Tell the Story Challenge

Story challenge

The incomparable Susan Richardson passed me the baton in this challenge, which asks the writer to create a story around a picture the previous author has selected. I’m always game for these types of assignments, primarily because it is often difficult to get the creative juices flowing every week, and having something like this provides a ready-made subject matter. Plus, I love a challenge!

I also love Susan’s work, and what she produced for this challenge is exceptional. I have passed the baton to her on a number of occasions for different challenges of this nature, so I’m sure this is her way of reciprocating. I actually welcomed it, until I saw her picture, that is. Talk about a WTF moment. My first thought was, “Sue, I thought you were my friend,” but as I stared at it for a few minutes, what I would write became obvious. What follows is a longer piece than what you normally find in this space, but I hope you like it.

My name is Aimee. I was given to Sarah when she was a toddler, and have been with her ever since.

From the beginning, my home was on the nightstand next to where she slept, where I watched over her at night, and made sure she stayed safe. Around the time she turned five, Sarah began to lovingly brush my hair every night before her Mom came in to read her a bedtime story. During these intimate moments, Sarah told me about her day, and over time I knew all of her hopes, dreams and fears. If she had a nightmare the previous night, Sarah would plead with me to keep the monsters away. How cute it that?

We drifted apart a bit once Sarah hit puberty. She’d occasionally brush my hair and confide in me, but for the most part, I stayed on the night table next to her bed, keeping vigil over her and her room.

Her father, who was in the military, moved frequently. I moved with them, and remained a fixture next to her bed in each new location. I went to college with her, in addition to the various apartments she lived in following graduation. While our relationship evolved over the years, we have always been a team.

Sarah began to confide in me more once she began dating. As she became older, I was witness to the moment she lost her virginity, and every occasion she allowed someone to share her bed. I was witness to her transformation from an insecure, awkward teen to an assertive, confident woman.

I knew everything she thought and felt about her intimate acquaintences, and saw her heart get broken a couple of times. I wanted to murder the bastards who hurt her, but Sarah was resilient, had a healthy self-esteem, and always rebounded farily quickly.

So even though our relationship evolved, I was content. I mean, she wasn’t a kid anymore, and most people would have either discarded me a long time ago or packed me away in some anonymous, forgotten box. The fact that she didn’t demonstrated she still cared. So did the fact that she still smiled at me on occasion, always made sure that I wasn’t covered in dust, and that my place on her nightstand was clean and free of debris. She was still my person, and I was happy with the way things were. Until she met Matt, that is.

Matt was the keeper, unfortunately. He was a strikingly handsome guy with a body that looked like it was carved from marble. Sarah fell head over heels for him, and I couldn’t say I blamed her. Besides his looks, he was kind, thoughful, and had a wicked sense of humor that made her laugh. Hell, it even made me want to laugh on occasion. But I thought there was more to Matt than what met the eye.

You see, Matt always had a very high opinion of himself. He also liked to party, and was a different cat when he drank. At least I thought so. While he never laid a hand on Sarah, he could become short and irritable. His humor became more biting and mean-spirited, and I sensed a temper and darkness lurking below his surface. It worried me.

My issues began when he moved in with his dog, a chocolate lab named Belle. For some reason, Belle thought I was her personal play-toy. She’d frequently sneak into the bedroom, and knock me off the nightstand with her nose. Sometimes she would bat me around the room with her paw, sometimes she would grab me by the hair, and toss me around the room, which I hated. I drew the line at becoming her chew toy however. On a few occasions I had to discretely maneuver my way out of her mouth in a way that didn’t attract suspicion when she tried to gnaw on me. I do have some abilities, you see, but until then never had the need or desire to use them.

But Belle remained a problem. What I hated more than anything is when, usually after I extricated myself from her mouth, she would slobber all over me. Sarah didn’t like that either. She’d find me all wet and nasty on the bedroom floor, clean me up, then complain to Matt about keeping Belle out of the bedroom. Matt seemed irritated that Sarah cared more for a “stupid doll” than his dog, and half-heartedly complied. These events didn’t happen as frequently, but they did continue.  I was getting fed up about the entire situation and decided to do something about it the next time Belle bothered me.

One afternoon when Sarah was jogging, Matt absent-mindedly left the bedroom door ajar. I could hear Belle bounding up the stairs, and prepared myself. She pushed the door open with her nose, then looked around before entering, as if she knew she was on the verge of being a “bad dog” if she was caught. The urge to abuse me outweighed any potential repercussion, however, and in she came.

Belle made a bee-line to the nightstand, knocked me onto the floor, and started batting me around. Normally I would stay put like an inanimate object, but this time I rolled across the floor towards the bed, hoping to find sanctuary beneath it. But I’m not very big, and could not move as fast as that beast, who intercepted me before I could reach my destination. My unexpected movement apparently added an element of excitement to the game, and she grabbed me in her mouth with more gusto than usual and threw me high into the air. Fortunately, I had a soft landing on their bed, but Belle jumped onto the bed, grabbed me in her mouth again, and flung me harder. I flew across the room,  hit the wall hard, and bounced against something hard on the way down before hitting the floor again.  It hurt like hell, and I was disoriented.

Belle was feeling it though, and let out one loud bark as she came after me. Grabbing me in her mouth, she started treating me like a chew toy. By now I was mad as hell, and needed to let her know who was boss.  So as Belle was holding me in her paws and gnawing on my head, I quickly hopped into her mouth and forced my way into the back of her throat.

That got her attention. She was stunned, whined loudly, shook her head violently from side to side, and knocked a chair over as she wobbled about the room, making a hell of a racket in the process. I felt her fear, and couldn’t help but smile. Matt must have heard the racket because he raced upstairs to see what was going on. When he arrived at the scene and saw Belle’s dilemma, he stuck his hand in her mouth to retrieve whatever was choking her. I wanted that dog dead, however, and bit one of his fingers as hard as I could, hoping he would let go.

Matt screamed but hung on, and with a forceful yank, was able to dislodge me after prying Belle’s mouth open with his other hand. Belle ran from the room like she was shot out of a cannon and never bothered me again, so I at least accomplished something on that front.

But Matt? His forearm were scraped by Belle’s teeth from when he gave that one final pull, but that isn’t what confused him. Instead, he gaped at the hole on the side of his right index finger, directly below the knuckle.  It was bleeding a lot, but apparently not enough to require stiches, and a chunk of skin was missing. Matt glanced back and forth between the finger and me, with an incredulous look on his face. His eyes told him one thing, but they also told him I don’t have a mouth, so how in the world could I have bitten him? He pondered this for a long time.

Matt never said a word to Sarah that I am aware of,  but I think he understood there was more to me than meets the eye. After cleaning me up, he moved me from the night stand to the top of a bookcase on the opposite side of the bedroom, and turned me so that I was looking out a window. Sarah put me back on my rightful place later that evening. He threw a suspicious glance my way as they were getting ready for bed, but said nothing, and that was the end of it. For a while, anyway.

Much to my dismay, they married, less than a year later, and bought a house before their first anniversary. As they were moving in, Matt conveniently forgot to unpack me, and put the box I was stashed in into the guest bedroom closet.  Sarah, who was pregnant at the time and was more interested in getting the nursery prepared, didn’t notice. I don’t know exactly how long I was imprisoned in that dark tomb, but I missed the duration of Sarah’s pregnancy and the birth of their child.

I was depressed, and felt forgotten and abandoned. My person was gone, but I stayed put because I knew that if I ever made an appearance, Matt would get rid of me.

But something troubling was happening to the marriage. I don’t know what triggered the problem, but they began to argue constantly, and the baby cried a lot more than it used to. Sometimes the arguments got so loud I could hear them downstairs from the my closet prison. I was concerned, to say the least, but what could I do?

Last week, one of their arguments spilled into the guest bedroom, and after a period of shouting and name calling, I heard a sharp slapping sound, followed by someone crumpling to the floor. I knew it was Sarah because she was sobbing uncontrollably as Matt stormed out of the room. A rage began to well inside me. My person was in trouble and had no one to help her.

Imagine Matt’s surprise the following morning when, as he opened the medicine cabinet to get his shaving cream, he saw me glaring at him. My eyes had literally turned wide and red, like glowing charcoal embers. It looked like  he was going to have a heart attack. It’s a pity he didn’t.

Shaken to his core, Matt marched me downstairs, and I soon found myself mingling with food scraps and other slimy, smelly shit in kitchen garbage container under the sink. I tried my best to bite him during the journey downstairs, but held me by the hair, not letting me get near him. I guess he remembered the incident with Belle. Then he pulled the garbage bag out, tied it up and deposited it in the big green container they keep outside for he next day’s pick-up.

I’m sure he thinks I’m history, but unfortunately for him, I can do a lot more than bite.

I easily escaped from my smelly grave and have been planning and keeping a low profile ever since. Once I made the decision, I found a discreet spot on one of the family room end tables that is tucked in the corner next to a sofa, and hid there.

Sarah is upstairs with the baby now, and won’t be coming downstairs any time soon. She is a sad, broken husk of her former self, and her bruises haven’t faded completely.  But they will heal, and so will her soul, once I get rid of that motherfucker.

Matt, you see, has a habit having a drink or two (sometimes three) during the evening, after which he usually lies down to watch television before passing out. When his drunken eyes close tonight, they won’t reopen. My dilemma is I how it’s going to happen.

It would be better for Sarah if it looks like he died in his sleep. There would be less questions that way, and she doesn’t need any more trauma in her life. But I selfishly want that prick to suffer.

Decisions, decisions.

Now it is my turn to pass this off to three folks you need to discover. Tom, (Tom Marches On) who I am sure is licking his Super Bowl wounds and needs a diversion, Billy (aka Superman) and Jane, (The Natural Calamity version), you’re up. Good luck with this picture. I am looking forward to reading what you can come up with.

Woods

The Final Hunt – Part 8

alien

Superman has tagged me for something different today, which is a good thing because I didn’t have a clue concerning a subject to write about. Instead, my mission is to  add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

Superman’s (Billy Mac) contribution:

They were slammed to the ground by a sudden, swirling and violent thrust of downward pressure. The trees bent outwards in futile surrender as they were pelted by leaves and underbrush. The noise was deafening. The dogs, unable to stand, yelped as they crawled towards the outskirts of the clearing. Sam, having lost his tenuous grip on the shotgun, helplessly watched as it was flung beyond his sight. He found himself being tossed around on the forest floor as he tried to find something to hold onto. He cried out to Alec who was frantically hugging the base of a tree at least 20 feet away.

“Alec! What the ever loving f&*k is going on?!” He shouted. As the words left his mouth he knew that the cacophony around him had drowned him out.

Alec, instead of futilely trying to shout over the deafening noise waved his right arm, his left clinging to the tree base, caught Sam’s attention and frantically pointed upwards, jabbing at the forest ceiling.

Suddenly branches and debris began raining down upon them and both men cowered under the onslaught. Sam forced himself to look up. Squinting and covering his eyes with one hand he could see a large object slowly lowering itself into the clearing, effortlessly forcing aside the trees that dared block its descent.

The heat was overwhelming, Sam could only presume it was exhaust.

But from what?

He scrambled to escape the clearing. Alec, with a sudden burst of brevity let go of the tree and did a military crawl to join his friend. Once he reached Sam they locked arms and watched what they could only presume was Bennett’s ride home finish it’s descent.

My two cents:

Ending its descent before touching down, the craft hovered several feet above the ground. The cacophony of sound, which was deafening as the alien ship forced its way into the clearing, was gone. The woods was eerily silent, as if aware of a malignant presence that it did not want to disturb. The symphony of birds, insects, and the other creatures that inhabited the grounds had vanished. Even the sound of water cascading down the brooks and streams that crisscrossed their route could not be detected. If not for the sound of their heavy breathing, Sam and Alec might have thought they were struck deaf.

The air was calm and still, but somehow felt alive, pulsating with a vibration and energy that was palpable. Sam wiped what he thought was perspiration beading the side of his face, and was alarmed when he saw blood on his hands. Turning to his partner, his eyes widened as he witnessed blood seeping from Alec’s ears and nose. Gently elbowing his friend’s bicep to get his attention, Sam pointed to Alec’s face and then his own. As Alec rubbed the space between his nose and upper lip, Sam heard Alec moan “What the hell?”, but Alec’s lips did not move. Confused, Sam hoped this was a nightmare he would soon wake from when he heard Alec respond “This is no nightmare, Sam. Can you hear my thoughts? I sure as hell can hear yours.”

Sam nodded. He didn’t question their sudden telepathic capabilities, instinctively knowing the alien presence somehow enabled it. Perhaps it was best under the circumstances that they could communicate in this manner, and not draw attention to themselves by making noise with their voices.

“We have to get out of here,” Sam heard Alec think, pointing to Sam’s face. The drops of  blood from Sam’s ears and nose had developed into a trickle. Sam saw Alec grimace when he felt his own eyes suddenly tear, and knew it wasn’t tears emerging from his eyes.

The men resumed their military crawl to get as far away from this place as they could without being detected. Moving backwards in this fashion so they would not lose sight of what was in front of them, the air around them suddenly became heavy. Their bodies became immobile, seemingly tethered to the leaf covered terrain, as if an invisible lead blanket enveloped them.

“Christ!” Alec heard Sam think, and was about to reply when a sound that was similar to the opening of an enormous vault pierced the silence. As a sliver of blinding light emerged from the ship, Sam reflexively turned his eyes away from it, and saw leaves, wooden debris and a several mice, chipmunks and a handful of other small rodents get sucked towards the ship, as if caught in a vortex of gravity.

The men felt their bodies become caught in that vortex and become involuntarily drawn towards the ship. Fortunately two large oaks were in their path, and stopped their momentum. They shielded their eyes from the light that was no longer an emerging sliver, but a floodlight of sun-like intensity that enveloped the entire scene.

Bennett, who had transformed into his natural form, approached the ship and appeared to be communicating with something neither Sam or Alec could see. Their blood turned cold when Bennett raised his arm, turned his body and extended a long, bony finger from his claw-like hand and pointed in their direction.

“Oh shit!” both men thought in unison.

 

I pass the baton Susan @ Stories From The Edge of Blindness take it to from here. Susan, I know this may not be in your wheelhouse, but I’d love do see with what you can do with it.

This is what you need to do next:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Either tag another person to contribute to the story or finish the story yourself.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!