Tag Archives: choice

A Classic Tale

He both enjoyed seeing her and did not. Elation was there, but also retraction. He could not be fully himself with her, but more himself than he was elsewhere. Indeed, he lived a divided life. At court, he needed her presence and yet dreaded it. At war, he was thankful for her absence, but he also missed her.

 

The war ended abruptly. The heroes were honored. Traitors who had once sought refuge outside their native land were returned. Their tortured bodies dangled from the gallows, being finally granted relief. In his mind, the heroes fared no better than the traitors, only their pain was of the soul and of the heart. From these they had no respite.

 

He sat at the right hand of the king that first night back. His deeds were lauded. They claimed he had slain hundreds, that he had ended the war. He knew otherwise. He knew the exact number of men whose lives he stole, whose chances at love he took from them. He had looked into their eyes as his own were tinged with the red rage of battle. He had heard their last words, words that should have been spoken while lying old in bed…at peace.

Her voice brought him back from his somber speculation. He looked up. His joy shone through his eyes, but he only partly smiled. She poured him a glass of wine, spilling a few red drops unto the table around his goblet. She apologized and moved on.

 

He stole glances at her, ignoring his king as much as he could, deflecting the admiring comments of the king’s daughters as though they were blows in a battle, rough and sharp. Her blue gown stood out from the dull browns and flickering fire reds of the feast hall. She moved gracefully, yet with a vigor. A passion for life was obvious in the slight bounce of her walk, in the dancing of her hair, and in her very eyes. He laid his hands down and made ready to stand. He was going to approach her, admit his feelings, an act that took more courage than he had ever needed in battle.

 

Greasy, gelatinous animal fat covered the hand that grabbed his and raised it high. He heard his king proclaiming his name, then something about being an ambassador. His heart stopped. Then it sank. His determination turned to dread. He tried to smile, but it lost what mock sincerity it had when she looked at him and drew his eyes to hers. He steeled himself as the king bid him stand. He let one tear unsheath itself from his eye, allowing it to flee to the dirty floor below. Flight, retreat, escape, all things he could not do.

 

The morning after the next full moon came too quickly. He had talked with her some, but he never once confessed. He learned to treasure every moment with her, every sound of her voice. When she was gone, however, his thoughts always turned to his future and her place in it. Her place being one that he dearly wanted, that is, at his side, but he knew his new career was even more dangerous than his last. His enemy would no longer be in front of him, yelling and wielding shining weapons. His enemies would now be everywhere.  Nor did he want to take her with him into a place where even he, hero of the war, would not feel secure.

 

He looked down on her from his saddle. His robes were new, different from those of the warrior. He needed to look his part, but remain himself; a task more difficult than most would expect. But then she handed him a letter. They met eyes. He smiled and placed the letter next to his heart. Then, with a reverent bow, he left her behind. He laid his hand to that letter as he rode away, swearing that with it he would remain himself and that he would return for her.

Copyright 2013 by Joshua A. Spotts

 

 

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One Lonely Morning

(This is the story as I have it so far, written just this afternoon, and brought to you fresh from my warm keyboard. I plan on editing it down to under 1000 words and adding some things here and there. I hope you enjoy this early version and keep an eye out for the final version!
Sincerely, Joshua A. Spotts)

One Lonely Morning

By Joshua A. Spotts

Stanford Verfolgte straightened his bow tie. He looked past his smiling reflection in the mirror to a picture on his bookshelf. He reached one long fingered hand toward the picture and ran one clean finger down the glass. Dust covered his finger as he withdrew it and slammed the picture down. He heard the glass shatter. Turning on the heel of one of his polished dress shoes, Stanford Verfolgte marched from his room.

As he descended the stairs he pondered the dust on his finger. He thought about the picture. Hadn’t he thrown it away? After all, why would he keep it? It reminded him of…well, it was best not to dwell on such thoughts.

Grabbing his violin case from the glass cabinet in front of the kitchen door, Stanford called out, “Mother, I’m leaving now.”

No answer came from the depths of the kitchen. It was unusual. But Stanford decided not to venture it there. It was his mother’s territory and it was often too cluttered for his liking. As he switched the violin case from his left hand to his right he realized something was not right. There was dust of his hand where he had opened the cabinet. There was never dust on the cabinet.

The clock struck seven in the morning and the cuckoo bird came out and made its obnoxious sound. The house door slammed as Stanford Verfolgte left a dusty, empty house behind.

Stanford took his keychain out of his pocket and found the key to the family Cadillac. Holding it between his still dirty fingers he opened the garage door. It rattled as it ascended into the ceiling on rusty gears and wheels.

The young Mr. Verfolgte waited until the normal degree of rust and dust had fallen to the floor and then he entered the garage and flicked the light on. What he saw caused him to step back, dust clung the heels of his shoes. Mud plastered the fenders and lower sides of the black Cadillac. Stanford clenched his left fist together and stared at the Cadillac. He knew of only one person who would dirt the car. But that wasn’t a logical possibility, or so Stanford Verfolgte told himself.

Carefully opening the car door, Stanford brushed his hand across the driver’s seat to ensure that no dust would defile his suit when he sat down. Pushing the keys into the ignition, he settled into the driver’s seat, and put on his trim, black sunglasses. He turned the keys in the ignition. The car sputtered, growled, and stalled. Stanford glanced at the red, glowing clock in the car radio. 7:10.

An empty paint can clattered to the garage floor. The sound of a glass bottle shattering burst in through the Cadillac’s open windows. Stanford felt his heart racing. He sat perfectly still for a few minutes, listening to his heartbeat, feeling the beads of sweat on his forehead. His eyes widened behind his sunglasses. There was someone in the garage!

Stanford’s long fingers twisted the key forward. The car roared to life. It lurched into reverse gear and flew from the garage as Stanford’s foot crushed the gas pedal. Screeching out unto the road, Stanford threw the Cadillac into drive and sped off toward his school.

Pulling into the parking lot, Stanford Verfolgte wiped his sweaty forehead with a white handkerchief. Looking at the handkerchief, stained yellow with his sweat, Stanford tried to put the fears behind him. He tried to forget about the person in the garage, the mud on the Cadillac, and the dusty picture in his room. He wondered if he could ever forget. He wondered if the memories would persecute him forever. He wondered if the occurrences of earlier this morning were his memories coming to life. Or, perhaps, they were real. Perhaps he had returned. Stanford’s fingers trembled with the thought.

A car pulled into the parking lot. Stanford glanced up from staring at his shaking hands. He thought he recognized the car and fear wrapped its icy grip around his heart. He looked down at his floor, searching for something to defend himself with. The clock read 7:35.

The car stopped right beside his open window. “Hello, Stanford.”

Stanford swallowed, sighed, and looked up. It was only Mr. Bucciero, his music teacher. “Shouldn’t you be inside warming-up, Stan?”

Yes, the audition. “I’m a little nervous, sir.”

“That’s natural. I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Mr. Bucciero winked at his soon-to-be former student. “That scholarship is in the bag. Now get in there.”

Stanford Verfolgte willed his fingers to stop shaking as he grabbed his violin case and headed inside. He passed through the first set of iron double doors. They creaked from their overuse through the past school year.

Footsteps sounded in the hallway, muffled by the second set of double doors. Stanford stopped. He looked at the handles. They were covered in dust. His heart raced. He stepped back, clutching his clean violin case to his chest. Inside that case was the key to his future. A future his father had nearly destroyed. A future that Stanford feared his father would ruin again.

The footsteps stopped right behind the doors. A small amount of dust shook from the handles. Stanford gulped down his fear. His brows pulled together. He reached out, grabbed ahold of the dusty door handles and, not knowing what stood on the other side, threw open the doors.

A strange confronted Stanford. A man in a green suit stood but three feet away. Gone were the lopsided hat, the black jeans, and leather jacket that Stanford’s father always wore in his memories. “Hello, son.”

Stanford tightened his grip on the violin case. His heart beat as if he had just run a mile.

“Um…your mother,” his father began, “is away on a business trip, so I figured I should be here for you. No, well, I really just wanted to come say, well, you know, sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t around for you, you know, before. So, I’m here now, and I can see you don’t want me. I’ll…um…just leave and not bother you ever again. Good luck and I’m sorry.”

Stanford stood in shock for a moment as his dad walked past him. “No! Wait! Please stay…Dad.”

That morning, Stanford Verfolgte played his audition piece perfectly because, for him, it was no longer a lonely morning.

Copyright 2012 Joshua A. Spotts

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Silencing Stones

Silencing Stones

By Joshua A. Spotts

I have lost what was mine. I am a prisoner here where once I was a prince. I am but a whisper in this crowd of confusion. Terror has replaced joy. Hate has replaced love. I am only a thin container holding in an unfamiliar darkness.

I pray to the one ray of light in my lonely place hidden amidst the vastness of the world. I plead with it. “Save me!”

It never answers.

I plead with it. “Give me strength.”

It never answers.

I know it can hear me. I know because it eventually leaves me. And all things that leave me can hear me. I hate the light. It mocks me and I hate it. I can feel my container cracking as the light leaves now.

They are here now. I hear their feet invading my space and I am helpless to defend the darkness. Their shadows beat me to the ground. Their flickering lights whip my eyes. Their cruel voices burn my ears. I dig my fingernails into the stones beneath me and they cry out. “Stay silent, pet. Do not groan. Do not let them gain from your pain. We will take care of you. With us you are safe.”

I feel secure as I embrace the stones. They warm me. They comfort me. Amidst the burning babble of the invaders’ I hear my name. I ignore it as the stones speak to me. They pull me closer to them. I lay my cheek on their comforting warmth. Yes, this is where I belong. Here with the stones. I no longer need what I was. I no longer need to be a whisper. I no longer need to be a lord. I no longer need to find what I lost. I surrender myself to the rocks and their bewitching magic.

~

            “Where is he, Father?” The princess asked.

Her father just looked at her. His eyes were hollow. His mouth was full of turkey. Red wine ran like blood down the sides of the burnt animal before him. His spilled wine goblet rolled off the table and fell to the floor with a clatter that echoed throughout the dining hall.

“Where is he?” The princess screamed this time. Then they came. Those hooded men of the scroll entered the room. The princess whirled on them. She hated them. They had caused the hollow look in her father’s eyes.

“He, if you mean your brother, is resting, your highness.” The tallest of the hoods said.

“Is his fever gone?”

“No, my lady,” said the shortest of the hoods. He was the doctor. He was directly responsible for the care of the royal family.

“What have you done to him?”

They didn’t answer.

The princess looked at her father. He stared back at her with hollow eyes. He was like an animal, unaware of danger.

“My father went to you when he was weak with fever. This,” she gestured to him, “is how you returned him to us.”

“The fever is a terrible thing, your highness. It does things to men. We were lucky to maintain your Father’s life.”

“You call that life?” The princess pointed at her hollow eyed father again. Grabbing a knife from the table she waved it at the men. “If I find that your ‘cure’ has done anything to my brother, I shall have all of you burned alive in the grease of your own fat!”

Spinning, her red hair flowing out behind her like a cape, the princess marched away in the opposite direction of the men of the scroll. She had decided it was time for her to visit the Room of Stones to seek guidance.

~

            “The son?” The steam hissed and rose as it slithered along the floor.

A tall man answered. His black hair was oily and combed straight down to his shoulders. His dark eyes peered into the frosty mirror. “Worse than his father, my lord.”

“The daughter?” The voice came from within the mirror, as did the smoke. The ice spread across the floor and grabbed the tall man by the ankles. He tried to step away but the ice brought him down. A bone cracked. The cruel sound echoed and the voice laughed.

The ice crawled over the man. It sucked him down until he lay flat on the stone floor. It formed a coffin over him. His breathing became shallow. The sweat on his forehead froze there, forming a false crown. The smoke slithered unto the ice coffin. The ice moved away from the man’s face like the tendons of some horrid monster.

“You shouldn’t have upset it, slave.” The voice hissed. Hot steam burned away the man’s false crown. “Now, tell me of the daughter.”

“She is still strong, my lord.”

“Excellent! Is she on her way?”

“I don’t know, my lord.”

“That’s too bad, slave.” The smoke receded into the mirror and the ice coffin covered the man’s face, shutting off his bone-chilling scream from the world.

~

            I dream. I dream of a room filled with pillars of stone. I dream of blood running along a cold marble floor. I dream of a girl of royal bearing. I dream of her dead. This is the dream the stones grant to me. It is their gift.

The dream changes as I watch. The girl, covered in blood, rises from the marble floor. I can hear every stone in that room crying out in pain. They want me to save her. They need me, but I cannot escape from my dark space.

There is some dark purpose behind her. It slithers along like a snake. Smoke and ice are its garments. The stones plead with me to save them. Their anguished sounds fill my ears. Their pain seethes through my veins as the red haired girl approaches a large stone in the center of the room. As she lays her hands on the stone, the dark purpose rushes in and consumes it. I hear the last cry of the stones before they are silenced forever.

The room collapses in on her. There is no roar as the stones fall. There is no crack as they smash into the marble floor. There is only silence, terrifying silence. As my dark space falls in on me and the darkness flees from my body, I would only ask one question. How can the decision of one girl cause so much devastation?

Here the stones come. They are silent. It is as if they are grieving as they bury me beneath them. I do so miss their voices.

Copyright 2012 Joshua A. Spotts

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Driuna and the Dragon

Driuna and the Dragon

A Short Story by Joshua A. Spotts

In a deep and long valley there was a village that was not as it appeared. The precise rows of houses, the brilliantly laid roads, the lovingly arranged gardens, and the gilding upon every door, all these things were masks. Even the people, those gorgeous boys and girls with their perfect bodies, were masks. Deep down, the soul of the town, underneath those perfect masks, was rotten. The people, constantly searching for imperfection, were blinded to themselves and each other. And so the hate and disgust of the entire village was turned upon one girl. All spurned her.

This wretch was named Driuna. She was, however, labeled by all the others as the “Plain Lass.”  She spent her days begging for food, which gave the townsfolk amusement. They cast pieces of moldy bread from their ornate windows and laughed as she groveled in the mud for those rare morsels. When passing her on the street those perfectly formed people would kick her to one side.

Driuna, patient behind her pallor, allowed them their amusement as she grew strong in knowledge, stronger even than those who called themselves wise in distant lands. At night she left the city and wandered about in the woods, examining and gaining knowledge of all sorts of plants, befriending the animals. She loved being surrounded by all those green crowned trees while dangling her feet in clear, blue water.

It was a stormy day when, high above the village, flashes of lightning and fire flared across the darkened sky. Driuna watched with mild amusement as the lightening crackled horizontally across the dark amidst plumes of fire. All the townsfolk fled inside. Driuna was left outside in that pouring, rushing rain, but she really did not mind it. A great blast of fire burned the darkness and single bolt of lightning careened slowly down into the woods. There its light died. The fire vanished over the northern mountains.

Rising from her meager bench, her one possession, Driuna crept from the town boundaries, hurrying into the woods. The storm was clearing quickly overhead and the curious townsfolk came out, they began to blame and curse Driuna for the storm, which had caused several buildings to become ash. Driuna paid no attention to their shouts, feeling the storm-kissed wind blow through her brown hair and across her skin. Running through the woods a laugh broke free, she loved the woods; she loved existence after the beautiful terror of a storm. She watched all the life around her and her laugh was considered beautiful by the host of creatures she had befriended.

The woods held its breath as she approached the scarred place where the lightning had fallen. The trees were scorched and a crater was carved from what was once a gentle green bed of peaceful grass. Chaos had intruded upon the tranquil complexity of Driuna’s wood. That which she found in the chaos-formed crater was terrible and beautiful at the same time. It was a silver scaled dragon, a thing hated by all humans, when it should be loved, for its beauty is far greater than many things. Blood ran from a large wound in its underbelly. Driuna returned into the forest and gather mounds of herbs, she boiled some in a nearby hot spring and crushed others between rocks. Slipping down into the pit she began to apply the mixtures she had made, the dragon awoke and snarled. Driuna continued her work. The magnificent creature felt her care and trusted her.

In three days the dragon was healed and she pulled herself from the crater with Driuna on her back. Driuna got off and stood before the creature. The eyes of the magnificent creature observed its tiny healer. “I thank you for your deed. I am in your debt. If there is anything you want, take it now.”

Druida stood for a while, silent. Not even the woods creaked, no animal called out, no bird sang, everything waited on her answer. She had the power to obliterate the entire village which had been so cruel to her. She held the lives, nay, even the beauty of those people in her scarred, thorn-pricked hands. The wind swirled about her, awaiting her decision. The dragon did not move a muscle. It was as if time had stopped as she pondered whether or not to exact revenge. She realized that true beauty was not external but internal. She realized that beneath her plain, base body, there was a heart and a soul that were exceedingly beautiful. She looked up into the dragon’s eyes and said. “No, I need nothing.”

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