Hidden in the Ice

September’s Short Story of the Month

The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining the feeling of soaring over the cool lake and feeling the crisp new winter air slide across his skin.

“Jack! Jack! Where is that boy?” he could hear his mother yelling in the distance.

He snapped out of his daydream and let out a deep sigh. As he looked once more at the lake that would soon freeze and become a place of fun and joviality, he let the cold air fill his lungs to the point that it hurt to breathe.

As he walked up the stone path leading to his house, his mother stuck her head out the door and began to yell again.

“Jack! Jack!” Before she could say it a third time, she spotted him. “There you are. What have you been doing? The groceries aren’t going to pick themselves up. Take my car.”

“Sorry, Mother.” I was just walking to clear my head because winter is coming, and I can feel the old longing in my bones. The longing to use the powers of ice and wind to create a winter wonderland – to feel everything hibernate and slumber for a season. Jack thought this part but didn’t say it to his mother. She and father didn’t like it when he talked of magic.

It didn’t matter anyway; he didn’t have any powers. But for some reason, he remembered having them, which didn’t make sense. He was only 17. How could he remember bringing winter to the world? He’d never even left his hometown.

As he drove away, his mother stared at the car leaving the driveway. She pursed her lips and failed to hear her husband walk up behind her.

“What’s troubling you, dear?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she said at first. Then she shook her head and tried to shake the nagging feeling that was always at the back of her mind lately.

“Actually…” she began, but then she hesitated and didn’t finish her thought.

“What is it?” her husband asked.

“I think he’s remembering again.” She looked at her husband, conveying a knowing idea that neither really wanted to say aloud for fear of giving it life.

Her husband paled at that look. “What should we do” he asked.

“I don’t know. We’ll keep him busy. Like always.”

“What if that’s not good enough anymore,” he asked tentatively.

“It has to be.” She was staring out the window as she said this, but whatever was troubling her, she let pass. She turned to her husband. “You know the consequences if he remembers who he really is. And they won’t be happy with us if his powers reawaken.”

“I know; I know. Don’t even say that.” He left the room in a huff very troubled with their conversation.

That night as Jack tossed and turned, he could hear his parents shuffling around in the living room watching the tv low enough that he knew it was on but couldn’t make out the actual words.

He thought he finally drifted off, but he had a strange dream.

He overheard his parents talking with someone. Whoever it was, their voice hissed and cracked like a log burning in flames. That was an odd way to describe someone’s voice, but it seemed accurate.

“He cannot be allowed to discover the truth,” the voice hissed and crackled.

“We know that.” His mother sounded afraid.

His father remained silent but Jack could hear the repetitive creak of his rocking chair.

“We are doing the best we can. But every winter it gets harder.” His mother paused, but then continued, “You can see it in his eyes.”

“Perhaps, it would be a good idea to move south then. Someplace warmer. Less winter. Less temptation.” The voice was moving around the room in a pattern. The speaker must have been pacing as he was speaking.

The rocking chair stopped moving. “We can’t go further south. You know what happened the last time we tried.” His father spoke forcefully, and Jack heard the words clearly in his room.

He remembered the day his father was referring to. It’d been a little over two years ago at around the same time of year. The seasons were changing – fall giving way to winter.

His parents talked about it for weeks. They were moving south. His father had found a better paying job – at least, that’s the reason they gave to Jack when he asked why they were moving in the middle of the school year.

They were heading south on the interstate following the moving truck loaded with all of their household goods. They’d been driving for about 6 hours when Jack started to get a headache. His parents stopped and purchased some medication for him, but it wasn’t helping.

After another 4 hours in the car, Jack could barely sit up. He was waning between awake and unconsciousness. His mother wanted to go to an ER, but his dad said he was probably just car sick. They never took long car rides and Jack just wasn’t used to it.

They finally pulled over at a rest area when Jack complained that his fingers felt cold. His mother threw open the car door and pulled him out of the car. She placed his hands inside a sweater, wrapping them like they were diseased.

“Get back in the car, Jack. I need to talk with your father. And leave that sweater on your hands.”

They walked a few steps away from the car. Jack couldn’t make out what they were saying because he could barely keep upright, but his mother was furious. She kept gesturing back the way they’d come. His father kept shaking his head and pointing the other way.

In the end, they’d turned around and headed home. As they went further north, he began to feel better. The symptoms disappeared in the opposite order that they’d arrived, and by the time they pulled into a hotel in the town he’d grown up in, he was feeling 100% again.

The morning after the strange dream with the person who spoke like fire, Jack’s mom prepared him a big breakfast.

“What’s all this for?” Jack asked as he dug into homemade waffles loaded with butter and syrup.

“I just wanted you to know that we love you.” His mother looked sad when she said it.

Jack just nodded and kept shoveling food into his mouth.

That day while Jack was at school, his mother paced about the house unable to complete any task because she could feel something was off. It was happening. She never understood how she had such a strong connection to Jack; he wasn’t actually her son. She’d raised him, and she’d always been able to sense his moods.

Today was the strongest feeling yet. Jack was awakening. The real Jack. Not the Jack who left his backpack on the floor despite there being a hook just for it right inside the foyer. Not the Jack who loved to dip French fries in his slushie at the movie theater. It wouldn’t be her Jack who came home from school. She didn’t know why but she knew it was true.

Jack would come home and be the truest version of himself. A version that had to be locked away with magic and wards. A Jack who given a chance would try to destroy the world because that was his nature. He would cover the world in ice and snow and watch as every living thing froze because he wanted to see the world end.

Aging Gracefully

I just celebrated my birthday. For the first time since I’ve been 30, I did not tell people I was turning 29.

Guess that means I’m growing up.

Or… I’m admitting defeat….

Anyway, happy reading and writing! Short story of the month will be posted tomorrow.

Fortuitous Robbery

August’s Short Story

I asked her if she was joking. Her frown told me she wasn’t. “Every last penny, gone,” she said. “And that’s not the worst of it,” she continued, leaning across the table. “They completely destroyed our security system.”

“Why would they do that?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said.

“Well, I would say we should fix it, but without the gold…” I let the thought trail off. We were screwed. Maybe there was something we could do. “What about the show room?”

“They left it alone,” she commented.

“Well, that’s something at least…” I was starting to form a plan.

She scoffed. “Not really. In order for that to be useful, we’ll have to convince the boss to part with one of his collection.”

I wasn’t going to hold my breath. We both knew that wasn’t going to happen, at least not easily.

The show room was so packed, you could barely move through it. It smelled of gasoline and wax. The cars on display never actually left the floor. It was a front – an obvious one – for the actual business we ran for the boss. He used the area to store his precious vintage automobile collection. Personally, I hated each and every single one of those cars. They caused no end of headaches for me and my associates.

We were in the business of high-interest short term loans. Loans that sometimes cost more in flesh than they earned us in coin.

“Are you going to tell him?” she asked.

As I looked at her, my face went pale. “He doesn’t know yet?” I asked. I never imagined having to tell him. It was not a conversation that would end well, especially if I mentioned selling off one of his precious autos. The boss was a believer in shoot the messenger. Things were just not going my way lately.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

I was right; it didn’t go well. Go figure. The only good thing was at least I’d walked away with all ten fingers and ten toes and all of my limbs.

Back in the showroom, a decision had to be made…

“He said we could sell one to fix the security,” I said.

“No kidding,” she said with actual shock on her face.

“He also wants the video footage that survived sent to him right away.”

“You told him there wasn’t anyway to tell who it was, right?” she asked.

I shrugged. “I told him. He said he wants to see it anyway.”

As I stood there staring at row after row of cars, I made a decision. We were going to sell more than one. How often did the boss come down here anyway? In fact, before the security system was fixed, I planned to arrange for several of the god forsaken hunks of metal to be relocated at a discount price to people with sticky fingers.

Of course, I didn’t tell her any of this. She would disapprove. She liked her job, and she still had respect for the boss. I was past that. It’d been too many years.

The robbery may have lost us a lot of money, but it was providing an opportunity for some much-needed revenge.

Death Valley Trial

July’s Short Story (Finally done)

The desert is an unforgiving place. This one is called Death Valley for a reason. Every living thing there has to fight for survival. And we would have to fight, too, or else everything they’d said about us would be true.

I was tired of hearing, “You don’t belong here,” “Women shouldn’t be in the landing party missions,” and my least favorite, “There was no room for weakness in my military.”

All those things and more were running through my head. This was our final survival training requirement. If we passed this, we were fit to join the landing teams, which would be the elite of the elite forces.

Our unit was an all-female team. The powers that be were trying to prove a point. They let us all in the program, kept us lumped together, and didn’t want us to succeed. From day one, they made us train with inadequate gear and malfunctioning equipment. And despite their best efforts, we’d made it this far.

We had to pass this – to survive, even in an environment designed to kill everything.

As team leader, I was trying to keep my soldier’s morale up, but it was proving difficult. We were lost and running out of water. There was a distinct possibility that we would not survive the next 48 hours. It was my task to pull the plug before any causalities happened, but my own stubborn pride was not in the mood for failure. 

We were currently sitting under a tarp enduring a windstorm. No one was saying anything. There were twenties eyes on me. I could feel them willing me to make the call.

Every second of training I’d ever been through brought me to this moment. I was in charge of these ten lives, ten women, ten daughters, sisters, mothers, friends. What I wanted more than anything was for all of us to succeed and to finally prove that we have what it takes to make it with the rest of the squads in the landing missions.

If I wanted that moment, this might not be it. If I let them all die out here, or if I even lost one life, the powers that be would never let us join the landing parties.

We needed to live if we wanted to be a part of those teams. Dying during a training mission would not get us to Mars.

For some reason, even with all of them staring at me, I wasn’t thinking about our current situation. All I could think about was a story my mother used to tell me. Why did it keep coming to me now?

There were two brothers who begged and begged their mother for a kitten, but she repeatedly told them no. After many months of pestering her on a daily basis, she finally gave in and adopted a cat for them.

However, the brothers were disappointed because the cat was already full grown and they’d wanted a kitten.

Despite not getting exactly what they wanted, overtime the boys grew to love the cat. It followed them everywhere. If they went to play, the cat went too. If they were sleeping in their room, the cat slept with them.

As the boys grew, so did the cat. Their attachment only became stronger. When the boys reached school age, the cat would follow them to school and wait patiently outside the gate.

With winter in full effect, the boys would try to get the cat to stay home and not follow them because they didn’t want her to wait out in the cold for them all day. But she would bolt out the door the first chance she got.

One day after school, the boys started to walk home, and they noticed the cat was not waiting for them. They were hopeful that their mother had finally found a way to persuade the cat to stay inside.

As they walked home, they had to circle around the lake. As they were passing the west bank, they heard a familiar sound. It was the cat. It was mewing.

The boys looked around and they saw her standing on the lake, and she wasn’t moving. What was she doing? Was she stuck?

The boys knew better than to go out onto the ice. The lake wasn’t frozen through yet, so they stood on the bank calling to her. She wouldn’t come towards them.

The brothers decided that the youngest would walk out a little way, very carefully and hoped that if the cat saw them coming, she would make her way towards them.

He’d only made it about five steps when he heard the lake crack. He froze and he could see the fear in the cat’s eyes. She still wasn’t moving.

The older brother was yelling frantically to his brother to come back to the shore as quickly as he could. The younger brother was snapped out of his fear and made it back to land safely.

When the boys looked back towards the center of the lake, the cat wasn’t there. The lake was splintered and ice was floating about. There was no cat though.

Sitting under the tarp listening to the harsh, dry wind of the desert, why could I only think of that story and those two boys with the cat? What was it about that story that I couldn’t let go of?

Random Fun – Renaissance Fair in Kansas City

This is one of those random blog posts that I sometimes write about random things that I’m a fan of.

This time of year is one of my favorites – Ren Fair season in Kansas City! My daughter and I absolutely love the renaissance fair. We go almost every weekend during the month and a half it’s open in our area.

We even get all dressed up. One of our favorite parts is looking for handmade items to add to our costumes from the vendors at the fair. We rarely leave without at least one new treasure.

You may be thinking, “What’s the point of even going?” Honestly, it’s just fun. I don’t care if it has any other point than that. We love any reason to wear a costume. We also love seeing what costumes other people create.

Perhaps the biggest reason we love it though is that we get to “nerd out” (as my daughter is fond of saying) in an environment where most people are doing the same thing and that lends it a very safe feeling. Sometimes it’s nice to just be around people who enjoy the same type of novelty fun as you.

If you haven’t ever been, you should give it a try. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but try it at least once before you decide that. My first time at one was only 4 years ago, and I have gone every year since. We’ve even been to ones in other states.

Anyway, happy reading, writing, and ren fairing this month!

September Prompt

This is going to be a great month! Here’s what will be coming for my blog this month:

  1. July’s Short Story (late, but finally ready)
  2. August’s Short Story (ditto)
  3. September’s Short Story (later this month)
  4. A couple of random posts (as per usual)

And of course, the first thing I try to post every month — September’s prompt:

The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining…

Happy reading and writing this month!!