Contests, Flash Fiction, Uncategorized

‘The Girl Who Walked In The Dark’ – a flash fiction piece

Last year I entered  ‘Thomas’ into the 2015 Flash Fiction Contest hosted by Spider Road Press.  The piece won an honorable mention and will be printed later this year from the amazing Spider Road Press.  They’ve also published my poems ‘Darkness’ and ‘Snowfall’ (the latter under the pen name Elizabeth Harris) in the collection ‘IN THE QUESTIONS’.  Not only do they publish exceptional works in many forms, but a portion of their proceeds go to charity.  I hight recommend checking them out because they only publish the best.

This year I had two pieces of flash fiction that I’d prepared for their contest-you can find out more about the details for submitting your own work by clicking here for the requirements.  After much consideration by myself, other writers, and friends one piece was better than the other.  While I’ve been told that both pieces are great, and I believe they are, one is more likely to get me that first place prize.  Thus I had a piece that might never see the light of day…thankfully I have a blog.

 

‘The Girl Who Walked In The Dark’ consists of 745 words.  It is not only intended to send a message about women and their role in society, but to reflect a moment in time and all the thoughts one might be thinking in a particular situation.  It does contain some ‘adult’ language, and violence, but it isn’t graphic thus I’ve deemed this particular piece a PG-13 rating.  Therefore I must ask that you proceed with caution, and understand that it is only fiction after all.

Enjoy-and keep your fingers crossed that my other flash fiction piece is a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Walked In The Dark

 

I’m not the kind of girl you mess with.

I’m Lisbeth Salander, Arya Stark, and Michonne all in one. Sure you’ll try to break me; maybe you’ll even think you won. Better men have tried, and failed. I’ll wait for my moment, the briefest instant when you have your guard down; that moment will be mine.

You’ll go to your local coffee shop, ask my accomplice: the preppy, twenty-something, blonde barista for the usual. Your eyes will glide across her body, leaving a layer of slime in their wake. Daybreak will blind you on your way out. You’ll take a sip of your double caramel espresso latte. It won’t hit you at first, the stale aftertaste that lingers on your tongue. Instead of requesting it to be remade, you’ll head to your car. Don’t want to be late to work. By the time you reach the car door, your vision is blurry. You’ll dig in your pocket, but you’ll drop the keys when your balance is off.

A small, fair-skinned hand will pick them up for you.

“Thanks,” you’ll say.

“Remember me?” I’ll respond.

You’ll blink.

Hard.

Trying to recall the face in front of you. It doesn’t matter though, because I’ll break your nose with my elbow before you can complete a coherent thought.

I’ll drag you to the back of your car, toss you in your own trunk, and silently thank you for the new car. Bands of sunlight shine on the blistering black asphalt, they’ll absorb your poisoned coffee.

You’ll wake up in the warehouse district.

Yelling.

Crying.

Begging.

You’ll run the gambit of human emotion thinking you’re alone, but I’ll sit in a dark corner giggling to myself, because no one can hear you over the sounds of downtown.

It will only take a few hours.

For you, it will seem lifetimes of agony.

For me, not nearly long enough.

 

In reality, military style boots, a skull t-shirt, and skinny jeans don’t make me tough. Besides I’m closer to Elinor Dashwood, Hermonie Granger, or Sansa Stark.

My favorite color is pink, my phone is filled with pictures of unicorns, and if adult women were allowed to wear a tutu to go grocery shopping, I would.

I scream when I see a spider. And I’ll make my boyfriend kill it.

“Real tough, babe,” he’ll chuckle. “Thought you were a badass, but you can’t step on a bug with those big ole boots.”

 

On a hot, sticky, Texas summer night I’ll acknowledge the truth about myself: I’m a girl living in modern American society, not a comic book hero. All of this is going through my head when my guy friend says; “I’ll walk you to your car.”

Half of me wants to scoff and retort. “I’ll kill any asshole that tries to mess with me. Besides we’re in Bellaire, who’s going to attack me? A middle-aged, affluent engineer?”

But then I’ll notice how quite the parking lot is, and that the light above my car is flickering, so I’ll say nothing. Not that the two of us stand a chance against a drunk looking for a fight. What would our weapons be? Our eye glasses? His iPad? My unfiltered wit?

I won’t confess any of the above to my guy friend in the parking lot. That I’m both a vicious warrior and a princess locked in a tower. Then again, we did just have a beer while discussing the finer art of knitting, so I’m pretty sure he knows.

He’ll wait until I start my car, and send a quick text to my boyfriend that I’m on my way home. After all I’m a girl, driving home after midnight. Have to let everyone know where I am, because an urban landscape with no daylight is a scary place for a woman.

It wouldn’t have to be that way if I were as fierce as I believed myself to be, or if rapists and murderers found a new hobby.

Until then I’ll strive to keep the fire alive inside of me. I’ll be my own version of awesome literary heroine.

I’ll be “The Girl Who Walked in the Dark”; the one who will tear you limb from limb with her bare hands.

But, the other part of me will still keep the child-like wonder within.

I’ll be “The Girl Who Wished Mermaids Were Real”; the one obsessed with videos of kittens playing with a ball of yarn.

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pictures, short stories, Uncategorized

Supernatural Convention

My first appearance of the year was amazing!  I attended the Supernatural Convention in Houston, Texas and had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people.  Not only did I meet some people that were excited to meet the author me, but the character Charlie Bradbury that I cosplayed as.

Thank you to all the new readers I met, I hope that you enjoy reading the stories as much as I did writing them.  If you did buy a book then please write an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.  You don’t know how much that means to an author.

 

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And for those of you that are fans of the television show ‘Supernatural’, especially those fans of Charlie then here are a few shots from the convention.  Including selfies from me when Jim Beaver (Bobby) and the famous Winchester brothers played by Jensen and Jared spoke on stage.

 

 

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short stories, Uncategorized

‘Reunion’ by Melissa Algood

This is a short story that I wrote under my pen name Elizabeth Harris, which is the name I use for my work that is less bloody.  Although it must be noted that ‘Reunion’ does include some violence and profanity thus it is not intended for readers younger than thirteen.

Elizabeth Harris’ poem ‘Darkness’ is published in the collection ‘IN THE QUESTIONS’ from Spider Road Press.  I highly recommend you check them out not only for their excellent publications, but because they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

‘Reunion’ is a story that I did submit for a contest, although I have yet to find out the results, I find it to be one of my favorites.  It’s the story of a woman who’s lost everything, and how she’s picked up the pieces since.  I hope you find it as heart wrenching, yet tender as I intended.  Enjoy-

 

Continue reading “‘Reunion’ by Melissa Algood”

short stories, Uncategorized

Reading makes writing easier

I read all sorts of books, from all sorts of genres, not just the one I’m writing in.  Any author should do the same.  That’s why I’m so excited that my short story ‘The Trail’ was shared on a writing website in order to help authors improve their craft.

In journalism school we were taught that the average American has an eighth grade reading competency.  Don’t be average-read more.

Start by checking out Readers & Writers United where you can check out my short story ‘The Trail’ and the other amazing posts.

Storytellers live for their work to be read.  So feed a writer: read a book, then write an honest review.

Mad Girl's Publishing, short stories, upcoming releases

‘The Trail’-a short story by Melissa Algood

This story is one of the few that is actually inspired by a real person, and thus I hold it very dear.  You can read this story along with a few never before seen stories like Last Look, Circus Freak, After The Fire, and a post apocalyptic flash fiction piece Underground Railroad in the upcoming collection ‘Everyone Dies: Collected Works of a Morbid Author’.

Look for the first collection of short fiction of Melissa Algood brought to you from Mad Girl’s Publishing out 2019.

Until then I hope you enjoy ‘The Trail’-the story of Ben, a solider, who hikes the Appalachian Trail by himself months after coming home from war.

 

 

The Trail

by Melissa Algood © (2015)

Ben thought about the war a lot.  

It was on his mind twenty-four hours a day.  He’d been unable to fully get back into the swing of normal life, so his parents had him move back home until he ‘got on his feet’ they’d said.  His siblings tried to help him forget by bringing him to parties they’d been invited to, out to a movie, or just for a drive.  But it only made things worse.

At parties ,some idiot would inevitability ask him if he’d killed anyone when he was deployed.  What was his answer supposed to be?  If it was no, then he was a pussy.  If it was yes ,then he was a murderer.  How could anyone explain that after three tours in the ‘sandbox’’ he couldn’t stop checking the crowd for enemies?  Or that he never looked relaxed because he was always at attention?

Movies weren’t much better.  They were too loud, and he’d concentrate on the people around him rather than the film.  Every gesture people around him made was suspect even though his sisters’ promised, “They’re just goofing off.”

Once he was stupid enough to go to stay at home and watch a rented movie his older brother recommended that involved guns and a car chase.  It brought the war back in vivid detail; from the death of his partner, to the sirens waking him at night.  Ben’s dug into the fabric on the armrests of the couch until the credits rolled.  The shots that fired rung in his ears, and he would be covered in sweat; not out of fear, but out of memory.  When a body dropped on screen, it reminded Ben of everyone he’d seen fall in the sandbox.  He wished he could say that their faces weren’t burnt into his memory.  That their empty eyes didn’t haunt him.  But they did; all thirteen of his brothers who died in the sandbox were with him.  Always.

And the long car rides were the worst.  Ben had spent most of his time guarding the convoy.  No matter if he was protecting soldiers, or artillery, Ben was on high alert for the entire journey.  Now, back at home, the long way back proved anxiety ridden rather than calming.  Can’t really be comfortable in a car when you didn’t have a grenade launcher within arms reach, he thought as he looked out over the trees that lined the highway.  

Everyone went on with their lives the four years he was gone, but Ben’s had stopped.  They didn’t understand that he wasn’t really Ben anymore-He was a Marine.

He’d only been home a couple of months before he sat his parents down in the living room.  Ben’s mother wrung her hands; she wore her apron stained with bacon grease from making breakfast.  His father leaned back in his recliner covering half his face with his hand; maybe he already knew what his son was going to tell them.  That he needed to be free.

Ben had never been described as loquacious, even less so after his deployment.  Unaware how to articulate that he needed to do something deemed impossible by most.  That nature might prove to be a cure to the haunting of his past; so he got right to the point.  “I’m going to walk the Appalachian Trail.”

His mother chuckled.  “Oh baby, you just got home.”

He didn’t know how to explain that he’d never really come home.  “I need to.”

“Why?” Her dark eyes glistened.  “Who are you going with?  How long do you want to leave us?”

Ben sighed internally.  He thought she might cry, but he still didn’t want to be the cause of it.  Again.  “I’ll go alone.  It will take as long as it takes.”

“But it’s so far away…bears…rain…” She went on into a tizzy, and Ben let her, although he didn’t necessarily imprint her worries in his gray matter.

He was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, and that was literally the only thing he cared about.  The fresh air, strenuous exercise, and new experiences were what his soul craved.  The hike would be a reset button on his life and was much needed because he was tired of being an unemployed, twenty-five-year-old single guy who lived in a rural, Southwest Texas town.

The trail would help him recover the parts of himself he’d lost to the war.  He’d get back meaning in his life.

“Now, Sarah.” Ben’s father leaned forward and took his mother’s hand.  He sandwiched his wife’s wrinkled hand between his own age-spotted ones. “Our boy really isn’t a boy anymore.”

“He’ll always be my baby, and I want him safe, at home, Joseph.”

“I understand that, but if he can take care of himself over there in the desert, then he’ll be okay taking a little hike.”

Ben didn’t feel it was the time to add that it would at least take five months to hike from Georgia to Maine.

Joseph continued unaware of his son’s thoughts.  “He’ll be fine.  No bear can get our son if those terrorists can’t.”  

He grinned and smacked Ben on the back, which made him flinch.  Being touched was still something he wasn’t completely okay with even if it was his father giving him a ‘thatta boy.’

A few weeks later, he kissed his mother on the cheek, shook his father’s hand, hugged his sisters, and gave his brother a high five before he boarded the bus to Georgia.

“Call us when you get there, Ben,” Sarah, his mother said.

Ben nodded.  Although he wasn’t taking a map since the trail was marked so well, much less a cell phone.  He’d promised his father he’d send a letter addressed to his mother every time he crossed a post office.

It was green, so green.  If he were a poet instead of a solider, Ben would be able to describe the drops of water that clung to the leaves, or that each plant reminded him of the foliage he saw in movies about dinosaurs.  The sky was majestic with shades of orange, red, and finally a deep purple as the sun set.  The clean air invigorated his lungs.  Basically everything he experienced in nature he found to be the opposite of everything he’d seen during his three tours in the sandbox.  Birds chirped in the morning and evening; frogs sounded like fog horns as he lay in his sleeping bag, staring up at the ever-expanding stars.  Although he knew the most important rules of the trail were to not take anything off of the trail, not to leave anything behind, and not to harm any of it’s creatures; thus when he came across the occasional snake that he left alone.

He became part of every living creature he came in contact with, save the snakes.  The trickling river washed away the constant noise in his head-and the nightmares.  With each step forward, he propelled himself closer toward peace.

For hours he watched a mourning dove build a nest using twigs and leaves it gathered from the forest floor.  In the sunshine, the feathers on its chest were snow white, while its tan wings camouflaged the bird in the tree.  Ben realized that it was building a home, something he wanted to do one day as well.  Although he’d never contemplated it before as he watched the bird create its future that he wanted one of his own.  Ben wanted a strong woman by his side. He’d buy her a beautiful house where they could raise their kids.  He laughed to himself as he pictured a couple of kids playing on the tire swing that he’d put up for them as his wife finished up the chicken fried steak for dinner.

Ben made it to Maryland spending most of the trip ignoring the hikers he encountered letting the forest take over his spirit like moss on a tree.  There were signs letting hikers know a town was near, so he left the trail to go into town, the post office and pick up supplies.  He decided to spend the night in one of the cabins along the trail.  They’d been built specifically for hikers to stay in a bed with access to hot water.  Ben paid the owner’s wife for the evening.  She handed him a receipt, and told him that dinner would be served at sunset so he’d have enough time to wash up.  

When he looked in the mirror, his face shocked him.  His beard was long, dark, and wiry.  He thought about shaving but decided that he’d keep it.  Ben had long been tormented for his baby face, but that wasn’t a problem anymore since his mountain man beard obscured most of it.  It took three shampoos to cut through the grease in his hair that was long enough to tie back.  Although he couldn’t be sure if he smelled like death before the shower, his skin felt clean and smooth after hot water poured over him.  He put on fresh clothing that he’d bought in town.  Ben’s new undershirt was stark white; his flannel button up was soft, and his jeans were dark blue rather than splattered in mud.  But he wore the filthy boots his mother had bought him before he left Texas.

The wooden table in front of the cabin was large enough to hold a dozen people, but tonight it had only a handful including the owner and his wife.  Ben sat down and served himself from the bubbling pot of chili, buttered some cornbread, and took a sip from the frosted glass of lemonade.

“Heard you’ve been going the trail solo, son.” A man with gray scruff and bright blue eyes sat across from Ben, and after the man spoke, he bit into his cornbread.

Ben nodded.

A thirty-something blond woman sitting next to gray scruff man mused. “Strong, silent type; perfect for the trail.” 

Ben shrugged.

“I’m Tim.” Gray-scruff man wiped his hand on his pants, then stuck it across the table.  

Ben shook Tim’s hand.  “Ben.”  

He turned toward the woman sitting next to Time and repeated his greeting.

“Good to meet you, Ben.  I’m Annie,” the blond woman said.  Then she leaned over to Tim.  “He’s got the look.”

Ben swallowed a mouthful of chili; its spices lingered on his taste buds after it was gone.  “The look?”

Tim chuckled heartily.  “This is our third time on the trail, and we’ve found there are two types of people that walk it alone.  Those that want to remember, and those that want to forget.  You have the look of the latter.”

Ben didn’t know how to respond, so he shoved the rest of the cornbread into his mouth in lieu of an answer.

“It’s not a girl though.  But you lost something, didn’t you, Ben?”  Annie asked.

Ben finished his lemonade.

“He lost himself, babe.  He’s hiking the trail to find himself again.”  The bushy gray eyebrows on Tim’s ragged square face came to a point.  “Am I right, Ben?”

Ben nodded.  His dinner was almost finished, and it might have been the fact that he hadn’t spoken to anyone in so long, or the fresh air that unblocked his voice because Ben found himself talking to strangers.  “I’m a Marine, came back from my third tour in the sandbox to stay with my parents in Texas.  But it was all too much.  Or not enough. I needed…” He didn’t know how to articulate his desires; for so long his only needs were those of his fellow solider.  “To start over I suppose.”

Tim smiled.  The full moon that hung above them lit up the deep wrinkles in his aged face.  “You’re almost there, son.  There’s a little twinkle in your eye.  The trail does that to you.  It gives you back everything; that’s why you never take anything from it because someone else needs to see that rock or tree too.”

Ben grinned for the first time in years.  “You’re right.  I feel free…almost.”

Like so many things in life, the final stretch was the hardest part.  By the time Ben got to Baxter State Park, the trek was tumultuous.  The trail proved challenging, rocky, and covered in red pine and balsam fir. Above the trees, the mountain became steep; the heavy winds and poor soil stunted the conifers—But on the horizon was Ben’s goal.  

The peak of Mount Katahdin was the finale of Ben’s journey, and he knew that he’d reach it that very day.  He’d come across a few hikers who looked ragged, but Ben knew that they too felt the elation of completing a journey that few had attempted, much less completed.

Each step of his journey had been a step towards living, not just surviving.  He’d replaced the need to be on guard with the ease of enjoying the world around him.  Every day had released him from the cage he’d unknowingly locked himself inside.  Now that his soul felt free again all those whom he’d lost had become a deeper part of him and would live in his heart, becoming immortal.  He’d never tell anyone, but a few tears escaped as the realization of this change filled his mind.

When he reached the peak after six months and three days from the start of the hike, Ben didn’t know if it was the lack of oxygen that made him dizzy, or if it was the pure unadulterated bliss that filled him.  He sat there for a while remembering all his buddies that he’d lost, and although they wouldn’t be able to walk the trail themselves, the fact that he thought of them as he sat there and all along the way meant that they had trekked it themselves in a way.  Ben had taken his mother, father, sisters, and brother with him as well.  They all lived inside of him, in his heart.  

Now that his soul felt free again.

He took one last gulp of air from the summit before he hiked back down. He could camp out in the trees before finding his way to the nearest bus stop and back to Texas.  Ben felt lighter than the birds that flew above him knowing that he’d see his family soon and tell them all that the pieces of him that were so broken had begun to mend.

The sun was starting to set when Ben reached the tree line.  He smelled meat cooking and felt a longing for human company.  He decided to break his unintended vow of silence.  Never before had he been so excited to talk to someone.  As he neared the group sitting around the campfire ,he heard laughing.  They were a group of six, and although he couldn’t officially ascertain their ages as he drew closer, he assumed they were his peers based on their banter about music and how much they missed beer.

“Hey man!” one of the guys called out.  

“Ah, a fellow hiker!” girl cried.

“Come on and join us.” Another bearded hiker waved Ben over.

“Yeah,” a girl giggled while the first guy tickled her.  “We got plenty of s’mores.”  

Ben’s mouth watered as the scent of chocolate and marshmallows filled his nostrils.  “Thanks.”  He sat down on a fallen log next to a girl with red hair that matched the fire and turned to her.  “I’m Ben.”

She licked the chocolate off her fingers, then wiped her hand on her jeans before she shook his hand.  “I’m Monica.  Did you want me to put one on the fire for you?”  She held up a branch with a marshmallow on the end.

“That would be great, thanks.”

Monica tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.  Her face was free of makeup, but her skin was the color of milk.  It made Ben thirsty.  “We’re waking up at dawn to make it to the summit if you want to come.”

“I’ve already been there; saw y’all on my way down.”

“Whoa, so you’ve already made it all the way through” Monica turned the marshmallow so it browned on both side.  

“Yeah, it’s beautiful.  Almost as beautiful as you.”  Ben said it without even thinking, but he knew it was true.  

She giggled as her dark eyes danced.  “You’re sweet.  Maybe you should come with us; that way you can say you’ve been there twice.”

“That would be cool.” Ben sighed and tilted his head back to see the night sky trough the trees.  “Then I can tell all my friends back in Texas that I broke a record.”

Monica’s eyes widened.  “You’re from Texas?”

“Yeah.” Ben nodded.

“That’s so crazy, I’m from Houston.”

“Me too.”

Monica sandwiched the marshmallow between the chocolate and graham crackers.  “It’s as if we were meant to meet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, my friends and I all met at Georgia Tech and decided to do the hike after graduation.  But you and I lived in the same city, and we met here -in the middle of the woods in Maine- a state neither of us have a connection to.”

“I guess you’re right.”  Ben grinned at Monica.  The group around them kept talking, but Ben couldn’t make out a word.  The only thing in his world was Monica.  “We probably shouldn’t sneer at fate when it worked so hard to get us to meet.”

“It only makes sense that you come to the summit with us then.”  She nudged Ben in the ribs.  “Fate wants you to.”

“Let’s toast,” Ben said as he held up his s’more.

“To what?”  Monica asked as she held up hers.

Ben thought of all he’d learned on his hike through the Appalachian Trail and decided that there was only one thing that was truly precious.  “To life.”

“To life,” Monica agreed.  They touched the edges of their s’mores together.

Ben bit into the s’mores.  He didn’t know what the future held, but he did know that he would climb back up the summit with the pretty girl he met by chance in the middle of the woods.

He’d break a cardinal rule and take something from the trail: Monica.