Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Seven

*Clunk* *Clunk* *Clunk*

Woolykind Wil lifted from her cozy sleeping hole, confusion and pieces of her surroundings clinging to her.

*Clunk* *Clunk* “Mina?” *Clunk* “Wilhelmina? Are you awake? You locked the door.”

Wil shook the detritus and dreams from her consciousness. Her present world caught up to her through a thick fog. There’d been fog in her dream. Then the truck stop. Toward the end this time, just before the loud noise outside, just before she’d returned to her bedroom; she’d sensed someone calling to her.

Someone from the shadows.

“Mina!”

“What?!”

Her father paused. She could barely catch his next words. “…Um, it’s time to go.” She could picture him standing outside in the hall, rubbing his face in confusion. “You slept in.”

Wil blinked and looked at her clock. It supported her father’s claim. “Ack!” Galvanized to action; she leapt from bed, stumbled over to the light switch, and illuminated her cluttered bedroom. There, pants! There, pullover!

She opened the door to find her father still standing, still rubbing. Though his usual manner evidenced little sleep, he had the gaunt appearance of a man barely alive. The specter spoke, “Cynth- your mo- erm..”

Wil felt pity. “Don’t worry, Dad. Cynthia is my mom.”

Rob blinked and focused on his daughter’s face, his coloring but not its shape. His eyes but not his shape. A curling mane of dark hair that never could have come from him. “Thank you.”

They both smiled, and it didn’t matter whose it was.

“Your mother said to make sure you showered, but …” he glanced at his phone. “Maybe at least do deodorant.”

Daa-aad!

Rob had the grace to look sheepish. “I’ll meet you at the door in five.” He hadn’t the time to turn before Wil slammed back into her room, his steps solid but not loud enough to block the hasty, flustered noises of preparation coming from behind his daughter’s door.

 

Continued from Ninety-Six.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Where the Wild Things Were

This is one of the most fantastic pieces I’ve ever read.

Lunch Break Fiction

I walk towards the exit, beneath the Homecoming decorations. Shoulders crash into me, feet tripping my steps. They call me ugly. Gross. A freak.

On good days I’m ignored by the monsters. By teachers, by girls, hopefully by Tate Spiller. In the locker room, I dodge spitballs and wads of toilet paper thrown at my back. Then I go outside, walk the track and wait for the whistle.

I want to go back. To sail for weeks and through a day. To leave this forsaken place, where they are all the same. The same wicked smiles and the same stupid faces. The world all around is the same.

The things warned me not to leave. And I should have listened. I told them to be still and they stilled. They were frightened, rapt with wonder. I should have stayed and been a great king. In the wild I was a…

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Adult Swim

“I can’t stand no longer,” I tell Mama, but she gives me That Look; so I wobble and watch the grown-ups flop around slowly like old, fat whales-

“Maahm,” I start. Now Janie shoots me The Look an’ it’s just like Mama’s -but I can tell that Janie wants ’em to hurry jus’ as much as me, ’cause up she goes on her toes then back down.

The whole line of us kids is bobbing and dancin’ -I think maybe the lifeguard sees; for, jus’ when I know we’re gonna jump, we fin’lly hear the whistle.

An’ we run.

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Finally delivered for Carrot Ranch‘s writing prompt this week.

June 20, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about having to wait. Who is waiting and what for? Think about how the wait impacts the character or the story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 25, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Photo by Marc Richards from Pexels

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Six

Wil left the table after a requisite number of tuna casserole bites, hungry and self-pitying. The dark, narrow hallway seemed even more constricting; the dim bathroom bulb even dimmer; the tasteless toothpaste more tasteful for the lingering tuna remains. “Ugh!” she spat, swirled, spat again. She scowled a deeper expression at the girl in the glass, but her reflection matched and even exceeded her gloom.

A distinct *Ku-huh* *Kuh-huh* from the kitchen paused the glaring session. Wil and her shadow listened, a bridge of concern across their united brow, as Cynthia had her coughing session. “They’re happening much more,” Wil and Mirror-Wil whispered. They frowned and their deep, dark eyes spoke helplessness.

Wil exited the bathroom. Parent shadows crossed the hall on their way to the couch and sounds of scrambling soon led to the ever-present breathing machine. Wil stood, caught by fear, till her mother’s deep-throat coughs were tamed by the nebulizer’s magic.

She heard another sound: a chair scraped from the table and careless steps to the sink. Knowing that meant the immediate appearance of Jakob, she squeaked and scampered to the safety of her room and shut the door. After locking the knob, she threw herself atop the messy bed. Clothes, blankets, homework, and an open book or two caught her flying form and held her in their comforting familiarity. “There, there,” her favorite pullover soothed. “We understand,” the nearest novel assured her.

Wil hiccuped a few times but managed not to soil her bedthings with tears. She kicked a shoe free and pulled the second from a bent-leg position. Taking careful aim, tongue in teeth, eyes squinted tight; she threw the sneaker at her push-button wall switch. With a *clunk* the light went off. The shoe dropped.

Woolykind Wil, most respected member of the flying squirrel chapter of The Treetop Dwellers, sniffed and snuffled round her nest. She felt each treasured material with pride, moving things this way and that to arrange them just-so.

It had been a busy day in the forest and Wooly felt tired. She’d gathered food for her group. They’d been a tad ungrateful, to be sure, but she’d done her best. After all, flying was more her forte than food collection ever was.

Burrowing into the most comfortable heap of warm leaves, twigs, and discarded scraps around her; she sighed. Tomorrow would be better. Maybe there’d even be acorns. She fell asleep dreaming of better things.

 

Continued from Ninety-Five.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Five

Dinner at the Winters passed with less conversation than usual. Wil stirred her food in a small circle on her plate and tried not to look at the charred remains in the middle of their table. She had a more difficult time ignoring the smell.

Jakob had yet to comment. He didn’t need to; his loud crunch-chewing and various dramatic expressions of distaste sent a clear message.

“Thank you for making dinner, Wil,” Cynthia said into the silence. She smiled a hopeful, loving smile at her squirming daughter. Wil pictured her mother trying to think of what to say for the last five minutes. Or, she thought, Cynthia might have needed that time to be able to speak after consuming the more edible parts of the casserole.

Wil groaned and lay on her arms to the side of her plate. “I’m sorry; okay!” she said in a muffled voice.

She heard her father clear his throat. Cynthia must have nudged him. “It’s my fault, Mina.” *Cuh-hem* “I said I would come back to make dinner but didn’t.”

No, he didn’t. He’d attended to the car, a much more important task. Anyway, Indiana Winters hadn’t required assistance. She’d required a clean source of water. She’d required a stable campfire. She’d required tools for opening the tins of fish. Where she’d missed the offered assistance of the older, coughing man had been in operating the questionable baking device she’d uncovered. Winters should have heeded her past experience with relics of its sort. Instead, to her and her party’s tastebuds’ chagrin, she’d overestimated both time and temperature.

“You gotta eat it too, Mins,” Jakob offered after a hard swallow. He eyed her as he took a long drink of milk. He wasn’t the only one; both of their parents’ attentions also moved to their daughter.

Sighing with the effort, Wil extracted an arm from beneath her head and scrabbled for her fork. From the level of her plate, she bent her arm and wrist at an awkward angle to sample a small bite. She shuddered. Swallowed. She saw Jakob smirk, her father rub at his face, and her mother half-smile.

A tear wandered down Wil’s face, unnoticed and uncared for by her family. It was a tear of embarassment and of regret; but, most of all, it was a tear for the double injustice of eating not only burned food but eating seafood.

 

Continued from Ninety-Four.
Keep reading to Ninety-Six.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Cell of Snares

You received a letter from the state explaining you were chosen in a lottery to come and rescue an animal. The shelter is being closed due to the owner’s untimely death and his will instructed for his estate to be divided up randomly. Being the animal lover you are, you decide to follow up on this mystery and pop on down to look at a potential pet or two. The address typed on the back of the letter is unfamiliar to you, but your Saturday is wide open. You fill up your gas tank and head out. Why not?

Once you reach the destination, a prison complex at the literal end of the road, all outside communication is cut off and the ‘animals’ are not quite what they seem

—–

Despite my rising alarm at the lack of guards, cell phone service, working car, existence of a cassette player, gouge marks, shackled creature that shapeshifts –Okay, okay, that’s enough thinking that way. I focus, instead, on the gently swinging ivy above me. I breathe in and out. “All right, Beth,” I whisper to myself. “Think positively. What can you control?” –Not that my therapist ever suggested I’d literally be trapped like this, with potential death a mere inchesBreathe, Beth, breathe! Maybe Dr. Querk should have had me run through a few practical situations, but it’s too late to consider that now.

*Greetings, traveler and welcome to The Prison for Dangerous…* begins playing for the sixth time since I entered the creepy room. Nothing irritates me more than repetition, even a supernatural being that might be able to tear my head off. I turn to the apparition within the first cell and glare daggers at it.

“KNOCK IT OFF!” I bellow.

The being within blinks a thousand rainbow eyes at me, squawks, and disappears. I stand on my toes to see where it’s gone: into a bottom corner, rodent-like, somehow still shackled. The tape has stopped. I give the mouse thing a stern nod, in case it gets any ideas.

I let my breath out and look around again. Now fully within the room, I can see that Freaky’s box isn’t the only one with damage to the interior. Of the ten cells, only one or two seem undamaged. Box Four, near the end on the left side, has scorch marks. Number Six -or One, depending on how one wished to count- to the right is dark and molding. The last cell in the row to the right is not only scraped and dented, but the cause of the damage is clearly visible in the form of a large, glowering minotaur.

“Well, Beth, are any minotaurs not glowering?” I tease. A chittering laugh just beyond the shapeshifter draws me forward. “It’s fine. They can’t get out,” I say as I walk, though I certainly won’t go tap on #10’s glass to test my theory.

As I near the source of the laughing, I note signs attached to the outside of each cell. The first reads:

SHIFTER

Charles is the perfect companion. He not only fits most occasions, he fits any occasion or any species. Ever wanted a rabbit one day, then a pony the next? Charles is right for you!

I laugh a bit; again, echoed by Cell Two. “Are they serious?” I ask the open room. It reads just like the plaques at the animal shelter in town but, surely, I can’t literally walk out with something as incredible as a shapeshifter?

I glance at the affixed plaque of #2:

SPRITE

Honeyblossom is the light of the party or room. Besides a natural effervescent personality, she has a natural effervescence. A bit flighty, Honeyblossom would do well in an open environment without the temptation of mischief.

A tiny pair of eyes peers over the sign through the glass front. They blink and a tiny nose and grinning mouth appear as well. I smile a bit in return but immediately look away. Sprites and mischief are practically synonymous; sorry, Honeyblossom.

Mostly due to the very large, heavily-breathing presence on the end, I examine the other labels from a safe distance. They outline a Mouther, Phoenix, Satori, Boggart, Imp, Baby Dragon, Unicorn, Tokoloshe, Taniwha, and that Minotaur. I catch names like Chatterbox, Imka, and Bob.

I also see that the door of the unicorn’s cell is slightly ajar; her sign askew. Either I am not the first visitor to this strange place, or Rainbow Sparkles, III figured things out on her own… I look around, twitching this way and that. My eyes meet those of a few remaining creatures and no one else, whether that’s a comforting audience or not.

“Oh-kay,” I exhale. Before Charles stopped the recorded message, it’d said all I had to do was activate a cell with my letter. After that, the creature inside was mine. But, do I want to bring one of these home? A Satori was pretty awesome in theory; in practice, not so much. He’d likely run away or hide, knowing precisely when I meant to throw him in the tub or tell him it was time for bed. And no way would I consider bringing home something larger than my car.

Which left at least three animals I’d dreamed about since childhood. Three mythical creatures I’d pored over in storybooks and often said aloud, “Oh, I wish it was real!” Three that would be really awesome to own.

One of those, if J.K. Rowling were correct, that would make the use of an exit vehicle unnecessary.

“What the heck, Beth? The letter and the recording said to choose one.” I pull the crumpled bunch of papers from my back pocket and smooth them out. Before I can change my mind, I walk toward the smoking glass of Cell #4.

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—–

This was in response to Peregrine Arc’s story prompt. You can join in, too! Just click here to read her amazing introduction.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

The Gatehouse

transition

“…and this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the family most oft exited the manor if they wished a stroll down the North side of their estate…”

Well-trained and well-rounded tourist faces followed their guide’s directing hand, staring out the open side door. A few, “Oohs” and phone-clicks captured the view but most eyes slid back, puppy-eyed, to the mustachioed leader. Meredith glanced up from examining the iron stove but the subservient herd completely blocked the opening. She’d look once they trundled on.

“Over here,” the guide continued, “In this alcove, one finds a few items the family may have used for such an excursion.”

*Click* *click* captured the made-in-China umbrellas and slickers hanging on IKEA hooks. Meredith rolled her eyes.

“Shall we continue on to the servants’ quarters?” Murmurs of assent answered him. The tour guide turned smartly and ducked up a narrow set of stairs. “Mind the head,” came back to them.

“And the waist,” Meredith mumbled, eyeing the first few tourists and wondering how they’d get through the space. She stopped, her garden view finally unobstructed. Some force, some memory, some power held her; staring out the opening.

I’ve been here before, she thought. She knew.

But how ridiculous. This was her first visit to England. It was her first visit overseas at all, only made possible by an impulsive coworker’s double-booking. Only Karen would be wealthy and ignorant enough to pay for two vacations in the same week. A similar impulse to now had compelled Meredith to take Karen up on her discounted offer…

Meredith stepped nearer the exit, still not quite in control of her mind or self. Was it the worn, polished stone path; the neat, trim, British grass; or the charming stone brickwork of the cottagelike gate house before her? What reminded her, drew her, pulled at her?

Her eyes flitted to the arched, weather-beaten wood door. Her feet sandaled down the path toward it. From so near the building, she could see and appreciate its age but also the original care and detail put into its workmanship. She could not imagine building the walls and windows, peaks and arch, all with a barrow-full of tools and only the hands God gave you.

Simon. Simon had built the gatehouse. He’d made the door. How she knew that, Meredith could only guess. The further she walked away from the tour group and the closer she drew to outside, the more antique memories trickled into her mind.

Father had asked Simon to build it on the East side but Mother had wished it here, atop a slight knoll before the moors began. Meredith’s pace quickened. The afternoon sunlight danced into her eyes just as she pressed her hands against the garden door and pushed.

“Meredith?” she raised a gloved hand to shade against the bright light to her left. There, beneath a tree, leaned a surprised young man in riding gear.

“Edmund,” she breathed. Recalling herself, she corrected with, “Good afternoon, Mr. Manfield.”

He stood away from the tree and strode toward her in haste. Removing his cap and taking her hand in his, he said, “But, your father said you never again desired my company.” His eyes searched her face beneath her hat brim, imploring.

Meredith could scarcely think above her rising excitement and beating heart. Father, father… She met Edmund’s gaze, blushed, looked away.

“What is it, Mere -Miss Howard?”

“Father,” she began. “‘Twas all Father’s doing. He forbade me to speak with you, but-” Here, she drew enough courage to meet his gaze once more. “I know that, if I heed his warnings, I shall be miserable the remainder of my days.”

A smile brushed against Edmund’s lips and lit his eyes more warmly still. It came again, staying this time. She’d always loved his smile.

He kneeled, right there amoungst the heather and the wet grasses. “Meredith Howard, I could never live, knowing I were the cause of a lifetime of misery.” Smiling wider, he said, “I will go and speak with your father -this very moment- with you by my side.”

Rising, he grasped her hand more firmly. She felt his strength and love through both their gloves as, together, they walked back to the arched wood door. Edmund pulled it open and she glanced at it as they passed. Simon had just stained it, and it looked nearly new.

Remembered for Sue Vincent‘s Thursday photo prompt: transition.

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Four

Wil, Rob, and Jakob entered the usual silent dark of #42 more grimly than they did most Friday evenings. The zombie *hush-hush* of Cynthia’s nebulizer hummed a discordant duet with that of the rattling heating system.

Wil tiptoed to the couch in the light from the open front door. The door also welcomed a blast of chill air; Rob closed it and Jakob switched on the dim bulb over the range. All this outlined a slumbering Cynthia, complete with peaceful smile and slow rise of breathing. Her equipment, still on, lay nearby. Wil switched it off.

Wil!” Rob whisper-yelled. She looked up, blinking. He gestured to himself and she stumbled up and over to where he stood. “You start on dinner,” he continued whispering. “I’m going to change, then take over. Do you have homework?

Wil made a face.

All right. Do it while dinner’s cooking.” He stepped aside and pointed to a grocery bag on the counter, the very bag she’d acquired from her exploits earlier that evening…

Her father thumped past her as silently as he could in his work boots and headed down the hall. “Ooomph!” Wil exlaimed as Jakob followed suit; his aim had not been to travel around her. Not able to do more for lack of size and ability to noise complaints, she glared at her stepbrother. He threw her a final look of teasing humor before disappearing.

Wil turned to the plastic sack. She glanced round the dim room tomb as sifting, silent sand filtered down the cracks of peeking sunbeams. All seemed quiet, but Indiana Winters knew too well the peril of those who assumed no danger. With light-gloved touch, she moved the noisy sack-sides to retrieve its hidden treasures: a boxed meal and cans that claimed to be tuna.

She angled the box beneath the wavering electric light; she could make out pictures of pots and timers and a steaming pan at the end. “Well, well, well,” Winters said, her breath inches from the vague pictograms. “Etruscan influence, I’d say, with a smidgeon of Greek. Hmmm.” She moved her right hand to scratch beneath her favorite, battered fedora. “Now… what do they say to do first?”

Her nose near-touching the surface of print, she thought she recognized a symbol. It looked very like an object she’d encountered whilst searching. Round, shining, potable; it must be the same. She stooped with care, steel-tipped boots slipping on the polished tomb floor. With tongue gripped between set lips, she creaked open a small alcove.

She paused.

Nothing.

She searched left, right, up, down, and behind her crouched position.

Still nothing.

Reaching her free hand to within the dark depths, Winters brushed against a solid object. A solid, shiny object. She pulled it free. Eureka! She rose to standing height once more, holding her glinting prize in the half-light’s flickers.

Her exultant feeling cut short as she again glanced at the pictograms. Despite acquiring this first relic, her mission to discover The Secrets of Din might forever end there. “Where,” she whispered, “Am I to fill this with water?

 

Continued from Ninety-Three.
Keep reading to Ninety-Five.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Three

“‘Bout time, Mina Late,” Jacob said once Wil entered the car. His breath came in puffs; Rob had started the engine as soon as she’d opened the door to the backseat and they must have been sitting without heat until then.

Wil did not see fit to answer such rudeness even if he were cold. She turned away from the scoffing youth, settled her purchases near her, and closed the door.

“Get buckled, Mina,” the driver gruffed. He grunted and engaged their vehicle in a backwards, then forwards motion.

“But, of course,” she replied, securing her person. Who knew what bandits or ruffians they might encounter on their return trip? She sighed and rested her dainty chin upon her dainty fingertips as she gazed out at the passing landscape.

The world had changed.

Centredom hadn’t always been so dangerous. Even Wil could remember bright, sunshine mornings, laughing brooks, singing fairy folk, and trusting villagers. Then, out of nowhere, The Thing came. The Thing was everything and nothing; but, most of all, it was everywhere.

Sunshine turned to windy grey. The laughing water suppressed itself to a muted murkiness. Fairies disappeared. And, as Wil had just witnessed at the market, weary villagers interacted in wary ways.

“Didja remember to get dinner this time?” Jakob interrupted her thoughts to tease.

Wil continued to study her memories and outside view. It wasn’t the young man’s fault, after all. She knew his pointed sarcasm stemmed from The Thing. The Thing touched the hearts of all that lived and felt.

Night and lighted night panned across her pensive, regal face. They moved quickly. She felt fortunate in not meeting with any delays, particularly any influenced by The Thing.

Just as she thought to thank The Goddess for their safe arrival home, she heard a loud *pop!* from quite near. Immediately thereafter, the even gait of the vehicle she sat within altered to a wobbling sashay.

Their destination arose just ahead. Wil glanced at their driver as she attempted to keep her seat. His jaw set. They were going to make it. Another lurch, many bumps, and a sharp turn landed them beneath the shaded corral: their goal.

“Well,” Rob said after a few seconds. “Let’s see about making dinner, huh?”

 

Continued from Ninety-Two.
Keep reading to Ninety-Four.

The Animal Facts of Life

“Elephants are pregnent fohr two years!”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh. Dhey also have duh biggest bwains of mammals.”

She smiled in the rearview mirror at her son. He sat hunched over his animal facts book.

“You know,” she ventured, “there’s a saying that ‘an elephant never forgets.’ Maybe because of their big brains.”

He didn’t answer. She knew he heard; he always did. That, the slight speech impediment, and his obsession with one topic made adults think he didn’t.

She sighed and rubbed her stomach, wondering how he’d handle being a big brother. Unlike an elephant, they only had nine months.

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Written in response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week. If there’s one thing I think of with sisu, it’s pregnancy.

May 2, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sisu. It’s a Finnish concept of enduring strength, the ability to consistently overcome. Think long-term. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 7, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Photo Credit:
Casey Allen