Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dreams Realized by Carey Miller

It's the last day of the month and we have a very brave and wonderful writer who submitted a bit of flash fiction to us based on this month's photo:

If you enjoy her work, let her know! And if this submission inspires you to submit something of your own for October, we'd be delighted to read and post it. And now, without further ado, here is our submission from Carey Miller.

Mutant powers. I'd always wanted them, dreamed of which would be best, and joked about sticking myself in the microwave to speed things along. Movies and television made them seem almost a curse, but I knew better. Wonderful adventures would be mine once I could fly or turn invisible.

I'd always been given everything I wanted and this, I was sure, would be no different. Money, looks and popularity had been mine since birth. My parents were absentee and indulgent. Clothes, jewels, my own car, and expensive dance lessons... nothing was too good for their only child. It was fabulous.

And then it happened.

Interpretive dance is a hearty workout. You sweat. A lot. So I didn't notice at first that I had water seeping from my hands.

After class, in the locker room with the other girls, my sweating didn't stop. I hopped in the shower and turned it full blast to cold. Cold water is better for you after a workout anyway and surely it would do the trick, but no such luck. The sweat was just a light trickle, but annoying. And kind of embarrassing, too. So I hid it from the others and headed out the door.

I got into the car and cranked the air up as high as it would go, then alternated hands, holding them in front of the a/c vents. Nothing worked. Worry set in.

My parents weren't home when I got there. No surprise, but it would have been nice to run this issue past them and get some advice.

With that option gone, I instead headed for my basement sanctuary, wrapped my hands in towels, and worried.

As I was sitting curled in an old recliner, I realized my arms were now sweating profusely as well. Followed by my chest. Then legs.

They say reaction to stressful situations results in flight or fright. I can only assume that fright means frozen in place, unable to decide what to do. That's apparently my way.

But I didn't smell bad. Not to be gross, but sweat is stinky and the liquid now flowing freely from my body just smelled fresh and clean. I quickly touched the tip of my tongue to my hand. Water, not sweat. Things had just gotten more bizarre.

My mind started wandering through the possibilities. What could be happening to me?

When I come back to earth, I realize the water is lapping at the seat of the chair. I stand and my dance dress floats around me like a white cloud. I can't go out into the world. What if the water never stops and I drown everybody in the world?

So I stand and wait for the water to cover my face. Drowning should be a relatively quick death and surely when my heart stops beating, the water will cease as well.

But that's not what happens. Instead, I instinctively hold my breath and kick off from the ground, performing a perfect ballet passe. I shoot to the surface with an undeniable will to live.

This story was sent to us by Carey Miller. She's worked for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce for the past 12 years. She's a Bradenton, Florida native, married with no kids and this is her first written piece.

Photo by Phoebe Rudomino
Story by Carey Miller

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Story

The Story

This is a story with a happy ending. 

It’s a story about a city on the brink, about a family waiting, watching the television screen and listening to talking heads spout warnings. It’s a tale of a family that lived in a split level house that, at the moment, looked as though it would actually split. It’s a countdown to a heavy storm, swirling faster and faster, winds increasing, branches tapping then smacking at windows, the noise increasing until the children being crushed in their mother’s arms wait for the bark to break through. It’s a father peeking through windows and murmuring assurances that they’ll be alright while hiding the tremble of his hands by gripping the curtain until his fingers pierce through the fabric. 

This is what is happening to a once affluent family gone broke due to circumstances and brashness and pride. It’s the instance of a fifteen-year-old girl searching around the dankness of her home and is, for once, glad the poshness she was raised into is gone. A slight relief that the chandelier she used to dance under will not crash onto her family and instead the worst is a flickering lamp bookending the couch she and her siblings are huddled on.

This is the account of a sky that went from crystal to magenta to slate. A report of a storm bringing with it hail and torrents smacking water until it laps into the homes of everyone in town, seeping in under welcome mats and shoes discarded near doors in rushes and fits of cleanliness. Water that is not warm but cold enough to chill one to the bone and will cause a flicker before taking all the electricity out. 

This is the revelation of the bravery of a ten-year-old boy who, seeing the rising water reach his front porch rushes tugging at his older sister who still daydreams of what was to help him to the electrical outlet. The running of sister and brother to the kitchen, sister holding a step ladder for the brother as he quickly cuts off the lights leaving his family in darkness just as the water trickles in.

This is the tale of running, seven pairs of feet smacking against wet and wood making it to the second floor of their home as water rises and does not stop. It’s the rush of bodies through doors before they are slammed and towels and sheets stuffed into crevices to slacken the flow.

This is the moment when mother and father having held onto so much anger cannot remember what they were so worried about when things are not what matter, the people around them are.

This is the reality of a family coming together for the first time since they moved from one district to another. This is the vision of a five-year-old girl looking out the window to roads no longer but a vast marsh with rooftops poking out from the brownish water. Of a girl muffling a scream and her older sister humming the music to The Nutcracker in her ear, forgetting when the last time was she danced to it. 

This is the turmoil of feet on a bed as water soaks rugs and mattresses, shoes and socks, ankles then hips. Of children being told to stand on windowsills and parents making a shield to make sure they stay put. 

This is a story where a family gasps taking in H2O along with lots of O, yet in the distance hear a buzzsaw sound, water being parted. From hundreds of feet away they see a motorboat slice through the dirty wet field covering the ground.

This is the story of a family that clasps hands under water and keeps each other up with force and sheer will because help is on the way.

Photo by Phoebe Rudomino (Thanks!)
Story by Jenn Baker 

Friday, September 21, 2012


I was covered in water, I could feel it—a great, rising river tickling my palms and face and feet.  So when I wake up to find that it’s raining outside I’m not at all surprised. I lift my head from my pillow and squint at the red numbers on my clock. Three fifteen in the morning. I should go back to sleep. I only have about two more hours before the alarm goes off and I’ll have to get ready for school. I re-tuck the covers around me, up to my neck. I’m freezing. I must have kicked them off before. My fingers are numb and my legs feel stiff. I turn my face towards my pillow and bury the tip of my nose in it to warm it. It’s still summer, I should be sweating right now, especially since my parents always keep the thermostat set to eighty  degrees.

“Maybe I’m coming down with something,” I say out loud to the captive audience of stuffed animals on the window seat. They stare blankly at me and I smile to myself as I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep.

When I’m still awake twenty minutes later, I give up and get out of bed, trailing my quilt behind me. I’m still so cold. I rub my hands together and blow on them. The faucet’s dripping in the bathroom down the hall. I can hear it—could from my bed too—which is probably why I’m still awake. I tiptoe down the hall, taking care not to wake up my mom and dad. The house is silent, tomb-like. There’s only the gentle patter of rain outside and that annoying faucet. I usually like this type of stillness, but tonight there’s something off about it, something just plain wrong. I shiver and pull the quilt closer. When I get to the bathroom I hesitate in the doorway. The shower curtain’s closed. I have an overwhelming instinct to run back to my room and lock the door. I can feel someone behind it.  But then the faucet drips again, a good one that lets out a fat stream of water and the feeling goes away almost as quickly as it came. Still, I walk over and pull the curtain open. No one’s there, but the bath tub faucet is leaking too.

“Wow, a little paranoid aren’t you?” I grumble to myself. I grip the tub faucet and tighten it, but it keeps dripping. I try the sink and the same thing happens.

I walk out into the hall and towards the kitchen, curious now if maybe all the faucets are leaking. Maybe the storm messed with the pipes somehow? I pass through the living room on my way, already certain that I can hear water dripping from the sink in there as well when I spot someone sitting in the chair beside the fireplace. He’s got the reading light on above him and a book open on his lap. I can’t see the title, but it’s thick and leather bound. I let out a scream that startles us both and accidentally topple the lamp on the sofa table beside me. It crashes to the floor. He holds up both hands.

“It’s okay. I’m supposed to be here. I can hear you.” This last bit makes no sense.

“My parents are in the next room,” I say, hoping that knowing this will make him leave.

He cocks his head to the side and considers this. “You think they’re here?”

I fidget under the quilt. If it’s possible I feel even colder and my lips stiffen, making talking difficult. “Um, yes,” I say. I put a hand to my neck. My throat hurts. I rub at it. It feels a little swollen.

I really am coming down with something. “Where else would they be? And I’m sure that they heard you and are calling the police right now…”

He stands now, placing the book words up on the ottoman beside his chair. He takes a step toward me and I move in the opposite direction to maintain the distance between us. He looks normal enough with his halo of thinning gray hair and black buttoned up sweater and pants. He’s wearing a white shirt underneath. I can see the collar peeking out and it’s sharply pressed—not exactly the type of outfit I’d imagine a burglar in, but still, I don’t like him. He scares me.

“Why don’t you just go and check on them.” He doesn’t seem concerned about the police showing up here at all.

I don’t know what to say to this, so I do what he says, retracing my steps back down the hall. There’s a pain in my leg now and I start to limp. I put a hand on the wall to steady myself. Water runs down the back of my hand, so much water that the carpet squishes beneath my feet. I hadn’t realized that it was raining so hard outside. Our house is flooding. Real panic settles in my chest now and I hurry towards my parents’ room. But when I get there, the bed is empty…and different. The bedding isn’t blue and brown, it’s solid white. Lightning slashes the room’s shadows in half and the pain in my throat and leg intensifies. I’m so cold that I can’t feel my hands anymore. I take off for the living room again. All of this has something to do with that man. What happened to my parents? What’s happening to me?

The man isn’t where I left him. He’s moved to the door which is wide open. He’s looking out at the lightning shredded sky and hasn’t noticed that I’ve come back. I move past him to the kitchen.

“It’s time for you to go now,” he calls just as I make it past the refrigerator. “You shouldn’t be here anymore.”

He may be right if the house is about to flood, but I’m not leaving without my parents and I’m certainly not going anywhere with him. I have to find out what’s happening. Now. I try to grab the phone from the counter, but I can’t make my fingers curl around it. They’re frozen at odd angles, as unmovable as granite.

“What’s happening?” I scream to myself…to the man by the door…to anyone who’ll listen. My voice gurgles and water bubbles up from deep inside my throat. I start to choke. Suddenly the kitchen window explodes inward and a torrent of water pushes its way in, practically knocking me off of my feet. I pull myself up and over the counter and back into the living room just as the other windows give way and the house fills up with muddy water. The current pushes me forward, right into the man who looks as shocked as I am to find me so close. He shivers when my hand brushes his. I grip his shoulders and try to ask him what’s happening, holler my questions right into his face as best I can as water pours out of my mouth. He puts a hand between us. It’s trembling.

“I can help you. Please listen to me!” he shouts in the midst of my screams and the howling of the wind. “You have to go. Leave this house. There’s nothing left for you here.”

His words have some kind of power behind them. It drives me out into the yard. All around me the storm rages on and the lightning flashes so fast that the man looks like he’s moving in fits and bursts. The pain in my leg and neck flares back up and I lose my balance and fall forward, flat on my stomach and face first into the grass. I look up and watch the man pull a tiny bottle from his jacket pocket and sprinkle something on the door frame and across the front porch. He’s speaking, saying a litany of words that I can’t hear from where I am, but that I somehow feel inside my chest. I struggle to get up, but I can’t move at all now. I’m more statue than girl. I start to cry, the tears running into the grass and mingling with the rain.

The man finishes what he’s doing and comes to where I am. He looks out across the yard as if he doesn't know exactly where I am. “You have to let go now. It’s time,” he says.

I don’t know what’s happening. All I know is that I want my mom and dad. I need to see them, just one more time. I’ve always needed that. But they’re never here. It hits me like a sudden clap of thunder.

They’re never here.

Overhead lightning cuts across the sky again, a brilliant flash of white that blinds me temporarily.

When it’s over, I’m not lying in my yard anymore. I’m standing behind my high school, down by the river. But it doesn’t look right. Almost every window is busted out and the football field is drowning in knee high weeds. I turn my attention to the river. I watch the water tumble over the rocks, follow its path downstream to where someone is lying face down in the water. A girl with hair the same color as mine. Her leg is nothing but bone and is bent at an unnatural angle and her skeletal hands are tied behind her back. The man is with me again, standing just behind me.  I can feel him there, but I can’t see him.

“It’s me?” I ask him, but I don’t need him to answer. I’m not sure that he even heard me.

“You can go now. Your family is waiting for you. They have been for a long time. Can you see them?”

There’s a flash of movement on the other side of the river bank. I turn away from the girl and look up. My mom waves at me. She’s wearing the same jeans and sweater that she was wearing the last time I saw her, but there’s a glow about her that wasn’t there then.  And she’s young, like in the pictures of her when she met my dad. Dad smiles and I smile back. I turn towards them and the cold that’s been taking over my body begins to disappear. The sun is out overhead, so bright that I have to squint to see.

“It’s time,” the man says. His voice is so far away that I barely hear it as I move towards my parents. The sounds of the river fade and the sun gets brighter. I can’t see my mom and dad anymore, but I know they’re just ahead of me, leading me forward.
Story by: Amy Christine Parker
 Photo posted with permission by artist, Phoebo Rudomino.

Friday, September 14, 2012


by: Krystalyn

The spotlight hits my face. I clench my teeth to keep myself from running off stage. I know the audience is out there, waiting, but all I can see is the white, hot light. It fills my vision, blinds me, so if I want to see anything, I have to look inside my soul. But it's wounded, a raw thing too fragile to touch.

The music starts, some fluttery little flute sound, and I push myself up on toes. I turn and I leap. It's all mechanical.

I don't want to dance. Not without him. He was my partner. He cheered me when I was brilliant, and he wasn't afraid to tell me when I sucked. He lifted me up and helped me fly.

But then he got sick. The nasty stuff that doesn't get better with a handful of ibuprofen or a shot of penicillin. When he left, he took my wings with him.

I wear a mask on my face, hoping the audience mistakes it for something real. I've worn it for two weeks now. Maybe three. There was that week I don't remember – the one after I heard the news. They told me I stayed in my room. I only remember the day I folded his memory inside my pocket and emerged with the mask firmly in place.

My friends tell me I shouldn't be afraid of remembering. But that's not it exactly. What if I touch the pain, and it wraps around me and never lets go? What if it breaks me forever?

No, I won't give it that power. All I can do is hope that one day the wound will scab over. I just have to get through this dance, the first one without him.

The music flutters like an anxious hummingbird in my chest. This wasn't supposed to be a solo. We'd been rehearsing for months. This lift. That embrace. All cut from the routine and replaced with movements I'm supposed to be capable of. But my foot slips beneath me.

“You're too far over your toe.” His voice is a remnant in my ear, a note he'd given me in our last rehearsal. I shake my head to clear it, denying him access like I've been doing for weeks. “Come on. Pull your hips back.”

Nausea curls up inside my gut. I fall out of a turn and stumble. A collective gasp rises from the audience. The whispers float to my ears.

“Poor thing doesn't know her left from her right.”

“She has no rhythm.”

I run across the stage, struggling to catch up to the music. Still, I'm a beat behind.

“You're better than this,” he says.

I prepare for another turn. The music tells me I'm wrong, and I pinch my eyes shut. I can't do this. I can't think about you!

“You have to.”

Again, I falter. You're not really here.

“Open your heart. Find me.”

No, it'll hurt too much.

The music intensifies. Violins and cymbals join in. The lightness spins into a frantic pulse. It pulls my body in five different directions.

I leap across the stage, barely leaving the ground. Gravity pulls me down with bony fingers and sharp claws. I pop my leg up in attitude and pirouette, but I'm not floating on air. I'm drowning. I'm spinning down, down, down like a corkscrew.

“Don't let this dance beat you. Not because of me.”

Violins squeal, the pitch growing higher and higher until it reverberates inside of me and I feel like I'm an ice sculpture about to shatter. I rise to my toes, my arms reaching up. I'm sinking, and there's no one there to rescue me. The world comes to a screeching halt.

I stop, frozen in the middle of the stage. I wonder if time has stopped for the audience too, or if I just look like a fool reaching up to the rafters.

I hear his voice echoing in my ear, and he's there on the stage standing in front of me, wearing his perpetual t- shirt and black sweats. His fingertips touch mine, and he lowers my hands to my side. His warmth travels through my body.

“You can do this,” he says. “All you have to do is remember me.”

I don't want to do this without you.

“Then here. One last time.”

He moves behind me, his hands tightly gripping my waist. The touch is both shocking and empowering. A thousand swirls of energy race through my bodice and chase each other down my legs, rippling just beneath my skin.


I prepare and I jump. Energy explodes out through my feet, and the world starts up again.

I'm soaring, just like in that last rehearsal. No, higher.

Drums crash. Thunder rolls through my body and tears streak down my face. Wonderful agony fills my soul. It's like I wrote every memory of him on a million separate pieces of paper. His smile that looked like a tilted moon. The steel in his hands when he held me up. The scar on his chin carved by my pointe shoe on the funniest day ever. He's gone, but these things remain, floating inside of me. Electrifying me like lightning. I dip and swirl, possessed with such raw energy, I feel like I'll never come down.

The music reaches its crescendo, the pain inside me brought to life and thrust out into the world. I turn upstage and plea once more to the heavens. I did it. I remembered. Now heal me.

A wave of light washes over me, knocks me down, and I crash to the stage. My dance is done. My face is slick with tears, and my soul is filled with knowledge. He went away, but his memory will always be there to lift me up.

The audience erupts with applause. I push myself to my feet, take my bow, and leave the stage, more empty and more full than I've ever felt in my life.


 Photo posted with permission by artist, Phoebo Rudomino

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thirty-Nine and Counting

Sam nudges his shoulder against mine. “Are you gonna do it?”

I take shuddering breath and poke my head over the edge of the cliff. I don’t say anything. I don’t think I can say anything. My voice is frozen in my throat like wad of gum.

“Come on, Suze,” Sam says, shrugging his shoulders like he always does. “It’s just water.”

“Then why don’t you jump in?” I ask, stepping away from the edge of the cliff. I turn and walk back towards my jeep, licking away the salt that’s settled on my lips from the heavy, humid air.

I walk quickly, but it only takes seconds for Sam’s long stride to catch up to mine. He gently grabs my arm and brings his lips down to my ear. “You promised,” he whispers. His breath tickles my neck in a way that pulls my focus from the matter at hand.

I stop walking. My feet sink into the sand, and the heat from the July sun has warmed the sand crystals so much that I can feel them burning through my shoes. We really shouldn’t be out here. It’s not safe this time of year.

I gaze up at Sam. A slight huff of wind dances through his hair, making his curls change shapes. Ugh. Why? Why do I have to be the one to save his mom?

Because someone has to take care of her while she recovers, and it should be her own son, right? Right.

“Close your eyes,” I grumble.

The biggest of smiles lights up his face, and he crushes me into his arms. I breathe in his scent one last time—red roses and pine trees—before I push myself away from him. I can’t let him get to me like this. He doesn’t notice my contempt, though, and he turns away from me as I start to strip off my clothes.

When I’m standing in nothing but my white slip, I walk over to the edge of the man-made cliff again. I peer down at the water below me, where a single white steeple protrudes through the black rippling water. It used to be a city before the flood—a city built with homemade magic and voodoo, and the water swirls with it now. Legend says that if one person jumps into the water, he or she can choose a dying person to save.

No one speaks of the costs, though. This is what I’m afraid of.

Another small gust of hot air whips my hair around my shoulders, and I’m frozen, despite the horrible heat. Sam’s lips suddenly brush against my bare shoulder, and I close my eyes and lock that feeling into my memory.

“Thank you,” he murmurs against my skin.

And I then I jump.


So far, I’ve died thirty-six times.

Water wraps around my body like a choking hand. It fills my mouth, nose, eyes, and ears, and I hate how it’s a part of me now.

For thirty-six days, I’ve been trying to get myself out of this house. The day I jumped was the day I died the first time. The angry waves instantly pulled me under the surface and claimed me for their own.

The second day, I opened my eyes to find myself floating inside an ancient Victorian house. I’d seen pictures of houses like these in my history lessons, but I never knew they would be so perfectly preserved under the soggy weight of the water. Yet, a crystal chandelier glinted in the filtered sunlight, throwing rainbows on my arms. I wasn’t very good at holding my breath that day.

I hope Sam is happy with his mother.

I swear that today I’m going to make it out of this house. I just know that if I can get out, I can make it to the top and survive for good. Maybe that’s the key—I just have to make it back to the surface and Sam and I can be happy again.

I push my hands through the water and kick my feet, so that I’m face to face with the front door. I grab the brass handle and turn it, yanking it with every ounce of strength in my bones.
 A string of fire inside me races from my heart to my veins, making my pulse thrum harder as my body tries to push more oxygen to my brain.

Yanking on the door does me no good. I know this, yet I keep trying it. It always seems like the best option until I remember that it won’t open. Dying over and over makes you forget things.

I start to feel dizzy and the reflex to breathe is so impossibly overwhelming that I don’t think I can hold my breath for a millisecond longer. My white slip billows around me as I pump my legs and swim over to the window beside the door. I’ve only got 42 seconds before I die again.

I kick my foot into the glass, not caring when a string of red liquid slithers up through the water and into my hair. Who cares if I cut my leg as long as I get out?

28 seconds.

I kick the windowpane again, trying to make a hole big enough for my body to fit through, but the black spots dancing in front of my eyes make it difficult to focus on what I’m doing.


So far, I’ve died 37 times.

I open my eyes and my first instinct is to breathe, but I know better by now.
But why should I even bother? I have no family. Sam was more worried about his mom than me, so would he even be happy if I made it back?
The worst part of drowning isn’t even the water choking your entire body. Or the terrible headache you get from the lack of oxygen. Or the feeling that your lungs are going to jump out of your throat. It’s the silence. It’s just so damn quiet down here.

 I take a breath.

So far, I’ve died thirty-eight times.

I don’t how many times this is going to happen, but I swear, this time, I’m going to Get. Out. Of. This. House.

I kick the window over and over until I’m certain the hole is big enough for my body to fit through. A billowy cloud of blood surrounds me, and I’m sure this isn’t good for my survival rate, but hell. What’s a girl supposed to do? I squeeze myself through the jagged hole.

The burn in my chest is starting to grow too intense, so close my eyes and kick for the surface. I don’t know how long I swim upwards, but the sudden burst of exertion makes me start to fade after a few moments. I can’t die this time. I can’t.

I open my eyes and plead with the water to let me go. I know the sky is near, I can feel it. The light is growing brighter, but I can’t hold my breath any longer.

I have to.

But I can’t.

The cotton candy color blue of the sky is so close—SO CLOSE, that I know I’m going to make it.

 I KNOW it.


So far, I’ve died thirty-nine times.

I hope Sam is happy with his mother.

Photo posted with permission by artist, Phoebo Rudomino

(And thanks to Wryn Parker for lending me the story idea. :-)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

This Month's Photo

It's that time again! Here's the photo prompt for this month's stories. If the mood hits you and you write your own story, send it our way and we'll post it at the end of the month. And if you entered our giveaway, our winners are listed in the previous post. Thanks to all those who entered!

Artist: Phoebe Rudomino