Oct 13 – Color Blind

Something weird happened today. My mom’s work number rang around lunch. Caller ID said it was me calling her, but I have never called her on that number. I do have that number in my phone, but my phone didn’t even show a purse or pocket dial. She says she answered and it sounded like someone was crying on the other end. She kept saying my name, but no one answered and then the call cut off. She called me in hysterics, and I had to talk her off the ledge. I have no way to explain this except to say that maybe my number was spoofed. I’m sure there is an explanation, but a tiny part of me is worried it might be some sort of premonition. There’s a short story where a woman keeps answering the phone at home and hears someone crying. It happens for a year, and then her husband dies and in her distraught state at the hospital she calls home and she answers, but in the past. She realizes then she’d been calling herself from the future. Anyhow, now that’s kicking around in the back of my head. If it happens again, I’ll definitely write about it.

On to today’s prompt in my fictional story. The prompt is Color Blind.

“Gregor watched as the group, all dressed like they were from Medieval times, put their instruments aside and gathered in a circle. The one dressed like a friar raised his hands in the air. “The time is at hand, my friends,” he announced. He produced a large apothecary bottle full of blue liquid from behind his back. 

“We should get going,” Richard’s ghost pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah, in a minute.” Gregor shook his hand at the ghost and kept his eyes fixed on the group. They reminded him of his LARPing days. Oh, how he missed those days.

“Repeat after me, my friends. Quod semel avulsum est, iterum totum est.” The rest of the group followed his lead. When they were finished, he tossed the bottle into the flames. The glass shattered and the air filled with blue smoke.

“Did it work?” the friar asked.

“No, my limited collector’s edition figurine is still broken,” another member of the group replied.

“I said, we need to get going.” Richard tapped Gregor on the shoulder, but Gregor felt it. He looked over to see Richard’s reanimated corpse. He screamed. The corpse screamed.

Richard reached out and tried to wrap his hands around Gregor’s neck, but it didn’t work very well considering he had several broken bones. “Why are you choking me? I thought you were over it,” Gregor gasped.

“Turns out I’m still mad. You were going to kill me!” Richard shouted.

The two of them fell through the bushes into view of the group. Everyone screamed. Richard had to give up his choking effort. “Alas, my poor broken body,” he bemoaned.

Gregor sat up. “What do you expect, you’re dead.”

“Dead?” a woman in the group spoke up. She looked at the friar. “Gavin, did you mix up the bottles again?”

“No, I tossed the green bottle in the fire,” he defended.

“Damnit, Gavin. You threw the blue bottle. You haven’t mended our broken stuff, you reanimated the dead.”

Gavin winced. “Sorry, y’all. You know I’m color blind.”

https://unsplash.com/@chernus_tr

#Halloween #spooky #writingchallenge

Oct 11-12 Grandfather and Folk Music

I was a little under the weather yesterday since I got my flu shot, so I didn’t write a blog, but I’m back today. Also, get your flu shot. It’s important, especially this year.

Halloween tree at my doctor’s office.
Rehearsal continues for A Spot On the Hill. Show opens on Friday!

Today’s prompts, Grandfather and Folk Music.

“Gregor knew he should get up and press on, but he couldn’t muster the energy. He kept staring up at the stars. “My grandfather told me not to go into higher academia, you know, told me it was cutthroat and ruthless. This coming from a guy who spent half his life in the military, but he kept on insisting. I didn’t listen, obviously. No, I was going to cure some major disease or make some huge discovery and win a Nobel prize, but where am I?” Gregor glanced over at the body tangled up in the tree limbs.

“I did admire you, you know, until you stole my research and thwarted my publishing attempts, and I know you did it to me because someone else did it to you. Guess my grandfather was right.

Gregor took a shuddering breath. It felt like the weight of the last 20 years was pressing down on him. “That same grandfather, he was Jewish, and he told this story from the Old Country about a king and his servant. The servant came to the king one day, all upset because he had seen Death in the garden and knew he was going to die. He asked the king to borrow his fastest horse so that he could travel to the next town ten miles over and escape Death. The king lent him the horse, and the servant rode off. The king went out to the garden and Death looked really confused. ‘What’s the matter?’ the king asked. Death replied, ‘I am supposed to kill your servant today in a town 10 miles from here, but unless he rides on the fastest horse, I do not see how he can get there.’ Then my grandfather said it was fate, and you can’t fight fate. Maybe this is fate, right here, right now.”

Gregor fell silent and the night was enormous around him. “Are you kidding me?” a voice spoke up and Gregor almost screamed. “Get your sorry ass up. Get my body up, and get moving.”

Gregor looked over to see Richard’s ghost hovering nearby. “I thought you wanted Dr. Hozier to kill me?”

“I may hate you, but I hate him even more. I’ve thought about it, and that asshat does not get to win. He couldn’t even manage the department’s budget properly.”

Gregor sat up. “Right?!”

“I may not be able to help you physically, but I know how to motivate you, Gregor. If you get to your apartment and dispose of my body, I promise to tell you something, something I should have told you a long time ago. And then you’ll take Hozier for all he’s worth.”

“Obviously.”

“Now get up and get going!” Gregor sprang to his feet and removed the body from the limbs. “Can you not hit my body on every branch.”

“I’m doing my best. I hadn’t planned for a giant tree.” As Gregor finally managed to extricate the body, a strange noise caught his ear. It wafted along on the night air. It sounded like a song his grandfather would have played, a song from Eastern Europe. “Do you hear that music, or is it in my head?”

“I hear it,” the ghost confirmed.

Gregor lay the body back down and slowly crept to the thicket of bushes ahead of them. He peeked through to see some sort of ceremony taking place complete with lutes and lyres. “My grandfather was right about something else. The woods are weird at night.”
https://unsplash.com/@pietroschellino
https://unsplash.com/photos/SlfifCId98o

#Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky

I guess I need to figure out what conkers is.

Oct 9 & 10: A Special Birthday and Branches of a Tree

I was able to get away for a little bit this weekend and make a trip with some college buds to the Carolina Renaissance Faire. It was good, but always too short, as it always is. Here are some pics from our adventures.

Playing catch-up tonight. Prompts, A Special Birthday and Branches of a Tree.

“Gregor had found the car key, and now he found himself crammed into the wayback of an SUV with Richard. “Thanks again for the assist, man,” Kevin said. Not to Gregor’s surprise, there was booze in the car. Kevin took a swig from a mystery bottle and offered it to Gregor, who declined. “You really saved my birthday,” Kevin concluded.

“Happy birthday,” Gregor said. It was more of a reflex than anything else.

“Thanks, man. I’m 22 today. Can you believe it?”

“And you wanted to dress up like a zombie?” Being a researcher, Gregor was genuinely interested in this bit.

Kevin got a little teary eyed. “My buddies here got me the greatest gift of all, the chance to overcome my greatest fear. I am terrified of zombies, but now I am a zombie, and I’m hanging out with a bunch of zombies. They signed me up for the dash, we got dressed up, we rolled up and yeah I freaked out. . .”

“But then we took him to drink in the woods and now he’s fine, and he’s ready to party with some zombies!” one of the others shouted.

“Zombie birthday fun! Zombie birthday fun!” they all began to chant. Kevin looked at Gregor expectantly, and he joined in.

“This is the best! This is the best!” Kevin crowed when the chanting stopped. “Man, your friend is really out of it. You sure he’s all right?” He reached out and poked Richard. Gregor really wished he wouldn’t.

“He just needs to sleep it off,” Gregor assured.

“Once you conquer your fear of the undead, Kevin, maybe you can conquer your fear of the dead,” one of his friends spoke up.

Kevin visibly cringed. “You don’t like dead people either?” Gregor probed.

“No, man, if there were a dead body in here, I’d jump out of the car now.”

“Imagine that.” Gregor couldn’t help but laugh.

“What about you, man, what are you afraid of?” The question caught Gregor by surprise, as did the intensity on Kevin’s face. Gregor was suddenly at a loss for words.

The car slowed to a stop. They were close to the main road now, thank goodness. Soon Gregor would be home with his charge and he could do what needed to be done. He saw flashing lights ahead.

“Look at this traffic,” one of them bemoaned.

“Cops, cops, hide the booze,” another instructed.

Gregor’s heart fell into his stomach. As soon as the car had stopped, he was opening the trunk. “Where are you going?” Kevin asked.

“Thanks for the ride. My house is real close. I’ll go the rest on foot.” He pulled the body out after him, closed the trunk, and carried Richard back into the wood line.

He was at least closer to his house. He just needed to get around those cops. Gregor was pretty familiar with this terrain, but there had been some heavy rains lately. His foot slipped on an incline and before he could stop it, he and Richard were tumbling down a bank.

They landed in the branches of a recently felled tree. As he regained his faculties, Gregor gazed up at the stars above him. “Is this where you saw your life going when you were in undergrad?” Gregor wasn’t sure who he was asking. Was he asking the heavens, God, Richard?

“That’s my greatest fear, you know, that I’ve done all this for nothing. Years and years of schooling, endless research and writing, and what has it all been for? Where do I find myself, tangled in the limbs of a tree with my dead mentor. Really makes you think, doesn’t it?”

https://unsplash.com/@yohannlibot
https://unsplash.com/@joetography

I hope you all have a good week. #writingchallenge #Halloween #spooky

Oct 8 – A Lost Key

Happy Friday! Tonight’s post will be short. The spouse and I are with friends for our annual, 2020 not withstanding, trip to the Carolinas Renaissance Fair. This is the first time we’ve been away overnight since early 2020.

Today’s prompt, A Lost Key.

“Gregor and his charge pressed on through the night. How was he supposed to get back to his place before sunrise at this rate? “Don’t suppose you have any ideas,” he quipped to the corpse.

“You killed me. You’re on your own,” Richard’s ghost replied from somewhere. Gregor couldn’t see him, but he was colder all of a sudden, so he knew the ghost was there.

Gregor rolled his eyes. “Were you not paying attention ? I didn’t kill you, Dr. Hozier did.”

“You were planning on killing me. Now you’re aiding and abetting.”

“If you’re not going to be helpful, go away,” Gregor griped.

“I hope he kills you, too,” the ghost remarked and then it was gone.

Gregor took a breath and stopped. He really needed a plan. Before he could think too much, he heard voices. Suddenly, a person crashed through the bushes. He was followed by two others. Gregor shouted and dropped the body. The first person screamed, too. The light from his flashlight illuminated his chest and face. He was pale and also kind of green and had gashes on his face. His clothes were also in tatters.

“Oh, man, I’m sorry. Did you lose your car keys? I came over here to piss and dropped ‘em.”

“Kevin, did you find your keys?” one of the others asked.

“No, I found these other guys.” Kevin looked down at Richard’s body and Gregor’s heart almost stopped. “Oh, man, your friend is passed out. Gnarly make up job. Are you all in the Zombie party, too?”

The annual Zombie Midnight Run! Gregor was saved. “Yeah, we were, but this idiot here can’t hold his liquor.”

A thought occurred to Kevin as he swayed on his feet. “Dude, do you all need a ride?”

Gregor truly was saved. “Yes, yes we do.”

Kevin swayed some more. “Awesome! Find my keys and we’ll take you along!”
https://unsplash.com/@reinhartjulian

#Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky






Oct 7 – Professor

Watching all the Treehouse of Horror episodes of the Simpsons. This Halloween tradition is much easier thanks to DisneyPlus. (Not a paid advertisement, just appreciation.)

Somewhere in season 13 or so, of over 30.

Today’s writing challenge prompt, Professor.

“Gregor whirled around. A loan figure slowly stepped out of the shadows and into the only light. It was a dingy streetlight, and it bathed everything around it in this sickly, yellow glow. It made Dr. Hozier look paler than usual. Richard’s ghost was suddenly nowhere to be found.

“Dr. Hozier, but why?” Gregor managed to ask.

The former head of the department cocked his head and considered his colleagues for a moment. “I’ve watched you idiots ruin my department for years now.”

“We were cleaning up your mess.”

“You convinced me I was crazy, turned the students against me, took my tenure.”

Oh, yeah, they had done that, or at least some of it. Dr. Hozier had done plenty of it himself. “Richard there was the worst offender.” The Professor pointed to the body. “You were further down the list. I figured framing you for Richard’s death was enough, but it’s become clear to me that you had planned to off him yourself.”

Gregor sputtered. “I never . . .”

“You have the worst poker face, spare yourself. You wanted him dead. I wanted him dead. He’s dead. The question is, who gets the blame? I’ll cut you a deal, Gregor. You dispose of this body for me, and I’ll put in a good word with that journal for you.”

“The Anals? But Richard shut me out.” Did Gregor dare to hope?

“Again, Richard is dead. You have until sunrise, just to make things dramatic.”

“Wait, how are you going to know what I do?” Gregor’s eyes narrowed.

“I know a lot of things, and I’m always watching. Maybe I made a deal with the Devil tonight? Maybe I made a deal with Death itself?”

That struck a nerve. “And if I fail?” Why had Gregor asked that? His therapist was right, he really was his own worst enemy.

“You go to jail for Richard’s murder, or I kill you. I haven’t decided yet.” Dr. Hozier turned to go.

“If you gave me a ride, it’d be much faster,” Gregor pointed out.

“Yeah, I’m not getting any DNA in my car.” With that, Dr. Hozier was gone, swallowed up by the night.”
https://unsplash.com/@mparzuchowski

#Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky #kindofabsurd

Oct 6 – Over A Bridge

Welcome back for another installment. Fall is my favorite season where I live. And even though the temperatures haven’t quite reached fall level yet, the leaves are changing and that smell is in the air. Fall always makes me feel like there’s magic in the air, dancing just around my fingertips.

As seen outside the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center. #onlyinjonesborough

Today’s prompt, Over A Bridge.

“Gregor waited for hours. His phone kept track of the minutes as they crawled by. He heard the others finally get in their car and leave. And yet, he still waited. He guessed Death wasn’t coming back, and maybe that was a good thing. 

Gregor pushed the ladder back out. He didn’t know what else to do with the body, so he shoved it out of the loft. It hit the ground hard. Good thing Richard was already dead. Gregor climbed down the ladder. He almost made it to the ground, but his foot slipped on one of the bottom rungs and he fell hard on his backside. He was all right, after a moment, but the same couldn’t be said about his phone. It was smashed.

Gregor managed to drag the body back to the clearing, but he was worn out. He retrieved the blanket and wrapped the body in it. Finally, the blanket’s purpose had been fulfilled. He noticed his coworkers had raided the picnic basket, taking most everything, including the drugged wine he had planned to give Richard right before he was going to jab him in the eye. Oh well, he’d worry about that later.

Gregor dragged the wrapped body down to his car. The blanket made it a little easier. When he got to the parking area at the bottom of the hill, he found that their coworkers, in their infinite kindness, had let the air out of the tires on both his and Richard’s cars. He really did work with jerks. Gregor hoped they did drink the drugged wine and died in a fiery car wreck. Maybe he could take out the whole department?

With a curse, he pulled Richard’s phone back out. His was dead, but he figured he could guess Richard’s password and call AAA. If he could just get back to his house, Gregor could stick to his original plan. And even though he hadn’t killed Richard, he could still dispose of the body appropriately. Unfortunately, Richard’s phone had just enough juice left to flash at him once before going dark.

Gregor wanted to scream into the night, but he swallowed it down. Without knowing what else to do, he pulled the body on. If he got back to the main road, maybe he could figure something out. He heaved Richard onward into the woods. They crossed the old bridge over the creek. Richard’s head hit every uneven plank, and that gave Gregor some satisfaction.

“This is all your fault,” he told the body. “If you weren’t such a jackass, not everyone would want you dead, and I wouldn’t be out here dragging your corpse around.”

Richard’s head hit another board with a thwack. “Hey, take it easy!” a voice spoke. Gregor knew that voice. He looked up and there was Richard, or the ghost of Richard, standing before him. Gregor did scream this time, and the ghost screamed.

“You killed me!” the ghost accused.

“I didn’t kill you!” Gregor protested.

“No, but I did,” came another voice from the shadows.”
https://unsplash.com/photos/Us2KDzmnUCo

#Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky

Oct 5 – A Ladder

I love a good, spooky short story. Whether this will turn out to be one, time will tell. I love Edgar Allen Poe and his brilliance when it comes to horrific short stories. I’ve written some spooky shorts of my own. You can read two of them in Haints and Hollers, a compilation of horror stories from Appalachia, published by Mountain Gap Books. You can pick up a copy via Amazon.

Image by Jeanne G’Fellers
Image by Jeanne G’Fellers
Image by Jeanne G’Fellers

Now it’s time to check in with Gregor and his ever growing misadventure. Today’s prompt, A Ladder.

“Gregor sprang into action. He pulled the body aside, spread the blanket out, and did his best to cover the blood stains. He placed the picnic basket on top of the blanket, and with a strength he didn’t know he had, he dragged the body of his expired colleague into the woods. 

Gregor didn’t stop once the clearing was out of site. He kept going, his arms straining and sweat poring down his face. Now the blasted jacket was too hot. He could hear when the others reached the spot. “Wonder where they are?”

“The basket’s right here.”

“You think they ran off into the woods?”

“Gross. Richard has higher standards than that.”

“Any wine in that basket?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Grab a bottle and let’s go looking.”

Panic gripped Gregor’s throat. What was he doing? Where was he going? Also, why was Death still hovering around him?

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” Gregor huffed through gritted teeth. Death just shrugged, very noncommittal and very annoying.

At least the answer to where he was going presented itself to Gregor. The old, abandoned barn appeared before him. Why it was here in the middle of the woods, he wasn’t sure, but he was glad it was. The old, creaking ladder on the side of the building led up to the loft. Gregor made his way to the ladder, his arms about to give out. Wait a minute. How was he supposed to get the body up there? No way.

As if anticipating his query, Death plucked him from the ground and placed him in the loft, him and the body both. It was like flying on a large, frigid cloud. “Why did you do that?” Gregor wanted to know.

Death shrugged again. “Because I could. I’d get that ladder, if I was you.”

Gregor scrambled over and pulled up the ladder. Just in time, too. He could hear the others approaching.

“Wonder if they’re making out in that barn?”

“Richard! Gregor, where are you?!”

“Onlly, olly, oxen free.”

“Text Richard, see where he’s at.”

Gregor managed to pull Richard’s phone back out and silence it before it could chime. He refused to breathe until the others decided to go back to the clearing.

“Whatever, let’s go back and eat that fancy cheese.”

Gregor drew in a long breath. “What should I do now?” he asked Death.

“I don’t know. This is your mess. See you later.”

“What does that mean?!” Gregor didn’t like the sound of that at all.

Death smiled. It was not comforting. “Take it how you like.” With that, Death was gone, leaving Gregor and the body all alone.”
This is actually one of the ladders inside the 1913 Washington County Courthouse on the way to the clock tower.

#Halloween #WritingChallenge #Spooky

Oct 4 – A Thin Jacket

Happy Monday. It’s a full week of work and rehearsal for me as we put my annual cemetery play together. Our historic cemetery is one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful on top of the hill. I understand why that spot was picked. It’s an honor, too, to tell the stories of the people who are buried there. (Insert Hamilton lyric line here.)

Rehearsal this evening in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery.
If you’re in the area, get your tickets now at www.Jonesborough.com/tickets

Now it’s time for another edition of my short story. Where will the prompt take us today? Let’s find out. Prompt, A Thin Jacket.

“Gregor ran up to the body lying on the hill. He’d never seen a dead body before, at least not in real life, but this guy had to be dead. There was blood everywhere. Gregor had never anticipated so much blood. Without thinking, he fell to his knees before his felled colleague and wrapped his hands around his neck, as if trying to stop the flow. It was pointless, though, for many reasons. He’d wanted this to happen, right? Yes, but at his own hands. Gregor pulled his hands back. They were covered in blood, the blood he’d wanted to spill. 

Now he was angry. Who had done this? Who had cheated him of his moment? Gregor’s eyes scanned the wood line, but it was getting dim. Dusk had descended. Without thinking again, Gregor wiped his hands on his jacket.

“Bad mistake, that,” a voice spoke from his right. Gregor screamed and jerked. He looked beside him and there stood a tall, thin figure dressed all in black. It had sunken eyes and sallow face. It had to be . . .

“D-d-death?” Gregor dared to ask.

“None other,” the shade replied.

“Why are you still here?”

“This seemed interesting.” Death pointed a boney finger at the body on the ground. “If you plan to get away with murder, you shouldn’t wipe your victim’s blood on your jacket.”

Gregor winced. “I didn’t kill him,” he protested.

“But you’re the one here,” Death observed. At that moment, the dead man’s cellphone chimed. “You going to get that?” Death asked. Gregor hid his hand in his jacket and wrestled his colleague’s phone from his pocket. He didn’t need to unlock it to see the message on the screen.

“Dude, we’re coming to crash your picnic with Gregor. That little creep is always good for a laugh. We’re parking now.” Just then, Gregor heard the sound of car doors closing down below. His fellow coworkers, they’d be on him soon.

Gregor’s blood ran cold, and even though it was a warm evening, he was suddenly freezing. He wished he’d brought more than a thin jacket.”
https://unsplash.com/@andrearondon

See you all tomorrow! #Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky

Oct 3 – Something Witnessed at Sunset

Today, I got to watch some stories through the virtual National Storytelling Festival. Hopefully they’ll be back in person next year. My spouse and I watched the ghost stories, and they were on point. I especially loved Tim Lowry doing The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. Those stories put me in the perfect mood for part three of the Halloween writing challenge.

Tonight’s prompt is Something Witnessed at Sunset.

“Gregor climbed to the top of the hill. The blanket was draped over one arm, and he carried a laden picnic basket in the other. The sun was setting, painting the sky a deep, rich red. Yes, this was the perfect time. Ahead, he could see the other man waiting for him, his victim, completely unaware. There stood the man who had made his professional life a living hell for the past ten years, but no more. It ended this evening, here and now. Gregor knew that all he had to do to lure his nemesis out was to stroke his ego, invite him to his favorite observation spot, bring his favorite wine and expensive cheese and present him with the opportunity to ramble on and on about his brilliance. Given his plans, Gregor supposed he could have skimped on the cheese, not bought the expensive stuff, but looks were important.

The picnic basket was getting heavy, and Gregor struggled to pull it up. “Need a hand, gimpy?” the other man called down. For once, Gregor was gleeful to hear the accursed nickname. Soon he’d never have to hear it again.

“I’ve got it,” he assured the man. “You just wait, enjoy the sunset.”

“Oh yes, enjoy the sunset,” Gregor thought. “Enjoy the sunset before I jab this corkscrew in your eye.”

Gregor was drawing near to the top, practically giddy, when he heard it, or thought he heard it. A small, sharp whizzing noise, like a supersonic insect. It whizzed through the air from the clump of trees to his left. It hit the other man with a thwack, striking him straight in the neck and passing right through him, disappearing into the night on the opposite side. The man barely reacted before he fell straight to the ground, blood gushing from the bullet wound in his neck.

Gregor dropped the picnic basket.
https://unsplash.com/@mullins

That’s it for right now! Tune in tomorrow for another installment. #Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky

Oct 2 – A Blanket

Went to NC today for a long overdue visit with my spouse’s parents. Covid19 has kept us apart for periods of time this last year and a half, but thanks to negative tests we were able to go up this weekend. (We’re also fully vaccinated.) It was a lovely day of sharing, fig picking, and flower admiring.

A happy bee
All the figs!

Here’s my writing challenge for today. It will be shorter because we’re in the car, and I have a limited amount of time before I get carsick. Hopefully this will help to build the tension in the story, though. The theme is “A Blanket.”

“Gregor wondered what type of blanket one brought to a murder. What sort of blanket was required for wrapping a dead body in? Probably something sturdy. He supposed he couldn’t ask the employee at Bed, Bath, and Beyond that. He asked about camping instead. What sort of blanket stood up to the great outdoors? If a bear attacked his campsite, what type of blanket would fair best? He was relatively satisfied with his purchase when he left the store. The blanket was even a pleasing color, but that hardly mattered. It would be red, stained crimson before the trip was over.”

https://unsplash.com/@jontyson

#Halloween #writingchallenge #spooky

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