Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #10

Hey Billy Bob…how many of these Mid-Month Short Story Challenges have we done so far?

I’m kind of excited to get to double digits in this series, even if that means we’re still a little ways away from having double digit story responses from people other than me. It’s a fun series, it challenges me, and when those of you who can write have the time to, your work is spectacular.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on June 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: Minimum 750 words, no maximum
  • Seven words to work into your story: Freckled, kangaroo, prophetic, cube, honeydew, cuddle, downfall
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content/Perspective Limitation: This story must be told in third person
  • Topic: When a date doesn’t go as expected

The Order of the Sacred Jade

This post is a response to April 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


Matthew and I joked about it regularly throughout middle and high school. The sacred jade pendant and all of its mystical powers. It was silly, childish stupidity where we attempted to mock the absurdity of religion without actually being good at doing so in a nuanced manner. Matthew’s grandmother had given him this necklace with a triangular jade pendant hanging from a black rope. He wore it somewhat regularly, particularly during track season where it served as his good luck charm before races. It was a cool piece of jewelry, as well as the start of a great joke, but that was the extent of my attachment to it.

While I was in Manila for a work trip last fall, I visited one of the large local markets near my hotel. In one of my previous trips to the Philippines, I had purchased two pairs of knock-off Converse high tops, one in the iconic black and white and the other in a forest green and construction orange combination that further served to show these weren’t the real deal. I went back to the same market, hoping to find an equally absurd pair of shoes. Instead of the shoes, I walked away with a jade necklace — its pendant shaped in an acute scalene triangle similar to the one Matthew had owned — and a tin toy jeepney for my daughter.

I’ve been back in the states for six months now, frequenting my usual brunch spot on the weekends and driving my daughter, Valerie, to her hockey games on weeknights. Valerie typically joined me for my Saturday morning visits to the cafe, though my parents had her for the weekend. A little time with grandma and grandpa always provided me with a welcome mental reprieve from the job of being a single father. The downside was that I had to spend the next two weeks dealing with the after effects of Valerie’s exposure to my mother’s smoking and my father’s inability to filter out his cursing when around a nine-year-old.

I stared out the window into the foggy Ohio morning. It seemed like every September morning was filled with a fog so thick that machetes struggled to dent it, only for the clouds to burn off by nine or ten in the morning. Today was one of the few days where the mist persisted as the afternoon neared. Though I was parked right outside of the window, my car’s headlights taunted me through the fog, laughing at me for venturing out in this mess.

Behind me, I heard the front door of the cafe open. A tall, raven haired woman walked through the door and directly to the register, her outfit from head-to-toe doing its best to match her midnight locks. Though her smooth, straight hair flowed down to her shoulders, it was held back by a black headband with tiny silver accents. The chill in the air necessitated her donning a black fabric trench coat which ended just below her knees. Her long coat blended into her black stockings, which themselves transitioned naturally into her black, thick-heeled shoes. Her attire was so monochromatic that I wouldn’t have paid such close attention to it were it not for one lone pop of color that caught my eye.

A triangular jade pendant hanging from her neck.

It had to be a weird coincidence. She’s just a woman who really like jade. And why wouldn’t she? Jade is quite the beautiful mineral, be it on its own or inset into something else. She was a woman good taste and nothing more.

“Excuse me?”

I broke my trance-like stare into the distance, only to realize the woman had left the cashier and was now standing just a few feet in front of me.

“Excuse me?” she repeated. She was staring intently at my own jade pendant. “Is this a safe place to talk?”

“I…what?” I stammered.

“Is this a safe place to talk?”

“I’d imagine so. I’ve come here most every Saturday for ten years and haven’t been yelled at once for having a conversation.”

The woman leaned in closer to me.

“I don’t mean to chat,” she whispered. “Can they hear us?”

“Who hear us?” I said at a normal volume. She slapped my leg.

“Keep your voice down if it isn’t safe. Come to my car with me. It’s safe there.”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

“I’ll explain there. Just trust me.”

“Can I bring my bagel and coffee?” I asked.

“I don’t care what you do as long as you come on,” she said.

We walked out of the cafe into the dissipating fog. She pointed to a blue sedan with darkly tinted windows. With a push of a button on her key chain, the doors sprang open. She motioned for me to get in the passenger’s side. I did, shutting the door behind me. I didn’t feel great about getting in the car with a strange woman, but I didn’t see a better alternative without causing a scene.

“Now that we’re in the car, will you tell me what’s going on?” I implored. “And who you are for that matter.”

“Communications jammers are still booting up,” she said. “You can call me Keri.”

“Okay, Keri. Why am I here?”

“Eat your bagel and wait ten seconds, would you?”

I obediently took a bite out of my bagel, trying hard not to get crumbs on her seats. Keri grabbed my coffee from between my knees and placed it in the cupholder between our seats, just in front of her own cup.

“Clear,” she said. “What is your name?”

“Yancey,” I replied.

“Not your public name. Your cloak name.”

“My what now?”

“The jade,” Keri said, pointing to my pendant. “Your pendant signifies you’re an elder of the Sacred Jade.”

I began laughing hysterically, nearly dropping my bagel in the process. Keri, clearly trying her hardest not to slap me, gave me a half smile while I composed myself.

“Oh…oh god,” I said, wiping tears away from the corners of my eyes. “That’s something I haven’t heard in a long time. How is Matthew?”

“Who?”

“Matthew Henson. He clearly put you up to this to fuck with me. Classic Matthew.”

“I don’t…”

“How has he been? I haven’t heard from him in years! Are you his wife?”

“Yancey!” Keri shouted, visibly growing impatient with me. “Are you an elder of the Sacred Jade or not?”

“Considering how serious you’re taking this, I’m going to guess I’m not.”

“Fuck.”

Keri started the car and began pulling out of her parking space. Very quickly.

“Hold up. Where are we going?” I asked.

“I went to the wrong fucking cafe!” she screamed. “Again! This can’t be happening again.”

“What’s going on?”

“My name is Li-an Ke’ri Balmi. Guru and protector of the Order of the Sacred Jade. And you’re clearly not Elder Rathsuman.”

“Now that we’ve sorted that out, can I go?” I wondered aloud, hoping Keri would let me out before she pulled too far away from the cafe.

“No time,” she said. “The Agate Templar is coming after him.”

“The who?”

“Do you know how to use a gun?”

“What?”

“A gun. Bang bang you’re dead. Rooty tooty point and shooty.”

“No!” I yelled. “Why would I know that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” she replied. “You’re going to get a crash course in about six minutes if our timing is bad.”

Keri pointed to the dashboard in front of me.

“Open the glovebox and hit the blue button.”

I followed her instructions, causing a panel to rise out of the dashboard, producing a pair of handguns.

“Keep them on your person at all times,” said Keri. “And pray to the Sacred Jade you don’t need them.”

“Who is the Agate Templar? Why am I here? What is the Sacred Jade?”

“You ask a lot of questions for someone who got into the car with a strange woman after asking so few questions.”

She wasn’t wrong.

“Crash course me then,” I said. “What do I need to know to not die in a few minutes?”

“The Order of the Sacred Jade is an organization committed to the protection of the world’s greatest scientists and scholars. All of the scientific advancement that has been made in the past two millennia has been made thanks largely to our protection of the brightest minds in the world. Our elders help identify the minds that are considered to be lynchpins to society. From there, we protect them from whoever may come after them. Governments and corporations are more likely attackers in modern times, but they’re relatively easy to deal with. The Agate Templar is a rival group who thinks their science is better than our science. They’re much less fun to come across.”

Keri pulled her emergency brake and turned abruptly into a parking lot, leaving her car parallel to the building she parked near. She opened her door and motioned to a man inside wearing a similarly shaped jade necklace. Just as the man opened the door, gunfire rang out.

“Automatic protection mode engaged!” the car said through its speakers. The driver’s door slammed shut, the windshield blackened, and a fine pink mist began to fill the car. I clawed at the door handle, trying my hardest to open it, only to find the door locked. I began to feel dizzy and the seat became infinitely more comfortable.

I woke up and found myself leaned up against the wall in a chair back in the original cafe I had been sitting in earlier that morning. I looked around, baffled how I had gotten back there. I yelled at the cashier to get her attention.

“Maddie. When did I get back here?” I asked.

“What?” she said.

“How long wasn’t I here for?”

Maddie walked out from behind the counter and came closer to me.

“Are you feeling alright, Yancey?” she inquired.

“Yes?”

“You’ve been here all morning.”

“No I haven’t,” I insisted.

“Yes. You have. You dozed off about twenty minutes ago and have been leaning against that wall ever since.”

I stared at Maddie, confused why she was telling me all of this. I was in a shootout earlier. Or at the very least shootout-adjacent. There had to be some evidence I could show her to prove my point.

“You haven’t even touched your bagel,” Maddie continued. “It’s probably cold now. The butter won’t melt on it.”

I looked at the bagel on the plate beside me. It was still whole, albeit it cut into two halves, its open parts staring back at me. I know what I had seen.

“Was there a woman in here earlier by the name of Keri?” I asked. “Tall, slender, wore all black?”

“There was.”

I knew it! I hadn’t been making it up.

“Did you know her from somewhere?” Maddie questioned. “I didn’t call out her name when brought her pastry to her.”

“What about her coffee?”

“She didn’t get anything to drink.”

This wasn’t making any sense. I touched at my neck, comforted to find the jade necklace was still there, the pendant hidden beneath my shirt.

“I think I need some air,” I said.

“When you come back in, I’ll make you a fresh bagel and get you some orange juice,” Maddie replied. “It’s on me.”

“Thanks.”

I walked outside into the foggy September morning. The parking space where Keri’s car had been was empty, with no sign of a burnout anywhere near the spot. My own car was in the same place it had been since I got to the cafe, the low-hanging clouds slowly condensating on my windshield and windows. As I watched the fog hang in the sky, I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder.

“Glad you made it out of there alive.”

I turned around to find Keri, this time dressed in a police uniform, standing behind me.

“What? Where did you come from?”

“We’ve got to get you into protection, Yancey,” Keri stated. “You’re a more valuable asset than you realize. Go back in and get your food. I had Gail make you a few meals for the road. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us.”

“Who’s Gail?” I asked.

“Gail. Taryn. Maddie. Tashia. Whatever she goes by in this town. It’s hard to keep track of when she’s been moved so many times.”

“Where’s my daughter?”

“On the way to the safe house too,” Keri replied. “We’ll rendezvous with my partner there. She’ll make sure you and your daughter are safe while we arrange safe transport to your next location.”

“I thought the Order of the Sacred Jade only protected scientists and scholars,” I said. “I’m a low-level supervisor at a data analysis company.”

“You’re the Agate Templar’s next target,” answered Keri, “but it’s not because of you. It’s because your daughter has the mind that could save the world. Or end it.”

“Valerie does?”

“Yes. Now go grab your food and let’s go. I only bought us so much time earlier today.”


Featured image used under a Creative Commons License. Image by Maureen Didde.

33 Word Love Story #6

For more stories I’ve done like this, go here.

For the format that inspired this writing style, go here. Yes, the blog has been private for five years now, but I still hope it won’t be some day. It was beautiful writing.


You did it. You finally made it.

Congratulations.

And so begins a new, uncharted era.

One of teaching and protection,

As well as forgetting what I was going to write here last night.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #9

Welcome to this month’s Mid-Month Short Story Challenge. We’re only one prompt away from the 10th one in this series, which is exciting in its own right. This month’s prompt focuses on excitement and tension felt by the narrator. How will you choose to guide your narrator’s story?

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on May 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: Max 2500 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Brunch, window, foggy, jade, lynchpin, evidence, alternative
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content Limitations: Ideally not G rated…whatever you want to do beyond that is your choice
  • Topic: Your narrator slowly realizes throughout the story that they’re part of a film noir-style movie…and that they’re the bad guy’s next target.

The Isle Charon

This post is a response to March 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


After the darkness ended, I was greeted by a light. It wasn’t the kind of light I was expecting, as this pale chartreuse aura did not match the splendor of the spring sunlight I had woken up to yesterday morning. I remember groggily climbing into my car, turning up the heat to defog my windshield, pulling out of my drive way, and getting on the highway. From that moment until now, all I have is darkness.

Beneath my feet, the ground moved slowly and purposefully. Silver and gold handrails adorned either side of my path. I couldn’t see the ground itself, as the yellow-green aura kept me from seeing beneath my knees. But I felt it moving steadily forward. I couldn’t turn back.

Through the misty surroundings, a small island began to appear. Atop the island sat a large gazebo made from cherry wood. The gazebo was flanked by six dogwood trees, one for each of the structure’s six sides. The flowers of the trees were in full bloom, with the occasional petal falling to the ground below. The closer I got to the island, the more the aura faded away, allowing me to see that the ground was nothing more than a transparent walkway carrying me above a pristine lake. Beneath the walkway, dozens of fish swam happily along, darting to and fro within their schools.

When I was a few feet from the island, two women in simple silk robes exited the gazebo and began walking toward the edge of the land. The first woman was tall, lanky, and pale, with her flaxen hair tied up in a tight bun atop her head. She wore an indigo robe, while her counterpart wore a bright yellow one. The second woman also appeared to be taller than me, though shorter than the first woman. Her skin was much darker, with her own ebony locks also tightly and carefully positioned against the top of her head. As the walkway deposited me on the island, the woman in the yellow robe spoke to me.

“Welcome to the Isle Charon,” she began. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“No, I don’t,” I replied.

“Your name is David Jennett,” continued the woman in the yellow robe. “You were involved in an automobile accident. You fell asleep at the wheel and careened off of a bridge into a gorge below. You died instantly.”

“And who are you?” I asked.

“We’re known by many names,” said the woman in the yellow robe. “I am Elu, the keeper of what humans consider life. This is my sister, Eterna, the keeper of what humans consider afterlife.”

“What do you mean, consider life and afterlife?” I questioned.

“To Elu and I, life is one continuous line,” replied Eterna. “Humans see life and the afterlife as two separate things because your consciousness can’t handle the experience of death that occurs between the two.”

“I see.”

“We are the guardians of this passage,” continued Eterna. “We are responsible for the existence you experienced before arriving here, as well as that which you’re about to undergo after leaving Isle Charon. All experiences on Earth, be they good, bad, or indifferent, are through Elu’s creation. I am the creator of all things in the world to which you’ll be venturing after this visit. All experience in the afterworld, be they good, bad, or indifferent, are through my creation.”

“I’m sure you have many questions of us,” interjected Elu.

“So many. So very many.”

Elu chuckled to herself.

“Humans always do,” she stated. “There’ll be someone in the world created by Eterna that will help you adjust to your new life. I assure you that most of your questions will be answered there.”

“So what is this place then?” I asked.

“The Isle Charon is where every recently deceased soul comes to handle the complexities of their unfinished business,” replied Eterna. “For some people, they never got to say goodbye to their family. For others, there’s a feeling of not having accomplished everything you could have while on Earth. Elu and I will help you work through those feelings so that you can be at peace once you leave here.”

I stood there staring at Elu and Eterna, combing through every place in my brain I imagined unfinished business to be stored. Nothing. Not just unfinished business, but no memories. The mental block I’d hit was overwhelming. I could feel that I was me. Beyond that, there was just emptiness.

“What were those pieces of unfinished business I had on Earth?” I asked.

“Let’s have a seat and talk you through them,” said Elu.

“Coffee? Tea? Cocoa?” asked Eterna.

“Those things exist after death?” I inquired.

“Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you have to suffer through not having coffee,” replied Eterna.

“Coffee sounds nice,” I answered. I wonder what happened to the coffee I’d brought with me in my car. It probably exploded all over my windshield during the crash.

Eterna walked over to a cabinet on the far size of the gazebo. She reached opened the door and reached inside, producing a piping hot mug of coffee. She walked back over and sat it back down in front of me. Despite me giving no question nor command, Elu answered the question that was on my mind.

“Don’t think about it too hard,” she said. “The rules of this world don’t work the same as yours. We keep our coffee out of sight, be beyond that, we can get it whenever we want.”

“Huh,” I said, still surprised that a wooden door held steaming coffee behind it.

“You’re an uncommon one, David,” Eterna stated. “When many people come to the Isle Charon, we talk with them about their family and friends. Sometimes there’s a moment of disappointment of not achieving fulfillment with someone’s career.”

“We even had a gentleman the other day that just needed to see his rare ornamental bulbous plants bloom,” interrupted Elu.

“But your mental block that’s keeping you from moving into the afterworld is not what you had in life. It’s what you didn’t have.”

“I don’t follow,” I said.

“Let me give you an example,” stated Elu. “A few months ago, your girlfriend moved in with you. Things by and large were going fairly well for you, but you two fight a lot. When you fight at night, what do you go to sleep thinking about?”

“How much I wish we hadn’t fought?” I questioned.

“More specific than that.”

“How I wouldn’t be fighting if I was with someone else.”

“Exactly,” answered Eterna.

“Here’s the thing, David,” continued Elu. “It’s not true. No matter who you would have been with, you would have fought with them.”

“But what about that soulmate that’s out there for everyone?” I asked. “That one person that changes your world and makes love perfect.”

Elu sighed heavily.

“We both hate that concept,” Eterna replied. “It’s flawed in so many ways, not the least of which is that the idea that a perfect love exists without any frustration or anger is unrealistic.”

“Let’s try this,” said Elu. “Your relationship with your girlfriend, Arryn, is one that grew out of a friendship, right?”

“Yes,” I responded.

“Alright,” Elu continued, “now of all of the women you ever wanted to be with — regardless of whether you dated them or not — who was the most perfect person for you in your mind?”

Without skipping a beat, I blurted out the name of the only woman I never failed to fumble over my words in front of.

“Julie Soria,” I replied. “We were friends in college. She’s pretty much the only reason I stuck with my history minor.’

“And what made her so perfect in your mind?” Elu inquired.

“She was kind and caring. She had this very open mind, to the point where she took being humbled when she was wrong as a learning experience. Julie had these gorgeous green eyes that she always wore blue contacts over, making it look like she had either cyan or teal irises, depending on how the light hit them. And she always had the most wonderful smelling something for her hair. No idea if it was shampoo or what, but it made her lovely red hair that much better.”

“And why didn’t you guys date?” Eterna asked.

“We hung out here and there, even alone at times,” I replied. “She always invited me to church, but I never saw the appeal. After a while, she just stopped talking to me.”

“That church she went to was a cult,” Elu said. “Forty-six people, including Julie, killed themselves as part of a ‘religious experience’ or something.” Elu make giant air quotes as she said religious experience. “Had you gone with her to that church more than a couple of times, the two of you would have dated, but it would have ended with you bring brainwashed and being another death.”

“Holy fuck!” I exclaimed. “How do you know that?”

“This is literally what we do,” answered Eterna. “We know all, we see all, we help people move on from every possible permutation of their lives.”

“Okay,” I responded, “but what if I would have stayed with my high school girlfriend?”

“You two would have divorced six months into your marriage and you would have committed suicide,” replied Elu dryly.

“Do I always die young?” I asked.

“You always arrive in the afterworld young, regardless of the choices you made on Earth,” said Eterna. “But I promise it’s better there.”

“How do you know?” I shouted. “You’re not even there.”

“Because we created both worlds,” answered Eterna.

“And what if I don’t want to go there?” I asked.

“That’s not a choice you have,” answered Elu. “You have notahtame haeave to go farem.”

“What”?” I asked.

“I said it’s noth yarr cohiecth. Yoafa have moatame haeave feam.”

The chartreuse mist was beginning to engulf the gazebo and everything in my sight. Eterna and Elu faded into the distance, but I could still hear Elu talking to me, though I couldn’t understand what she said. As the mist grew stronger, I felt a searing pain in my legs, along with a massive headache forming around my eyes. The mist shifted into darkness, leaving me with nothing but pain and the echos of Elu and Eterna’s voices.

I woke up atop a hospital bed in a dimly lit room. I looked around, slowly moving my head as the painful headache was still there. It took me much longer to scan my surroundings than normal, but I found that I was alone. Outside my room, I could see a coffee cart. From my angle, I could see the elbow of the person behind the cart, but not much else.

“Hey!” I yelled, my voice straining as I did so. “Can you hear me?”

The merchant from the coffee cart peeked into my room and smiled at me.

“I don’t think you can have any coffee, man” he said. “I can flag down a nurse for you.”

“Nah, I’m good,” I replied. “Have I been here long?”

“At least since I got here Tuesday morning. It’s Friday now.”

“Shit. Any chance I can use your phone?”

The coffee cart man walked over and handed me his phone.

“Just don’t take more than a half hour,” he said. “I’ve got to head upstairs at 6:30.”

The coffee cart man unlocked his phone and left the room. I opened the keypad on his phone, only to realize I didn’t know Arryn’s number. It was always in my phone, so I never had to memorize it. I dialed the only number I could remember — my dad’s work phone. It rang multiple times before the voicemail picked up.

“Hey dad,” I said. “It’s me. I think I got in a car wreck. I’m at…where am I?”

“Cedar North Hospital,” the coffee cart man shouted.

“Cedar North Hospital apparently. When you and mom can, come see me. And if you could call Arryn and tell her…I don’t know where my phone is. I love you. Bye.”

I sat the coffee cart man’s phone down on my chest and closed my eyes. All I wanted was to go back to sleep. As I began to drift off, I could see the chartreuse mist in the distance, beckoning back to the Isle Charon. I didn’t want to go back, even though I knew I’d see Elu and Eterna again eventually. With any luck, I’d wake up to see my parents or Arryn, even if it was only for a few minutes before I had to go back to the island.