Friday, August 31, 2007

Caffeine Hourglass

Millionaire Hill
Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia

"My friend owns this place."


"Yeah, it's a perfect place for a coffee shop. People get off their trains and bam, coffee right at the top of the stairs. Super convenient. And it's really good too."

"It certainly smells good. By the look of this line, your friend must be doing well."

The Grave of Henry Disston

"Not really. There's not much profit margin, and it's really hard to get good help."

"Do they blow off work? Quit?"

"They steal."

"You're kidding."

"No. I help him out by getting coffee here. If I see something fishy, I give him a call."

"Wow. Do they raid the register?"

"No, that would be too easy to catch. These folks know the little tricks. The main one is when they don't ring up the sale. They pocket the money and make their own change. Because it never hits the register, it never existed."


"My friend knows this place is busy as hell, but at the end of the day, the number of sales just don't make sense. It drives him nuts."

A Princely Skeleton of Stone

"Why doesn't he put in a camera?"

"He could, but it's expensive, and then someone has to review the tapes every day. It's a hassle."

"I guess so, but what if he put up a fake one? As long as the employees buy into it, that would do the trick."

"Yeah. Maybe."

"Excuse me. I didn't mean to yawn in your face."


"Some Mondays, I wish I could just lay down and sleep forever."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Human Pendulum (And a Writing Update)

I'm on the train as I write this. I'm making adjustments to my recently completed novel, The Backwards Path. My wife is my first and most important editor. She is an avid reader and helps assure that my stories have the intended impact and are not being spoiled by any of my favorite faults. She's the first outside view that's so essential to the process.

But I have a problem. The train is mighty full, and I have a pleasant, conscientious dude sitting next to me. He even moved over to make room for other passengers without being asked.

And that's a problem, you ask?

Yes, because he's falling asleep.

There he goes.

Tilting. Tilting.

His head sinks forward, then leans my way. His elbow touches my elbow. The pressure climbs up my arm. I'm almost to the point of being molested, when--

Hey, um, sorry, um, whoops, um, yeah.

He straightens back up.

As I was saying, I'm excited about the impact of this novel. I've kept it close to the vest for two years. This was the first time I got to see if my risks and approach paid off. My wife and I are both pleased. I'll be able to start submitting in about--

Gah, he's coming again. Dripping over.

Not cool.

Dude, use a headrest! Those lumps on the top of the seats work. Really, they do.

I'll make this brief, because he's already doing it again. Narcolepsy perhaps.

As for other writing news, I'm happy to announce that my flash fiction piece "200 Minutes" has been accepted for Out of the Gutter magazine's special war issue. I've also been invited to submit a piece about our cabin building experience in an upcoming cabin-ology book.

The dude's using me for a pillow now.

Peace out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Deer with Attitude

Midday on a Pennsylvania mountainside. Hooves pass through jewel weed and sink in soggy ground.

People were walking my trail again. Smell them? We got prints, and someone took a spill, and there's some broken--

*sniff sniff*

Hey, is that hamburgers? I keep telling those cows. Hop the fence, hop the fence, like this, but do they listen? No. They just stand there and chew cud. Dopes.


Oh, nice. Those were blackberries? Thanks bears. I'll be sure to pelletize YOUR trail. Disgusting.

Hey, wait.

I smell something.

Maybe it's that--

Dang, they got me again. Gotta love the head tilted and the big ole' doe eyes. Ridiculous. I AM a doe, but that's so cliche. I'm going down by the river. At least I'll be able to--

The deer perks and listens. It bounds off.

A truck on the logging road bounces slowly down the mountain.

(Stealthcam I230IR trail camera, Wayne County, Pennsylvania.)

Friday, August 24, 2007


The upslope of the mountain hissed in the breeze.

The air was cold, more like an autumn morning than August. Across the surface of sky, clouds tucked tightly in blue, and their shadows slid over the mountains.

The crow tipped its head to a change in the light, then resumed work. Its beak poked and probed the hemlock needles at its feet. In the reflection of its mirror-black eye, a weave of twigs grew.

A sound crackled from the clearing below.

The bird's wings flinched, and it's head arrowed down.

A curled man moved in the leaves. His bare legs were streaked with dew.

More rustling.

The crow leaped, wings beating.

It's caws broke over a lull in the wind.

Below, bleary eyes blinked. The man's face was cut and stained. His knotted hair drooped with bits of weeds.

The crow passed over and soared across the valley. Hugging the rising air, it watched its shape whoosh over the treetops. Its little shadow cut across the march of ghost clouds.

From behind, the man's scream thinned in the distance. An insult to the crow's vast heaven.

Still climbing, it crested the next ridge, and far away, specks of yellow jerseys swarmed. Red and blue lights flashed where trails met highway.

The crow heeled back over its blurring green domain.

The men scratched a tortured path through the forest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The In-Between Places

In August 1988, the salt air thinned, and the sun set a little sooner each day. My friend and I were vacationing at the South Carolina shore. Soon, college would begin, and everything would change.

The magic date of 8/8/88 came, and we tried to convince ourselves we were living an important moment, one we would always remember.

Maybe we were right.

A couple days later, we faced 14 hours of driving back to Pennsylvania in my father's work car which had no air conditioning. I wasn't in a hurry. We explored the back roads and tobacco fields of the Carolinas. We explored secret fields in the hills of Virginia.

I was searching for something back then. I see glimmers of it in the photographs I still have.

But I'm better prepared now. The places underneath the surface, the places nestled between here and there, are not beyond reach.

It's not so hard to step inside the dream.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Someone's at the Door

For fun, we placed the trail camera facing the cabin this time.

Moral of the story: if someone comes knocking early in the morning, don't answer the door!

Looks like a curious juvenile Black Bear. I'm sure that if it got one look at my morning hair, it would be bounding off toward the next county.

We had a nice weekend up in the mountains. For those of you following our log cabin (shed) project, we now have a doorway! Sooner or later we're going to get this thing done.

Summer is beginning to fade. I hope you all got out and savored it.

Soon, the season will turn reflective.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Second Anniversary

Today, The Clarity of Night turns two years old.

It has been an amazing, amazing time. What started as a place for the main character in my first novel to stretch his legs became something much more for me. At its core, writing is a relationship between author and reader, and what I came to fear was that I would never truly progress as a writer without real live reader contact. I hope I've entertained you while I've learned. You all have been extraordinary teachers.

Thank you being so open to my ideas and creations. Sometimes I really don't believe that I've been blessed with 138,000 visits these two years. I'm in your debt and will always do what I can to support the writing, reading, and blogging communities.

Last year at this time I said that I only scratched the surface of what I wanted to explore. I feel further along now, but I still have many shadows to chase with my candle before the dawn rises on The Clarity of Night.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hate to Succeed?

Do you ever wonder why we hate? I mean in a cosmic sense. Since I tend to view the workings of the world through the cold eyes of science, I ask myself does hate serve a purpose? Is hate useful?

Lets roll back to prehistory.

Rolling, rolling, rolling.

Okay, we're there. A beautiful tropical environment. Our family clan has a good life. We gather fruit. We hunt. We even tell stories by the dying embers of our campfires.

Sounds nice.

Years go by. We live. We die. Life is comfortable.

But wait. Back in 2007, we don't live in our little village anymore. What happened?

You guessed it. It's that guy over on the next ridge. That guy and all his weird friends.

They're picking our fruit. They're speak a funky language. They're just so...different.

Okay, do you feel it? A smorgasbord of nasty emotions is brewing. What's that gosh darn guy doing on our land? What does he want?

Whoops. Now we did it. The guy was so stealing our fruit, so uncle bopped him on the head. Now we're at war.

Oh boy, the competition is burning now! We need more guys, more food, stronger weapons. We need tactics. We need plans. Lots of fresh ideas are born.

You see, hate stirs the pot. Hate is a potent motivator. And it's always there. We always seem to need someone to hate. In fact, I'm quite sure that for one reason or another, there are millions of people on Earth who have never met me, but nevertheless hate me (not personally, of course, but because I'm an assumption, a cultural stereotype). That hate tends to push everyone and everything forward as we compete.

So, you ask, do I love hate? Absolutely not. It may increase our success, but it is very violent to the individual. The scary part is that hate is the love child of culture.

Maybe we bond together with clothes, language, religion, music, etc., for the sole purpose of excluding someone else. Maybe we need a "them" in order to understand "us." Since culture forms those boundaries, culture sets the stage for hate.

Think about it. You never want to kill one of your own. Just those evil ones over there who don't see the world like we do, who don't value human life like we do.

I look forward to a world culture. The more we have in common, the more we understand. The more we understand and empathize, the less fuel there is for hate.

Under a world culture, the progress of our species will probably slow, but is that such a bad thing? Look at what we are doing here. Sharing world stories by a virtual campfire doesn't sound so bad.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mineral Skies

Boundaries of August melt
Continents wing to wing
Islands used to be anchored
To the chill tropical waters bring

Cicada rhythms hum
Years underlying the dream
I was alone when I was with you
The mineral skies deceive.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Morning sun swells to fill the cloudless sky. It climbs above the young light. Soon, the merciless heat will press down.

The man's white sleeve rests in the half shade. Under a canvas awning, he holds a warm cup of tea on the tiny table.

He watches the bustle of the morning market around him. The sound is muted, because the heat smothers it.

Children sprint by.

A customer hands coins to the tea merchant.

Across the way, a dusty grey soldier tips an assault rifle always ready.

One child drops something the man with the tea can't see. The others pull and pile to snatch it from the dust. The man smiles at the way they scream and laugh.

The soldier is talking on a radio.

The man sips. The tea is almost gone, and it's sweeter at the--

r                            e                            d

v      a      c      u      u      m

w o r l d



The mix of mud colors soars.


The man hits, and every thread of breath punches from his chest.

He's gone from existence.

He's back.

His ears are ringing as if under steep seas.

He's writhing and choking. Things are piled on him, and he claws and pushes. The upended table falls away. Splinters of wood fall away. There are remains of things. Wet things.

Vehicles are coming. Brown eddies swirl behind running soldiers.

The handle of his shattered cup follows his hand to his throat. It cuts his neck when he rips his collar and sucks burned air.

Machine gun fire rattles in the distance, but no more suicide bombers explode.

Medics yell.

And the drifting dust begins to layer down.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Last night, we watched Bridge to Terabithia as family. If you haven't seen it, the movie is about a girl, clearly born to be a writer, who reaches out to a troubled, artistic boy, and they create an imaginary world together in the woods. (Rough movie emotionally, BTW).

It reminded me of something I haven't thought about in years.

As a child, I had a quirky flashlight. The lens cover was cheap and imperfect, and it created a strange shape in the beam. A shape made of shadow and light.

When I took the lens off and turned it backwards, the shape got clearer. I could also make it shrink, grow, and even explode by moving it back and forth like a zoom lens. I gave the shape a personality and a name. It was an alien creature called "The Doggon." (Yeah, as in "put that doggone knife down!")

In a room with the curtains closed and the lights off, I would shine the light on the ceiling and create stories for my friend who lived across the street. They were stream of consciousness stories with action and voices and terrible struggles. My friend would watch without a word.

One day, a curious thing happened. We were moping around trying to decide what to do. The light show crossed my mind, but I didn't think my friend would want to hear me blather on for yet another hour.

But then, he mentioned it. He wanted me to do it. He said that he loved lying there listening. I could see something a little starstruck and vulnerable in his eyes. It shocked me.

Imaginative folks are different in that way, and that's the first time I think I realized it.

Did you have similar experiences in childhood? Were you the bridge maker to other worlds?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Winners Announcement--"Halo" Short Fiction Contest

The moment you have been waiting for has arrived! It's my pleasure to recognize the following writers:

1st Place--STEPHEN BLACKMOORE, Beautiful Places (#41)
[Prize: $25 Amazon gift certificate, 8 x 10 print of the "Halo" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)]

2nd Place--AMANDA EARL, The Scent of Red (#63)
[Prize: $20 Amazon gift certificate]

3rd Place--JOHN McAULEY, Policies (#77)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate]

4th Place--DOTTIE CAMPTOWN, Mr. Fifth Date (#72)
[Prize: $10 Amazon gift certificate]

5th Place--ANN OSTRANDER, The Truth (#37)
[Prize: $5 Amazon gift certificate]

Honorable Mention--JAYE WELLS, Faery Rings and Broken Dreams (#28)

Honorable Mention--ROB, Guide Me Home (#29)

Honorable Mention--VICTOR B. MONCHEGO, JR., Three-Fourths of an Ounce (#32)

Honorable Mention--CANTERBURY SOUL, Miss James (#35)

Honorable Mention--SARAH HINA, Chasing the Sun (#54)


Readers' Choice--STEPHEN BLACKMOORE, Beautiful Places (#41)
[Prize: $15 Amazon gift certificate, (already receiving a signed photo)]

1st Runner-Up, Readers' Choice--SARAH HINA, Chasing the Sun (#54)
[Prize: 8 x 10 print of the "Halo" photograph (inscribed by Jason Evans)]

2nd Runner-Up, Readers' Choice--A.H. CAFFREY, Inheritance (#7)


Special congratulations goes out to Stephen Blackmoore, our first double winner since the "Midnight Road" Short Fiction Contest a year ago. Good job, man!

You probably know by now that this contest featured very strong writing from many participants. In my Note About Judging, I explained that usually 20% of the entries make the second round of judging. This time, the number was 27%. That means one simple thing. There was great writing out there and many deserving entries. Thank you for a wonderful contest!

Just how good was it? This was the second most successful Clarity of Night contest. Your 83 entries have generated 20,006 hits from 4,330 unique visitors! I'm grateful for such a huge turnout.

Over the course of next few days, I will be adding a comment to each entry saying what I liked best about it. If you would like constructive comments by private email, drop me a line at jevanswriter at yahoo dot com. Even if you mentioned constructive comments to me earlier, it wouldn't hurt to remind me in a separate email.

Don't let the community end here. I hope to see all of you back here at The Clarity of Night and on your own blogs. I'd love to trade links if you're up to it!


Thanks again for a wonderful contest experience. Give yourselves a round of applause for excellent writing, and pat the winners on the back for their outstanding work.

The Clarity of Night will now be powering down from contest mode and returning to normal content. At this point, I'm planning for the next contest in early to mid fall.

Check back for the end of the "Westinghoused" series, a fictionalized version of the events which led up to the first use of the electric chair. Was it punishment or a shocking public relations stunt? (No pun intended.)

It's been great fun. Feel free to contact me anytime. You'll always find a welcoming place here.

Contest Update


Stay tuned for the winners announcement tomorrow morning! Have a good night.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I remember finding him as a teenager. The small grave read "Baby Howard." It was choked and obscured by graveside bushes turned into towering trees.

Many years later, I found Nora Pellam laid to rest in the shadow of tree. Now she is the tree. Surely the roots have taken her.

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

We are all the inevitable victims of inertia.

(Inscription: Nora M. Pellam, 1875-1931. St. Paul the Apostle Cemetery, Hancock, Delaware County, New York.)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sunlit Sleep

Under feather grey wood
Sleeps a patch of land
Bricks sigh echoes of children
Their feet, where my grandfathers stand

(One room schoolhouse, Chester County, Pennsylvanvia.)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Halo" Short Fiction Contest


Click HERE for the Winners' Announcement.

Click HERE for the contest announcement, prizes, rules, and judging information.

Index of Entries

Ally, Four (#73)
Angel, Rothar (#51)
Anti-Wife, Reprisal (#8)
Apprentice, Rhudha-an’s Task (#23)
Baldwin, Barry, Joyce Kilmer Was Wrong (#10)
Banis, Victor J., Panic (#4)
Blackmoore, Stephen, Beautiful Places (#41), 1st Place & Readers' Choice Award
Blackwater, Jade Leone, Ravish by Rainstorm (#67)
Bourbeau, Julie, Namibian Safari (#39)
Brarian, L.I., Movies on the Wall (#48)
Brilliant Donkey, Waiting (#83)
Brown, Fred, Expiration (#20)
Caffrey, A.H., Inheritance (#7), 2nd Runner-Up, Readers' Choice Award
Camptown, Dottie, Mr. Fifth Date (#72), 4th Place
Canterbury Soul, Miss James (#35), Honorable Mention
Carkner, Jenn, The Collectors (#80)
Cole, Carol A., Damnation Before the Dawn (#79)
Cozine, Herchel, Condemned (#12)
Dearborn, Elizabeth, Who Knew? (#42)
Dimond, Rachael, The End (#57)
Dumoski, Stace, Wizard in the Wood (#33)
Earl, Amanda, The Scent of Red (#63), 2nd Place
Eldin, Christine, Decision (#22)
Emeraldcite, Entry #59
Ensaff, Jude, The Call (#46)
Evans, Jason, The Shadow Messiah, Your Host
Flatley, Helen, The Move (#56)
FunkyMunky, Fear (#78)
Gordon, Betty, Memories (#68)
Green, Rachel, Game for a LARP (#38)
Hammel, John, Vision Quest (#64)
Harris, Bernita, Trolleri (#69)
Heidt, Yvonne, Entry #5
Helene, Michele, Somewhere Safe (#31)
Hina, Sarah, Chasing The Sun (#54), Honorable Mention & 1st Runner-Up, Readers' Choice Award
Hoodie, Weekend Getaway (#16)
Hubbard, Martha, Light through the Birches (#62)
Johnston, SF, Trees (#2)
Khote, Ayoub, Entry #36
Laine, Dee, A Sign (#9)
Lemon, Adele, The Dream (#44)
Lessig, Terry W., The Call (#25)
Lew, C.P., Shadow and Light (#61)
Liadis, Paul, Out of the Darkness (#74)
Márquez Castro, Eduardo A., The Amber Pillar (#15)
Martinez, Mike, A Break in the March (#18)
Mastracci, Marie, The Taking (#71)
McAuley, John, Policies (#77), 3rd Place
Mr. Schprock, Morgan Toomey (#45)
Monchego, Jr., Victor B., Three-Fourths of an Ounce (#32), Honorable Mention
Motin, Amin, My First Love (#47)
Napier, Katherine, Predators (#1)
Neale, Jeff, Predator (#27)
Nothingman, The Most Curious Day in the Jungle (#49)
Nolte, Roberta, Forest For the Trees (#81)
Nugent, Jennifer, God Save the Queen (#34)
Ostrander, Ann, The Truth (#37), 5th Place
Palmer, Lois, The Golden Head (#52)
Pearl, Iron Chef: Improv Challenge (#65)
Peck, Andrea, Metamorphosis (#60)
Philpott, Karen, The Knowledge (#76)
Pinckard, Anne, Spirit Woods (#43)
Poppen, Sharon, And They Stayed (#11)
Powell, Daniel, Decision (#82)
Qadri, Rajaa, Gifts Of Heaven (#66)
Rakeesh, Navatha, Fresh Air (#55)
Rapino, Anthony J., Taking Stock (#21)
Rob, Guide Me Home (#29), Honorable Mention
Ryan, Joseph, The Farmer and His Boy (#17)
Salas, Alexander, Halo (#40)
Scheer, Wayne, The Browbridge Brothers (#6)
Schmidt, Nicky, Just Words (#50)
Seamans, Sandra, Prisoner Of War (#14)
Simpson, Scott, Crude Awakenings (#30)
SzélsõFa, Halo (#13)
Therese, Lost (#75)
Trexler, Roger Dale, The Final Cut (#24)
Vesper, Hide and Seek (#19)
Vogt, Josh, Just Over the Ridge (#53)
Wavemancali, The Ropes of Māui (#70)
Weagley, John, Brambles in the Lavender Darkness (#3)
Wells, Jaye, Faery Rings and Broken Dreams (#28), Honorable Mention

(Enjoy the writing, comment early and often, and take the time to visit the writers whose vision speaks to you! --Jason Evans)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Readers' Choice Award ("Halo")

My friends, the "Halo" Short Fiction Contest is now closed. Thank you for a truly amazing turn-out!!


But the fun is not over!

Voting for the Readers' Choice Award is now open!

This portion of the contest is open to all people who submitted an entry. Here are the rules:

  1. Contest participants are invited to vote on their top 5 favorite entries by emailing me their votes to jevanswriter at yahoo dot com.
  2. Please vote by entry number and list your votes from 1 to 5 with 1 being your top vote.
  3. I will award 5 points for your 1st vote, 4 points for your 2nd vote, 3 points for your 3rd, 2 points for your 4th, and 1 point for your 5th.
  4. You may not vote for your own entry. Please specify your entry number at the beginning of your email.
  5. At the close of Readers' Choice Award voting, I will tally the points. The winner will be the entry with the most points.
  6. I guarantee at least one Readers' Choice Award; however, depending upon the results of the contest, I reserve the right to award additional Readers' Choice Awards in the order of their rank. Additional awards, if given, may be with or without a prize.

Keep your favorites in mind. Enjoy your own judging, and above all, have fun!

Cast your votes before Sunday, August 5, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (U.S.).

Lastly, in the tradition of Clarity of Night contests, tomorrow I will share my own vision of the "Halo" photo. Have a good night!

The Shadow Messiah

The Shadow Messiah
by Jason Evans

The police sniper wrapped himself in the colors of the forest floor.

The aches and cramps were growing. Especially his shoulder. He shifted the rifle to ease the strain. "We've been here since dawn. We're not going to take him here."

His spotter sat close. "Yes we will."

"He's not even reported to be in the area."

"I know."

"Then why the hell did you drag me out here?"

The spotter stared through binoculars stone still. "Trust me."

Great. Just great.

The sniper settled back a little, but still held marksman form. The slightest move sounded like freight train in the dry forest.

In the clearing, a cloud of gnats whirled in the brightness. The rays curtained like angelic light.

The motion of the swarm hypnotized him.

Sun warmed sand.

Footsteps in the dunes.

A man ahead.

Waves withdrawing. Withdrawing.

The man--

His eyes snapped open. A tuft of brown filled the scope. Not twigs. Not the spray of a fallen hemlock tree.


He dropped the crosshairs down to the profile of a face. It was serene, staring not quite at the sky.

The sniper blinked. He'd seen this scene before.

The gnats swirled.

Something rustled beside him, but he didn't waver from the target until a pistol planted in the side of his head. Without turning, he craned his eyes toward the spotter.

"Put down the rifle and stand," the spotter said. "He's waiting for you."

As the sniper walked, he wrestled back a bizarre urge to laugh.

Entry #83

by Brilliant Donkey

My Dearest Charlene,

I feel in my heart of hearts that our cause is just, and in the end the union shall indeed prevail. However, I fear that my time left on this earth is short. We have already suffered numerous casualties and to say that we are getting beat today would be a serious understatement. Rumor has it General Sherman has us surrounded and out numbered at least 4 to 1. Normally, I ignore the rumor mill but the constant sound of incoming fire closing in defies me to do so this time.

I do not fear death for I believe whole heartedly in heaven. I strongly believe that when we die, we go to the place in our lives where we were the happiest. For me, that is the clearing in the woods where we went on our picnics before I left. That place where the sun always seemed to shine, your eyes always seemed to sparkle, and where you gave me the news that a little one would soon be on the way. If I should indeed perish here today, know it will be with thoughts of you in my heart, and your name on my lips. Know that I will be waiting for you in that clearing.

Waiting to see those deep green eyes.

Waiting to see that smile which always touches and melts my heart.

Waiting to take your hand in mine and walk together through the pearly gates.


Love always,


Entry #82

by Daniel Powell

We had come to our end, and when the realization hit me in a place of such striking beauty, it was all I could do to stifle a laugh.

Three years. What an arbitrary figure, right? To some, it’s a phase. To others, an eternity. To me and Maryanne, it was just about the horizon of what we’d come to call our lives.

And the weird thing was, each of us saw it. Early.

“You’ll come with me, Alex. You think you have a choice in this matter, but you’re wrong.”

What could I say to that? She was the one with the high-powered job. The connections throughout the state of Oregon. Her grandfather had governed the state, for Christ’s sake.

“But I’m going,” I said. My voice was calm. I flashed the eyes she had always claimed to adore. “People need us there.”

“People need you here. Have you even looked around?”

I bit my lip, because it was hard to see her. To really see her. When we were in college, we’d talked about traveling. The Peace Corps. The Red Cross. We’d gone through the list.

“Mary, it’s almost the entire southeast. Think about the fallout. Americans need our help. They need human contact and they need it now. Florida. Georgia. Alabama. They’re hurting. We have to go…”

She ducked her head, and when she met my eyes, a single shimmering tear tracked down her left cheek.

“Please?” I said.

She nodded, and we packed our bags.

Entry #81

Forest For the Trees
by Roberta Nolte

She looked up painfully, remarking to herself that she could even see. All she could make out through her bloodied eyes was the tree stand. Light filtered through it as if everything was all right.

Nothing was all right - nothing at all.

She’d taken the right path on her run, turned left at the sign and plodded down the path. Her music pressed her onward. She listened to solid rock, mostly, a little soul. There was nothing too aggressive.

Raising herself from the mud pile, she regretted not listening to something more aggressive.

Running along, she made the south end curve and something hit her from the side, knocking her down.

In separate attacks, she felt as if she was being pummeled again and again.

She was helpless. Not knowing what she could do to protect herself, she rolled into a ball and played dead. After a while, she passed out.

“Who could do this to me!” she said as she began to unroll and assess her injuries.

Across the path, several doe stood eating grass with their fawns, completely unfazed.

She moved slowly from the ground and pulled her slight figure from the mud. Searching the light she found her way south.

She didn’t hesitate flipping the doe the bird on her way out of the woods.

Entry #80

The Collectors
by Jenn Carkner

Her raven hair flew like a banner behind her as she raced through the wood. Ahead she could see her goal: It was flickering golden through a million different shades of brown and green. He would be waiting anxiously for her, she knew, but that couldn't be helped.

Ten yards more... Five... She broke into the sunny clearing, the one place in the whole wood where the light broke through the great emerald canopy of ancient growth. How it came to be, they couldn't know for certain, but the charred remnants of long-dead ancients suggested a mighty storm to be the cause. This was their place. He was there; sitting on an enormous stump, gazing at a massive clump of roots that were twinkling merrily in the midday sun. He turned at the sound of her footfalls, and grinned.

"Didja get it?"

"Yeah, it was close though. My Ma nearly caught me while I was closing up!"

And with care that was close to reverence, she gently opened the cloth package she had been carrying. The boy leaned over, his eyes sparkling in anticipation.

"Ahhhhh…" He sighed as she withdrew their newest prize from its wrappings.

She nodded her understanding, and without a word, walked to the clump of roots and gingerly set the treasure in a little knot formed by two intertwined roots. It fit perfectly. With a sigh of contentment, she stepped back to where the boy was watching, and together they admired their collection.

Entry #79

Damnation Before the Dawn
by Carol A. Cole

The heavy smog spread across the burned out city. Radiation levels had peaked and began to wane. The only movement came from cars whose engines hadn’t died out after the blast. Nothing lived except for the insects too low to the ground to feel the effects.

Sunlight peeked through the tops of trees in the distant forest. A robin scurried across the dry grass searching out a meal, too weak to fly, it collapsed and was set upon by the beetles who had come before man and would survive after his demise.

Months passed and the forest grew lush. Squirrels and wrens reappeared. Small rodents returned to the city and life began anew.

Entry #78

by FunkyMunky

I used to love these woods. As a child, I'd spend hours playing hide and seek here.

But tonight, I daren't think of those times. I was innocent then.

The night is black and still. I'm pushed hard against a tree, my nose squashed into the bark and rough hands are pawing at my flesh. My discarded underwear lies in a heap on the uneven ground at my feet and my mouth is sore and dry from the constant effort of screaming.

"Help me" I try to yell, but my voice is muffled. Nobody hears my futile cries.

"Shut up." He yells.

His fingers become more insistent. Prodding. Poking and his breath smells of cigarettes and cheap whiskey. Bile rises in my throat.

I begin to sob. Silent tears fall. Their saltiness stings my lips as they hit the open wounds he's inflicted there. I want to die.

"Stop right there!" A sweet masculine voice shouts in the darkness. I see a beam of light in the darkness and a torch shines into my face. Pushing my hands up to shield my eyes, I take advantage of my tormentor's uncertainty and move slowly away from the tree.

My saviour speaks again. "What's going on here?" He turns to me and despite my pain I feel the beginnings of an erection. I can't believe he's actually here.

Crouching on the floor, his dark eyes boring into mine, I smirk at the broken man who is my father. It's over now.

Entry #77

by John McAuley

I took out insurance on every job. Most everybody knew I was just covering my ass, so they went along with it.

Maybe that's why I'm still alive and my old bosses are dead.

Or rotting in prison.

Which is as bad as dead.

I don't work anymore. My hands are shaky and I move slow. Damn near blind too. My hearing is still pretty good though, so I guess that's something.

I have few regrets over the jobs I did. They were all on guys that knew how things were.

Most of them faced the end with guts. Especially if I promised not to beat on them before I shot them.

Enzio took it best: " Shit. Guess I'm done huh? Remember when our kids watched that show where one cartoon guy says to the other, '" You knew the job was dangerous when you took it..."'

I did him clean and fast. I sent his wedding ring to his wife. Anonymously of course.

Last week I visited my mother at the nursing home just before she died. For over thirty years she'd kept the maps and names. My insurance policies.

The only question she'd ever asked was where to send them if something bad happened to me.

Now she's gone.

I'm sitting on a tree stump in the woods of Northern Michigan.

There's a halo of black flies buzzing around my head and Jimmy Hoffa's hands ain't where I buried them.

And I hear twigs snapping behind me.

Entry #76

The Knowledge
by Karen Philpott

Barefoot, I run from the warmth of the bonfire party. I do love my clumpy, platform boots, but I also love to feel the freedom without them. I glance over my shoulder as I leave my family and reach the edge of the woods; I know Spike will follow me. How could he not?

From the corner of my eye I see the moonlight reflecting off a white rock and I quickly shrug off my biker jacket, flinging it down on to it, so Spike will know which way I’ve gone this time.

Behind me now in the distance, the fireworks electrify the air with their sparking and fizzing. As I make my way to ‘our place’ the brambles snap at my leather mini-skirt and fishnet leggings, but I laugh, out loud. I don’t care as Spike will soon take them all off me, anyway.

I shiver, deliciously, but then find myself blushing. Like a little girl, I’ve only allowed him to kiss me and feel me up so far, and not gone all the way.

It is a bit creepy in the dark, so I stop to get my bearings. The shadows begin to make sense and I move on more easily.

If I allow him to make me a woman tonight, we will be together forever, he told me. And, when I’m sixteen, he will leave his wife. And Spike will marry me.

Entry #75

by Therese

"Oh, shit."



"You said you knew where you were going, are you telling me that you don't?!"

"No, Helen. I literally just stepped into a steaming pile of shit."

"Oh." She paused, calming down slightly. "Gross."

Although it was true that he had actually stepped rather directly into a fresh pile, Mark hadn't been entirely truthful. Not only were they actually lost, but the droppings belonged to an actual bear.

He wasn't sure how to get out, but was sure that she would lose it altogether if he admitted that. He looked up through the trees at the sun, which was starting to set. He was trying to keep calm, but it was difficult faced with her growing panic. He wasn't looking forward to telling Helen that they were about to spend the night a forest.

In Maine.

In April.

With no supplies.

"Helen?" He braced himself, finally resigned to facing the inevitable.

"Yes?" She looked like the calm before the storm, sensing that he wasn't about to share good news.

"We might… be… just… a little lost."

She glared at him, but said nothing.

"And I may have… stepped in fresh bear shit."

Her eyes widened, but still, she said nothing.

"Any ideas?"

"Glad you asked." She smiled and pulled out a compass and a bear bell. "I knew you'd get us screwed, but I didn't think you'd admit it so quickly."

Taken aback, he realized it in that one single moment: he had married a bitch.

Entry #74

Out of the Darkness
by Paul Liadis

Alistar wept, his tears tracing the curve of his sunken cheek. The sky had been a murky gray for ages, the sun and moon and stars, his onetime companions, having long ago taken their leave. His tears were tears of joy, for the light had returned to him, filling Alistar with hope for the first time in his life.

He had been bound to the tree facing this spot for months, possibly years, possibly his entire life. Alistar could not recall. The forest was all he knew, all he could remember. It was his world.

There were times Alistar felt himself on the verge of starvation, ready to give in to the hunger that gripped his being. Each time a mysterious man would appear out of the shadows, giving him something to eat and something to drink. Alistar had begged for mercy, hoping the man would release him from his entanglement or let him die, but the stranger would simply smile, wipe away Alistar's tears, and slink back into the shadows. Despite this, Alistar felt no ill will towards the man.

And so it was, on the day that the day the sun peaked once more through the treetops, that the stranger unbound Alistar’s hands, wrapped a towel around his thin frame, and led him to the cottage beside the rippling stream. “You have endured,” spoke the stranger. “Now rest.”

It was on this day that Alistar began his journey to the throne, as the Great Book had said.

Entry #73

by Ally

Snakes and bears and birds and things—it was a part of some old rhyme. He attempted to focus his memory. Snakes and bears…"and birds and things."

He waded through the brush, treaded unevenly on the tawny needle-covered ground—the whole, a mass of desiccated tree leavings, matted ferns, and regurgitated vole skeletons. He took a tentative step. Shhhrrk! It left a shallow impression on the surface that rebounded only slightly as he lifted his boot. It was the stuff of bird nests and rat dens. Of children's nightmares.

To calm himself, he imagined he was walking on a bed of those compacted wheat cubes that were supposed to be high in fiber and good for someone of his advancing years. Only these harbored dangerous animals, ticks with Lyme disease, rot, death….

He wasn't yet 60—still rather young, he reasoned—so this little hike shouldn't be too dangerous for his hips or his nerves or even his skin, which was nearly all covered, save for his face. But he remembered the mantra, and it now it seemed to issue from his own footfalls like sylvan heartbeats: snakes and bears and birds and things. He felt a cold sensation coursing around limbs, journeying to and fro like waves of ice, until it made his arms quiver and his head arch backward. Turning around, his dark-grey eyes scanned the distance behind him for all four dangers, but mostly for the last.

He thought he saw something, but he didn't. He never…Shhhrrk.

Entry #72

Mr. Fifth Date
by Dottie Camptown

I try to imagine being one of Colin Turnbull's pygmies, except I am the tonal inversion, the negative. Light where dark. Dark where light. Turnbull took his pygmy guide, Kenge, out of the forest and onto the plains. Kenge of course freaked out. The expanse of open sky was too much. I pretend to feel relief at the dark canopy above me, but I'm not a pygmy. I'm from Nebraska.

I feel a panic attack starting. (My court-ordered therapist would say: Create a story in which you are calm and then live in that story.) Reframe: I feel a little out of breath.

This is the most promising first date so far, although we are walking through the woods, and it is dark. He is my fifth first date generated from Craigslist.

SWM seeks SWF for hikes and nonsexual connections. Pic included.

He didn't ask me for mine. I opened his picture squinting, so I could shut out the image in case it included his erect member. It was a nice photo of a clean-cut young man with sweet melancholy eyes. He wore long pants.

If he was disappointed when he first saw me, he didn't show it. I pick up my lumbering pace wanting to get this over with. I don't want to be lost in the forest with no guide to get me out. Light flits through the trees ahead of us. My pulse finally steadies. I'll make it quick, so Mr. Fifth Date won't suffer.

Entry #71

The Taking
by Marie Mastracci

My sister sits on a decaying log with laced fingers supporting her head; her voice breaks into the still air, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” There is no other sound to compete with the prayer, no chirping birds, no scurrying squirrels, no rushing feet. The smell of running sap and mountain streams reminds me of long afternoon hikes and packed lunches but this is not a time for reminiscing. I look down at my mother lying on a bed of fireweed and kneel at her side; my breath stops in my throat but her struggling lungs expand again and I sigh with relief.

Her blue eyes slowly appear between scored eyelids; she presses her lips together in the familiar smile and a tear appears at the corner of one eye. A whisper is carried on her next breath and I lean closer. “It’s time,” she says.

Her body sinks deeper into the ground and her relaxing face alarms me. “Please, mum,” I say, “hang on a little longer.” I wonder if she sees fear when she looks into my eyes.

The sudden clanging surrounds us. Hands reach around my waist from behind and I grasp for a non-existent tree limb, wildflowers, anything to hold me back from being dragged away from my mother - and out of my dream.

I grope for the phone and hear my sister catch her breath a world away. “Mum’s gone,” she says.

Entry #70

The Ropes of Māui
by Wavemancali

Suddenly, Māui-waho’s cry of pain echoes through the forest. Anxiously, he says to his brother “Help me Māui, for I have twisted my ankle and cannot walk. The day is almost done and if we are caught in the forest without light surely we will be eaten by a grue.”

Māui says,”Brother, what shall we do?”

Māui-waho explains,”You must rope the sun again so I can hold it in place, then fly home and tell Māui-taha, Māui-roto and Māui-pae where I am so that they can help carry me.”

Māui fashions the rope as he was taught by his ancestors and captures the sun. He hands the rope to his eldest brother, hoping he has learned enough to be able to hold it, for the sun is stubborn and wants to continue its walk through the sky. Promising a speedy return he transforms into a wood pigeon and takes flight.

True to his word Māui returns quickly with his other brothers.

Together they lift Māui-waho and rush home before the sun can walk too far and the grues become emboldened by its absence.

Māui tells his brothers, “Today we could have lost Māui-waho because of the darkness in the forest. Tomorrow I will go and seek out Mahuika so we can once again have fire to keep the grues at bay.”

But that tale is for another day.

Sometime, if you look in the clearing where Māui-waho fell, you can still see the ropes Māui left tied to the sun.

Entry #69

by Bernita Harris

In the blue of the moon they howled and hunted.

Night was their strength and light their only weakness.

But our high forest was a dark, rich place of shade and shadow, even by day. Of massive deadfalls, tumbled rocks and sudden crevasses.

And no longer sanctuary.

Some who ventured to gather fuel or tend their snares did not return.

We found only blood among the pine needles and heard the clan winds, lamenting, whispering:

Cha till, cha till, cha till, mi tuille. We return, we return, we return no more…

We saw their shapes slink and circle beyond our night fires. Fires that grew smaller as our supply of wood decreased. The Woman of the Bones warned us we must make an end or flee…

They hunted me through the dawn on either side of the narrow track. Before and behind, beyond the flame of my torches, padding, sniffing. I could almost hear their saliva drip from open jaws.

When I heard the first long undulating howl behind me I ran toward the sunlight, leaped the pit trap and turned at bay.

Blood lust for my bare flesh made them incautious. They burst in full cry into the broad shaft of golden light that pierced the swaying treetops and struck downward like a spear.

It turned them to stone.

We dropped more stone over them. It is named the Place of the Dark Trolls. There is even a song.

I never hunt that way.

I hate being bait.

Entry #68

by Betty Gordon

Whispers drifted through the trees shaping leaves into soft waves. Quiet murmurs, weeping pleas, permeated the darkness as fragile light danced along the edge of the forest. I strained to listen as their voices clutched my breath. Then, I saw the cut, mutilated limbs strewn on the ground—blankets of annihilation. Tears streamed unashamedly down my cheeks.

Memories rushed through my body, memories of my brother and I sneaking out of our house during early morning hours to escape into this forest. We’d run, as only children can, through damp grasslands allowing fragrances of clover and uncontaminated scents of nature to permeate our senses. We’d play with wood nymphs and tree fairies, our friends, our protectors, until daylight. Then, we’d scamper home hoping we weren’t missed.

Now, although I’m considered to be grown-up by some, once again I crept out of my parent’s home to blanket myself in fertility that only these woods can offer. I drifted into the sprinkling of gold dust filtering through the trees spared from desecration. Sunlit haloes of light promising healing and restoration surrounded me.

A rustling sound tore through my musings. I focused through shadows now brimming with light. Then, I saw it, a gigantic mechanical monster advancing through the forest headed straight for me and my protectors. My heart overflowed with sadness. It was too late for my friends, but perhaps their lost beauty would live on to benefit the world. At the moment, it was too much to understand.

Entry #67

Ravish by Rainstorm
by Jade Leone Blackwater

“Don’t come any closer.”

“Just lemme look—”

Justice snaps back in the crook of a stump. His chest is heaving, straining for oxygen in the thick summer air. Tonight’s been a real toad-strangler: even the katydids sound wet.

“C’mon Justice, I’m sure it’s not so bad—”

He’s starting to make inhuman noises—sort of a wheeze-growl that begins in his belly and snorts its way through wet nostrils. Justice’s breath is accelerating, focused: he’s winding up.

I take a leery step back. The woods are dark early for the summer. Must be the rainstorm—


“Sure J?” I force my voice flat.

“…d-d-don’t you think you should get the f-f-fu—”

Justice’s back lurches and he cuts wind. His belly swivels from his hips, chest dropping heavily to the damp earth. His skin darkens like mist crossing the moon. Penetrating eyes train slowly back, my heart gropes its veins for flight.

I pummel forward. Muscle and bone lurching in frantic commotion while my mind congeals in a puddle of memory: a black-eyed man at the bar, drinks, cash, clouds, cabs, park trails… I listen, craning in the chimera to hear his words, “Where… where… …”

My chin hits ground. I slap my hands desperately at the darkness, legs tingling from the long sprint. At the smell of bourbon I turn; my eyes close on the wolfish snout of a lean, semi-erect wolf-man. I open my mouth, the rain pounds down.

Entry #66

Gifts Of Heaven
by Rajaa Qadri

When raindrops knock at my glass window and gentle zephyr touches my cheeks, I look up at the sky to admire the heavenly weather. But, I realized, it was just a matter of moments that this light wind escalates into a never-ending cruel storm, knocking an eerie, mystic feeling into the very atmosphere. The tender tree oscillates, flailing wildly in the storm. The light clouds, which once floated in the gentle breeze, now thunder and roar as if grumbling about the angry weather. When this bolt of the murky, weeping firmament, it feels like heaven has given way. The rumble of the thunder even makes the window-pane rattle and I suddenly dread that this breath would be my last. I don’t know what but the black sky; growing blacker by every passing minute; invites me to think about my end. Death.

What an eerie feeling it brings; loneliness, silence, stillness, darkness. Yet, after what seems like eons to me, I throw a glance upwards to see what the weather has brought and notice a beam of light. Emerging on the horizon and the storm gradually abating the fear, the fright begins to fade away and the sun starts shining down on me, inviting me to see for myself what the cruel weather has yielded. A blooming new bud of Rose—Sign of Life.

Entry #65

Iron Chef: Improv Challenge
by Pearl

The tension used to mount under the task lighting that flicked on whenever he addressed her. She wanted to be head chef of her every word, gesture off any wild card ingredient he brought to counter what she meant. She learned to stay her tongue when some ballsy leading question would come, a glib line fishing for whatever panting breath of sunfish he could land, or dark trout of doubt he could pull out. He knew nothing of her, except what she disclosed unconsciously as to a fortuneteller.

She learned to season her response, sprinkling their conversations with a grain of salt. She learned to curb the rush --"doth protest too much" gushing through her larynx. No thrash, no wordless oh-oh-oh, no clipped swift disappearance escaping him, no brush off with a sigh. His filleting knife gestured too fast against empty air where she had been.

Instead of an adversary to trip her up, he would be a secret ingredient that made her distinctive -- she would blueballs and soursop him -– his custard apples dribbling juicy turns, or pelted at her, hard, green, she would catch what he cast her way and craft a veggie stew of the same fruitful ideas, geographies of textures, potential to exploit. Knife looser in hand, concerns set aside, she breathed in the tropical scent of this victory, nervous sweat beading his brow when she eyed him with new appraising calm.

Entry #64

Vision Quest
by John Hammel

A guy could learn a lot about himself out in the woods. Legend says the Wampanoag sent their young out here on vision quests, alone to fend for themselves for weeks. Armed with only your wits and a sleeping bag, you find out what you’re really made of.

I mean, everyone’s heard the stories…campfire tales of Shrieking Susie, the vengeful spirit of a murdered young woman said to haunt these parts. Her mournful cry is enough to stop all who hear it dead in their tracks; frozen and helpless as she drags them into the darkness to roam the woods with her forever. That’s what they say.

But those are just stories. Right? Just silly children’s ghost stories that…wait…did you hear that? Probably just the wind. Nothing to worry about.

Anyway, there’s a lot more tangible threats out here. Like crazed transients hopped up on amphetamines. Groups of them. They had a thing on the news. They stalk around out here, wait for some poor sap to set up camp, and BAM! Next thing you know, you’re aching, bleeding, and minus one wallet. And that’s if you’re lucky. My cousin’s friend was camping out here a few years ago; woke up without a kidney. True story.

Or bears! My God, there’s bears out here! And poisonous snakes! What was I thinking? I could be eaten by a freaking bear. Best case scenario, a mosquito bites me and I die of Malaria. Maybe West Nile Virus.

Screw this, I’m going home.

Entry #63

The Scent of Red
by Amanda Earl

Sulfurous cinnabar causes her to ache. Earthy sienna sends shivers to her nipples. Ochre’s pungent odour of ozones travels an electric impulse to the base of her spine.

Her prints are black and white intaglio. She inhales, filling her nostrils with silver’s brine.

She is a known recluse. Rare visitors must wear neutral colours. Something about synesthesia: the blending of senses. At the last minute though, he puts on a red tie. A reporter who wears red gets noticed in a scrum.

But this isn’t a press conference; it’s a private interview in her studio. He tries balancing a coffee on his knee. She arrives as he scrambles to pick up smashed china.

A ripped t-shirt barely covers her. Tendrils of hair cascade onto her graceful neck. She exudes jasmine.

She helps him sweep everything up. They sit, then laugh.

She stares at his tie. Her cheeks turn scarlet. Throughout the interview he notices her nostrils flaring, her ass squirming.

“That smell,” she says. “It’s driving me crazy.”

“Smell?” He’d been careful not to wear cologne, knowing people were allergic.

“Your tie.” Her nipples stand erect through her t-shirt. He grows hard, wanting to touch her.

“Red…is the sexiest scent,” she says as she spreads her legs, tilts her head back.

“Shall I take it off?” He’s worried. He’s blown the interview, but now all he wants is to fuck her.

“Take it all off,” she says, “but leave the tie.”

Entry #62

Light through the Birches
by Martha Hubbard

My Finnish grandmother died suddenly just before my 16th birthday. I went to live with my Aunt Irena and Uncle Bill. I hated living in his house and him. There were times when I believed I couldn’t go on – that the only solution was an overdose of aspirin – how many do you need to actually kill and not make yourself sick?

It was then that Grammy began to appear in my dreams. Usually we met in the little red house we had shared. We drank coffee at the table that had heard so many stories, while she advised me how to get through the latest trial that was messing up my life.
Our discussions carried on irregularly long after I had escaped Bill by marrying a decent if perplexed man and moving to New York City. However, even relatively good marriages come to an end. When I was trying to decide whether to leave New York, my friends, such family as I had and move to Europe, Grammy paid a visit.

Taking my hand, we walked through a serene grove of white birch somewhere in Finland. As the sun cut ribbons of blue through golden leaves, she said that this was her last visit – her work on earth was done.

“No,” I protested. “I need you.”

“Not anymore. You will be fine. Look around. This is your inheritance and your future. One day you will find this grove of light and know I spoke the truth.”

Entry #61

Shadow and Light
by C.P.Lew

Shadows and light merge in the jungle. In a heart beat, a tree limb breaks off its perch and soars through the forest on man-sized wings. The invisible birds call out, trying to find each other.

They must be lonely, to call out to each other in all this space. The man avoids thinking about his family in Hanoi.

He can't ignore his longing as he walks through the foliage. His hands slip on the gun barrel and his back tickles with sweat running down into his pants. The soldier jumps at the snap of twigs and he reminds himself not to shoot at anything; otherwise, he'd shoot at everything.

He examines a thread stretched across the path, sparkling in a shaft of light. Is it a spider web or a trip wire leading to a mine. Dangerous to insects or people?

When he looks up at the path again, he sees a triangular face, half-hidden under a broad leaf. The luminous eyes bore into his. The man wonders what the tiger sees. Would a skinny Vietnamese man would make a good meal?

The soldier stands like a rock, trying not to breathe, wondering if he can work his hand around to the trigger, aim, and fire before the tiger leaps at him. He prays for his family, not for himself.

Suddenly a flock of birds shoot up from the underbrush. The man sinks to his knees. The face of the tiger explodes into butterflies and parrots.

Entry #60

by Andrea Peck

I don’t know why I did it. It still doesn’t make sense. All I remember is the binding feeling of suffocation. The gelatinous smell. I have a vague idea of the days changing into nights, the slowing of light and a diaphanous warmth at times. I have images of sound that run through my mind. Birds? The soft scuttling of animals on trees? I remember the wind the most. The wheezing sound as it picked up and the cool disinterest as it died and paused before starting again. I remember the depth of fear that I felt, in the dark, the wind blowing, as I hung, from that branch in the clearing. Now, I think I would have chosen a more secluded place. Somewhere more protected, because it is that fear that stays with me as I remember those days that I held on with my own tensile strength and a will that I did not know I would need.

I miss the truncated dependability of my legs. My body, resolute, took me where I wanted to be. Sometimes I imagine I am myself again. I feel heat radiate from the earth and sense the moist green curve of my body. Now, I move with a drunken fluttering that reflects the indecision that has taken over my stalwart intentions and it is the infernal wind that has the last say as it lifts my wings, new and ungainly, on flights of its choosing.

Entry #59

Entry #59
by Emeraldcite

Smoke-ring haloes of golden light spinning around my fingers on my left hand. A cigarette burning down to the filter in my right. I forgot to inhale.

I was only going for a short walk and found myself here. I think I came here to die. I didn’t follow the tread-worn path, took a right at the split tree, blackened from the lightning weeks or months ago. Who knows?

Hell, when I was a kid, I figured I’d be dead by now like the rock stars I idolized.

I spit on the butt of the cigarette, the slight sizzle extinguishing the bit of hot ash.

The brush looks as if the forest has tugged its great carpet out from under me. Splash, into the mudpuddles by my feet. My back dampens. The sky is twisting and disappearing like water going down the drain.

I feel the life leaving me. I feel like a string is tied to my sternum, pulling my chest out through my skin. My back arches, the cigarette rolls away.

A gust of wind lifts the leaves around me. Dazzling.

Then, the darkness comes up over me, a blanket of warmth.

Entry #58

(Entry removed at the request of author.)

Entry #57

The End
by Rachael Dimond

I'm running through the woods. I'm out of breath but I must not stop running. He's getting closer to me. I can hear his feet crunching the branches and leaves. I'm sure the vines are scratching up his legs to a bloody pulp. I hope he twists his ankle and falls. I need to run.

He's getting closer. I can feel his breath on my back. I have no energy. I think I'll just sit down and rest for a while. If I close my eyes and pretend I don't see him, then he can't get me.

I hear voices. They're talking about me. I smell disinfectant. Am I in a hospital? How did I get here? I feel something in my throat. It feels like a breathing tube. There are all kinds of medical equipment hooked up to my body!

Oh, I remember. I’m dying. My husband decided to slit my throat because he caught me with his brother in bed. He couldn’t deal with the image and decided he was going to kill me. I tried to stop him but he just became more angry and violent with me. I loved his brother. Why couldn’t I be with him? Why did I have to marry a murderer?

I hear a beeping sound. I’m coding.

I'm in the woods. They're swallowing me up. I can't breathe. He's caught me. He finally caught up to me and has me now. It's over. The race is done. Death caught me.

[Rachael is a 25-year-old -book reviewer for 4 sites online. She loves to write and would like to write a book one day. She enjoys reading mysteries and thrillers that take her breath away. She likes to be wowed from the first line to the last and that is how she writes, never letting up the tension.]

Entry #56

The Move
by Helen Flatley

Six hundred men stood in a circle around the forest. Hawks flew overhead, keeping beady eyes on the proceedings. Blade drones worked underground, slicing through the pedosphere.

The sun was bright and high; it would scorch the soil left behind. This did not matter, for the weathermen had predicted that the valley would be under water within a year. And so the race had begun to transport the forest - trees, animals and all - to a safer place. It was too precious to lose.

A roar rumbled through the sky: the fleet of flat-roofed vehicles had arrived. Men stepped back to let them through, and the vehicles crept up to the edge of the trees. One by one they tilted, in order to slip the lip of the forest floor onto their roofs. One by one they inched forward, until one hundred of the mobile platforms were in that strange place betwixt tree and scarred ground. Between them, they lifted the forest completely off the earth.

The men approached again. They would guide the machines over the plains to a clearing on safer ground, where another six hundred were preparing the transplant area for its new arrival.

They did not know that the forest would not like its new home, that it would retaliate, that it would let itself die, that it would whisper, in its last moments, only two sentences, over and over: You left our soul behind. The stars are different here.