Story a Day Challenge – Day 6/7 – Rumblings (Abandoned)

Today’s prompt:

Write a Mystery or suspense story with this plot line:

“A killer is on the loose, having broken into the home of a wealthy woman and left her for dead. He absconded with a few items, then left the initials, ‘M.A.’”

To mix things up a bit, create a sleuth who is not such a good guy/gal, and a villain who has some amiable traits.  Maybe your detective is a womanizer or is mean to her Mother, and your criminal stoops down to pet puppies.

Also, remember that setting is a vital aspect of mystery.  Root your reader in that chilly Autumn night in New England, or in the sultry late afternoon of Mississippi.  Perhaps the murder occurred at Christmastime, amidst bright colored lights and the aroma of freshly baked cookies.  In all cases, use your five (or six!) senses to make this time and place feel real.

(I really felt like this was way too much to work with. Besides being a genre I don’t usually write (or to be honest, read) this really felt like it was someone else’s story. I tend to come up with more unique stories/ideas if I only have a couple of words to deal with. This is probably because that’s exactly what all my writing practices in high school started with: two (typically unrelated) words. That’s it. Two words. I decided that it’s a good thing I didn’t have time to write yesterday because the Day 6 prompt plus a challenge from my  mother, had this story rumbling around in my head for a couple days.)

Yesterday’s prompt:

The Prompt

Write a story set in an abandoned location. It could be a foreclosed house, a closed-down theme park, a ghost town, or anything else. Think about the location’s past and its story, and use those ideas to fuel your plot.



Rumblings of a Rock

The water soothed him as it rippled continuously over him. So kind in its touch he didn’t even notice the tiny particles of himself that it carried away. It was cool and crisp and kept his bed nice and soft.

It was heavenly.

And then there was disruption. The mud sucked at him as he was lifted away by warm, rough hands to clatter and chip in a pile of his brethren. While slightly curious, he was more perturbed and grumbled as he was jostled about, the sky and trees above him changing rapidly.

When they slathered him in mud, he was relieved, thinking that he was in some way home again. But then the mud hardened and held him for what felt like forever.

Life flickered around him.

Rain pelted his face, soft warmth from torchlight warmed his backside, arrows flew and nicked away small chunks, and the wind and rain raged against him to restore his smooth complexion.

Once, a bright and terrible spot during the eons of his existence, he felt the agonizing effect of a searing hot blaze as he cracked, becoming less of himself. It is strange to be forever beside a part of oneself that is no longer a part of oneself.

The peace that descended immediately after was welcome. No more noise and bustle. No more shouting, angry, roaring waves of life lashing against him. He became lost in the rhythm of rain, snow, sun, and life. The forest reached toward him, embraced him, sheltered him.

Life crept along around him, tiny tendrils of bright green, newborn strength found purchase in the mud, now dry and crumbling. It thickened and pulsed and he felt it loosen the hold of his prison.

One day, a significant day, someone intruded on his peace. Two of them. They laughed and tromped loudly through the remnant of the place that held him. He felt the vines flex and pull back at their approach. They were oblivious to their impact.

As usual.

They were right by him now. The girl’s hair brushed him. The boy’s hand pressed against him. He heard their soft murmurs and sighs, and he groaned as the boy pushed harder against him. He almost didn’t hear her gasp as he tumbled and fell, hitting the ground with a thud. The fall broke away his dead bit and he almost missed its silent presence. Almost.

There wasn’t much time for missing as he rolled down the gentle slope, often hopping as he was launched off of an outcropping. His momentum slowed as the hill leveled near the valley and he tumbled with a crack and a splash into the stream.

It wasn’t his river, but it would do. The water soothed him as it rippled continuously over him and the silt began to settle into an embrace. Softly, they began the long, slow task of smoothing his rough edges and chips away.

Story a Day Challenge – Day 5 – The Jungle (Deep, dark woods)

The Prompt

Your character is alone in the woods and finds blighted trees, drooping plants…rot and slime everywhere. It once was beautiful but overnight is turning into a swamp–its not natural. Your character must get to the bottom of this and stop it before something they love very much is threatened also. Extra points if your character actually doesn’t know this forest and ends up getting lost. Maybe the trees have turned evil and… *gulp* developed something of an appetite?

Will your character make it out alive?

Start writing, quick, so we can all find out!

(With such a great fantasy prompt, I actually didn’t write a fantasy story today. Reminiscing with my brother about my limited, but memorable, exposure to the Pacific Northwest as a child, I remembered this wilderness behind my Grandmother’s house on Whidbey Island. It left an indelible impression on my young mind and is, to this day, one of the things I remember most from that trip. Inspired in part by my own childhood memories and with photos of the region, credited to my brother Duncan, here’s what I came up with for today’s challenge.)

The Jungle

They were told not to go into the trees. Even their “cool” aunt, the one that always sent the best presents at Christmas, looked at them sternly and told them to behave.

Celeste sighed and turned to her brother, who, shrugged, so she rolled her eyes and ran off to play with her cousin instead.

Not that she forgot about the forbidden wilderness at the back of Grandma’s yard. What child could when told to stay away? In the humidity of middle summer if was a jungle to her. Jungles were exotic and full of tigers. Never mind that they were on an island in the Puget Sound and the closest tiger was at the Seattle zoo. Six-year-olds don’t understand geography, climate or zoology.

All Celeste knew was that she’d never seen anything like it before and she wanted to see more.


“Come on, Henry!” she called as she ran across the yard the next day. With no grown-ups in sight, it was now or never. Fern fronds tickled her knees like feathers as she stepped into the dense growth, a thick ropey vine arching over her like a rainbow portal to a land of fairies. Excitement and trepidation warred within her as she plunged farther in.

Forbidden. She wasn’t supposed to be here.

“C’lest!” Henry yelled from farther back. He was a year younger and so slow! Celeste picked her way back to him to grab his hand and haul him along after her. That’s how big sisters helped.


They marveled at the vibrant life they found in their jungle. The ground was springy beneath their feet and critters were everywhere. Fat, black slugs hid under leaves. Butterflies flitted from one old log to a nearby tree. They heard birds everywhere. Celeste expected to see a tiger at any moment.

She didn’t expect the house.

It was old with white, chipped paint. Once ornate, but now weathered carvings framed the darkness of the wide front porch. Henry suddenly stiffened.

Impatient, Celeste turned to him, “What?”

“D… di… did you see him?” he stuttered.

“Who?” came her exasperated reply.

“The Indian!”

Celeste swung back to look at the house. Their cousin Rachel had mentioned an old house with an Indian. A ghost. She didn’t see anything. “Where?”


Following Henry’s frantic gesture, Celeste looked up. Above the porch and below the pointed lines of the roof were the second story windows. Catching a glimpse of a face in the farthest one to the right before it disappeared into the darkness of the abandoned house, she let out a terrified yelp.

Celeste didn’t even say anything to her brother before she grabbed his hand and ran. The ran as fast as the undergrowth would let them, the fern fronds whipping shins instead of brushing knees, they almost flew. Back the way they had come, or at least that’s what they thought.

Celeste hit the bramble first. Sharp thorns snagged and caught in her cotton socks. The more she moved, the more they dug in, lacerating her ankles. Henry started crying, hung up and hurting, in the bramble with her. She wanted to cry, too.

Instead, Celeste took a deep breathe and bent down to extricate first herself and then her brother from the tangle of thorns and blackberries. She had to keep a cool head. They moved around the bramble and continued on, but the forest was just getting darker around them, the trees growing closer and closer together.

This was not the way they had come.


Celeste started to panic again. Changing to what she thought was the right direction, she started to notice things she hadn’t seen before. Some of the leaves had foam on them, with tiny bugs thrashing around in the goo. Below, one  of the big, black slugs was eating another small, pale one. All around her, twisted branches tangled with those thick arched vines she had seen earlier, making her feel caged, and even often blocking her path. Grayish green hair covered everything, with even more piled on the rough fallen logs and branches around her.

This was not her exotic jungle anymore.

It was a sinister, and justly forbidden, forest.

Filled with dread and despair, Celeste clasped Henry’s hand more firmly and huddled closer to him. She had not been wrong. It was actually darker. The thick fog that started that started to move and settle through the forest didn’t help matters either. What little she could see before was soon obscured.

It was a tiny bit lighter in one direction than all the rest. Determined to keep him safe, Celeste kept Henry’s hand firmly clutched in her own and stretched her free hand before her. Carefully, she inched one step at a time closer to what she hoped was Grandma’s house.

It seemed to go on forever.

Just when Celeste thought they would have to live in the forest forever, she heard something faint, a muffled voice through the fog.

Frantically she and Henry called back to whoever or whatever it was. Branches moved and fern fronds quivered as their aunt burst through to them. She scooped them up with a swat, a scold and a kiss for each.


Story a Day Challenge – Day 4 – Josephine

The Prompt

A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)


Josephine sat up, startled, in bed as a steady bright light poured through the window and flooded the room. Had she slept too long? The nights grew long toward winter and if it was this far into the daylight hours, she was terribly late. Not the best impression one can give when beginning her apprenticeship.

Throwing back her covers, she made her way to the window in order to better guess the hour. Josephine frowned at the darkened sky of very early dawn. Why, then, was it so bright? Shaking the webs of sleep from her mind, she focused. That was when she noticed the streetlamps. Perched high atop plain poles, their strong white light glowed steadily.

Where were the iron lamps with their warm golden glow? Why did they not flicker with the amiable comfort of a warm fire?

She spun away from the window then and looked about her room. Nothing was right. The furniture was plain and free of adornment, but the rest of the décor was too bold of color and angular in design. She had not noticed when she woke, as anxious as she was about the hour. Now, all Josephine could do was marvel at all that had changed. The shape of the room was right, but all else was unknown to her.

Of course. Josephine was not  in her own room.

Highly aware of her state of undress and loathe to be seen in such a state, Josephine determined that she ought to avail herself of this stranger’s wardrobe or else forever tarnish her reputation. The lesser of the two evils must be endured.

After the initial surprise at the volume of garments to be found in the wardrobe and bureau, Josephine was astonished and embarrassed to imagine that she had found herself in the rooms of a woman of the night. While the blouses were plentiful, they were hardly enough to cover a woman if she stitched three  together! Not a single full dress or skirt to be found.

Or a corset.

Scandalized, Josephine almost gave up, when she spotted what looked to be a large voluminous shell that had what appeared to be a hood attached to the collar, as one might find on a cloak. The fabric continued all the way around the bodice with no opening or closures (must she pull it over her head?) and a large pocket with two openings attached to the front near the waist, like a muff. Perhaps with the loose pants she had seen in a tartan pattern, she might be able to pass as a man long enough to get back to her own home. Quickly donning a pair of plain (but amazingly comfortable!) slippers, Josephine hoped to move at a pace fast enough that might prevent the more feminine footwear from being noticed.

Josephine slipped out of the room and made her way down the stairs to the front door. As she eased it open, she noted that the layout of this building seemed to match her own exactly. She must be in the same neighborhood at least.

Through the door and on the front step, Josephine stopped to find her direction. The street felt very familiar, and strange at the same time. The buildings were all in the right place, but looked… wrong. Just as the room had. The sky had lightened with dawn and someone had snuffed the too-bright streetlamps. Oddly shaped carts, in a variety of colors, lined the quiet streets.

This was not her home.

This was not even the same city.

It didn’t even smell right. Gone were the familiar odors of coal smoke and horse manure, to be replaced by smells she had no experience with and could not identify.

Josephine felt her throat constrict and she could not breathe as the panic filled her. She didn’t know if she should run, hide, or just collapse where she stood. She had just about settled on the latter when an unexpected voice startled her back into awareness of her surroundings.


The voice was cheerful, although a bit rough. Oh, no!  thought Josephine, someone thinks I am the woman to whom these clothes belong! Remembering the selection in the wardrobe and the conclusion she had drawn, Josephine thought it best to feign ignorance and walk away from the unknown voice.

“Josie!” A hand took her elbow from behind and a girl with a young face (and a lot of rouge!) appeared beside Josephine.

“I am afraid you are mistaken,” Josephine replied stiffly, affronted at the familiarity, as she extricated her arm from the girl’s grasp. “My name is Josephine.”

“What’re you on about, Jos? You haven’t let anyone call you Josephine since before primary school!” The girl laughed heartily, but glanced at Josephine with a slightly concerned expression. “How much did you have at the pub last night?”

Josephine was about o reply with an angry retort, but she was stopped short by what she saw before her. She was so stunned, in fact, that she hardly even noticed that the girl had her elbow again.

The house had been right… and wrong.

The street had been right… and wrong.

But this corner! It was right. And so very wrong. There, across the way, was the seamstress’ shop where Josephine was due to begin her apprenticeship.

Except it wasn’t.

It was  a shop, but seemed to sell some type of colorful newspaper, packages of foodstuffs (also brightly packaged), and who knew what else. The signage was blatant, but plain. Not the careful carving of a craftsman.

Just. So. Wrong.

Her world crumbling around her, Josephine pulled free from the girls’ grasp, took a step forward, off the path and into the street. She didn’t see the large carriage (or notice the lack of horses) until it was upon her and she had no time to retrace her step. A loud, blaring noise filled her ears…

… and Josie slammed her hand down on her alarm clock. Ugh, she thought, why can’t I have the “show up naked to your first day at Uni” kind of dream like a normal person? See if I stay up reading Jane Austen again!

Story a Day Challenge – Day 3 – Right (Maze)

The Prompt

Your character is lost in a maze with the instructions to find a very important document or treasure hidden in its center. Or perhaps the character has lost this important thing, and must find it before the wrong person does. Added bonus points if they must battle a minotaur, dragon or fearsome magical villain.

(A touch pressed for time, so kept this one relatively short. I also followed the prompt a little  more literally, but still had fun coming up with something I hope is interesting to read. RAFO if I get bonus points today!)



Daemu clawed at the dense foliage as she rounded another right turn, sounds of pursuit growing ever closer. Always turn right, right?  she thought. Does that even work?  Again and again she turned right. Dead end.

Panicked, but trying to keep her directions straight, Daemu spun around. Toward her pursuers. There has to be more than one with all that racket. Sprinting forward, arm outstretched to follow the wall to her right, Daemu started turning before she could even see the turn. She had felt the curl of the corner first.

She felt the rush of air as her hunter turned the opposite direction only yards after she had passed. For the first time Daemu was grateful for the near darkness. Right, right, right. She snarled in frustration as she was blocked again and had to backtrack.

I’m never going to get out!  Forget riches or treasure. The thing Daemu wanted most was her freedom. Right, right, right.

The  dimly lit open space in the center of a swirl caught Daemu so by surprise that she stumbled. Passages spun out like tendrils. There were seven of them. No. I came through one. Only six. Daemu whimpered at the thought of doing everything she had already done up to six more times. And what if one of these leads to a different spiral with seven more tendrils. Would I even know?

Sobbing in exhaustion, Daemu collapsed. She couldn’t take it anymore. I really will never get out. The finality of the thought broke her heart and she felt numb. Stuck. Forever. She sighed and turned back toward the path she had emerged from.

Instinctively, she took a step back when the man burst through, sword raised. Why is he so small? she wondered, then wondered again at the absurdity of the thought. Daemu screamed in pain as the blade plunged home in her heart. Fire blossomed before her eyes and she was consumed by it. Her final thought: Free!


Henri flung his arm in front of his face to protect it from the fiery blast. Dragon down, he thought, panting. Now to get out. Always turn right, right? He clawed at the dense foliage as he rounded his first right, sounds of pursuit not far behind. Does that even work?

Story a Day Challenge – Day 2 – Silence (Pickpocket)

*** Temporarily removing this story

The Prompt

Your character’s an extremely talented pickpocket. He learned the skill when he was young and poor. Now he has a good job, a healthy bank account, and a respectable lifestyle, but he thinks it’s a shame to let such remarkable talent go to waste.

(I struggled with this prompt. I don’t like all the pre-determined specifics in it: background, gender, current status, even motivation. What follows is my somewhat rebellious interpretation of it.)


The cacophony was so astounding, debilitating even, it was almost impossible to remember the time of Silence. It was so long ago, his memories of it were skewed, tinged by everything he had experienced since. He often wished for the Silence now.

He had hated it then.

He listened well when he was younger. He had always been good at hearing and reacting to certain tones. It was easy when his mind was so Silent that there was nothing to distract. His reflexes had been quick, supple, fluid. Even so, he had envied the verbose ones.

That was when he discovered the Pocket.

Now to Pick it.

The rhythm of each was so distinct. Unique. Tuning out all the outside voices, he focused on just one. His father. Listening intently, past the words, past the tone, past the contorted red-faced visage, to the core. The Pocket. The rhythm and cadence unique to the man he hated most, the boy started humming.

Like matching a heartbeat, but less loving.

Like tuning a piano, but less musical.

The boy hummed in time to the anger, growled deep in his throat to the nuance of his father’s voice, then spoke with the rhythm of his father, the voice of his father, the Pocket of his father.

And the father was struck dumb.

The woman huddled in the corner blinked in disbelief. The boy had spoken. The boy had shocked the brute into silence. She shook her head and almost reached out to him before she realized that the man was grasping desperately at his own throat, eyes bulging, rage stronger than ever in his contorted features as he gasped inaudibly.

The woman fled.


The cacophony was so astounding, debilitating even, that he almost missed hearing it. He was not very good at listening outside his own head anymore. Sometimes it took him a while to hear anything that was real past his collection.

This one was unique, though. Unique. His downfall. They were all unique, if he was honest with himself. He had known that truth once before.

“But this one is different,” he insisted to himself.

Purely melodic. Light and lilting. The counter, the calm breeze, to the torrent of voices tumbling around his head.

He needed it.

Surely this one was the answer.

He listened. Focused. Willed Silence once again in his mind. The murmuring, yelling throng quieted in shock. Possibly fear. He’d never managed to enforce Silence before.

Shoving the errant thought aside, he focused again. The rhythm, the cadence, the Pocket. He was so intent on Picking the chord of this one that he didn’t feel it coming. A name like a lullaby.


The man blinked and felt vulnerable like a boy. Stumbling toward the voice that he needed so badly, to calm the cacophony, he knew it was one he could never  Pick.

Weak arms enfolded him and he wept on a narrow shoulder bowed by age.

“Mother,” Sebastian murmured in the one voice he never stole.

His own.