This story was originally released as an 18 mini-part serial. Here it is, in its entirety.
“It looks like the ferry is down to one barge. Something about the water being too high, that’s why it’s taking so long.” Kathy sighed as she slipped behind the wheel of their hatchback. Andre opened his eyes a crack, grunting an acknowledgment. “It’s hotter than they called for, I’m going to put on the a/c.”
“What? Why not?”
“Car needs to be moving… I think.”
Kathy turned the knob, it didn’t take long for the cold air to start blowing. Andre, or Dre as Kathy called him, he called her Kat, was thankful for the closed windows blocking out the raucous van full of 20-somethings behind them.
“Do you remember being like that? Young and horny, full of life.”
“Yeah, but I was never that irritating.” As if to emphasize his point, one of the young men threw trash into the ditch.
Kathy laughed in response, “I’m sure. Oh, hey, we’re moving.” The line of cars in front of them started rolling their engines over in a domino of sound. At last, they rounded the final bend and could see the cars being directed onto the decrepit looking ferry. “You sure that’s not the broken-down ferry?” Andre tried to make his voice sound light and affable, but his apprehension and fear of water made itself known.
“Don’t worry, baby, it’s completely safe. You gotta think, with all the water splashing against it all day, it is bound to look a little rough. I’m sure it’s fine.” By the time she stopped speaking, she was no longer certain if she was reassuring Dre or herself, as the large ship creaked ominously. There was a discernible chill about the place, at first, she believed it to be the proximity to the water; now she was not so sure. She turned the car off as they waited for the final time, but not before opening the windows again. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think it would take so long. At least we know it’s only 20 minutes longer. I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
“Alright, I’ll wait here.” He watched her walk away before closing his eyes, listening to the songbirds around him. A gentle breeze floated through the car from off the lake, making him feel drowsy. He was about to drift into a light nap when he heard a faint female voice whisper, “help me.” He sat bolt upright in his seat and looked around, but nothing was to be seen. The vociferous van behind them was still carrying on without missing a beat. A couple standing by the rail on the other side of the road were unmoved as well. He poked his head out of the window to see if it was Kat playing a trick on him, but she hadn’t yet returned; besides, it sounded nothing like her.
This story was written as part of a Halloween contest. After a double blind drawing, Samantha and Dennis were chosen as the lucky victims of my new short story, In The Shadows. Both winners were interviewed and character profiles were built off the answers provided. Any similarities to any person living or dead is purely on purpose.
"Look, I'm not saying you should quit your job. I'm only saying that you need to believe in yourself more. You're a great writer. You should be doing what you love." Dennis pulled his coat a little tighter as he saw his breath frost in the air for the first time this season.
Samantha glanced over at him, "I know what you mean, but I do enjoy what I'm doing. I'm helping people. Besides, we can't both be risk-takers. We need some assurances that we keep a roof over our head."
"Why can't we?" The old light was burning brightly in his eyes once more, "There are no assurances in life. Hell, someone could jump out of those bushes and kill us right now!" He grabbed her arm suddenly when he said now, causing her to jump and scream. She slapped his chest, "Dammit. Don't do that. These new street lights are bad enough."
Dennis laughed, pulling her in for a quick kiss, "How am I supposed to stop when you get so damn cute when you're scared?" He began to laugh harder at the colour flooding her cheeks.
She took a step back, a look of false hurt on her face. "Why must you be so mean to me?" She almost kept a straight face but lost it at his smile, "Seriously though, I'm alright with the amount of writing I am doing now. I'm happy to watch your star rise."
"I don't believe that for a minute. But, alright, I won't push." He stared at the mist of his breath, "It's not even Halloween yet. It's too early to see your breath."
"I know. That crazy wind storm took out a bunch of trees and dropped the temperature by about 10 degrees. Let's go home and cuddle by the fire."
Dennis smiled in agreement, and the pair continued their nightly stroll. The air had fallen cool and crisp, with a haunting wind rustling the freshly fallen leaves on the ground. The couple walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes, each lost in thought and the rhythmic scratching of the dry leaves whispering around their feet.
Dennis was lost thinking about Samantha's comment on the new street lights. They were meant to make the streets safer by being ungodly bright but did the opposite. They blinded you to the shadows. It made the shadows darker than dark, like driving into a tunnel on a sunny day. A part of his mind thought he should write a letter of complaint to the city council, then another part of his mind told him to check his birth certificate. How old was he? 21 going on 50? No, he would leave council letters out of his portfolio for at least another 20 years.
Samantha was thinking about the insistence from Dennis that she write more. But really, what is more? She writes now and feels satisfied with the level she is doing. It's not like she stopped altogether. Besides, she viewed writing as an old friend. One which she could pick up with whenever she felt. Although, the sounds of the leaves were getting her creativity flowing. Each rustle beneath the leaves could be a giant rat, each stem brushing her ankle, a hair on a giant tarantula's leg, alerting it to her presence. She could almost sense it lurking beneath the leaves, watching, waiting to-
"Holy shit," Dennis screamed, jumping back, causing Samantha to do the same. She jumped behind him, screaming, "what is it," while looking around frantically. Dennis took a defensive position in front of her, as though ready to fend off an attack. He was breathing hard, his senses on high alert.
The lone sentinel of a forgotten era stands dutifully in its eternal resting place, its roots digging deep into the earth once crowded with many other trees’ roots, now laid bare for farming. The only competition for nutrients, yarn-like tendrils of yearly planted crops. The crops and the roots change often, yet the lone soldier stands strong, never wavering.
It stands in the middle of the field, alone, casting a striking silhouette. Its branches bow in the restless wind, which now whistles unfettered across the open farmland. Its branches creak a solemn soliloquy to its fallen brethren, other trees cut short of their potential.
Seasons unending have unfolded around this sentry since it was lovingly placed into the ground as a seed. It broke through the earth and grew silently alongside a burgeoning nation. It has heard whispers of revolution, cries of victory, and wails of despair, all the while offering refuge to those in need, beneath its broad branches.
This is the first story my new typewriter told to me as I sat before it. Please be advised this story may evoke an emotional reaction.
He sat staring at the sunshine through the large pane of glass, her last words echoing through his mind. She had only looked back once as the cab drove her away to start her new life in a new city. City, that word still felt foreign to him. “Don’t worry dad, it’s not for long, I’ll be back on break before you know it.” He turned from the window, silently wishing those words were true and mouthing the word ‘city’.
He sat in his old wingback chair, the chair he used to sit in as he bounced her on his knee. He knew that he should not be wallowing in his sadness, but he couldn’t bear to sit through another one of Henry’s stories. Sure, he knew Henry was only trying to cheer him up, but he only had three stories to tell, and, honestly speaking, none of them were really any good. No, today, he needed to spend a little time in the past.
Today was one of the worst...er... craziest days I could've imagined, but I guess it kind of worked out in the end.
It all started when I slept through my alarm clock this morning, which of course, made me late, and I started my day off in a rush. I quickly showered and grabbed something to eat as I ran out to my plumbing van. I knew I would be late for Mrs. K's job, but I hoped she would understand, I mean her son and I go way back.
I tried to start the van only to realize that I had left the dome light on overnight and the battery had died. My brother had already gone for the day, so I had to head off on foot to buy a new battery.
I was already late, so I didn't rush. I wanted to enjoy the beautiful day and try to cool down after having such a rough start to my morning. I was only a few blocks from the store when I heard a woman yelling for help. I knew this would delay me even more, but I could not leave a damsel in distress.
I turned and ran as fast as I could towards the sound. I could still hear the woman calling for help, but she always seemed to be just around the next corner, so I ran faster.
Whatever was happening, we are moving quickly towards the old industrial part of town. I twisted and turned in the maze of industrial complexes until I finally shot around the corner just in time to see some huge beast pulling the most beautiful blond-haired woman I've ever seen into a giant warehouse.
I sit here staring at a blank page, unable to decide if it is friend or foe. We have met on the battlefield many a time before, and each time, one or both of us came away beaten, bloodied, and changed; sometimes for the better sometimes not. It is an odd adversarial arraignment that we have. All at once supportive and destructive, a force beyond anything one could imagine. Each day I hear the blank page calling to me with its siren song, and each day I fall into its embrace, only to lose myself; sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours, it depends on what my characters have in store for me; how long I can hold out in the battle against the dreaded blank page. I can hear them calling to me from the other side. Their cries of excitement and support spur me on. They need me just as much as I need them; I need to tell their story, and they need it to be told.
The blank page stares at me, mocking me, daring me to deface it. It knows that the first few marks, strokes of the pen, punch of the keys are the hardest. As I stare into its beautiful and terrifying depths, I realize just how pristine it is. It is clean, virgin, with the potential to be anything, yet now in my hands, I realize it’s potential has been greatly diminished. In the right hands, it could have been immortalized. It could have held the truths of a religious document, a nation’s declaration, or a love letter from a brave soldier to his love, far overseas, kept as a lifeline of hope around the world. Instead, it now sits on my desk, staring up at me, casting seeds of doubt into my mind.