PHOTO PROMPT – Bleeding Heart

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I was going to be late for the service if I didn’t hurry. My last-minute project, beautiful yet sad, was gently carried to the car. The freshly filled antique pot took up most of the passenger seat, and I was careful going around corners on the way to the funeral home. The staff didn’t bat an eyelash as I lugged the awkward burden through the halls to the salon reserved for my mother’s farewell. Sherrie, my older sister, spotted me first and approached with a smile on her face.

“Patrick! I was afraid we’d have to start without you! We already have a room full of flowers – why in the world did you bring more?”

It took a moment, but when she realized what I was carrying her eyes misted over.

“Oh…mom would have approved. I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier.”

I simply nodded and together we moved several of the colorful arrangements at the front to make room. There was no coffin, only an oval table with a squat bronze-colored container of my mother’s ashes and a flattering photograph taken before the ravages of Alzheimer’s claimed her. We set the heavy blue and white ceramic pot in the center of the table, ashes on one side, photo on the other. While not traditional, the blossom-laden stems meant something to us as a family. Sherrie nodded in approval, hugged me fiercely, and invited me to sit with her for the service.

Instead of listening to the officiant, my mind was lost in memories. The ceramic container belonged to my mother. Every year of my childhood and beyond, it stood watch on the front porch, filled with red geraniums. She loved flowers, especially roses, and somehow found the time to keep something blooming all year round. My older brother, Chris, dead for many years already, used to bring her samples of flora he found in the woods behind our house. She would find a place to plant them under trees or in flower beds, unconcerned whether they were in vogue.

One spring, Chris brought her a wild bleeding heart bush. Mom placed it proudly by the sidewalk leading to our front door. Every occupant and visitor passed it, enjoying the strange but beautiful blossoms year after year. Before the house was sold to strangers, I transplanted part of the bush to my own yard in memory of both of them. Today, it was my heart which was bleeding, but the beautiful blooms eased the pain with pleasant memories and helped me say goodbye.

(Author’s note – parts of this story are based on actual events.)

PHOTO PROMPT – Just One Kiss

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With a quick shove, Prince Hadrian landed on the road in crumpled heap, still woozy from a long night of drinking and debauchery. His companions threw a fearful glance at the nearby cottage and rode away quickly, leaving him alone in the dust to nurse an aching head. A quick glance told him he had not been taken back to the palace by soldiers as he’d first thought. Instead, he found himself outside a simple peasant cottage at the edge of an oozy pond.

Hadrian stood on shaky legs just as the door opened, revealing a dark-haired woman he did not know but looked familiar. Simply dressed and unremarkable, she approached him slowly muttering under her breath. Though his brain warned him to move away, he found he could not. With a gasp, he looked down to find his feet and lower legs encased in swirling tendrils of yellow-green fog, holding him fast.

The woman came closer, circled once, and stopped to face him. Her black eyes were hard as flint: challenging, angry, determined. Normally confident and brash, Hadrian heard the unfamiliar temerity in his own shaky voice.

“Who are you? Why have I been brought here?”

The woman’s glassy orbs widened; a small triumphant smile gracing her ruby lips.

“Your indiscretions have become well-known, O Prince, and while your father looks the other way, I will not. How many maidens have been soiled in your bed? Who will love them now? The girl you ravaged last night was my only daughter. What you have taken can never be replaced, and now you must pay!”

Hadrian almost laughed. Yet another peasant family looking for a bit of gold to keep them quiet. This was easily fixed.

“Release me, woman, and name your price.”

She responded instead with unintelligible whispers, long fingers gesturing strangely in the air. The serpentine fog at his feet began to wind its way higher, powerful tendrils stealing his breath and replacing it with fear. Now encircled completely, the terrified prince could barely see through the greenish haze. Finally, she spoke and sealed his fate.

“A loathsome creature you shall be. A kiss of love shall set you free.”

She watched with satisfaction as his body shrank, changed color, and lost all semblance of humanity. The arrogant prince was scooped up and taken to the slimy pond behind her cottage. There she released him to preside over a watery kingdom, and there he remained – ever watchful, waiting for just one kiss.

Photo Prompt – Footprints

I wanted to try something different today, using one of my own nature photos as a prompt. Here goes!

Footprints in Fresh Snow

Darrian double-checked his envirosuit before approaching the sealed hatch. With only a slight hesitation, he inserted the coded chip and was rewarded almost instantly by a flashing green telltale. With the alarms muted and surveillance recorders in a repeating loop, it would be hours before the others discovered he was gone. By then, he would either have returned with helpful news or frozen to death.

It was questionable if his shipmates would even miss him, though he would be one less mouth to feed. Paralyzed by fear and infighting, the stranded colony had become a more toxic environment than the unnamed planet on which they’d crashed. It no longer mattered – he’d come to a decision and it was time to act.

Darrian slipped through the hatch, boots crunching on layers of snow and ice. Once the door was secure, he set off for the distant hills in search of a future, leaving only footprints behind.

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UPDATE – My fantasy series, Rise of the Draman, is still keeping me busy. The serialized version of book four, Dragon Quest, will begin in August, and the final story is currently underway. Many thanks to my faithful readers – I hope you have enjoyed the series so far!