Will You Create With Me: The Hope of Future Writing Prompts

Last year, about mid-way between starting this blog and now, I started developing Writing Prompts and Exercises.

For at least the last few months I have not created a single prompt, as I have been striving to get my life in order so that I can have more time working on the blog and writing my beloved novels. 1378764042vcbiu

As March was reborn this 2015, I found myself asking the God of Creation, what was I supposed to do now that there were no distractions to keep me from blogging. I mean yes, the simple answer is to create blogs, but I am a person who likes to “sow” and not “throw” my seed if you get what I mean?

In answer to my query, Yeshua Jesus gave me the simplest answer; “Do what you did at the beginning.”

What did I do at the beginning? I allowed art to bear fruit in whatever way it saw fit, but I allowed it to do so within parameters. In short, I made a deal with myself and my creativity to spend 15 to 20 minutes free flow writing, and an equal amount of time exploring different expressions of art.

I say all of that to say this, will you create with me? It will help us keep in touch.

I enjoy doing free flow writes so much, but I really like doing them with an image as inspiration.

My proposal:

  1. Post an image at the beginning of the week on the blog (It will be housed under my FICTION Tab in the Main Menu on Mondays. )
  2. Underneath that image I will write the first line that comes to mind. (Some images I will leave without a first line for you. You can even leave me one of your choosing and I will attempt to create a written piece off of the best line I choose from your comments (I will need those posted by Wednesday.)
  3. YOUR TASK: Link up with that image and create a semi-free flow write (as I will be giving you the first line) of your own within 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Once you have finished your story, attach a link back to my blog and lets see what we each come up with. Let’s create together!

If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out my page every Monday and be ready to share your results by Thursday that same week! I will have a Category titled Monday’s Muse under the Writing Prompts Tab.

Cheers!

I came for the soup.dpp widgets

Longing For Home: A Free Flow Write

I stare forward, my back to the din of the room. The warmth in the air from laughter and the fragrant touch of spice enveloped me like the heat around the bread in the oven.

I was home.

1420046240fdu46I had been for some days now, but the feeling, the reality of what home meant had not really begun to sink in until now. My mothers, I have seven of them, all of them dancing somewhere between seventy and eighty and none of them willing to tell the truth of the number, huddle in like hens every Sunday to cook a feast…for me.

Mama Gene slides her floured hands over my shoulder’s and plants a wet kiss on my face. The smile lines around her eyes disappear within the folds of her weathered face and although I know she is delighted, delighted for me, I am suddenly less excited about the uncertainty of the tomorrows to come.

I turn around and face my other mothers as Mama Gene resumes her baking, and I wonder how long before my seven Hens huddle together in God’s kitchen baking bread for the angels.

They deserve their days on streets of gold. Six of them had buried husbands, all of them much too soon in life, and not a child to count as the proof of their unions. But mother Gene, the eldest of the hens had never had a husband and not a child either. None of then had until me.

Mama Genen always told me I was the first man she had ever loved besides her father and I was their adopted son, left wondering in front of the sister’s home almost thirty years ago, lost on my own no more than three, longing for a home that I found in the arms of each one of these sisters.

And now I wonder, as I prepare to take a wife of my own, what will become of my hens, these seven sisters, warn with time, and tragedies all their own, delighted to be together until the end of their days. What will I do when the kitchen is empty and no floured hands leave traces across my shoulders. What did Snow White do when she said her last good-bye to each of her beloved dwarfs as time stole them away to eternity?

A damp tall swats my arm. Mama Kay, the youngest of the sisters leans her hip against the counter and looks down at me from the bridge of her long ebony nose. “What’s on your mind son? You are usually all chatter. You sitting her mooning over that girl of yours?”

Kathy Heller, soon to be Mrs. Kathy Hen, is my beloved fiancee. It amazes me how much she reminds me of Mama Kay. Maybe it is because they share the same name or maybe it is the richness of their skin.

I don’t know, but the realization as I take one last look around the den of my mother Hens hits me like the damp dish towel and I pull Mama Kay into my arms and kiss her cheek until she squirms into a fuss, swatting me away and laughter erupts in the already noisy kitchen.

My Kathy, my soon to be Mrs. Hen is just like each and every one of my mothers, some spark of them wrapped up in her and the realization makes me long for home.

THE END

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Sandra Billingsworth: A Free Flow Write

She parked her bike outside, just propped it up against the door, almost as if it were a barricade or a fence-no one coming in, and no one getting out. At least they wouldn’t get out very easily. The way Sandra awkwardly positioned herself between door jam and bike frame attested to that.

Sandra Billingsworth was all together awkward, but in one of the most endearing ways a man or woman, or even child had ever seen. She wore her hair in a slightly lopsided up-do, dancing between bouffant and bee-hive. Or maybe it was just a messy bun, over-spun and over sprayed to keep it in place. 1415252227q782r

Sandra had a lot of hair. But she had even more money than that. It was rumored that she would sew her hair into her messy bun-bouffant-beehive, as an aversion to having to bank.

That could be understandable. Bankers didn’t do well when Sandra road passed their banking windows, the flashy clash of her clothing always drew attention.

But all that aside; the hair, the money, the clothing, or the flashy clash, Sandra Billingsworth was simply pleasant, even if very private, blocking her door with her bike.

That didn’t however mean that no one was welcome to her home. On the contrary, any who went in, hardly ever wanted to leave, and when they did leave, they left with smiles playing between forlorn expressions of desire to return again.

If you asked her visitors what her home was like, everyone of them would tell you something different, and no one who had not gone in could argue right or wrong because there were no windows to the front of her home, only those that faced the back garden, and they too low for neighbors to see into.

But when you asked what was her home like you would hear that it was like spring kissed by the mist of dawn. Or winter dusted with snow and sunlight. Some said it was like summer on the finest day, or even fall fragrant and full of color.

One thing they all did agree upon and all sing with signs of peace, was that Sandra’s home was like the heart of a mother shielded in the protective wing of a loving father.

They all believed her home to be…heaven and she the angel at the gate.

THE END

This story was inspired by the image. What came from that inspiration is what is above. I hoped you enjoyed it. 

Cheers!

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In Two: A Free Flow Write

“Can’t or won’t?” Her words were hard and sharp as she spat them down at him from her upward position. Her face however was disturbingly cool, a stark contrast to the harshness of her tone.

“I won’t because I can’t. They are all misaligned. I cannot in all good conscious do what it is that you are asking me,” He stopped, his words cut off by her sudden movement, the flick of anger giving itself over again to the placid expression she seemed to always wear.

The woman was a frightening mass of pretty and poison. Large dark eyes that screamed of innocence, set just slightly back away from her tiny nose, were nothing more than dangerous liars. This woman was deadly.

He swiveled his seat around to face her, looking up at her from half a floor below. caution tied his tongue as he thought about how to further explain his situation. He allowed his eyes to take in his periphery. The now empty chairs that had once been filled with his colleagues where chilling reminders of how costly a misunderstood response could be.

He took in a breath and waited until the dullness of her eyes glossed just a bit. She was more cordial when her eyes were glossy. He had learned her ways by now. More so than anything. More than not wanting to upset her or cause her to strike. He did not want to strike, for if he did, if he awakened the sleeping beast within, he feared there would be no putting it to sleep again.

No one knew the truth of who he was nor what he was. His mother had only divulged that truth when there was no other way to comfort him the very first time he had shifted. She warned him to control himself, to never let that part of him rule. Their world would not survive if he did.

But in that moment as she, the beautiful liar, descended the stairwell, eyes still dark and dull, he realized he had very little choice in the matter. Either he would awaken at the risk of killing his own world for a blood lust that tickled his tongue or he would yield to this deadly woman and allow her to force him to wipe out many worlds as a result of her haste and greed.

The tell-tale signs of her marking for death became ever more apparent the closer she drew towards him. And with each step, he pondered his last option, should he let her kill him as she had the others?

The heat of his being, the sleeping beast answered before he could. The answer was spelled out in the spray of red that painted the room from her pretty, poisonous body, now rent in two.

THE END

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Guard Your Future: A Quote

Stop cheating on your Future with your Past” ~ Pastor Kenny, Associate Pastor of Covenant Church

The phrase sounds simple enough, but it is often the simple things in life that cause people to stumble the most. We all know that it is true.

But then, maybe the quote isn’t that simple. What does it really mean?

To not cheat on your Future with your Past, is to not allow the “baggage” and the “failures” of yesterday-be they your own failures or those of someone else-to keep you from embracing the goodness that is ahead.  Chain

We have all heard the saying (and I paraphrase) “You can’t drive your car through the rear view mirror.” Well trying to do so is the equivalent of allowing your eye to wonder back towards the past instead of being committed to the opportunity of the present future.

If we take this attitude into a romantic relationship, constantly thinking about our old partner, we are destined for failure.

Holding on to yesterday becomes nothing short of a robbing bondage. We lose everything if we don’t let go. We have to divorce yesterday.

We as creative people, are some of the blessed few who have embraced the power of our imaginations, but even we can miss the mark by living in the past.

Shake off the chains of yesteryear and set your mind firmly on the goals ahead. Commit yourself to them and achieve them. So what you failed in your last attempts. Take on the attitude of Thomas Edison (I believe it was he who said this) by embracing the mindset that you have not failed but found another way of doing it wrong.

As the Apostle Paul said-a man responsible for killing man believers in Yeshua before he, himself, became a believer and spread the Gospel of Grace and Truth further than any other:

13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14

Let yesterday go and take firm hold of tomorrow. Do like the rapper Ma$e said, and make it your gospel; Breathe. Stretch. Shake. Let it go!

Cheers!

I came for the soup.dpp widgets

Warming up: March-ing Into My Return

First let me say that the pun is totally intended. ;) As March hits our doorsteps, so too do I start hitting my keyboard keys again.

If you didn’t notice…I have been away. It is ironic how both last February and February 2015 have held similar qualities, not just with their arctic vortex-ing gigs, but with my being away.  13764279192ocw6

Last year my schedule was thrown off because I started babysitting for my dear friends then two month old son EARLY in the morning. This year I went and stayed at a family members house and helped her and her husband with the kids while she focused on her convalescence.

God is good! She is nearly right as rain and her 10 month old son took three steps all on his own my last day at their home. I would love to take credit for that, but his older siblings were bent on getting that kid to walk.

Anyhow, I am back and ready to create. I have missed the familiar click of these keys just as I have missed the telling of Ascension Graveyard and other short stories that have been batting around in my head-phrases and voices of characters whispering from ear to ear.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me. I truly do not take your following of this blog lightly.

So, please keep your eyes out for creative works to come. I am excited. I hope you are too!

Cheers!

Chapter 36: Ascension Graveyard

Chapter 36

The undertone was slightly off key. The rhythm distorted. The sequence had been disrupted for far too long via the Junction of Greenwich Pass, and now what had once been a pure tone humming from the face of the earth in a perfect sequence; a costly rhythm lusted after, one so hypnotic and addictive that it had called all of Their Kind to that side of the universe, was now sub-par.

            It was amazing how one tiny thread, broken, could disrupt and weaken the most intricate of webs.

            Too much time had been invested in the development of the infrastructure that was now rooted deep into the Earth and surrounded it in a perfect sequence, They were all rooted too deep for it to be abandoned.

            The end product, the concentrated vibration of each ascension had gone from demand to insatiable need, avarice in its nature. But now there was little to no more of that beautiful tone to be had and They were growing hungry—desperate.

They needed the sequence to be re-implemented. But what could They do?

The Etta-beast was like a cancer to them, imbedded too deep within Them to simply cut out. Should she die, They would die.

            The bizarre connection between Themselves and the lesser being was inexplicable—vile—the desperation for the purity of sound that had been coming from the earth, even more so. No other vibration from any other host planet had produced such a sound that They were converted from tasters at leisure to addicts, too proud to call Themselves such, now feeling the slow trickle of a storm of withdraw, a storm so devilish that some of Them had sought to devour each other.

            Something had to be done, and fast. Their natural frequency was being tainted with the need. Baldwin Falk had not been found. Even the humans believed him to be dead, but the Pulse, the One who had taken on a name, had sworn to the life of his frequency had had even shared Baldwin’s rhythm with Them. He was the key to her.

            He lived, but he was nowhere to be found, thus he was of no immediate use.

            They needed something more than just the elusive Baldwin Falk to destroy Etta, but They would use him to destroy her, cause her as much pain as she was causing Them. She loved him, wanted him, almost as much as they wanted the vibration and frequency from the ascensions. They also needed someone better than a broken Pastor not fit to birth the perfect sound to deal with her. One more violent use of Clive’s form and he would be consumed.

They seemed to be at a stalemate, Etta unmoving, They never leaving, They continuing with Their plans against her.

But They would win. They were a clever Kind, a Kind older than time. They had found solutions in the past with other Webs They had constructed. They would find one for Etta.

*          *          *

Clive took another slow drag from a cigarette. It was his fifth cigarette that evening. He had already burned through an entire pack that afternoon, indulging in a flavor he hadn’t tasted in five years. But oh how he missed it.

He allowed the blue-grey smoke to dance and lace around his head until drifting upward, almost in the same manner that the Pulse had drifted upward from him a few hours ago.

The Pulse had promised to return, said they had not left him for good, and although he could still feel its tether to Rick, Taubmen, and many others in Greenwich Pass, coursing through him, Clive somehow felt left out, abandoned.

“Promises, promises.” He whispered, the trail of smoke sputtering from his lips. Something was off. The Pulse, his god, was hiding something from him the same way Tilly had been hiding things, except for then he was too blind to see it. Now, he knew better.

If he wasn’t mistaken he would bet his life that the Pulse, though it haled its self as far more superior than anything terrestrial, was nothing more than a soul-sucking female, using any man available to advance herself.

He picked up the glass of scotch he had been savoring. He sloshed the liquid amber up and around the sides of the glass before dumping it clumsily down his throat. Some of it dripped down the side of his mouth, tickling his chin as he stared down at the glass in his hand, gripping the thing tighter and tighter as he contemplated the storm in his life.

All of his life he had been used; used as a punching bag and laughing stock as a kid, used as a meal ticket for Tilly, used as some beacon of moral support for his parishioners, and now used by the Pulse. And for what? What was his reward? They wanted Etta dead because she had stopped the ascension; something they had deemed him unfit to partaking in, and yet They used him as Their errand boy.

Everyone used him, they were all using him up and sucking him dry. It was only a matter of time before his warn heart would give out completely and pop, bringing to end a very miserable life, filled with broken promises and bitter memories.

Sharp glass pressed into the palm of his hand. The thick tumbler he had been drinking from had crushed under the pressure of his hand like a cardboard cartoon. It shouldn’t have broken so easily, not with his hands.

Cigarette dangling from his lips, he shook the bits and blood for the glass into the near by waste bin, all the while marveling at how quickly the pain was ebbing away, the blood drying, and even the many nicks and cuts closing up as if they had never been there.

A smile rose at the corner of his mouth. “Promises, promises,” He repeated, recalling the power that had been offered him in return for his compliance. He had complied and had yet to see any results that benefited him, his needs, his wants, until now.

He mashed out the cigarette and tossed it in the ashtray before picking up the phone and dialing Arnold Anderson. Yes, Clive knew what he wanted. He had all along and he was going to get it. But in the meantime he would take pleasure in screwing with Etta and everyone else who had gotten under his skin.

He may not have held Etta completely accountable for all of his woes, but she was the reason why he had been used to harm Albert Castle, his only genuine friend. For that, he was going to make her pay.

“Hello, Arnold, it’s Clive. Why don’t you stick in town a little while longer? I have a job for you.”

*          *          *

“Rachel is around the corner, Etta. She is on her way here.” Baldwin looked down at her, wanting to rub away the secret burden she had pressing against her shoulders. She had not said what had pulled her into silent knots, but something had hit her hard, and it wasn’t the fact that she had just found out that Mr. Albert had gone into cardiac arrest the night before and had even died, before suddenly resuscitating, an action Baldwin attributed to his and Mr. Albert’s conversation in the vast in between.

No, there was definitely something else, something involving Jørn that had Etta in silent knots.

It wasn’t too difficult to discern that it had something to do with him. Etta gave that away by the way she brushed off talking about him, but only after her brow twitched as if it were fighting off a scowl. There was a distance growing between Jørn and Etta, a coldness that even Baldwin felt.

He had been afraid of this happening. Warned her about it. He would be gone soon, the Towes would be defeated and she and Jørn would be left without their happy ending, just two broken hearts, far from each other, filled with bitterness.

Etta sighed, drawing her eyes away from Mr. Albert’s sleeping frame, pulling from her purse the small jewelry box that she had brought for Rachel. The Lotus seed had turned out lovely—cost of bloodied finger aside—a shiny bobble fit to be worn around anyone’s neck. She had even made a keychain for Rachel’s boyfriend, Michael.

It wasn’t so much a gesture of kindness as it was an act of wisdom. Rachel was about to be broken free from the hold of the Towes hold. The loss of her vibration was something the Pulse was going to notice. And as it stood, They were smart enough to know that Etta would be behind it. Last thing Etta needed was for the Pulse to use someone like Michael to deal with Rachel as a form of retaliation.

The door pushed opened and Rachel startled seeing Etta sitting there. Before she could say anything, Etta was on her feet, pasting a smile on her face. Baldwin waited; the tick of curious anticipation was swirling around him. He wanted to know if this would actually work. The pure white seed had awakened Mr. Albert, but this seed was more the color of grey ocean water. There was no guarantee.

“Etta! Sorry. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” Rachel shifted nervously.

“I don’t intend to stay long. I just wanted to check on my grandfather.”

“He is still stable. I talked to Jørn last night about him. The specialist who Dr. Graham recommended have not found anything conclusive, but it’s only been a couple of weeks. He is also in relatively good health considering yesterday’s scare.” Her mouth clamped shut and she too smiled, returning the stiff and insincere gesture.

Etta let out a slow breath, a sign she had been annoyed by Rachel’s comment. She then pulled out the jewel box again and handed it to Rachel, the fake smile back in place.

“What is this?” Rachel asked slowly taking the box and letting out a surprised gasp when she say the pendant and chain.

“It’s a thank you, for what you have been doing for my family. I know I can be hard to deal with. And even though I was absent last night, you still took care of things.”

Rachel closed the box, shaking her head slowly. “I can’t take this, Etta. I was only doing my job.”

Her arm was stiff as she pushed it towards Etta, her eyes glancing at the box with the slightest touch of desire before looking up again at Etta.

Etta took the box, popped it opened and then pulled out the necklace. “You have to take it. I won’t take no for an answer. At least try it on.”

*          *          *

The woman was far more suspicious of her than she had ever been before. The colors around her were a mass of distrust. Someone had been whispering in Rachel’s ears. Etta could tell that by the tiny wisps of fear that circled around her.

She used that as leverage holding the necklace up in her hands, ready to drape it around the woman’s neck. “Rachel, it’s only a token of gratitude. It’s a necklace not a coma.”

The hollow of Rachel’s throat deepened as she swallowed. “Not funny,”

“I admit that was in bad taste, but so is everything that is happening here. I am only trying to make nice. Will you at least try it on? Please?”

Rachel hesitated before nodding her head. She placed her things in the chair by the door and turned around, putting her back towards Etta before lifting her ponytail. “I will try it on, but I can’t promise that I will keep it. It looks costly and I just don’t feel comfortable taking it.”

Etta winked at Baldwin before pulling the gold chain around Rachel’s neck. Immediately the colors around her began to shift. Rachel sucked in a breath and stumbled forward and was letting out an awkward moan before going completely still and silent, just as Etta had instructed her through the frequency.

It had worked.

Write Something Worthy: A Quote

Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” ~ Ben Franklin

 

Being a writer can be tricky business. We either find ourselves writing some pretty amazing things, things laden with the grandest of potential (revisions and editing pending) or we may find ourselves staring at a computer screen or journal for hours waiting for the right thought to come across our minds.

Sometimes it is hard to make the decision to either wait for that moment to come or get up and do something else while waiting.

I no longer believe in the notion of “writer’s block.” Writing is organic, and all organic things move at their own pace. Some stories, scenes, or characters simply take a bit more time to flourish.

You are not blocked, your characters are just divas. They require more than the 30min mark to get ready for curtain call.

I would like to think that we are always in a state of creativity. We are always dreaming, building; whether our fingers are pounding keys or they are scrubbing dishes as the scenes come together in our imaginations.

Do something in the meantime. Being still is necessary, but sometimes that scene our chapter just needs a nudge, something totally unrelated that spurs that special something to be written.

Cheers!

Chapter 35: Ascension Graveyard

Chapter 35

Rachel shook her head. Her expression said she had clearly wanted to hear Jørn say what he had just said; that maybe Etta was responsible for the coma victims, but hearing him actually say the words was obviously far more impactful than she had thought. “Wait, what brought this on? I mean, are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure, and it has nothing to do with the news or Taubmen, so no need in even throwing that log on the fire. I figured you would be happy about this.” His gut soured. He certainly wasn’t happy about it.

“I am happy to know we can really investigate all possible options here, but I am not happy about the cost of it.” Her voice lowered. “I mean you grandfather-in-law, your fiancée, both of them happen to be on the list of victims so, I can’t even imagine…”

She didn’t need to say it, and no she couldn’t imagine. He was glad she had refrained. Coming to grips with the fact that Etta hurt Heidi, that she may have been the reason why she died…more bile sloshed through his stomach. He grimaced. If he didn’t get it to get it together he was definitely going to give himself an ulcer. It was all he could do to pretend that nothing was wrong last night laying with his back towards Etta, not sleeping a wink.

“If you don’t mind my asking, and you can tell me to shut up if you need to, but what happened to suddenly make you feel like she is culpable? I mean it’s a leap from your stance a couple weeks ago.”

He had been thinking Etta was responsible for something dealing with the ascensions and the Seats for a long time. He had worn the list scratched on paper thin with all the suspicions he had about her. But the list was private. She didn’t need to know about the list. He had already settled within himself that he would not give Rachel all of the details, but that he would tell her what was needed. “I saw something last night. Etta d didn’t know I was watching her.”

Again that coaxing looking arose upon Rachel’s face. He rubbed down his face and forced his lips to move. He hated recalling what had happened to Heidi back then. It had turned him hard to the bottle, drove him deep into Etta’s arms and then wedged right in between them even though he had been sober for years. Nevertheless, he needed to back there if he was going to get to the bottom of it all. He refused to spend another year wondering if his wife loved him, had ever loved him, all while suspecting that she had killed his fiancée just so she and Baldwin could accomplish some goal.

“Last night I saw Etta directing a pair of Lotus,” Rachel gasped, her mouth falling open. “She didn’t even speak, but I could tell she was directing them.”

“If she didn’t speak, then how do you know she was the one directing them, and even if she was directing them what does that have to do with the comas?”

“She thought she was alone. No one else was there, and I certainly wasn’t driving them. They literally moved in sync with her, like they were tethered to her somehow.”

Rachel was the one to wipe her face this time. She then pulled a legal pad from her desk and started writing. “We need to be writing all of ths down. People from the last ascension said she could control the Lotus, and now you have verified that.”

Jørn nodded.

“So what makes you think this has anything to do with the comas? Driving Lotus is one thing, it’s a creepy thing, but it certainly doesn’t explain the comas. What I recall hearing is that she just pointed at Vanessa Wong and she fell out. Lotus were there of course, but no one said anything about a Lotus doing it.”

“Have you ever seen a person being chosen by a Lotus? They go into a catatonic state. With Heidi,” His throat seemed to close up. He forced it open, swallowing down the cottony lump that had formed there. “With Heidi, she just didn’t come out of it. Etta was there when it all happened. She was right there.”

“But you said before that she didn’t do this to Heidi,”

“That was before. But now I realize things aren’t as they seem. Not at all, not with her. Not with them.”

Rachel cocked her brow at his tone. “Them?”

“Etta and my cousin, Baldwin Falk. I am not saying that she is wicked,” God, he prayed she wasn’t. “But things just aren’t as they seem, for better or for worse.”

“So he is alive then, Baldwin? I mean I didn’t think Etta had murdered him or anything.”

“Oh he is alive and well. I heard them talking on the phone last night.”

“And he is the ringleader for the revolt against the ascensions, right? Etta is supposedly his spokes person?”

Yes, I love you forever. I will not leave you. Etta’s words to Baldwin sounded off in his head. His jaw clenched. “Supposedly.”

*          *          *

It was getting harder and harder for him to come back from wherever it was that he was being drawn to. The weight on him felt like molasses; thick and heavy and nearly unmoving. But what made it even harder was the force of will it cost him to want to leave this place at all.

No, he wasn’t there yet, heaven, but he was definitely somewhere in between and the in between was like liquid sunshine to chilly bones, with the promise of more if only he would just give in to its draw upon him. Baldwin wanted more.

He centered his mind, focusing on the tiniest sliver of cold and dullness. Life, the world where Etta was, the place he had come from, certainly held nothing of life compared to this. He had actually never felt more alive. But, Etta, she needed him. They had started on a mission and they were going to finish it, together.

The point of return, the cold, danced across his face before suddenly being cut off as if someone else had passed by in front of him. Someone had. Baldwin couldn’t see them, but he could feel them. He stopped, still sensing their presence and waited in the pulsing warmth and light, before finally taking a step towards the cold again.

If Baldwin was dead and dancing between his former life and eternity, it stood to reason that there were many others who were doing the same.

“Baldwin?”

A familiar voice stopped him mid-motion. The distinct timber of Albert Castle’s voice called to him again, before the blurry figure of the man stepped forward.

“Baldwin? Baldwin Falk, is that you? It’s me. Etta’s grandfather, Albert Castle!”

They spoke his name in unison before Baldwin took the lead. A strange defensive air rushed inside him until it was washed away by the warmth and light. This was neutral ground they were standing on, a place far too sacred for the Towes or the Pulse to tread upon.

“I know who you are, Mr. Castle.” He clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t know what else to say. After all this was the first time that he had encountered anyone here, in this place apart from the old visions that he was having of Etta.

Mr. Albert scratched the side of his head and looked around. Cold, the cold from the land of the flesh and bone was fluttering off and around him like vapors from an ice cube. Baldwin looked down at his arms and hand. There was nothing coming off of him which only meant one thing, Mr. Albert was still alive, but toeing the line of transitioning to another place.

Still cautious of the man who had played his and Etta’s enemy for the last few years, he asked him, “Mr. Albert, do you know where you are?”

The expression on the older man’s face was nothing short of utter confusion, lucid confusion, not some residue from having battled with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. He chose to use his words wisely. If Albert Castle was still alive, which he suspected he was, Baldwin certainly was not going to be the one to tell him to walk into the light. What he would do however was use this moment to his advantage—to the world’s advantage.

No one needed to know he was dead, especially not Albert Castle. He had once been a puppet of the Pulse. There was no guarantee that he still couldn’t be used. But as long as the Pulse believed he was alive then they plan would continue moving forward as hoped.

He asked Mr. Albert the question again.

This time Mr. Albert shook his head and chuckled in a light-hearted way that Baldwin had never seen. He doubted if Etta had ever seen it before. “You know what son? I don’t have the foggiest idea as to where in Sam’s Hill I am. Last thing I remember was heading to Ms. Hattie Mae’s house. You know Ms. Hattie Mae, the lovely woman who lives on the corner of Booker and Main?”

Baldwin nodded. Hattie Mae was about ten years older than Mr. Albert but that didn’t interfere with their flirtatious meetings one bit. Etta had said something about the woman giving her grandfather more than sweet potato pies whenever he went to visit her. She said the woman gave him a hint of life no one else had. But Hattie Mae had died about a year after Mr. Albert had gone missing and come back converted to the Towes.

Mr. Albert went on. “I tell you, that woman sure knows how to make a good pie.” He winked at Baldwin and rubbed his hands together. “Anyhow, I was on my way there and—”

“You made a wrong turn.”

The confused look clouded his face again. “What’s that?”

Baldwin pointed towards the point of the cold, the direction of physical consciousness. “You made a wrong turn. Actually we both did, but if you follow me you will get there in no time.”

He smiled and waited for Mr. Albert to start heading away from the warmth, grateful that the sweetness of the thick molasses glow hadn’t yet gotten hold of him yet. He watched him and waited until he had passed back through to the other side before forcing himself to follow suit.

He also needed to figure out how to tell Etta that her grandfather was about to die without letting her know how exactly he knew about it.

*          *          *

Etta snapped the dove grey jewelry box closed and set it on the table next to the other charms she had fashioned from her latest batch of Lotus seeds. She intended to give one to Rachel that afternoon, but she had lost track of time, a lot of time.

She grabbed another seed and started working on her last piece. She had not bothered to open up the store. She had given Kyle a couple days off and couldn’t man the ship herself. She certainly wasn’t going to hire anyone new on. Instead she hauled the lower frequency Lotus seeds to the secret room and started working on her project with the same mechanic motions that a person working an assembly line used.

She just couldn’t pull her mind from last night, let alone get the fragrance of the woman’s perfume out of her nose. Each time she inhaled and recalled it her jaw tightened. The searing, hot anger that Jørn tried to mask from her, the lies laced in truth, all of it had occupied her mind so much so that—

“Ssss!” She hissed as sharp pain lanced through her finger. The jewelers’ tool had slipped awkwardly across the stone and stabbed her finger, drawing blood. Her phone rang just as she was heading for a bandage.

It was Jørn. She rolled her eyes and let it slip into voicemail. What the heck did he want? The phone buzzed again. She starred at it, debating whether or not she was going to answer it when it went into voicemail again, then a third time.

“Who was that?” Baldwin’s voice came at her from across the room.

Etta looked at him, and then the phone before dropping it into her purse. “It was Jørn?”

“What did he say?” Nervous energy began to burn dimly around him.

Etta cocked her head. What was going on? “He didn’t. I didn’t answer. Why?”

“Maybe you should call him back, now actually.” He closed the distance between them, gesturing towards her purse. “He is at the hospital right now, right? What if,” He paused, more nervous energy permeated the atmosphere. “What if it’s Mr. Albert?”

She slid her thumb down the face of the phone and typed in her pass code. She had not considered there being an emergency with Mr. Albert. His condition had not changed at all since he had been admitted to the hospital.

“What makes you think that there is something wrong with Mr. Albert? Why are you so nervous?” She didn’t bother beating around the bush.

Baldwin rolled his eyes and then stared at the ceiling, fishing for a response. “Call it intuition. Just call him back will you?”

            She huffed and dialed her voicemail instead. The only thing she heard was a recording of the phone hitting the receiver.

*          *          *

Jørn was wanted to slam down the phone, yank it out of the plug, and launch it across the hall. It was her grandfather who had gone into cardiac arrest! Her grandfather who had flat-lined, and yet he was the one in panic mode because of it. He was the one left caring. But then what was he to expect? Etta was the one who had probably put Mr. Albert in the coma in the first place.

“Did she answer?” Rachel came around the corner and stood by him. Her hairline damp from the rush of adrenaline she had just had ripping through her. It was by the grace of God that she and Jørn were with Albert Castle when he started crashing. They had only been there for a few minutes when he just all but bottomed out.

Rachel was just about to call time death, when his pulse kicked back on of its own volition, almost as if someone had hit a switch and turned on a light. It didn’t make sense, but neither did anything dealing with his current state.

Jørn sighed and set the receiver back into place. “No, she didn’t.” Part of him was glad that she hadn’t. He was feeling so out of wits he didn’t know if he would have been able to control his tongue if she had.

Knowing his wife and her recent behavior, she would have probably answered him with her usual nonchalant tone which would have only fueled his desire to tongue lash her. For all he knew, she had probably planned for the man to die. He winced at the thought, feeling ashamed for thinking it and fearful that it might have been true.

Rachel didn’t say anything else. She only nodded and squeezed his shoulder. That was his cue. The day had been long enough. The conversation with Rachel even longer, and still they had not scratched the surface of all the information they were going to have to dig through in regard to their coma patients.

And then, if or rather more than likely when they discovered that Etta was indeed the reason that four people were in the hospital in nonresponsive states, with a fifth dead, what was going to be their next move? What was going to be his next move?

His brain locked at the thought. It had had enough already, he had had enough. He needed to get some sleep.