Fiction Friday: A Shining Legacy

I pictured the last time I saw my daughter. I had only dropped Briana off at school a few hours ago, but the memory of it was already graying at the edges. The blur of her tiny hand waving goodbye, her body-rocking nod when I asked her if she was going to have a good day. All of it shrinking and falling further and further out of the reach of my mind.

I wondered how she would remember me. The disheveled mom with the messy upswept hair and breakfast-stained sweatshirt that rushed to get her there on time? Or would she remember the love that beamed from my eyes as our foreheads touched and I whispered Go be brilliant, my love like I did every day?

Another pop, more screams, and I lost sight of my daughter. Her beautiful face and knack for bubbling over with joy, sucked into the void of last memories. I could only hope they waited for me on the other side. And that there was, in fact, another side.

Another pop. It sounded nothing like in the movies. I was sure it had a lot to do with my proximity. And a lot to do with the fact that filmed gunfire heard through speakers and watched behind the safety of a screen was much less harrowing then through the walls of my cubicle. Much easier to handle without the pain-filled, fear-soaked screams of my co-workers.

I pulled my knees deeper into my chest and scooted further under my desk. The veneer covered particle board pressed into my spine, reminding me that at least I was still alive. In the next breath, a sob swelled in my throat for the co-workers who couldn’t say the same.

I didn’t know much about this gunman, except that up until a week ago he was my co-worker, too. I wondered if it would’ve made a difference if I had known more about him. His favorite television show. His favorite movie. If he was married. If he had children.

Briana. Her sweet face hurtled through the vortex of despair and sat smiling in front of me once again. I wanted to reach out and rub her chubby cheek. To tell her one more time how much I loved her. As the impossibility of it nailed itself into my heart, another image pierced the surface. One that trickled through every pore, dug right into my marrow, and flooded me with a sudden calm.

Briana’s eyes, bright and focused. They were the same every time our foreheads touched and I asked her to shine. In fact, it was always her most attentive time. It struck me now that for her, they weren’t just words. That she got it. And through this realization, I knew she would be all right. That she would spend her life striving to be brilliant. And no matter what happened here, that was all I needed. 

Fiction Friday: The Girl With the Gift

[My apologies for the lack of Fiction Friday lately. But I'm back! A special thanks to my friend Melody for telling me about her crazy dream that served as the initial inspiration for this piece. Enjoy!]

Keeping secrets was all I knew. As natural as breathing. Such was the price to pay when born extraordinary in an ordinary world. Before my grandmother passed away, she made me promise to guard my secret, no matter the cost. But even as I promise passed from my lips, a certainty swelled within me. I knew that one day, I would break it.

The world was ending. It was obvious. But apparently, only to me. Trying to show my friends what I saw was met with confused looks and nervous snickers, followed by a mass exodus from my life. Consequence number one of people finding out the truth according to granny. 

Be prepared to live a life of solitude and harsh judgement.

Despite what I saw, the world continued to thrum along all around me. Clueless commuters and tourists meandered through the park on, what they believed to be, a beautiful day. A red-faced man knocked into me without apology, too caught up with yelling into his cell phone. I wondered if he would still be such an ass if he knew that this was the beginning of the end. Would whatever had him steaming mad be worth it?

Gazing up at the sky, my breath hitched at the sight of how much the tear had grown. It was like a frustrated artist took a giant knife and jammed it into the canvas of our world, starting deep in the heavens and dragging it toward earth. The slit between our world and whatever lay beyond glowed in the purest white.

My lungs filled with electrified air. My chest heaved. But I stopped myself short of screaming: Look! Run! Save yourselves!

I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t some tin foil hat wearing doomsday conspiracy theorist. I was just a girl with a gift. A girl whose main worry a week ago was whether or not Billy Ortiz was going to ask me to prom. And now, it was hard to believe that I’d ever cared about something as inconsequential as a dance. There would be no prom. Hell, soon enough, there might not be a Billy.

Or a me.  

I felt a tingling at the nape of my neck and I knew the time was near. It always started this way. Soft, almost comforting.

The brilliant slash had reached earth and disappeared along the horizon. I watched in horror as a blackish gray dot mutated into a long, skinny tendril. It unfurled from within the glow and entered into our world. Smaller tendrils sprung from its tip. As the terrifying appendage reached toward the ground, I heard the first screams.

The tingling in me grew and morphed into a pounding pulse that wracked my entire body. My abilities weren’t limited to just seeing what others couldn’t. I was gifted with a wide array of gifts. Each one important, according to granny, in fulfilling my ultimate purpose: to save the world.

Fiction Friday: Leonard's Blind Date

Leonard didn’t like poetry. Hated reading in general. But he knew better than to say so since responses fell into one of two categories: pity or disgust. He would fare better if he didn’t own a television or was gluten free. So, he kept his mouth shut. It was this lack of sharing that had led him to this moment.

“You’re going to love her,” his sister insisted. “She’s smart and funny. Cute. And she’s a poet.”

She rolled poet off her tongue like it was bubbles or candy or unicorns. But Leonard felt the sharp edges of the word striking through every nerve in his body. The instant dread sent his mind grasping too quickly at excuses, mushing them together and leaving him unable to form a single, cohesive argument against it.

Now, as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his blind date tried in earnest to dust away some of the awkwardness between them.

“So, Kelly tells me you work in corporate sales?”

Leonard flipped his fork over a couple times and nodded. He knew social norms required him to respond with: And she tells me you’re a poet. But the thought made his fingers curl around the fork handle and he had to will himself not to it jam in his eye.


There was an underlying plea in Juliet’s tone. For him to respond with actual words or to even send a glance her way. The problem was that his sister was right. Juliet was cute.

But the future he imagined with her was bleak. A never ending carousel of feigning interest in words she slapped together in the name of art. Why couldn’t she have chosen a life as a dentist? Or a barista?

Thankfully, the waiter arrived to take their orders. Juliet lit up at the opportunity to really talk to someone. The comfortable Juliet was light and funny and the waiter genuinely laughed at her clever banter.

Leonard knew he should appreciate this. The real her. But he also knew he couldn’t. For as long as he could remember, he fixated on things. Too many times it led to him being alone. Snorts when she laughs? No thanks. Inserts ums between every word? Nope. Yammers on and on about whatever book she’s reading? Uh-uh.

And it wasn’t like he was such a catch. Leonard wasn’t foolish enough to think that. Clearly his social skills needed a complete overhaul. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. He was ruthless at his job and grew more isolated every day in his personal life. Evenings consisted of getting food delivered and watching television. It was no wonder he didn’t know how to talk to people. How to make them comfortable. How to give them a chance.

The waiter took their menus and a tortuous silence fell over the table again. Leonard swore he could feel the heat generated from Juliet’s mind working overtime on what to say next. With her gaze focused absently out the window, he found himself staring at her. She gnawed at her lower lip and her furrowed brow twitched every once in a while. No doubt the manifestation of an idea of what to say being shot down. The passing headlights lit up her eyes and despite the intensity in her face, Leonard couldn’t overlook her softness.

It triggered something in him. A lightness. An understanding. His sister was one of the only people in the world he trusted. And one of the smartest. She had to have known what she was doing when she arranged this date. She didn’t need him to tell her about his aversion to poetry. That was the kind of thing she just knew. Just like how she probably knew the path his life was heading down was a lonely one.

Juliet’s poetry wasn’t what was ruining the date. Or what made him believe her to be undateable. Reality socked Leonard right in the jaw. Shocking and painful and difficult to accept, but ultimately undeniable. So, he cleared his throat, drawing her attention. The hope in her eyes scared him, but there was no turning back. Instead, Leonard took a moment to toe the edge before taking a giant leap into what he hoped to be a new life. A new Leonard.

 “So, Kelly tells me you’re a poet.” 

Fiction Friday: [Salvaging for Hope]

Despite living with a rowdy crew and the staleness of its recycled air, it was docking that Shapiro hated the most. The Vulture was an old girl, decommissioned before he was born. The odds of her dock being compatible with another ship was slim to none. The seesawing to make it work always left a queasy pit in his stomach. He learned the hard way not to look out the window. The lurching sent the stars dancing in non-rhythmic streaks and sent his head swirling. Shapiro wasn’t built to be a salvager. But life loved to throw curveballs.

As a civil engineer on Pis Aller Colony II, he spent his entire career at a desk. He worked hard to create a world that was not only functional, but beautiful. But, as with anything involving human nature, there were those who disagreed. A faction of underground rebels made it clear they weren’t happy with the government’s vision for one of the last remaining colonies. From stolen equipment to strategically placed bombs, setting work back for months, their presence had everyone on edge.

Shapiro stayed out of his colleague’s conspiracy theory discussions, preferring to keep his head down and complete the work of making a better world for his wife and daughter. But, from the day Katerine and Mela were kidnapped, he regretted his lack of fraternization. Maybe if he had joined in, he would have realized his job put his family in danger. He would have realized he needed to take steps to ensure their safety. But he hadn’t. He failed them.

Worse, the faction was rumored to have fled the colony soon after. Unconfirmed sightings of them off-planet was how Shapiro found his way onto the rusty, clunker known as The Vulture. If his family was out there, he would find them.

A loud, metallic clang filled the ship and vibrated under his feet. They had docked. Already suited up, Shapiro waited anxiously for the door to open. While the rest of the crew sought out items to gain them favor and bonuses, he set off for clues that could lead him to his family.

Debris peppered the floor and somewhere in the distance, water dripped. He swept his light over the rust-dripped walls and rivets until his beam caught something up ahead. Shapiro stopped in his tracks, confused. As the newbie, he was always sent the furthest from living quarters because quality personal effects fetched the highest trade value. But, up ahead, according to the plaque on the door, was the holy grail of salvagers…Captain’s Quarters. The civil engineer in him argued the implausibility of what he was seeing. The ridiculousness of a ship’s Captain hunkering down this deep in the belly of his ship. But he pushed those thoughts aside because he had work to do.

The door eased open with an ear piercing squawk. The room smelled of mold and metal, adding to the war already raging in Shapiro’s stomach. He zigzagged the light from wall to wall and along the floor. The room was waterlogged and everything in it was soaked in shades of black, gray, and brown. Then the light’s beam caught a flash of pink in the far corner. It was only a tiny peek, but in the den of drab it shined like a beacon.

Shapiro carefully sloshed his way across the room, kicking aside long-forgotten debris. Memories that had once meant something to someone, now disintegrating and floating in rust water. The closer he got, the more he worried that his OxyBreather was faulty. But common sense pointed him toward the truth.

The temperature on Pis Aller Colony II was a steady sixty-eight. Always. His daughter never left home without her favorite pink jacket. The one that was the same shade of pink peeking out from under the layers of dirt and water stains.

The combination of hope and fear shortened his breath. The addition of the heat from his tears threatened to fog his view as he reached his gloved hand toward the corner. The first tug sent something into the water heavy enough to splash the glass of his helmet, but Shapiro didn’t care. He tugged again at the fabric that could potentially spin his world into overdrive. This time it slid out with ease from its watery grave.

The zipper glinted under his light. The sleeves hung slack and heavy, dripping. His gasping cries echoed hollow in the helmet as he clutched the jacket to his chest.  

This find wouldn’t get him in his bosses favor or garner him a bonus, but to him, Shapiro had just salvaged the most valuable thing on the ship. 

Fiction Friday: [In the Shadow of the End]

Rachel watched her daughter run around the yard in awkward, drunken circles. The five-year-old’s arms and legs, already too long for her body, flailed out of control and added to her fun. Emma tossed her head back and the giggles flowed.

Rachel’s heart caught a tumultuous wave.

There was nothing more soothing, more perfect than the sound of her child in the throes of joy. But knowing what her life was to become cast a dark shadow. A shadow that dug deep into her as a mother, cracking her ribs apart and attacking the last vestiges of what had been their normal life.

It was the sudden silence that pulled her from her thoughts. The air grew cold in it. Jolting to attention, Rachel’s eyes fell into Emma’s, whose gangly arms were still raised a bit having stopped mid twirl. By the time she reached her mother, her face had morphed from curious to crumbled. Glassy eyes and quivering lip. It was a look that Rachel had dreaded.

Emma reached up and gently caressed her face and it was then that Rachel realized she was crying. Tears released without permission. Tears she had sworn never to shed in front of her daughter.  

Emma’s eyes held the question she didn’t know to ask. Rachel’s broken heart hung heavy with the answer she didn’t know how to give.

By the time she heard her husband drive up, Rachel had soothed her daughter. By the time her soon-to-be ex’s keys were in the door, Emma was already back to twirling with reckless abandon. 

Fiction Friday: At the Cliff's Edge

My legs dangled over the edge of the cliff. As far as I could see frothy peaks dotted the pulsing waters. Whispers skated on the wind all around me. I strained to hear them over the waves crashing below and the frenzied whip of my hair.

The sky, a marbled gray, vibrated with an angry energy and threatened to crack open. There was a connection. I was the sky. My exterior was merely the dam holding back everything I had held in for far too long. So much inside of me pounded against my sanity like the waves against the cliff. Relentless.

Sentences were impossible to make out, but the occasional word pushed its way through.


The words came softly, but pelted my skin like daggers. I had no illusion to why I was here. What I came to do. But the encouragement from familiar voices was a slap to the face. A chorus of the people I loved: my mom, my dad, my sister.

The wind picked up and snatched away my tears before they could travel down my cheeks. I stood up knowing that the wind would do most of the work. With my toes hung over the edge, I raised my arms, breathing in the salty spray of the water. So caught up in the moment, I barely even noticed the gust of wind that took me over.

With the ocean racing toward me, the voices screamed to be heard. Desperation and heartbreak underscored their need for me to hear the truth:

Don’t do it.

The words warmed me against the chill of the ocean. But clarity stung my heart. All I could be now was thankful that I had no time left for regret.  

Fiction Friday: [A Few Years]

Barton Marshall’s tooth slipped from its gummy pocket and hit the porcelain sink with an unceremonious clunk. Every sign he’d ignored before now took center stage in his mind. Releasing a long, sour sigh, he knew no matter how hard he tried, there was no denying that he’d been duped.

“You’re an old man,” he said to the reflection in the bathroom mirror. His eyes, nestled atop bulging dark folds, stared back and, through the fading steam, offered a wordless agreement. Lightning bolts of pain chimed in from his lower back with a “Here. Here”. His creaky joints extended the only audible notes of solidarity.

He shuffled his way out of the bathroom and into the sterile room he woke up in. Lifting his feet seemed like an inefficient use of the little energy he had left and his well-worn slippers scuffed across the tiled floor. Reaching the bed, he plopped down, allowing gravity to do most of the work.

Barton’s friends and family had begged him not to do it. But to him, they were overreacting. Back in the twenty-first century it wasn’t uncommon for people to donate blood for some extra cash. He’d even read about people going as far as donating their sperm. Their eggs. So what was a few years?

A few years.

When he woke up, he had a bad feeling, but chalked it up to post-surgery haze. And even though making it to the bathroom had been a chore, he swatted away the thought that they had taken more years than he had agreed to. Hours ago, he would have had the strength to fight. To allow his rage to run the show. But hours ago he was a twenty one year old with his whole life in front of him.

Staring at the spots on the back of his wrinkled, fleshy hand, he figured he must be somewhere north of eighty. The thought added eighty pounds of tired on top of his already exhausted, fragile frame. His head hit the pillow and his body softened atop the stiff mattress.

As his mind drifted and sleep wove its way through every part of his rapidly aged body, Barton hoped when he woke, he’d discover this had all been a nightmare. Or at the very least, that he had enough money to buy some of his years back.


Fiction Friday: [Table For One]

“Green tea latte with almond milk.”

This time—the third time—the barista’s voice cut through the air with an edge, meant to slice the person inconveniencing her with a dose of public shaming. Rodney Melliver knew the drink was his, but he couldn’t respond. Shoulders slumped forward and chin to chest, he realized there was a distinct possibility the tiny round table dappled in pastry crumbs might be the last thing he ever saw.

The first tingles danced up his arm while he stood in line, waiting to order the ridiculously overpriced drink everyone at work had talked about. He ignored it at the time because, as had been the case for the past several days, he found himself lost in the past. Memories flooded his mind without warning. Each one bringing him to his knees with shame and regret.

While in line, Rodney was in the midst of reliving his daughter’s birthday. Well, the last one he remembered and, more impressively, acknowledged. Two days past the day she was born, he got her a card and didn’t even bother putting it in the envelope. The freshly turned nine year old was on the couch watching television when he got home. He tossed the card next to her and mumbled happy birthday without breaking his stride to grab a beer from the fridge. Now, eleven years later, remorse had found him, demanding as much attention in the spotlight as the dull prickles traveling up and down his arm and the painful contractions in his chest.   

Rodney imagined himself outside of his body. An observer to his own pathetic state: slouched and alone. So alone that there wasn’t even an empty seat at the table for him to welcome potential company. Borrowed earlier by the fleshy-faced guy at the neighboring table. When he watched him carry it away and join his friends, Rodney was gut-punched with jealousy. It had become increasingly difficult for him to see what life could have been if he had only tried.

But he hadn’t. And here he was.

“Green tea latte with…you know what? Forget thi…”

The barista’s voice trailed off and darkness crowded the edges of Rodney’s vision, he hated that his last act before dying would be to add another person to the list of people he had angered.

As the sounds around him melted together into a tinny, echoey jumble, Rodney vowed that if he was given another chance, his life would be different. He would be better. Do better.

And he would definitely try the green tea latte with almond milk.