Trick or Treat

Daily Prompt: Horror

(A masked stranger appears at your front door with a knife.

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Stella was startled at the knock on her front door. It was late, almost midnight. It was very cold outside. She’d been on her way to bed, wearing her favorite warm pajamas and fuzzy slippers. She’d just finished creaming her face when she heard the knock.

BAMBAMBAM! It repeated, just as loud.

Uneasy, she scooted into her bedroom and snatched her pistol from the nightstand drawer. She unlocked the safety, chambered a round, and turned off all the inside lights as she made her way to the door. She flipped on the porch light, and was instantly thankful for the fan-shaped window at her eye-level.

Someone–a man? It was hard to tell–wearing a hood that left nothing exposed except for his eyes, visible through the slits in the hood. When Stella called out, “Who is it? What do you want at this time of night?” se heard no response. Again, three loud, fist-pounding raps on the door.

Dangerous hooded man holding knife. A dangerous hooded man standing in the dark and holding a shiny knife. Face can not be seen stock photography

“I’m not going to open my door until you identify yourself and tell me what you want. And take off that hood! You think I’m just going to open my door and invite you in for tea?”

Stella was terrified, but she wouldn’t let it show. No way would she open her door. “I have a gun, and I know how to use it!”

“Open up, you foolish woman! I’ll get in another way if you don’t.” The voice was raspy, deep, and scary.

Stella made sure the deadbolt was in place. Still operating in the dark, she made her way to her cell phone where she’d left it by her favorite chair. Hands shaking, she picked it up and punched 9-1-1. It rang once, then again, and then went silent. At the same time, a window from the kitchen area shattered, and she knew someone was in the house.

She tried the phone again. “It won’t work,” growled the Voice. It’s disabled. Now, just stay where you are and I won’t hurt you too much,”

Stella raced to the front door, fumbled at the deadbolt. Her fingers were shaking and sweaty, and slipped off the knob just as a very strong arm came around her neck. He pulled her tight against his chest, pinning her left arm. She felt the prick of a sharp blade under her ear.

“Don’t be stupid,” growled the Voice. “We need to chat, you and I. You can’t —“

“Boom!” Stella’s gun went off as she pulled the trigger, aiming the best she could with her gun hand caught between them, and the Voice screamed. And screamed. He pushed away from her, falling to the floor, cradling his right leg just above his shattered knee. The knife went sliding under the sofa. Stella figured that was a good place for it.

Keeping her gun pointed steadily at the intruder, she squatted down out of his reach while he writhed in agony. “If you make a move I don’t like, I’ll shoot the other knee, you jerk.”

She got up, walked behind him, and yanked on his hood. He looked up at her, fury in his eyes and agony all over his face. “You didn’t need to do that, Stella. I was just having a little fun with you.” He groaned when she walked around and kicked his wounded leg. She kicked it again, for good measure, and brought tears to his eyes.

” I can’t believe you,” she yelled. “What a filthy rotten thing to do! There’s something WRONG with you! And you and I? We’re done, you hear? DONE!

She went to the front door, unlocked the deadbolt, opened the door wide. She went back and grabbed him by his hair, pulling him behind her while he kicked with his good leg, screaming and begging. She got him out the door, rolled him off her porch.

“Aren’t you going to help me? You can’t leave me like this!” he cried.

“Yes, I certainly can. Go have fun. You’ve earned it.”

She slammed the door behind her, went back upstairs and picked up her landline. It buzzed. Good, he hadn’t disabled it, just her cell. She called 9-1-1 again, made her report and then put on a robe. As she went back down the stairs, she heard the siren.

Stupid guy. What a way to end a relationship.

Primitives

PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy 

Zing and Zang loved technology. They had a deep interest in the projects over which Earth people labored. The projects seemed primitive to them, but they had to admire the dedication Earth’s scientists had for creating their antiquated machines.

“Zang, what do you think this is going to be? It looks to me as if it’s nearly finished.”

“I’m not sure,” said Zang. “Looks as if they’re trying to find ways to bring light into their buildings, but what a complicated way to do it!”

“For sure. I wish we could help them.”

“We can’t.”

Image result for cute aliens

It’s ALL Right Here!

Writing Prompts: Travel and Adventure

(What culture interests you the most?)

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There are many places I’d like to see, speaking from a purely historic and/or scenic perspective. The reality, though, is that I’m never going to be a world traveler. I’m 74, a little late to be starting, and especially with my cranky old back to take into account.

But here’s another reality: Just about every culture that I’m interested in can be found right here in the USA!

For instance, I’ve always been fascinated by the Amish. We live maybe 1 1/2 hours from one Amish community, a lovely drive. We’ve stayed overnight in a B&B run and owned by a couple who are Mennonite Amish. We went to church with them, and were invited to enjoy a meal with them at one of the members’ farm. What a treat! We asked lots of questions, learned lots of things about their way of life, and we ate some of the best food you could find anywhere. All within two hours of home!

Off the grid in Amish country - Los Angeles Times

If we go north, we could land in New York City. There are SO many neighborhoods there! Irish, Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, Chinese and more. You pick a culture you’d like to know more about, you can find people who will be happy to talk with you about food, customs, religious beliefs, and especially why they came to America.


Go back south toward the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains, and you’ll come across people whose lineage goes back to Scotland, England and Ireland. Some are not open to talking with strangers, but others are open and just as curious about you as you are about them. We took a dirt road nearly to the top of a mountain years ago, and met an older man who was digging along the roadside. He leaned on his shovel and talked with my husband for quite some time. We could hear kitchen noises coming from his cabin, but “his woman” never peeped out the window or the door. I love their music.

In The Mountains Of Georgia, Foxfire Students Keep Appalachian Culture  Alive : NPR
But Did You Know...Appalachian Music & Virginia's Mountain Towns -  Virginia's Travel Blog

If you go farther south, you could land in New Orleans. There, you could meet descendants of the original Cajuns, whose cooking is wonderful. Some of them live right over the water, literally–cabins built on stilts. You would also meet descendants of slaves, all over the South, as well as north, east west–you can find communities that have been created by those who went west on wagon trains, or just stayed on the plantations on which they were born, making a living, just barely. Many became sharecroppers, always a risky business. Lots to learn from all of them, if they’ve been told about their ancestry.

Cajun Swamp House | Louisiana swamp, Swamp, Bayou house
A Bayou house near New Orleans

And speaking of west, you can meet some of the most laid-back people ever in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho. Lots of the people out West have lineages back to Norway and Sweden, and have ancestors who came to America to farm because they’d heard about the rich soil and that land was literally dirt cheap. Some of them may have started in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Of course, you also have Indian reservations out West, and you can learn a lot of history from those who have ancestry that extends back into the mists of time.

Iowa Farm Scene - Balltown Overlook | Iowa farms, Iowa farmland, Farm scene
Iowa farm country, near Balltown Overlook
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings | Mesa Verde National Park | Durango, CO
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings (Colorado)

You may say, “Well, what about. . . . . . ” and list a whole bunch of places I haven’t mentioned. America is truly a melting pot, and we have a wealth of cultures right here, if we want to go looking and are willing to try to get people to talk with us. Generally, we have found that if you are genuine in your interest, people will respond well and you can leave with a whole new understanding of what makes up this great nation.

I don’t have to travel the world to learn about culture. I just have to open my eyes and my heart and take a good look at my own country to find a wealth of knowledge that is different from my own.

Sunday Morning Coffee: God Speaks

I wrote this a a short story yesterday, in response to a daily writing prompt. It’s based on a real situation, omitting, of course, names and other identifying factors. I hope you’ll enjoy it–a little change of pace from my typical Sunday posts.

Writing Prompts: Religion and Spirituality

(God speaks directly to you – what does He say?)

I believe that God spoke to people like Moses, Abraham, and others in the Bible. He even spoke to Saul on the Damascus Road. I believe He spoke to the prophets. But today, we have the complete, total, inspired Word of God–the Bible. So, if I did hear God speak to me, audibly, unmistakably, I’d think I was hallucinating. I believe that He has already given the answers we seek through His Word. I also believe that sometimes we need a little help to find those answers, which is one reason I became a counselor in a Christian counseling office. So that’s the direction I’m going to take for this story.

****************************

One of the things I enjoyed about being a counselor for 18 years was that there was never one day just like another. There were surprises, Sometimes they weren’t happy surprises, like the time I asked a client, twice, to please clean up his truly foul language. Finally, after a particularly disgusting string of curses, I asked him to either stop cursing or leave. He was furious. Stormed out the door and slammed it hard behind him, shaking the pictures hanging on my wall.

His poor wife, who had to tolerate his mouth and his temper ALL the time, wept quietly. I let her get hold of herself, and when she looked up, she said, “What do I do? He didn’t want to come here today, and when he saw it was a Christian office he almost refused to come in with me. He’s always angry, and I’m at my wits’ end. What do I do?”

In this type of situation, I always start talking to the Lord right from the beginning, because honestly? I don’t really know what to say! I thought of the verse that says, “With a furious man thou shalt not go” (Prov. 22:24) but she was already so wounded, it just didn’t feel right. “God, please give me wisdom, words that are helpful,” was in my mind.

“Has he ever been so angry that he has become physically violent toward you?”

She stared at me as if she’d seen a ghost. “How–how could you know that?” And she was sobbing now, completely broken.

“Have you ever called the police for help?”

She gave me a broken laugh. “Are you serious? He’s a cop! They protect each other. It would only be worse!”

“Has he hurt you enough that you needed a doctor? Hospital? The ER?”

“Yes, but–“

“No, please just listen now. This cannot go on, because he will only escalate. I know, every time he hurts you he says how sorry he is and he’ll never do it again. But he will, and you both know he will. I can’t make you look for help, but you have to know that there are safe houses, Protection from Abuse orders, legal steps you can take to protect yourself. I can help you find a place–“

“I don’t have a car. He won’t let me. There’s no way—“

“Yes, there is. Surely you have a friend, a relative, a neighbor you can call when he’s at work?”

“Well–yes, I guess so, but I’d feel so guilty! It’s like sneaking behind his back!”

“Okay, look. You have two–or three– choices. Stay and put up with his temper until he puts you back in the hospital, and tell whatever doctor who is caring for you. Tell the truth. Say you need help. You can do that, or stay until he kills you. Or, you can let me help you make a plan that will work. The choice is yours.”

And in the back of my mind, the words “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) whispered. So I waited, allowing her the time to really think about what we had said.

And that is how God speaks to me. Sometimes He uses verses I didn’t even know I had memorized, but a lifetime of Bible memory certainly has yielded a rich harvest to help guide me when I don’t know where to go or what to say. His words are always wiser than mine.

The Nose

Writing Prompts: General Fiction

(Coffee is illegal and you have to single handedly smuggle it into the country.)

I was exhausted, discouraged, ready to quit. How could coffee be important enough for anyone–me!–to risk everything to get it from the plantations in South America to the voracious coffee appetites north of Mexico?

Inside the Colombian Coffee Plantation That's Run Entirely on Water -  Comunicaffe International
The plantations are amazing. Hardworking people, and the plants smell wonderful!

I didn’t carry it myself. Part of my job was to find and train carriers, whose reward would be to stay in America, if they wished. If not, they were paid well for their efforts, and some of them became quite wealthy. Others died.

Coffee became illegal in America back in the late 21st century, when the countries that produced it were found to be creating inferior beans, but charging a huge tariff, which of course resulted in outrageous high prices for consumers. So it was only natural that a black market would develop. What wasn’t natural at all is that I would become a part of it! I’m not adventurous, or brave, or addicted to coffee. Nor was I born with criminal tendencies.

I am, however, gifted with a nose that can’t be rivaled. I can tell whether a coffee bean on the bush is of poor, good, or excellent quality, just by the smell. You may wonder about that, because unroasted beans typically don’t have much of a smell–except to me. I don’t know why. It just is, and it is that “gift” that landed me smack in the middle of the coffee smuggling business.

Could I quit? Don’t think I haven’t tried to figure that out! But we live in a high-tech world of Big Brother, what with cameras and drones and microphones and all that, never mind the nearly invisible chip that all babies receive upon birth. We can run, as people used to say, but we can’t hide. Can’t even remove the chip, because it’s embedded in our brains. I’d love to have a chat with the evil genius who figured that one out.

I was not the CEO of the outfit I worked for. I was actually considered a necessary evil, because I didn’t like the work and I made sure everyone knew it. I had to travel all over, anywhere coffee was grown. Africa, South America, and Central America mostly. It was interesting, but terrifying to me because I HATE snaky places! Too bad they can’t grow coffee in the Arctic Circle! ‘Course, I’m not real crazy about frostbite either. Sigh.

So. I keep a go-bag packed and ready whenever the call comes in that I have an e-ticket waiting at such and such an airline, landing in such and such a place to go inspect the new bean harvests before they are either roasted or sent green to other handlers. I was also expected to be on the lookout for new talent, because everyone knew I wouldn’t live forever. It wasn’t going to be easy to replace my nose!

I’d met a lot of delightful people over the years. The ones I enjoyed most were the ones who worked the hardest. Planting, cultivating, guarding against disease and pests. I’lll never forget the woman who could catch a bug on the fly and squash it between her thumb and pointer, shake it off and find another one. All day. Good grief.

I hate locating a grower who’s tampered with nature and created a poor quality bean. I have to report it, of course, and that grower will either destroy his entire crop or lose his life. Coffee smuggling is a cut-throat business. No mercy.

I wonder, sometimes, if people understood that their morning joe was so costly in terms of life and limb, if they’d just stop drinking it.

I know I have. It has a strong undertone of blood when it hits my tongue.

Pass the Salt

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

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“Ketchup.”

“Catsup.”

“Snobs call it ‘catsup’.”

“Not true. Used to be that’s all it was ever called.”

“What? Why’d it change?”

“Well, for one thing it’s been around for donkey’s years. Probably has a Chinese origin, called ‘ke-tsiap.’ It was kind of a runny fish sauce. Like most things, it changed across time. The main reason the name is now ketchup is that the Heinz company wanted their product to stand out, on the shelf, so they created the new name.”

“So, not much difference between catsup and ketchup?”

“Nope. Hey, could you pass the salt?”

Draggy

Writing Prompts: Fantasy and Paranormal

(Your pet dragon transforms into a person.)

________________________________

53 Dragon Girl ideas | dragon, dragon art, dragon girl

I always visited Draggy near his cave at the base of the mountain. He was so afraid that the men in our village would see him, and think they had to kill him. Most dragons hide all the time. The few who dare to venture out? Don’t usually come back. It’s very sad.

I found Draggy when he was just a baby. He scooted away from me at first, but I just sat quietly and sang to myself until he finally figured out I wasn’t there to hurt him. The day he put his head in my lap was the very best! I petted is head and tickled his chin, and he got a big fat tear in his eye. The way he looked up at me was just the way my dog looked at me. He loved me, and I loved him back.

One day, as I walked into the woods to Draggy’s cave, I saw a boy about my own age walking toward me. He had a very serious face, and I didn’t know him. Although–hmm. Something in his eyes. . . .

We met on the path. He was wearing leaves, big ones, twisted together by their stems. It was the strangest thing I ever saw. His hair was longish, kind of brown but not really. It was those eyes, though, that made me feel I should know him. They shifted color whenever he looked away, from brown to gold to green and sometimes silver. It was spooky!

“Uh–hi! I’m Beatrice. Tricks for short. What’s your name?”

To my complete shock, he opened his mouth and growled so I could hardly understand him, “Draggy. It’s Draggy!”

“No it is not! Draggy is my dragon friend, and you’re a boy!”

“Wait!” he growled. And then, with a great deal of squinching of the eyes, puffing out of the cheeks, and heavy breathing, he began to grow scales. He plopped down on what became his big haunches, with his arms going short. He sprouted wings! He grew a tale! Finally, his face changed, and he was my friend Draggy once again!

I plopped down on my own haunches. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I mean, I’d heard fairy tales about people changing into animals and then back again, but I’d never actually SEEN it before!”Draggy! How did you do that? Who taught you? And you can TALK!”

His voice was still growly, but now it sounded the way a dragon’s voice should, “Nobody taught me. I just wished I could be a human boy, so we could play together, I thought it and thought it and thought it, and gradually it happened! It feels very strange, hopping in and out of someone else’s skin, but here I am! Your very best dragon friend!”

“Wow,” I whispered. “Draggy, do you know what this means? It means you can come home with me, play with me in our garden. You can eat. . . .well, do you still eat dragon food when you’re a human boy?”

“Don’t know. Haven’t eaten as a boy. What do boys eat? Dogs? Cats? Maybe sheep?”

“Oh, Draggy, you’re so FUNNY! No, boys eat, well, soup, and vegetables, and roast beef and bacon and food from the garden! Fruit from our trees! All sorts of good things!”

“Don’t they have bones to chew? I love bones!”

“No, Draggy, No bones. Mama uses them to make broth for soup.”

“Huh. Well, I guess I can do all my eating when I’m Draggy. What’s my human boy name?”

“How about. . . ummm. . . WAIT! I know! Dragoslav! I heard about a man by that name. You can be Dragoslav! Drago for short! But, you know, we have to find you some clothes. You can’t go into the village dressed in leaves! I know, we’ll wait until tomorrow. I’ll bring something of my brother’s. He’ll never miss it. He doesn’t like to change clothes because it means he had to take a bath first!”

“Well, okay. I can wait. It’s more comfortable being a dragon than it is being a boy, anyway,” growled Draggy.

Next morning, after chores, I stuffed my brother’s oldest clothes under my tunic. As I walked out the door, I said, “Mama, I’m going to the woods.!”

“Well, watch out for dragons,” laughed Mama.

I laughed, too. This was going to be SO much fun!

Another Eve

Writing Prompts: Sci-Fi

(Your wife is a droid.)

Gunnar was, without a doubt, brilliant. World-famous for his coding acumen, he’d worked on just about every kind of tech platform imaginable.

One day, he and several co-workers were chatting around the water cooler. Gunnar was happily single, and the rest of his buddies were married. They wanted him to join their blissful club.

“Only if I get to program her,” he joked. And everyone laughed–except for the lovely new secretary who heard their chatter as she walked by. She stopped in her tracks, turning to look at the men, who had grown visibly uncomfortable. They checked their phones, their watches, their fingernails. All but Gunnar, whose back was to Brianna.

Gunnar, blissfully unaware of the eye-daggers piercing his back, began to describe exactly what he thought of as the perfect woman. “Gorgeous, of course. Long, wavy dark hair. Big brown eyes, like Bambi. Dimples. Not too thin. I like curves. Most important, she’s sweet and compliant. She won’t ever argue with me because I’m going to make her myself. She’ll be programmed to agree with everything I say.”

Beautiful Young Woman Image & Photo (Free Trial) | Bigstock

Brianna moved quietly away, shaking her head at his nonsense. But Gunnar was on a roll. He began thinking about creating his own droid, perfectly fitting his own imagination. He knew people who could make those ideas come true.

Ah, but her CPU! THAT would be all his to create! He could hardly wait to get home and begin outlining his plans on his own equipment. The more he thought about it, the more excited he became. His creation would far surpass any human female. She’d be brilliant, like he was. She’d be sweet, agreeable, never arguing or contradicting him.

The work was painstaking, detailed, and at times exhausting. He talked to his mom and sisters, probing their reactions to being commanded to do anything. He figured out how to program his droid, whose name, he decided, would be Eve, to accept his commands without question. He tested, retested, and tested again. There wouldn’t, couldn’t, be any bugs or glitches. She had to be firewalled against any and all attempts to hack into her and discover her coding.

He thought about things that were foreign to him: Emotions, feelings. He did want Eve to care for him, but figuring out how to program that was a conundrum. When he went too far, Eve began to express ideas, of all things! She didn’t need to have ideas! So he backed up and started over on that sequence of programming, installing only positive emotions, and requiring that they all be directed only to himself.

She was nearly finished. Time to take her out for a trial run. Her body was perfect. It was impossible to tell she was a robot. Her movements were smooth and natural. Watching her, he realized he’d forgotten about putting expressions on her face. Well, back to the drawing board on that one, but in the meantime, just for kicks, he decided to take her to work and introduce her to the guys.

She was stunning! His co-workers were amazed. How had he kept his girlfriend a secret for so long? But wait! She was almost a dead ringer for Brianna!

Just as that statement was uttered, Brianna herself came walking by. When she saw Eve, she stopped and stared. Gunnar wanted to sink through floor. He truly hadn’t realized he’d modeled Eve to look so much like Brianna, and he was completely embarrassed. But he gathered his wits and made the introductions.

Brianna said, “Well, they say everyone has a double, and I guessI just met mine! Nice to meet you, Eve. How long have you and Gunnar been a couple?”

Eve stared blankly, looking for a response. Brianna watched Eve’s eyes, wondering why there was so little in them. No emotion, no sparkle, no excitement at being introduced to Gunnar’s friends. Hmm.

Eve finally spoke. “We have been working for over one year.”

Brianna gazed at Gunnar’s red face, saw the beads of sweat on his upper lip. She thought about his comment over a year ago about programming the perfect woman.

“Well, Gunnar. It looks as if you’ve created your perfect, ideal wife. Never argues, does she? As long as you’re with her, she’ll do as she’s told. Should be interesting, though, to see what happens when you send her out of the house on an errand and she runs into something you haven’t thought to prepare her for.”

“Won’t happen. I’ve though of everything. She’s perfect, flawless. She’ll always do as I say!”

“Yeah, the perfect woman. You’re just like God, Gunnar. He created Eve, too. How’d that work out for Him?” Grinning broadly, she waited for his response.

“Wait, that’s not a valid comparison! God gave His Eve a human brain, human emotions, the will to decide! No wonder she went wrong! MY Eve doesn’t have any choices!”

“You need to think about that, Gunnar. You really do!” Shaking her head, Brianna went on her way.

There was silence around the water cooler.

Dance With Me?

Writing Prompts: Romance

(You got ditched at the last minute before prom – who will your date be?)

Sharee was frozen in disbelief. She had spent time on the perfect hairdo, the perfect makeup, the perfect dress and shoes. She knew she looked really good, and she’d been excited for this, her first prom ever, with her friend Brandon at her side. Not a boyfriend. Just her date for that night, a guy she enjoyed.

all dressed up prom dresses off 79% - medpharmres.com

She had though he enjoyed her, too.

When the phone rang, someone picked it up downstairs. A few minutes later, her mom came to her room, tapped once, then opened the door. “Sharee, honey, that was Brandon. He–uh–isn’t going to make it tonight.”

“WHAT? Why? Did he say why?” Tears threatened to spill down her cheeks, wrecking her perfect makeup. She blotted them with a tissue before they could spot her pretty dress.

“No. He just said to say sorry, but he couldn’t make it. You going to be okay? What are you going to do?”

Sharee took a few minutes to process the news. All dressed up and no place to go? Oh, no! Her temper began to rise, and her mom recognized the familiar glint in her eyes as determination. Sharee had always been a very determined girl. Her mom thought it was terrific.

“I’m going to prom, Mom. I’m not going to waste the money we spent for this night. I’ll go alone. Brandon is missing out! Can you let me have the car tonight?”

“Yes, that should be no problem. Are you going out afterward?”

“Probably not. Usually it’s just couples who do that. I’ll have my cell. I’ll call if anything changes.”

Giving her mom a quick hug, she grabbed her small purse and a wrap, went down the stairs like a queen, took the car keys from their hook. She opened the garage door, slid into the car, started the engine, and backed out. Closing the door, she did a Y turn in the driveway and headed out onto the street.

Her stomach was clutching. Going to prom alone was cool for guys, but not for girls. Most girls would find a group to join rather than going alone, but it was too late for that. Well, Sharee was used to making her own choices, and this was no different. It could turn out to be an interesting night,

Arriving at the school parking lot, she backed into a space. She grabbed her purse and shawl, dropping the keys into her little bag. With her shawl loosely draped, she walked steadily to the entrance, holding her head high. She stopped at the welcome table, accepted the stamp on her hand. When the girl asked her, “Where’s your date?” she said, “He couldn’t come. Something came up at the last minute.”

Not waiting for a reaction, Sharee continued into the gym. The committee had done a wonderful job. It certainly didn’t have any resemblance to the gym that housed basketball games, with sweaty players and screaming fans. The music was good, too, and Sharee’s feet itched to dance.

She stood quietly off to one side, looking over the groups not dancing, and finally spotted a group that was just guys, no girls. Taking a deep breath, she approached them as if she owned the place. Digging down for her best smile, she said, “Hi, guys. Would any of you care to dance with me?”

There was dead silence for about three heartbeats. Then a boy she recognized as a quiet, studious kid in her study hall stepped forward. “I’d be happy to dance with you. Sharee, right? I think we’re in the same study hall. I’m Lucas. Shall we?” He held out his hand, and she put her own hand in his.

It turned out to be a wonderful night, after all.

The Package

Writing Prompts: Mystery and Thriller

(A stranger sits down next to you on a train and gets up, leaving a package behind. Do you investigate the package?)

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The man had been reserved, but polite. They exchanged the usual inanities about the weather (hot) and the economy (lousy). Once they had observed the courtesies, they lapsed into silence.

Is Amtrak Business Class Worth the Upgrade on the Pacific Surfliner Train?  | La Jolla Mom

He left the train three stops later, and it wasn’t until they had started moving again that Mimi noticed the package under his seat. Curious as always, she bent to pull it out. As she did, the big feet of the conductor paused at her seat. “Help you with something, Miss?”

“Uh, no, I’m–I dropped something. I have it. Thanks!”

Now, why had she done that? Should have given it to the conductor and been done with it, but no, Curiousity always won out. Mimi loved a good mystery.

She turned the small but heavy box around, then flipped it over to look at the back. She took a quick breath when she saw the message printed in red:

“If you open this, it will become your problem!”

She dropped it as if it were a snake! It landed back on the floor, and Mimi pushed it back under the seat with her foot. She glanced around, The train was nearly empty, and she was sure no one had seen her.

Her curiosity nagged at her while she waited through three more stops. Finally, she could walk away from that terrible package and forget about it!

Mimi gathered her purse and her briefcase, adjusted her scarf, and was on her feet before the train had come to a full stop. She usually enjoyed this ride through the countryside, especially in the fall, but not this time. Her nerves were all wide awake.

She stepped off the train into a solid wall. A pair of hands grabbed her arms to steady her. A very handsome young man, whose chest had been that wall, was watching her carefully. He said, “I’m so sorry. I was hurrying and not watching.” He lowered his voice, pulling her close, and spoke into her ear. “Did you pick it up? Do you have it?”

“WHAT? Wha–why–who–who ARE you?”

“You don’t need to know. Do you have the package?

“No! What pack–” The man shook her lightly, once, pulling her away from the train as people began to board.

“Let me go! You have no right!”

“Look, lady, just give me the package and we’ll pretend we never met,” he said, in a pleasant tone. His eyes, however, were not pleasant. And he was still holding her arms.

“I can’t! I-I–put it back under the seat! I was afraid!” Mimi blurted, embarrassed and more terrified by the minute.

“You didn’t! We were sure you wouldn’t be able to resist opening it. We thought–well, we guessed wrong. Okay, look, you’re coming with me. We need to get that package!” And he dropped one of her arms, but held firmly to the other, dragging her along as he fast-walked back to the train.

Just as the door was closing, and the conductor waved them away, he saw two men watching them. He shoved Mimi in front of him and turned them both around, looking for cover. He dragged Mimi into a crowd of people coming off another train and followed the pack toward the depot. By this time, Mimi was panting, trying not to cry, both angry and terrified.

“I’m Mark,” he whispered in her ear. “You can trust me. Just go along, and I’ll get you to safety as soon as I can.”

“But–“

“No buts! Now move!” He dodged into the small depot, quickly crossing to the exit. He glanced out the nearest window, spotted their tail, and turned instead to the restrooms.


“Noooo! I’m not going in there!” cried Mimi. But she couldn’t resist his shove.

“If you want to get out of here with a whole skin, you’re going to have to trust me. Those guys believe you have the package, or that you gave it to me. We have to hurry. Do exactly as I say, no questions. I’ll explain when we can find a safe hiding place.”

She had no choice, really. She did what he said, amazed at his ingenuity. She thought maybe they’d pull it off and get out of there safely.

Or not.