“The Cradle Grave” Short Story

Again, I find myself pulling from my past files for a post. As I move into the new apartment and adjust to the new job, I have struggled to find time to craft a new blog post. So, in the meanwhile, I wanted to post something. As always, I fall back on short stories.

And, as it always seems, this is far more tragic than I’d intended. The stories I post seem to be entirely depressing. Though that truly isn’t all I write. In high school theatre, I played a character who suffered through five stillbirths, and as a sixteen year-old, I had no reference for such devastating emotions. A friend of mine allowed me to interview her about her own struggles with stillbirths and miscarriages. It was a difficult hour. We both cried, and I took pages of notes. Though I didn’t write the story until years later, our conversation (and the role I’d portrayed on stage) weighed heavily on my heart. So I tried to put something together, in words, in memory of the mothers who have suffered in similar circumstances. It’s hard, but I think it’s important.

With all the love in the world, I hope this piece impacts you.

Trigger warning for stillbirth.

In honor of Rebecca and Jessie.

And women who suffer from the tragic loss of a child.


It’s a blessing and a curse, a mother’s link to her child. Because of that connection, I knew the exact moment that it happened.

The movie had just reached its climax, and Ryan was riveted. He held my hand tightly, oblivious entirely to anything but the screen. For me, on the other hand, the world stopped when her heart stopped. Everything in me had lost focus on the film and turned inward.

I placed a hand gently on my stomach. For a moment, I sat completely still, hoping I’d imagined the sinking feeling. There was no movement, no heartbeat, no sign of life. She was still connected to me, but she was gone.

My breath quickened. My lungs wouldn’t fill enough for me to be satisfied. The tears welled as every possible scenario shot through my head. A foolish hope remained that the moment was temporary, that she’d come back to me. Despite my blind denial, I felt the certainty of her loss weighing on me.

The first tears spilled silently. My desperate gasps for air accompanied the others that joined them soon after. I looked around, worried suddenly that I was making a scene. I was needlessly worried; the movie was too engaging. No one took notice of the frantic pregnant woman in aisle three.

Ryan had turned from the movie to me and placed his other hand on top of my knee. “Are you alright, Jess? Jess?” Instead of responding, I gripped his hand so tightly, my fingernails sunk into his skin.

Our gazes locked. Mine felt hollow. His looked radiant.

“Is she coming?” he asked excitedly.

My voice caught. I could get as few words out as I could breaths in. “No,” I moaned. “She’s gone.”


I clicked on the light. It chased away the shadows, but it couldn’t chase away the ghosts. This room was supposed to hold life, not reminders of death.

Ryan and I had chosen a faded yellow for the walls. The white cradle had stuffed animals hanging over the side to watch over the baby that would never sleep there. Stacks of diapers stayed hidden in the drawers of the white dresser along with the clothes and a plethora of other gifts from the baby shower. Everything in this room whispered the expectation of her arrival.

I’d embroidered a blanket with her name: Anna Bette. It lay draped across the pale blue recliner in the adjacent corner to the cradle. I lifted the cloth and held it to my face and kept it there. It smelled fresh and new and was so soft against my skin. The tears began fight their way out again, against my will.

I sank tiredly into the recliner and just let them pour over. My hand rested naturally on my swollen belly as it had for the past nine months. I moved it away immediately to the arm of the chair. It just felt wrong to rest it on Anna’s lifeless body. I didn’t want the reminder. For just a moment, I wanted to bask in what-might-have-been.

It let my head loll back and I imagined the room as if she had been born like she was supposed to be. As if she had been born alive. As if I wouldn’t give birth to a corpse any day.

I released my emotions and contorted my face, furiously holding onto the illusions of my mind: the feel of her kicking in the womb, then the cries of a newborn girl, holding my baby and rocking her in this chair. I could feel the mascara-mixed tears drying in spider’s legs across my cheeks. Some ran into my hair and dyed temporary streaks of black. My delusional vision couldn’t last against the reality of her death.

He lingered a while in the doorway and, though I could feel him watching, I did not move. His grief equaled mine, but I knew he struggled to understand how torturous it was to lose the person who is physically part of you. After a while, I opened my eyes. The lashes, soaked with mascara, clung to each other and the last of my imaginings that were slipping away.

“I should have washed my face,” I said, sheepishly. I gave him an unconvincing grin. My bottom lip was quivering too much for it to come across real. “Mascara does funky things when it gets wet.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t the first thing on your mind.”

I frowned. I’d expected him to take my uneasy joke as a hint: ignore the pain. “Yeah, I was pretty bummed about missing the end of the movie.”

Ryan moved to stand next to the recliner. I stubbornly averted my gaze.

“Jessica, we have to talk about this.”

“What’s there to talk about?” I pursed my lips tightly. “She’s dead. Seems pretty final to me.”

He took my hand. He smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. That was his one vice when he felt he couldn’t handle something. The last time I’d smelled it on him was when I miscarried two years ago. “We have a lot of decisions to make.”

“Do we have to make them right now?”

“Some.”

I allowed myself to look up at him. “I don’t want to. I want to sit. And not move. Maybe never again. I can’t keep putting myself through this. I was such a fool to hope, Ryan. I don’t know why we even tried.”

“Because she would have been worth it.” He traced my fingernails lightly with his own fingers. “We had to hope for Anna’s sake.”

“What does it matter now? She won’t ever know.”

“I wish I had an answer, Jess. I just can’t wish away the hope I had. For a couple months, it was the most precious thing.” His mouth was tight. His eyes looked five years older. I reminded myself to watch my mood. He was hurting too.

“Do you really wish you hadn’t hoped?” Ryan whispered.

I considered for a minute. “I wish she were breathing.”

“I wish that too.”

Silence spread maliciously between us and we fell into it, separated entirely by the sadness, connected still by our fingertips. So many emotions warred within me, tormenting my thoughts, hardening my heart, and suffocating my soul.

“I ordered pizza,” Ryan murmured.

“I’m not hungry.”

“I’m not either.”

“We need to eat.” It was simple fact. I wasn’t sure what good it did to state it. I just did.

He sighed. “We need to eat, we need sleep, we need to move. Jess, we need to keep living.”

“If she can’t, why should I?”

“Because I need you to. I can’t live if you don’t live, so, Jess, I need you to live.” He was pleading with me. His voice had gotten higher pitched. His fingers trembled where they still rested against mine. There was desperation in him – desperation and pain. But, selfishly, I didn’t want to do what he asked of me. Not even for him. I wanted to waste away in this chair where there was still a hallucination of her presence.

“I don’t want to, Ryan,” I protested.

“I don’t either,” he said simply. His honesty raised my eyes.

He couldn’t live without me. He didn’t want to live anymore, just as I didn’t, but if I didn’t stand up and continue on, he would waste away with me. I couldn’t have that responsibility on my hands. And I realized I couldn’t live without him.

I needed him to go on too. Neither of us would get through this alone. The silence would damn us to the depths, leaving us wasting in the desperate company of death. I didn’t want any more death. Not mine and certainly not Ryan’s. I couldn’t be at fault for that.

If neither of us wanted to live, at least we could struggle through the days together.

“Pizza sounds nice,” I acknowledged. I only shot him a sideways glance; I couldn’t bear to add his sadness to mine yet.

He helped me up. His arm circled me, and I appreciated the closer connection. If I was going to rely on him, fingertips were not nearly enough of him to cling to. The doorbell rang. We’d been sitting in the nursery longer than I’d realized. We’d wasted more time than I’d realized. I needed to step away, shut the door, wake up from my daze, and force myself to function. For myself. For Ryan. For our friends and family. For our future.

I clicked off the light upon my exit, daring myself to keep looking forward and not back at Anna’s empty cradle in an empty nursery. In fact, it wasn’t even Anna’s cradle.

No, Anna’s only cradle would be her grave.

“Up in Flames” Short Story

This one, I feel like I genuinely wrote forever ago. I mean, this was from the time before I called myself a writer, so you know it’s old. Really, it’s not great. It was sometime midway through high school, so forever ago, pulled from my files and cleaned up a bit, but it’s essentially the same as I wrote it then. As I feel is necessary with all works of fiction, take from this what you will. If art can’t be open to interpretation, what is? I included a trigger warning, but I expect many people will read it with a different perspective. I also apologize for the slightly morbid feel of the story. I’d say high school was a dark and scary place, but really I just think I’m such a sucker for symbolism that I got inspired by the smallest thing and rolled with it.

Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have another DC related post up. I’ve been trying, but with the amount of work expected of us, it’s hard to maintain a weekly blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short.

Trigger Warning for Suicide, kind of sort of in a way. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, right?


He had kept everything. At the time, there had been no reason in being rid of it. Now he’d found his reason: if he didn’t get rid of it, he would never be able to escape the ties. In order to have anything new, anything different, he had to destroy the old. Things had changed now.

With his spare hand, he twisted the knob, and the door of the shed opened with a creak. The hinges were rusted, a sign of the time they had endured. Everything was here. Not a single item was out of place. The light cast from outside caused shadows to spring in horror from their hiding places; their stretching forms made everything seem larger than life. Hesitantly, he stepped into the room. Shelves lined the walls, a cabinet stood in the corner, and the there was not an inch of empty space between them. In the center of the room, was a small, simple table that stood as high as his waist. On it sat a bronzed key, weathered by time, just as the hinges had been.

First, he lay the flower down next to the key. It was small and white and tied with several ribbons. He set it down gently, as if the soft petals could shatter like glass or a broken heart. Next, he placed the candle upright on the table and used the third item, a box of matches, to light it. As the tiny flame danced, the shadows joined in the jubilation, dancing to celebrate the symbolism of his actions.

For the memory of it, he took a short stroll around the room. There were items everywhere: small books full of words, little trinkets that represented something or another. They were moments. Each and every one of them stood for a precious moment. The cabinet was nearly overflowing with papers, each one documented and categorized conversations on a cornucopia of topics. Behind every item, barely visible on the wall, were scribbled thoughts and quotes in no logical order. The black ink had faded since they had been written, but he scanned them still:

“It can’t be easy.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“I know and it makes all the difference.”

“No matter what happens.”

Everything in this room was a part of him. Memories and moments that spanned the time he’d lost so that now the mere sight of them was only painful. It would be tragic to see them go, but he knew they had to. This room was full of the past. And the past ought to stay in the past. There were new things to discover now: new people, new places, new things. New moments and memories.

He turned his back to the piles of papers, the seemingly random objects that had run out of relevance, and the writing on the wall. Then he lifted the flower again, trying to ignore the key at the edge of his vision. He would miss that key – seeing it, being part of it. Begrudgingly, he tore his eyes away, knowing this had to be quick and clean, like a band-aid over an old wound. If not now, it would be never. With one final glance around the little shed, he tipped the candle over.

THE END


Once outside, he knelt down with his back to the shed. With his bare hands, he scraped the dirt up in front of him. Handfuls of the soil cleared away to make a small hole. He ceremoniously placed the little white flower inside and pushed the dirt back around it. Heat began to warm his back as he stared at its fragile petals. The flower had no roots, and so no hope of growing, yet he placed it there anyway. What life it had left would ebb away into the soil in a few days, but by then he wouldn’t be around to see it.

When he was satisfied with his work, he pushed himself to his feet and wiped his soiled hands on his faded jeans. A crackling nose had started behind him and he could feel the warmth. He was tempted to look over his shoulder, to watch his old things going up in smoke. He knew he shouldn’t, but he did. And he was doomed by that glance.

Flames devoured the wooden walls with a ravenous red hunger. They licked up the sides with destruction and rage, swallowing the shed whole. Fire was killing his past – killing it. His mind went straight to the key. What would he do without that little key? Nevermind that. How would he remember the quotes, the stories, or all the precious moments without the objects in that room?

He looked down at the flower, then back up to see his treasures burning. This was his fault. He had started the destruction of his own most prized possessions. Again he looked down and it clicked. Something snapped into place in his mind. Why was he willing to let everything burn for the sake of something that wouldn’t live to see tomorrow? Where were his priorities? What was more important?

It was impulse, really, that caused him to act. It was impulse, but a moment of truth nonetheless. Perhaps he would have regretted it, or acted differently if given a second chance. As it was, he couldn’t take it back.

He jumped into the flames to join his past.

And he burned.

THE REAL (but slightly more morbid) END

“A Reaper Reminisces” Short Story

I meant to write a full short story for Halloween in honor of a few friends here. Then I fell very sick this week and haven’t felt like doing anything more than staring at a wall. The story won’t be nearly as effective coming later in the year, but I still intend to finish it. I needed to share a creative piece in the midst of everything else going on. I’m devastated that I’ve been falling woefully behind on posts this month, but I still hope to progress on this blog before my time in DC is up! Who knows, maybe I’ll finish that short story sooner rather than later. Though I’m doubtful, knowing that November is NaNoWriMo. So I pulled a story I wrote ages ago for your reading pleasure (I hope).

I can’t remember when I began writing this, or why. Probably a time when I was quite heartbroken for reasons forgotten to me now. But I pulled it from the depths of my drive to share for this Halloween. Yes, maybe it’s more about the idea of love than an immortal reaper of souls, but I felt it could still be fitting.

On that note, happy Halloween!


I do not claim to have felt love, nor do I understand the justification of such a feeling. I have only witnessed the pain it has caused. Love gives up, gives out, and ends lives. It is a wonder to me why so many put their hearts at risk, especially when the risk is so clearly unworthy of them. Humanity would be much more formidable if not for the presence of love. Humanity would live much longer.

Love is not weakness, as some believe. No, love is very strong indeed. However, to love is to die. To survive, one simply must not love.

To my knowledge, there is no emotion that has demanded more death than love. Since my knowledge is considerable, you should assume that as truth. Hatred is fearsome, but it simmers from a fiery base in love, whether of self or others. Tragedy sits heavily on the minds of many, but none is so gripping as the grief of lost love. Anger, exhilaration, sadness, fear… They pale in comparison to the loves I have seen.

I remember the same loves that humanity holds in history. Tristan and Isolde, Samson and Delilah, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Antony and Cleopatra all spun fantastic tales to be told over and over through the ages. I was there to witness them all. I bore witness to the true pain that no modern mind could comprehend, no matter how they imagine. Only I know the true tragedy, and only I wonder how different the situations may have been with the extrication of love from the equation.

I will not deny the beauty of love. It is stunning and commanding in it’s awesome power. It is the basis for belief and hope, among all the negative inspirations it also spawns. To be fair, I have seen many good born of love in my years. Those same years when loved ones were gripped by tragedy, love united them. Love creates a bond between people that cannot be broken, however much it is beaten or twisted. Humanity is not all bad. Love draws humanity to save itself with moves of service and compassion. It is as if humanity could not exist without an all-powerful love.

No, I cannot claim to explain love. I cannot ever understand it.

But I agree that humanity would fundamentally be different without love.

Without love, humanity could not be humanity.

Perhaps that is justification enough.

Informational Interview 1/3: Kitty Burroughs

THE POSTERCHILDREN: ORIGINS
by Kitty Burroughs, aka quipquipquip
Kitty’s Website
Kitty’s Patreon
TPC on Gumroad
TPC on Storenvy

The Posterchildren: Origins, or TPC for short, is one of my personal favorites in my bookshelf collection. Written by Kitty Burroughs, the series features super-powered teens working their way through public hero boarding school. It’s available on Storenvy, Smashwords, and Gumroad for e-book purchase. Storenvy also has merch and hard copy books.

Kitty also releases Timely Tales, monthly short stories that delve further into the universe, including character history and minor chracters. These are available in e-book form, but we be collected into series of 6 in hard-copy form soon.

There is also a much anticipated sequel: Retcons.

Kitty works very hard to make sure minorities are included, featured, and natural in The Posterchildren. Our world is heavily sprinkled with variety, but media often struggles to represent that properly, if at all. Kitty is very humble and makes no assumption of authority, but she cares about demographics that are rarely included in literature and aims to give them a voice. From a personal bias, I think she is very successful, as Kitty’s work includes some of the best character development and world-building I have ever read. I follow her work regularly, getting the monthly updates straight to my email and helping sponsor her Patreon for the reasons above. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Two weeks ago, my friend, Cassidy aka ambientmagic, and I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Kitty about her writing and her process. Thrilling. To the point where I may have squealed, danced, and screamed afterward. Since the transcript of this interview is very lengthy, I only included the answers to the questions I specifically asked Kitty, which were more from a creative writer standpoint. However, Cassidy posted the complete transcript on her media representation blog, Representation Matters. If any of her questions interest you, hop on over to her blog to read them. Or hop on over to her blog anyway to read more about the importance of representation in modern media.

The interview (or as I call it, “Best School Project Ever”) follows.


Okay, first question. What drove you to become a writer?
Writing, just in general, or as a vocation? (Both.) I started writing when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t really see it as a serious thing, because this was before fanfiction had really evolved on the internet, and really before we had internet in our home. I was sixteen or seventeen before we had internet in our home, so I had no connection to fandom at that time, but I was still writing fanfiction for myself. In the fourth grade, Sailor Moon was my first fanfiction. I was just writing for myself, because I had these stories that would entertain me, and I have terrible short term memory, so it was a way of preserving the stories for me to go over later on. I started sharing my fanfiction when I got into my Harry Potter phase in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I started reading fanfiction online and participating in fandom in that way. I got to the point where I never saw myself as doing anything but writing. I kept doing it, it made me happy, I get weird and irritable when I don’t write (laugh), so it was one of those things I always knew.
I didn’t see it as something I could make a career out of until I was sixteen and one of my short stories won an award for promising young writers. I got a small scholarship for it, and I got to attend a four-day writing conference for professional authors in Portland. That was the moment when I realized this was a serious thing that I could probably do for a career. If I could get into this business, it could possibly, maybe support me. That conference was definitely an opportunity. I got to talk with both editors and agents, I got to practice my pitch, and really see what that part of the industry looked like. My family wasn’t supportive, because it is so difficult to get into the industry, and how much luck and opportunity is involved. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was like, okay. Maybe I can do this.

What inspired you to write The Posterchildren, specifically? (See Representation Matters blog.)

When you wrote TPC, did you consider going through a publisher, and what made you decide to self-publish? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Which is easier to publish, print or digital books? (See Representation Matters blog.)

You release new material regularly. How difficult is it to write to that deadline? And how do you hold yourself to that deadline?
It’s cute that you think I do. (laugh) I really try to keep things on a regular schedule, because if you don’t keep to some kind of deadline, you don’t do anything. You’ll keep pushing it further and further out, even if you’re not a procrastinator. It’s difficult for me to write to a deadline currently, because I just got a new job that takes up much more of my time than I expected. Since that has taken the reins, it’s not always easy to release content on schedule. The nice thing about TPC being a fairly small project is most readers realize that I am human, and it’s a one-person show here. I try to hold myself to it, but I also try not to beat myself up if bad things happen.

On that note, how do you balance writing with “the real world”? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Is there anything you would have done differently with your first book, Origins, that you can apply to the sequel, Retcons? (See Representation Matters blog.)

How do you research the religions, cultures, and sexualities that you put in your novels?
Well, I am white and a part of that majority, so I do my best to do as much research as possible. Most of my characters have had a very different background than mine, so their experiences are very different from mine. I try to read a lot of first person accounts, and search out voices from that minority, because it’s them I’m representing, and it’s their voice I want to prioritize. I talk to as many people as I can, and read as much material as possible.

Tell us why representation in your work is so important to you. (See Representation Matters blog.)

To switch topics, how did indiegogo and social media help you get your book out to the public?(See Representation Matters blog.)

What is your writing process like? Do you write chronologically, scene-by-scene…?
Well, I have ADD, and my writing process definitely reflects that. I have what I call my “slush pile” document, so whenever I think of something, I immediately write it down and dump it into that document. So everything, everything is in that document. When I want to find something in there, I Ctrl+F and hope I can remember some of the words I used that day. So my organization and writing process is just–a mess. (laugh) But it’s a semi-organized chaos that seems to work for me. I don’t write chronologically, but I do have bullet points and block out everything before I go into a story so I have an idea of the direction I’m headed and then let my ADD go in every direction, then piece it together at the end.

How many other people edit your works before they’re published? And how secretive are you about your plots before they’re released?
I only have one dedicated editor, who is my girlfriend, Arden, tumblr user mindgoggling who is awesome and has been with me on TPC from the beginning. She’s my sounding board, my editor, and also a resource because she’s Muslim, so that’s where I get a lot of details for Mal and his family. As far as secretiveness goes, I’m terrible. (laugh) It still hasn’t clicked for me that people want to hear about my original characters! I’m still a fanfiction writer at heart and I’m afraid I’m bothering people. I have a bad problem of telling people spoilers when I know they’re not going to tell the internet at large. There are some people I’ve spoiled by accident because I thought I’d already told them something. I use those people as a sound board to ask, does this sound dumb? Is it a good idea? Am I going too far over the line? Oops, I almost told a joke that was nothing but spoilers… Since this is my first interview, if you want to hear things, I’ll give you three free spoilers.
THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES OF THIS INTERVIEW HAVE BEEN REDACTED
Oh my God.
Oh my God.

Okay. One thing I struggle with is placing clues at the right point. How do you decide when to release bits of secrets?
It’s funny because there’s so many hints you’ll see now that you know REDACTED, because to me, a good twist is one that people get two sentences before it’s revealed, and it all comes together for the reader on their own before it gets confirmed, rather than blindsiding them. As a reader myself, it almost feels rude when something is just dropped on you out of nowhere. It’s really fun and enjoyable when you’re going through something and there’s this underlying mystery and you can feel yourself build it up and explore it. It seems more interactive to me. That’s what I enjoy doing, is leaving those Easter eggs for readers. You have to take into account the pacing as well. Some arcs continue into the third book, and others are only for one chapter.

What strategies do you use to world-build and explore your characters?
There’s nothing worse than all your characters being the same, so I try to make them as different from each other as possible. My goal always, is to make the character’s voice obvious with dialogue tags, but without using obvious clues like catchphrases. Every character is a person; they have words they tend to use and overuse, they have a background that influences their word choices, and that is one of the most important parts of character building to me. As for the world-building, people assumed that since the series is so diversity heavy it would take place in an idealized version of the world without the prejudices we have here. I try to keep in mind, what is different about this world from the world as it is today? How would the existence of these groups of people influence history? That’s where I start to get my structure, and how to put the existence of posthumans into the world itself in a semi-realistic way.

Okay, this is the last question on our list. What advice do you have for people who want to start writing?
Do it. Write. To me, everyone has about a million terrible words in them. Your first couple of stories are not going to be any good. They’re going to be terrible and that’s just the way it is. It’s like any other craft, any other skill; you have to keep working at it. It’s something you acquire over time with practice, by putting in the hours, and it’s not waiting for the moment of pure brilliance and inspiration to strike. You have to work on it every day, and stick to it.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 2/?

I can’t say how many of these there will be. These three snapshots compose the second post in a series I can’t put a number to. The first can be read here. Thankfully, these didn’t manage to be as depressing as the first set, with #6 perhaps being the exception. These, more for me maybe than anyone else, have been a blessing. They give me a small writing project as I travel to and from work. They allow me to hone my craft in the little ways. They keep me immersed in writing, even when it’s not a big project. Plus, they’re a ton of fun.

In honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#4

The sign screamed, “DANGER” but he didn’t hear it.  Instead, he leaned casually against the edifice, pulling his tie tightly into a knot. The sheer walls of smoothly cut stone rose sharply around him, but they didn’t intimidate him. Even the dark hole marked with danger didn’t intimidate him. This was his territory. He was comfortable in it. If he’d wanted to, he could have dusted the stains of his pants and boots. If he’d wanted to, he could have had a suit to pair with his tie. But he didn’t want to. He was proud of the stains and his clothing. Every stone, every pipe, every rail had passed through his crafting palms, and that gave him power.

#5

She despised nothing so much as country roads. The car’s thin wheels carved its own rivers in the road, but the second the infernal machine crossed another set of tracks, the car jumped, and her teeth set to rattling. The only thing keeping her hat on her head was a ribbon that only ended up choking her. The driver argued that the view was beautiful, as if that could persuade her. Dust aggressively rained into her eyes. How could she see any view in conditions like this? Much less enjoy it. Besides, the views hid behind pitiful fences of basic wood and wire. She’d have to look past the eyesores just to appreciate the mountains. No, she despised the whole endeavor: the hot sun, the bumpy roads, and she resented the dust hiding in the creases of her favorite dress.

#6

Hell was smoky – the heavy kind of smoky that accompanied the acrid smell of burning wood. Hell was carpeted with thick, grimy dirt and prickly, broken branches. Hell had no sun. Hell had no sky. And hell heard only the cries of fallen men and echoing gunshots. He didn’t count the soldiers next to him as signs of life. Either they were dead men walking, or they’d long since given up on being anything else. The trees, destroyed and splintered, still reached for the unseen sky in a wicked parody of fingers. His own fingers twitched in reflex as he peered through the scope and waited for the illusion of a pause to end. In hell, there was no peace. And every time peace settled in his bones, he reminded himself that it was a lie. This was hell. This was war.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 1/?

Many photographs line the hall in route to my office. Though they are all recognizably pictures that are housed in the Archives, they are not obviously attached to moments, stories, or people. It’s a long hallway too. Walking by them everyday inspires me, in a sense. Every photo in that hallway has a story we cannot hope to glimpse. It’s both beautiful and sad. I can’t speak for the people in these images. I can’t pinpoint their emotion or their history. But they still make me wonder.

I should clarify: the following paragraphs are not stories. They have no beginning or end. They are snapshots, like I see on the wall on the way to work. They are based solely on my initial impression of the photo. I leave many specifics to the imagination because I can only hope to imagine them as well.

I don’t expect much from these snapshots. I jotted them down on the metro, or while walking around, or whenever the next sentence hit me. But at the very least, I hope they make readers feel something, anything, in honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#1
Every soul in town had found their way to that street. Fabric scraped on fabric as the bodies undulated, struggling against each other to move forward. Someone hit her – hard – from her right. Instinctively, she elbowed back and pulled her hat more tightly to her head. People around her moved with a purpose, even if they weren’t going anywhere. She wondered if the crowd pressed around her was slowly pushing her back, away from the square that she, and everyone else, tried so desperately to reach. She wanted to push back against the pressure and come up closer to the front. But this sea couldn’t be cut through so easily, and the people that comprised it were determined to oppose her. Instead, she planted her feet and fought the sway and hoped to witness what she could.

#2
“Stay close to me,” she whispered fiercely.
They were hesitant, enough to stay by her, but she worried about their curiosity. There was not much for them at home. Frankly, she wouldn’t blame them for wandering off if they could find something better. Part of her still hoped for them. But what remained of her hope trickled away from her as slowly as the grimy water trickled into the drain. The part of her that wanted them to stay clung still to their grubby arms. But even that part was uncertain enough to let the course fabric lay loose in her grasp. Hair fell in matted tangles in front of her eyes as she stared blankly toward the end of the cobblestone street. She didn’t know where they would all end up. And a dying part of her still fought to care.

#3
This wasn’t a line, he thought; it was a stalemate. If he moved at all, it was only to shuffle a few inches forward before settling into waiting again. He didn’t dare set his suitcase down, for fear someone would make off with what precious belongings he had left without a thought to him. But his arm tired the longer he carried his things, and the thought of taking the risk was so tempting… Worse than the pain creeping like a worm up his arm was the desolation he had to look at while he stood. There was no where that had gone untouched by the damage, no safe place to rest his eyes. He pitied the souls of the children who couldn’t fathom the situation. He empathized with the families struggling to stay calm. But all the staring and waiting and shuffling and standing had distanced him from the rubble, and he wondered only where he’d end up, without worrying over the home he’d lost.

More of these turned out sad than I intended. Of course, in order for a photograph to be in the Archives, it must have permanent relevance of some sort. And I suppose many of the moments that have permanent relevance are the tragic ones.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.