Reddit writing prompt: a time traveler and an immortal keep bumping into each other across the ages.
I stepped out into the early morning fog and inhaled deeply; The thick smell of green, growing things was achingly familiar. It had been a long time since I had been home. Or at least, a long time since I had been close enough to in time and space to recognize the geolocation I called “home.” Although the landscape itself never changed, although the rolling hills and pecan trees would ever remain the same, the buildings changed drastically over the last few hundred years.
The story of Esther, the Jewish Queen of Persia. Make sure to read Chapter 1 first.
Esther could barley breathe around the pressure in her chest, but she held her head high. Any sign of weakness in front of the guards would shatter the tiny bit of control she had over the situation.
Mordechai knew. He knew this would happen and yet he did nothing. The anger that flared in her chest burned, filling her mind with pain. We could have been married and it would have saved me this humiliation.
A writing prompt for September 8th, 2014. The prompt was "A menacing storm rolled into town..."
A storm had rolled into town sometime during the night. It had wavered across the farms, uprooting trees and shouting its drunken thoughts. It had stumbled across the cape, only to pass out across the roof of old Billy's farm. The storm snored loudly, scaring the wits out of the cattle as it slept. I could hear them crying over the swirl of the storm.
I stood there, watching the storm, wondering exactly what I could do about it. A hungover storm was not something I was quite prepared to handle; I had gotten my license about three weeks ago, and had yet to deal with a storm quite this rowdy. The academy had supplied me with a field reference guide, but the chapter on dealing with storms with all three sheets to the wind was horrifyingly inadequate.
Billy stood next to me, looking a little impatient. He was trying hard to hide it; I think he had a pretty good idea of how difficult storm wrangling was, but he wanted this squall off of his barn so he could get to his cattle. I desperately wished none had died of fright.
I stared at the page in my manual, willing it to hold more information. When my wishes didn't produce any more words on the page, I slammed it shut. Although I hadn't spent one minute inside of a church in the past seventeen years, I tried my hand at praying anyway. Maybe, out of the multitude of gods available, one of them would take a little pity on a very green storm wrangler who was having to deal with a storm who was starting to look at little green around the gills.
I quickly changed my prayer, hoping against hope the storm wouldn't puke. It was the only thing that could make this afternoon worse, I was sure. Then I would have to deal with a drunk storm and a flash flood. Probably also a handful of recently drowned cow corpses.
As I stepped forward, my Wellies squelching very unprofessionally in the mud, I began to hate my job.
This is a fun little short story I wrote for a contest. Hope you enjoy!
We kept them as pets.
My daughter, Delilah, was rather fond of them; they listened as only the dead can listen. Although their eyes were mostly empty, it was easy to see they could follow your words. They even attempted facial expressions sometimes.
It took some getting used to, having the dead shamble around the house. Some of them had been maids or servants in their former lives. They still attempted to help clean the house. Even though they usually created more of a mess, it was still rather thoughtful.
It was a whole year before I didn’t jump at seeing a half-decayed face in the mirror while I brushed my teeth, just standing over my shoulder. The dead were rather invasive like that. They liked to watch the living do things that only the living did. None of the dead brushed their teeth anymore; they didn’t have to worry about losing their teeth. I’d never seen any of the dead even attempt to eat.
Delilah seemed to draw the dead to her. When her father died, his corpse had crawled out of its grave a few days later, shuffling over to our daughter and staring. After that, they came in a trickle from cemeteries all over town, hanging around the house and causing quite a stir. It was as though they had all watched Delilah’s father, then realized they could crawl out of their graves as well. At any given time, we had about forty of them shambling over parts of the house. Most stuck around until they fell apart. My husband still hung around the courtyard, but at least his skin has fallen off enough that I don’t recognize him anymore. Having your dead spouse walk around, unable to talk to you and obviously dead, makes the grieving process a lot harder.
Sunlight spilled into my bedroom window, waking me. It was time to make sure Delilah got to school, and to sweep the floor of any new corpse pieces that had fallen off in the night. I stretched, sitting up in bed.
There was a dead woman in the corner, facing away from me, scratching at the wall. I frowned, wondering how many gooey handprints I’d have to clean up today. I dressed quickly, leaving the corpse alone in my room. I pushed a few zombies out of the way and I knocked on Delilah’s door, hoping she’d already be awake.
She grumbled from the other side of the door.
“Delilah, honey. You awake?” I knocked again. I didn’t like invading her room; it was her own personal space. One of the few places she could escape me and all her dead roommates.
Kelley sidled up behind me, bumping the dead out of the way with her wide hips. Kelley was the only maid I could keep on staff after the invasion. No one wanted to work in the House of the Dead, but nothing fazed her. I was grateful; it would have been nearly impossible to keep this place clean all on my own with all the bodies limping around.
“Ms. Delilah says she is not feeling well, so I’m bringing her some soup.” Kelley smiled, swinging the bedroom door open. I followed closely on her heels, and a couple of the dead followed to stand in the doorway. They looked uncertain, as though they were worried but didn’t know what to do about it. I ignored them the best I could.
Delilah’s room was decorated in what she called “Princess Chic.” Her bed was a giant, pink canopied thing, filled with lace and white ribbons. The walls were pale pink polka dots and the drapes were topped with what looked like tiaras. I cringed at the decor, but Delilah loved it. But it didn’t matter. It was her room, after all.
“Brought you some chicken noodle soup, my dear,” Kelley smiled, her light brown hair bouncing in its curls. My daughter lay sprawled over the bed, her face flushed and dappled in sweat.
“My poor baby; what’s wrong?”
Delilah sat up and accepted the soup with trembling fingers. “I’m okay. I think it’s just a fever.”
I pressed my hand to her forehead; her skin was cold and clammy under my fingers. “Well, you’ll just rest at home today. Should I get you anything? Dayquil? Maybe some toast and jelly?”
My daughter smiled weakly back as she sipped her soup. Kelley settled down on the corner of the bed, watching to make sure she ate every bite of it. Delilah was almost a carbon copy of me. Her hair was poker straight and dirty blonde, her eyes a deep sea-water green. The only part of her that resembled her father was her nose; it was cute and turned up at the bottom a little. I wished I had that nose. She was a pretty girl, and she was wearing a pretty little sleeping dress her best friend Molly had gotten her for her birthday last week.
“I’m okay. I’ll probably just go back to sleep in a minute,” Delilah smiled weakly, looking a little ill at the soup. “I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this as it is.”
“It’s good for you,” Kelley answered, and she gestured to her to drink up.
“I can’t finish it,” she looked a little green at the prospect.
Kelley frowned, her hands over her ample hips. “You should. It’s good for you.”
“I can’t!” Delilah screeched, suddenly upset. In a sudden rush, all the dead had surrounded Kelley, as though they were planning to protect Delilah from anyone who upset her. They stood like a wall around Kelley, and refused to budge, even when she tried to manhandle them out of the way. Shocked, I stared at the zombie wall, wondering at this new behavior.
I frowned. That’s all we needed was one more weird thing to deal with. “Delilah, dear, Kelley didn’t mean to upset you. Can you call off the zombies, please?”
“Don’t call them zombies!” Delilah cried, even more upset than before. The wall of zombies crushed a little closer on Kelley, and the woman yelled, demanding the dead move out of her way. But they didn’t move. Instead, one of the newer dead reached out and wrapped a gray hand around her throat, as if trying to silence her. I watched, unable to look away, as the zombie squeezed harder and harder, until I heard a loud popping noise. The zombie dropped Kelley immediately, turning back to look at Delilah. After a few moments of stunned silence, Kelley got back to her feet, her eyes black and lifeless.
I turned in slow horror to my daughter, who sat on the bed looking at me calmly.
“Delilah! What did you do?” I felt tears prick at the corners of my eyes. “Why would you do that?”
Delilah looked sad for a moment. “Because I can,” she answered, simply, her eyes not entirely sane. “I suppose that now you know, you’ll want to leave me too. But no one’s allowed to leave me, Mother.” Delilah stood from the bed, and I saw, for the first time, that some of the skin was missing from one of her feet. She looked a little gray around the edges as she attempted to smile. I backed away a little bit as she stepped forward in that shambling way the dead walked, and my heart thundered around in my chest.
Some of the dead began to limp up to me, closing me off from the exit. I looked around desperately for an exit or a weapon and found nothing. “No one’s allowed to leave me, Mother. Not even you.” She looked at Kelley’s corpse and all the dead next to her. One of them was a young, redheaded girl with dead black eyes; even under the loose gray skin and dead expression I still recognized Molly, Delilah’s best friend. She staggered toward me, her hands reaching out to my neck.
I screamed just as those cold, dead hands wrapped around my throat.
The story of Esther, the Jewish Queen of Persia. Make sure to read Chapter 1 first.
"The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:4–8)
"Girl, you are to come with us, by command of the King Xerces."
Esther froze in horror, watching the three warriors. They stood at ease around her, loosely holding their weapons, but she sensed in them a careful watching, a sharpness of sight that shook her foundations and left the impression they expected her to run. And they would catch her, without any trouble.
"But if something happens, my dear, remember that it is in the eyes of the One God, and let that be of a comfort to you."
It was as though her beloved cousin spoke right into her ear. The though gave her courage, and she stood upright, shoulders back, the might of the One God straightening her spine and hardening her eyes.
"My foster father Mordechai is a very important man in the palace, and he is in need of his garments, which I have just cleaned. If you wish to take me to the palace, you must await my delivery of his clothing back to his home."
The guards looked shocked. Before they could respond, Esther turned on her heel, and holding the basket close, made her slow way back to the beloved mud colored home with the tiny back yard, which she loved so much.
After a moment, she heard the guards fall in step behind her, uncertain, but she paid them no mind. 'What would the king want with me?' She wondered, her shoes kicking up red dust in their wake. She walked through the gate, holding the door for her three would-be kidnappers, her face calm as though her insides weren't screaming for her to run.
"Foster father? Memur?" She called, her voice only shaking a little. Memur joined her first, her eyes widening at the sight of her escort. "Will you please take this basket, Memur, and bring me my shawl. These gentlemen are going to escort me to the palace." The old woman moved with surprising haste, taking the basket and shuffling inside, only moments before her beloved cousin glanced out of the doorway.
"Foster father. These men come to bring me to the palace; come and tell me goodbye before I go."
Shocked and wide eyed, sweating from the heat and moment, Mordechai stepped forward, grabbing both of her hands in his.
"Cousin, what goes on here?" She whispered, leaning in as though she were kissing his cheek.
"What I'd hoped to avoid with you, my dear," Mordechai looked sadly at his feet. "Xerces looks for a new bride, and he gathers the beautiful girls of his kingdom to join the harem."
Esther's heart sank to her feet, the color draining from her cheeks, leaving her cold and shaking. "What do I do, cousin? What do I do?"
"Trust in the One God," he said, helpless, as Memur returned with her scarf. She snuck in a hug as the guards began to shift with impatience.
"I am ready now, gentlemen. Forgive me the interruption." She felt Memur behind her, slipping something into the back of her dress. It settled, cold and solid, against her back. "Goodbye, foster father." She waved as she walked, trying to look brave.
"Trust, my dear." He mouthed, standing, lonely and vulnerable, in the dust of his front yard, his expression repeated on the face of his servant. They watched her leave, straight-backed, toward the stunningly beautiful halls of her nightmares.
To the Palace of the King God.
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5
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