America – A Short Story

Looking out my back door, I tried to keep my breathing steady. It had been twenty-four hours since Mamá said goodbye. She had walked me to the school door instead of just dropping me off. She had given me an extra long hug and whispered, “Hay una sorpresa para ti, in your lunchbox,” before letting me go and walking quickly down the steps so she wouldn’t be late for work.

I had entered the school and didn’t give her another thought. Until she didn’t come home for dinner. And she wasn’t in the kitchen making arroz con chorizo on Saturday morning. And now it was Saturday evening.

I walked into the living room and picked up my cell phone. I tapped the “news” icon and watched the app launch. I saw it then, a picture of the factory where she worked. Mamá was coming out of the front door, flanked by two men in dark clothing, carrying guns, and wearing bullet proof vests that had the three scariest letters in the entire English language.

I-C-E

Mamá was still wearing the gloves she used for cleaning, her hair was mussed, the curly tendrils like a crown of ivy on her head. The headline said, “The first day of school turned into a nightmare after record immigration raids.” I sat on the couch, my heart rate increasing.

“No te preocupes,” Mamá would say when I whispered my fears to her. “Tengo fe in this nation.”

Mamá might have faith in this country, but I no longer did.

The photo above was taken by Patrick for his Pic and a Word Challenge #216 – America. I’ve also incorporated other prompts from this last week: Go Dog Go Cafe’s Tuesday Writing Prompt to use the word “ice” and the number “twenty four”; and the Ragtag Daily prompt for Saturday – Nation (Thank you, Punam!), Thursday – Looking out my back door and Wednesday – Goodbye.

This story is based on a true story of an immigration raid in Mississippi that occurred on the first day of school in 2019 – so it isn’t really “fiction”, hence the title. The children, of the immigrants who were taken, were not picked up from school and had no way of knowing what happened to their parents. I can only imagine the terror of those children – losing a parent is a big fear for any child. This incident also reminded me of the way the Jewish people were rounded up by the Nazis. Is this what America has become?

©️ 2020 iido

Speak My Name – Fiction

The stories got it wrong, you know the ones about the “fallen angel” who defied the god. It wasn’t for power or control of the heavens. No, it was for love.

You see, he didn’t want to share the light that would allow the humans to survive in the world we created. He wanted to keep them dependent on him. But that meant they were subject to his whims. Like I was. I couldn’t do that to them.

He had created the cold, dark time then told the humans that if they didn’t give him sacrifices, that he wouldn’t bring back the sky fire that would warm them and make their food grow. I tried to help but he put out my sky fire and now it is just a shiny stone ball in the sky.

That made me so angry! For millennia, I have supported him whether I agreed with what he did or not. How many worlds did we create together? How many worlds did he destroy for his own selfish reasons?

But not this one! These humans I made looked the most like me than any of the other creatures I had fashioned for him before. They were like children to me and I loved them.

I was done sitting idly by. The bit of fire that I brought the humans helped them to survive the cold and the dark. It helped them to thrive so they no longer had to depend on him. I was their liberator, their angel who saved them from death.

“Lucy, our Light,” they used to call me.

“Lucifer, the Light Bearer,” they used to praise my gift to them.

They loved me and I loved them! Why else would I have risked his wrath?

But he got the better of me. He corrupted the humans, corrupted my gift. He turned my gift of warmth and life into one of destruction and death, scaring the humans into thinking I wanted to harm them. And now my name is no longer shouted with joy but spit out with hate and worse, fear.

My heart is broken but I don’t regret helping my humans. And I know, one day, my name, my real name, will again be spoken with love.

Sadje at Keep it Alive has given us another beautiful picture prompt for this week’s “What do you see?” #13. The flame in the woman’s hand made me think of the story of Prometheus as well as the story of the fall of Lucifer.

Fire, which brings heat and light, has always been important to our survival. If you’ve ever watch episodes of the show, “Naked and Afraid,” getting a fire started is usually the number one priority for the contestants. The question of how did early humans discover fire is still unanswered. Still, I am grateful for the hominid who might have seen a burning bush and said, “Hey, this could be useful…”

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As I was writing this post, I remembered the fires still burning in Australia. Fire – like most things in life – can be both good and bad. If you would like to donate to help those affected by these fires, this link will take you to an article that has links to organizations accepting donations.

©️ 2020 iido

Sleep Deprivation – Flash Fiction

She slept finally, cradled in my arms. I glanced at the clock. 6 AM. Eight hours of crying (her) and cajoling (me). I had heard her twinkling laugh around 10 PM so I went to her room to check on her. I found her standing on her bed, arms high, reaching. I thought it was for me. But when I picked her up, she kept reaching higher and struggling, pushing out of my arms, saying “It’s my time.”

“Time for what?” I had asked. “You’re too young. You don’t know.” So I stayed and held her, whispering words of love and promises. Still, she thrashed, at one point running to the bookcase and clambering up to the window.

At 8 AM, she woke and nudged my arms away. “Mama, I dreamt I was the moon. Let me go tonight. It’s my time to shine.”

Trying a new prompt this week with dVerse – this is Prosery #2 courtesy of SarahSouthWest. The challenge is to write a piece of prose/flash fiction using the phrase “I dreamt I was the moon” taken from Alice Oswald, Oxford Professor of Poetry (UK). The piece must be 144 words or less.

The picture of my shoe and my daughter’s shoe was taken on a funky glow in the dark carpet at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. She how bright she shines!

©️ iido 2019

Hide and Seek – A Short Story

“Come out, Zima! I’m tired of playing hide and seek!” Aviva called from her perch above the bridge. “I’ve canvassed this area at least ten times. This isn’t fun anymore.”

She smelled Zima before she saw her – burnt peppermint breath enveloping her from behind. Aviva turned around to see Zima rising from behind the rocks beneath the bridge. Zima was a terrible sight to see. The dragon was as tall as a birch tree and as wide as the oldest pine tree on the other side of forest. Her scales were white and glittery like new fallen snow at sunrise but were as hard as plates of frosted glass. Despite her rigid outer covering, Zima’s long tail was flexible, grasping objects beyond her reach if needed. What Zima was missing were her wings. Aviva hadn’t asked her about this yet but she did notice the scars on Zima’s back.

“How could you not find me? I was right here!” Zima exclaimed. She regarded Aviva with a questioning look, taking in Aviva’s shoulder length, white hair, warm brown eyes and even warmer brown skin. The young girl – or woman as she insisted with they first met – was still holding her liege’s banner while sitting on her horse, Kite.

“You’re such a good hider, Zima! You just blend in with the snow.” Aviva finally dismounted her horse and leaned the banner against the saddle, stretching her shoulders and arms.

Zima snorted, “I don’t know why you insisted on carrying that banner the entire time.”

“I have to get stronger if I’m to prove that I can carry my liege’s standard. It won’t do for me to go into battle and then drop the flag when they need it to rally the knights.”

Zima snorted again causing Aviva to cross her arms. “I know you don’t think much of Egon but he is my liege and my cousin. He swears this war is inevitable. Our time together is numbered.”

Zima’s tail wrapped around Aviva’s waist giving her a squeeze. The tip found her shoulders and started to gently tap at the sore muscles there. Aviva leaned into the soothing touch with a sigh. She wasn’t sure what would happen to Zima once Egon started the war, but they had to find a way to remove the spell that had kept their kingdom trapped under winter snow for 100 years. None of the wizards they had brought over the years in had helped. Now Egon wanted to invade the next kingdom that seemed unaffected by the curse and take over their land for his own people. Aviva didn’t like the idea – you can’t simply take something that someone else has jut because you want it or even need it – but Egon had no ear for advice other his own greed and stubbornness. She was sure the war would further decimate their kingdom and leave them worse off then before.

Shaking off Zima’s tail, Aviva declared, “Let’s make the most of the rest of this day. Hide again, Zima. I’ll not pick up the banner or get on Kite this time.”

She turned towards the nearest tree and started counting to 50 while Zima bounded happily away. Zima didn’t see the tears falling from her eyes.

For Hélène’s “What do you see?” Picture prompt.

©️ iido 2019

549.18 – A Short Story

It was a gloomy January day, at lunchtime if I recall correctly, when she first spoke to me in that cockney English I now know wasn’t her real voice.

“Alright, I’ve kept you waiting long enough. It’s been, what, months that you’ve been sitting on that ladder. Day in and day out – even when it snowed you came. I guess the least I can do is find out what you want.”

“Oh, hello. You do talk!”

“I do talk! What is this? An MnM commercial with Santa? Isn’t that why you’re here? To ask the great Krystal – with a K, mind you – a question?”

I was silent a bit as the realization sunk in.

I had first come out of curiosity – my mates at the flat had told stories of the crystal ball on the top floor of the library that was supposed to grant wishes or impart wisdom, like a genie but not in a bottle. What they didn’t mention was her luminous sheen and the gentle curve of her orb. I was mesmerized by the light that got captured in her clear core. It would bounce and twirl, then burst back out, illuminated and improved from being held within her translucent membrane. I wanted to be that light.

Instead, I played it cool. “Krystal, with a K, how are you today?”

“Oh my! A poet, I bet you didn’t know it. Now what can I do for you?”

“Nothing right now. I just wanted to hear you talk and get to know you.”

“Get to know me? Why? I’m just a ball of glass.”

“You’re the most beautiful ball of glass I’ve ever seen.”

There was silence and then the faint rustling of paper that grew louder and louder. I covered my head as it reached it’s crescendo, then a flash of blinding light.

When I finally opened my eyes and pulled my hands away from ears, Krystal was gone. I checked all around the area for shattered shards, but there were none, not even a sliver the floor. Instead, what I found was an iridescent note with the number “549.18” etched on it. It took me minute, and then I knew just where to go.

As I turned the corner of the “549-550” shelves, I noticed a silhouette at end of the row, outlined by the library window, it seemed to sparkle. As I approached, the figure turned around and said, “It took you long enough. Next time, remember, Krystal doesn’t like to wait.”

This short fiction story was written for Hélène’s “What do you see?” Writing Prompt. The picture above (courtesy of Hélène) inspired this little piece. The title references the Dewey Decimal System.

Libraries are wondrous places! Knowledge and dreams all crammed onto shelves and sheltered in its four walls. It’s organized and comfortingly quiet. I’ve always thought of libraries as safe places where you can be who you are or be someone else for a bit; where you can fall in love with someone else or even, with yourself.

©️ iido 2019

Peaceful Goodbye – A Short Story

My eyes were parched, yet I kept them open, watching you as I did when you walked to the school bus. It seemed like such a long way for you to walk with your little legs. I told you not to look back, that looking back would make it harder, and I wanted us to have a “peaceful goodbye”. Peace was the September “virtue of the month” and it helped those first days when being apart wasn’t normal.

My throat closed up, as if I could cry, choking the words I wanted to call out – I love you! I’m proud of you! But you didn’t need to hear that – your humility and compassion allowed you to understand more than your 4 year old self should.

My heart slowed, a molasses drip, wondering what you were thinking as your tiny feet plodded on. Perseverance and courage might as well be etched on your retreating back. But the little wrinkles on your forehead would spell curiosity – we had that common. I wanted to help you, but you respectfully said you would go alone and that I should stay. I would have held you back, you honestly said. You knew I wouldn’t want that. Oh, how wise you had become!

My breath hitched and I was afraid – afraid you wouldn’t find the joy that I knew you deserved. But you didn’t look back and when you started to run – that’s when I knew:

You were going to where you truly belonged.

This short story is in response to Hélène Viallant’s “What do you see?” Picture prompt. There were so many ways to respond to this picture that Hélène posted – it could be scary or exciting or sad. It could have elements of science fiction or fantasy. Or a metaphor. My story is a little bit of all that. The back story could be that the world is coming to an end, the mother left behind to perish watching the sole survivor, her child, walking towards the unknown. Is it hopeful? Or ominous?

I also incorporated several virtues (or values) from Montessori education to fulfill Jamie Dedes’ Wednesday Writing Prompt request to “tell us about values gone awry”. My children attend a Montessori school and these virtues are lessons that are incorporated in the classroom and that I also try to utilize and exemplify at home. This whole child viewpoint of teaching is one of the reasons I love Montessori education.

While I’m not sure my story is one of values gone wrong, it does remind me of the saying “good guys finish last”. But do they really? If they believe their behavior, their sacrifice is for a noble cause, are they finishing last or being the first hero?

Flash Fiction Challenge Accepted!

This is my first time participating in a flash fiction challenge but Stephen at Fractured Faith Blog had thrown down a gauntlet that I just had to pick up. How fun is this challenge! The prompt was this receipt:

Here is my response, inspired by Edgar the Bug, from the movie, Men in Black.

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Close Encounter

Chapter 1

The mints and Diet Coke should have tipped me off.

“Is that all you’re eating on this trip?” I asked as I placed my own cravings of beef jerky, pizza flavored goldfish and Sunny Delight on the counter.

Chrys laughed nervously. “Oh, you know, it’s that time…” she explained and rolled her eyes.

We get back into the car and onto the highway. This was my first official road trip although it wasn’t by choice. I had overslept and missed my flight this morning. I was able to change my connecting flight from Newark Airport to Hong Kong, but all the flights from Harrisburg to Newark were booked. Chrys was the only one left at the dorm who had a car and was willing to drive me so I wouldn’t miss my connection.

I saw her grab a handful of mints and toss it into her mouth followed by a big gulp of Diet Coke. I shook my head and looked out the window. I didn’t really know Chrys: she was the only sophomore who didn’t have a roommate despite living in a double and she never hung out with anyone from our floor. Still, she had calmed me down and had offered me a ride after I finished with my “oh shit, I missed my flight” meltdown.

I looked at Chrys’ profile again. Her hair was greasy and I noticed how her ear and mouth drooped and sagged a little on the side closest to me. I wondered if she had a medical issue and that was what kept her isolated.

“So, Chrys, thanks again for helping me out. I’m glad you were still around. When were you leaving for break?” I asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t really going anywhere for break. My family lives too far away. Plus, I like being in the dorms alone – it gives me a chance to be myself,” she replied.

“Where does your family live? Mine are in Hong Kong right now, and that’s pretty far away.”

Chrys laughed, a sound like a cricket rubbing its legs, “They’re really far. I don’t get along with my parents anyway, so it’s not a big deal.”

I looked back out the window thinking about what type of homecoming I would get. “I’m sorry to hear that. I totally get it though. I’m not even sure why I’m making this huge effort to go “home” this break.”

I made a big gesture with the air quotes around “home”. The last time I had spoken to my parents, they had told me they were selling the house I had grown up in to travel the world and blog about it. Hong Kong was their third stop and where they would be over Christmas. In my mind, I had lost the only home I had ever known.

My eyes started to water at the same moment I felt a tickling sensation on my arm. I looked over to see a huge brown insect climbing up from the middle console next to where my arm rested. “What the fuck!” I screamed and tried to smack it with my beef jerky.

Chrys swerved the car into the breakdown lane. “Stop it! Stop it!” she yelled. “It’s ok! He’s my brother! Don’t hurt him!”

She scooped him up from where he had fallen on the console and placed him on her shoulder. The insect reached up and adjusted her ear, pulling the skin so it also uplifted her mouth before tucking it into her hairline. He resettled on Chrys’ shoulder and she gave him a mint.

“Thanks, Sis,” the insect said before turning his head in my direction. “Sorry to scare you, but I just could not stand to see her ear and face out of place. I’m Manny, by the way. Nice to officially meet you, Daphne.”

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I could write more but it’s late (or early!) and I need some shuteye. Stephen had also recently blogged about finding just the right first chapter for his new book (my other inspiration for this piece of writing). How’s this for a first chapter?

Thank you, Stephen! Totally worth losing some sleep for this challenge!