Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Category: Short Pieces Week

Short Pieces Week: Not This Title

This story of based off of the prompt by blackflamingo777. I know that this is extremely late in coming. I actually wrote two versions of the story and realized that the first one needed an entirely different beginning. Hence the delay and a second version.

Not This Title

What have you lost down the gaping hole where your heart used to be?

Greetings are pretty standard around here.

Alright, I should back up: my name is Joyce; I am somewhere between thirteen and twenty; I live in a tiny town at the edge of Nebraska; I despise ketchup and fish; and my life is defined by what people say about me.

To be honest, I think everyone’s life is defined by what people say unless they have to sense to not let it bother them. But that’s beside the point.

People say a lot of things about me; and most of them are not very nice. It doesn’t bother me as much as some people want it to. I guess you could say that I have a way of letting things roll off of me. It’s a skill that comes in handy.

I suppose you’re wondering what I meant by the sentence I started with…. I used to be known as the flower girl around school. It’s not because I’m always happy or because I dress I bright colors. I’m neither of those. It’s because I earned a reputation as one of the worst kids in school a few years ago. Apparently people wanted to give me an ironic nickname that they knew I would hate.

Anyway, the other people in my small group of friends say that I earned my nickname because I’ve broken more hearts in school than most of the popular kids. They might be right. Tearing people’s hearts apart was never something that I wanted to do; I played with dolls and wished that I was a princess like everyone else when I was little. I even convinced some of my schoolteachers to call me Snow White for a few months when I was six.

The first heart I broke was that of one of my best friends. She moved out of town for a few years, and then she came back with a new set of ideals and an entirely now idea of who her friends should be. I didn’t intend on breaking her heart, but I think it was inevitable.

She spent a few weeks with my group of friends, and then one of the popular girls offered her a place in their gang. She accepted and spent a few months as an armrest, before deciding that she wanted to rejoin my friends and I. The popular kids had blamed us for every single thing that went wrong in their lives since their new recruit joined them, and we were tired of it. We said no and I told my former best friend that I never wanted to see her again.

Her family moved out of town a few weeks later and we have not talked since.

I only know I hurt her because one of my other friends saw her a couple of weeks later and confirmed my suspicions.

I suppose you could say that things picked up after that. So, there I was. I had the newly anointed nickname of the flower girl, and school was finally becoming interesting. I admit that I had fun for a few months. But things quickly went downhill.

There are very few things that can destroy assumptions the way a divorce can. After my parents decided to move into their own houses and keep their conversations to themselves, the nickname ‘flower girl’ became my way of holding onto things. I turned heartbreaking into a bit of a profession. And I am pleased to say that I was quite good at it.

A profession such as that can only last for so long before people catch on. And catch on they did. My business of breaking hearts quickly fell down the stairs. But I had other things to do and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. Until one day when a new kid caught my attention.

Let me make one thing very clear: I am not a slut. I dislike romanticism and relationships don’t interest me. I fell in love with someone in middle school, and I decided not to make the same mistake again. Thankfully, it was a few years before I started high school and I quickly got over it. Actually, the person I fell in love with back then is now one of my best friends. And he is entirely gay; which is good because I don’t have any interest in him and we came have strange conversations without anything becoming too awkward. But I’m getting off topic.

I knew I was in trouble when that new kid walked into the room. I started a conversation over lunch and things went relatively well from there. We became compatriots and the new kid became part of my group of friends.

Don’t waste your breath asking the question I know you have: I was not falling in love again. But I desperately wanted to be good friends. I could see and this new kid and I having sleepovers and gossiping about what was said in school the week before. I could see us walking down the street and joking about all of the things we saw. And those images were so tempting.

Unfortunately, my reputation of breaking the hearts of ‘could-have-been-lovers’ had spread to friends. Despite the group of friends I had, people at school seemed to think that anyone who joined my group of friends would end up with a broken heart before the most popular girl in school could flip her hair over her shoulder.

Naturally, the morally correct people in school warned the new kid about me. My perfect visions of friendship fell down the stairs far more quickly than my career in breaking hearts had.

The new kid and I dodged each other for a few weeks, but a meeting was inevitable. I can’t stand leaving things alone when I know that something needs to be done. I snuck a note into the new kid’s backpack with instructions to meet me at the coffee shop after school.

I waited for about an hour before the new kid walked through the door. We sat across the table from each other and had a polite conversation. I tried to dispel the new kid’s beliefs about me and was as honest as I have ever been.

I thought things were going extraordinarily well until I walked into school the next day. The new kid had not only explained everything to the most popular group of kids on school, but the new kid had been ostentatious enough to record our conversation at the coffee shop and put it in front of the loudspeaker. Well… things could not be the same after that.

I am going to skip forward a few miserable months: my friends repeatedly tried to convince me that the school was now a battlefield and we needed to launch our own attack. I refused and tried to stay as far away from the new kid as possible.

Unfortunately for me, the new kid finally decided to believe what I had said at the coffee shop and wanted to become friends again. After what had happened with my former best friend those years earlier, I was slightly tempted. But I knew that it would be a bad decision and I said no.

If high school was a battlefield before, it was now a galaxy of burning comets crashing into each other. That might be an overdramatic image; but seriously, have you ever been in high school?

I had started a war. Even the teachers were swept into it. This was not a war of people ignoring each other in the hallways, or even a war of bullies tormenting each other. This was a war that encompassed the entire school. I was right in the middle of a mob of 479 kids, and I was the one the blame for all of it. Actually, I think that the new kid was the one who started it. The entire issue could have been resolved with a simple agreement.

I admit that I am the reason why it escalated so quickly. But even that blame could be parceled out. For the sake of time, I’m not going to try and hand the blame to anyone else in my group of friends. I was to blame. I was entirely, completely, at fault.

The war lasted for what was left of the semester and picked up again after summer break. It ended when the principle finally stepped in and had police officers posted in each of the classrooms. Even then, another war was rumbling underneath the floors.

Everyone could hear it, but the hallways were silent until the police officers decided to leave and everything appeared to be normal.

Well, normal is the last thing the next many months were. What had been a war fought only on the school campus became a secret network linking the houses of every student. Cryptic letters were left on doors; candy correlating to each faction of the school was left on enemies’ doorsteps. And I was the golden apple that would win the race.

The extraordinary thing is that no one outside of the high school students seemed to notice that a war was happening around them.

This stage of the war lasted for a few weeks, and there was a new thing to worry about each day. Letters that contained threats regarding gum and tacks on chairs disguised in homework questions became trip wires in hallways and fake blood smeared across bedroom windows.

Pages from diaries were copied and left in school lockers; people would even steal small amounts of acid or other dangerous materials from the science labs and bake it into brownies that were left on chairs. It is not long before threats became actual actions.

No one was poisoned; but it was impossible to have a conversation with anyone without hearing about an increasingly dangerous prank that had occurred the night before. I continued to try to stay out of most of it, but that was impossible when I would find one thing or another waiting on my windowsill when I went home.

The threats passed through the hallways in school started to fade. And then people started to disappear. Everyone who was a student knew the names of all of the culprits; but we were at war. Parents started to call the school to say that so-and-so never came home the day before, the police started to look around, and the war continued on.

The rate that people disappeared grew and the police station appointed policemen to areas around the school and bus stops. Of course, it never did anything because the perpetrators of disappearances were the students themselves. I will not point to anyone; and I most certainly will not tell you if I was involved in any of the kidnappings.

I can tell you that the police started to see me as a source of information. One of my friends disappeared and I was pulled into the principal’s office almost every day to speak with one detective or another.

A few weeks later, one of the girls that had been kidnapped by a rather potent faction of students was found dead. Let me tell you that no one at school was surprised. And anyone who might have been didn’t show it. We were fighting a war and everyone knew that someone was going to die. The only questions were who and when.

We had a who, a when, and a funeral. Parents and teachers started to freak out and the school became more silent than it had ever been. The detective’s stopped talking to me as often as they had. And my friends and I finally began to plan a way to end the war.

To be clear: my group of ‘friends’ had expanded exponentially as everyone in school chose their sides. There were about forty of us by then; and we knew that it was finally time to make a move that would shock everyone else.

So that is what we did. Our plan was probably the worst tactic that we could have come up with. We rigged the school with various booby traps from the early days of the war; we made a map with all of our enemies’ houses and separated them into sections of attack; and then we broke the one unspoken rule of our war: never get any adults involved.

By this time, everyone knew where the kidnapping victims were. But no one had directly attacked any of those places for fear of starting something that they couldn’t control. We threw that fear away and quickly taught each other how to pick basic locks and build conveniently sized bombs.

The plan was relatively simple: each of us would be assigned to a different section on each of our maps. The first stage in our plan involved kidnapping one of our teachers without revealing who we were and leaving pages from one of the diaries that was copied when the war started. The second and third stages were combined: we would leave a small smoke bomb at each of our enemies’ houses, and then we would attack all of the buildings with kidnap victims at the same time. We never came up with a forth stage for the plan, but we really should have.

The first and second stages went as well as we could expect them to. The third created utter chaos.

It turned out that we were not the only ones with a plan to end the war, and everyone seemed to have slightly similar plans. Either that or no one had ever learned the true definition of ‘hero’.

What resulted was a fight between everyone at school. By the time the sun rose the next morning, everyone who supposed to be at school was fighting in one of the hidden battlegrounds in town. Parents found the smoke bombs in front of their children’s windows and the police walked into the school to find hundreds of booby traps.

My friends and I were spread across the many battlegrounds, but we still had a teacher locked in an old van in the parking lot of a graveyard. As the sun continued to rise, everyone in the war tried to find as many secret places to fight as possible. Maybe it was a realization that swept across all of us, or maybe it was the sheer ridiculousness of what we were doing, but the battlefields slowly grew quiet.

My friends and I had tried to come up with as many alternate plans as we could. One of the smallest kids in our faction tied a note to our teacher and called 911. The police found our teacher with the note and the phone that they friend had used, and the new kid who had officially started to war stood up to end it.

Everyone gave their speeches, fingers were lifted, and the entire school decided to return to the high school campus and keep our mouths shut. The next few hours were soaked with each tears to fill the school hallways. The police spent the next few weeks trying to uncover what had happened, but they were never able to.

School returned to what it used to be. Mostly.

My nickname of flower girl was dropped after one of my friends secretly told everyone in school what my plan had been.

So, there it is. Was it the story you expected to hear? I hope not. You must be in deep shit if it was.

I should tell you that I left most of what happened out. I might get around to telling someone everything that happened at some point, but I honestly don’t see a reason to right now. And I think it’s better if no one outside of school knows.

Despite the fact that the social circles in school went back to what they used to be, no one could walk down the hallways without joking about everything that had happened. No one’s view on life was the same. Over the course of the war each of us had gone from being whatever-we-were-labeled to pranksters, bullies, gang members, criminals, fighters, and back again. And no one could be the same.

Everyone pretended all right, but whispers continued to move across the classrooms.

I am not sure about anyone else, but I know that I started to see everything in my life differently. And I earned a new nickname. I will not repeat it here because it has become a slogan for the entire war, but I will tell you that the sentence that I started with is something that I now hear at least once a day.

Those who hate me use it as an insult; and those who are friends use it as a serious joke that always brings a round of laughter.

Copyright © 2016 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Short Pieces Week: The Girl of the Reeds

This piece is based off of SparrowSoaring’s prompt from the second day of SPW. It took me a while to finish it, despite its length, it was a challenge because I rarely write in past-tense. However, I think I like the way it turned out!

The Girl of the Reeds

The glass globe pulsed as she picked it up. It burned her hand, and she flung it as far away from her as she could. A red light swirled across the surface of the globe as it spun through the air and she jumped to her feet to follow. She crashed through the trees and shoved branches to the side as the globe spun faster. It fell off of the side of the cliff and she followed it with a yell that echoed across the canyon.

Her wings snapped open behind her and yanked her into an updraft. She yelled again and snapped the globe out of the air in front of her. It did not take long for her to coast down to the bottom of the canyon. She raced her shadow to her home in the underbrush and giggled as she set the globe on her lap.

She grew older in that one moment: her hands became wrinkled with age and her wings sagged behind her. She rubbed her fingers across the surface of the globe and muttered to herself.

The setting sun turned the globe a dusty pink. She held it up to her face with trembling hands. The globe glowed as the sun sank out of sight. The reed roof of her house cast shadows on her hundred-year-old face. She set the globe down next to her and prepared a small meal with inching fingers.

She collapsed underneath the weight of the night and stared at a colony of fireflies across the canyon. The world would turn and change without her.

She pressed her face into the dirt as feathers fell from her wings. She was a thousand years old by the time the clocks in nearby towns struck midnight; but she grew younger with each hour that reached into the morning.

She was six by the time the sun rose. The globe lay next to her on the faded grass floor of her house. She shook her newly feathered wings and took off into the cold air. A down drift swept her forward as soon as she reached the edge of the canyon.

Her bare feet landed on the dusty ground and she stared toward the west. The tops of skyscrapers were barely visible above an outline of trees miles from the other side of the canyon. She folded her wings against her back and started to run. She did not stop until she was gasping for breath and her cheeks were red.

She climbed an old oak at the edge of a narrow dirt road and hid herself among the browning leaves. A muddy antique truck rumbled down the road and stopped underneath her hiding place.

The man that climbed out was half-bald with the beginnings of a mustache. He limped around the truck and pulled a thin wire cage out of the bed. The bird inside it flapped in fear and the man cooed to it. He placed the cage at the bottom of the tree and went back to the bed of the truck to unload the rest of the cages.

The base of the oak was surrounded by the time the man was done. He brushed his hands across the front of his overalls and nodded to himself as he carefully undid the latches for each of the cages.

He stepped back as the birds started to explore their new worlds. Dust was swept off of the ground as the birds took off and the silent desert became a rough concert.

The man watched for a moment before climbing back into his sputtering truck and driving away.

She waited until he was gone to climb out of the oak tree. The birds were already gone; she walked back to the edge of the canyon with her wings creating trails in the dust behind her.

She dangled her legs off of the edge of the canyon and pulled an oversized blanket across her to hide her wings. A thousand years is a long time to live. She was twenty again by the time the sun way halfway across the sky and tourists started to arrive. They laughed and argued and took pictures and started into the canyon. She always found their clean cars and bright clothes comical.

They always stared into the canyon as though they were looking into the past and wondering if it was going to stuck them up. She supposed that maybe it would. The tourists always left before sunset. They always missed the most beautiful parts of the day. But they never had enough time to look into the canyon for long. They always had a plane to catch or a party to go to or a motel bar that would close just before they reached it.

They never stayed for long; and she would find herself back where she started to previous day. The only difference would be the empty cages left at the base of an old oak tree a marathon away.

Copyright © 2016 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Short Pieces Week: Day 6

Well… it is sunday again. This has clearly been a rocky week of short pieces; hopefully next time will not be nearly as disorganized. People have disappeared and others have walked in… January seems to be going through a busy phase right now. At the beginning of the week, I was not sure if Short Pieces Week would be able to last beyond the first two days, but I am glad to say that it did. I think it would be best to call this last week a trial-run, although, things went relatively well.

Thank you to everyone who has participated! You are awesome!

On a side note: I intend on posting the other pieces that I wrote for SPW over the next week. They still need a bit of work, but I hope that they will be done soon.

Also, I would like to try Short Pieces Week again in the future (hopefully with far more organization and a truckload of fun). Please let me know if you would be interested in participating. I am sure that it will be at least a few weeks before I try to set this up again, but I think it has a lot of potential.

Another big thank you!

Until next time…

Short Pieces Week: Day 5

Day five has come around!

First off: as you noticed, days three and four are missing prompts… this was due to a few people mysterious disappearing and me dropping the proverbial ball. I am truly sorry.

Anyway… Today’s  awesome prompt is from blackflamingo777. You can find it here!

Short Pieces Week: Light in the Window

This is my short story for yesterday’s prompt… short stories have always confounded me, but I actually had a lot of fun writing this. Hopefully you will have fun reading it as well.

Light in the Window

The train station is almost too crowded to think. The click of suitcase wheels echo across the room along with half finished conversations. A woman with a sick son cuts in front of us. We smile at them, but they do not seem to notice. We shrug to each other as we climb onto platform five. The train is ten minutes late; or so says the billboard.

I drape my coat over my arm; the train is late again. I swore I would not complain. They keep changing the billboard to say that will arrive in ten minutes. But anyone knows something is wrong when they have been standing around for close to an hour. Something must have happened on the tracks. I am going to be late again.

A train horn blows behind us. We try not to move and are momentarily deaf. We keep our hands close as a crowd swells around us. We have to keep our heads down. We try not to hold onto each other. For once, we can be thankful that no one ever seems to see us.

You would think people would plan ahead. My phone rings and I try not to shriek as I yank it open. Candice’s shrill voice is even worse when I am listening through a phone’s speaker. I tap my foot and keep track of time as she berates me for a full five minutes. She can complain and threaten me as much as she wants, but everyone knows that she needs me. My specialized skills are entirely irreplaceable. And she has the sense to recognize that.

The billboard has not changed. Our hands become clammy as we try not to wring them in worry. We cannot be late. We have the sense to know that no good will come of showing up even a moment late. They do not trust us with cell phones. It will be our fault if we show up later than expected. The ten minutes listed on the billboard revert back to fifteen and we want to throw up.

I snap the cell phone shut. I do not want to think about Candice. My briefcase feels far too heavy, but I do not dare to set it down. Damn these trains, it is like the entire world wants me to fail.

We move closer to each other and clamp our hands together. We do not want to think about what will happen when we arrive at our destination. We do not want to think of anything at all. We do not have a choice; the thin threads that tie us together cannot stand the snip of a large pair of scissors. No matter what we do, scissors will always be in front of us.

I was supposed to be at the office twenty minutes ago. These damn trains. The people here should at least try to be honest. I suspect that the train will not arrive for another half-hour. If only I had another way of getting to the office. This transportation system is far too simple for such a large town.

We do not know what we will do. We are late again. We cannot come up with an excuse. No one will believe us if we say that the train was late. The train station is buzzing, but platform five stays still. People shuffle their feet and a child cries out in front of us. We try to stare straight ahead and hope that it will make us invincible.

The train finally arrives and I jostle my way into the right car. I take a seat by the window and hold onto the briefcase with both hands. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I curse the invention of such a ridiculous device. Candice starts yelling at me as soon as I answer. I ignore her pitched tone and nod along to the horrible elevator music dripping down from the ceiling.

We breathe a sigh of relief as the train arrives and we hurry to the last row of seats. We press our clenched hands together. The train car is silent. Attendants stand in the entrance to the next car. We keep our heads down and try to move as little as possible. We would whisper if we could, but even our breathing sounds too loud.

A man toward the front of the car breaks into a coughing fit. An attendant hands me a cup of water. I scowl as the briefcase starts to slip off of my lap. The water spills across the front of my shirt as I grab onto the briefcase and yank it back. The attendant immediately flies toward me and thrusts napkins into my hands. I begrudgingly wipe the water off of my shirt and try not to wince at the cold. For once, I wish that the train had been later than it was.

We move our feet in impatience. We stop as a couple in homespun clothes look in our direction. We try to be silent and still. We will not cause a riot.

My assigned car is larger than most on the train. I am part of a majority, and thank all the things that be for that fact. It may be the second to last train car, but it is by far the best cared for. Most of the people surrounding me are only here because of their grandparents’ decisions. Everyone is in their respected cars because of their origins.

We do not have choices to make. We wish that the train had never arrived. Perhaps we could have left platform five and found a different place to work. We wish that we could make different decisions than our grandparents; and we wish they had had a choice. We do not have the right to wish. But we do anyway.

All of these damn people. All of them are sitting in their cushioned seats without an inkling of how lucky they are. A simple life would be too much for most of them. They just want their gold platters and their damn briefcases.

We hold our breath as the train stops. The door opens and we scurry into the train station. The wooden platforms underneath each door are rotted and speckled from the chemicals in the occasional rain. We thank our ancestors for the clear day and make sure to hold onto each other.

An attendant bids me farewell as I climb off of the train. The briefcase feels like a bomb in my hand. God, what I would give for a moment to actually look at the city. The train station is far busier than I am used to. It is a good thing that I already know where I am going. Any traveller would be lost in the fray. I yank the briefcase to my hip as I climb to the skyscraper stairway. I wish I could avoid the passages that will take me to my employer.

We follow a woman with a toddler to the stairs. Our legs are aching by the time we reach the first landing. At least the staircase is quiet. The skyscrapers reach high above us. The city is large enough that no one ever touches the ground. We try to comfort each other even though we know that we will not be able to. We keep our hands together and move slowly.

Candice will have a fit when I finally arrive at the office. At least the briefcase I am carrying guarantees my safety. For the moment at least. I am moving slower than usual. But I refuse to pick up my pace. Footsteps climb the stairs behind me. I look over my shoulder as I reach the next landing.

We try to keep our distance from the person in front of us. But our shoes make too much noise for us to go unnoticed. The person in front of us meets our eyes and we no longer know where we are.

The people behind me stare right back. I try to think of something to say, but it would be pointless anyway. They are probably workers for one of the houses on the upper levels of skyscrapers. I stop as they continue to climb forward without loosing eye contact. They seem too young to be caught up in the lines around them, but their worried eyes tell a different story. And yet, their joined hands prove that they still have the ability to cling onto the world.

The person in front of us stops walking. We stop when we are on the last step before the landing. The person clutches a shiny brown briefcase and turns to the door on the other side of the landing. We hold our breath for a moment before following. The person grips onto the door as though it is the cause of a lifetime of pain.

The two people follow me. I pull open the door and push it to the side. The two people stand behind me as I step out of their way. I wait for them.

We stare at the door and wonder why it is being held open. We step through it after a far-too-long moment. The person with the briefcase follows us into the narrow hallway on the other side of the threshold. The door swings closed and we cannot keep our heads down as we watch the person with the briefcase across from us.

I stare at the two people who are waiting for me to make a move. I shrug to them after a moment and turn away. I look over my shoulder to see them turn in the opposite direction. They walk in step with each other. Their hands are clenched together tightly enough that they could be on the desk of a ship in the rotation of a hurricane and not break apart.

We look over our shoulders when we are sure that the person with the briefcase is not watching us. The briefcase is still shiny. It seems to weigh the person down like a ship’s anchor. It seems to be just as heavy as an anchor. The person with the briefcase is determined enough not to let go. Our joined hands keep us in place as we stare. We turn back to the hallway and wonder why our feet no longer seem to be slogging forward at the pace of a river stone.

Copyright © 2016 ravenspen.com

All rights reserved.

Short Pieces Week: Day 2 Prompt

Hello day two!

SparrowSoaring has an awesome prompt for the day here.

(On another note: I hope to post my short story from yesterday’s prompt before tomorrow.)

Remember to have a ton of fun!

Short Pieces Week: Day 1 Prompt

Good morning!

Since it is Martin Luther King Day, including thought in the first prompt for Short Pieces Week only seemed proper…

Prompt: Two characters from opposite sides  (freedom and oppression, fantasy and reality ect.) end up in similar scenarios. What happens?

Have fun!

Short Pieces Week!

This has been another crazy week of me not posting…. oops. I am truly sorry that I have not been around!

I have come back with an announcement though!

A group of people have been incredibly patient these last few months while I have been trying to set up a short pieces week… the date has been moved back multiple times, but Short Pieces Week is here!

This is the way it works: Myself and a group of wonderful people from NaNoWriMo will take turns posting a prompt for the day starting tomorrow (January 18th), and going through either saturday or sunday. Everyone will then use that prompt as the basis for a short piece (under 5,000 words) and share their piece on their blog if they wish!

Please feel free to follow along! I will post the prompt for each day here and link to the prompter’s blog.

I will have the first prompt posted tomorrow morning!

Until then…

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