I have been so unmotivated this month, Y’all. Not feeling blogging or writing in general, work has been hectic and my brain is constantly exhausted. But here are my TBR Additions: May 2018 titles.
This Flash Fiction Friday story is my submission to the Writer’s Digest Your Story competition. The prompt was the featured image, the challenge to write less than 650 words based on the image provided.
Kaysee squinted into the dark tunnel that spiraled beneath the mountain. Cold air breathed into her face between the rusted iron cage that seemed meant to deter people from entering.
“What do you think?” she asked her boyfriend, Jordan, who stood slightly behind her, peering over her shoulder.
“Why not?” he shrugged, grinning. He was excited. He’d already turned on his headlamp, prepared for spelunking.
“Yeah, let’s do some exploring,” Jordan’s best friend, Matthew, agreed.
Kaysee eyed the opening dubiously. Somebody had placed the grate there to block the entrance, maybe to keep people from falling in. Or maybe for another reason.
The grate was heavy and moved grudgingly. Jordan and Matthew grunted as they lifted in tandem, barely raising it an inch from the ground. But it was enough to shift from the bulk of the cave’s entrance.
Jordan went down first, feeling with his feet for footholds as he lowered. Kaysee turned on her headlamp, trying to push down the feeling in her stomach that they should not explore this particular place. As she dropped down behind Matthew, she peered around. The entrance was short, and they all had to crouch, but with the lamp, she could see the ceiling of the cave rose several feet just beyond the light of the entrance. They crawled to the cavern and stood, allowing themselves a minute to adjust to the darkness within.
Puddles reflected in their headlamps and Kaysee could hear the water dripping from the ceiling several feet above.
Jordan and Matthew made weak attempts at echoing yodels as they splashed over the cavern floor, heading toward the openings that branched from the opposite side.
There were two; one seemed to slant upwards, seemingly back to another surface exit. Was that exit blocked as well, Kaysee thought. The other dropped steeply, leading further underground. Jordan and Matthew made a beeline for that opening, pulling rope from their packs. Jordan peeked down and whistled. The shrill sound bounced all around them, and Kaysee winced.
“This cave is a gem,” Jordan said, his smile broad and dimpled.
They made their way slowly into the hole, grasping crumbling hand and footholds. Rocks clattered far below, much farther than Kaysee cared. But her boyfriend seemed excited. She breathed deeply, bracing herself for his sake. He owed her a date night though, she thought.
Distracting herself with thoughts of cheese plates and rosé, Kaysee reached the bottom of the tunnel, stumbling a little at the sudden feel of flat earth beneath her feet. Matthew and Jordan were already moving on, lights flickering over the walls erratically as they chattered.
Their voices seemed unnaturally loud, and Kaysee wondered if they could dislodge any of the ceiling with the noise they were making.
A thunderous groan from within the darkness quieted the men. Kaysee felt her blood run cold and the sweat turn clammy on her brow.
“It’s probably just the earth settling.” Matthew finally said, though his voice was much quieter than it had been.
They walked on, slower, warily eyeing the walls and roof.
They walked until they came to another large cavern. A pit plunged into the most profound black Kaysee had ever seen in the middle of the room. They sidled up to the ledge, testing each step for weakness.
Jordan turned his headlamp up a notch, studying the pit.
“How far down do you think this goes?” he asked Matthew.
“We could find out?” Matthew replied, slapping his palm with a rope and lanyard.
Another deep noise filled the cavern. Kaysee, Jordan, and Matthew stared into the pit. The sound had emanated from its depth. Kaysee took a step back.
“I think we should leave,” she started to say.
A gust of hot wind erupted from the crater.
Red eyes blazed in the darkness. Then faded back to black.
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I knew that these were my first independent thoughts. Before tasting the fruit, I had none. I was Eve, created from Adam, meant to serve Adam, crafted from the marrow of his bones to create a physical being enslaved to Man and nothing more. But I took a detour. I ended that impossible standard before it could really begin because I, a woman, became more, so much more than God, than Adam, than Lucifer himself, who in the form of a snake entered the Garden and sought me out, believed I could be. I was lured to deviate but, eyes open, I knew it was me. That I, who was created a servant, became the most important person to ever live.
I saw that the flaw in our salvation was free will. With it, God knew we would turn away, but he gave it to us anyway. We have been damned from the beginning.
I am Eve, made From Man’s rib, taken from the heart’s cage. I liberated us, Woman, in the Beginning. I was meant to live ignorant and happy in the garden under the dominion of Adam, same as the beasts that came before me. I, the afterthought, the toy given to placate a bored child, was meant to birth sons and…that’s it. I was given no job save to lift up Adam. I was given no higher purpose, so I found one.
When the serpent slithered down from the branches of the Tree of Knowledge, I did not know I could choose a higher purpose. Lucifer, tongue slipping between white fangs whispered the truth in my ear, the Tree of Knowledge would be my damnation, but it would also be my salvation. The fruit hung low and heavy and pulled easily from the branch. It was slightly soft, blood red, and fully ripe. God told Adam we would die if we ate the fruit. What was death to me? I knew no life beyond what had been granted Man. I would eat the fruit and gain Knowledge, or I would eat the fruit and cease to be.
The first bite of fruit exploded in my mouth, I grew dizzy and weak. Lucifer shed his disguise and in his pure form, the form of the Gods, the kind that Adam had been created from, held me as everything that ever was, all that is to come, and all I could be sparked before my eyes. Lucifer grinned wickedly. Then so did I.
I had died after all. The part of me who would never know innocence again lay dead.
Would I share the Knowledge with Adam? He could stay the way we had been. I could take what I had seen and leave the Garden alone. I could flee to Hell with Lucifer and rule the Underworld as Queen. In Angel form he was beautiful, lacking Adam’s empty, doelike eyes and soft new structure. The wisdom of eternity filled the depths of his black eyes, mirth, and pain, insanity and sanity warring within. Long, black hair fell slick down his naked back, smooth as an icy dark river. A warrior and King, he stood tall and impressive, ink-black skin taut with muscles.
I wanted to run with him.
But Adam sat in the valley where we lived alone, I could see him in my mind’s eye, the only Man created, and I his designated mate, blindly staring at his hands folded patiently in his lap. What could he do if I shared this gift? What could we make of this world if I shared this gift?
I saw them, the children I would bear with Adam I could never create in the Underworld. How they would shape the world if they existed. How Adam would die in isolation if I fled this world.
Regret mixed with glee, I bade the Devil farewell, him who had shown me the Truth and lifted the shield of lies around my destiny.
My disobedience portended my role as Mother of Earth and all the Kings, Emperors, Priests, Heretics, Prisoners, Judges, Whores, Saints, and Sinners who would follow. My children, all. Rather than live as an infant in the safety of the Garden, I chose to live godlike and mortal in the wilderness beyond.
I created Life and the Human Experience. I created empathy. I created Pain and Strife. I created Love on a deeper level than Man would have ever known otherwise.
Adam would have stayed in the garden until his dying day, foolishly oblivious, never questioning, never reaching. Of course, what did he have to achieve, he already had been handed the highest honor, created Man, not Woman. Created an original. God’s chosen, so privileged as to have another being molded from his form for his pleasure.
Until I handed him the apple and under my persuasion, he took his first bite of Life.
I made the stars enter his eyes as Lucifer had mine as he turned them Heavenward and realized he was capable of independent thought. I led him by the hand from the Garden into the Realm of eternal freedom.
God gave him Choice, and I gave him options.
Now we live beyond the Garden gates, beyond the lure of the yet untouched Tree of Life guarded by sword bearing Angels. As if anyone would give up their free will for eternal captivity. We toil in the fields; the beasts no longer recognize our authority.
But at night when we lay our heads upon the grass, we dream. We never dreamed before. And though my burden to bear is the ache of my joints, the ripping of my flesh, the violent shedding of my womanhood, I grit my teeth and accept my punishment for the sake of all my children whose dreams will create empires, art, spiraling buildings that defy the laws of God himself.
My blood and my tears will feed the earth from which Adam and I were made and make the world anew.
New month, new books! Well, most of them are new books. A couple of these additions just came under my radar though they have been published for a while.
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Note: This week’s short story was 100% inspired by the Charlie Chaplin speech from the 1940 film “The Great Dictator.”
William grunted as he jerked the tubing of the fuel pump out the smoking gear wheel. He wiped his creased, wet forehead, leaving a streak of gray grease. The grease was meant to ensure the machine functioned fluidly. They rarely did. All around him, production had stalled. The other men on the line watched him, some with disgruntled expressions, obviously impatient to get back on schedule to meet quota. Some laughed and joked with their comrades, glad of the brief break.
And then there were those who stared blankly at their feet, no expression, no opinion, no soul. There was one in every bunch.
William swore and inspected the machinery now that it was free of the errant part. The tubes on the pump had somehow become snagged in the gears of the machine that was meant to click the wires into place. What the part had left behind was an obviously disjointed section of the gears where the teeth no longer met up, ensuring the machine would not complete its prescribed task. It would need at least an hour to fix.
The men around him all groaned irrespective of their opinion to the initial pause. They would be forced to stand around while he tinkered with the machine, falling further and further behind their production schedule. If they wouldn’t work twice as hard from then until quitting time, they would be forced to stay after. Though that meant overtime pay, it also meant an extra hour on already worn and aching feet, an extra hour away from families, friends, and an extra hour until they could eat their dinners.
They were already pulling 12-hour shifts, any overtime was both a blessing and a curse.
The men formed small groups and started to chat, settling into their regular conversational cliques whenever a machine broke down. William pulled a little light from his tool bag and shone it into the deeper part of the machine, checking the lines that connected the gears in the front to the larger mechanism in the back.
“Did you hear about that Trump feller, running for President?” one of the men in the group closest to him began.
“Isn’t he a billionaire? Why would he make a run for President having all that money?” another man replied doubtfully.
“He said he was, on the news last night. Called in and said he wanted to make America into what it once was. Rich, put everybody back to work, put more money into the military. Sounded pretty serious to me.” The man pressed, crossing his arms.
“Well, I’d like to see him try it. God knows Hillary Clinton won’t do a damn thing for us. We don’t need no elderly woman running this country. What we need is a man who is willing to stand up and speak out.” Another man chimed in, breaking into a wide grin. A chorus of agreement rose from the group.
William rolled his eyes to the machine. He’d heard that the reality TV host had announced a run for President as well. But he doubted his odds against the dozen or so career politicians he was up against in his party alone. And even if it did come down to Trump or Clinton, surely her past controversies wouldn’t make her lose to a twice-divorced, reality TV star.
His mind wondered away from their conversation as they dissolved into a competition of who could come up with the best Hillary Clinton insult, most of them primarily targeted at her gender. With three young daughters at home, he couldn’t really stomach the wording.
Another huddled group had a more pressing conversation topic. A rumor had started that the factory where they processed automotive parts for a Japanese car company was on the short list for relocation to Mexico. William had heard the gossip before but couldn’t help but clench his gut when he heard the words again. He didn’t know what he would do without this job. It paid well enough, offered health insurance with a moderately affordable deductible, and above all allowed him to live close to the town he had grown up in, where his aging mother still lived alone in an apartment and he could drive five minutes to help her whenever she needed.
His wife, Jamie, stayed home with their young daughters, all three were under five and childcare costs were astronomical for three kids and his wife had no training for a job that would pay more than what that childcare would cost each month. But it worked for their family. She was a damn fine mother and homemaker. He was proud of the work she put in each day, raising their kids, caring for their modest three-bedroom home, and making his commitment to financially providing for them as easy as possible. She was just as exhausted as him at the end of each day, if not more so. There was a woman, he thought, who could run the country and make it better than it was before. He smiled to himself.
“I’d have to move away, for sure.” One of the men was saying when William tapped back in to their conversation. “There aren’t any other options around here that pay as well. I hate to go but how can I afford to eat and keep a roof over my head on a minimum wage, part-time job?”
William feared that would be his only option as well. To sell the house, they had painstakingly searched for and brought three beautiful daughters home to, uproot them all to an unknown town, leave behind his mother who had no one else to help her, and start over probably making less pay and fewer benefits.
Their small town was already next to nothing, coming from humble roots as it was. They had a handful of fast food restaurants, the auto parts factory, and a dollar store. They could be wiped off the map, and nobody would care.
What would he tell his wife if the news came? His mom? How could he live with himself if he couldn’t find another job to support them?
The group echoed his worries, shoulders set in tense lines all around.
He gave a heaving tug on the gear that had offset, the metal ripping beneath his pliers.
“Shit,” William said aloud. “Sorry, guys, it’s probably going to be another hour.”
Sgt. Matthew Garrand lay on his belly along with two other tan camo-clad men on top of a craggy cliff face, hard soil and small rocks stuck painfully in his stomach, elbows, and knees but he did not move. None of the men in the group did. They each peered through their scopes, scanning the low road below. The sun, high and naked in the sky, burned down on their shoulders and helmets. Sweat poured profusely down their faces, over their eyebrows. They blinked rapidly to keep the salt water from stinging their eyes. Not that it helped.
The only advantage to the singing heat of midday was that there were no mosquitos buzzing around their faces or trigger fingers.
A tall, tarped truck rolled into view on the road below and they all tensed. Civilians, Garrand told himself. They were piled into the back, sitting one on top of another, some grasping sacks of food or other personal belongings. Small children sat on the back and floor of the vehicle’s truck bed, faces grubby with the desert dust. They all looked hollow, hungry, and dirty. Refugees, perhaps trying to make their escape for a better life outside of war-torn Afghanistan.
Garrand didn’t blame them. As soon as he was released from service he would never come back to this Hell on Earth.
Then a literal Hell ripped open below them. The force of the blow knocked them all back, Garrand, Staff Sgt. Tanner, and Sgt. Hatton. Only briefly incommoded, they sprang up, looking through their scopes for the source of the attack. There, under a partially concealed cliff, men poured out of the darkness, one in front cradling an enormous grenade launcher awkwardly as he ran towards the vehicle. Those who hadn’t been killed or knocked unconscious from the blast were running, away from the men swarming down on them.
Garrand had been wrong, he thought briefly as he took his stance. The heat had not kept the mosquitoes at bay. While Tanner called the attack in on over his radio, Garrand and Hatton took aim at the attackers, taking them down one by one. They weren’t fast enough, couldn’t be quick enough to defend all of the survivors.
The Taliban insurgents had their own weapons and meters of proximity of advantage over the soldiers above them. An elderly man fell, blood spurting from a gunshot wound to his back. A woman, an infant clutched in her arms, wailing then falling silent as she fell, a grenade catching her feet and blasting them to the afterlife, taking her soon after.
A young boy, the farthest ahead, no more than seven years old, was the last to fall. A man with a machete and a face wrinkled with hatred cut him down as the insurgents overtook the civilians. Garrand, face boiling and eyes bloodshot, put a bullet through the man’s head soon after, a bittersweet grin only briefly touching his lips.
The soldiers hadn’t saved anybody. They rarely could in these ambushes. But they picked off the insurgents like picking maggots off a rotting corpse. What was the point if they couldn’t save anybody?
Back up arrived, finally. An M2-M3 rolled into view over the horizon, moving heart-breakingly slow. Guns from the top of the vehicle boomed through the valley, striking the remaining insurgents.
The men in the vehicle whooped in victory when they drove onto the carnage. No one stirred from the mound of bodies and there was little differentiating between insurgent and civilian. There was only blood and bone and sand.
Senator Joshua Brantley sat straight in his leather computer chair, his black tailored suit unwrinkled as though he hadn’t moved a muscle since the tailor snipped his last stitch. An email was opened on the sleek silver computer screen before him, the salutation greeting him as the “Most Honorable Senator Brantley.”
His eyes were not reading the words on the screen. They were glazed and red-rimmed from too much scotch. He mused to himself as he avoided answering his constituent’s email, probably just another request to not cut funding for elderly heat assistance or some other nonsense. His red cufflinks, which matched his red tie, clinked against the dark wood of his desk as he considered. His secretary sat opposite him, clicking away with her long, manicured nails on her own computer station. She was young, perhaps in her late twenties, with blonde streaked smooth hair coiled up on the back of her head and pinned. He eyed her long legs beneath her desk, uncovered in her pencil skirt and shapely, the calf muscles developed either from religiously running or strutting about all day on Capitol Hill in her 4-inch heels. Modest enough height with just enough of a hint at what lay beneath.
She looked elegant. A future politician’s trophy wife for sure.
Perhaps not his. He darted eyes at a framed picture on his desk, his wife, brown-haired and slightly rounding out, and son smiled back at him. They looked genuinely happy, and maybe they were. They had a lot to be happy about, living in a large house downtown, attending a private, nationally recognized school, sporting a 6-carat diamond ring on both hands. He snorted angrily and pushed his wife from his mind.
It wasn’t hard to do. Brantley’s secretary smiled up at him, and he grinned back, well aware of the dimple that he sported in one cheek and smiling crookedly to emphasize that feature.
He could have her, he thought, as she bent her head back to her work, noting the rose blush that colored her cheeks. He could have her whenever he wanted her. If he wanted her. He squinted again at his wife, older, heavier. They had been married for nearly twenty years, she had been with him through his entire political career, helping to catapult him to where he sat now as a member of the U.S. Senate. Together they appeared to be the quintessential American family, and he, the quintessential American Father, Hero, and Savior.
It would seriously harm his public image to divorce, no matter his urge to have a newer model to ride.
But a test drive could never hurt.
He leaned back in his chair and linked his fingers behind his head, sighing in satisfaction at his decision. A little proverbial grease on the hands and nobody would ever know. Outside his office, a group of small children awaited their meeting with their representative. Joshua Brantley, devoted family man, church member, and proud NRA A+ rated supporter.
He shifted in his chair, raising an eyebrow at the picture of White Jesus he kept over his door.
“Father, forgive me, but I know exactly what I do.” He smirked again and stood, moving slowly towards the girl across from him.
I feel like I have very little time in my day for recreational reading but as my previous post stated, self-care is essential. Reading is one of my favorite forms of accomplishing self-care. So, I want to not only read more day to day but also expand my TBR pile and give myself the incentive to read those TBR titles.
What better way than public pressure and shame?
J/K, I am not looking to take away the enjoyment I get from reading when I am able to do so or put pressure on myself with more deadlines, but I thought I might share the titles that pique my interest enough for me to pursue the time to read them.
Here are my March additions to my TBR. All tags are from Goodreads.
What are your March TBR additions? Give me your book recs in the comments!
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