Prompt: A Hike Through the Woods

A Hike Through the Woods

Another completed prompt for January, huzzah! This was also from that prompt book I received as a Christmas gift. It too came with ten words I had to use, and this time, I didn’t miss half the prompt in writing it. And here are the words I had to use:

  • backpack
  • collar
  • covert
  • fireball
  • leprechaun
  • pity
  • nausea
  • practice
  • snoop
  • wart

I had fun incorporating magic into this little prompt. I hope you enjoy it!

I adjust the straps of my backpack, tugging it more firmly against my back. The wind is brisk, and I hope that once I step into the woods that the trees will help serve as a bit of a buffer against the wind. I wonder if I should have worn a thicker jacket but I know, after hiking for a bit, that I will grow warm. I always do. I run hot.


I like to take these hikes alone. I like the quiet, even though quiet isn’t really the right word to use. The woods aren’t quiet. Creatures are moving around underfoot and overhead, the breeze blows through the leaves causing them to rustle. Occasionally, an animal will sound the alarm, or maybe yell at another. But it feels quieter than the sounds that I am used to. It isn’t the loudness that I equate to a city. It isn’t the honking of horns and the curses of fellow humans. I would much rather deal with animals cursing than humans.


Everyone tells me I do not need to make these treks alone. Especially this one. I can see the pity in their eyes, hear it in their voices. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I remember how it made me feel so angry, and I still don’t know if I was angrier with myself or with those who wore pity in their eyes like their life depended on it. It was not like it ever led to action on their parts, no true action at any rate. They do not deserve my anger or even annoyance. I do my best to push it down. It shouldn’t — and it doesn’t — bother me these days.


My shoulders relax as I make my way further in the woods. My boots making tracks in the mud. There will be no hiding that I have been here, at least not today. There is no rain in the forecast, nothing to wash away the evidence of me. That bothers me, and I’m not sure why. I tug the collar of my shirt up higher around my ears. I’m not cold. I just have a sudden urge to hide as much as I can. To tuck into myself. It’s the thoughts rolling around in my brain that are making me act like this. It is not like I’m on some sort of covert mission.


Huffing out a sigh, I tell myself to snap out of it. I hike ever onward.


I remember when I was a child, when I used to snoop in my grandmother’s office. It was a room that we grandkids were not allowed in. I never heeded that warning, never thought that it really applied to me. There was a black-and-white picture on her desk that I was obsessed with. The photo was of a young woman, smiling shyly at the camera. She wore a witch’s hat, cocked lopsidedly over one eye. There was a large wart on the tip of her nose. The photo fascinated me. I always wanted to ask my grandmother who that woman was.


I never did because that would give away the fact I had been in her office.


But I always wondered. Wondered who she was and why she looked like a witch. At least, like a witch told in stories to children to make them behave. She looked friendly, though. I couldn’t imagine her trying to eat children or whatever outlandish lies the story books told.


I am playing with a fireball in my hand as I take a brief rest. I know I should eat, especially since I am needlessly using my magic. I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, telling me to not waste my abilities. But playing with fire has always been how I calm myself. I like having control over something that can destroy. I like how hot it makes my hands feel. I like how dangerous it is.


“Still playing with fire?” A voice asks somewhere to my right.


I recognize the voice. I don’t look up, or acknowledge the leprechaun as he takes a seat on the fallen log that I have claimed as my chair for my rest. I don’t know how old he is. He has looked the same throughout the years that I have known him. Always offering more of a hindrance than any genuine help. Though my grandmother originally sent him to keep an eye on me, I think he cares, too, that I succeed.


“You know I’ll never stop,” I say, after a silence has lapsed between us.


“You should eat,” he says, and he says it gentler than I have ever heard him. I don’t think that I knew his voice could sound like that. It makes my stomach hurt.


“I’m not very hungry,” I say. Maybe I was a few minutes ago, but that hunger has gone away now.


The leprechaun sighs and I feel him get off the log. I finally look at him, and he is watching me. Eyes gleamed over with that look of pity that I have gotten used to. I had hoped he wouldn’t waste that look on me.


“Be careful. Do not do anything foolish,” he says.


I grunt a reply, dropping my gaze to look at the fireball in my hand. I toss it lazily to my other hand.


The leprechaun doesn’t say goodbye. He just vanishes with a loud cracking noise. I stay on the log for a little while longer. I don’t eat even when my stomach grumbles for food.


Nausea hits me a few hours later. I am still hiking in the woods, knowing my destination won’t be reached for another hour at the least. I regret not eating during my rest earlier, and I am forced to stop. I shrug my pack off my shoulder and reach inside of it for a granola bar when a memory hits me like a punch to the gut.


Suddenly, I feel like I am thirteen years old again, on my first hike. I didn’t eat then, either. I was too excited. I could hardly make myself take a break, but it caught up to me and I reached into my pack, and pulled out homemade trail mix from my grandmother.
I feel twenty again, still eating the same trail mix. Desperate to prove just how much of an adult I thought I was.


This is the first year that my hand comes back with something else. I can’t tell anymore if my stomach hurts from not eating, or because of something else.
I eat the granola bar even though it tastes like cardboard in my mouth.


I reach my destination little over an hour later. My legs burn from the exertion. I’m out of shape. I ponder, like I have the last few years that I have done this trek, about getting in shape. Taking walks outside of this hike. Somehow, I doubt I will. In the day’s light, out of these woods, that kind of work seems pointless.


I am in a clearing with a small river that runs to an edge of a cliff. The water doesn’t flow down the edge of a cliff; it doesn’t pour down it like a waterfall; it doesn’t drip-drip-drop. It is like gravity has stopped. An invisible wall halts the flow of the water.


The air is thick with magic.


I remember feeling like the surrounding air was suffocating me the first time I came here. I panicked. The leprechaun had appeared then and reminded me to relax. I did, just barely. I struggled to remember the breathing exercises that my grandma and others had taught me. But eventually, I did. And then I had realized the beauty of the place. The majesty of the magic.


Each year I must make a pilgrimage to this spot. I must absorb the magic placed here by my ancestors and leech some of mine out. It has taken a lot of practice to do so. I am fairly certain that in the first few years that I didn’t exactly take or give any magic. Everyone told me not to worry, that I would figure it out, eventually.


And I did.


I sit down at the edge of the cliff, ignoring the steep drop. I can’t look down or else I will panic. I don’t like heights. I feel like I was made short for a reason. I close my eyes and I concentrate. I can feel the air grab at me. I let the air, or magic, or whatever it is, pull some of my magic out of me. I do not panic, even when it hurts. I lose track of time. I don’t know how long I let the flow of magic leave me. But, eventually, I stop and then stand up, legs wobbly. I feel weaker than I have in years of doing this.


I should have eaten more.


I move to the stream, and I dip my hands into the water. It is cold. I bring it to my lips, and I open myself up again. I drink the water; it is thicker than water should be. I feel a sudden burst of fear that it won’t go down my throat. That I will choke on the thick-water and die. But I don’t. The water goes down, and I open myself up to it, allowing that magic that has infused in it long ago, to replenish what I let seep out of me at the cliff’s edge. I drink and drink until I feel uncomfortably full. Then I stop.


I feel stronger.


I feel ready to take on the world again.


I feel ready to face it without my grandmother.

September Prompt: The Awakening

September Prompt: The Awakening

I really want to write a longer story based on this world. I am doing my best to keep my prompt responses under 1,500 words. But, anyway, I think the world I have created here would be fun to explore, so maybe I will write something a little longer! I hope y’all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


Today is the Awakening. 

I adjust my white robes—they don’t fit properly, but I notice that most people are fidgeting with their own. Gathered around me are all kinds of people. Some distant relatives of the people who sleep, others family friends of those who passed on before the Awakening, and some look old enough to have possibly even known the individuals who sleep. I work in the facility, and I am tasked with being there for Isabella, no last name, who has no one left to greet her. That happens sometimes. Not everyone falls asleep and has loved ones to find them. According to Isabella’s records, it took a month for her to be found. 

It should not take anyone that long to be found these days — in ten days specifically — when the Sleeping occurs, thanks to GPS and smartphones. But I am getting ahead of myself. 

“When do we go into their rooms?” A woman named Regina according to the name tag affixed to her own ill-fitting white robes asks. 

I realize she is asking me. Everyone keeps asking me questions, and I suppose it is fair. They all know I work at the facility, that I have been tasked with keeping their loved ones or loved ones of dead loved ones alive. 

Not that it is hard keeping the Sleeping Ones alive. It isn’t like they can put themselves into any danger just lying there. But all these people in this room, they all seem to think I know things about their people. Like what their personalities really are like, even though I don’t. All I know of these people is their sleeping patterns, that some snore really loudly and others drool so much we have to swap out their pillows more frequently. 

I have never been to an Awakening before, though. And any information that I have these people have in packets they were supposed to study before coming. Still, I plant my customer service smile on my face.

“In about ten minutes,” I say, with a quick glance to the clock ticking in the room’s corner. My voice is higher-pitched than normal, a voice that I can only use when I am in the mode.

“Oh,” the woman says, and I find myself feeling guilty. She is nervous, I think. And I understand that too, because so am I. I have never met Isabella before—not really. Sure, I know her sleeping patterns. I know as much as her records tell us, which isn’t too much. Not much was known about Isabella. None of her neighbors at the time knew anything about her, or where she had come from. There were whispers of gentlemen (and some women too) callers coming late at night, but nothing  concrete. 

What am I supposed to say to this woman? Who fell asleep a hundred years ago? I suppose I will figure it out in less than ten minutes.


This isn’t the first time that I have been in Isabella’s room. Her body is still connected to all the wires that monitor her. The dull beep, beep, beep of machinery that tells all of us she is doing okay. She looks peaceful, the same as when she fell asleep, because that is one of the stranger things about those who fall asleep. They don’t age. Their bodies don’t decay. They seem immune to illness while they sleep, though we still give them vaccines for when they return to the world.

Return to the world. Even that phrasing is odd to me. 

They do not know the world anymore. Technology, it has advanced so much. Telephones and cars were relatively new when she fell asleep. I don’t think television existed and I wonder how you are supposed to explain computers and the internet to them. Oh, I know in that packet I studied, there were guided conversations. Suggestions of how I could breach the topic of all that has changed with Isabella, but none of it sounded natural to me, and why should she trust me?  She doesn’t know me.

I know her, though. I know how her face looks when she dreams. I can’t see what she is dreaming, but her monitors pick up on it. If the dream is pleasant, she has a tiny smile on her face. If the dream is unpleasant, she doesn’t frown. Her lips just fall into a neutral expression, but if you look close enough around her closed eyes, you can notice crinkles that aren’t normally there. She doesn’t talk in her sleep — some do—but she sighs occasionally. 

I have studied her file too. Even if there isn’t much in it. Her’s isn’t the only file I studied, and her sleep isn’t the only one, either. I have worked in this facility for years. I interned here in college, and once I graduated, they offered me a job. My bosses like my insight, apparently. They like how I treat the Sleepers. My curiosity, they say,  is at an appropriate level. 

I can’t really imagine working anywhere else, and I am going to be sad to see all these Sleepers leave. But I know, in ten days’ time, I will have new Sleepers to look over. 


I am seated in my favorite chair in  Isabella’s room. It came from her house and has withstood the test of time. We try to do that when we can, place items from the Sleeper’s lives, around their room. Usually people have albums and pictures, but not Isabella. All she has is this chair, and the dresser in the corner filled with knickknacks and clothing. 

The beeping on the monitor changes and I find my eyes daring towards Isabella. She sits up and stares with a confused expression at all the wires connected on her. Then her eyes land on me.

“I fell asleep, didn’t I?” she asks, her voice sounding rough from lack of use, but at least she still has a voice.

“You did,”  I say, suddenly forgetting everything that I am supposed to be saying to this woman. All the words of comfort and reassurance. At least she doesn’t seem like she wants to rip any of the wires out. She seems calm, and maybe a little too calm, but I will take it. 

Isabella’s eyes land on me, in her chair, and then drift away towards the rest of the room. Taking in the small television in the corner, the dresser that was in the room she was found in, and all the monitors that monitor her health.

“Things look mighty different,” she says, and I notice a hint of an accent. 

“I’ll bet,” I say, and I know that I should say other things. Asking how she is doing. Checking on her vitals and things like that. But she seems so calm, and not at all confused. I suppose by the time she fell asleep, we humans knew the routine. It had been happening for so long. I still think it would be a shock to fall asleep and then wake up a century later, but… not everyone is like me, I suppose. 

“Can I get something to eat?” Isabella asks.

The question makes me laugh.

“Technically, we aren’t supposed to let you eat right away.” I point out.

“I have had nothing to eat in a hundred years. It hardly seems fair to make me wait even longer.”

There’s a glint of amusement in Isabella’s eyes as she says this. I think I probably have five or ten minutes before she really puts up a fuss about food. I also decide that I like her, and maybe this won’t be so bad. Reintroducing her to the world.

September Prompt: Eggs & Roses

September 2020 Prompt: Eggs & Roses

The first prompt I have written for September. Here is my take on Eggs & Roses. It went in a direction I hadn’t expected from it. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to write until I sat down before a blank document, and then with the magic of 5am (more accurately it was probably 5:30am when I started) words began to flow. This prompt is written in the first person, something I rarely do, but have been compelled to do twice for prompts, interesting! At least, interesting to me. Anyway, please enjoy the prompt. As always, very minimal editing (mostly a read through or two).


“He has been coming every day for the last two years,” May pointed out, with a nod to the older gentleman at one of the booths near the back of the restaurant. 

“He always orders the same meal too,” added April, who had been walking by with a stack of plates balanced precariously on her arms. She shot her twin a look just before she entered the kitchens. 

“She doesn’t like us gossiping about him. She thinks he’s sad,” May explained, pausing a beat before adding, “but you saw how quickly she jumped in to talk about him.” 

“Do you think he’s sad?” I asked, doing that held tilt that always made May laugh. She said it reminded her of her puppy. I liked to make people laugh, it was a compulsion of mine. It didn’t matter if people were laughing with or at me. 

May didn’t laugh but her lips quirked up into an amused smile before she shrugged her shoulders. She gave the old man one more look, and I couldn’t quite read the expression on her face as she studied him. 

“I don’t think that he’s just sad,” May said slowly, “there’s more to it.” 

I wanted to ask May what she meant by that, but April had come back out from the kitchens, and the withering look she had given the two of us, had been enough to spur us into action. There were tables to attend to.


I had been working at the diner for over a month now. It was my first waitressing gig. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the work, but it paid the bills. April and May were a few years older than me. Fraternal twins who looked nothing alike. April was tall with long blonde hair that was always pulled up into a tight bun. She was the more serious twin. May was shorter with hair so dark it looked black, she kept her hair short and buzzed at the back. She had been the one tasked with training me, but May was easily distracted and had a tendency to wander off mid-sentence or training. April seemed to have a sixth sense about that, though, and she would swoop in to save my ass by explaining what her sister had not.

It was a family-owned diner, and it was rare that they hired new staff. Everyone made me feel welcomed, my coworkers, and most of our customers too since they were regulars. I still felt a bit like an outsider, though. Accepted only on the surface level. I had no intention of staying at the diner for years and years like most of the wait staff, and maybe, that was why I felt like I did not quite belong. Maybe everyone else sensed it too, even if they were nice, I never quite felt a real connection with anyone there.

If I managed to make everyone laugh at least once a shift and I got decent tips, then I considered that shift a win. 


“What can I get you today, sir?” I asked, and as I looked up it dawned on me who I was finally waiting on. The older man who came in every day, and sat at this booth.  He was dressed nicely, way too nice for what the diner actually was. I  noticed, for the first time, that he had a bouquet of roses. He must have seen me looking at the roses because he smiled.

“These are for my daughter, she’ll be joining me. I’d like some scrambled eggs, and an orange juice, please.” 

“Should I leave a menu for your daughter, then?” 

“That would be nice.”

I left a menu with the man and walked back towards the kitchen. I did my best not to peek over my shoulder at him.  I couldn’t remember if I had seen him with roses before, but something told my gut, that he probably always came in with them I had just never noticed before. I had never gotten close enough. 

I was distracted for the rest of my shift. I kept glancing at the old man, his table, and the door. Other patrons made jokes with me because they were used to me joking back, but everything felt kind of flat to me. Every time I checked on the old man, to bring him his food and then refill his orange juice, he smiled and seemed happy. Excited even about the prospect of seeing his daughter. But after a few hours, he had gotten up and left. His daughter had never come. He left a decent tip and the roses behind.


“He’s always waiting for his daughter?” I asked May.

We were seated outside of the diner. May’s back against the wall, and an unlit cigarette perched in her lips. She was not actually smoking it, she never did. She just always kept one on her for smoke breaks. I was on my fifteen-minute break, timed just so I could bother May with my questions.

“Always,” May replied, pulling her cigarette out of her mouth and pretending to exhale. 

“And she never comes?” 

“Never,” May stuck the cigarette back between her lips and squinted at me.

“Does any—…” 

“No one knows anything, Bev. He just comes every day, and orders his scrambled eggs with orange juice. He gets exactly one refill of the orange juice and eats his eggs. He eats them slowly and after two or so hours, he leaves. Always leaving the roses and a nice tip behind. No one wants to ask, no one knows what to ask. April is right, you know?  It isn’t our business.” 

May then stood up as I said nothing. Mulling over everything she had just said. Wondering if maybe I should be the one to break protocol and just ask those questions. May studied me for a few minutes, her eyes narrowed like she could read my thoughts. I could feel my face beginning to grow warm under the scrutiny of her look. 

“Don’t forget about the trash,” was what she said instead, before walking back inside. She stuck her unlit cigarette into her apron pocket, next to all of her pens. 


I ended up working at that diner for just under a year. I waited on the old man with his eggs and roses a couple more times. His daughter never came into the diner and I never worked up the courage to ask him anything. I guess, I realized, it was not my place or my business to ask.  Or maybe I could always just feel April’s laser-like eyes boring into my back. I really did not want to deal with her quiet wrath. 

august 2020 prompts: rains

august prompt: rains

The old man had been right, the rains had come early. It had been raining for three days straight, and according to the weather reports, there was no letup in sight. It had started as a slow trickle, more a drizzle than anything else. The parched ground sucking whatever wetness up that it could get. There had still been work to do, prepping life for the rains. My family and I had gotten a headstart on that prep work, thanks to the old man.

He lived on the property nearest us. His house was more of a shack, really. One room with a roof that always looked like it was falling in, and windows that looked like they would leak but never did. His back was hunched with age, and he had wrinkles all over his face. He had been this old for as long as I could remember— even my parents could not remember him looking any younger. He had made the walk, knocked on our front door with his gnarled cane.

“Rains will be here early,” he had said, his voice gravely and rough.

“How early?” my father had asked, he had gotten up from the table where he was reading the weather reports.

“I suspect tomorrow the earliest, but pro’lly the next day.”

“Do you need any help?”

“Been doin’ this longer than you’ve been alive. I don’t feel up to fixin’ anyone’s mistakes, but thank you.”

And with a nod to the rest of the us, he had turned around. We watched as he made a left instead of a right at the end of the driveway, and we knew he was making the rounds. He would walk all day, knocking on doors to tell anyone who would listen to him that the rains were coming.

“We should get to prepping,” Father was saying.

I had picked up the discarded weather reports, looking them over with a frown on my face. The reports were saying no rains for a month. The reports were often wrong— off by a day or two— but never a month.

“But the reports sa—…”

“He’s been around longer than the people doing the reports. The worst that happens is we prep too early, and then can relax at the end of the month.”

“Yes sir,” I said, with a glance at my siblings. No one else said anything as we ate in a hurried silence.

Two weeks into the rain and what had started off as a drizzle had turned into a torrential downpour for five days, before letting up some into a drizzle once more. We had just finished our work before the hard rains had hit. My father and brothers were checking on the fields and barns, making sure that everything was still patched up and letting out the animals who would not mind standing around in a constant drip-drip-drip of rain.

My mother had stopped me short of going out to help. She had been cooking all morning in the kitchen, up before any of the rest of us had gotten up. The rain season meant we all could sleep in, and we took that chance. It had been the smell of the food she was making that had wafted through the floorboards and into my room, that had woken me up. I had drooled some on my pillow, my dreams had become haunted by food thanks to the smells.

“You need to make some deliveries today,” she had told me.

I had my boots on, the ones that went up past my knees. I had on pants designed to get wet and keep me dry. A raincoat, and some gloves that would help me keep a grip on packages of food I had to carry, and a hat.

“Take this one to the old man, it is his favorite.” My mother said, lightly tapping the package on top. “Then to the Maybells, Mrs. Rigsby, and the shop.”

I knew there would be an order to take home from the shop. I set the packages down on one of the wagons we had, designed specifically to not get stuck in the mud. Though, often, it did. I organized the food packages, making sure they would not spill or fall out of the wagon, and then began my journey.

The ground was flooded and I knew that in a week’s time, we would be stuck in the house until the floodwaters receded. Today, with the drizzle, was likely one of the last days to run these errands. The ground squelched under my feet, my boots sticking to the hungry mud. I shivered slightly in the wet and chilled rain, tugging my hat lower on my face. I decided to visit the old man first, as his house was the nearest but also in the opposite direction of everyone else.

The dog barked before I could knock on the door. The old man’s dog was large and barely moved past the man’s porch these days. I could vaguely remember when the dog had been a puppy. I had been a kid back then, and I remember the puppy would always run into our property to chase us around. Now the dog was old, slow, and crotchety. But he seemed to like me, and his bark of a greeting was not aggressive.

“What’s that?” the man said by greeting.

“Food. Mom made your favorite,” I explained as I held up the warm package of food.

“Oh, good. Come in and drink something warm before you go on,” the old man said.

I nodded my head even though he had turned his back to me. I bent down to pet the old dog, who let out a satisfied woof before I stepped into the house. I stood, dripping in what was the entryway of the one-room place. I stood on a mat, knowing it would not make much sense for me to remove all my rain clothes. There was a fire lit, and the place was warm. Cozy. The roof that looked like it should be leaking, just like the windows, did not leak. There was nothing wet in the shack house, except for the mat and that was only because of me.

“Looks can be deceivin’,” the old man said, as he noticed where I was looking.

I let out an awkward laugh. I have never been the best with small talk, even with all my neighbors that I have known all my life. I took the warm mug of tea that was offered to me.

“Thank you,” I said, instead of inquiring how he prepped for the rains.

He sat down on a chair near the fire, and I drank the tea as fast as I could without burning my tongue. It warmed me to my core and tasted sweet. I just had nothing to say to the old man outside of pleasantries, and he seemed to have nothing to say either. I finished the tea, and he nodded towards a small table.

“Set it there, and I’ll be seein’ you. Thank your mom for me.”

“Yessir,” I said and then I left.

I gave the old dog one last ear scratch and began the long, wet, and muddy walk to town.