#FlashMobWrites 1×01

Welcome to #FlashMobWrites Week One

Come one, come all! This is an open flash fiction challenge with a musical inspiration, hosted by authors Cara Michaels (formerly of #MenageMonday, #WIPflash, and #RaceTheDate) and Ruth Long (of the wicked fun #LoveBites and #DirtyGoggles challenges).

Mob Rules

  • The challenge begins: Fridays @ Noon EST (Eastern)
  • And ends: Saturday @ Midnight PST (Pacific)
  • Word count: 300-500 (no less, no more)
  • Post your story in the comments below!
  • We love you and wish to heap praises (and random prizes) on you, so be sure to include your name (no, it doesn’t have to be your real name) and a way for us to get in touch (Twitter handles are encouraged)
  • A promptchoiceis offered by each judge.
    • The prompt may be split, but no order change or dropping words.
    • Words may be added before or after, not in the middle.

The Inspiration

You do not need to reference the video in any way for your story.

CAUTION: This video is NSFW. Watch wisely.

The Prompts

Cara Michaels: “drunk enough to deal with it”

Ruth Long: “a holy fool all colored blue”

Now pick your prompt and write!

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33 thoughts on “#FlashMobWrites 1×01

    • You could cut it between two sentences. Example: I’d drunk enough. To deal with it all, I needed my wits about me.

      Hopefully I got my chosen prompt right, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Janae, Cody, and a Holy Fool All Colored Blue

    Janae watched the pastor as he talked, but she wasn’t really listening. He was wearing a solid dark blue suit with a tie that matched exactly, and an only slightly lighter shade of blue shirt. She only sorted his words enough to see if he would say, “Who wants to be a millionaire?” like Regis Philbin.

    She looked over at Cody, her husband of two years, he appeared to be listening intently, but she knew that look. He wasn’t there anymore. His mind might be playing golf, fishing or flirting with his new secretary. He wouldn’t be listening to a holy fool all colored blue. Or he will be, after he talks himself blue in the face.

    She wanted to smack him, her husband, not the pastor. No, on second thought. She wanted to smack them both. She needed them to hurt, like she hurt. Looking at her husband again, she realized he did hurt. Except he was so blessed good at hiding it. If pain was all they had to share, why couldn’t he at least share it.

    Janae looked around the office, it hadn’t changed in the last couple years. They had come here before getting married. The pastor had refused to perform the ceremony, because they had refused premarital counseling. One justice of the peace and two years later, they were back, wanting to know what the preacher had known. Only they weren’t listening. Not to each other, and not to the pastor.

    She knew she should have seen the crash coming, but it’s hard to think about crashing when love is lifting you up to supernal heights. The pastor had warned them love was blind, deaf, and mute. They laughed at him, until they were in a free fall. Now they sought him out, hoping he had a parachute.

    Coming here had been Cody’s idea. She wondered what that meant. Did he want to survive this crash? Janae wanted him to want to survive the crash. They had married on the foolish notion they would always wonderful. They found passion didn’t thrive among the bills, chores and schedules of real life. The pastor was blathering on about those stresses, so she listened for a minute.

    For the first time she realized he was pausing, hoping they would respond. She didn’t know what to say so she tuned him out again. Turning to Cody she caught him watching her out the corner of his eye, just for a second. He had caught her listening, now he was listening, too. Don’t do it she thought, don’t listen to him, listen to me. Hear my heart, heal my hurt. She thought all this but never said a word.

    A moment of silence, and Janae realized the pastor had asked a question.

    “I love my wife,” Cody said, “I want to hear what she has to say.” A moment later Janae was crying, washing away some of the hurt.

    They would rebuild. After any and every crash, they would rebuild.

    @CharlesWShort
    500 words exactly

    I admit I was a little uncertain about the rules. But I think what you mean was one or the other phrase has to be included, but not necessarily first, last or even in the same sentence, but nevertheless contiguous. And I figure if I got it wrong, well, just disqualify me. It’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened. Good luck and godspeed on the new venture.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I like this– and the fact that the first thing they need… is to not only listen… but to speak. People can’t see what you aren’t willing to show. Very touching and well done!

      Like

  2. Mobius

    My memory is locked on the instant my world changed. It’s as if that moment still hangs in the air and I am stuck. I’ve tried to leave, to move on with my life, but everything leads me back and I find myself watching as I am forced to relive the moment over and over again. I wince as the scents and sensations all but overwhelm me only to vanish into nothingness. One moment the colors are full and vibrant and the next, they pixelate into random chaos

    Older, jaded, me watches as younger, innocent, me smiled and joked just before everything came to a jarring halt and the sudden explosion of sound and light. Older me begins to wonder if all changes are heralded this way: birth; death; loss…but younger me is still reeling.

    There have been times I thought I was getting better, but then I’m back and I can count every shard of glass as it passes by me. I feel it again and again as everything I love is ripped from me, while everything I fear rips through me anew.

    I don’t know how much more I can take…

    Therapists talk about survivor’s guilt, about grief… I know they’re trying to help, but all their words simply give a name to the cacophony as the shards of glass slice through my dreams and leave me barren.

    They tell me to face my fears head on, but this is more than fear– it is all my fears realized in one moment that will not die.

    Tonight they plan on hypnotizing me- I hope I’m drunk enough to deal with it, but I know it won’t really help.

    I have lost everything that matters, and I am in a hell of my own choosing.

    I hope they never find their way into my dreams, because there is no escape for any of us.

    @mishmhem
    315 words (not including title)
    #flashdog

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Friday night, and here I am, alone, sitting in my reclining chair, a bottle of Jack Black on the table next to me, and the remote in my hand. She’s been gone five years now. She didn’t even say goodbye. I came home from work and she was gone.

    I talk to God, the universe, life, whatever it is that’s there, “Hope she found what she was looking for.” I grab the Jack, turn the bottle up, and drink until it burns so much I can’t feel anything else. I put the bottle down, and try to breathe. “What to watch tonight?”

    I pretend to surf the channels, looking for something to watch. A movie, the news, a documentary, I even check the religious stations. “Nope,” I quickly skip through the channels with people praying, “Not drunk enough to deal with it.”

    She left me, ‘cause she had to. I didn’t really give her much choice. Kinda hard to live with a dead man, with a stone frozen heart. Between work, and the kids, and the bills, and the yard, and church every Sunday, I kinda went numb, and stopped feeling anything.

    I still don’t really feel anything.

    I grab the bottle again, and drink ‘till the fire in my throat makes me stop. “No tears, you wimp. No tears.” I find the sports channels, it’s Friday night, I know there’s a fight on somewhere. I settle on a channel airing UFC matches. Men, beating the shit out of each other. Good. I pretend I’m the winner in each match. Pretend I’m the tough guy, beating everyone else up. “Take that, you bitch!” I cheer when someone gets knocked out.

    Cathartic release of stress.

    I take another long chug of the Jack. After five or six matches, I’ve had enough. They all become the same. So, I go back to surfing the channels, until I find one of those shows about car chases and crashes. Watching stupid people be stupid. That’s always fun. “And after his joy ride, he spent 8 years as Bubba’s bitch in prison.” I laugh every time someone survives a horrendous wreck, and the narrator says, “He returned to the track three months later, only to crash again.”

    “More Jack!” I chug more down as I look through more channels. I find the movie channels. Friday night boobs flash on the screen. “Boobs are good.” I watch a curvy blonde sitting on top some generic male, her boobs keeping time with her rocking motion. Too soon, the scene ends, and I change channels again. “There’s gotta be more of that somewhere.”

    I end up on pay per view, where I buy, “Hot Navy Wives, And He’s At Sea”. Absolutely no plot. But by that time, I’m drunk enough to deal with it. And I don’t care I’m alone. And I don’t care there’s no one to hold.

    By that time, I don’t feel anything.

    And that’s how I want it.

    WordCount : 493
    @LurchMunster

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hopelessness from a bottle of ‘Jack Black?’ Isn’t that an actor rather than a booze? Ah, what do I know. The progression of self-destruction is ievocative, but I think you made accurate choices of what comes first, second, third and so on.

      Like

    • I believe we are talking Jack Daniels, Black label… yes? This is an unsettling piece, I think because the narrator’s coping mechanism is very self destructive… and yet – it’s what he’s comfortable with… so true to human nature. Well done.

      Like

  4. Pingback: #FlashMobWrites 1×01 : What Kind Of Man | My Soul's Tears

  5. We were soul mates, lovers, best friends when I lived in Fargo.
    At 3 a.m. I received a phone call from him at a party.

    “Where are your friends? I thought they were there.”
    “I think, you know its so busy here and I may have taken a nap somewhere, but—”
    “Do you see them now? Are they in the apartment or maybe in the alleyway?”
    “Man, too many questions. Can you come get me? It’s cold out here.”
    “Look around. What do you see? Any signs? Are you in front of a bar?”
    “It says Guinness. Lights flashing and it’s making me sick.”
    “OK, hold on. I’ll be right there.”

    I knew I shouldn’t have left him alone at that party but I was getting tired and he had left my side to “make his rounds”. Pulling up in front of the house party, I spotted him in front of a Guinness sign, slumped over but coherent.

    I drove him home that night, unlocked his door and tucked him into bed making sure he was safe. Then, I shut the door and slipped into the spare bedroom to sleep.

    Next morning, he was hunched over his computer seemingly possessed by his stash of words. Dressed in a white undershirt and black rimmed glasses, he looked older than he seemed last night. Inside the bathroom, I found the spoon and hypodermic needle. I froze—mind, body, thoughts, speech, everything. He was at it again. Leaving the objects in place, I curled onto the love seat behind him.

    Voice low, I asked:

    “What kind of fool do you take me for?
    Are you waiting for the day
    All colored blue
    To call your sister to whisper overdose
    Did you check your expiration date
    And time it so well for your grand farewell?”

    @blurosemd
    Word Count: 300

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We were soul mates, lovers, best friends when I lived in Fargo.
    At 3 a.m. I received a phone call from him at a party.

    “Where are your friends? I thought they were there.”
    “I think, you know its so busy here and I may have taken a nap somewhere, but—”
    “Do you see them now? Are they in the apartment or maybe in the alleyway?”
    “Man, too many questions. Can you come get me? It’s cold out here.”
    “Look around. What do you see? Any signs? Are you in front of a bar?”
    “It says Guinness. Lights flashing and it’s making me sick.”
    “OK, hold on. I’ll be right there.”

    I knew I shouldn’t have left him alone at that party but I was getting tired and he had left my side to “make his rounds”. Pulling up in front of the house party, I spotted him in front of a Guinness sign, slumped over but coherent.

    I drove him home that night, unlocked his door and tucked him into bed making sure he was safe. Then, I shut the door and slipped into the spare bedroom to sleep.

    Next morning, he was hunched over his computer seemingly possessed by his stash of words. Dressed in a white undershirt and black rimmed glasses, he looked older than he seemed last night. Inside the bathroom, I found the spoon and hypodermic needle. I froze—mind, body, thoughts, speech, everything. He was at it again. Leaving the objects in place, I curled onto the love seat behind him.

    Voice low, I asked:

    “What kind of fool do you take me for?
    Are you waiting for the day, “a holy fool
    All colored blue”
    To call your sister to whisper overdose
    Did you check your expiration date
    And time it so well for your grand farewell?”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I decided to write a piece in the vein of my Flawed series. Thanks for the challenge! This was fun. 🙂

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/beccajcampbell
    Word count: 500 exactly
    Title: Levitation Schmevitation
    ~

    Today was proving to be the most difficult day of Chayton’s life, and it was all because of his dammed levitational handicap.

    Chayton stared at the reflection in his bedroom mirror, frowning at the dark bug-eyes and pulling at the empty sides of the crisp, white shirt that hung loose on his too-thin frame. With a sigh he tugged his fingers through his wild black hair, trying to comb it flat and eventually giving up, flicking it upward again so that it spiked in all directions like it wanted. He wondered what Alice saw when she looked at him, and why she’d ever given him a second glance. Did she see this same wiry wisp of a boy trying a little too hard to look like a man?

    He wiggled a socked toe and realized he couldn’t feel carpet beneath. Damn! He was levitating again. Chayton focused hard, using his mind to pull his body back to the floor. His feet connected, and he took a deep breath.

    It had all started two years ago. Chayton cringed. Puberty was the worst.

    Two years ago he’d met Alice, too. If it weren’t for her, he wouldn’t even be doing this. Instead of donning the starched suit, he’d be curled up in his beanbag playing X-Box all night.

    He grasped the contraband can of beer in a shaking hand and upended it, wincing as the last of the bitter liquid went down and thinking of his date. He didn’t think he was drunk enough to deal with it—probably wouldn’t ever be—but he was already drunk enough to impair his control. If he didn’t have such a hard time talking to girls, he’d have gone sober instead.

    Perching on the edge of his bed, Chayton reached for one of the shiny black shoes his dad had loaned him. The shoe—and the floor beneath—fell away before his fingers could curl around the heel. Chayton gritted his teeth and mentally pulled his butt back into contact with the bed, swiping for both shoes before he started floating again. And people thought flying was cool. It was really just annoying.

    With shoes on and jacket snatched, he bounded from his room and down the front stairway. The alcohol blurred his focus, and his body pulled upward as he ran. Desperate hands grasped for the banister, and Chayton held tight as his legs flew out from under him, yanking up over his head and toward the ceiling. It was as if gravity had reversed. With white-knuckled fingers clinging from the banister, Chayton took a deep breath. He slowly pulled himself back to his feet.

    The bike ride was just as bad, his butt floating up off the seat. He gripped the handlebars tightly, glad the bike was heavy enough to keep him weighted down.

    When Chayton arrived, his shoulders were tight with tension. Now all he had to do was teach his floating feet how to dance.

    Damn Sadie Hawkins.

    Liked by 2 people

    • *laughs* I was reading this, thinking about just how bad levitation could be if you didn’t have it under control, and the idea of drinking on top it was bad enough. You kept me wondering how his lack of control was going to effect him… and then, the last line hit me. Very well done.

      Like

  8. The kettle whistled and Aiden pulled it off the stove just as the water upstairs shut off. Part of him wished he had some rum or brandy to add to the tea to ease the coming conversation, but he shook his head as he found a spicy tea bag and dropped it in a mug. He wasn’t sure he could get drunk enough. To deal with it in such a fashion only confirmed Moira’s assertion of his cowardice and he’d given up such drinking anyway.

    Pouring a second cup of tea, he took a deep breath and girded his loins for the metaphorical crotch kick he was likely to get when he talked to his hostess again. At least he had the courage to talk to her again. Can’t call me a coward for that. He took his time, careful not to spill the full mugs as he mounted the stairs. The scents of hot water and a fruity shampoo hit his nose as he reached the land and he paused to savor them.

    Or to still his galloping heart as he faced the firing squad. Goddess, let her be willing to be soothed.

    “Moira?” He shouldered the bedroom door open. “Would you like some tea? I wanted to—”

    His words stuck in his throat as his breath reversed direction. Moira stood with her back to him in nothing but a towel. And the towel only covered her front from breasts to thighs. Her back remained gloriously exposed in lovely, smooth curves. A small watercolor tattoo in the shape of a dripping heart decorated the skin on her spine between her shoulder blades.

    Aiden damn near swallowed his tongue and all the blood in his body headed south to stiffen his cock. She’d been lovely as a sixteen year old girl, but her body had filled out into this magnificent woman, and he was struck dumb. Want. Mine. Need. The staccato thoughts punctuated a flex of his dick.

    Moira looked over her shoulder at him without a trace of embarrassment. “Something you wanted, Aiden?”

    “Uh-huh.” Damn, what was wrong with him? No one had ever done this to him before.

    She turned and set the towel aside before walking to him for the mug he held. “Tea? Thanks. Smells good. What did you want?”

    He’d lost all his cool. She stood before him “sky-clad” like an ancient priestess and sipped her tea, waiting for him with raised eyebrows. “Uh…”

    “What?” She sipped her tea and tilted her head. “I thought a man with your ‘needs’ would’ve seen a woman naked before.”

    Oh, he’d seen naked women, just not his heart’s desire. Not this woman. And the others hadn’t compared to this golden skinned goddess. Mine. He tried to rein in his baser, dominant side before it pushed her farther away. That’s not her kink. Ease back, jackass.

    “Your beauty is beyond compare.” He had no idea where the poetic words came from, but he meant every one of them.

    500 #WIP500 words
    @SiobhanMuir

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I tossed the whiskey back, then slammed the clear glass on the bar and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. Jason sidled over and took the glass. A half-empty bottle of Southern Comfort sat directly behind him, calling my name.

    “I need another shot.”

    He held out his hand and I slapped my keys into it. He locked them up, then put another shot in front of me. I wrapped one trembling hand around the glass and downed the burning liquid.

    “So, what’s got you on the bar stool tonight?”

    I blinked at him out of one eye. “Jimmy.”

    “Figured as much. And what did Jimmy do this time?”

    I gestured to my face. “He’s in jail. Again. Domestic abuse.”
    Jason sighed, then dug around under the bar. He handed me a bag filled with ice. Cold seeped into the bruises and cuts, alleviating the physical pain. But the emotional pain wouldn’t be cured with ice cubes.

    Jason popped the cap on a bottle of Budweiser. “Was he drunk?”

    “And high. Why do I stay?”

    “I don’t know, man. Maybe you should think about that.”

    He walked away to serve other customers. The hole-in-the-wall bar set in the map dot town of Mondamin, Iowa, was popular with locals. I rubbed my face with the bag of ice. Jason came back to mix a drink.

    “Did you get a restraining order this time?”

    “I can’t do that to him. I won’t.”

    He shook his head, squeezing my shoulder. I flinched. Jimmy had given me a thorough beating. All I did was ask him if he wanted spaghetti for supper. I sighed.

    “How bad is it this time?” Jason asked. He stuck a straw in the drink and a wedge of lime on the side.

    “My shoulder is pretty bruised. And my face.”

    His eyes were critical as they swept over the visible bruises. I had stitches over my left eye. Shaking his head, he walked away to deliver the drink. When he came back, he rested his arms on the bar. He put another bottle of beer in front of me, discarding the cap behind him.

    “Is someone staying with you tonight?” he asked. I shook my head. “If he gets released, the farm is the first place he’s going to come and I don’t want you alone. Who can I call?”

    “I don’t want to involve anyone. I’ll be fine.” This wasn’t my first go round with my abusive husband. He only hit me when he wasn’t sober.

    “Hand me your phone.” He flipped through my contacts and fifteen minutes later, Anthony had agreed to stay.

    “I’ll get you some food. And I’ll be out tomorrow to check on you.”

    I finished my beer, grateful for friends like Jason. Anthony walked in about the time the food was ready. The room swayed as he helped me walk. Maybe I was drunk enough to deal with things. Maybe I’d be safe tonight.

    @Aightball
    Word Count: 494

    Liked by 2 people

  10. In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her love. She’d picked me over all the others, and we came together to pledge our lives to each other. A holy fool all colored blue in the waning light of an otherworldly star said a bunch of things I didn’t understand, and it was over.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her anger. She’d cry and scream, but never leave, even though I was a bastard, even though I was a liar and a cheater and a thief. I hated myself too, but she could have left, and she didn’t.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her disdain. She didn’t need me, didn’t want me, but would keep me around as a trophy, an emblem of the trials of her younger years. It was no way to live, but I stayed drunk enough to deal with it, and the time passed.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her betrayal. What happiness I had, I’d taken from her unjustly, and it was her life’s work to make me pay every way that a man could. But she wouldn’t let me go, because her need to watch me suffer outweighed everything else in her mind.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her respect. She stayed with me just to see what I would do, how I would attack the challenge of each new day. We did great things together, she and I, in dreams that had no substance beyond the aether in which they were formed.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her disinterest.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her lust.

    In my dreams, I was a person worthy of her.

    In my dreams, I hadn’t ended her life.

    306 words
    @drmagoo

    Liked by 2 people

    • That whetted my appetite and then some. I love the ‘in my dreams’ theme because it implied the question ‘What is the reality of the situation?’ It drew me in and on throughout the story. Well done.

      Like

  11. Pingback: Flash Mob Writes 1×01 | Project Gemini

  12. He didn’t come around last night. That’s two nights in a row. She looked around at the gorgeous penthouse. The view was immaculate, you can see the entire city and to the sea. She turned slowly in a circle taking in the lavish surroundings. The leather couch the beautiful granite counter tops in the kitchenette. Everything was always opulent for him, for her. This is what he gave her. Things. Jewelry, dresses, anything she ever wanted. But there was something missing and it wasn’t a “thing”.

    He sat in the office and looked at the magnificent view. He could see the sun setting in deep gold and red hues. They used to watch the sun rise and set together. When they were younger he remembers jumping on the bed. “Get up sleepydoo! Time to watch the sun!” She’d grumble and grovel but for him she’d slowly stumble to the patio. He’d put his arm around her and they’d watch the sun rise together. Those were his favorite times. The simple ones. He doesn’t know what makes her happy anymore. He buys her things he knows she wants and loves the smile he gets. He’s built the empire he’s always wanted. Struggling to make his goals, but there was something missing and it wasn’t a “goal”.

    She drove into the parking garage and saw the Jag. “He’s finally home” she thought. She picked up the stack of papers next to her. She hoped she made the right decision. She had talked with friends and they all suggested this was the way to go. She headed into the lobby then abruptly took a detour to the lounge bar. “Maybe if I get drunk enough to deal with it I’ll have the courage to go upstairs.” she thought.

    He paced the length of the penthouse. He’d been preparing for hours. He hasn’t been this nervous in years. He wonders if he made a mistake. There must be some other way he could do this. He headed to the bar in the kitchenette. Maybe if I get drunk enough to deal with it I’ll have the courage to face her.” he thought.

    He heard the front door open. He stood in the entryway. She smelled roses. Roses were on every surface that wasn’t covered by candles. She stood there with tears in her eyes. She ran to him for an embrace. He held her tight. They slowly parted and he looked down between them to crumpled papers. “What’s this?” he asked.

    “Oh it’s nothing, never mind.” she stammered.

    “Let me take a look.” And he smoothed out the papers. Shock registered on his face.

    “Really?” he asked with a concerned look.

    “Well, I didn’t know what to do and, well, I asked some friends …” she shrugged.

    “A two week couple’s cruise! That’s perfect!” he smiled at her.

    She broke into a huge smile. He put his arm around her and turned her toward the patio. “Come on Sweetie let’s watch the sun set.”

    @brazenbaretoe
    Word Count: 500

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “Case o’ the Mondays eh Rick?” Casey asked knowing I was in a bad mood, making my mood all the worse.

    “Shut-up Casey.” I belched at him as i put my beer down. I looked at him with a frown and groaned.

    Casey slapped my back and giggled. He wasn’t the kind of friend that if you got in jail, he’d bail you out, he was the kind who would be sitting next to you giddily and proceed to say “that was fun!” and probably ask to do it again. Casey the lighthearted mop-head.

    “You-” I paused to take a breath, “you’re real funny there guy.” I looked at him, i couldn’t help but smile.

    Casey looked around and said “Bro this place is beat. Ha and so are you, you’re wasted Rick!” He flagged down a waitress and asked for the check.

    He turned to me whilst putting his credit card in his wallet. He put his wallet in his back pocket and said “Think you can make it home big guy?” he brushed his hand across his hair “It’s 12:00.”

    “Well,” I said as i sat up “I don’t want to.”

    Casey laughed at me and said “Eh you’re drunk enough to deal with it Rick.”

    I stood up and stretched my arms getting a light headed feeling. Casey and I walked out of the bar and talked as we trotted down the sidewalks of New York. We laughed at each other terrible jokes like friends do. But with Casey you laughed anyway.

    As we were walking we stopped here and there to compliment the graffiti. I thought to myself “Mondays ain’t that bad, that is if you have a friend like Casey.”

    We laughed at each other and joked about doing this next Monday.

    We both knew that there was no way in hell that was gonna happen.

    @grady_rexford
    312 words

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really like the relationship you’re building here.. It says a lot about a relationship when you can joke around about doing it again, knowing full well– it won’t happen. Thank you for a glimpse into these characters’ lives.

      Like

  14. I stepped into the healer’s cave. Dried herbs simmered in a cast iron pot over a small fire, the delicate aromas of chamomile and mint sweetening the air.

    “Baron.” Erol’s booming voice greeted me. “This is a pleasant surprise. You’re just in time for tea.”

    “Actually, I need some supplies.”

    “Of course.” He emerged from the back of the cave, baskets of late harvest fruits and vegetables on his thick arms. “Anything you need.”

    “Ah, some comfrey salve. Yarrow and calendula, if you have them.”

    Erol’s gaze sharpened. Damn, I’d known I wouldn’t get out of here without question. I should have gathered the damn herbs myself. But the woman needed help now, not after a few hours or days of preparation.

    “Who is wounded?”

    “No one,” I lied. “I’m just stocking up.”

    “Are you preparing for a fight?”

    “I don’t fight, Erol.”

    “You did.”

    “That was a long time ago.” And my efforts had helped no one. Unless I counted myself, which I did, with every damning breath I took.

    “Surviving isn’t a crime. When are you going to forgive yourself, Baron?”

    His words countered the very thoughts in my mind and a low growl started in my throat.

    “I hear the talk. The hunters say you do not hunt. The gatherers say you do not gather. Winter is hard upon us and still no one has seen you shift. Seven years, Baron. So many moons come and gone. Do you still hear the bear within you? Or has it gone quiet, too?”

    I heard the bear. And I denied him.

    “You’re nothing but a holy fool.”

    “All colored blue by your disdain. Or so you think.” Erol chuckled. “If you believe me saddened by your disavowal, you’re sorely deluded. I’m not even surprised by it. You had no patience for the spiritual when you were hale and hearty. You’ve long deadened your soul to the voices of heaven and earth since.”

    My shoulders hunched higher with each verbal barb.

    “So.” Erol emptied a basket of potatoes and replaced the contents with three clay pots. “You know the herbs by their aromas?”

    “Yes.”

    “Good.” He added fine linen for bandages. He rooted through the dried herbs hanging along the walls. “Here. Willow bark. Brew it as a tea to help relieve any pain.”

    “I know what willow bark is for.”

    “And I know you’re hiding something.” He handed the basket to me. “I won’t press for details, but don’t wait to come for me if you see signs of infection. A human won’t last long in our winter if she isn’t healthy.”

    Damn. I dropped my gaze to the first aid supplies. Peering up, I caught Erol’s grin. He tapped the side of his nose.

    “A lovely scent, she has,” he said.

    My mouth ran dry as dust. I coughed.

    “Erol, if anyone asks—”

    “I’m just a holy fool, lad.” He ladled a cup of tea and settled into his chair by the fire. “Go tend your patient.”

    @caramichaels
    500 ineligible WIP words

    Liked by 1 person

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