Dragon Deal

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Once upon a time, Princess Lola watched as her father drew the lottery name for the annual sacrifice. The name was hers.

Her family cried, but Lola had a plan.

Late at night, she made her way to the Dragon’s Den.

Smoke billowed from the cave.

“You’re early,” the dragon’s voice echoed through the cave.

“I have a deal for you. It’s just between us,” Lola said.

“I have a deal with your father,” the dragon countered.

“Your deal is for girls. Wouldn’t you like a juicy boy?”

“You are scrawny.” The smoke heaved and billowed as the dragon chuckled.

“I’ll bring a boy if you’ll spare my life.”

“Are boys tasty?”

Lola promised the dragon a boy and several hours later she returned.

“Where are we going?” the chubby boy asked as he clung to Lola’s hand.

“It’s not much further,” Lola said pulling him along behind her.

“Is this the Dragon’s Den?” the boy asked as they reached the end of the trail.

“Dragon,” Lola called.

The dragon’s claw grabbed the boy, and he was gone.

“Remember our deal, Dragon,” Lola called over her shoulder. Not waiting for the dragon’s answer, she hurried home.

The next day the festival led Lola along the same path to the Dragon’s Den.

Like the previous night, the dragon’s claw reached from its den, this time the dragon grabbed Lola.

“Hey, we had a deal,” Lola screamed.

“Deal? What deal?” the dragon asked.

“Remember, I brought you a boy and you promised you’d spare my life.”

The dragon laughed.

“Promise? I made no promise. Besides, girls are made from sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are not as tasty.”

And Lola was gone.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Harbinger

Long before dawn, Callie was awake, dressed and headed to her car. The night’s light snowfall and freezing temperatures meant she needed to clear the car windows. She shivered as she crunched across the parking lot, adjusting her hood to shield herself from the biting wind.

The long frigid days, dark gray skies and never-ending work hours left her weary. This morning she had been reluctant to leave her warm bed. She fantasized, imagined pulling the covers over her head, forgetting her responsibilities and letting sleep take her. The boss would not approve, and her meager paycheck would be lighter than she could afford.

The car blasted freezing air through the heater, and she hit the button for the rear defogger. It would clear the back window while she chipped ice and snow from the windshield. She worked quickly, eager to avoid the wind and blowing snow.

The door squeaked as Callie tossed the snow scraper in the back seat and slammed the door closed. She blew on her hands, creating heavy clouds in the still cold car.

“The forecast calls for another cold day, today,” the voice chirped from the radio.

“Who would have guessed?” Callie responded as she drove.

“Didn’t the groundhog predict an early spring?” the voice continued.

“Could have fooled me.”

“Don’t hold your breath, but we’re predicting a warm-up for next week.”

“Promises, promises,” Callie grumbled.

“No, really folks, it looks like we might be able to shed a few layers by next Tuesday or Wednesday.”

“You’re pretty optimistic. Besides, aren’t you guys wrong half the time?”

The station switched to music and Callie noticed a slight orange glow of dawn tinting the sky.

Darkness ebbed as she drove. Her car was almost lukewarm when she pulled into the work parking lot. She hunched, head down, as she braved the walk to the entrance.

Beside the door, a purple splotch lay on the ground.

“Why can’t people put their trash in the bin?” she wondered as she stooped to grab it.

But it wasn’t trash. Confused, Callie brushed back the snow. There, sheltered from the worst of the weather, purple crocus emerged from their hibernation. The tiny heralds boldly proclaimed winter’s end. Hope washed the bitterness from her soul and buoyed her tired body.

“Spring is here,” she whispered.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Inner Conflict – Extended Version

Yesterday I posted Inner Conflict edited to meet the challenge requirements. However, what I wrote during my first sitting was much longer, twice as long, with a word count around 500 words. Reading the story again, I find I prefer the longer version. This version finished at 456 words. Let me know what you think.

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The Fallen Cherub by CharllieeArts, source

Nervous, and unsure, I took stock of my surroundings. Crouched behind the building’s jutting column, hidden from view, I accessed the alien version of my beloved city. Cold, stark and silent they had transported me into a hidden world. It was the world that lay between reality and dreams.

In the street to my right, stood a glorious black angel his wing unfurled. Exuding confidence, power, and determination he faced his opponent. To my left stood a monster straight from my nightmares, hideous and menacing I knew he meant to win this battle.

“Why don’t you run from me?” the monster growled.

“You think I should fear you?” the angel sneered, chuckling softly.

“You know who I am, my reputation. I am deadly. I hold life in my hands.”

The angel laughed, slapping his hand on his thigh, “I should cower under the bed, hiding the way you do? You kid no one, everyone knows you evaporate with the light.”

They circled, searching for a weakness, an opportunity to strike.

“But she hears me. My words echo in her mind long after I have gone,” the monster said as he licked his lips.

“Your words fall apart once removed from the dark,” a fireball gleamed, as it erupted from the angel’s chest.

The monster saw his opening, rearing back he lunged at the angel who sidestepped the assault, using his wings the way a matador uses his cape with a charging bull. As the monster passed, the angel let the fireball fly. It grazed the monster’s shoulder, and he whirled, swiping at angel feet, toppling him to the ground.

The two rolled in the street as I watched in horrified fascination, unable to turn away.

“Submit, you dishonored beast, you will not gain your redemption with her salvation,” the monster howled as he gained the advantage.

“No matter the cost, I will not let you win,” the angel roared as another fireball propelled the monster back.

The struggle continued, both evenly matched, and I watched them bruised and bleeding, determined to fight to the death.

At last, I could stand it no more, the self-mutilation of my fallen cherub and my noble monster and stepped from my hiding place in the dark.

“Enough,” I screamed, and two sets of eyes met mine.

“Neither of you will win, and we all will die. The truth is the decision is mine.”

I paused. They waited, eager to hear my next words.

“Get up. Compose yourselves.” Confused they complied.

“We must learn to live together,” I said. “We are two sides of the same coin, and neither side is fully right nor fully wrong.”

Sheepish expressions met my gaze, and I knew we would live to fight another day.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

After the Storm

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Outside the storm raged through the night. Icy tendrils swept down the chimney, teasing feeble flames which were the only source of heat for the occupants of the house. With covers pulled tight, they huddled in their beds, feigning sleep as the storm buffeted the house.

Riordan listened as the winds died and a faint gray light seeped through the windows. The rooster’s crow alerted the household of dawn’s arrival. Riordan didn’t wait, he threw back the covers and hurried to dress in the chilly room. Downstairs, he pulled on his boots, coat, and fingerless gloves, then jammed his hat on his head. His easel and a stash of canvas rested by the door, ready for the day’s adventure.

He opened the door to discover a world of stark contrasts. The storm had erased the normal colors, rendering them in shades of gray, accentuated by black shadows and pristine-white snow. Riordan surveyed his new world and considered his options. The pond, already frozen over before the storm would resemble any snow-covered field, he reasoned. He wanted to capture the subtle textures and the muted tones. He knew where he wanted to go.

With his easel and a large canvas tucked up under his arm he plowed into the snowdrift and headed toward the road leading into town. As he trudged through knee-deep drifts, he reminded himself to look at the landscape and consider possible compositions for their artistic values. After walking a mile, he decided on his scene. The Olsen’s white farmhouse lay outlined by the dark tree-lined ridge behind it. Clouds, still heavy with snow, filtered the sunlight that fell on Lookout Peak in the distance.

The Olsen’s barns and other outbuildings helped to give the scene movement and a single tall pine framed the composition. Riordan juggled the canvas as he opened the easel and stuck it in the snow. With the easel situated he placed the canvas on the supports, pulled his pallet free and opened paint tubes. Dabs of Payne’s Gray, Mars Black, Prussian Blue, Sap Green, Titanium White, Raw Sienna, and Cadmium Red soon lay arranged on his pallet.  He needed to work fast before the light changed.

Riordan selected his largest brush and blocked in color. His brush swiped across the canvas, his body swayed with the movement and he lost himself to the process.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he noticed the brush slipping from his freezing fingertips. Laying the pallet aside he blew on his hands, warming them before getting back to work. But now his work slowed, he paused more frequently to warm his fingers, and he noticed the cold, as it nipped his nose and seeped into his boots.

Just one more brush stroke he told himself again and again. That shadow needs more blue, and the barn more red, he thought as he tried to ignore the discomfort. At last, he shivered and knew he must stop. Riordan hated to admit defeat against the elements. He stared at the scene attempting to commit each color change, every shadow, each fleck of light to memory before he packed up his gear. He handled his canvas, his day’s masterpiece, with care as he retraced his steps and headed home.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Birthday Breakfast Surprise

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Photo by David Streit on Unsplash

Caleb woke early. Today was her birthday, and he planned to show her how much he loved her. He slipped from the bed and tiptoed to the kitchen.

He dropped bread into the toaster and prepared a tray. Standing at the open refrigerator, he realized he hadn’t thought beyond the toast. He set butter, jam, and orange juice on the counter then added Lucky Charms and milk.

He filled the bowl with cereal, then topped the box, spilling cereal onto the counter and floor. He tried to pour the milk, but it sloshed over the edge of the bowl and onto the tray. Smoke snaked from the toaster and he beat the handle until the charred bread popped. His tossed the toast onto the plate and attempted to scrape away the black spots. Crumbs flew everywhere.

When he poured the orange juice, he knocked the glass and sent it crashing to the floor. This wasn’t going as he planned.

“Caleb! What are you doing?”

Caleb was pushing orange juice across the floor with a soaked paper towel.

“I’m sorry, Mommy. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to,” Caleb’s voice quivered, and a tear trickled down his cherub face. “I was making you breakfast in bed, and now it’s ruined.”

Darlene surveyed the splattered kitchen.

“You did this for me?” she asked as her hand covered her heart.

Caleb nodded.

“This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” she said as she scooped him into her arms.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Enduring Love

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The hairbrush whizzed past my head, and struck the doorjamb, before falling to the floor and skidding under the bed.

“You bastard. You’ll ruin my life,” she screeched.

I stood in the doorway prepared for the onslaught, ready when it came. She slapped my face, and I felt my flesh burn. Her fists pounded my chest, and I smelled her familiar fragrance, it always enveloped her. I tasted it when we kissed and smelled it in my clothes when we were apart.

“You can’t leave. We love each other too much,” she said as the pummeling stopped. She leaned in, her arms weaving themselves around my neck. I wanted to hold her but forced my hands to obey.

“You love me. I know you’re angry, but you always come back. So just stay,” she cooed. Pressing against me, she lifted her head, wanting to be kissed.

I turned, and her lips grazed my still stinging cheek.

Offended, she pushed away, “Why does it matter? Why do you care?” she hissed and stared at me, tears welling in her eyes. Then she turned, collapsing on the bed and sobbing into her pillow.

That’s how I left her all those years ago. Smeared mascara, highlighting bloodshot eyes that said everything was my fault. It was a lie. It was too late. It was over. No one blamed me. They knew about the hidden bottles, the late nights at smoky bars and the denials, rehabs, and relapses.

Late at night, my phone buzzes.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

First Frost

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

A timid morning ray reached through the window, warmed my face, tugged my eyelids, and coaxed me to wake with the newborn day. I yawned, stretched and felt the chill air, a chill that was absent when I fell to sleep.

It was a time when nights pushed back the edges of day and cool fingers plucked warmth from the sun. The sun would submit, darkness would rule the world allowing the handmaidens of snow and ice to dance while summer slumbered.

For now, there were preparations needed ahead of darkness’ descent. I rose, dressed and flung open the door. Night’s chill reached into my lungs, stealing my breath while the sun dazzled my senses with crystalline grass and lace-edged leaves. My hand touched the shawl hanging on its peg where I had abandoned it months before. Delicate wool magically constructed stored welcome warmth, my shield, my protector. Armed, I stepped into a world transformed.

The dazzling display would fade, it was the harbinger, a gentle warning to make haste. My sisters emerged, we marveled a moment, then without a word, we spread iridescent wings, and rising like the mist, we flew.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Hey! What Did the Blue Jay Say?

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Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

I heard the cry as I opened my eyes.

“Hey. Hey.” The call was sharp and incessant.

It was Saturday, the day I didn’t set my alarm intending to wake when I woke.

“Hey, what did the blue jay say?” Brandon sat in bed flipping the screen on his iPad.

“He says ‘there is no corn in the feeder’.”

“We put food in it yesterday. How can it be empty?”

“Between the squirrels and the jays?” I stretched, rubbed my eyes and squinted at the clock.

“You got an extra hour,” Brandon said swiping his finger across the tablet.

“Is the coffee ready?”

“I heard the buzzer a few minutes ago.”

I grabbed my robe, stuffed my feet into worn slippers and headed downstairs. First order of business was coffee. The aroma greeted me as I entered the kitchen. I took my favorite cup from its peg and filled it to the brim with hot, steamy java. The cup wrapped in both hands I leaned over and took a deep breath, allowing the steam to trickle into my fuzzy brain.

“Hey. Hey.” The call came from beyond the sliding glass door.

“Yes, yes. You want breakfast too.” I took a quick sip before reaching into the full container of corn cobs. We had gathered them from the field after the harvesters finished. My coffee cup in one hand and two big cobs precariously balanced in my arms, I opened the sliding door and stepped onto the deck. A jay sat at the feeder and tipped his head at me.

“Hey. Hey,” he called before he flew away. Another jay perched in the Norwegian Pine twenty feet away.

“Hey. Hey.”

I dumped the cobs on the platform feeder at the deck’s edge and took a seat at the table. A jay swooped in, landing first on the deck rail then hopping to the feeder. The sun was warm, but the air promised snow. I knew it was one of the last mornings I would share breakfast with the jays.

A squirrel chattered in the distance, wanting his share of corn. The jays and the squirrels agreed. It would be a cold winter.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer

Sunset City

 

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

I press my hand on the glass. It stretches, floor to ceiling forming an invisible barrier between me and the city I love. The day is ending the sun is setting, painting a glorious color display in the sky while the city lights twinkle a light show of their own. I lean forward, my forehead touches glass and I close my eyes imprinting the image in my memory.

Tomorrow a plane will take me far away, and I will leave my city behind. New adventures, new friends, a new beginning for my life. But my heart will remain in the city I love.

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Keep on writing.

Jo Hawk The Writer