The Iron Writer Challenge #202
2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #8
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)
A fairy tale
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Sunshine on My Face
She clambered out of the window, dropped to the ground, winced at the noise, and waited.
She ducked low, tiptoed to the car, and eased the door handle. Locked. She bit her lip and went towards the van. A branch crunched underfoot. She froze. After a moment, she slipped to the driver’s side. The keys must be in the house.
Nothing for it.
She wasn’t dressed for this kind of terrain. She hunched into her shirt, shivered against the icy wind, and started down the driveway, listening, listening. As soon as she rounded the curve, she moved into a run.
She fell, and fell again, and slowed to a walk. Breaking a leg wouldn’t help. But the line of orange in the distance meant she didn’t have much time. She got to the road, turned right and began jogging down the mountain, trying to follow the asphalt, but staying close to the ditches, just in case. It helped that a pink glow cast eerie shadows over the landscape.
The whole mountain was silent. The only sounds were her footsteps, her panting, and the rocks that skidded beneath her.
A crossroad. Which way?
It was almost sunrise, one of the most spectacular she’d seen in her life. A white fog on the low areas, a distant peak, and an orb of gold that bathed her face. It looked like the background for an animated fairy tale: so perfect, so bright. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the colors. The air was fresh and crisp with a faint whiff of pine.
It came to her, like a revelation: she loved her life. She loved life. Even with the bumps and the hiccups and the bills.
How could she have missed that? How could she have taken it all for granted? She felt a rush of gratitude for this moment, for this life, for this day, for the chance to breathe one more time.
A truck was coming from the right. Either her only hope or the worst thing she could do. She couldn’t decide, then stuck out her thumb.
It stopped. The driver leaned over, “You’re a long way from home.” His eyes were searching.
“I was on a date that went bad. I’m trying to get to Springfield.”
“I can take you to the first exit off the interstate.”
Just before she clambered in, she stuck her hands deep in her pockets, pulled out a folded paper, hesitated, and dumped the white powder in the dirt. She did it low, where he couldn’t see.
His radio was on. It took her a moment to recognize the tune, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?”
Shard the Beast
The sun was rising over Coldwater. With his feet dangling in the water from the pier, Shard looked at his reflection. It looked back at him. It was a hideous beast that peered from the rippling water. There was no wonder that others feared him, or if they knew him, just made fun of him.
Shard feared nothing.
Times were hard. Every available man was drafted to the war cause, and every resource was put towards the effort to keep the invaders out. Shard knew these people. He grew up sleeping his nights in the loft of Mr. Walter’s barn, but he felt the call to war just as any other. So, when Shard volunteered to wear the uniform, he felt there was no reason to be turned down.
Shard was wrong.
“We don’t need pigs in our infantry” the commander said to him.
And so, Shard farmed. And he chopped wood. And he put iron shoes on the hooves of horses. And nothing may have ever changed from that, except word had travelled that a girl had gone missing. The battlegrounds were pushed to the east, and her home was caught in the middle. Her father had sent his friend Walter word in desperation.
Walter knew of no able body to spare other than Shard. Walter raised Shard from a boy. Walter kept him fed and in the loft of his own barn. With years of farm labor, Walter made a man out of this beast. Now it was time for Shard to return the favor.
“I need to ask a favor” Walter spoke, but Shard could see nothing except for the blinding light of the morning sun.
Shard said nothing, but held a hand up to his forehead in an attempt to see more clearly.
“I need you to find a missing girl” Walter said.
“Yeah?” Shard asked.
“In the middle Andalusia” Walter explained.
“A girl? In the middle of a battlefield? To make me happy for the rest of my life?” Shard let go a belly laugh. “Why me?”
“Because I trust you.”
“And?” Shard pursued.
“And because there is no one else to send”, Walter replied.
“How could I find her?”
“The last anyone heard, she was at Blackheart Farms. You remember John we used to trade bulls with?” Walter asked.
“Looks just like him” Walter replied. “Well, except she’s a girl. Name’s Becky.”
“Why would I do this? No one ever trusted me.”
“John is offering a reward- a big one, a cabin and a piece of land at his farm if she is found safe. Besides, Shard, I’ve watched you become a man, like my own son.”
“Sons, don’t sleep in lofts. Sons help defend the land.”
“You can’t fight in the war son. Your blood is northern.”
“What nonsense is this?”
“You look like northerners because you are from the north- an instrument of war ever since you were brought here.”
“I am…” Shard voice trailed off across the water.
“You are one of the beasts we battle.”
A breeze blew ripples across the water leaving reflections distorted, but the anger distinctly clear.
A Fairy Tale Life
The morning sun shone through the bedroom window, warming Alexis’s face. Her lips curled up into a smile as she heard birds chirping outside. She slowly opened her eyes and stretched. She yawned as she sat up in bed and looked out of the window and stretched her arms out again. She slipped her feet into the slippers by the bed and walked out into the kitchen. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee wafted by her nose. She was glad she set the timer on the machine the night before so now she only has to pour the delicious black liquid into a cup and go out on the deck. She sat down at the patio table and just marveled at the beautiful colors that the morning sun has painted the sky.
This is her idea of a fairy tale. No princes, no princesses, no evil queens, no magic potions. This is her ideal fairy tale. Writing novels and living in a cabin on a hill surrounded by nothing but forest and a big, beautiful lake a few yards from her place. The morning sun danced off the water in the lake creating little white sparkles that seemed to twinkle like the stars in the night sky. Alexis purchased this cabin after the sale of her first novel and wrote her second successful novel here. This is her happiness; her happily ever after.
Like in all fairy tales though, she does have a conundrum. Alexis hasn’t written anything for her next novel yet and her deadline is fast approaching. She has read magazines, watched television shows, and movies to try and get some inspiration but nothing has struck her as gold yet. After breakfast, she went into her living room, sat down on her couch and turned the television on. A talk show was on and they showed a special proposal a man made to his fiancée and he said to her, “Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?” This revelation struck the woman because she was not expecting this. She was a part of the show under another pretense.
She said yes and the audience applauded. The couple hugged and then cried on each other’s shoulders. This moved Alexis and she suddenly had the inspiration she needed for her next novel. It would be a romance novel and it would have a surprise proposal in it. She poured herself another cup of coffee and sat down with her laptop and began typing away. This is the happy ending to her very own fairytale. This is what makes her happy; and it will for the rest of her life.
I sat there with her lying in my lap on the edge of the forest, watching the upper limb break the horizon.
On that night, with the drinks, the laughs, the fooling around and the amphetamines shared around the camp fire, forever warming our carefree hearts, I had a revelation. My mind, one moment wiped out with fun and wasted from the party came clear the next instant, and all seemed so elementary, so simple. Life became one flowing luminous spiral through the trap of time and I saw all. The uncaring, screaming creature that held the universe together was one with me, and we soured through a multitude of neutrons and protons in the dark matter soup.
Gone were my worries of not being able to get the rent together for next week, or fix the bike that seized up from lack of oil and funds, or stop the boys from smashing my kneecaps in due to not making the next payment on my amplifier. Gone were my troubles of dropping out of college, working in a supermarket stacking shelves and failing to keep up with the financial needs and desires of my last girlfriend.
But this girl, this girl… I felt the morning orange sun touch my face as it grew in sight, warming my cold skin and drying the cold dew which lay there. The sun stirred my heart, as she did. I could feel she was awake, eyes open.
“That’s nice,” she said. I stooped my head and kissed her on the cheek, feeling my lips caress her cool face.
“Yeah, baby, it is.”
“It feels like a fairy tale, like it’s not real somehow.” Her arms wrapped around my legs and she hugged them.
“None of it is. All we have is each other and nothing else.”
She sighed and we watched the movement of the sun, bringing fire to the earth and waking life once more. The shadows of the land, asleep in trees and hedges, stretched tall and long, running from their tormentor until they were finally caught and scurried back from whence they came. The fields of wheat and barley swayed this way and that as they grabbed what rays they could to escape the blanket of sleep.
“What will we do when we get back?” she asked. Her question meant nothing to me. There was nothing to go back to.
“Whatever we need to do,” I said, the words emanating from my mouth sounding strong and pure for once in my life. I knew what was to be done. And she felt it, lifting her head and meeting mine, kissing me. One look in her eyes told me all I wanted. She was the one.
“Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?” she asked, smiling and resting her head on my shoulder.
“Well baby, I’ll give it a shot, but if I can’t, I’ll die trying.” I kissed her as the final slither of sun ripped from the horizon.
The seed squiggled under the moist warm loam. A sharp stab from bitter chill air stilled its movements. The heat generated from decaying foliage blanketed the seed, pulled at the seed’s outer wall, entreating entry. The seed pushed deeper into the soft soil. This foreplay between the soil and seed was their intimate copulation ritual which they performed for days.
Then one day, the seed’s wall began to crack under the gentle passionate pressure. The fissure was tiny at first, but it was large enough to allow penetration by the nourishing peat’s breathe. The tiny plant inside the seed cowered in fear, as the strong musky scent kissed it, inviting physical contact.
The plant grew bolder and pushed against its walls, breaking the opening wider.. The earth whispered encouragement and enticed it by carrying life giving gases as it caressed the yellow-white flesh of its lover. An appendage stretched out of the shell, twisting slowly, brushing against the wispy fibers of lost life asking to return. Small hairs suckled at the threads, pulling the rest of itself down. The plant’s tip finds the dirt, its tip presses against it. Finally, they have found each other, that instant of touch sealing their fates, forever intertwining them.
The hairs branch out, growing, finding small tunnels, pushing into soft soil, penetrating deep. The root pushes deep into the ground, sending arm after arm out to hug the earth in order to draw into itself all which it needs. The soil gives all it has, it doesn’t mind, knowing the plant will return it in time. The plant digs deeper into the soil, the soil grabs hold of the plant, one taking, one waiting to take.
The plant reaches for more. It needs more. The earth knows it cannot give what the plant needs. It is too yellow, too weak. It has to find energy. The plant points its head towards the ground, refusing to seek out what it needs elsewhere. The soil consumes the loam faster, sending its friends out. The soil cannot help it more.
The plant’s body thinned, its coloring darkened, its flesh flaked. The earth sent a final burst of warmth. The plant lifted its head. Something strange pricked at its top. A new warmth, but also a coolness. A jolt of energy surged from the spot on its head towards its body and into its roots. The plant found the strength to stand straight. As it did, its head was bathed in a light. It raised its head opened up, showing full petals to a round red orb on the horizon. The plant knew now this was what it needed. The hunger it had flowed away, its body changed color as it grew stiffer. It opened its many arms in thankfulness to its savior. Its head followed the orb as it moved from red to orange to yellow to white and back again.
The plant’s roots tickled the earth in gratitude while it gazed upon the orb with a look which asked: Will you make me happy for the rest of my life?