Day 174 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a long life.
Shannon: Every year picking strawberries from the garden got a little harder. Bending wasn’t easy on my back or my knees, and the arthritis in my hands made every pluck painful. Still, I loved fresh strawberries, so I let that drive me.
After I filled up a few containers I headed inside to share them with my husband. As we sat and ate them on the porch I thought about all the memorable strawberry seasons I’d been through. I reminisced as far back as the first time I’d ever learned how to pick them with my own grandparents. My grandpa would always eat half of them before they could even make it to the basket. Then my grandma would scold him, telling him to save some for the rest of the family. He’d try to make me laugh by sneaking a taste whenever my grandma had her back turned, and I’d giggle my little heart out, completely amused.
I’d make the same jokes as him with my own kids, and then later on with my grandkids too. It’s always a beautiful sight to see a child’s face light up. I’ve been here for so many years, and I have been so grateful for every one of them.
Erin: The thing about someone who had lived a life as long as hers is that they had tattooed the earth. There were trees with her initials lovingly carved in them. Beaches were stamped with her footprints. She’d drawn tier tracks in the mud. She even sprayed was and took chips from landmarks. Art was created with her own two hands. The earth was a little better, a little worse, and most importantly different from her many years.
Write a short story about your character’s long life.
They were all wandering around the school like idiots with their neon eyes and unconcerned expressions; I felt sorry for each and every one of them, but someone evaded the guilt that could have drowned me. According to Mira’s incessant letters showing up at my door, now magickally it would seem, I was to blame for anyone stupid enough to join the White Rose Society falling ill after an all-night party. Of course, I had no proof that they wouldn’t have still gone through with the first step of their major plan if I hadn’t gone back on our deal, but I was more than a bit suspicious. I wasn’t dead, but there was a horrible, deep-rooted part of me that wished I was, just to save myself the trouble of avoiding all the zombies.
None of the staff seemed to notice that their charges were broken, but that shouldn’t surprise me at all. If a quarter of the school suddenly fell dead on the gym floor they’d find a way to gloss over it. There had been an enormous amount of misdirection the day none of the members showed up to class, but it was all chalked up to some bad rum; everyone admitted to having drunk a fair deal of it, though no further proof could be found.
There was one piece of the puzzle I didn’t anticipate, with all my research and bluffing, that arrived in a sombre red envelope with the society’s ancient seal in the center. When I woke up Wednesday morning, to the sun drifting in my open window, a gentle knock came upon the door, though no shadow passed beneath it. By then I was quite used to being awakened by ghostly sounds with letters left at my door, so I ignored it for a long while. My miniscule slight to Mira had been to act as though nothing fazed me about the constant communication, though it internally pissed me off to no end.
Rolling out from under the covers and stretching, I flicked my hand in the direction of my speaker system to turn it on and sifted through my neatly-sorted clothes for something comfortable to wear. Rock music was thundering from the tiny speaker, shaking a pitcher of water I had out and making my pencils dance on top of my theatre work. Elsa had me creating a plan for lighting even though they weren’t certain about the play happening at all; she’d been fidgeting at every crew meeting since the party because she was the enemy of the White Rose Society. Moving the pencils aside and shutting the book, I shoved the notebook into my tire bag and checked the clock.
I still had an hour before my first period, but I couldn’t stay cooped up until then, so I decided to take a look at Mira’s latest threats before I went to grab a coffee. Turning the lock gently, I pried the door open and stared down at the abnormally-hued paper at my doorstep. When I lifted it from the ugly carpeting, I could feel a heat emanating from within the envelope and nearly dropped it again. With my eyes still on the strange note, I slammed the door and moved to the desk, shifting everything away from the potentially-dangerous letter. Prodding it gently with my thumb, I watched the static flicking from ring to ring between my fingers, before slipping my nail under the seal and pulling up.
When it cracked with a satisfying pop, there was a low hissing that puffed out of it as though there was a sleeping snake curled up in the paper. Not prepared to be bitten by any form of animal that early in the morning, I leaned back and sent a shock through the package to stun, or kill, anything that may have the urge to hurt me. Nothing changed, so I inclined again and peered inside the envelope, intrigued.
Inside was a pile of dirt, alongside a crisply-folded letter, that appeared to be the cause of the strange noises. I made to take the paper out, but as my fingers came into contact with the dirt I felt a sudden white-hot pain shoot across my skin like fire. Puzzled, I lifted the whole envelope and shook out the dirt so it spread out across the surface of my desk so I could reach the page safely. When I carefully removed it, being cautious with my bare elbows near the hot dirt, I put the envelope down and unfolded the page. Tears stung my eyes as I read the scribbled words.
I just wanted to let you know that, because of your inability to choose the right side, there has been one death. Though I cannot reveal the circumstances of this loss-of-life, I can tell you that it was a fellow member, Scarlet, who was found last night in her dorm room. I also cannot tell you why it’s your fault, but I assure you it is.
As a small river of boiling tears escaped my eyes, I felt the unmistakable pain of electrical powers interfering with my tears and almost dropped the letter. Scarlet had been a freshman who was cursed, or so she said, with a photographic memory and had been the only person who reveled in the opportunity to not possess perfect recall of events. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been permitted any much contact with the members since I reneged on my promise to join the White Rose Society, but in the short time I spoke with her, she seemed nice and good; that was the part I didn’t understand about the members. Most were kind-hearted and thoughtful people, yet they would be a part of a group who could cause panic at the least, and death at the worst.
I felt electricity shooting through my veins of its own accord, mimicking my deepest emotions and lashing out at objects like my lamp and jewelry box. As I let the shocks ricochet around the room, another knock came on the door and the power faded, drained from my mind like a dead battery.
“Who is it?” I sneered, clutching my fists so tightly I could feel the skin break. When no one answered immediately, I thundered toward the doorway and fumbled with the lock in my rage, not noticing as I chipped several nails in the effort. “Would you just leave me-” I shouted, pausing only when I realized the figure on the other side of my door wasn’t anyone I expected, “-alone?” The last word hung awkwardly between us like an accidental curse until the tall, lanky woman cracked a smile.
Grinning from ear to ear, she giggled a jovial note before breaking through the uncomfortable lack of conversation in a musical voice, “Well, I suppose I could, Grace, but then I couldn’t tell you why those apple-lovers killed that poor girl, Scarlet.” There was a melancholy look deep in her aqua eyes, but the smile stayed stuck in place as though she weren’t sure what emotion was appropriate. “May I come in?” she asked, glancing around me into the sparse room.
I shifted my weight and leaned on my arm, effectively blocking the entire doorway from the strange woman and asked the first question that popped into my head. “How did you know about Cari?” Using her preferred name, I hoped to catch the woman in whatever deceit was clearly happening, but she just waved at the air without breaking character.
“Oh, that,” she spoke in a lower tone, glancing nervously over her shoulder without changing her elated expression, “I know all about the White Rose Society, which you promised your soul.” I fidgeted at the explanation of my promise, wishing that no one had ever known about my mistake. “I also know about the Dryad Society and their mandate. But,” leaning in, she whispered, “I cannot tell you out here.” With that, she planted herself in the middle of the hall, poised to not speak until I granted her entry to my room.
I bit my lip painfully, weighing my options and decided I didn’t need to let her pass; I couldn’t be certain she had any real information, or if I couldn’t get what she had from someone more friendly, so I nodded. “Okay, well, bye,” I answered her unasked question, shutting the door quietly and bolting it, before leaning my body weight against the light frame lest she attempt to force her way in.
There were a few long, nerve-wracking minutes where I couldn’t hear anything outside, but I was too terrified to move. Then, she knocked again, pleading with me in a higher voice that shook ever-so-slightly, “Please, Grace, I really need to talk to you. Look, I know what they’re planning; what they want. They can’t tell you because everyone would leave, even if they were spelled, but I need you to know. You need to know, Grace,” she ended breathlessly, her voice cracking and her nails echoing through the light door.
It took a while for my heart, which had shot into adrenaline production in preparation for a fight, to calm back down, but by then I’d changed my mind. Opening the door and stepping aside, I nodded again in a friendly gesture and swept my arm toward the room, “Come on in,” escaping through pursed lips. When she stepped through, her long, loose blouse flowing out behind her like a train, she stood nervously in the center of my room. I pulled out the other desk chair and motioned toward it, taking up a perch on my own chair silently.
“Thank you,” she breathed, twisting her long-nailed fingers around themselves and shifting her feet around the chair legs. “You can call me Sally,” she spoke with the ghost of an accent which she must have lost long ago, “but that’s not my birth, real, name.” Silence fell around us like thick, sound-dampening snow as the bass from my speaker continued despite the power fluctuations from earlier.
Unable to cope with the quiet, I asked, “So, Sally, how do you know what the White Rose Society is planning?” Part of me had wanted to know what her apple comment had been about, but I’d read that kind of expression somewhere before; I could get that information later, if I walked away from this conversation, that is.
It took her a few breaths to answer in the same strange tone, “Well, I have been around for a very long time now, and I’ve heard a lot of rumours about the group, as well as Dryad. But, of course, the Dryad’s are a lot more open to outsiders listening in, so long as they have a pure heart. At least, that used to be a big part of their admission test,” she ended, thoughtfully glancing out the open window and into the gold-tinged trees. “To clarify,” she added, staring with her watery eyes into my own, “I’ve been around for over two-hundred years, so I know more than you could possibly learn in your normal lifetime.” As I considered and digested this statement, I felt mistrust creeping into my mind like a computer virus.
“Two-hundred years old,” I breathed wistfully, mirroring her over-joyous smile, “But, how are you that old? And, what are they planning? Oh, did you go to school here? You were in Dryad but without powers?” The questions all bubbled out of their own accord, my necessity for new information overpowering the need to keep cool in the eyes of a potential enemy.
As the smile on her lips twisted into something unnatural, Sally chortled again, her fingers ceasing for the moment. “I was cursed with a blood disease; I believe you call it vampirism. But it was a very mild case, so I continue to age at a very slow rate, and will die.” I noticed the pointed incisors as I stared unflinchingly at her, but respected the simple way she spoke of her own altered-mortality. “I did go to school here a very long time ago, and I was in the Dryad group. When I was young I did, indeed, have abilities like yours, though they were destroyed with the introduction of the curse. As for the White Rose Society’s plans, they are complicated and simple, at the same time.” Staring off into the sunny day, she became extremely interested in my sketches for the play.
“Sally, please, I really need to know, if you can tell me,” I urged, sighed loudly.
When she turned back, she showed off the dangerous fangs before continuing, “They claim to be fulfilling an ancient prophecy that states our abilities will be dispersed to every human in the world. The idea is that our powers pervert our human nature, but that if everyone shared them, it would simply be an evolution of our species. But,” she explained, “that’s not the truth. The ritual they killed your friend to perform, unsuccessfully I might add, will only grant their own members power over all the magick in the world; they will not share.” With that, she stood stiffly, walked to the door and was gone without another word.
I watched the door slowly shut and sighed deeply; now I finally knew what they were up to, I was more worried for the lives of my peers than ever. At least before I could pretend I didn’t know they were literally disposable to these people.
Heather walks into the nursing home, finding the secretary’s desk. “Hi, I’m here to see Noah Morse,” she says softly.
The secretary smiles. “Room 212.”
Heather looks at the secretary as she pauses on her way to the stairs. She nods. She takes the stairs, then finds the door. She knocks. “Come in.”
Heather steps through. Noah looks at her from his bed. “Hi, Grandpa.”
“Heather, what a delightful surprise. Is August near?”
“He’s waiting in the car. I… I wanted to ask you something.”
Heather sits down at the edge of the bed. “Anything.”
“…It’s about grandma…”
Noah’s eyes turn down, but he smiles, “She was a lovely lady, and we all miss her.”
“You most of all?”
“…How… How can you go on and smile, without her? Without everyone? You said she was your soulmate, and yet you don’t even seem sad,” Heather says. She’s confused, tears building.
“Heather,” Noah curls his fingers around her hand, “Yes, Lucille was my soul mate. But, you see, a soul mate is someone that holds a special place in your heart, whether they are a best friend, a lover, or a sibling. We are all like socks, remember when I told you that? We are whole on our own, but there are other socks out there that match us, make us a pair.”
“Listen to me, Heather,” Noah says gently. Heather looks at him. “I miss Lucille, with all my heart. It feels different knowing she is no longer with us. But… I am also happy. Content even. She is in Heaven, and she is not in pain. We’ve lived a long life together. Many memories shared. I can’t ignore how both of us have lived most of our lives already.”
“Papa…” Heather whimpers. She hugs him.
“Death is a part of life,” Noah says over her shoulder, “I am not afraid of it, because I have lived a long fulfilling life. And I anticipate eternity with my Lord, and with the soulmate he gave me.” He pulls away to look in Heather’s eyes, “I can only pray He gives you that life, too, my dear.”
Heather gives him a small smile, nodding.
“Now, I want to talk to August again, if he’s still here.”