The Digital Muse

houses

© Dale Rogerson

Another day, another sunrise. The sky is an ugly, pale yellow, and life is bland and uninspired.

“Hey, you.”

Addy turned toward her laptop sitting on the small desk in her bedroom. The speakers were on, so it was chattering away at her again.

“What do you want? I’m depressed.”

“Get over here. You have to finish your story. Marguerite’s trapped in that waterfront warehouse by Marsden’s goons. Will Preta be able to save her? You’ve got to help.”

A twinkle appeared in Addy’s eyes as she sat down at the computer, opened the file, and began to write.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a poem or story no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

To me, the image is pretty depressing, a smoke-filled summer sky, and the promise of another scorching day. The original version of this story before I edited it down, was more descriptive, but there’s only so much you can do with 100 words.

I leveraged characters from my story The Haunted Detective, and as far as the talking computer goes, I’m leaving that part rather vague.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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When Julia Wore Her Thorns

maslk of thorns

Photo credit: Enzzo Barrena

The mask of thorns was almost a part of her now, as if it were growing out of her skin instead of inexorably piercing it, boring through muscle and bone. Blood, thick as syrup, slowly described glacial paths across her face, then down her delicate throat and onto her chest and shoulders.

Julia’s body was paralyzed in a sea of stones. At first, they felt crushing, and she impotently thrashed and screamed in claustrophobic terror. Now she could barely feel them, just like the thorns, her nerves disconnecting from pain, or for that matter, from pleasure as well.

Was it irony that brought her the tiny, yellow bird, or was that Vaughn’s idea of a joke, like the parable of the Zen Monk, the Tiger, and the Strawberry? No, that’s not right. The real meaning of the parable was not to let yourself get distracted by pleasure when you need to save yourself from imminent danger.

But the bird was the only kindness in a world of horror, and trapped as she was, Julia had no hope of saving herself.

“Don’t be stupid,” chirped the bird. “Vaughn didn’t do this to you. You did.”

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Reconstructing Gwen

deconstructed woman

Photo credit: Flora Borsi

Gwendolyn Anders was being deconstructed. No one else could tell the forty-five year old divorced woman was falling apart. She couldn’t afford to let anyone know. She had to keep moving, go to work each day, make sure her two kids got to and from school, did their homework, ate healthy meals, made it to soccer practice.

She did her best to adhere to the “supermom” stereotype, and as far as the rest of the world was concerned, she was successful.

Inside where no one could see, she was bleeding to death.

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An Unrequited Life

depression

The dance lessons were not working. He’d let Jeremy and Terri talk him into taking jazz dance and it worked out exactly like the yoga lessons, the tennis lessons, and the single, miserable trip to the ice skating rink. Conrad remembered sitting on the ice, nursing his bruises, when a little girl no more than five effortlessly zipped up to him and said, “It’s okay. I fell a lot when I was first learning, too.”

He never went back, and he would never go back into that dance studio again.

“Face it, Conrad. If it’s athletic or physical, you suck at it.”

“Hey, give it a chance.” Jeremy was trying to be encouraging. He had met Jer and his girlfriend Terri in English Lit and the three became fast friends, but they were so much different from Conrad.

“Sorry. I’m going home. See you tomorrow.” Before they could object, he opened the door of his VW Bug, slid in the driver’s seat, and started the engine.

It was a beige ’72 Beetle, and he was so much like it. Simple, easy to maintain, and non-descript.

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Quiet Desperation

quiet desperation

Found at “Couples on the Brink”

My emotions are shot. It didn’t take long, maybe fifteen minutes after she came home.

You see, she went on a trip for a few days to visit her sister. I always cherish those times because it means I’m alone. Strangely enough, I do actually get lonely, but that feeling vanishes almost the minute she walks back through the door and starts complaining about me.

Really, I kept the place up. It’s clean, but she complained because I went out of my way to bring my son over to do his laundry after his car wouldn’t start. Then she complained that I was talking to her at all after she was in a car for ten hours. Then she complained because I wasn’t talking to her.

Do you see what I mean?

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Day Three

shadow man

Image: jimharold.com

The worms are back, eating me inside. I can feel them nibbling, inside my back, my right side, feasting on my flesh, my organs.

They’re doing something to my skin. I itch all the time, especially when I’m trying to sleep.

Sleep seems hopeless. I lie awake at night scratching and worrying and feeling myself being nibbled away at. When I feel myself about to drift off, my wife tells me to stop snoring. Then I can’t sleep.

I go out to the sofa. It’s an old sofa. It endured our children growing up. Now it sags and endures me. It’s no use.

I get up and try to read, do something productive. That’s when I realize how tired I am. How I wish I was asleep. I can’t concentrate.

I try to talk to God, but my mind wanders. I read the Bible earlier when my mind was clearer. Glad of that because now when I try, I end up reading the same verse over and over again.

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The Prison

prison

Found at the Libertarian Republic website.

Gravity.

It’s pulling me down. I feel so heavy. I can barely stand.

No, I’m being pulled down now. I’m on my knees. Who are these creatures scampering around me? What are they doing with those chains? How come they are so light and fast when I find it so hard to move?

The weight. I’m pinned to the ground. The chains are so heavy. I can’t get free.

They’re going now, those creatures. Gremlins, gnomes, who knows what they are but they’re handy with bolts and blow torches. I’m held fast, too heavy to get off of my back.

Gravity. I’m powerless to resist it. I want to stand but I can’t. Don’t you understand, I can’t. I’m not strong enough.

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The Trap

closing in

From “Star Wars” (1977)

He was already in a fetal position, but the walls kept closing in. His muscles were stiff and tight from the pressure. He was about to be crushed. He could barely breathe. He wanted to scream, but there wasn’t enough air.

“What am I going to do?” It was a desperate thought. “How am I going to get out of here?”

He wanted to give up, let the pressure destroy him, but he couldn’t. He had a wife, children, grandchildren who would be devastated if he died. He had to continue, but how?

The pressure continued. The walls seemed to wrap themselves around him, like form-fitting steel or stone.

“I’ve got to find a way to make the pressure ease up, but I can’t!”

Nothing worked, not TV, not books, not booze, drugs, porn. Nothing.

He had no way out but he couldn’t give up.

The receptionist’s voice shook him out of his living nightmare.

“Mr. Moore, Dr. Carlton will see you now.”

For all the good counseling would do.

The Last Battle in the War of Darkness

chanukah

Image: StepByStep.com

Although Greg had never served in the military, he was a veteran of the last war. He’s fought year after year with therapy, antidepressants, long walks, calming music. He’s held his own, but the war continued. He didn’t lose, but he couldn’t win.

He turned to his only ally, an ally not because Greg started out trusting Him, but because he had no choice. The ally knew everything about Greg, what he ate, what he thought, what he did, sort of how some of his childhood friends thought about Santa Claus.

But the ally was real and He’d made a promise to Greg. If Greg would trust Him, He would help Greg win the final battle of the last war.

What choice did he have?

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Why Don’t I Trust You?

trust“If you trust me, why are you so upset?”

“Are you out of your mind? Just look at what’s happening to me? How could you do this?”

They were sitting together on the edge of Mallorie’s bed in the dark. It was just after two in the morning but she couldn’t sleep. She barely ate. She hadn’t been to class in a week. She just stayed in her bedroom in an apartment she shared with two other girls, toggling between mind-numbing despair and panic.

“I never said bad things wouldn’t happen in your life, Mallorie. I just said I’d be here to help you deal with them.”

The young college student wiped tears from red, swollen eyes and tried to compose herself.

“I do trust you.” She started sobbing again, then forced herself to stop.

“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t. I mean if I did, why are my emotions so out of control? Please, please have mercy. I need to heal. My Daddy’s throat cancer need to heal and only you can help.”

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