Monday, May 12, 2014


Heeeeeelllllooooooooooooooo! And welcome back!!! For Mother's Day my hubby let me go to the library for almost four hours to work on my book. I made mad progress!!! WooHoo!!! (I still have a long way to go, but visible progress is impressive for a glacier!) I'm glad you've made it back here for another week. I'm looking forward to reading your stories! Go check out the prompt and get to it! :)

If you need to read the full version of the rules, go here. Otherwise, here's the short version:

1. Up to 500 words
2. Keep it clean (nothing rated R or above)
3. Start with the given first sentence.
4. Optional Special Challenge
5. Include: Twitter/email, word count, Special Challenge accepted
6. The challenge is open for 24 hours on Tuesday EST

Oh, and feel free to change pronouns, punctuation, tense, and anything in brackets to fit the story/pov/tone. I'm not going to be TOO picky... Our judge however...

Our Judge today is Caitlin Siem 
also known as @CaitlinStatus. Go check out her blog here. Read her winning tale from last week here!

 Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #45 is:

You should've stayed on the path.

 Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:

Include either an enchanted or haunted forest.



  1. Eden

    "You should have stayed on the path," Martha grumbled. Her knuckles had turned white from gripping her skirts so tightly. "I told you, 'Stay on the path, Bogart,' but did you listen? Of course not."

    Bogart struggled to hide his amusement at her discomfort as they made their way up the narrow path that wound around the mountain. He'd traveled this path every day for the last three weeks, but she didn't know that.

    "When I find out where you've been this time, you'll never hear the end of it. You hear me, Bogart?" She spun around to face him.

    He drew up short to keep from knocking her off the side of the mountain and into the creek far below. He wouldn't mind the quiet, but the villagers used the shallow stream to wash their clothes. It wouldn't do for one of them to find her. They all knew how she treated him. Some of the men folk had joked that he ought to get rid of her. He'd laughed right along with them.

    "You're enjoying this!" She stamped her feet, and gathered her skirts once again. Wisps of dull gray hair strayed from the tight braid curled and fastened against her skull. Martha continued to grumble all the way to the summit. Only when she reached the top did she finally shut up.

    The clouds above stilled as though in reverence of the peaceful circle atop the mountain. A verdant carpet covered the area, vibrant and perfectly manicured. In the center, a placid pool released steam into the cool air. Bogart had thought he'd found Eden when he found this place. Nothing could disturb his rest amidst the clouds, sky, grass and soothing pond. At least, not until today.

    Maybe he should have stayed on the path. The path led into the mountain, into a cavernous labyrinth where he used to spend his days avoiding his wife. She'd demanded he bring her with him today, show her what's so special about this place. She could have followed the path and found the cave opening on her own, but it wasn't about that. She didn't care about the cave, or even this patch of peaceful earth. All she cared about was owning every ounce of him, even his solitude.

    Her accusing tone marred the perfect beauty of his special place. "This is where you've been coming? I thought you said it was caves? You told me that just so I wouldn't want to come, didn't you." The last wasn't a question.

    She continued complaining while removing her boots and stockings. She dangled her feet in the small pond. He'd opened his mouth to protest, but didn't. Instead, he walked back to the narrow path that wound around the mountain, and sat. He sat and listened as the once calm waters erupted with the violent thrashing of his wife struggling with the nymph. He sat and listened until the waters were calm and Eden was at peace once again.

    499 words
    Special Challenge: Yes

  2. I Regret Nothing

    "You should have stayed on the path," my mother said, "Was the plan so hard to understand? You stupid girl."

    My mother had learned the route of the royal carriage through The Enchanted Wood, near our village. I was to become distressed on the main path where I could be rescued by someone in the royal party.
    "You are pretty, no man will leave you on the road," she had said, pinching my cheeks painfully before pushing me out the door.
    I had left happy to be out of her hands and wary of her plan for me.
    Apparently rumors of talking venomous snakes, trickster sprites, and shape shifters were nothing when compared to a chance to have one's daughter taken in by royalty.

    I hesitated for just a second before stepping onto the path between the trees, but the sweet smell of mosses and pine soothed my concerns.
    Soon I heard voices. A fox appeared suddenly by my side and asked,"Where are you going?"
    I was surprised at his speech but answered,"I don't really have a destination."
    How could I explain my mother's machinations to a fox?
    "The good fairies have taken an interest in you and would like to invite you to a party," he said.
    "Oh," I said and stopped walking.
    A party with fairies. Who had ever been invited to such a thing? No one from my village.
    "That's very kind, I'd love to," I replied.
    He nodded and then sprang into the woods calling, "Follow me!"
    I followed the bouncing red tail visible just ahead through the woods.

    We entered into a round clearing. Wood stumps of all sizes waited to serve as seats and a long table was covered in a surprising array of delicacies. Fairies flew back and forth, busy with tasks while small animals conversed as well as a few human-like creatures the size of rabbits.
    Fairies appeared holding flowers. I curtsied and thanked them for my invitation. I heard a tinkling sound I took to be happy laughter and they braided flowers into my hair.
    I was propelled toward the feast and the other guests began to introduce themselves as I sat down.

    In the distance I heard the approaching thunder of hooves. The royal party was making it's way through the forest while I sat with the fairies.
    The sound rolled on, became distant and disappeared.
    I didn't give it another thought.

    I learned secrets and traded stories and was given a small gold acorn to wear as a token of my being a friend to those in The Enchanted Wood. When deep night fell I was guided out of the forest by the gold-green fairy light.

    I was a failure to my mother.
    As she chastised me I did not share her disappointment. I had an adventure. And as I rolled the golden acorn around in my pocket I knew I was bound to abandon her and her schemes and have more.

    497 words
    Special challenge accepted

  3. Useless

    You should've stayed on the path. Maybe then you'd be here now with your wide-blues and yellow curls, seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. How did you survive this long anyhow? He could've only done so much when all you were capable of contributing was uselessness.

    He pauses, one hand against a tree, leaning his weight forward as if the universe sits on his shoulders. When he cups his forehead, hiding his eyes, I know he's grieving...again. I stifle that sigh that wants to bubble up, laying a hand against his back.

    "There wasn't anything you could've done," I say. Can he hear the contempt in my voice? I need him and his crossbow, and that's the only reason I haven't left him behind just yet.

    His words come out between choked sobs. "I'm sorry. I miss her so much. I should've tried harder, been stricter."

    "She was always off doing what she wanted. She never took any of this seriously." The trees trembles with imperceptible peril, and I hate how he can't see it. Why do I have this feeling we haven't seen the last of you?

    "I don't even know what happened. One minutes she's fine. The next she's being eaten alive and I've shot an arrow through her head."

    He doesn't need to know the liability you were to us. How you were the weak link in our group. How we are better off without you. "You did what you had to do, but we can't dwell on her too much. You know what will happen if we do." The end of the world? The dead rising? That was only the beginning.

    He cries, his head bowed over hunched shoulders. Pathetic. What does the universe have against me? "I know, but I can't help it. She was the love of my life."

    Love. That was his first mistake, and one you took advantage of so often. Healing his heart? Saving his soul? Making sure his ghost will cross when he finally does fall prey? Bull crap. You used him just as much as I'm using him now. Because there's no denying that this man and his trigger-happy finger are great when things get a little bit too sticky.

    The wind picks up, leaves falling from their precarious perch, dancing in circles on the edges of the darkness. "We need to get back on the path." He doesn't move when I tug on his arm. This time I do let the sigh out.

    "I should've stayed with her. I shouldn't have let her out of my sight." You're ruining my life even in death. What do I have to do to survive? What do I have to sacrifice in order to see another day?

    "Death would be better than this pain."

    I act without thinking, without feeling, with only my own selfishness carrying me on because his lips don't feel like rose petals as you've described. That's when your storm begins. I should've known better. Calm yourself.

    500 words
    Special challenge accepted

  4. “You should’ve stayed on the path.” Alice thought to herself as she watched the world pass her by. How different her life would have been if she hadn’t followed the charming boy into the dark woods surrounding the park all those years ago. Thinking back to that day, the scene so similar to this one, she sighs. A melancholy mood settling over her forever-going-to-be-six-years-old body

    The details are fuzzy, so many years have passed and she’s sure the memories are warped slightly. She can remember gripping Jasper’s hand tightly, and completely ignoring her human instinct to run. Heart hammering against her chest as her fight or flight reflex made her stumble and trip, her body urging her to flee while her head was pushing her forward.

    If only she’d known what she was walking into, where she was walking to, but in those modern times people had forgotten the folk lore. Children weren’t warned by superstitious parents, they weren’t educated by stern religious men to avoid the Forever Children. If only she’d been warned about the enchanted forest. If only.

    And now, hundreds of years later, she watched as that curly haired boy sought out another victim. Choosing the bravest, bewitching them with his little boy smile, and pulling them ever closer to their doom. Little boys and girls following behind him, enraptured by his innocent smile, lined up like rats following the Pied Piper.

    “They are rats!” Alice thought angrily, not quite sure why she was still so enraged after all these years. The sight of Jasper hand in hand with a chubby little brown haired boy snaps her out of her musings, and she turns to prepare the Circle of Sacrifice.

    Focusing her mind, pulling in the dark energy of the forest, she calls to the spirits that haunt the mossy woods. She watches as they appear, eyes as red as blood circling next to her, joining her. They’re hungry, she can feel their thirst. It matches her own. Burning her throat and scorching her veins it gets hotter as the young boy approaches.

    And there he is. Alice’s nostrils flare with every beat of his young heart his delicious blood pumping hot and thick under his pale skin. His fear is ambrosia; it wafts in through her nose and pours over the back of her tongue. Acidic saliva pools within her venomous mouth as she licks her ever thinning lips in anticipation. Soon. Soon she will feel the little boys blood spilling hot and sweet into her mouth.

    Jasper sends his prayers to the unholy one as he slashes at the boy with hands that were once soft but now possess clawed fingers. The poor boy cries out in fear and pain, this excites the spirits. They mock his pleas for help, laughing as salty tears splash down cherub cheeks.

    The feeding frenzy begins as the hunger takes over. Tearing, biting and sucking they drain the life of the poor boy that was only looking for adventure.

    500 words
    Special challenge accepted

  5. A Midsummer Night's Haunting

    You should've stayed on the path. But no, you just had to be the heroic explorer, didn't you Alyxzandyr and impress everyone? He thought disgustedly. Stupid Alyxzandyr, very stupid! Now you're lost in the Haunted Forest of Raybourne, famous for its evil. Even worse, it's almost nightfall. You need to find a defensible location before it gets any darker. His eyes desperately searched the deepening gloom.

    There! A steep cairn towered above the trees. Alyxzandyr carefully climbed the rocks. The capstone was about the size of a small table. Perfect! Alyxzandyr thought in satisfaction. Using the fading light he swiftly drew the runes of protection with his staff. He sat down cross-legged in the middle of the circle he had scribed. Carefully he spoke each word of the invocation. Pale light flared. It oozed from the line, flowed up and over his head, joining into a hemispherical dome. He settled himself comfortably within its walls.

    Night settled over the forest. Eerie noise issued from the darkness. Then he saw the first pallid glimmerings in the blackness. Sickly hued balls of light approached. They produced a shrill-pitched sound that painfully pierced his ears. The insubstantial will-o-wisps floated easily up the rocks. They circled the cairn, spiraling in tighter and closer. One darted forward, touching the dome. Zap! It squeaked in pain. Several more attacked. Zap, zap, zap! The group drew back, buzzing angrily for a moment, then darted away in search of easier prey.

    The ghouls came next, hungering for the flesh of the living. Grunting they sniffed the air. Noses pointing the way they lumbered towards the cairn. Clumsily they scrabbled and scratched at the stones. Their odor, the stench of decay and death wafted to Alyxzandyr turning his stomach. They slobbered and drooled trying to reach him. Fortunately they were too uncoördinated to succeed, slipping and sliding back to the ground. Finally they shambled away.

    The demons were the last. Bent and twisted they slunk from the shadows. Red eyes gleamed with delight when they spotted Alyxzandyr. "A soul to eat brothers!" The leader chortled. They surrounded the cairn.

    "Humans tasty!" Long sharp claws dug into the rocks, quickly scaling them.

    Alyxzandyr rose and grasped his staff firmly. "Lords of Light defend me in my hour of need!" His staff glowed brightly.

    One prodded the dome. Zap! "Tickles." He snorted. The demons swarmed forward.

    Alyxzandyr struck. Lightning flashed. Bang! The blasted body of a demon melted into nothingness. He spun rapidly, frantically stabbing them. Slow minutes passed, one by one they fell before him. The last demon died as the horizon lightened. Trembling and exhausted he sank to the stone and greeted the dawn, covered with soot and bloody furrows in his flesh. Just be glad that it was one of the shortest nights of the year. Never, ever do nthat again!" He muttered to himself. An hour later, having stanched the worst of his wounds he stumbled homewards.

    Cook greeted him joyously. "Those fools swore you were dead boy!"

    499 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  6. Blithe Spirit

    You should've stayed on the path. She repeats to herself again, but she is too far at this point and retracing her steps would be ludicrous. The leaves crunch under her dancing steps, rhythmically swirling with her pirouettes. A rabbit scurries out of a hole covered by the fallen leaves disturbing the swirling pattern, but her happy dance remains uninterrupted.

    Roger must be back now at her mother’s place. When will he discover it? What would he do? Brushing aside all the unnerving thoughts, she meanders along. Roger’s nimble fingers brushing her face, his dark eyes full of smile. What does it matter now? The path lies ahead of her. The trees and the critters would soon be out of sight.

    She stumbles on a brown and red root vegetable. She hasn’t been hungry all day, but now smell of homemade stew fills her nostrils. A few satisfying crunches and seasoned potatoes and carrots would melt in her mouth. Doesn’t matter now! Her steps continue to follow their rhythmic pattern. She follows her destiny.

    She hasn’t seen Mimi and the gang since last month. Mimi’s pearl earrings sometimes cast a pink glow on her cheeks. She looks beautiful then. What would Mimi think? Will they still be friends? What about the baby? The baby’s shrill cry from across the thin walls of the condo often woke her up in the middle of the night. She would run over to Mimi’s and rock the baby to sleep again. Will the baby remember her? It’s moot point now. She casts that thought aside. The steps keep moving.

    The green canopy above starts to open up. Rays of bright sun peek through the sparser green branches. There is a faint hint of lavender ocean breeze. The scent is familiar. Where has she smelt it? Can she forget it like so many things she has cast aside since she stumbled upon that bend in the path? A single sunny day has altered so many constants in her life. She has accepted her destiny, no, she has embraced it. It is something she has always wanted to do. There is just one more thing she has to cast aside to fulfill her destiny.

    Ready? Ocean is foaming. The waves break on the rocks like bubbling champagne. The silvery sand feels cool under her quick steps. Josh is carrying a heavy pail filled with water and sand, his bare legs are covered in wet sand. Looking at his silly grin, her heart skips a beat. She has to say goodbye to her son. Her resolve wavers. For a flickering moment, she wants to retrace her steps and carry him home.

    But, she has left the path she wasn’t supposed to leave. In the enchanted forest, the blithe spirit grabbed her. It relieved her of her earthly obligations and turned back to the world. Now she is the blithe spirit wandering the enchanted forest and the magical ocean, to bring joy to the world.

    497 words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  7. Restlessness and Rebellion

    I should have stayed on the path. Every day my conscience reminds me of my minor rebellion.

    Or at least it seemed minor at the time. The King had sent me to explore His forest. He only gave me a few simple instructions. Enjoy the trip. Take good notes. Learn what you can about life and the forest. But in addition to these instructions He had given one strict command. Stay on the path.

    He had warned me that when it came time to eat I would be tempted to sit down at the foot of a tree or to picnic in a grassy meadow, but I was commanded to stay on the path. When it came time to sleep, I would want to set up camp off the trail, but I was commanded to stay on the path.

    So it was that I had become a wanderer, an explorer and an adventurer in the king’s service. On the first day I was so consumed with making notes about the journey and my findings that progress was embarrassingly slow. Every flower, tree, animal or insect seemed wonderful and worthy of copious notes in my journal.

    When I set up camp, I realized I was still in line of sight of the castle. The winding trail had not penetrated the forest far enough to get out of sight. I was worried that the King might think I had been dawdling. So the next morning I struck out early and ignored the life around me in order to make distance. After setting up camp that night, I was still in sight of the castle.

    Now I was determined that the next day I would get deep enough into the woods to reach the unknown and unseen portions of the forest. After running all day, that evening concluded with the same discovery. The trail with its turns and switchbacks had grown tedious.

    So the fourth day I got up and set off again. That was the day I noticed a loop on the trail paralleling me a little ways off to the right. Obviously up ahead the path did one of those turnarounds. It seemed so obvious. I should cut across the small stretch of forest and cut some unnecessary steps out of my journey.

    I set off trailblazing. After a few minutes the path ahead seemed no closer. Then I discovered the path behind was completely out of sight. That night I slept in a hammock of trees, feeling totally alone. It was the first night that I couldn’t look up and see the lights of the castle. Neither could I see any path neither ahead nor behind. That was several years ago, and I have not gotten a glimpse of either the path or the castle since.

    I wish I had continued enjoying the journey. I wish I had continued making my notes. I wish I had stayed on the path.

    490 Words
    Special Challenge Accepted

  8. “You should’ve stayed on the path.”

    It wasn’t the first time I’d heard those words. It wouldn’t be the last. I’d make certain of that. “No.”

    Tim gave me that exasperated look. You know. The one people give you when you are different from them, don’t share their values, or their view of life. “What about your future? Your career?”

    “My career, as you know it, is dead.” I always loved seeing someone’s face when I said such inflammatory things. To me, they were normal things to say. Truthful things to say. To someone like Tim, they were disruptive, intimidating, aggressive, and scary.

    “You don’t mean that.”

    I laughed. “Yeah. I do.”

    “You’ll be throwing everything away.”

    “I’d explain everything,” I smiled, and shook my head, “but you’d never understand.”

    “Try me.”

    How do you tell someone they are walking along a path to a dead-end? How do you explain to someone they’re doing what their parents did. What their grandparents did. What their great grandparents did. Generation, after generation. The same path. The same life. The same pursuits, passions, goals, definitions.

    “I told you once,” I knew trying to explain was useless, “everyone here, you, the people who work for you, the people you work for. You’re all the same. The same dreams, goals, hopes, fears, everything.” It was really sad to think about it. To understand how Tim didn’t even know.

    “You know that feeling you get sometimes? The one you get when you look in the mirror? The one that doesn’t last long, maybe a minute, maybe less? The one that says everything’s wrong?” I had to laugh. “Yes, Tim. I know about that feeling. The one you never can admit it there. The one you can never feel.”

    Tim sat there. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he stopped breathing, and if his heart stopped beating.

    “Yeah, Tim. That one. The one that says everything is wrong.”

    “You should have stayed on the path.”

    “I know, Tim. It’s what we do. We stay on the path. We behave.” I couldn’t tell him what he already knew. How we what we’re supposed to do. Be what we’re supposed to. Get married. Have a family. Buy a house. Buy cars. Have a respectable job, and a steady, predictable income. Be in control of life. With everything organized. Everything planned. Just like our parents. And, by God, that’s how we’ll make our children.

    “That’s why I’ve left the path. And I’m not coming back.”

    Too bad Tim would never understand.

    427 Words

  9. You should've stayed on the path.

    You were warned about the forest. By multiple people, even. You’ve heard the rumors ever since you were a child - the whispering voices that swirl through the trees, the mysterious figures spied by late-night joggers, the children who wander off to play and are never heard from again.

    And yet here you are.

    What was it that drew you off the path in the first place? You hadn’t gotten a good look at it. It was probably just your imagination getting away from you, anyway. Of course it’s only after getting yourself well and truly lost that you finally realize this.

    How long have you been wandering? The forest is dark around you, far darker than it should be for this time of night. At least, you think it is. You glance down at your wrist, but your watch has stopped. Perfect. You cannot see the sky anymore - the trees weren’t this thick a minute ago, were they?

    A sudden noise from above makes you jump. A flock of birds take to the air at once, their bodies splotches of black ink against the darkening canopy.

    You shiver.

    Your friend’s voice echoes through your mind. Her whispered pleas to stay out of the forest, at first so casually dismissed, now hold new weight in your mind. You find yourself wishing you’d listened to her. Another thing you should’ve done. Your mother always told you that your downfall would be your failure to take advice.

    What was that behind you? You spin, but there’s nothing there. The wind picks up, blowing your hair into your face. Jeez, it’s cold. You wish you had worn something other than a tank top. You wrap your arms around yourself and tremble.

    Was that a voice?

    You feel something brush against your ankle, and you jerk away with a yelp. You glare into the darkness, but you cannot see anything.

    It’s darker now. Definitely darker.

    You can feel your heart beating faster, your breath coming in short gasps. You can’t have a panic attack now. You can’t.

    An animal howls in the distance.

    You’re running before you’re aware of it, your feet carrying you blindly into the forest. You stumble wildly, stones and fallen branches obstructing your path. Your shoulder crashes into a tree trunk, sending you careening in another direction. Tears spring to your eyes and you clutch at your injured shoulder, the pain distracting you. It doesn’t slow you down enough that you spot the fallen log ahead of you, however, and you collapse to the ground in a heap.

    You don’t move.

    Something else does.

    In the shadows between the trees, it shifts fluidly from one gap to another.

    You’re breathless with fear, paralyzed by pain.

    It’s closer now, and you can feel the icy chill emanating from its ghostly form. You can’t make out its face.

    You don’t want to.

    You should’ve stayed on the path.

    Samantha J
    492 Words
    Special Challenge accepted

  10. Training Troubles

    ‘You should've stayed on the path!’ the pixie-in-training reprimanded herself. Her pink, gossamer twitched nervously. Pouty lips pulled down in a frown as she examined her forested surroundings. Back and forth, back and forth she paced under a rhododendron leaf with the tulip bulb clutched firmly to her bosom.

    The assignment had been simple: Find a bulb and bring it back. It was only recommended to use the well-worn trail from the pixie students who had gone before. Nothing had been said about ferocious beasts in the enchanted forest, which of course was the reason one now blocked her exit.

    “Oh, what’s a poor pixie to do?” Hetty lamented aloud. She set the bulb next to her on the branch to wipe the beads of perspiration away and wilted beside it. Leaning against the bulb, she tucked her knees under her chin and watched the large, black furball snooze in the sun by a clutter of clay potting jars across the grassy forest clearing. Her portal.

    “Ralph, have you been eating my tulips again?” a voice boomed from far above. Hetty scrambled behind her bulb with a shriek and peeked out.

    “Ralph!” The giant lumbered into the clearing, casting a horrendous shadow over the land. Slowly the beast yawned, stretched, and sat up. It didn’t seem to be afraid of the towering giant until it bent down. Instantly, the beast bolted through the giant’s legs and into the trees where Hetty hid. She held her breath as it sulked in the shadows only inches beneath her.

    “You naughty cat! Come back here!”

    Hetty cowered as the giant whacked something against the trees to scare the beast out. She clung to her bulb tightly as the earth shook and trembled beneath her feet. The next thump sent her spiraling to the ground. Hetty landed in a heap on top of her bulb.


    The little pixie raised her head just enough to see two green eyes glowering in the shadows.

    “Eeeek!” she cried as it batted her with its paw. Quickly righting herself, Hetty snatched the bulb and dove for the clearing, hoping the giant would not be able to see her. She cried out again as the beast swung another paw in her direction.

    “Oh, you naughty cat!” the giant shouted. “Stop playing with my tulip!”

    Hetty didn’t dare look behind her, but ran as fast as her legs could carry her toward the pots, the bulb securely held on top of her head. The giant lumbered after them, and the beast was almost upon her when she reached safety. The portal opened wide against the side of one of the pots and she lunged for it as the giant snatched up the beast to give it a good shake.

    Hetty tumbled to the floor of the garden lab with her bulb. Professor Puffly looked up from his textbook in surprise at her unorthodox return.

    “Trouble?” his whiskers twitched.

    “No, no trouble at all,” Hetty said breathlessly. “Here’s my bulb.”

    Word Count: 500
    Special Challenge!

  11. Snow White, Rose Red

    “You should’ve stayed on the path.”

    I eyed my sister. Her hair fell in rays of gold on the other side of the mist wall. Perfect and beautiful of course—even this thick mist couldn’t obscure that—and her cheeks were flushed with an anxiety that only served to make her look more perfect. Here in the sudden shadows, my own hair settled listless and dull on my shoulders, and a raven cleared its throat on a branch above me. I shuddered.

    “I couldn’t help it. Didn’t you hear the voice calling us? It sounded like a rainbow. Or a honeycomb.”

    “Yes, I heard it. But we’ve been warned about witches and candy and siren songs since birth. I knew not to follow it. Why didn’t you?”

    “The song was too beautiful. And anyway, perhaps our parents made it all up.”

    “You’re talking nonsense. Our mother, a liar? Never. She didn’t abandon the cinders and marry a prince because she’s got coal for a heart.”

    I laughed at the image. Our mother was as gentle-spirited as they came. People told us it took a good five years of her being Queen to convince her to quit scrubbing the curtains herself. Our grandmother, on the other hand….

    The darkness curled slowly, implacably around my ankles and the laughter rotted away in my mouth.

    “You’re fading.”

    “I know. I can feel it.”

    Fear shimmered, trembled in the air, and as if on cue, we each reached out a hand to touch the wall.

    “It doesn’t yield.”


    “It’s like a mountain.”


    “I can’t cross back.”

    We let our hands drop. Grief lit her face, even as sundrops danced a minuet on her brow. No one in our kingdom needed a mirror to discern which of us was the fairest: it had been her, always her. Nor did I begrudge her the honor. Princes died for her, or they would, if she asked it. But she would never ask them. Unlike mine, her heart was too like our mother’s.

    Desperation began to claw at the wall.

    “I’m going for help. Can you wait?”

    “I don’t know. It’s—it’s getting hard to see you.”

    “You’ve got to wait! This stupid forest!”

    “It’s not the forest’s fault.”

    “Of course it is! And our parents’, for feeding us year after stupid year with those stupid stories about stupid enchanted forests and their stupid wonders.”

    “It’s my fault.”


    “I can’t—”

    “Stop! Don’t say it! I’m getting help—I’ll be right back—”

    “Please. Just stay with me. It’s almost over.”

    Panic now.

    “No! How can I live without you? What is this world without you??”

    Even as I cried out, the sun swallowed her completely, grace and laughter and her single moment of disobedience running down its chin.

    Turning to walk back home through the suffocating night, tripping over my own shadowed, ugly feet, only one thing was clear.

    I shouldn’t have stayed on the path.

    492 words
    Judge's challenge: Yes

  12. This seems awesome! Will definitely tune in next week ;)

  13. "Hungry Like the Wolf"

    “You should’ve stayed on the path,” he moaned. He kicked a clod of mud with a clawed paw. He was a young wolf, just barely an adult. His gray fur looked clean, soft, and surprisingly well groomed for a forest creature. He looked at Ruby with such true anguish that it twisted her heart into a sympathetic mess.

    Despite the fact that he had her pinned to a tree with his claws around her neck.

    He cursed furiously under his breath and stomped on an unfortunate snail who happened to be passing by. “Any other day, girl. Any. Other. Day.”

    Ruby blinked. She was still recovering from the shock of the whole situation. A walk, a shortcut through the forest, the realization that she would arrive at the hospital empty handed, and a stop to pick a few flowers — off the path, apparently — that resulted in being attacked by the wolf which could only result in her death. But now he was extremely distressed as if he only just realized that he had caught her. “I don’t…” she started, trying to translate thoughts into words. “I don’t understand.” It was an understatement, but the truth nonetheless.

    He scoffed. (Can wolves scoff? Ruby wondered.) “No, you wouldn’t, would you? I’m just another woodland creature, right? I couldn’t possibly have real feelings, could I? Why’d you stray from the path, anyway? Haven’t you heard the stories?”

    Of course she’d heard them. Who could grow up just outside and enchanted forest and *not* hear the stories? Stay on the path or the wolves will eat you. “My grandmother,” Ruby said quietly. “She’s sick and I was going to the hospital, but I was going to show up empty handed and, with her dying, it suddenly felt wrong to have nothing. So I stopped to pick flowers.”

    The wolf stared at her, focused, intense, hungry. Ruby could see the inner struggle behind his yellow eyes. He let out a low growl. “Just one bite,” he said to himself, “won’t spoil dinner…”

    Out of the corner of her eye, Ruby caught a glimpse of more gray fur. She closed her eyes tight expecting the chomp of teeth and pain and death.

    But what she heard was “Don’t you dare. We’ve had plans to eat the wild boar for months. You are taking me out to dinner tonight!” in a decidedly female (yet somehow lupine) voice.

    “Curses, girl,” he let slip through clenched teeth, releasing Ruby’s neck. She dared open her eyes and found herself looking at the pair of wolves, four yellow eyes staring intently a her.

    She raised her eyebrows questioningly.

    “Run,” the female told her. “Before we change our minds. You look pretty tasty and would make a marvelous dessert.”

    Ruby didn’t have to be told twice. She turned on her heels and booked it all the way back to the path.

    “Any other day, girl!” she heard the wolf scream as she ran. “ANY OTHER DAY!”

    494 Words
    Judge's Challenge: YES!
    Erin B.