Tag Archives: short stories

Medicine Man

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Fate pulls a U-turn on a man contemplating oblivion from a perch high above the Grand Canyon. Inspired by Photo “Contemplative Precipice” by Joshua G. Chang, via Wikimedia.

Dawn. The Grand Canyon. Nate sat the rim alone, contemplating oblivion. Creaking joints disturbed his reverie. An old man. Dark eyes. Gray Ponytail. rawhide complexion. A sudden calming influence beside him. Not unlike the candle Nate burned every night, for Maggie. The man doodled in condensed vapor, a mandala taking shape on the bench seat. “Medicine wheel?” asked Nate. “Happy Face,” said the man flatly. Nate laughed. First time in weeks. “Could use a ride,” said the man. “Where to?” “Albuquerque.” “I’m from Albuquerque!” said Nate, half-turning. … Nate glanced back at the rim as they walked to his car.

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Comic Con Incognito

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Robert Downey Jr. goes for an incognito spin in an experimental remote-controlled Ironman costume. Photo by Richie S, via flickr.

“Crank up the fan, I’m dying in here.” “Roger, Bob… Better?” “Better.” “Okay, we’re gonna wave your hand at those hot girls.” “Which ones?” “Look for Daenerys Targaryen. Ten o’clock. Enormous stuffed dragon.” “Check. What now?” “Nothing. Relax, we’re driving. Okay, say hi.” “Hi, ladies!” “Hey, Ironman! Can we get a selfie with you?” “Sure.” “Pssst, Bob, They’ve no idea it’s you!” “One more!” “Whoa! Sorry, Scarlett, gotta go. Hey, slow it down!” “Confession, Bob, something’s wrong!” “No shit! I’m jogging.” “Mayday, Bob, controls aren’t responding.” “You’re kidding. Right?” “Bob! We can’t stop Ironman!” “Seriously, not funny.” “Wookie dead ahead!”

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The Mist

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A hermit-poet wanders mountain paths in the presence of a mystery hidden in the mist. Image of “Poet on a Mountaintop” by Shen Zhou, via Wikimedia

From time out of mind the Hermit had wandered these mountain paths on sandaled feet, lingering on rocky summits to gaze upon a landscape endlessly rustling, swelling, writhing—tracing dragon-like arabesques in existence: autumn leaves drifting through slanting sunlight and shadow; winter snow pillowing on cliffside pines; icy waters rushing down into fragrant, spring-blossomed valleys; a thousand colors rippling in summer heat. But it was the mist that kept him up here. The way it clung to the peaks and pooled in the hollows, suggesting there was much more present here than met even his clear-seeing eyes.

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Secret Admirer

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The 21st century incarnation of Sherlock Holmes becomes entangled in the case of the Woman with the Ruby Red Lips. Image by Tania Saiz, via flickr.

“Mail?” asked Sherlock. “Um, napkin,” replied Watson. Sherlock took it. “Lipstick,” he said, as if announcing an analytical finding. “Red.” He fingered, tasted. “Chanel. Passion.” “Sherlock?” queried Watson. “You get a girlfriend when I wasn’t looking?” Sherlock paused, stared. “Nope.” “Well then, you have a secret admirer.” “What’re you talking about?” “Like when someone anonymously buys you a drink—oh, why bother!” “Hmmmm.” Sherlock pressed the heel of his hand to the print. Sniffed. Puckered. Kissed. “What’re you doing?” “Molly!” “You know that how? ” “Easy. Her brand. Other… trace residues.” “Why would Molly…?” “We might have made out last night.”

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Standing Watch

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The last of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo of astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson via Wikimedia

“You remind me of Melville’s stander-of-mastheads,” said Vlad, squeezing in beside Carrie for a god’s eye view of the Pacific. “Cry out when you see White Whale.” Carrie didn’t laugh. “You know,” she mused aloud, “from space it’s a watery pasture, but then you begin to notice things.” “What things?” “Like the way glancing sunlight gives it a molten silver sheen. And swirling eddies, miles wide. And waves—long-ass waves, bearing down on Peru. Even a fishing fleet, like tiny stars adrift in the night…” Vlad shoved off. “As I say, shout when you see Moby Dick.”

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Twilight Zone

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The second of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo via Wikimedia. Look for the last story in this three-part series on February 22.

Racing across the twilight zone like a winged morning star, Randi pressed her nose to glass and looked back at receding night. Moonless. Inky-black. Punctuated by blazing strands, like earthbound galactic filaments, up the Eastern Seaboard. Below, lightning flickered beneath muffin-topped storm clouds. Ahead, sunrise swept over the shimmering Atlantic, beams glancing off tiny white hairlines, telltales of invisible ships, planes. Everything she knew, loved, hated abided in that diaphanous sea of air, passing from day to night and back every 45 minutes. Young, with her whole life before her, Randi leaned into the dizzying onrush of time.

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Loss for Words

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The first of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo (retouched) via Wikimedia. Look for the next story in this three-part series on February 15.

Serena slouched on her regular stool, finger-dipping Scotch, tracing islands on the bar. “So, our space tourist’s back,” said Max the Bartender. “You know,” Serena mused aloud, “from up there, Hawaii looks just like a page from an atlas.” “Really?” She nodded soberly. “Yup. Amazing. Yet far from the most amazing part…” But Max had hurried down the line, taking orders. Serena smudged out her sloppy sketch, fought the urge to scream, to rageanything to get past their indifference. It was hard being wide awake in a sleepwalking world… Where were the words? She should’ve read more poetry.

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Magic Hour

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A desperate man is saved by a mirage—at least that’s the rational explanation. Image of 1882 lithograph “At Eternity’s Gate” by Vincent van Gogh, via Wikimedia.

Gregor stopped in the doorway and gasped. Winter sunset through a smoke-hazed window bathed his shack in dusky roselight. And there, on the rough-hewn chair before the hearth, sat his long-dead father with his distinctive bald pate and wiry beard, resting his head in calloused hands in seeming despair. Hesitantly, Gregor moved into the room. When he reached the chair, he found… only his loaded pistol. His father had been nothing but a trick of reflected light and shadow, a ghostly hodgepodge. And yet. Shuddering, Gregor drew back from the weapon, making the sign of the cross.

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Rare Books

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A determined man searches the world over for the sole copy of a manuscript from a long lost library. Inspired by this photo of Grove Rare Books by Betty Longbottom, via geograph.

A book store. Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. Matthew opened the antique door. Bells jingled. Light pierced dusty murk, revealing ceiling-high shelves packed with ancient spines and the odd detritus of bohemian lives. Baroque portieres parted. A wall-eyed bookseller shuffled forward. “May I help you?” “I’m searching for the… Corvinus Grimoire,” muttered Matthew. “Lost with the Raven King’s great library.” The bookseller beamed. “Indeed.” “So, you know of it!” “It is our business to know of such things.” “Well?” “Perhaps—” “Is it here?” “Eventually.” Matthew blinked. The bookseller smiled. “All such lost wonders find their way here in time.”

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Tell the Bees

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A beekeeper’s tiny charges stay loyal to the end. Inspired by a reportedly true story in keeping with folk tradition. Photo by Ken Thomas, via Wikimedia.

“The bees are comin’!” shouted young Christopher from the edge of the open grave. He pointed up through bare January branches, wind-rattled against a leaden sky. “Hush, boy,” sniffed Widow Hinton. “Bees don’t swarm this time o—” She sputtered, stopped, looked up. All eyes followed her gaze. A thrumming cloud swept in low over the treetops and down among mystified, flailing mourners. Thousands of bees. Gently alighting upon the flower-draped coffin of Charlie Hinton, beekeeper. “You didn’t tell the bees!” cried Christopher. A golden-jacketed outlier danced in his hand. “Now they’re goin’, and they ain’t comin’ back!”

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Silent Snow

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A lone horseback rider is overwhelmed by the uncanny silence of a winter snowstorm. Inspired by this Wilson A. Bentley 1890 photograph of a single, unique snowflake, via Wikimedia.

Snowflakes drifted from an ash-pale sky. On earth, snow pillowed in crooks and hollows, on crowding oaks and red-berried blackthorn. Marguerite, her senses heightened by brisk morning air, slowed to a snow-muffled walk. She reined at the sight of a crystalized spiderweb strung across her path, like some gossamer fairy gate. While her gray stood quietly, steam rising, Marguerite dismounted. Inspected. Beyond this icy dreamcatcher, the narrow trail wandered off into an immensity of white… nothingness. The snowfall thickened. Marguerite shivered. No longer alone with her busy thoughts, but engulfed in utter silence, she remounted and fled.

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The Labyrinth

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Two adventurers become stranded on a remote island in the swiftly rising Danube. A 100-word homage to Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows. Photo by Christine Johnstone, via geograph.

They were stranded. On a sandy island of trembling silver-green willow leaves. And the wild Danube was rising fast. Raklo set about patching the canoe, while Wilson explored among the dense willows. He stumbled upon a weaving, looping, forking path. Curiosity led him on. Time wandered. The willows crowded round, groping. Filled with sudden dread, Wilson retraced his steps, so he thought. He shouted. Only chattering leaves answered. Panting, he turned right, left, right again. Stopped. Everywhere he sensed growing resentment. … The canoe patched, Raklo called for his friend, while greedy floodwater gnawed away the sand at his feet.

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Dreaming Hamlet

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Young William Shakespeare, on tour with a company of fellow actors in 1587, listens well to a ghost story involving Danish royalty. Image of Sanders Portrait of Shakespeare via Wikimedia.

Near the tavern’s glowing hearth, a handful of Queen Elizabeth’s Men, a troupe of players on tour in the godforsaken North, sat nursing cups of mulled wine in gathering shadows. John Laneham, meanwhile, held them rapt with a ghost story: “…thus, ever after, the old king’s shade was wont to walk the battlements of Elsinore Castle ere cockcrow.” Fists pounded rough boards in appreciation. “Bestir yourself, Master Shakespeare!” cried John. “The latest of our Queen’s Men looks plague-stricken.” “Frightened witless,” said Shakespeare, laughing, clapping. “Well told, John.” “Your turn, Will.” “Me? I’d hear more of Denmark’s ill-fated son.”

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Ghost Horse

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A rancher corners a white stallion that turns out to be a living Indian legend. Inspired by Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. Photo by Rennett Stowe, via flickr.

We corralled the Ghost Stallion with my mares in a draw somewhere east of Coyote Creek. If this was indeed the great white horse of Indian legend, we were up against a comet-tailed Moby Dick, and I had no desire to play Ahab. I sat a stump, smoking, thinking. If he’d just let my mares go, I’d be happy to back the hell off. But Bill and the others wanted him, of course, when not even the bravest warriors could master him, ever. Then, Bill didn’t believe it was him. Just some goldarn white stallion. But I knew better.

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Immemorial

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

One man’s oath-sworn love stands the test of time. Inspired by sad news concerning the 600-year-old White Oak of Basking Ridge, NJ. Photo by Ekem, via Wikimedia.

In 1720, beneath the churchyard’s overleafing oak, Jonas Westbridge swore an oath to Sarah Ashworth. “Sarah, my darling, our love will endure longer than this here tree, so help me ’twill. Will you be my wife?” Sarah consented. After forty-four years and six children, the Westbridges, by all accounts, were still quite spry, and remarkably well-preserved. Tragically, traveling the road to Philadelphia in 1764, the couple’s buggy vanished without a trace. On September 21, 2016, the day word spread of the oak’s demise, a good-looking elderly couple from California came to stand beneath it, arm in arm.

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Veterans Day

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A mushroomed lump of lead brings the Civil War to vivid life for one boy. Inspired by a spent Minié ball found on the Gettysburg battlefield in 1889. Photo by Steve Finegan.

They breezed past the display case. Children, their darting eyes skipping over faded Civil War relics: rifles, bayonets, pistols, sabers. “Pssst, kid!” Bobby turned. An old man in olive drab was rummaging in a hip pocket. Bobby reached out to point, but the man dropped a hefty gray object into his hand. “What the heck…?” “Minié ball. Wicked thing. Grandpa dug it up ages ago near where General Armistead fell at Gettysburg.” Bobby stared at the timeworn, mushroomed gray lead. “Imagine! Deafening fire. Desperate, roaring men. That bullet probably passed right through flesh’n bone.” “Wow!” said Bobby. “Wow indeed, kiddo.”

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The Seeker

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A man rides deep into the Sahara in search of eternity. Image of the 1906 watercolor “Bedouin Camp” by John Singer Sargent, via Wikimedia.

They told him time travel into the past was a paradoxical impossibility. Fine, he wanted to venture into eternity. No complex tech. A camel. He rode south into the Sahara, into that realm of shimmering heat and date-palm oases. Eventually, he arrived among the Bedouin. Low-slung tents. Groaning camels. Men in billowing white, squatting, smoking, sipping tea from tiny cracked cups. Children playing. No women in sight. He was greeted as honored guest. Served tea. Ambrosia. “What is it you seek?” they asked, languidly. “Eternity.” A toothless old man flapped a hand toward limitless dunes. “Then be content.”

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Courage

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A Samburu warrior stands his ground in a life-and-death test of wills with his people’s ancient adversary. Photo by Retlaw Snellac Photography, via flickr.

Kujaa was granted his spear and manhood in the same instant. Today he towered beside the waterhole, nostrils flared, spear poised, his glistening ebony sinews flexed for battle. The lion stood a heartbeat away, full-maned, tail flicking, fixed black pupils spellbinding. Likewise Kujaa’s good eye beneath sweat-beaded brows, assaying that amber stare. Air, birds, cicadas: the world went deadly still. The lion tensed to spring. Suddenly, decisively, Kujaa laughed. The lion’s gaze faltered. Kujaa sang out, “Return to your shade tree, olng’atuni. No battle today.” The tawny tail ceased swinging. Kujaa turned, sauntered away through knee-high grass.

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The Awakening

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Traveling a lonely road to nowhere, an exhausted hitchhiker stretches out under the Milky Way… then everything changes in an instant. Photo of Rose Chafer by Chrumps, via Wikimedia.

Taillights. Then hopper buzz. Tomas lowered his thumb, shuffled off the roadside, stretched out on lumpy soil. Hungry, lost, alone, he gazed up into a broad white river of stars. Something flared, streaked across the sky. Tomas’s breath caught. Wind gusted, soughed through sagebrush and pungent juniper, spattered his face with glittering earth. He blinked. A thrumming scarab beetle, glowing iridescent green, alighted on his nose, then thrummed away. Suddenly, intensely aware, Tomas sat up, quivering on the verge of some great revelation he already owned, short of words. Hairs bristling, he sprang up. Headlights! He ran toward them, waving.

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Disabled and Gifted

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A boy suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy sees the ability in his disability thanks to the creative genius of Vincent van Gogh. Image of Van Gogh self portrait via Wikimedia.

“Amazing work! What is it?” Mac the Janitor leaned on his push broom, gazing down. “Corvus,” said Bobby, “crow-man hero of my graphic novel. Just wait till I ink him. Raven black.” Mac’s eyes darted: litter patrol. “You’re in Mrs. Field’s class.” Nice way of saying Special Ed. “Yeah, I’m just waitin’ for the tard cart.” Mac brayed. “Well, from one short bus rider to another, you just missed it.” Bobby stared. “ADHD,” said Mac. Bobby tapped his temple. “Epilepsy.” Mac sighed. “Disabilities.” “Gift!” “Oh?” “Van Gogh had epilepsy.” Mac sized Bobby up. Grinned. “I doodle a little myself.”

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