How To Find What You Came Here For

Welcome to the worlds that populate my brain!
The short stories you find here are the product
of a vastly overactive imagination
powered by coffee and M&Ms.

Monday, October 28, 2013

All Sewn Up

Three days to Halloween, four women dead, a killer on the loose, and she was wandering around a quilt show.

Breena shifted her purse and looked around for her sister while she dug out her cell phone.  She still had interviews to read from the latest murder and Kelly was nowhere to be found. 

Eyes still scanning the artificial hallways created by yards and yards of colorful fabric, she dialed her sister’s cell number and started walking toward the featured artist’s quilts on a low stage near the entrance.  The ringing in her ear wasn’t matched by a ring echoing through the hushed space.

Breena frowned and waited for her Kelly’s voice to finish asking her to leave a message.

“Yeah, Kelly.  I can’t find you, and I’ve got to get back to work.  Meet me next to the stage, would ya?”  She knew her voice was annoyed, and she didn’t care.  She was annoyed, damn it.  Kelly had promised they’d only stay an hour, and it had nearly been two.

They’d stopped at the display when they’d arrived, and Kelly had gushed about the designer.

“He’s so talented!  Everything he does is completely unique!”

Breena wasn’t sure what the big deal was – it all looked like a bunch of children’s building blocks sewn together to her.  A price tag caught her trained eye as she passed a large quilt made entirely of sharp points in various shades of blue.  Four hundred dollars for a blanket she’d be terrified to use.  No thank you, she thought, and kept going.

When her phone vibrated against her hip, Breena stopped to check the text message coming through.  The crime scene report was back.

She sighed and looked up, frustrated.

The display ahead of her swam into focus. 


All of the quilts looked like eyes to her. 

Mildly creeped out, she stepped back and took another look.

Definitely eyes, somehow familiar.  Breena lowered her phone and stared hard at the quilts, trying to focus on the elusive memory they triggered.  She scanned all five quilts one by one, before stopping on the last one.

Kelly’s eyes.  The last quilt was Kelly’s eyes, and the rest matched the eyes of the four women in the morgue.

Breena staggered, her breath whistling out in fear as she reached for her phone, desperate to hear her sister’s voice.

This post is my response to a prompt from Write On Edge to write a Halloween story in 400 words or less.  It was inspired by a friend on Facebook who designs quilts, but is not a serial killer.  At least as far as I know, at any rate!  Thank you for stopping by and let me know what you think in the comments!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


A chill wind whipped around the walls of the inner keep, biting to the bone and making the guard on duty dream of a warming fire and a willing woman.  He didn’t see the shadow that flowed across the upper bailey, merging with the deeper pockets of darkness.

"Shadows" by Sharyn Yee
The guard inside the huge doors of the keep didn’t have the distraction of the wind and cold.  He snapped to attention as the young woman passed, shivering as her icy blue eyes passed over, then through him.

Once inside the great room beyond the heavy doors, the noise of a busy household preparing for a late meal swelled and pulsed.  The rhythm of connected lives flowed around the slim form with barely a ripple,

“Oy my girl, you lost?” The friendly voice matched the baked-apple face and round, stubby body it came from. 

The girl shook her head, and gave the woman a small smile before looking out over the bustle of the great room again.

“Well, I’m Mrs. Joyce, and I been over the household here at McLennan Keep for near twenty years now – ever since Lady McLennan was lost to us.  I know every soul here, but yours.”

When clear blue eyes flicked to hers, Mrs. Joyce felt the power in that gaze and nodded.  “Every soul.  Every soul ‘cept yours, ‘cause you don’t have one.”  She patted the arm that had gone stiff and icy cold.  “Be still, my gir…my dear.  I know what you be, and why you be here tonight.  The McLennan is above the stairs, and I think he’ll be glad of the company.”

Tipping her head in the direction of the stone stairs, the housekeeper forced her eyes up to meet the woman’s.  “I’ll show you the way, though I’ve no doubt you could find it with no help from me.”

Those clear eyes warmed and a slight smile tilted the corners of full lips.  Mrs. Joyce watched the fire of her hair glint as the woman nodded and followed her across the room, silent and graceful.  None stopped her, spoke to her, or showed by act or expression that they were aware of a stranger gliding through their midst.  The black of her dress and the lace cuffs and collar seemed to absorb the light without reflecting any back, pulling what shadows were in the room to her like a cloak.

At the top of the stairs, Mrs. Joyce pushed open a door and stepped into a chamber hung with heavy tapestries and dominated by an elaborately carved bed.  The frail man who occupied it slept, dwarfed by the size and weight of a bed that appeared to have outgrown him.

“Laird McLennan?”  Mrs. Joyce called him name gently, a hand on his thin shoulder.  A frown creased his well-wrinkled forehead, and he turned his head away without opening his eyes.

“Laird McLennan, you have a visitor.”  She leaned down closer, her voice soft with pity, “I know you’ve pain, Laird, but you’ll want to wake for this visitor.  She’s come special to see you.”

His face turned back to hers, brown eyes gone to muddy gray with age and pain meeting hers.  For the first time since he’d been struck with this final sickness, she saw hope reflected there.  She stepped back and let his gaze travel to the silent woman at the foot of the bed.


Mrs. Joyce started at the name of the McLennan’s wife, gone twenty years now, and wondered if the cursed illness had at last stolen the proud man’s mind as well as his body.

Before she could speak, the woman looked back over her shoulder and touched a finger to her lips with another small smile.

“Aye, Fergus my love.  I’ve come to sing for you.”  She sat on the edge of the bed and took his thin fingers in hers.

As the woman’s voice rose in song, Mrs. Joyce watched the lines that pain had etched fade from the Laird’s face and his eyes clear.  There were no words that she could hear, but peace and comfort rode in every note, and she realized that the normal babble of voices from the great room below had gone silent.

The last note trembled through the air, and the old man’s eyes closed on one last breath.

The housekeeper was standing in the doorway of the empty chamber when the laird’s son and his wife reached the top of the stairs.  A look at the tears on her face told them all they needed to know.

“We…we thought we heard singing,” the young man's voice was a question.

“Aye, Laird McLennan,” Mrs. Joyce nodded, letting the title drape over the old laird’s son like an unfamiliar cloak.  “The McLennan banshee never forgets, never fails.”

This post is my response to a project in which myself and several others wrote a story based on the picture you see above, created by the inestimable Sharyn Yee.  I've included the links to the other stories this picture prompted below - visit, comment, ENJOY!

"Redheads" By AmyBeth Inverness
"The Meeting" by James Yee
"Do Not Fear the Shadows" by Gwendolyn Wilkins

Friday, October 4, 2013


There's this phrase: "The eyes are the window to the souls."  Shakespeare gets most of the credit for it, although it was probably around since before Cicero orated against Cataline.  (Sorry, flashback to high school Latin class.  >>shiver<<)

That may be the case, but if you want insight into someone's life you have to look at...


Shoes tell the story of people's lives.  Of course, the problem is getting people to show you their shoes.

If you ask, people will bring out the shoes they're willing to show you (after they decide whether or not you're some kind of deviant).  You might see the pair of tennis shoes they wear on weekends, the heels they wear to go out, the sensible flats they wear to work.  

You won't see the other seven pairs of tennis shoes representing every exercise fad they tried...and failed.  

You won't see that pair of heels from the back of the closet.  The ones that look like an eight-year-old got hold of the toes with a Bedazzler.  The ones in that weird shade of green that doesn't match anything that anyone has in their closet.

You won't see the excessive pairs of footwear tucked away in carefully organized boxes - so many that there's no way to wear them all, and yet new pairs are still added regularly.

Not unless you enjoy a very close and intimate relationship - in which case, she's seen the good, the bad, and the oh-my-God ugly in your closet, too.

A mirror of life, that.

What happens when you ask a woman about her life? 

They bring out the acceptable parts.

"My son is in his second year of college."

"Bob got promoted last week.  We're so proud!"   

"My job is fine - I'm really challenged there."       

Those ugly green shoes are hidden away: "My son is failing  his second year of college, and I think he may be drinking."

The hoarding-level number of shoes stay in their boxes: "Bob's never home anymore, and I really hope it's because he got promoted and not because of the Barbie doll answering the office phones."

The failed tennis shoes cower in the darkness: "My boss keeps making horribly inappropriate sexual jokes at my expense, but the job market is so bad right now...I'm afraid to speak up or quit."    

If we're lucky, we have that one really good friend that helps us get our shoes under control, but those friends can be hard to find.

More often, we isolate ourselves.  Hiding the reality of our lives like we do the unfortunate shoes tucked away in our closet.

What made me think of this?  Last night, my husband and I participated in a staged reading of "The Serial Killer's Daughter" by Pat Riviere-Steel.  The book is a collection of poems related to serial killer Velma Barfield, and her daughter.

It's quite powerful - the story of a woman in her late 40's, a mother, a grandmother, a church-going woman who brought casseroles to potlucks...and also the woman who poisoned at least six people, possibly more.  I was struck by how much of Velma Barfield's life, and that of her family, was hidden from view.

I left work yesterday and went directly to the theater to get ready.  I dressed in a black suit with a tan silk blouse, and a pair of low, black heels.

This was the image I was presenting - a typical woman in slightly dressy clothes, wearing a little makeup, and reading poems.

After the reading, and the reception that followed, I gathered my things from the dressing room.  My dark gray uniform pants, light gray uniform shirt with the patch that spells out my name next to the patch that names the machine shop I work in.  Thick, white cotton socks tucked into dark brown, steel-toed work boots.

I looked up into the mirror, and I was suddenly struck by the dichotomy of the clothes I was wearing and the clothes I was holding.  Particularly the shoes.

For our audience, I am a woman who wears sensible black shoes with low heels.  For my co-workers, I am the woman who wears scuffed work boots that can take the abuse of a machine shop.  For my family, I am the woman who prefers no shoes at all.

Which one is me?

These are my shoes:

  • One pair of slightly expensive walking shoes.  Bought with the intention of walking with my husband at the YMCA's outdoor track.  Worn, but never on the track, and never for exercise. 

  • One pair of slip on tennis shoes.  Very worn, and very dirty.  They're simple canvas shoes that would probably come clean in the washing machine if I bothered to toss them in there.  But I don't care, so I don't - they cost about five dollars, so when they wear out I'll just get another pair.

  • One pair of cheap tennis shoes.  Not as worn as the canvas shoes, but the laces are slightly melted from coming into contact with the exhaust on my motorcycle.  The heels are reflective, but that was chance rather than purpose.

  • One pair of black dress shoes in an odd suede material, with moderately high heels.  Barely worn.  They're pretty, and they're comfortable at first, but after five minutes my toes start talking about seceding from the union of the body.  And yet they live in my closet, tucked away as if someday they'll be transformed into comfortable shoes and I'll actually wear them.

  • One pair of shiny black dress shoes, with a little decorate leather ribbon and a low heal.  Obviously not new, going by the scuffed soles, but obviously not worn often either.  They still carry the shoe store smell, and the imprint inside the heel is still readable.  The brand name is practically anonymous - considering what I paid for them, it ought to be, "Cheap Women's Shoes That Will Probably Fall Apart In Six Months." 

  • One pair of work boots.  New ones, bought just last week.  They cost more than all the other shoes put together.  I've rubbed mink oil into them - I can smell that distinctive and pleasant odor that reminds me of my dad's dress shoes, the ones he wore to work before they went to "business casual" dress and he hung up his suit coats and ties.  They have a composite toe instead of the more traditional steel toe - same crush resistance, but much lighter.  A machine shop is not soft-toe friendly.  They've already got some scuffs, and I can see where coolant and oil have marked the hard leather.  Soon enough, those circles will be joined by enough others that the color will be uniform again.  

Who am I?

Which pair of shoes reveals the person?

I'm not sure, myself.

Thank you for stopping by!  This was just a random thought - not a response to a prompt from one of my usual sources - I hope you enjoyed it.

I'm curious...what's in your closet?  Are there shoes hiding from the light of the world?  What do they say about you - share in the comments!