Write of obstacles and your character never giving up. Arrange an experience of happiness/life changing moment following. End with a balance to the negative obstacles. Perhaps, deconstruct or negate them for resolution to obtain a seesaw effect. Use “jeopardize” per the Daily Post prompt.)

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Penny was a bitty kitty, the kind of bitty kitty most people simply call a runt. She certainly was a diminutive thing, even for such small a creature–as newborn kittens tend to be. Her sire’s grandmother had supposedly been a champion specimen at the Supreme Cat Show or some similar feline pageantry. By the looks of Penny, though, such distinctions mattered little. Champion traits had been inherited haphazardly so it would seem.

Her litter mates thought little of her. The seething mass of suckling fur had no patience for its little sister. Indeed, she’d gone without many a meal. Penny couldn’t understand why their mother never interjected. She seemed content to merely lay there and sweep her tail in preoccupied fashion.

If mother cat had nothing to say, then the madam of the house was positively loquacious in comparison. She went on and on about Penny’s misfortunes… or rather, her misfortune having one less animal to display at the shows.

“She’ll not amount to much. What with her coloring… She’d jeopardize the reputation of our stock.”

Penny was not an ordinary black cat, you see. To add company to the misery of her size, she’d gone and had herself born with a patch near the left ear–marring her inky silhouette.

Finally, one morning, she heard, “George, she won’t do. Just take her away.”

… and Penny found herself plunged into a cloth sack and dumped in an alley quite far from what the madam called “home,” she was quite sure. Though tiny, she had quite the fierce cry. So Penny called to any and all who would hear. She was hungry and would dearly love a drop of milk. No one came, but rainwater gave her a little more strength to linger, just enough to pad away from the damp alley and into the street side.

Loud and large, everything loomed, making Penny huddle against a building facade. She stayed there the day, mewing and trailing the sides of the building.

“Little bird, where is mother?”

A great pair of soot stained eyes peered at Penny, but the kitten didn’t understand–since  the language of cats and ravens differ greatly. The two birds hopped in agitation and spoke at length, but still the mystery of their oddly feathered discovery persisted.

Eventually, a third joined to form a trio and said, “That is a cat.” It peered even closer and exclaimed, “It needs mother.”

But there were no mother cats to be found, so the trio found the next best thing.

The wind had plucked the bowler from a man’s head. He had silver hair, and the ravens liked shiny things. They’d also liked the little cat, whom they’d thought an oddly feathered sister. So one of the great black birds swept the hat further–dropping it upon Penny’s own head. It cut the damp from the air considerably, and Penny tried to speak her thanks. Almost immediately, however, her newfound source of warmth was whisked away–and she bodily with it!

Penny cried. It was almost too much, nearly unbearable. She’d already been thrown away once before.

“Oh! What is this?”

The man–a well-kept, kindly sort of older gentleman–saw that his hat was occupied. Brushing a tentative finger over the fluff he spied, he whispered, “Aren’t you in a dreadful state, poor thing.”

Carrying his hat a bit more carefully and dispensing with the the notion that it would soon again adorn his head this trip, he walked the rest of the way to his home.

“You’ve been tossed or, perhaps, lost. Either way, you’ll now have a place with me.”

Finer words did not exist, and Penny mewed in delight. Being thrown away like so much garbage had been bewildering and unkind.

“What should I call you?”

He was silent for some time, cleaning her in the careful way of his profession. His hands were efficient and methodical, those of a doctor.

“You, my tiny dear, are an intriguing surprise. Look at this splash of color!”

Indeed, the doctor found her near-solid state enhanced by the tortoiseshell embellishment, and it caused the kitten to purr.

Drying the tiny blot of a cat, he said, “I bet you’ve some tales, in the streets with crows for companions… ah no, not crows. They were ravens. Of course, ravens–even more Gothic.”

Seating her upon his lap with a small towel and milk, he thought to see if she would drink. Certainly, she was yet too slight for a saucer, and his idea proved a great success. Penny drank her fill for once in her short life, thus far.

“I think you’ll be my penny dreadful. Would you like that?”

Penny did not answer, too sleepy and finally content.

jeopardize

Cinders

Summer Short Story #9

(Story Prompt: Write a story with a Cinderella story structure: try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, life-changing moment. Include “eyes” per the Daily Post prompt.)

———-

(The day of ‘Penny Verses the Storm’ and immediately afterward)

“Look squarely into my eyes and tell me, again.”

“You really are a masochist, John.”

His offer of marriage at the prow of her ship might have been romantic… the first time. However Clarice, Capt. Wendigo of the HMA Hermes, was not an indecisive woman.

“Get up or I’ll have you thrown off my ship.”

“You can’t fault me for trying.”

“I can, and I will.”

“You will! You said, I will!”

John’s glee–although, entertaining–was unbecoming, and Clarice was finished with his antics.

Picking up a nearby telephone and dialing directly, she ordered, “Security, please escort Mr. Stockholm off of my ship.”

“Clarice!”

“When aboard this vessel, it is ‘Captain.'” Turning away as the security detail came to stand at John’s sides, she included, “Am I clear?”

John couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. Indeed, she was the clearest presence there.

Nodding, he agreed, “Completely, irrevocably and forever.”

Narrowing her glare to a squint, Clarice turned her back as he was led off ship. John Stockholm was a persistent man, and the ire he drew clung. Walking the length of the Hermes was the least she could do to shrug off the irritation. Inspecting as she passed, the rigging looked in order, sails repaired or replaced as needed. The engines had been overhauled and were being calibrated on the morrow. Ahead of schedule, she’d have her ship in the air within the week.

In a much better mood, she made her way to her quarters to go over crew assignments and pending promotions. Settled at the desk, deep into reading evaluations some time later, a letter came careening through the ship’s message tube.

Opening it, she read:

My dearest, Captain,

Clarice, what can a man do but keep asking whilst there is breath in his body still? We have been long acquainted, and though you act otherwise, I know you call me friend. Do not forsake me overly. Until then…

Here, she had to turn the page. Although, he’d left more than enough space.

Will you marry me?

Incensed, Clarice almost crushed the letter in hand. Instead, she stuffed it into a personal documents folder. Document everything–a motto ingrained and hard to ignore. There were other things in that folder, some of little consequence to her but of great importance to others and others… There was another letter from John Stockholm in there, not from Stockholm the third, but the name’s original bearer.

Reading across the aged paper and glancing at the attached photo, she thought, “Funny how blood tells sometimes.” Staring at the elder Stockholm’s image, the eyes seemed to follow. They were too like the younger man’s for peace of mind.

“Damn you, old man.”

But he couldn’t hear those words, would never do so. She was ten years too late for such things. She fell asleep later that night, cursing a ghost. It made for uncomfortable dreams, and the next day proved even less agreeable.

Not one to be superstitious, learning of the attack  and subsequent damage to Doctor Gadson’s house and property made her more inclined to believe, however, that cursing the dead–perhaps–was an activity best not repeated.

“Doctor, why didn’t you immediately notify me?”

“It was late, my good lady, and we were–in relative terms–well. Besides, we had John on the ground. He’s an intrepid fellow, as you know, and was good enough to spring for a few rooms at the inn. Though everything is fairly intact at Mrs. Cooper’s, she probably now rues being so closely situated to my own home. Her rooms reek of smoke. She will stay with Rosamond at the inn, at least until her rooms have aired out enough.”

“Surely, you don’t mean to stay there the entire time repairs are made?”

“Honestly, Clarice, I’ve not thought that far ahead. These are early times yet. Truthfully, I just wish to give Rosamond a spot of calm first. Look at her, poor girl.”

Clarice did, and it hurt. Rosamond was withdrawn, in shock.

“She’s thinking of her father, no doubt.”

The captain quietly agreed and then thought of a friendly accommodation.

“Listen. I sail in less than a week. Why don’t you stay in my apartment while I’m away? It’s yours for the duration if you like. Mrs. Cooper is kind enough to look in from time to time on my shorter deployments. She’ll find it satisfactory, as will Rosamond, I’m sure. What say you?”

“Clarice!” The doctor’s face beamed. “I don’t know what to… You’re too kind to this old man.”

“No doctor, not kind enough. Here. Take my key. You know where it is. I regret that I must be back aboard ship within the hour and can’t settle you in properly. Calibrating the overhauled engines this afternoon, and my presence… Well,  you understand.”

“Of course, Captain. I do.  And thank you, most profoundly, but you need not part from your key so soon. The inn is quiet comfortable. We’ll stay there until you must quit  your abode for the high clouds.”

“As you wish.”

“And you must consent to allow me to express my gratitude in a fine meal. Will you meet  me for dinner tonight at the inn, with Rosamond, please?”

Never one to turn down a good meal, she happily agreed…

Only to wish she had not a half hour into what would have been a lovely evening.

“Ah! I was afraid I would miss you. I know we’d not made plans.”

John Stockholm III, of course, he’d be present.

“John! I have wonderful news. It will lighten the pull upon your purse. The good captain has allowed me the use of her rooms while she is away.”

Before he even had a moment to ask, Clarice stated in no uncertain terms, “You will have to either stay here at the inn or find other accommodations, I’m afraid. My rooms are significantly smaller than those of the doctor’s. It will be a crush as it is, but he is a stalwart man.”

“No doubt. Though never a burden, my purse strings and I thank you.”

Catching her eye, Clarice said, “Rosamond, go ahead and speak. I’d like to know what has made your face even graver than I’ve seen it this day.”

“I’m afraid… Captain, I don’t want your rooms damaged like the doctor’s. I don’t want Mrs. Cooper’s damaged. What if it grows worse?”

“Do you expect it to do so?”

“I don’t expect, but I do suspect it will. It’s happened before.”

“Doctor?” She turned to the man, wondering when this same scenario had played out in his past.

But Rosamond answered, “No, my father. I have fled a burning house before.”

Because he didn’t look surprised, she asked, “Doctor, what is it that you know?”

“Enough, my dear Captain. Enough to know the world is smaller than we believe. Rosamond and I have mutual acquaintances beyond you and John. Rosamond, are you feeling unwell?”

At her sickly nod, he placed his napkin upon the table and added, “Alas, your rooms will be safe enough. We’ll talk in a more private situation tomorrow at your convenience, if that’s agreeable.”

“Of course. As you will.”

“Let me walk Rosamond upstairs to Mrs. Cooper. Please excuse us.”

When he escorted the pale child away, Clarice turned to her unusually quiet companion.

“Will you consent to be my wife?”

“Damn it, John. Now is not the time nor the place!”

“Isn’t it? Alone at a table, a quiet dinner for two… I would think this apropos.”

“Why do you insist?”

“There is still breath in my body. I can do no other.”

“You realize there is yet breath in your body because I’ve considered you a friend? This insane parody of courtship would have ended with your first proposal otherwise.”

“I realize no such thing. Your eyes tell another tale.”

“You’re blind, then.”

“Blinded by you.”

She threw her napkin down upon the table in disgust and left him to his meal.

Later that evening, again at her desk, reviewing the next day’s responsibilities before retiring, a letter came down the tube.

She knew by whom it was penned before breaking its seal.

My dearest Captain,

Clarice, if I don’t ask, if I cease my persistence, you will think upon me only some of the time… and then none of the time–leaving me with nothing but regret. I know you have my grandfather’s letter, and I know what your possession of it means. Damn the old man. I don’t care if I bear his name, I am not him! Though I possess a playful spirit of adventure, I know enough not to toy with yours. I ask repeatedly because I know you’d not make it easy–not for any man. I ask because I love you, Clarice.

Have I never told you before?

Perhaps, I am an idiot, as you are so fond of telling me… a persistent fool. The fact that you believe I jest whenever I lay my heart out for your pleasure tells me so.

Clarice, I love you. I will always love you.

Yours as you wish,

John

Clarice wiped the tear that spilled, despite no one being the wiser. It was a point of pride.

“Damn him too. The one time the man doesn’t propose…”

What would it hurt to curse the living? … Especially if the only ghost there resided in her chest, where her heart tried to beat.

Eyes

Unpredictable Miss

7/16/16

Summer Short Story #8

(Prompt: Write a story featuring only dialogue between two very different characters. You may write it in script format. Make sure to capture each character’s personality in their dialogue to make them unique. Include “unpredictable” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

 


 

“What’s your name, pretty lady?”

“Lady? In this establishment?”

“She’s sitting right in front of me. Now don’t play coy? A pretty thing like you shouldn’t be sitting all alone.”

“Oh, coy I am not, and it’s Captain, to you.”

“My, my… a captain. My mistake.”

“Indeed. Not your only one, mind you.”

“My only what, Captain?”

“Mistake. Look around. Tell me what you see.”

“Giving orders now? We’re not on board your ship. Why should I follow?”

“You seem like a man who likes playing games.”

“Games, huh? Well… if we’re playing, Captain.”

“The bartender, a pretty lady—excuse me, a pretty captain—a couple men in the corner seat.”

“Do you know the bartender’s name?”

“Of course. Everyone does.”

“His full name?”

“…”

“What about the two gentlemen over there?”

“Your point?”

“I do… know their names.”

“So you fancy yourself a regular and those blokes too.”

“I fancy myself not alone… but you are. Alone in a pub that is now being locked by my good friend and bartender.”

“What the hell kind of game are you playing?”

“One where you do as I say.”

“Lady, I don’t know what you think you’re playing at, but it’s with the wrong man.”

“Uh, uh… I know exactly what I’m doing, and I’ve got the right man.”

“Leave his jaw intact, gentlemen, please. I need him to talk.”

“Get your hands off… mmhh”

“You don’t need to struggle hardly so much. My friends are simply holding you still. Mind you, it’s so you’ll listen very, very closely. Someone has been spreading information. Let’s call them rumors, for now. About a certain girl and the doctor who hired her on as his maid. Familiar? No? Funny… Just the other day, the good doctor was speaking to the Mayor, and he learned that his employee’s name and circumstances were being bandied about as if common knowledge. But you already know that is most certainly not the case.

The situation has proven most distressing. To her, to the doctor… to me. But do you know who really dislikes hearing rumors? The Mayor. Would you like the Mayor hearing your name and certain… indiscretions linked? It’s a bit of a touchy subject, but I’m privy to some of his sister’s lesser known proclivities. Oh? You didn’t know? How unfortunate.

Now, as you—yourself–said earlier, ‘don’t play coy.’ Ms. Barrington dallies with you—a strapping fellow, you are—I don’t blame her, truly. That you choose to deal in information with her eldest brother… now that, I find remarkable.

If you would like to maintain your current financial security and your good looks (I make no judgements on being a kept man. I am for equal rights and opportunities, I’ll have you know!), cease your digging. If you choose to ignore me, I will know. You are not the only one who likes to play spy games. Proceed with caution. These are unpredictable times, Mr. Brooker. Unpredictable, indeed.

Gentlemen, if you would see this man out? I thank you.

Go, enjoy your lady and leave my little miss alone. ”

Unpredictable

Nightmare From Above

7/15/16

Summer Short Story #7

(Prompt: Write a story featuring a character very unlike you. Put the character in a situation where his/her reaction would be vastly different from your own. Include “nightmare” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Immediately following the attack on Doctor Gadson’s house.)

The private airship, known simply as the “Arcadia” was a fine example of the Orca class of vessels—a yacht upon air. Sleek and mysterious, like its owner and current passenger, it was perfectly outfitted with every luxury. Zina didn’t need the ship to loom large. She just needed to own it and everyone on board.

“Hurry up; get in the basket. That’s a good boy.”

She’d let any other creature climb up on his own. The ladders tethered to the docking platforms were sound enough, but her Gingersnap was an entirely different matter.

“There you go.”

                With her pet sitting secure inside, she had the cabin boy haul him up into the airship.

She didn’t bother with a dismissal. As soon as Gingersnap hopped out onto the deck, the boy was forgotten. He didn’t exist.

“Show me what you’ve got Snap, Snap.”

Taking the cat’s go-cam from its collar, she synced the device to her handheld and watched with absolute glee. The fact that everyone escaped from Gadson’s house unscathed bothered her, but striking terror and burning his abode nearly down was a comfort.

So focused on getting the footage, Zina nearly skimmed over her cat’s appearance. He was always getting in scraps. Both of his ears were ragged affairs, one split from a bite, and his fur showed tufts out of place nearly every chance he went carousing in the city. Today, however, he was the worse for wear.

“What the hell, Snap?”

Her cat was wasn’t just wet and bedraggled. He was covered in who knows what foulness. Taking him by the scruff, she hauled him into the lavish bath on board and rang for another cabin boy.

“Clean him up. Rinse him carefully! Or else. I’ll know if you get shampoo in his eyes.”

                Not actually children, the cabin boys were very nicely shaped young men, paid to obey her every beck and call. Eyeing him savagely, she almost wished he’d make the mistake—almost. Her Snap, Snap wouldn’t like it, though. So she tempered her thoughts—barely–delaying the gratification of confrontation and violence. To assuage the desire, she reviewed the recording once more and thought how wonderfully solicitous the good doctor was of his own pets—both his pretty cat and the new girl he’d been lodging.

Who is this girl to you, Gadson?”

                As she watched more closely, the expressions on his face, his hand gestures and proximity, she thought, “Clean, fed and housed… another pet. Another way to hurt you.”

                She thought of the doctor’s pain and smiled at the amusement. The Beshalm assassin had been good fun, but not very effective. She thought he’d, at least, maim the man. When Victor had suggested she hire him, she had her doubts. Gadson was a wily creature, having already evaded one or two of her nastier traps. But she would have enjoyed being wrong in this instance.

Pulling her thoughts back from the morose failure, she focused on the dark-haired girl, again. She’d have to hire an informant to get her name and other pertinent information. Clearly, she wasn’t just some pretty maid.

Again, she smiled, talking to the image the doctor presented on her screen, “You don’t know what’s coming, do you? She laughed, unable help the glee at the prospect. “A perfect nightmare. You might never sleep peacefully, again…

She kissed the screen in mock tenderness, “If you are to wake.”

Nightmare

Penny Versus the Storm

Summer Short Story #6

(Prompt: Write a story featuring a character very like you. Put the character in a situation you’d like to find yourself in, make something go terribly wrong and describe the (three weeks after the Doctor’s visit to the Mayor) reaction. Include “storm” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Three weeks after the Doctor visits the Mayor.)

“Prrrmeow… rre, rre, ming…”

Penny twitched her tail, expecting a reply, and then sneezed delicately. She lazily blinked her citrine shaded eyes and let their slits expand in the dim light.

“That’s right, human, I sometimes am forgetting. You are not yet fluent in feline, as my Doctor would say.”               

                Eyeing the new girl (“the Rosamond” as Penny would say), the nearly solid black cat washed her paws. Deeming them sufficiently clean, she then went to the water dish and dipped a paw in, bringing the drops to her mouth. Unlike some other cats, she was refined.

“Get yourself off, you nasty tom, shoo!”

The Rosamond was not beyond chasing that ginger vagabond away. Penny knew all about the girl’s fierceness with a broom. She’d seen if first hand, quite exciting, and wouldn’t mind more entertainment. But he’d sprayed the Doctor’s front door again, and the smell was not to be ignored.

Normally a pacifist, she’d twitch nothing more than a whisker, if that. Today, however, was one insult too many. The Rosamond had knelt with pale and sponge nearly every day this week, and it could not be born any longer. So Penny slipped out behind the unsuspecting girl and made to follow the wretched tomcat.

“You would be coming. I had the knowing, Penny.”

“You have nothing but a bladder of fault, scoundrel.”

“Scoundrel?”

“Indeed. I am knowing of truth! You mark a gentleman’s door… the mark of a scoundrel!”

“My master is saying always yours is an upstart. You are getting your mighty airs from him.”

“Master?” Penny twitched her whiskers and an ear. She’d always assumed the tomcat was feral.

“What is the saying of your master about my Doctor?”

“You would like the knowing, dreadful Penny, but what will you be paying?”

The horrible tom leered with a flicker of his tail, and Penny hissed. Words weren’t need for his distasteful suggestion. It was time for action, and so the usually tranquil cat, shook her head mightily—making her bell peel in a flurry of fur.

A raucous chorus of cawing echoed overhead, right before the first volley of bombs dropped on the flea-ridden ginger.

“Rrreeeeow! Hsst!”

He didn’t complain for long, bolting for cover, instead. Whatever catty curses he fouled the air with were left to the bricks and mortar of the alley into which he scurried.

“Graww, gra! Graw huha. Gruh, gruh!”

If anyone should’ve happened upon Penny, they would have exclaimed in shock. For a cat, she spoke Raven remarkably well. Although, her accent left much to be desired. The black birds cared little, though. She managed to get the raven-haired girl she lived with to leave the tea time crumbs to them fairly often. Beyond that good fortune, however, was the fact that Penny was their sister of a different feather, a raven in heart. They would gladly give aid whenever asked.

Humans called their group an “unkindness of Ravens,” but Penny knew better. They were the very best sort.

Thanking them again, she doubled back and returned to the Doctor’s house just as the Rosamond was finishing her unfortunately task.

“Penny! How did you get out?”

“Prrmeow! Ming. Rrr.”

“I know. Wasn’t that a nasty tomcat? Let’s hope this is the last we see of him. I’ve poured vinegar on the doorstep. Mind you hold your nose.”

She gently scooped the Doctor’s cat up and carried her inside so she didn’t have to be so close to the deterring scent. All the while, Penny began to wonder if—perhaps–the Rosamond wasn’t beginning to learn feline, after all. She’d understood her remarkably well just then.

Some hours later, her Doctor returned from his calls and was about to begin receiving appointments in his front office.

As he carefully closed his wet umbrella, he said, “It’s just begun to rain. I think the weather’s taking a turn. It’s a bit nasty outside.” Placing it in the umbrella vase, he asked, “Have you see that atrocious tramp of a cat outside by the steps?”

Both she and the Rosamond answered simultaneously, “I have, Doctor. He’s terrible, marking your door every day this week. I hope he’s not done it, again! I’ve just poured vinegar there.”

“Ah, that’s why its smells as it does.” Taking his coat and placing it upon the rack, he replied, “I don’t think he has. He’s just been standing there—looking rather determined. I thought, perhaps, he was stalking an unseen rodent.”

Penny grew unsettled as she listened. More than just the skies were turning grey, she could feel it. Her whiskers were growing twitchy—never a good sign. As the afternoon waned into the evening hours, Penny’s sense of foreboding grew even worse. She couldn’t attribute it to the ginger’s continued presence. He’d left hours before, but she couldn’t help the sensation that his feral stare was aimed at her and the rest of the house’s occupants.

At eight o’clock that night, the worst happened. A window from one of the street-side rooms broke, sending shards raining inward. Something hurled from outside thumped ominously upon the floor and rolled unevenly, and then she became unhearing for many moments. The explosion was maddening to her feline ears, but she heard the Doctor clear enough, despite the assault.

He yelled from the library, running to the hallway, “Is anyone hurt? Call out! The house is on fire!”

Everyone, including Penny, found their way to his voice, and the Rosamond asked a frantic question of him as the rain fell in monsoon sheets.

“That wasn’t lightening and the clash of thunder, I’m afraid. It was an explosion, dear girl, and we must make haste!” The Doctor’s calm voice belied the severity of their problem.

Grabbing a fire extinguisher, he ran to his office, where fire licked at the curtain. But his efforts were in vain. There was only the one apparatus, and the fire spread quickly.

“Out! Out! It’s no use.”

So Penny, her Doctor and the other humans of the house, stood outside in the rain, watching as the fire brigade tried valiantly to save the structure. In the end, it looked as if they’d be able to salvage much of the home. However, the Doctor’s medical records were all burnt or water damaged. Most of the furniture was ruined, and everything smelled of smoke.

“Prrmeow.”

“I know, my Penny Dreadful, we’re lucky,” her Doctor exclaimed, as he stroked her fur meditatively.

Storm

Journey From My First Person

Summer Short Story #5

(Prompt: Write in the first person perspective, try in the present tense. Describe an event and how it affects the narrator. Include “journey” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


(Ten months prior to meeting Dr. Gadson, three weeks after the fall of Septmet’s tomb.)

They lay them to rest today, and I can only observe from a vantage hidden. My father, General Altman, all those soldiers… so many men. My heart pours grief as I cry among the angels and think of ways to join their ranks. A single thought stops me, though, as the final mourners empty from the Black Chapel Cemetery.

If I perish, by my own hand or another’s, I will have no marked grave to hold my body.

They think me already dead, crushed by the weight of fifteen meters of sand and stone. There, before me, lying to the world, my headstone lays next to Father’s—the casket occupied by a symbolic rose.

Rosamond Elizabeth Wadsworth is hiding. Lizzie Worth goes to St. Giles this day, and they will have her for as long as she can stand. I think this as I lay atop the mausoleum roof, hiding behind the angels at its corners. I think it strange and realize I am not myself, will never be myself again. I wonder how I’ll fair in a poorhouse. It is not what I’ve been raised for.

But I must leave. The cemetery is not meant for the living to stay.

“Father, I love you.”

I whisper to him and close my eyes. I don’t open them for many minutes. The sun is too brilliant for such a day as this. Noon is upon me, and I must make my way further into New London. The journey scares me. Traveling unseen to follow my father’s body seems but someone else’s actions, a tether upon which I was drawn. Now that singular mission is complete, I am anxious and weary. Heartsick, I think.

I’ll be heartsick for a long while.

Journey

Guest at the Party

Summer Short Story #4

(Prompt: Write a 100 word drabble. Include “guest” per the WordPress daily prompt.)


“Did you truly think we’d not celebrate?”

The doctor scoffed, while Rosamond tried to keep a dignified facade—failing miserably. She didn’t think there would ever be anyone to mark the day with again.

“No, sit. You’ll not act the maid today. No shocked looks.”

She’d no control over her eyes, though. They wept.

“Mrs. Cooper, the cake!”

Lemon drizzle… all because she’d mentioned the treat—a shared favorite with her father.

“There, now… Ah, right on time. Here comes Clarice and John.”

No better family of friends existed, she thought.

“To Rosamond, our honored guest! Happy Birthday, my dear.”

Guest

Cowardice and a Cup of Tea

Summer Short Story #3

(Prompt: Write with the following 4th grade spelling list words included: raise, mayor, airplane, remain, blame, state, frame, holiday, relay, waist, pail, gain. Include “cowardice” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

______________________

“I daresay, Captain Windigo would have a conniption if she heard you refer to her vessel as an airplane. Clearly, it is not.”

The Doctor had to correct the roving journalist. To see the Hermes correctly portrayed was but a small kindness he could do for the now, temporarily, land-bound lady. Such a grievous state of affairs, this more recent episode of events weighed heavily on the Doctor’s narrow frame.

“The HMA Hermes is a Haroeris B-221 airship of the Osprey class. Now you’ve all the facts. Off with you. Relay the particulars for your editor. I have an appointment to keep and must be on my way.”

The reporter was in the midst of replying or retorting, hand raised to pad at the ready for another bit of information. The good Doctor wasn’t certain; neither was he particularly interested, however. It was near time for high tea, and if he were to remain a minute longer, his housekeeper—the formidable Mrs. Cooper—would blame him for the tea gone cold. And all deities forbid, tea going cold… She’d likely threaten to leave for an extended holiday, and if anyone was deserving of a holiday, it was he and poor Rosamond.

Dear Rosamond… He mused as he strode away, his cane hitting cobblestone with consideration. The poor girl was a having a rough time of it, and his invitation for Mr. Stockholm’s visit helped little.

“If you don’t stop pestering the poor girl, your supper will be a lamentable affair, Mr. Stockholm—just you see.”

Mrs. Cooper was in the middle of a matronly tirade when the Doctor arrived.

“My dear, what is this about?”

“Don’t bother with Mrs. Cooper! She’s no sense at all. You, though! Hear me out… Your little maid has been in the tomb—the tomb—the one everyone said was found and cursed to oblivion, unopened,” Mr. Stockholm carried on with fervor.

“You gain nothing by insulting my housekeeper, John. If you keep at it, she’ll throw your supper in the waste pail later, and then where would you be?”

“With a trimmer waist. The fit of my coat could use my slimming down. Besides, I came here seeking adventure… and here, it’s come to me!”

“Mr. Stockholm! Rosamond’s life is not your adventure to pursue!” Mrs. Cooper would not be subdued and railed further, “You are a beast for even suggesting going back there where all her woes began.”

The trio of voices persisted in civil argument until Rosamond stepped forward from the receiving table where she’d been standing silent for some time.

“Doctor?” She had a letter in hand, poised to raise it higher. “There’s a letter for you Doctor, a letter from the Mayor.”

“The Mayor? Now that’s a welcome surprise. Let’s see what it says.”

Taking the letter in hand, he paused briefly at what he saw between the folds, and then quickly read it aloud.

Turning to his housekeeper, “Well, Mrs. Cooper, it means you won’t have to fuss with the lot of us tomorrow.”

“The tea! Oh, Doctor, how could you let it grow cold?”

“Oh, no. No, no, no, my dear, Mrs. Cooper. That blame falls squarely on Mr. Stockholm, I do believe.”

“Doctor, you devil. How do you come by that conclusion? Mrs. Cooper has been a right banshee. Blame her.”

Mrs. Cooper could not bear the outrage and let loose a torrent of unpleasant suggestions before whirling away, leaving the tea service to the object of her ire. He, rather dejected by the whole business, took to the library–brandy being better than tea at any hour in his mind—leaving Rosamond and the Doctor looking at one another in a now more spacious room.

“Rosamond, fancy tea down the street at the corner?”

Less a maid and more a companion now in the very best sense of the word, Rosamond nodded her head.

“Yes, please.”

They would need to talk. The Mayor asking them to tea, just as he’d invited her father to tea what seemed a lifetime ago… it was about the tomb. Of course it was. Clarice had called earlier saying there were strange whispers on the winds. Having more time upon her hands than usual with the Hermes being in land-dock for repairs, she’d done her customary rounds at the pubs, and the men had enjoyed talking with the lady captain around.

“I know what you’re thinking, dear girl.”

She should hope not, turning guardedly to the Doctor, after they’d left his house.

“You are thinking that Mr. Stockholm is a sorry bother and in many ways, you are correct.” Looking at Rosamond a little more fully now, “However, he’s a good man to have near in a pinch. You’ll see. He really can be a good friend. Just as you took it upon yourself to act the role of my hero, so has he.”

Rosamond looked surprised as the Doctor continued, “Indeed! Don’t look so stupefied. Looks can be deceiving. Clearly, we’d underestimated your blood thirst and facility with firearms. Now don’t glare at me like that, my dear. I mean it in the fondest of ways.”

She didn’t understand how his observation equated fondness, but he didn’t give her the chance to question.

“I would not be here before you without the man, as I would not without you. So there. You two are dear to me.”

“Then I am grateful to Mr. Stockholm, but I think—perhaps–you should remind Mrs. Cooper, as well. I, truly, didn’t get a word in edgewise. You heard the conversation much as it was without your presence.”

“Duly noted. We shall have our tea, and we shall talk. I think there is much to discuss. I was partially jesting earlier. I, indeed, know what you are about to say… and it will be alright, my dear.” And with that pronouncement, they stopped at the practical and well-visited tea house down the street.

“Ah, and so we find ourselves at our destination. Find a table for us outside. The day isn’t so dreary that we need to remain indoors. What I must say needs no ears beyond your own, I think.”

The two shared their tea and their troubles, more related than any would guess, but passersby would only see a silver-haired man and a dark-haired girl in focused conversation—a grandfatherly vignette–if only they knew. Within the Doctor’s hand, lay a single white feather, a silent condemnation he’d found between the folds of the Mayor’s invitation.

“Clearly, the Mayor does not know you well,” Rosamond very seriously surmised.

“No. I think he rather does. Sometimes, the bravest course of action is to run. Who you take hands with to pull along… now that speaks to your character.”

“Will we be running, Sir?”

“You, me and the entire world…” He paused in recollection, not a very nice one, and said, “I do think I’ll be pulling this entire planet along with me this time.”

Rosalind was too much in her mind to reply.

“We best be getting you better shoes before long.” Startled, she looked up, and he admonished, “Drink up, drink up—don’t want your tea growing cold.”

And so they finished their tea.

Cowardice

Desert Rose

Summer Short Story #2

(Prompt: Write for 30 minutes about a character and his/her limit. Include “desert” per the WordPress daily prompt.)

_________________________________

“John, she’s not at all what you’d led me to believe.”

“And how have I done that, love?”

Clarice Wendigo, captain of the HMA Hermes, looked past the mooring lines up to her airship—the port noisy with docking sounds– and then back down to the man walking at her side.

“I’m not your love, John.”

“Not yet, not yet.”

Tenacious, she’d give him that. For his sheer persistence, she answered, “She’s just a girl, a slip of a thing. You’d have me believe she was a creature from Hades.”

“She is! Have you seen her eyes? Too large, utterly, and sunken in. Her whole face is nothing but eyes.”

“She hasn’t been fed well for a long time, I gather.” Stopping, she seriously appraised her would-be suitor. “Truly, what’s got you in arms about the child?”

“What’s the Doctor doing with her? She’s dodgy. He hasn’t said a bloody thing about her past, just that she turned up at his door one day, and she’d be staying on. The whole business is dodgy.”

“Isn’t it just that, though, his business?”

“I thought you were his friend? Of course, it’s his business, but something’s not right?”

“What’s really got you bothered, John? Truly, you should be more concerned about what the doctor’s doing with so young a thing. I am his friend, but you men can be… well, such men! Why are you so unconcerned about her welfare?”

John, a fastidiously well-dressed man, began removing invisible hairs from his jacket sleeve. Many questionable seconds passed by before he finally answered–Clarice’s implacable eyebrow raised in earnest having something to do with it.

“She threw a lamp at me.”

“Pardon me? I didn’t quiet hear you correctly.”

“Too right you did! Don’t feign you didn’t.” When she merely raised her brow higher, he repeated, “She threw a bloody lamp at my head. There, satisfied? She’s off her rocker. Who does such a thing?”

Clarice made him explain the situation, the circumstances, and her verdict remained much the same throughout. John deserved a lamp thrown at his head. He’d scared the poor dear. How had Rosamond to know he’d felt comfortable enough to let himself into the house and that he had his own key? The Doctor, being the Doctor, had forgotten to acknowledge the fact. Expecting no one in the house except Mrs. Cooper, with the Doctor being out on house calls, the deep (and alarmingly loud at times, if she was being honest) voice of John Stockholm III would be unnerving. And so his “Hello, poppet” from the dimly lit corner of the parlor had been greeted with a toss of a lamp.

“Well, I still say she’s dodgy. The whole situation is dodgy.”

 

(Three weeks later over the deserts south of Algiers)

 

“I told you she was dodgy!” John shouted past Clarice, as he ran through a maze of crewmen.

“Stop! Get that girl! Stop her!”

He was releasing nothing more than carbon dioxide, as far as Rosamond was concerned. She wouldn’t halt, even if her life depended on it. The Doctor’s own depended on her running faster.

“She has my service revolver! Stop her!”

Mr. Stockholm kept bellowing behind, but the Hermes was a long ship, and there was so much more distance to cover. She ran harder, thanking her days on the streets of New London for her swiftness, if not her too-lean physique. Finally, she found the prow of the airship within sight, and there! The fiend stood too close.

She shrieked as she drew up her weapon, “I’ll shoot. I will! Step away from the Doctor!”

But the Beshalm spy did not. Instead, he drew a knife from his cloak and made to fulfill his intent.

“Wha-?”

Before Mr. Stockholm finished his question, she pulled the trigger—catching the assassin in the arm. Spinning about, the momentum carried him over the railing, but not before he grabbed the Doctor’s long coat—pulling the man nearly over. Very nearly, but he was wily for his years, and was more spry than most gave him credit for. The Doctor looked down upon the wretched individual holding fast upon his sleeve, as it began to tear along the seam.

“Give me your hand!”

“I’d give you my knife instead!” The other man spat out.

A Beshalm assassin, indeed. He’d nearly mistaken him for something else, but no more.

“It’s no longer in your possession. So give me your hand.”

“Your own death upon you, then.”

As he began to comply, Rosemond’s feet propelled her forward once more.

“Give me that!” Mr. Stockholm yelled, grabbing the revolver from her.

“You don’t understand! He’ll kill him,” she screamed right before biting his restraining hand.

Rosamond sobbed, “No!”

Not again, not again… never again. Retrieving the Doctor’s cane from the ground, it was a swift and violent attack. The Beshalm man plummeted to his death, as she sunk to the deck’s planks, crying.

“Why did you try to save him? Why? He’d kill you!”

They gave the wild girl a wide birth—each for his own reason.

“I’m a doctor. What would you have me do?”

“Live!”

“I would have. Rosamond, look at me.”

She refused, her tears making a mess of her stricken face, as she answered, “No. He’s killed everyone… everyone. They’re all gone because of him.”

“Who? Who’s gone?”

“Everyone, the General, my father.”

“Who was your father, Rosamond? Surely, you can tell me now?”

She didn’t for several moments.

“Can we interrogate in a cell? She should be restrained,” Mr. Stockholm spat.

“Shut up, John.”

Silent too long, Clarice gave her command. As captain of the Hermes, her voice carried most weight.

“She will remain as she is and where she is until she may stand, and then we may retire to my quarters.”

Clarice looked harder at the girl who would wield a gun in the Doctor’s defense, and a memory came. Before the girl spoke further, her own shoulders became weighted.

She realized, “Her father was that Brigadier General…”

“Davis Wadsworth was my father.”

By then, many a crewman was privy to the unfolding scene, and there were colorful invectives released.

“My dear girl. My dear, dear girl.”

The Doctor came undone and shed a stalwart tear—begrudging its post at his lash.

Mr. Stockholm had no such sentiments and spoke, “You’re Rosamond Wadsworth?”

Clarice answered, “Well, clearly. The greater question–it would seem–however, is why was an attempt made on your life Doctor?”

“I suspect it’s because Rosamond might have shared information with me, presumably something over which it was worth dying… or, perhaps, my living proved a stumbling block–one would assume was the acquisition of Rosamond. Still yet, there may be no connection at all to Rosamond, an unhappy fluke of association without causal relationship.”

Rosamond chose that moment to look up at the Doctor because something felt terribly wrong beneath her.

And Clarice boomed into the telephone on deck, delivering an all-call, “All hands at post! Engine report! Chief Officer, to me!”

All the while, John Stockholm III grumbled, “Dodgy as hell. This is a mess.”

Desert