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Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. "Dennis P. Kimbro You can find me at rubypondallthatiswriterly.com
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Written by RubyPond in portal Fiction

To See It Through (1-6)

The shine of mahogany wore tiny footprints across the small room as sunlight shot beams through the particles of dust. With eyes wide, scanning the dingy walls that were draped in pink floral hope, the sweet suckling noise squeaked softly and paused for breath in the stillness. Morning rose slow and the horizon was hazy in the distant sky as the filtered light painted the room brighter.

     Her infantile waddle pulled her out of the bed and drew her toward her curiosity. Soft curls bounced light with movements and free fell across apple-cheeks that gripped the edges of thick rosy lips. At two years and two months, baby-plump thighs galloped through the door and into the hallway. Her tracks smudged the ones already laid on the polished floor. And on the wall, tragedy hung in a mirror reflecting the fading image of teddy bears and toddler limbs toppling down a spiral staircase amongst thumping and whimpers, and a final dull thud.

     The crumpled image lay motionless and morning had no mercy, nor hesitation. As the corridors filled with warmth and sunlight, stillness stirred with daybreak and low drones of sleepy chatter echoed like whispers through the cracks of doors.

     The silence grew concern and panic compelled a frantic clatter! Scrambling legs thrust her down the stairs two at a time, yelling, "Abigail! Abigail! No! Dillion, come quick!" And the wails from her soul pierced even the air outside.

Part 2

     He lifted his shoulders and straightened his back. So much commotion and yet, the old woman was staring at him. He quickly processed what he must look like sitting here in the emergency room with what he was sure by now was a black eye and bruises around his neck. Flashes of despondency kept drawing him back to the scene. That horrible scene! Her fingers wrapped around his neck and choking the life out of him. Damn Kara could be strong when she wanted to be. But, no amount of bodily harm could hurt him more than seeing his baby crumpled on the floor like that. Kara really beat him up!

     The old lady was trying to act like she wasn't looking, but she couldn't keep her eyes off of him. Her gaze was a cross between curiously sympathetic and pointedly judgemental. He wanted to say something. To tell her to quit staring. But, he didn't. The throbbing numbness in his lip told him that it must be busted too. He actually forgot about the head butt to the face. It was like he wanted it. Anything to take away that deeper hurt. The one that he didn't want to think about right now. The agony wearing a hole in his belly.

     "Mr. Bartley!" The nurse stood at the door holding it open as he got up and walked in. "This is Karen Townsend, Social worker, Officer Hamley with the police department and Drake Evans our Hospital Chaplain. "Dr. Riley, the Pediatrician that examined your daughter will be here in just a moment. Please have a seat." The nurse directed him to a small sofa against the wall. She paused at the door as she walked out and pointed at a serving table to her left. "There's coffee if anyone would like. Help yourself!" And as she walked out, the doctor walked in.

     Dillion stood and asked, "Where's Kara? Is she okay? I need to see her! She needs to see me." A tear fell without permission and he quickly wiped it away with the back of his hand and a hard swallow.

     "Your wife is being detained in the other room. We need to question you alone." Officer Hamley said as he pulled a chair up in front of him. Dillion sat back and closed his hands over his eyes in disbelief as the others gathered chairs around him.

Part 3

     The walls were pressing in and Dillion was getting antsy. He had answered every question they had and twice. "Look, I know this is just standard procedure, and I appreciate the fact that somebody," his voice broke, "that there are people like you here that can do this kind of thing. But, am I being charged with anything?" The tears in his weary eyes shimmered in the light. "'Cause, if not, I'd like to go be with my wife now. She needs me. Our little girl is...," Dillion couldn't bring himself to say it.

     "I think we are through for now. Doc, why don't we take him to his wife and daughter." Officer Hamley nodded at the doctor.

     When Dillion got to the room where his daughter was he was not prepared for what he saw. His wife quickly rose and fell into his arms. "They want her organs!" She whispered through muffled sobs. "I told them yes, but I don't know if I can let them do it!" She was crying so hard, Dillion felt if he weren't holding her, she might fall to the ground.

     "I can't process this! It's too fast!" She pulled away and Dillion saw her body stiffen as if to brace herself to stand on her own. She walked back over to the bedside and he walked to the other side. His daughter's tiny hand was cold and lifeless and he squeezed it into the palm of his hand and leaned down across the tubes and the wires and rested his teary cheek against hers. The vibration from the ventilator jarred his queasy stomach and he swallowed his tears and stood up and walked around the bed to his wife. She wasn't crying as much anymore. The resolve on her face was stony and vacant. And for a moment their eyes searched each other's. Finding no life left in either, they looked away and neither realized it was the last time they would ever look at each other the same. 

Part 4

     Kara tried to feel something. She wanted to be sorry for the black eye. She wanted to regret the thumbprints on his neck that were now a deep purple. But, she couldn't. All she saw when she looked in his eyes was the person that kept her from saving her baby! If only! In those eyes, all she saw was the dark haunting vacancy that left her for dead 3 years ago when she overdosed on pain medication. They'd had a fight and both had been drinking. Kara, drinking on top of the medication she had been abusing for years, just to deal. Gees, her life had been such a mess. But, it all changed after that night. She remembered waking up in the hospital and Dillion being there. Swearing that he would never touch another drink and making her swear to leave the pills and alcohol alone. After all, they were gonna have a baby. They just told them. Suddenly the cheating and job losses didn't matter. The verbal abuse. All that mattered was this little baby inside of her.

And as she gazed into his eyes, she felt the surge of anger that she'd had at the house. She just wanted to hurt him. Someone! Anyone! Dammit, why! If she'd never reconciled with him, she would not have been sleeping in the next room. Abigail would have been in bed with her! Damn him. She had to turn away and stop thinking before she hit him again. As she stared at her lifeless little girl, with all those monstrous tubes and gadgets hooked to her, she felt as if she could just fall right then. But, she knew if she did, Dillion would catch her. And she was not about to let that happen. Never again.

Part 5

     Kara and Dillion stood at the bedside of their toddler, both brushing tears from their face from time to time, but neither speaking or even looking at each other. When the door opened they barely noticed. But Kara knew she would have to turn her head to look soon enough. It was Tracy, the Organ Donation Coordinator. Kara could feel her without even looking at her. She closed her eyes and squeezed the last of her tears out in hopes that there would be no more and then she introduced Dillion to Tracy. And somehow the next few hours seemed to fly by. Tracy explaining the procedure to Dillion and answering questions they both had. And when they were through talking, Tracy stood up and walked out to leave the two to discuss things between each other.

Dillion and Kara almost instinctively walked over to the bed that their daughter lay in, knowing that these were their last moments. Those bouncing curls would never jiggle from side to side as she skipped around the house again. "Lulu" the brown teddy bear with the big pink ribbon would never be forced to drink another bottle again or have food shoved in its mouth to eat like Abigail the big girl ate! No more afternoon strolls, watching Abigail push her "Lulu" in a stroller down the sidewalk. The tears were streaming down each of their faces and Kara took a deep shaky breath and spoke softly. "It's almost time. When they come, we won't see her anymore. They will take her to the operating room and then to the funeral home." She reached across the bed and laid her hand on top of Dillion's. "I'm sorry I hit you! I'm sorry I hurt you! I'm sorry!" The grieving was deep and bottomless and weighed heavy on her breath. She looked at his bruised face and was ashamed of her anger. She was ashamed that she'd wanted to hurt him so bad. And for the moment, this grief, this pain was all that she would allow herself to feel, because the thoughts of the pain that was soon coming was too much to bear. So she focused on her husband's tear-filled eyes and his bruised neck. And she moved close to him and as the tears fell, she softly kissed the bruises that she had caused. And she kissed his tears as he wept like only a broken man can weep. And for a moment, maybe hours, maybe seconds, they both drown in tears that really didn't belong to the moment. And they let themselves slip into a pain that they both knew they could handle, that had nothing to do with their daughter, and that would for the moment, compensate for the many days and years of hollow empty grief that was sure to follow them.

Part 6

    The empty bed was like a magnet, pulling her, drawing her to its emptiness. She could hear Dillion walking up the stairs. Her stomach turned. The only thing that seemed more lonely than the empty bed was the thought of Dillion crawling in bed beside her. It wasn't the same. Abigail drew all of their love to the grave with her. Buried and covered, there was nothing left for themselves. Her nausea pulled her down into a fetal position and she pulled the blanket over her head and made the world go away.

     Dillon stopped outside the bedroom door and as he reached for the doorknob Kara's screams echoed in his head. "Dillion, come quick!" It was as if it were happening all over again. He stepped back and looked up at the ceiling. Trying to block out the memories was impossible. He turned and with every step he took, the panic and the cries returned. The shock of her hands grabbing him and shoving him against the wall. Her fist flailing and beating him. The pitiful way she slouched over as if she were going to collapse from exhaustion and the bite of the head butt when she rared up against him as he tried to support her and hold her up. God, why couldn't he feel that pain again! He wanted to physically feel it, so he could block what he was feeling right then. He found himself at the front door grabbing the handle, and then without warning his knees flexed and his gut retracted and the despair of the moment hit him harder than she ever did. His empty world began to devour him and he would meet Kara in the gut of this thing that swallowed them both up into this pit of hell and grief. And together, they would see it through.

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Written by RubyPond in portal Fiction
To See It Through (1-6)
The shine of mahogany wore tiny footprints across the small room as sunlight shot beams through the particles of dust. With eyes wide, scanning the dingy walls that were draped in pink floral hope, the sweet suckling noise squeaked softly and paused for breath in the stillness. Morning rose slow and the horizon was hazy in the distant sky as the filtered light painted the room brighter.
     Her infantile waddle pulled her out of the bed and drew her toward her curiosity. Soft curls bounced light with movements and free fell across apple-cheeks that gripped the edges of thick rosy lips. At two years and two months, baby-plump thighs galloped through the door and into the hallway. Her tracks smudged the ones already laid on the polished floor. And on the wall, tragedy hung in a mirror reflecting the fading image of teddy bears and toddler limbs toppling down a spiral staircase amongst thumping and whimpers, and a final dull thud.
     The crumpled image lay motionless and morning had no mercy, nor hesitation. As the corridors filled with warmth and sunlight, stillness stirred with daybreak and low drones of sleepy chatter echoed like whispers through the cracks of doors.


     The silence grew concern and panic compelled a frantic clatter! Scrambling legs thrust her down the stairs two at a time, yelling, "Abigail! Abigail! No! Dillion, come quick!" And the wails from her soul pierced even the air outside.

Part 2

     He lifted his shoulders and straightened his back. So much commotion and yet, the old woman was staring at him. He quickly processed what he must look like sitting here in the emergency room with what he was sure by now was a black eye and bruises around his neck. Flashes of despondency kept drawing him back to the scene. That horrible scene! Her fingers wrapped around his neck and choking the life out of him. Damn Kara could be strong when she wanted to be. But, no amount of bodily harm could hurt him more than seeing his baby crumpled on the floor like that. Kara really beat him up!
     The old lady was trying to act like she wasn't looking, but she couldn't keep her eyes off of him. Her gaze was a cross between curiously sympathetic and pointedly judgemental. He wanted to say something. To tell her to quit staring. But, he didn't. The throbbing numbness in his lip told him that it must be busted too. He actually forgot about the head butt to the face. It was like he wanted it. Anything to take away that deeper hurt. The one that he didn't want to think about right now. The agony wearing a hole in his belly.
     "Mr. Bartley!" The nurse stood at the door holding it open as he got up and walked in. "This is Karen Townsend, Social worker, Officer Hamley with the police department and Drake Evans our Hospital Chaplain. "Dr. Riley, the Pediatrician that examined your daughter will be here in just a moment. Please have a seat." The nurse directed him to a small sofa against the wall. She paused at the door as she walked out and pointed at a serving table to her left. "There's coffee if anyone would like. Help yourself!" And as she walked out, the doctor walked in.
     Dillion stood and asked, "Where's Kara? Is she okay? I need to see her! She needs to see me." A tear fell without permission and he quickly wiped it away with the back of his hand and a hard swallow.
     "Your wife is being detained in the other room. We need to question you alone." Officer Hamley said as he pulled a chair up in front of him. Dillion sat back and closed his hands over his eyes in disbelief as the others gathered chairs around him.

Part 3

     The walls were pressing in and Dillion was getting antsy. He had answered every question they had and twice. "Look, I know this is just standard procedure, and I appreciate the fact that somebody," his voice broke, "that there are people like you here that can do this kind of thing. But, am I being charged with anything?" The tears in his weary eyes shimmered in the light. "'Cause, if not, I'd like to go be with my wife now. She needs me. Our little girl is...," Dillion couldn't bring himself to say it.
     "I think we are through for now. Doc, why don't we take him to his wife and daughter." Officer Hamley nodded at the doctor.
     When Dillion got to the room where his daughter was he was not prepared for what he saw. His wife quickly rose and fell into his arms. "They want her organs!" She whispered through muffled sobs. "I told them yes, but I don't know if I can let them do it!" She was crying so hard, Dillion felt if he weren't holding her, she might fall to the ground.
     "I can't process this! It's too fast!" She pulled away and Dillion saw her body stiffen as if to brace herself to stand on her own. She walked back over to the bedside and he walked to the other side. His daughter's tiny hand was cold and lifeless and he squeezed it into the palm of his hand and leaned down across the tubes and the wires and rested his teary cheek against hers. The vibration from the ventilator jarred his queasy stomach and he swallowed his tears and stood up and walked around the bed to his wife. She wasn't crying as much anymore. The resolve on her face was stony and vacant. And for a moment their eyes searched each other's. Finding no life left in either, they looked away and neither realized it was the last time they would ever look at each other the same. 

Part 4

     Kara tried to feel something. She wanted to be sorry for the black eye. She wanted to regret the thumbprints on his neck that were now a deep purple. But, she couldn't. All she saw when she looked in his eyes was the person that kept her from saving her baby! If only! In those eyes, all she saw was the dark haunting vacancy that left her for dead 3 years ago when she overdosed on pain medication. They'd had a fight and both had been drinking. Kara, drinking on top of the medication she had been abusing for years, just to deal. Gees, her life had been such a mess. But, it all changed after that night. She remembered waking up in the hospital and Dillion being there. Swearing that he would never touch another drink and making her swear to leave the pills and alcohol alone. After all, they were gonna have a baby. They just told them. Suddenly the cheating and job losses didn't matter. The verbal abuse. All that mattered was this little baby inside of her.
And as she gazed into his eyes, she felt the surge of anger that she'd had at the house. She just wanted to hurt him. Someone! Anyone! Dammit, why! If she'd never reconciled with him, she would not have been sleeping in the next room. Abigail would have been in bed with her! Damn him. She had to turn away and stop thinking before she hit him again. As she stared at her lifeless little girl, with all those monstrous tubes and gadgets hooked to her, she felt as if she could just fall right then. But, she knew if she did, Dillion would catch her. And she was not about to let that happen. Never again.

Part 5

     Kara and Dillion stood at the bedside of their toddler, both brushing tears from their face from time to time, but neither speaking or even looking at each other. When the door opened they barely noticed. But Kara knew she would have to turn her head to look soon enough. It was Tracy, the Organ Donation Coordinator. Kara could feel her without even looking at her. She closed her eyes and squeezed the last of her tears out in hopes that there would be no more and then she introduced Dillion to Tracy. And somehow the next few hours seemed to fly by. Tracy explaining the procedure to Dillion and answering questions they both had. And when they were through talking, Tracy stood up and walked out to leave the two to discuss things between each other.
Dillion and Kara almost instinctively walked over to the bed that their daughter lay in, knowing that these were their last moments. Those bouncing curls would never jiggle from side to side as she skipped around the house again. "Lulu" the brown teddy bear with the big pink ribbon would never be forced to drink another bottle again or have food shoved in its mouth to eat like Abigail the big girl ate! No more afternoon strolls, watching Abigail push her "Lulu" in a stroller down the sidewalk. The tears were streaming down each of their faces and Kara took a deep shaky breath and spoke softly. "It's almost time. When they come, we won't see her anymore. They will take her to the operating room and then to the funeral home." She reached across the bed and laid her hand on top of Dillion's. "I'm sorry I hit you! I'm sorry I hurt you! I'm sorry!" The grieving was deep and bottomless and weighed heavy on her breath. She looked at his bruised face and was ashamed of her anger. She was ashamed that she'd wanted to hurt him so bad. And for the moment, this grief, this pain was all that she would allow herself to feel, because the thoughts of the pain that was soon coming was too much to bear. So she focused on her husband's tear-filled eyes and his bruised neck. And she moved close to him and as the tears fell, she softly kissed the bruises that she had caused. And she kissed his tears as he wept like only a broken man can weep. And for a moment, maybe hours, maybe seconds, they both drown in tears that really didn't belong to the moment. And they let themselves slip into a pain that they both knew they could handle, that had nothing to do with their daughter, and that would for the moment, compensate for the many days and years of hollow empty grief that was sure to follow them.

Part 6

    The empty bed was like a magnet, pulling her, drawing her to its emptiness. She could hear Dillion walking up the stairs. Her stomach turned. The only thing that seemed more lonely than the empty bed was the thought of Dillion crawling in bed beside her. It wasn't the same. Abigail drew all of their love to the grave with her. Buried and covered, there was nothing left for themselves. Her nausea pulled her down into a fetal position and she pulled the blanket over her head and made the world go away.
     Dillon stopped outside the bedroom door and as he reached for the doorknob Kara's screams echoed in his head. "Dillion, come quick!" It was as if it were happening all over again. He stepped back and looked up at the ceiling. Trying to block out the memories was impossible. He turned and with every step he took, the panic and the cries returned. The shock of her hands grabbing him and shoving him against the wall. Her fist flailing and beating him. The pitiful way she slouched over as if she were going to collapse from exhaustion and the bite of the head butt when she rared up against him as he tried to support her and hold her up. God, why couldn't he feel that pain again! He wanted to physically feel it, so he could block what he was feeling right then. He found himself at the front door grabbing the handle, and then without warning his knees flexed and his gut retracted and the despair of the moment hit him harder than she ever did. His empty world began to devour him and he would meet Kara in the gut of this thing that swallowed them both up into this pit of hell and grief. And together, they would see it through.
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ProseChallenge #67: Write a poem about grief.
Written by RubyPond

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Flickering embers, like sparks

stabbing the tender flesh

uncontrollable darts

these pains that I repress

I carry on with mundane tasks

pushing back to suppress

wearing my collective masks

and hating this whole process

I still see your face

in the imprint of my day

and I return to trace

each footprint where I strayed

In case somehow, I forget

or moved too quickly past

It grabs me hard, my debt

to make your memory last

The vacancy that was your place

it haunts me in my wake

a vacuum occupying space

steals my focus, for your sake

My guilt abides within me

like a moving tidal wave

sneaking through the sea

sure to take me to my grave

Yet, not so lucky for me

I  am still of the belief

my plight is meant to be

attached forever to this grief

For, how wrong would that be

to not endure for you

to feel the pain in me

that makes my love so true

The pain somehow I need

To continue on and live

The memory that I feed

Is the honor that I give

In silence now I go

and I truly do believe

because I loved you so

forever - I will grieve

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ProseChallenge #67: Write a poem about grief.
Written by RubyPond
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Flickering embers, like sparks
stabbing the tender flesh
uncontrollable darts
these pains that I repress
I carry on with mundane tasks
pushing back to suppress
wearing my collective masks
and hating this whole process
I still see your face
in the imprint of my day
and I return to trace
each footprint where I strayed
In case somehow, I forget
or moved too quickly past
It grabs me hard, my debt
to make your memory last
The vacancy that was your place
it haunts me in my wake
a vacuum occupying space
steals my focus, for your sake
My guilt abides within me
like a moving tidal wave
sneaking through the sea
sure to take me to my grave
Yet, not so lucky for me
I  am still of the belief
my plight is meant to be
attached forever to this grief
For, how wrong would that be
to not endure for you
to feel the pain in me
that makes my love so true
The pain somehow I need
To continue on and live
The memory that I feed
Is the honor that I give
In silence now I go
and I truly do believe
because I loved you so
forever - I will grieve
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by RubyPond in portal Simon & Schuster

Once I Reach The Other Side

The day wearing thin upon my shoulders, I tugged and pulled with sweat beading on my brow. The black plastic bag dragged and hopped by the inch over turf covered in sticks and leaves. My hunched back was threatening not to ever straighten again and yet, my perseverance drove me up the hill. The incline steepened right at the top and so I dropped to my hands and knees, placing the rope tied around the bag into my mouth and grabbing clumps of hardened ground with my bare hands to hoist myself and my cumbersome package to the very top. Sweat now dripped into my eyes and cooled my fiery cheeks. My jaw clenched in a death grip, and I was determined not to drop my precious bag. "I didn't climb all the way up here for nothing!" I grumbled to myself. Finally, the apex, at last!

     

     I pulled two stakes out of my belt and shoved one into the ground as hard as I could. My hands shaking in exhaustion, I pounded the stake into the ground with the other stake until it was good and sturdy. Then I tied the rope from the bag around the stake and a sigh of relief pushed me back against the hillside, heaving and gasping for air. As I recovered, my breaths began to slow and get deeper and at one point I noticed the rhythm of my breaths matched that of the black bag. I thought for sure by now, it would have stopped moving. Regardless, I took a knife out of my pocket and sliced the top so that it loosened and separated and I watched as it dropped and tumbled down the hill.

I put the binoculars to my eyes. My heart was jumping, partly in excitement and partly in fear. Thoughts were churning in my head and stirring up the contents of my stomach as well. What if someone opened it too soon? I began to panic a little as I scanned the hillside below. Oh God! What had I done? Maybe, I shouldn't have dropped it over the edge! I couldn't see it anymore. I stood to my feet and stumbled a little. No, no, no! I couldn't lose sight of it! I stepped down and positioned the binoculars on my nose. The glass was smudged and so I spit a little saliva on the lens and wiped them clean with the bottom of my shirt. Once again, I raised them to my face. There, in the corner, I saw it! A black speck. It looked almost as if it were in flight now, it was so far away.

     Thank God, I found it! Emotion gripped me and took me to my knees. I wondered was it too late? I began scanning the terrain of the hillside and though it was steep, I was sure I could maneuver my way down. So I began, and every few steps I would peek again through the binoculars and indeed, I was getting closer. And then, I saw it! Something dark and fuzzy in the distance. Dear God, it was a bear! It couldn't be more than 100 feet from the bag. The precious bag! Oh no! What have I done? What have I done? My feet were moving too fast beneath me and I was doing more slipping and sliding than climbing down. I felt the tears welling in my eyes and I felt hopeless watching the scene unfold below me.

     As I continued my crawl and slide down the hill, I became panicked when once again I lost site of both the bag and the bear. My hands stinging now with cuts and scrapes, I stopped and propped myself back to take another look with the binoculars. It was just gone. And the bear too, was nowhere in sight. I thought about it for a minute and decided it wasn't worth chasing after any longer. I had done all I could do. Now, I just needed to focus on getting myself the rest of the way down and finding my way back home. "Damn thing has been a thorn in my side for long enough!" I thought.

     Suddenly the emotion and desperation I felt earlier at letting it go, had left me. And I thought. "I have another one at home anyway. And they must have thousands of those black bags at the market. I'd get one of those and put the other in it and it would be as if nothing ever happened!" I was empowered with a new energy boiling up in my blood. When I walked into the grocery store it was all I could do to keep from ripping that box and snatching a bag out of it before I paid for it. But, I didn't. I waited until I got home. As I walked in, I quickly went through the house and shut the blinds. Grabbing a knife out of the kitchen drawer I began stabbing at the box until it caught the perforated line and the pre-cut opening lifted, exposing black plastic. Snatching one of the bags out I held it close to me for a moment and then with great intensity shook it open! "Now, where did that other one go?"

     As I was frantically searching for the other one I was startled to hear the banging at the door. "Maude, open the door! Maude, let me in!"

     "Darn it! Why does someone always have to come at the wrong time!" I whispered to myself. This was really frustrating. I knew who was at the door and I knew she would stop me in my tracks. She always did.

     I tucked the bag underneath my shirt and put the knife away. Jerking the door open, I put on my best face! "Virginia, what brings you here in the middle of the day?" I tried to hide my shaking hands and even though I felt the sweat beading on my brow, I was sure that I could be convincing.

     "Maude, you know why I'm here! The neighbors said you have been at it again!" She thought she was so smart. Her disapproving eyes stole my soul as she cornered me in the kitchen. "Where are they?"

     "Where is what? You know you can't pay attention to the neighbors! What do they know anyway?" This was really annoying me now!

     "Where are the bags, Maude? Come on! I know you have them. Mr. Clemons told me you came in and purchased them today. Have you been taking your medicine?" She was actually looking through my cabinets. "Ah yes! Here they are! Well, come on. You know what this means. Back to the county hospital until they get your meds straightened out again."

     "No, you don't understand! I had to use them! You know! I only wanted to get rid of one, but a bear got it! So I came back for the other!" I was desperate for understanding.

     "Yes Maude, I know! That's what you said the other five times!" She rolled her eyes.

     I felt myself growing numb. When I looked into her eyes, I saw the reflection of myself standing there. How ridiculous I must look. This wild-eyed woman, standing here hiding a plastic bag under her shirt and Virginia, my sister...my own sister chastising me with disgusting looks and condescending tones. "Honestly Maude, I don't even know why they let you out! You remember Daphne Chadwick? That old bat that lived around the corner from us when we were kids?" She had this smirk on her face as she continued walking to the door and peeking around my house as she did with disapproving eyes.  "Remember she used to have all them dolls that she talked too? You're as crazy as she ever was! Now come on here and get your things, I don't have all day! Donald wants me to go down to the station and bring him dinner."

     If I hadn't heard that so many times, I think I might have hauled off and hit her, But, I was too devastated to do anything. I was so disappointed in myself. I had done so well, I don't know what happened. I was doing everything right and the next thing I know, here I am with these damn bags again, and when I think back on what I did today, I can't explain it. I got lost is all. "Virginia, please don't make me go back! I know what I did now. I remember. That means I'm okay! Just give me my meds and I'll be fine. They don't like me at that hospital. They put me in those restraints and everything just starts all over again. What little bit of sense I get about me just fades away! I'm afraid Virginia!" I felt the tears slipping down my cheeks and I was hoping my sister would have some compassion. "Please!" But she just grabbed me by the arm and started pulling me to the door. "Maybe I could just stay with you? Please, don't take me back there!"

     Her cold eyes pierced my heart as she snickered under her breath. "You crazy bat!"

As the big steel door slammed behind me, I was so angry! "Ugh!" Everything was so sterile and bare! Nothing but a mattress on the floor. This straight jacket was choking me! I was sure of it! I hoped they would come soon. I didn't want to get panicky! No, no! It took everything I had to keep myself calm. "Think, think!" I said to myself. So I began to think about my favorite things. Those bags! The way they moved after I tied them up. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I would put bricks in those bags just so people couldn't tell me there was nothing in them. Because there was! There was! I put those things in there myself.  I know no one can see them, but that is because they are invisible. But, they aren't to me! To me, they are alive and breathing! My demons and I had been wrestling each other for years. And every now and then I would bag them up and haul them up that hill, knowing that if I ever got it to the other side I would be okay and I could let go. But trouble was, I could never actually let go of them. I would go to all that trouble to haul them up that hill and just as soon as I would let it go, my heart would drop. You see, my demons haunted me and tortured me, but they were a part of me. I was lost without them. I would spend days plotting and planning my trip up the hill with the heavy brick- laden bag filled with my demons. Only, I had done this so many times that I knew I would grieve without them. So I started leaving one at home. Just one to keep me on my toes and keep me from being so lost. But, that backfired too, because these demons are pure evil! Worse than any drug I could have ever taken. They have been with me almost my whole life, but have gotten worse in the last couple of years. That's when I started trying to bag them up and haul them over the hill. Virginia was right! I am just a crazy bat! Virginia took every chance she could to tell me that. I probably would not see her for quite some time now! She is always relieved when I get locked up in here!

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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Written by RubyPond in portal Simon & Schuster
Once I Reach The Other Side
The day wearing thin upon my shoulders, I tugged and pulled with sweat beading on my brow. The black plastic bag dragged and hopped by the inch over turf covered in sticks and leaves. My hunched back was threatening not to ever straighten again and yet, my perseverance drove me up the hill. The incline steepened right at the top and so I dropped to my hands and knees, placing the rope tied around the bag into my mouth and grabbing clumps of hardened ground with my bare hands to hoist myself and my cumbersome package to the very top. Sweat now dripped into my eyes and cooled my fiery cheeks. My jaw clenched in a death grip, and I was determined not to drop my precious bag. "I didn't climb all the way up here for nothing!" I grumbled to myself. Finally, the apex, at last!
     
     I pulled two stakes out of my belt and shoved one into the ground as hard as I could. My hands shaking in exhaustion, I pounded the stake into the ground with the other stake until it was good and sturdy. Then I tied the rope from the bag around the stake and a sigh of relief pushed me back against the hillside, heaving and gasping for air. As I recovered, my breaths began to slow and get deeper and at one point I noticed the rhythm of my breaths matched that of the black bag. I thought for sure by now, it would have stopped moving. Regardless, I took a knife out of my pocket and sliced the top so that it loosened and separated and I watched as it dropped and tumbled down the hill.
I put the binoculars to my eyes. My heart was jumping, partly in excitement and partly in fear. Thoughts were churning in my head and stirring up the contents of my stomach as well. What if someone opened it too soon? I began to panic a little as I scanned the hillside below. Oh God! What had I done? Maybe, I shouldn't have dropped it over the edge! I couldn't see it anymore. I stood to my feet and stumbled a little. No, no, no! I couldn't lose sight of it! I stepped down and positioned the binoculars on my nose. The glass was smudged and so I spit a little saliva on the lens and wiped them clean with the bottom of my shirt. Once again, I raised them to my face. There, in the corner, I saw it! A black speck. It looked almost as if it were in flight now, it was so far away.

     Thank God, I found it! Emotion gripped me and took me to my knees. I wondered was it too late? I began scanning the terrain of the hillside and though it was steep, I was sure I could maneuver my way down. So I began, and every few steps I would peek again through the binoculars and indeed, I was getting closer. And then, I saw it! Something dark and fuzzy in the distance. Dear God, it was a bear! It couldn't be more than 100 feet from the bag. The precious bag! Oh no! What have I done? What have I done? My feet were moving too fast beneath me and I was doing more slipping and sliding than climbing down. I felt the tears welling in my eyes and I felt hopeless watching the scene unfold below me.

     As I continued my crawl and slide down the hill, I became panicked when once again I lost site of both the bag and the bear. My hands stinging now with cuts and scrapes, I stopped and propped myself back to take another look with the binoculars. It was just gone. And the bear too, was nowhere in sight. I thought about it for a minute and decided it wasn't worth chasing after any longer. I had done all I could do. Now, I just needed to focus on getting myself the rest of the way down and finding my way back home. "Damn thing has been a thorn in my side for long enough!" I thought.
     Suddenly the emotion and desperation I felt earlier at letting it go, had left me. And I thought. "I have another one at home anyway. And they must have thousands of those black bags at the market. I'd get one of those and put the other in it and it would be as if nothing ever happened!" I was empowered with a new energy boiling up in my blood. When I walked into the grocery store it was all I could do to keep from ripping that box and snatching a bag out of it before I paid for it. But, I didn't. I waited until I got home. As I walked in, I quickly went through the house and shut the blinds. Grabbing a knife out of the kitchen drawer I began stabbing at the box until it caught the perforated line and the pre-cut opening lifted, exposing black plastic. Snatching one of the bags out I held it close to me for a moment and then with great intensity shook it open! "Now, where did that other one go?"

     As I was frantically searching for the other one I was startled to hear the banging at the door. "Maude, open the door! Maude, let me in!"
     "Darn it! Why does someone always have to come at the wrong time!" I whispered to myself. This was really frustrating. I knew who was at the door and I knew she would stop me in my tracks. She always did.
     I tucked the bag underneath my shirt and put the knife away. Jerking the door open, I put on my best face! "Virginia, what brings you here in the middle of the day?" I tried to hide my shaking hands and even though I felt the sweat beading on my brow, I was sure that I could be convincing.
     "Maude, you know why I'm here! The neighbors said you have been at it again!" She thought she was so smart. Her disapproving eyes stole my soul as she cornered me in the kitchen. "Where are they?"
     "Where is what? You know you can't pay attention to the neighbors! What do they know anyway?" This was really annoying me now!
     "Where are the bags, Maude? Come on! I know you have them. Mr. Clemons told me you came in and purchased them today. Have you been taking your medicine?" She was actually looking through my cabinets. "Ah yes! Here they are! Well, come on. You know what this means. Back to the county hospital until they get your meds straightened out again."
     "No, you don't understand! I had to use them! You know! I only wanted to get rid of one, but a bear got it! So I came back for the other!" I was desperate for understanding.

     "Yes Maude, I know! That's what you said the other five times!" She rolled her eyes.

     I felt myself growing numb. When I looked into her eyes, I saw the reflection of myself standing there. How ridiculous I must look. This wild-eyed woman, standing here hiding a plastic bag under her shirt and Virginia, my sister...my own sister chastising me with disgusting looks and condescending tones. "Honestly Maude, I don't even know why they let you out! You remember Daphne Chadwick? That old bat that lived around the corner from us when we were kids?" She had this smirk on her face as she continued walking to the door and peeking around my house as she did with disapproving eyes.  "Remember she used to have all them dolls that she talked too? You're as crazy as she ever was! Now come on here and get your things, I don't have all day! Donald wants me to go down to the station and bring him dinner."
     If I hadn't heard that so many times, I think I might have hauled off and hit her, But, I was too devastated to do anything. I was so disappointed in myself. I had done so well, I don't know what happened. I was doing everything right and the next thing I know, here I am with these damn bags again, and when I think back on what I did today, I can't explain it. I got lost is all. "Virginia, please don't make me go back! I know what I did now. I remember. That means I'm okay! Just give me my meds and I'll be fine. They don't like me at that hospital. They put me in those restraints and everything just starts all over again. What little bit of sense I get about me just fades away! I'm afraid Virginia!" I felt the tears slipping down my cheeks and I was hoping my sister would have some compassion. "Please!" But she just grabbed me by the arm and started pulling me to the door. "Maybe I could just stay with you? Please, don't take me back there!"
     Her cold eyes pierced my heart as she snickered under her breath. "You crazy bat!"


As the big steel door slammed behind me, I was so angry! "Ugh!" Everything was so sterile and bare! Nothing but a mattress on the floor. This straight jacket was choking me! I was sure of it! I hoped they would come soon. I didn't want to get panicky! No, no! It took everything I had to keep myself calm. "Think, think!" I said to myself. So I began to think about my favorite things. Those bags! The way they moved after I tied them up. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I would put bricks in those bags just so people couldn't tell me there was nothing in them. Because there was! There was! I put those things in there myself.  I know no one can see them, but that is because they are invisible. But, they aren't to me! To me, they are alive and breathing! My demons and I had been wrestling each other for years. And every now and then I would bag them up and haul them up that hill, knowing that if I ever got it to the other side I would be okay and I could let go. But trouble was, I could never actually let go of them. I would go to all that trouble to haul them up that hill and just as soon as I would let it go, my heart would drop. You see, my demons haunted me and tortured me, but they were a part of me. I was lost without them. I would spend days plotting and planning my trip up the hill with the heavy brick- laden bag filled with my demons. Only, I had done this so many times that I knew I would grieve without them. So I started leaving one at home. Just one to keep me on my toes and keep me from being so lost. But, that backfired too, because these demons are pure evil! Worse than any drug I could have ever taken. They have been with me almost my whole life, but have gotten worse in the last couple of years. That's when I started trying to bag them up and haul them over the hill. Virginia was right! I am just a crazy bat! Virginia took every chance she could to tell me that. I probably would not see her for quite some time now! She is always relieved when I get locked up in here!
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The writer of the best short story from this challenge wins a ProWritingAid Lifetime License, worth $140. Take the terribly-written adverb-laden outline of a story below and use your own voice to make it amazing. Maybe it's sci-fi, maybe it's romance, maybe it's thriller...it's up to you: The door was opened and they looked out. She was very surprised. He looked very worried. They went quickly to find out more. She slowly picked up the object and it all finally made sense.
Written by RubyPond

A Dead End

It was almost 2:00 p.m. The service was about to start and he wasn't there yet. She kept her eyes low and tried not to look around at anyone. Looking down at her hands she noticed how hard she was squeezing the tissue in her hand. Her knuckles were actually white. Finally, she felt a hand on her shoulder and he scooted past her to sit on the pew beside her. "Oh my God! Where have you been?" She scolded through clenched teeth.

     "I'm here! That's all that matters!" He adjusted his tie and cleared his throat as he sat down. They sat quietly through the remainder of the service. As the Reverend began the dismissal prayer she stood and walked quickly to the back of the church. He followed close behind. As she made it to the parking lot, she walked to the side of a building and lit a cigarette. "Regina, what the hell are you doing?" He grabbed her arm and looked at her with wild eyes.

     "Dammit Jay, I just had to get out of there. I couldn't make myself go up there and look into that coffin one more time!" Her green eyes were actually wet with moisture as if she had really been crying. "It was giving me the creeps!"

      "Come on, you have to go back in. Before they close the lid. Now is the only time we have. If you don't get it now, it is gone forever!" He realized he was gritting his teeth but, that ring was worth $350,000 dollars and he was not about to let her walk away without it.

   

  "Alright! Alright! It's not like they can continue without me. I'm the wife!" She pushed a strand of her red hair behind her ear and dropped her cigarette into the soil.  She straightened her dress and they both looked up and the door was open. "Shh..", she started to say as she quickly walked toward the building. Jay strolled behind and the funeral director met her halfway.

     "Mrs. Cobb. do you need more time? We can play the video again if you like or perhaps more music?" She could see the beaded perspiration on his brow.

     "I'm fine! The last thing I need is to drag this out." She realized how he was looking at her friend and quickly spoke up. "My brother, Nick." She said gesturing toward the impeccably dressed man standing beside her.  His face loosened a bit as he extended a sweaty hand toward him. 

     "Mr. Jones, do you think that I could have a moment with my husband before we go to the cemetery? Alone?" She was trying to grab at any emotional memory in her mind that might possibly bring a tear to her eye.

     "You mean, you want me to clear the room? Normally, the pallbearers take the deceased out to the hearse before the dismissal." He had a look of horror on his face.

     "No! I mean, could you have the pallbearers wait until everyone leaves and I have a few more moments. I know the procession will be waiting, but.." She managed to make one lone tear slip from her eye.

     "Now, now! We can do that! Not a problem at all, Mrs. Cobb." He gently put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her along in the direction of the church.

     Regina got her moment and Jay watched from behind. As she gently picked up his cold hand she couldn't help but gasp! They both knew they had been doublecrossed when they saw the ring was missing.

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The writer of the best short story from this challenge wins a ProWritingAid Lifetime License, worth $140. Take the terribly-written adverb-laden outline of a story below and use your own voice to make it amazing. Maybe it's sci-fi, maybe it's romance, maybe it's thriller...it's up to you: The door was opened and they looked out. She was very surprised. He looked very worried. They went quickly to find out more. She slowly picked up the object and it all finally made sense.
Written by RubyPond
A Dead End
It was almost 2:00 p.m. The service was about to start and he wasn't there yet. She kept her eyes low and tried not to look around at anyone. Looking down at her hands she noticed how hard she was squeezing the tissue in her hand. Her knuckles were actually white. Finally, she felt a hand on her shoulder and he scooted past her to sit on the pew beside her. "Oh my God! Where have you been?" She scolded through clenched teeth.

     "I'm here! That's all that matters!" He adjusted his tie and cleared his throat as he sat down. They sat quietly through the remainder of the service. As the Reverend began the dismissal prayer she stood and walked quickly to the back of the church. He followed close behind. As she made it to the parking lot, she walked to the side of a building and lit a cigarette. "Regina, what the hell are you doing?" He grabbed her arm and looked at her with wild eyes.

     "Dammit Jay, I just had to get out of there. I couldn't make myself go up there and look into that coffin one more time!" Her green eyes were actually wet with moisture as if she had really been crying. "It was giving me the creeps!"

      "Come on, you have to go back in. Before they close the lid. Now is the only time we have. If you don't get it now, it is gone forever!" He realized he was gritting his teeth but, that ring was worth $350,000 dollars and he was not about to let her walk away without it.
   
  "Alright! Alright! It's not like they can continue without me. I'm the wife!" She pushed a strand of her red hair behind her ear and dropped her cigarette into the soil.  She straightened her dress and they both looked up and the door was open. "Shh..", she started to say as she quickly walked toward the building. Jay strolled behind and the funeral director met her halfway.

     "Mrs. Cobb. do you need more time? We can play the video again if you like or perhaps more music?" She could see the beaded perspiration on his brow.

     "I'm fine! The last thing I need is to drag this out." She realized how he was looking at her friend and quickly spoke up. "My brother, Nick." She said gesturing toward the impeccably dressed man standing beside her.  His face loosened a bit as he extended a sweaty hand toward him. 

     "Mr. Jones, do you think that I could have a moment with my husband before we go to the cemetery? Alone?" She was trying to grab at any emotional memory in her mind that might possibly bring a tear to her eye.

     "You mean, you want me to clear the room? Normally, the pallbearers take the deceased out to the hearse before the dismissal." He had a look of horror on his face.

     "No! I mean, could you have the pallbearers wait until everyone leaves and I have a few more moments. I know the procession will be waiting, but.." She managed to make one lone tear slip from her eye.

     "Now, now! We can do that! Not a problem at all, Mrs. Cobb." He gently put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her along in the direction of the church.

     Regina got her moment and Jay watched from behind. As she gently picked up his cold hand she couldn't help but gasp! They both knew they had been doublecrossed when they saw the ring was missing.
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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Day Dreaming about Night things

I close my eyes and rise in sleep

Pulled upward in a stream

Above mountains and the ocean's deep

Into the sunlight's gleam

My body floats weightless, light

Through atmosphere ascends

And elevated high in flight

My body there suspends

I trek another globe or two

And visit worlds unknown

My travels of another time

And far away from home

The planets glisten in the glow

Stars shooting here and there

Gliding through the cosmos

Without a single care

My spirit rest in tranquil ease

This tour a wondrous delight

Soaring high, my soul at peace

My dark days turned to bright

Hopping stars with great agility

Designing rainbows with a flair

Free as a bird and with no gravity

So many things I did up there

And then, I look and I descend

Slowly to the ground

And thank my lucky stars above

For showing me around

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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Day Dreaming about Night things
I close my eyes and rise in sleep
Pulled upward in a stream
Above mountains and the ocean's deep
Into the sunlight's gleam

My body floats weightless, light
Through atmosphere ascends
And elevated high in flight
My body there suspends

I trek another globe or two
And visit worlds unknown
My travels of another time
And far away from home

The planets glisten in the glow
Stars shooting here and there
Gliding through the cosmos
Without a single care

My spirit rest in tranquil ease
This tour a wondrous delight
Soaring high, my soul at peace
My dark days turned to bright

Hopping stars with great agility
Designing rainbows with a flair
Free as a bird and with no gravity
So many things I did up there

And then, I look and I descend
Slowly to the ground
And thank my lucky stars above
For showing me around
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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Not a Bad Muse After All

Shut and sealed inside my jar

my muse revealed, with me at war

He wants out, I want him in

now he will pout and I'm wearing thin!

He has refused to give me words

It's the silliest thing I've ever heard

He wants air, to do as he pleases

I don't care and my thoughts, he teases

I'd like to know just where he thinks

that he could go, you know, this stinks!

I'm a little afraid he will leave for good

I don't want him out of my neighborhood

But he's wearing me down, begging and pleading

(My God, you'd think this muse was bleeding!)

So, I give in and let him out

on a whim and with great doubt!

Then to my delight, he yawns and stretches

grabs pen to write and on paper sketches

a beautiful drawing that makes me desire

to write words of eloquence that blaze like fire

And so I blush, embarrassed some

stunned at the magic his drawing's done 

Afraid no more, and what can I say?

I made a little door; he works well that way!

So the moral of my story is, your muse needs freedom too!

And if you let him go at will, he will come back to you!

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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Not a Bad Muse After All
Shut and sealed inside my jar
my muse revealed, with me at war
He wants out, I want him in
now he will pout and I'm wearing thin!

He has refused to give me words
It's the silliest thing I've ever heard
He wants air, to do as he pleases
I don't care and my thoughts, he teases

I'd like to know just where he thinks
that he could go, you know, this stinks!
I'm a little afraid he will leave for good
I don't want him out of my neighborhood

But he's wearing me down, begging and pleading
(My God, you'd think this muse was bleeding!)
So, I give in and let him out
on a whim and with great doubt!

Then to my delight, he yawns and stretches
grabs pen to write and on paper sketches
a beautiful drawing that makes me desire
to write words of eloquence that blaze like fire

And so I blush, embarrassed some
stunned at the magic his drawing's done 
Afraid no more, and what can I say?
I made a little door; he works well that way!

So the moral of my story is, your muse needs freedom too!
And if you let him go at will, he will come back to you!
#dontshare 
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We all know that sometimes the Devil will make a deal in exchange for a soul, but what happens when he comes to collect? Imagine a person who has sold his/her soul to the Devil. How does he come for them? Does he take them directly to Hell? How does he get them wherever they're going and what happens when they get there? Write a story exploring what happens after a deal with the Devil comes to an end. Base it on traditional folklore, or make up your own totally new ideas!
Written by RubyPond in portal Horror & Thriller

Damned if you do and Damned if you don't

Malcolm cleared his throat and took a sip of water. He signaled for the piano player to come back to her position to play. "Let us bow our heads! Father, we ask that you touch each and every soul here today." As he began his prayer, he felt a slightly uncomfortable chill come over him.  It was so uncomfortable that he opened his eyes to look as he continued to pray. The small church had two rows of ten pews each that extended to the back of the church where the double glass doors stayed propped open slightly, for any late comers. The cool chill was getting more and more intense and he could actually see the hair of his parishioners blowing in this eerie breeze. Pastor Malcolm Anderson had been a preacher for far too long to think this was God. And as he continued to pray, the lights flickered in the sanctuary. "Father, guide us!"  he said continuing and trying to remain calm.  Suddenly the double doors at the back of the room blew open and the lights went out. A few of the ladies cried out and then Malcolm stopped praying. The wind was fierce now!

     "Pray Preacher, Pray!" A man in the congregation yelled.  And then an ominous dark cloud moved into the sanctuary. Filtering in through the double doors and then through the vents in the ceiling.  By now, the congregation was frantic.  The dark cloud lowered and started swirling and when it got low enough it started circling the Preacher.  And little by little a form began to materialize from the dark cloud in front of the preacher.  Malcolm recognized him immediately. It was the Devil himself!  "I've come to collect, Malcolm!" His voice thundered through the church!  The parishioners were whimpering and gasping inaudible words.  Malcolm was aware of their level of fear and yet, nature had not given him that protective desire that most men of the calling feel towards their congregation. So his compassion was little and his focus was on himself and a similar meeting with the Devil himself a few years back.

     

     Malcolm recalled he was giving a sermon to his congregation on a Sunday morning in June, ten years prior. In rural South Carolina, this meant one thing. It was hot! The little church was not air conditioned and many of the ladies came equipped with their own little hand fans.  Clarice Hammond was one of those ladies.  As she sat in the back pew fanning herself with her head bowed and her eyes shut, faintly hearing the preacher pray but deep in thought about the ingredients she would need to pick up from the store for her blueberry pie, it was only barely noticeable that there was a cool air circulating and giving her a little chill.  By the time Clarice opened her eyes, that faint breeze had turned into a whirlwind and in her mind it looked a little like a tornado had entered the building. Clarice in amazement noticed that the doors were flapping in the sanctuary. Then that chill she was experiencing became an icy cold and a still came over that church like none she'd ever seen.  When Clarice looked up over the pews in front of her she noticed everybody's  hair was sticking straight up in the air and it scared her so bad, she felt all the color drain out of her face and she got a little woozy.  After the wooziness passed, she reached up and felt her own wiry hair straightened out and sticking straight up as if it were being pulled. "Like some sort of electrical force or something," she thought. Clarice was 72 years old and though the Lord had been good to her he did not give her a good pair of eyes. Since she was a child she had struggled with her vision from a distance. Oh, she had glasses, but they didn't do her much good. Not when it came to things more than 3 feet away from her, so Clarice did not see the form materializing in front of the altar. But, she did hear a voice. "And it was as loud as thunder!" she recalled.  Then Clarice started feeling light headed again and the next thing she knew, she was being helped up off the floor by Deacon Jones. "Clarice you okay?" he asked her. 

     "I'm fine." She said, not really sure if she was.  "What happened?" 

     Deacon Jones was a farmer and although he had his Sunday best on, Clarice had noticed how rough and calloused his hands were against her soft skin. The gentleman had a tight grip on her arm and would not let go until Clarice was seated again in the pew. "Looks like we had some kind of storm is all. Big wind. Didn't do much damage though." Finally he let go of her arm and nodded at her. "You sure you're okay?" He asked her one more time. 

     "Oh, I'm fine! Thank you!" And the Deacon walked over to Mrs. Parson's across the way who was just getting to her feet.  Clarice rubbed her arm a little where the Deacon had grabbed her and though it ached from his grip she was glad she hadn't said anything. It appeared everyone had been knocked to the floor in the storm.  But, Clarice had a feeling this was no ordinary storm. Something didn't settle right about it and over the next ten years lots of strange happenings occurred that she had always felt was tied to what happened in that little church that day.  For instance, many of the parishioners stopped going to church and moved away from that little town.  Now, there weren't that many to begin with mind you, but out of the handful, there were only six of them left, including the preacher.  Deacon Jones, Mrs. Parsons, herself, the Preacher, Annabelle Hollander, the piano player and her husband Ronald that taught the adult Sunday school class every Sunday morning before church.  The rest of the parishioners were only a handful, that wandered in and out over the last several years.  

     But, the steady six came to church every Sunday and played the game. Clarice found it easy to come up with new recipes while she sat at the back of the church handing out candy to the children. Even though she was 82 years old now, she still managed to get around pretty good as did Mrs. Parsons. She was the other candy lady and probably had a lot of recipes in her head during the sermons too, Clarice thought to herself.  Deacon Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Hollander did their duty, but Clarice found out some years later that Annabelle was known to keep company with a variety of different men while Mr. Hollander was out of town (with his secretary in tow, of course).  And even the Preacher was seen coming and going at all times of the night from the Hollander's home.  But, people still came, they just never stayed long. And ten years passed pretty quickly it seemed, and still the same kinds of things were going on.  The Preacher, shook his head and looked visibly nervous as the Devil walked up to him and looked him in the eye.

   

"Are these the souls you promised me Malcolm?" The devil asked, pointing towards the congregation.

"Yes, these are them! Take them all!" Malcolm had no shame about him handing over his congregation to this evil. Suddenly there was a lot of screaming and the Devil walked down into the congregation and put his eyes on Mrs. Hammond. And without even touching her he made her levitate from the pew she was sitting in. "No, no! Not me!" she yelled. Take him and she pointed to Deacon Jones. "He's a better choice! Just look at him, doesn't he look like a Godly man to you?" Clarice was desperate and only felt a twinge of guilt about pointing the finger at that nice Deacon Jones.  Quickly the Devil swung his attention towards the Deacon and Clarice dropped to the ground like a rag doll.  Relieved, she was determined she would get herself up and run out those double doors.  But, that process would take her more than a few moments because of her age and frailty.  And wouldn't she be disappointed when she got to those doors only to find them sealed shut.  

     The Devil now had Deacon Jones levitating against a wall and when Clarice got up she noticed that Mr. and Mrs. Hollander were levitating beside him.  The preacher had come down from the platform and was standing in the aisle in front of Clarice and the Devil was right behind him breathing what looked like fire. Clarice wasn't sure, but it sure looked like fire and this would be confirmed in just a moment when those flames shot from his mouth onto the Milton family that sat in the row in front of her.  Clarice could not believe it. Little Johnny Milton, 3 years old, standing on the pew by his mama Mary, who both just burst into flames and Clarice didn't know who was screaming louder, little Johnny or Mary. Bob Milton the daddy grabbed his 7 year old son Jacob and tried to turn around and run out of the other side of the pew, but within seconds the Devil shot flames like darts on both of them and they were screaming and writhing with the rest of their family and burning. It all lasted about 9 or 10 minutes Clarice was thinking, before they finally just succumb to the flames and then it was quiet again. He walked around the church incinerating everyone except the one's that were plastered up against that wall and Clarice and the Preacher.  After they were the only one's left it got quiet again.  Too quiet. No one wanted to move or say anything.  Then the Devil looked back at Clarice and his red laser eyes felt as though they were boring a hole through her soul.  Finally, she felt herself being lifted again. As she was dangling there, scared for her life, she felt a hard punch in her chest and then against her back and realized she had been thrown against the wall along with the preacher, the deacon, the piano player, the Sunday school teacher and Mrs. Parsons.  

     And as they dangled at the mercy of the Devil, they watched as he destroyed the remaining attendees with fire.  The stench of burnt flesh was overwhelming, but Clarice and the rest of the survivors hanging on the wall, were feeling the dread of their impending doom and to their surprise the Devil lowered each of them to the ground and as they stood, shaking and watching he paced in front of them smiling and laughing. Evil oozed from him and his laugh shook the walls of the church.  "Well done, my good and faithful servants!" He thundered.

     The Preacher, with a shaky voice asked, "What are you going to do with us now?"

     And the Devil replied..."I'll be back in ten years. Keep doing what your doing. You, the Deacon, Mrs. Parson, Mrs. Hammond, Mr. and Mrs. Hollander, you have done a fantastic job! Not one of you have prayed or picked up a bible. (Well, with the intent of reading or teaching anyone). You all have kept a lot of people from the gates of Heaven and now you are promised an eternity with me in Hell!" And the Devil let out a roar like a lion followed by a laugh. "Maybe, I will come a little sooner for you than ten years, eh? Hahahaa!"He bellowed! He then levitated about two feet off the ground and started spinning. He was spinning so fast it was causing a big wind to stir up and the faster he spun, a black cloud started rising from the ground up and encompassed him. Soon everyone realized he was disintegrating into the smoke. And when his form was no longer seen, the black cloud blew ferociously through the church, knocking pews over and pictures off walls, and then it just suddenly stopped. And they all just looked at each other, frozen and stiff with shock and fear.

     "Ron, you and Deacon Jones help me get these pews picked up." The Preacher said to Mr. Hollander.  And the ladies went through and started picking up bibles and choir books and together they straightened the church.  They barely spoke and then the Preacher gathered them together and said, "I think we need to change some things around here." And they all shook their head and agreed.  And the Preacher began to pray. "Heavenly Father, we know we have sinned Lord and we ask that you forgive us! All these years we have been coming here complacent and pretending to do your work when really we were not doing your work. We were doing the work of the Devil. Lord we are through pretending and we promise from here on out we will do whatever we can to draw people to you and make sure they get to Heaven. " And with that the Preacher said, "Amen!" And they all began crying and hugging each other and started feeling a little better. And as they were gathering their things to leave suddenly the building started shaking and they felt the floor moving beneath them. Clarice grabbed hold of a pew and watched beneath her as the floor and the ground started giving way and crumbling. The Preacher grabbed hold of a pew as well and as the floor and ground continued to cave beneath them, they felt heat rising from below. And they heard that unmistakable laugh of the Devil thundering through the  building and Clarice watched as Deacon Jones lost his grip on the Pew beside her and fell into the lake of fire beneath her, screaming and writhing as his arms and legs melted into the fiery flood. "Why?" she screamed. "Why?" and the Devil roared in laughter and said, "All these years you claimed to work for God, you actually worked for me. Now, you made a commitment to God and so I am taking you with me before you can fulfill it! How does that saying go? Oh yeah, your damned if you do and your damned if you don't! Ha ha ha ha!" and Clarice lost her grip and fell with the others into the fiery lake  below.

     

     

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We all know that sometimes the Devil will make a deal in exchange for a soul, but what happens when he comes to collect? Imagine a person who has sold his/her soul to the Devil. How does he come for them? Does he take them directly to Hell? How does he get them wherever they're going and what happens when they get there? Write a story exploring what happens after a deal with the Devil comes to an end. Base it on traditional folklore, or make up your own totally new ideas!
Written by RubyPond in portal Horror & Thriller
Damned if you do and Damned if you don't
Malcolm cleared his throat and took a sip of water. He signaled for the piano player to come back to her position to play. "Let us bow our heads! Father, we ask that you touch each and every soul here today." As he began his prayer, he felt a slightly uncomfortable chill come over him.  It was so uncomfortable that he opened his eyes to look as he continued to pray. The small church had two rows of ten pews each that extended to the back of the church where the double glass doors stayed propped open slightly, for any late comers. The cool chill was getting more and more intense and he could actually see the hair of his parishioners blowing in this eerie breeze. Pastor Malcolm Anderson had been a preacher for far too long to think this was God. And as he continued to pray, the lights flickered in the sanctuary. "Father, guide us!"  he said continuing and trying to remain calm.  Suddenly the double doors at the back of the room blew open and the lights went out. A few of the ladies cried out and then Malcolm stopped praying. The wind was fierce now!
     "Pray Preacher, Pray!" A man in the congregation yelled.  And then an ominous dark cloud moved into the sanctuary. Filtering in through the double doors and then through the vents in the ceiling.  By now, the congregation was frantic.  The dark cloud lowered and started swirling and when it got low enough it started circling the Preacher.  And little by little a form began to materialize from the dark cloud in front of the preacher.  Malcolm recognized him immediately. It was the Devil himself!  "I've come to collect, Malcolm!" His voice thundered through the church!  The parishioners were whimpering and gasping inaudible words.  Malcolm was aware of their level of fear and yet, nature had not given him that protective desire that most men of the calling feel towards their congregation. So his compassion was little and his focus was on himself and a similar meeting with the Devil himself a few years back.
     
     Malcolm recalled he was giving a sermon to his congregation on a Sunday morning in June, ten years prior. In rural South Carolina, this meant one thing. It was hot! The little church was not air conditioned and many of the ladies came equipped with their own little hand fans.  Clarice Hammond was one of those ladies.  As she sat in the back pew fanning herself with her head bowed and her eyes shut, faintly hearing the preacher pray but deep in thought about the ingredients she would need to pick up from the store for her blueberry pie, it was only barely noticeable that there was a cool air circulating and giving her a little chill.  By the time Clarice opened her eyes, that faint breeze had turned into a whirlwind and in her mind it looked a little like a tornado had entered the building. Clarice in amazement noticed that the doors were flapping in the sanctuary. Then that chill she was experiencing became an icy cold and a still came over that church like none she'd ever seen.  When Clarice looked up over the pews in front of her she noticed everybody's  hair was sticking straight up in the air and it scared her so bad, she felt all the color drain out of her face and she got a little woozy.  After the wooziness passed, she reached up and felt her own wiry hair straightened out and sticking straight up as if it were being pulled. "Like some sort of electrical force or something," she thought. Clarice was 72 years old and though the Lord had been good to her he did not give her a good pair of eyes. Since she was a child she had struggled with her vision from a distance. Oh, she had glasses, but they didn't do her much good. Not when it came to things more than 3 feet away from her, so Clarice did not see the form materializing in front of the altar. But, she did hear a voice. "And it was as loud as thunder!" she recalled.  Then Clarice started feeling light headed again and the next thing she knew, she was being helped up off the floor by Deacon Jones. "Clarice you okay?" he asked her. 
     "I'm fine." She said, not really sure if she was.  "What happened?" 
     Deacon Jones was a farmer and although he had his Sunday best on, Clarice had noticed how rough and calloused his hands were against her soft skin. The gentleman had a tight grip on her arm and would not let go until Clarice was seated again in the pew. "Looks like we had some kind of storm is all. Big wind. Didn't do much damage though." Finally he let go of her arm and nodded at her. "You sure you're okay?" He asked her one more time. 
     "Oh, I'm fine! Thank you!" And the Deacon walked over to Mrs. Parson's across the way who was just getting to her feet.  Clarice rubbed her arm a little where the Deacon had grabbed her and though it ached from his grip she was glad she hadn't said anything. It appeared everyone had been knocked to the floor in the storm.  But, Clarice had a feeling this was no ordinary storm. Something didn't settle right about it and over the next ten years lots of strange happenings occurred that she had always felt was tied to what happened in that little church that day.  For instance, many of the parishioners stopped going to church and moved away from that little town.  Now, there weren't that many to begin with mind you, but out of the handful, there were only six of them left, including the preacher.  Deacon Jones, Mrs. Parsons, herself, the Preacher, Annabelle Hollander, the piano player and her husband Ronald that taught the adult Sunday school class every Sunday morning before church.  The rest of the parishioners were only a handful, that wandered in and out over the last several years.  
     But, the steady six came to church every Sunday and played the game. Clarice found it easy to come up with new recipes while she sat at the back of the church handing out candy to the children. Even though she was 82 years old now, she still managed to get around pretty good as did Mrs. Parsons. She was the other candy lady and probably had a lot of recipes in her head during the sermons too, Clarice thought to herself.  Deacon Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Hollander did their duty, but Clarice found out some years later that Annabelle was known to keep company with a variety of different men while Mr. Hollander was out of town (with his secretary in tow, of course).  And even the Preacher was seen coming and going at all times of the night from the Hollander's home.  But, people still came, they just never stayed long. And ten years passed pretty quickly it seemed, and still the same kinds of things were going on.  The Preacher, shook his head and looked visibly nervous as the Devil walked up to him and looked him in the eye.
   
"Are these the souls you promised me Malcolm?" The devil asked, pointing towards the congregation.
"Yes, these are them! Take them all!" Malcolm had no shame about him handing over his congregation to this evil. Suddenly there was a lot of screaming and the Devil walked down into the congregation and put his eyes on Mrs. Hammond. And without even touching her he made her levitate from the pew she was sitting in. "No, no! Not me!" she yelled. Take him and she pointed to Deacon Jones. "He's a better choice! Just look at him, doesn't he look like a Godly man to you?" Clarice was desperate and only felt a twinge of guilt about pointing the finger at that nice Deacon Jones.  Quickly the Devil swung his attention towards the Deacon and Clarice dropped to the ground like a rag doll.  Relieved, she was determined she would get herself up and run out those double doors.  But, that process would take her more than a few moments because of her age and frailty.  And wouldn't she be disappointed when she got to those doors only to find them sealed shut.  
     The Devil now had Deacon Jones levitating against a wall and when Clarice got up she noticed that Mr. and Mrs. Hollander were levitating beside him.  The preacher had come down from the platform and was standing in the aisle in front of Clarice and the Devil was right behind him breathing what looked like fire. Clarice wasn't sure, but it sure looked like fire and this would be confirmed in just a moment when those flames shot from his mouth onto the Milton family that sat in the row in front of her.  Clarice could not believe it. Little Johnny Milton, 3 years old, standing on the pew by his mama Mary, who both just burst into flames and Clarice didn't know who was screaming louder, little Johnny or Mary. Bob Milton the daddy grabbed his 7 year old son Jacob and tried to turn around and run out of the other side of the pew, but within seconds the Devil shot flames like darts on both of them and they were screaming and writhing with the rest of their family and burning. It all lasted about 9 or 10 minutes Clarice was thinking, before they finally just succumb to the flames and then it was quiet again. He walked around the church incinerating everyone except the one's that were plastered up against that wall and Clarice and the Preacher.  After they were the only one's left it got quiet again.  Too quiet. No one wanted to move or say anything.  Then the Devil looked back at Clarice and his red laser eyes felt as though they were boring a hole through her soul.  Finally, she felt herself being lifted again. As she was dangling there, scared for her life, she felt a hard punch in her chest and then against her back and realized she had been thrown against the wall along with the preacher, the deacon, the piano player, the Sunday school teacher and Mrs. Parsons.  
     And as they dangled at the mercy of the Devil, they watched as he destroyed the remaining attendees with fire.  The stench of burnt flesh was overwhelming, but Clarice and the rest of the survivors hanging on the wall, were feeling the dread of their impending doom and to their surprise the Devil lowered each of them to the ground and as they stood, shaking and watching he paced in front of them smiling and laughing. Evil oozed from him and his laugh shook the walls of the church.  "Well done, my good and faithful servants!" He thundered.
     The Preacher, with a shaky voice asked, "What are you going to do with us now?"
     And the Devil replied..."I'll be back in ten years. Keep doing what your doing. You, the Deacon, Mrs. Parson, Mrs. Hammond, Mr. and Mrs. Hollander, you have done a fantastic job! Not one of you have prayed or picked up a bible. (Well, with the intent of reading or teaching anyone). You all have kept a lot of people from the gates of Heaven and now you are promised an eternity with me in Hell!" And the Devil let out a roar like a lion followed by a laugh. "Maybe, I will come a little sooner for you than ten years, eh? Hahahaa!"He bellowed! He then levitated about two feet off the ground and started spinning. He was spinning so fast it was causing a big wind to stir up and the faster he spun, a black cloud started rising from the ground up and encompassed him. Soon everyone realized he was disintegrating into the smoke. And when his form was no longer seen, the black cloud blew ferociously through the church, knocking pews over and pictures off walls, and then it just suddenly stopped. And they all just looked at each other, frozen and stiff with shock and fear.
     "Ron, you and Deacon Jones help me get these pews picked up." The Preacher said to Mr. Hollander.  And the ladies went through and started picking up bibles and choir books and together they straightened the church.  They barely spoke and then the Preacher gathered them together and said, "I think we need to change some things around here." And they all shook their head and agreed.  And the Preacher began to pray. "Heavenly Father, we know we have sinned Lord and we ask that you forgive us! All these years we have been coming here complacent and pretending to do your work when really we were not doing your work. We were doing the work of the Devil. Lord we are through pretending and we promise from here on out we will do whatever we can to draw people to you and make sure they get to Heaven. " And with that the Preacher said, "Amen!" And they all began crying and hugging each other and started feeling a little better. And as they were gathering their things to leave suddenly the building started shaking and they felt the floor moving beneath them. Clarice grabbed hold of a pew and watched beneath her as the floor and the ground started giving way and crumbling. The Preacher grabbed hold of a pew as well and as the floor and ground continued to cave beneath them, they felt heat rising from below. And they heard that unmistakable laugh of the Devil thundering through the  building and Clarice watched as Deacon Jones lost his grip on the Pew beside her and fell into the lake of fire beneath her, screaming and writhing as his arms and legs melted into the fiery flood. "Why?" she screamed. "Why?" and the Devil roared in laughter and said, "All these years you claimed to work for God, you actually worked for me. Now, you made a commitment to God and so I am taking you with me before you can fulfill it! How does that saying go? Oh yeah, your damned if you do and your damned if you don't! Ha ha ha ha!" and Clarice lost her grip and fell with the others into the fiery lake  below.
     






     
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Written by RubyPond

River of Disregard

My tears, a stream through turbulent waters

unnoticed in the rapids released

seems there's always a river raging

in the path of your bitter release

I drown, wedged between rocks of stone

hardened slabs that holds your heart

my anchor sinks and pulls me under

my self esteem from soul did part

These seas of sorrow weigh me down

and I watch you, your demons to slay

helpless, I am too far gone

as you continue on your merry way

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Written by RubyPond
River of Disregard
My tears, a stream through turbulent waters
unnoticed in the rapids released
seems there's always a river raging
in the path of your bitter release

I drown, wedged between rocks of stone
hardened slabs that holds your heart
my anchor sinks and pulls me under
my self esteem from soul did part

These seas of sorrow weigh me down
and I watch you, your demons to slay
helpless, I am too far gone
as you continue on your merry way
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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Island of Paradise

This, my island of paradise

Wrapped in sand and salty sea

My solace found in clear blue sky

The ocean sounds will comfort me

The patchy clouds above my head

white as snow they pass me fast

they threaten not a rain to dread

a promised pleasured day to last

I give my thoughts to phantom breeze

My worries afloat in current

I fret not the journey of angst released

My time alone, better spent

I drift the surface and softly sway

the clear blue water washes me

I find my peace and rest today

as I bask in this tranquility

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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Island of Paradise
This, my island of paradise
Wrapped in sand and salty sea
My solace found in clear blue sky
The ocean sounds will comfort me

The patchy clouds above my head
white as snow they pass me fast
they threaten not a rain to dread
a promised pleasured day to last

I give my thoughts to phantom breeze
My worries afloat in current
I fret not the journey of angst released
My time alone, better spent

I drift the surface and softly sway
the clear blue water washes me
I find my peace and rest today
as I bask in this tranquility
10
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Juice
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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Damaged Goods/Lost Cause

Filtered through a protective case

 awkward stiff, her odd embrace

stand offish, cold hearted chat

never know quite where she's at

this damage deep, concrete engraved

'neath slabs of steal her feelings slaved

swept off her feet with stolen whims 

ideals of love and promised gems

a cherished dream once crushed and broken

her back much stronger than love awoken

this fated plot in life is dug

walk on by, ignore the tug

for you'll not succeed to break that ground

lost there forever, with no rebound

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Written by RubyPond in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Damaged Goods/Lost Cause
Filtered through a protective case
 awkward stiff, her odd embrace
stand offish, cold hearted chat
never know quite where she's at
this damage deep, concrete engraved
'neath slabs of steal her feelings slaved
swept off her feet with stolen whims 
ideals of love and promised gems
a cherished dream once crushed and broken
her back much stronger than love awoken
this fated plot in life is dug
walk on by, ignore the tug
for you'll not succeed to break that ground
lost there forever, with no rebound
#dontshare 
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