Friday, February 3, 2023

If You Were Here

 She was sitting, perfectly poised on the shore. The water licked at her toes which moved absently as she stared out over the water. She had broken away from the group and found her way on her own to the abandoned stone house. Its walls were carved and smooth, holding a lifetime of memories and pain. The stars glimmered on the lake which was situated behind the house. She was surprised no one had come to build around the area. As it was, only this house stood, solitary and dark. 

The wind shifted and he appeared beside her. A dagger was plunged in the sand between them as a warning but he sat silently and seemed to take reverence in the moment. His features were dark and impossible to discern but she knew who it was. She supposed for a moment she should act afraid. Wouldn’t that be what any normal girl would do in response to a vaguely threatening stranger appearing beside her?

“How do you know of this place?” His voice was gravel and as she turned to look at him she noted the stars had caught in his eyes. She must choose her next words and actions carefully.

She startled and flushed at the late timing and believability. His eyebrow ticked a notch higher but he didn’t turn his face. “Do you know what happened here? It feels so sad.” His eye twitched and she knew she had done well. 

“You didn’t answer my question.”

She paled and looked down at her bare feet. “I was out foraging. I was living on my own…newly on my own. There’s a nice berry patch about twenty paces that way.” She pointed towards the mountain. “When you find a good spot you tend to remember. Anyway, I saw the house in the distance and knocked.” He inhaled sharply. “Realized it was abandoned so I thought it’d be ok to come and spend time outside its doors.”

“The door is unlocked.” He blinked slowly as he stared over the water. She knew any stranger to the house would stand, excited. They would tiptoe to the door and test his words. They would explore and look for clues to the house’s history. She was no stranger to this house and was not ready to be immersed in its memories.

“Oh…” She stretched to get energy out. “I never tried. Didn’t seem respectful, you know?”

“Respectful.” He rolled the word off his tongue, tasting it. “Of a place you thought abandoned. When you were new to being on your own and foraging for food.” He nodded slowly and stood, pulling the dagger free from the sand. “You’re a bad liar.” The dagger slid into his holster at his back. “Your friends are looking for you and hoping to pack up camp. You’ve got to move if you want to stay on track.” 

“Ok, thank..” 

She found she was alone once again.

Thursday, February 2, 2023


 The little girl knelt at her dollhouse. The house was vast and full of ornate trappings that would be rather expensive if they were real. As it was, the parquet floors were just plywood fashioned and stained. Every now and again it would snag on a sleeve or hem of a doll’s dress and threaten to come undone. It was a simple enough fix but nothing a little patting down wouldn’t mend just as well. 

She poked at the holes in her stockings wondering for a moment if their presence would bring the lashings. Grandmother had quite a temper and her fingers were not meant for mending holes made by careless children.

She told herself one day she would have a house like this. She remembered her mother once told her it was designed off family property from centuries ago. What it must have been like to live then, she mused. She bet their grans didn’t beat them with switches. She got into a more comfortable position and watched her rooms carefully. The dust danced in sunbeams coming through the windows to the east. The hour was nearly here.

Slowly the delicate comforters jostled as the dolls stretched and smiled at the sun peaking through their curtains. They rubbed their plastic faces, changed their clothes, and set their hair to face another day. They made their way to the kitchens and started cooking the plastic roast sending the most wonderful scents up to the little girl. She watched the dolls silently, wishing and wondering if they knew how she watched them, fascinated as they poured over the same newspaper and swept up the same mess that seemed to manifest each day. Her mother had asked her if she wanted more dolls. The house was certainly big enough to support multiple families. The little girl had always declined. She had a feeling these dolls would not be excited to share their household.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Trick Is to Keep Breathing

Will stood over his toys, deciding on a big red ball. It was a normal sized ball for an adult but his little hands had to be placed strategically to avoid it slipping as he held it. His neatly trimmed nails had dirt under them from his previous adventures in the flower bed. Will had been digging for treasure and found a network of underground tunnels leading to what he could only assume was the magical kingdom of the dwarves. Finally noting that his clothes were getting ruined, he decided it would be best to pick a new adventure for now. He would be sure to return to the tunnels as soon as he could. 

He gripped the ball as best he could and walked carefully towards where he believed his parents last were. Perhaps he’d get lucky and they would join him. The thought made Will giddy and he started to skip down the hall towards the front room. 

A thumping sound and a muffled cry stuttered his movement. His little fingers slid across the surface and the ball shot forward into the front room. Feeling a bit horrified and curious, he crept forward. Once Will identified the cries were coming from his mother, he started to run, ready to face whatever danger presented. She was slumped beneath the window, which was broken. At once he was worried his ball damaged the house and caused all this panic. He frantically looked around for help.

His father knelt and grabbed the ball, blood on his hands. His eyes full of deep rage as he looked down at his son. The man stepped towards Will holding out the ball. As he got closer, Will side stepped towards his mother and reached forward to collect his ball. Instead, at the last moment, Will found the ball was pulled back and he was yanked into the air. Will squealed and his father screamed, popping the ball in his grasp. “Just like your mother…” He spat at the floor. “Breaking the rules. What do we do to people that break the rules Nai?” 

The commotion was pulling Nailo back to reality. Her vision was spotty and the world felt like it was spinning but…Wilhelm. He had Wilhelm. He had gone back to screaming at the small boy and it sounded miles away. The sound of a fist hitting Wilhelm’s face snapped her back fully. She scrambled to her feet and at her movement, he tossed the child at her. Disoriented, she stumbled and pulled Wilhelm close.