Category Archives: fiction

Closeness

I’ve been neglecting this story with so much going on this quarter, so here’s a very rough draft of another chapter. I’m going to try to finish up the rough draft this year, and it’s probably gonna be shelved while I work on finishing up Lady by the Window to complete the Tupper Jones Mysteries contract with Amber Cove, and Starfall with Cindy to wrap up the first superhero trilogy. This installment is 1560 words.

 


Robert watched Steven very closely over the next few days, and he didn’t like what he saw. He definitely seemed happier, and he was acting like his old self, only more carefree than he had ever been before. Ruby still sat by him every lesson, but now David and Leonard had moved across and sat with him, too. He was smiling and laughing with his three friends, and was doing his school work quite happily. If the teacher’s overheard comments were to be believed, he was even catching up to where he had been before Lindsay’s death.

It seemed Steven’s three friends were making a profound effect on everyone else at the school. People were questioning everything, and many were acting almost normal toward Steven again. It seemed that Steven’s life was returning to how it had been before the trial, but things were changing dramatically for Robert.

He was the only who flat-out refused to forgive Steven. He maintained that Steven killed Lindsay and should be absolutely hated for it. He made sure he never talked to Steven, and tried to convince everyone else to think the same way he did. Unfortunately for him, no one did, which left him the odd man out more often now.

As things progressed, Robert was sitting by himself in class all the time. He refused to speak to anyone who considered Steven a friend, so he spoke to practically no one. It seemed to Robert that their roles had reversed. Steven was becoming popular and happy, while Robert was becoming isolated and depressive.

Steven typed happily away on the computer while Ruby spoke to Leonard about something and David did nothing as usual. Robert typed in a corner of the room with his eyes glued to the screen. Ruby turned around and said to Steven, “So, what do you want to do tomorrow?”

Steven stiffened for a moment before he spoke slowly and quietly. “Well, would you want to spend the day in the city?” he finally asked with a tense smile.

Ruby smiled back, her voice at normal volume. “Sounds great! What time do you want me to meet you?”

Robert stiffened as he listened to his ex-girlfriend make plans with his ex-best friend. Ruby and Steven were heading into the city together, alone? Was it a date? Was something going on between them?

Leonard winked at Steven and the boy quickly looked away with a nevertheless proud smile. David and Leonard started to talk about what they were going to do the next day without “the lovebirds” while Ruby blushed and gave Steven a smile, then continued with her work. Steven sighed heavily and looked at his screen like it was making him want to throw up.

An idea popped into Robert’s head that he couldn’t ignore. What if Steven was planning something? What if he was going to do something terrible to Ruby like he had to Lindsay?

Lindsay hadn’t deserved to date someone like Steven, and neither did Ruby. They were both too good for him.
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Isolation

1100 words for this installment of Mental State. Prompts this week from #FFC2018, The Writing Reader, #SoCS, and The Daily Prompt.

* * *

The trio of teenagers gathered at the bus stop, Leonard laughed loudly, patting Steven on the back, who couldn’t help but smile. Ruby winked at him and he felt himself blush. The cacophony of footfalls ceased suddenly with David running up to them, out of breath. They stared at him, surprised, but ready to take action if needed. “About time you guys stopped,” he said, trying to catch his breath. “I’ve been chasing you forever.”

Leonard stepped forward and was the first to speak. “Why are you chasing us?”

David caught his breath and straightened. It was now David, Steven noticed, who looked extremely awkward; he was shuffling his feet and seemed unsure of what to say. Steven could guess what was coming. “Steven…” David began, but Steven surprised everyone, including himself by holding up his hand with his palm facing the newcomer.

“It’s okay, David.” David’s eyes were wide with shock; Leonard and Ruby watched Steven very closely. “I know you’re sorry. It’s all right. I just want us to be friends again.” David’s eyes widened. Steven felt a tightness swell in his throat. What was he doing? he thought.

David smiled. “Well, that was easier than I thought!”

Steven laughed. “Makes you wonder why you didn’t do it before, right?” he asked. He couldn’t help but smile. Having his friends back, even if only a few, was too good to ruin with past feelings. If they could let the past be the past, so could he.

* * *

Robert  watched the group step onto the bus together from the window of the now vacant classroom. He watched helpless as the door closed behind them. He swore, the volume of his outburst echoing off the high ceiling. He felt anger boil up inside of him and he bit his tongue. He tasted blood, then turned around and stormed to his desk and slammed his fists on it. What was happening? he thought, a morose wave of emotion flowed over him. Why was everyone turning back to being friends with Steven? Why were they forgiving him for what he did to Lindsay?

A little voice he barely recognized from before Lindsay’s death whispered in his head that maybe Steven didn’t do it, that maybe he was innocent. He couldn’t be; it wasn’t possible. Robert looked up with tears forming in his eyes. Shouldn’t he patch things up with Steven? Surely he should be friends with him again? Robert threw a chair aside, its clattering the next sound that echoed in the vacant space. Why was this happening?

Make Steven pay for what he has done, said another voice, one he had never heard before.

Robert spun around at the voice. “Hello?” he said, looking around, but no one was there. Had someone been watching him? But he hadn’t actually spoken, so how could they know what he had been thinking about? He glanced around the room and gathered his things, Robert left the empty classroom feeling disoriented.
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Turnabout

1150 words this week. I finally submitted my pirate story to Queen of Swords. There’s still four weeks left if you want to submit something. Today’s story is brought to you by prompts by Chuck Wendig, Liz Shaw, Linda G. Hill, The Daily Post, and Tara Roberts. I couldn’t work in Bree Salyer‘s prompt, but you all should participate in that too.

Steven’s next few days were surreal. After his talk with Ruby, he had come to one simple conclusion, and not even the voice could return to tell him he was wrong:

Ruby wasn’t lying. She really does believe me!

By day he did his schoolwork, usually with Ruby chatting at his side. Not a word was spoken regarding their talk and the kiss on the forehead; all Steven knew was that since then, the voice had made fewer appearances.

Everyone in the class still seemed to think Ruby was crazy, or that Steven had done something to her, but as time went on, Steven found he noticed – and cared – less and less. He couldn’t explain it. He didn’t know whether it was because of Ruby, luck, or if maybe he had just finally gotten over everything that had happened.

All he knew was that the voice was dying, he had stopped caring what people thought of him, and in an small way, he was… happy. There was no other word for it. He was beginning to feel happy. He was smiling slightly, and was feeling less depressed.

But how could that happen? Surely he couldn’t recover because one person was speaking to him? Then again, he knew that if Robert hadn’t gone against him, he would have never fallen into a depression. He’d suspected that the fact that he was all alone was the main reason he fell so far. Maybe one person really couldmake a difference.

Having Ruby as a friend made him feel almost normal again. They didn’t fight, and Ruby didn’t stare at him with accusing eyes the way everyone else did. It was almost as if, in some way, the old Lindsay – the one he had known before they started bickering and she admitted to hearing the voice – had come back into his life. She’d never replace Lindsay, that was impossible, but for the first time in a very long time, he felt a glimmer of hope for the future.

* * *

Ruby was getting more and more happy with her success. What was the oxymoronic expression? Cautiously optimistic. Despite that someone couldn’t be both of those words, it seemed to fit, regardless of proper English. Steven was changing before her eyes; he was getting better. She noticed he was no longer resisted her attempts at conversation, but was engaging her. She even saw him smile. It was only once, but she could tell that there were more smiles aching to be set free. Her success with Steven bolstered her resolve and gave her the courage she needed to keep facing the stares of the other students at Twin Oaks High School.

She couldn’t rely on support from her peers. Although no one said anything directly to her, neither did anyone attempt to find out what was going on. They seemed content on thinking Steven had somehow brainwashed her. She just knewthat there was no animus or malice in Steven’s heart, she just wished the others knew what she knew.

She tried to speak to a few classmates, but they all changed the subject and tried to talk about their unreasonable teachers or the latest gossip on who was dating whom. Anything but Steven.

On several occasions, Ruby tried to talk to Robert again, but he seemed so focused on ignoring Ruby and Steven. Robert was so convinced of Steven’s guilt, he was completely denying that there was any chance of innocence. He seemed sure, too, that Ruby was a lost cause. It made Ruby wonder if she could ever get Robert to consider anything other than the lies he held as truth. But like so many things out there, it was easier to hate, than to admit that he was wrong.
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Friendship

I’m at 1030 words for this installment. Prompts by #SoCS, Two Word Tuesday, #FFC2018 and The Daily Post.

* * *

When Ruby entered the classroom, everyone turned toward Steven. He was already in his corner and stiffened when he saw her. Was she going to repeat yesterday’s actions?

Ruby walked forward and, as she drew near Robert, he hopped up and pulled out the chair next to his. “Come sit at your regular computer, Ruby.” His cheerfulness was forced. Ruby smiled and waved him off. With all eyes watching, Ruby walked to Steven and sat next to him.

Steven stared as she began to talk to him. He couldn’t help but find the situation insane. Steven answered her queries through his shock. She seemed as if he was an old friend. Why was she doing this? Was it some sort of sick joke?

The more Steven considered the dilemma, the less he thought that that was the case. If it was a joke, why was everyone shocked at her actions? Surely, they couldn’t all be acting; could they?

They’re all acting, it’s all a little play. They’ll get you soon. Do it first!

Steven startled at the sound of the voice. It woke him up at the same time every night, but even after all this time, he still wasn’t used to it.

“Are you OK? You kind of jumped all of a sudden,” Ruby asked, compassion in her voice. Steven nodded without saying anything, unsure of her display of kindness.

I want to believe it’s a joke, he thought, but how can I with the way she is acting?

He tried to ignore her and concentrate on his work, but she made that difficult. She jabbered next to him like a typical teenage girl, sometimes laughing at her own jokes, other times poking him in the side with her elbow to get him to laugh too. A couple of times it almost worked, but it was difficult for him to forget the way she treated him after Robert told her what he’d been accused of, so he fell back into frowning silence every time.

* * *

At the end of the torturously long class, Steven rushed for the door. He seemed desperate to escape her and her friendliness. Ruby tried to give chase, but Robert caught up to her before she could.

“Do you know what people are saying?” he demanded, his eyes narrow slits and face red.

Ruby pulled back and crossed her arms over her chest. She scowled at him. “No, but you’re probably gonna tell me.”

“People are saying that you’re Steven’s accomplice. Like you had something to do with Lindsay’s death.”

Ruby opened her mouth to reply, but Robert stopped her. “Obviously, I know you didn’t, because you moved here afterward, but that’s what people are saying, and it gets worse!” he said, his red face somehow getting darker. “Some people are considering the possibility that Steven may be innocent!”
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Innocent

I’ve been away for about a month. First, due to lingering illness, and last weekend because I was at the Verde Expo. I’m getting back into the swing of things. I’ll be writing a pirate story this weekend to submit to an upcoming anthology. Anyway, this installment of Mental State is brought to you by prompts from Chuck Wendig & Bree’s #FFC2018. I hope you dig these 1055 words:
 


When Steven arrived at school, it was the usual process. He got dirty looks as he entered the classroom from everyone but the teacher, who gave him a smile, not a warm smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Steven sat down at his desk and began to work at the computer. He’d typed for a few minutes when someone sat down next to him. He thought that it was David or Leonard, probably wanting to pick a new fight with him, and he took a deep breath as he turned to face whatever new abuse that was going to come his way. When eyes fell upon the newcomer, his jaw became slack with shock.

Ruby sat next to him, and she was smiling like a longtime friend. Steven eyes locked on Ruby as a series of thoughts careened through his mind. Why was she sitting next to him? Why did she act like his friend? What the hell was going on?

“How are you, Steven?” Ruby asked, her voice chipper. She acted as if they had always been friends. The rest of the class watched Ruby in stunned silence. Robert looked as if he was going to be sick.

Steven stammered, “I’m… uh… I’m good.”

“Well, that’s good to hear,” Ruby said, smiling before turning to her own classwork. “I’m okay, too. A little tired, though; I didn’t get the best sleep last night. But I’ll go to bed earlier tonight to try and make up for it.”

The continued to stare at her in a state of confusion.  He realized she was waiting for a reply, and after a moment he said, “I slept fine… I guess.”

Steven peered around the room. Everyone was watching them. Most seemed torn between getting up and pulling Ruby away or attacking Steven. Luckily, indecision won out, and most of the class just stared. Robert visibly fumed. If Steven knew his old best friend the way he thought he did, he would guess Robert was wondering how Steven had gotten Ruby to sit with him, and what he could do to remedy the injustice

Throughout the lesson, Steven contemplated what Ruby was doing. Why was she being nice and talking to him? Had the truths Steven told her gotten through to her? Or was this some sort of elaborate prank?

It’s a trick.

Steven tried to ignore the voice despite its insistence.

She’s trying to confuse you. They’re all going to get you!

Steven couldn’t help but think the voice was right.

* * *
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Ally

I didn’t do a flash last week, since I was pushing Score of Silence out the door. So, I’m back this week with a double feature. At 2020 words, I’m kind of using Bree Salyer’s prompt from last week, but continuing Mental State with the voice instead of photographic evidence. It’s not exactly what Bree prompted, but whatever. I had started this tidbit last week, but time was not on my side. I also worked in prompts from The Writing Reader, #SoCS, and Write On Wednesday.


Steven hadn’t killed Lindsay.

Ruby grabbed her backpack and ran out of the room. Her last glimpse of Steven was of him at his desk in front of his computer with his face in his hands, crying uncontrollably. Ruby didn’t stop running until she was at the bus station. She boarded the bus, dropped into an open seat, and tried to rub the tears from her puffy, red eyes.

She was no longer crying because she was scared. She wasn’t crying because she was upset at Steven yelling, nor was she crying because she regretted speaking to him. She was now crying because she knew the truth, he truth no one else realized or bothered to take the time to find out. The truth that made her ashamed of her past actions and thoughts. The absolute and undeniable truth hit her hard and with a massive finality.

* * *

The next day, Ruby’s head was still spinning. She struggled to concentrate on her computer screen. Thoughts stacked inside her head like hundreds of cars caught in the most disorganized intersection ever built.

The thought that Steven was innocent had seemed crazy days ago, but once she had heard the truth of what really happened, Ruby knew Steven had nothing to do with Ruby’s death. He was innocent.

A larger problem loomed. How was she going to tell everyone else? Even looking around the classroom now, she could tell it was going to be difficult. Everyone still threw shade at Steven from time to time, and she could tell that many wanted to do more.

Ruby watched Robert. Although he didn’t look at Steven, his silence since the brown-haired boy’s arrival confirmed Ruby’s suspicions. Even he would be exceedingly difficult to convince, maybe the hardest of them all. She wondered how he had become so adamant in Steven’s guilt when the two of them had been friends until the days after Lindsay’s death. He told her that he saw the truth, that his friends helped him see Steven for what he was, but it sounded a lot like an excuse made by a boy who was easily led. She should know; he had been easy enough for her to play dress-up with.

Ruby glanced at Steven typing away at his computer. The only other person who seemed to have taken an interest in Steven’s actions was the teacher, who seemed happier since Steven started doing his school work again. But did the woman really believe in Steven’s innocence, or was she simply content to have a violence-free classroom again? It was a sad reality that an orderly classroom was all that the teacher really wanted. Was it any wonder that the class reacted to Steven the way that they did?

Ruby sighed heavily and turned back to her computer screen. She knew what she had to do, and it would be difficult, but she had to try. It was the right thing to do. In a world of selfishness, being selfless became a call to arms.
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The World That Was

This isn’t a sneak peak at anything from the Technophobia universe, just a little vignette in an experimental format. These 1000 words contain the following prompts:
Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds
Linda Hill at Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS
Julie Duffy at Write On Wednesday
Bree Salyer at #FFC2018
 

I think that I always knew that I was different. I wasn’t like other adults that I knew. I know, it’s not something you expect someone to admit. Most people will tell you that they weren’t like other children. Me, I’m not like other adults. I’ve tried time and again to figure it out, but it always eluded me. It’s like a scene from a… Well, this is going to shock you. I can trust you, can’t I? It’s like a scene from a book, but a book that I’ve never read. Right, no one reads books, except… I see the realization behind your eyes. Yes, I’m a librarian. You know, in the world that was, that word had a completely different meaning.

There are lots of words that existed once before, but are lost to the decay. “Gun” is one of those words. The easiest way to explain it is that that we used chemicals to launch a piece of metal at mind-staggering speeds. Right? Something like that up here? It would kill us all. Don’t look at me like that. It was an occurrence all too common in the worlds that was. People then weren’t confined to metal and plastic. They experienced endless vistas of sky and rock. So beautiful…

That’s, um. Well… That’s not to say that we don’t have beauty up here. I’ve sat for hours in the ring. Just watching. The black field with so so many points of light. Then she presents herself. The ancient Greeks called her Gaea. The equally ancient Romans called her Terra. I can only imagine what those ancient peoples saw when they looked up at the sky. But Gaea, or Terra, is just so sad now. I’ve seen images of her in books. Blue waters, green landmass, and puffy clouds of white.

What? I told you I’m a librarian. I go down to the surface all the time. Remember? I’m different from other adults. If I make you uncomfortable, you can leave. I know that you didn’t know who you were going to meet. No? Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes, the world that was. Right, how we killed Terra. Right, or Gaea. Well, those chemicals that fired hunks of metal at incredulous speeds? We kept making them bigger and faster. More chemicals, refined and shaped hunks of metal. And the chemicals? Explosions that could destroy great swaths of land and everyone on it. You can imagine, we almost caused our own extinction. We ravaged her, you know. We ravaged each other. We became so obsessed with how to hurt one another…
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