The Iron Writer Challenge #153
2016 Spring Open Challenge #1
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A Bride or Groom left alone at the altar
An old, unused railroad water tower
An old scar
A broken ceramic bowl
M. D. Pitman
Normally the wind blowing in her hair would have felt good if she wasn’t leaving trying to leave the pain inflicted upon her in the little country church. It was at that altar where her life was to change forever. And it did. “Never again,” she promised herself before she took off toward an old water tower.
The wedding was to be small and quaint to consummate her second chance at love. Actually, their second chance at love as her groom-to-be too had loved but was left – though it wasn’t at the altar like her. A few dozen guests peppered each side of the aisle to see the couple begin their new lives after their old ones crumbled.
She didn’t know why her fiancé hadn’t showed up on their wedding day. Thoughts raced.
“Did he wreck?”
“Is he in the hospital?”
“Is he sick?”
But her last thought felt like the truth: “Did he have second thoughts?”
As that thought formed, the church bells chimed. It was 6 o’clock. The sun began to set and a celestial luster shone through the stained-glass replica window of Notre Dame’s rose window creating the perfect light for an indelible memory.
This memory was not what she wanted, but the memory has already been seared into her mind.
Tears turned into anger when his best man showed her the text message: “Something came up.” Those three words ripped open her yet-to-be-fully healed damaged heart. It was a different church, a new dress, but the same rejection.
A few moments, maybe it was minutes or longer, was spent staring at those three words on his best man’s cellphone. Three words she’d never forget. Her concentration was interrupted by the best man cautiously freeing his phone from her white-knuckled, tightening grip.
Her mind when blank but she remembered the hatred, slapping arms of guests trying to console her, and blurry flashes of ripped wrapping paper and flying gifts. As fast as she tore through the packages, she stopped just as fast when she came across a ceramic bowl. It had their names engraved on it with today’s date. Then a guttural high-pithed screaming roar erupted from her small-framed body before hurling the bowl against the wall. It smashed into dozens of pieces.
Then she collapsed exhausted.
The tears that once poured down her face had dried. Her emotions tapped.
Her bridesmaids helped her up as they attempted to console her newly re-damaged heart. They led her toward back to the altar, to the rear exit but she stopped right before the altar, collapsing on the first step.
She sat there, for hours, staring at the stained-glass window. She ignored all attempts of people trying to convince her to leave. A few of the guests were able to escort her out and into her maid of honor’s car. She sat in the passenger seat staring into the dusk of horizon. Flock of black birds crisscrossed the open country field that only contained an old water tower, close to where the grass met the sky. She contemplated life … and death.
G. L. Dearman
Dates do not exist in the camp. Today is today; there is no yesterday, no tomorrow. If only 5168 would learn that.
Spring has finally melted winter’s snows, turning the ground to ankle-deep muck. Plants, long hidden, emerge from the soil. Flowers rush to bloom and die before Siberia’s winter returns.
In Siberia, even warmth brings suffering — mosquitoes breed in the camp’s decrepit water tower. It still stands, though it is useless to the diesel trains that bring men here and leave empty. The mosquitoes gather in clouds thick enough to choke a man. They swarm us as we stand at attention on the soggy parade ground. 5168 smiles like a fool.
“The anniversary of my wedding day approaches,” he whispers in the soup line. “May thirty-first. I know by the thaw.”
I shake my head. “Today is today. May thirty-first doesn’t exist.” I learned when I first arrived. Commander Kozlov taught me. The scars he left on my back ensure I don’t forget.
“They arrested me moments before our wedding, but Vera will wait for me.”
A guard glares at him.
“No one waits,” I whisper. “Stop saying such things, 5168. You’ll get yourself killed.”
“I have a name,” he says. “Volodya. And yours?”
The guard slaps the ceramic bowl from 5168’s hand. It shatters on the wooden floor. The other prisoners laugh, glad for the distraction. I look away. The camp will not issue 5168 a new soup bowl. He must survive on bread alone now, or starve.
After yesterday’s beatings, 5168 cannot rise from our shared bunk this morning.
Kozlov bends over the broken man, a smile raising his fat jowls. “Tell me,” he says, “today’s date.”
5168 cannot open his eyes. Through bloodied lips, he whispers, “May thirty-first.”
I am fortunate Volodya died in the spring. I dig three feet down before striking soil too frozen to continue. In such a spacious grave, he shall sleep well.
I bury him facing west. When he arises on the day of judgment, he’ll have his back to Christ, but he’ll face his beloved Vera.
Around the brown patch of turned earth, new grass covers hundreds of low mounds. There is only one escape from this place.
As I return to the barracks, shovel in hand, an empty train rumbles out of camp. The new arrivals line the parade ground at sloppy, unpracticed attention.
Commander Kozlov waves me over.
“I am not a cruel man,” he says to the assembled men. They look to each other, doubtful. “You can make life in this camp easier on yourselves. Meet 1117, one of our hardest workers. He has learned how to stay out of trouble. You could all benefit by his example.”
I stare at my mud-encrusted boots. I can’t meet the eyes of the new prisoners.
“1117,” Kozlov says, “tell them today’s date.”
A name, long hidden, emerges from my memory. “My name is Yuri Maximovitch Dumanovsky.” I look into Kozlov’s watery eyes. He stiffens in impotent shock. “It is the first of June.”
“You may kiss the bride.”
“Wait, what? But Eve, we agreed that we wouldn’t-”
Eve ripped off the white paper mask covering Mark’s mouth, put her hands on the back of his head, and pulled him into a kiss.
Mark jerked away.
“I’m sorry, mark. I needed to kiss you. Just once.”
“Eve,” Mark whispered, his eyes welling up with tears. He turned and ran down the aisle.
“Mark!” Eve yelled after him.
Mark tripped one of the pews. His arms shot out to grab ahold of something as he knocked into a stand. The ceramic bowl of holy water on top of the stand fell off, shattering on the ground and sending it’s contents flying. Mark steadied himself and made for the door.
“Mark!” Eve yelled after him again as the door swung shut behind him
Others in the church whispered amongst each other. Eve hiked up her white dress and ran after Mark. Once outside, she put her hand over her eyes to shield them from the midday sun as she looked around, but Mark was nowhere to be seen.
The sun was setting as Eve walked up the old water tower Mark was standing under.
“What the Hell, Mark. You just left me at the altar!”
Mark was silent.
“Look, I understand your condition. I’m okay spending the rest of my life without any sort of physical contact because I love you,” Eve paused, “But I wanted one kiss. On our wedding day. That’s all I wanted. Just one kiss. You couldn’t give me that?”
“Eve, I’m not a germophobe. I don’t need this mask or these gloves. Eve…”
“If that’s not the problem, then what is it? Tell me. Please.”
“When I touch people, I see how they’re going to die.”
“You probably think I’m crazy. I don’t know how it happened, but I woke up one day with my back covered in scars and ever since then, I can’t touch anyone or I see their death. Look.”
Mark took off his tuxedo jacket and shirt to reveal an elaborate pattern of symbols and circles carved into his back.
“How could I ever look at you again when I know how you’re going to die? That image will haunt me for the rest of my life. How can I possibly-”
“Mark, look at me,” said Eve as she walked around in front of him.
Mark looked down at the ground.
“Mark. I believe you.”
“You’d be the first.”
“Well why shouldn’t I believe you? Mark, look at me.”
Eve grabbed Mark’s chin and pulled his face up. Their eyes met. A tear rolled down Mark’s cheek.
“I believe you. Besides…”
Eve leaned towards him until her lips where next to his ear. Mark grunted as a knife plunged into his stomach.
“Who do you think made you this way?”
The Dream Wedding
She is very nervous and very excited. It’s not every girl who gets to have the wedding of her dreams and she has been dreaming about this day for most of her life. It is an exciting, albeit a worrisome time, at the bride’s parents home. She is hopeful, as is any bride, that the day will go off without a hitch. Then it happened. Something went wrong.
The bride accidentally knocked a ceramic candy bowl off a small table and it fell to the floor and broke. Mortified by this, she ran from the room and into her bathroom, sobbing, hoping this was not some kind of omen. She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked down at her right wrist. With the fingers of her left hand, she gently touched an old scar on her wrist.
Her mother remembers the last time her daughter went through a bad break-up and almost lost her only child. She prayed it wasn’t happening again. Her mother pleaded with her to open the door.
After a few minutes, the soon-to-be-bride opened the door and let her mother in. Her mother is relieved that nothing had happened and they talked for a while. When the woman felt better, she once again wiped the tears from her face and then went to finish getting ready for the dream wedding.
As she rode to the church with her bridal party and parents in the stretch limousine they were going by the old water tower. As the limo got closer to the water tower she looked up at it and saw the words -I LOVE YOU! I’M SORRY! – painted in big green letters across the front of the tower. She hung her head and heaved a deep, sorrowful sigh.
When they arrived at the church, the bride stepped out of the limousine with her party and they walked into the large cathedral and into a room to wait and to take care of any last minute touches to hair and make-up. Then there was a knock at the door. The bride’s mother opened it and the best man is standing there. “Jim is running late.”
The bride turned her head and knew she is about to be left alone, at the altar. She asked to be alone for a few minutes and the bridal party, and her mother, left the room.
Sorrowfully, she pulled a small pen knife from her purse that they had planned on using to open cards with later on, and she touched it to her old scar.
As she lay there on the floor with her life draining from her body, her father had broken the door open and was in tears as he saw his little girl lying on the floor in a pool of blood. He rushed to her side.
She looked up at her father and very weakly asked, “Is he here?”
“He’s here, Darling,” the father replied. He lied.
She then smiled and asked, “I finally get the dream wedding?”
“Yes, Dear. You have your dream wedding.”
She smiled at her father and with her last breath, she whispered, “Thank you.”
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