Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

The Angels Inside Me

Tonight, I stopped fighting with the Angels inside me. Tonight, I will answer their call.

Sitting cross-legged on the desert floor, my hands resting on top of my knees, I watch and shiver as the last of the daylight dips into the distant abyss and sucks the last of the heat with it. As it does, the final ray catches the only object for miles that could reflect its offering. There is a glint, like a wink from a wise man who is the only one who knows what’s coming next, and the steel of the weapon in front me laughs as though it can see the future.

I don’t remember the exact moment I ran out of fight. I’d spent the last twelve hours dragging my feet through the sands of the desert, convinced I was strong. I knew from the beginning it was futile, but I pushed on, feigning a faith in my own strength.

But I was a fool. Like most men are when up against the kind of foe I was fighting. You never win against Angels, no matter how strong your faith.

When they dropped me off in this God-forsaken desert, I told myself I was strong. I stood, watching the dust settle and cover the tire tracks of the Jeep as it turned into a black speck on the horizon, already fighting my losing battle.

I felt the call immediately, even as the last of the disturbed sand was falling onto my eyelashes and into the tan ocean surrounding me. I heard it, and I answered.

“I’ll fight it,” I told the desert.

You’ll lose.


 

This has been a little sneak peek at just one of the stories featured in my book “Flash in the Dark: A Collection of Flash Fiction.” You can read the whole thing, and some other awesome stories, by grabbing a copy of the book today

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Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

Freedom

The knife. Grab the knife. But he couldn’t hear me because my lips weren’t moving. My stomach burned like it always did when I tried to take control, the flame of her presence igniting and spreading farther the harder I tried to fight. That was the strangest part about the whole thing, that being possessed by a demon felt like nothing more than bad indigestion.

“Why are you here?” she snarled through my lips.

He stepped closer to my body and I could smell crisp air and dying leaves on his coat. Was it fall already? Time was doing strange things. I tried to scream as he studied my face, looking for any sign that I was still there. She gave none. His shoulders sagged. “I came to tell you that this is my last visit.”

As she threw my head back and laughed, I deflated. I should have expected this. He shouldn’t have to live with this creature as his wife. It was over for us the moment she took control.   

She refused to touch him. She barely talked to him. He thought I was leaving him. Until the day her true reflection shown in the mirror. He’d tried to save me, but what could he do? Once he knew the truth, she wouldn’t let him stay in the house. But he kept coming back, kept trying.

This was the closest he’d been to us in months. I could smell him. I couldn’t do this. I wanted out no matter what it took. The knife, I tried again, trying to convince my head to turn toward the bedside table where the blade glinted in the fall light coming through the curtains.

“You’re leaving her?” she taunted. She was enjoying her victory and I took advantage of her distraction. Instead of focusing on taking over completely, I turned all my energy to my hand, the hand closest to the knife. The knife she always kept by her side. The knife she coveted but was afraid of. I couldn’t read her thoughts, but I felt her fear whenever that knife was out of sight.

“I’m not leaving her, she’s already gone.”

I wasn’t gone, but I wanted to be. Twitch, I urged my fingers. Move. Point.

And then one did. It twitched, every so slightly, toward the knife and, drawn to the movement, his eyes fell to the weapon. She felt it too and her anger burned. They both lunged but maybe my control was stronger for a moment because he got there first. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t say goodbye. There wasn’t time. He simply lifted the knife, brought it down, and set me free.

 

Get more stories like this in my latest book, Flash in the Dark: A Collection of Flash Fiction. 

Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

A Dish Best Served Canned

Genre: Crime Caper

Location: Servant’s Quarters

Object: Canned Cat Food

Time Limit: 48 hours

—-

“I’m not sure we should be doing this,” Liza said.

“Of course, we should,” David was rummaging through a bag and barely looked up. “The old broad’s got more money than she knows what to do with and this guy is offering us some real change for the thing.”

“But, she’s pretty attached to it.”

“So? I was pretty attached to my job. Besides, the thing is hideous. We’re doing her a favor.”

She sighed. “I guess, but … “

“Look, she fired me for no reason. She’s old and ornery and she deserves this.

It’ll be easy, I promise.” He reached forward, offering what he had pulled out of the bag. “You’ll need this.”

The metal was cool in her hand.

 

Upstairs, Mrs. Black was already in bed.

“I’m sorry about your friend,” she said as Liza drew the curtains and straightened up around the bedroom. Liza didn’t respond. The woman had treated Liza like a daughter since she’d shown up without a family, looking for work five years ago. But David had become her family over the last few years and it was going to take more than an apology for Liza to forgive her for letting him go. David was right. She did deserve what they were about to do.

 

David closed her fingers around the metal.

“You know what to do, right?”

“I’ll wait until she’s asleep…”

David nodded.

“And then I take this back into the bedroom.”

He nodded again, eagerly.

“From there,” he said, “It’ll be simple.”

“Simple,” she repeated, her voice barely a whisper.

“Liza,” David’s voice was stern. “She doesn’t care about you. You’re just an employee. She can act as sweet as she wants, but that’s how she thinks about you.”

 

“Liza, turn around please.” Liza stopped her straightening and turned to face the woman in the bed. White and pink pillows surrounded her and with her shock of white curls framing her face she could have been floating on a cloud. Liza had laid in the bed once, when Mrs. Black was out of town, it had felt like a cloud.

“Dear, I know you and Mr. Ash were close…” Liza was surprised she knew his last name. “But you’re better off putting some distance there, trust me.”

Liza turned her head to avoid eye contact and saw it. Next to her on the bed. She looked away. It really was hideous.

 

“She’ll do to you what she did to me,” David pressed. “Trust me. It’s only a matter of time.”

Liza looked down. It was hard to imagine Mrs. Black suddenly letting her go, she didn’t really have anyone else in that big house with her. Except for Frances.

“Hey,” David took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. “We do this, and we can get a train ticket out of here. We can be a family.”

She nodded.

“Oh,” he said, reaching back into the bag. “Don’t forget this.” He pulled out a can opener.

 

“You know I think of you as family, dear. Young love can be powerful, but there are things you don’t know about your young man.”

Liza looked down to the floor as the thing beside Mrs. Black stirred and shifted. The two objects in her dress pockets weighed heavy against her.

“Mr. Ash was stealing from me.”

Liza’s head jerked up.

“I know it’s a shock, but it’s true.” She reached over and pulled the thing closer, as though protecting it. Liza’s hand hovered over her pockets. “The mechanic found him in the garage. Apparently, he was taking parts from my dear-departed-Richard’s rare cars and selling them.”

“Car parts?” Eliza whispered.

 

“She owes us, Liza. We can barely afford to support ourselves, we live like servants,” he motioned around them, “And now firing me for no reason?” He scoffed. “Do you know how much she probably paid for that thing? It’s ridiculous. And it’s so gaddam ugly. Once it’s gone, she can spring for a cat with hair.”

 

The hairless cat stretched beside Mrs. Black as she nodded. “Apparently, it’s been going on for quite some time. He probably made a fortune. The money isn’t important to me, of course, but those cars meant the world to Richard and I was going to donate them to his favorite charity so they could auction them off. But now…” she shook her head and looked down at Frances, it’s great bug eyes gazing lovingly up at her. “We just had to dismiss him…right, Frances?”

She really loved that damn cat. Liza wondered if David even had a buyer lined up or if he only wanted revenge.

“Thank you for telling me,” Liza said approaching the bed. She touched the woman’s hand, “Good night, Mrs. Black.” She reached over and patted the top of Frances’s head. The skin was leathery and Liza had to hold back a shiver. “Good night, Frances.”

“Good night, dear.”

 

Liza stood outside Mrs. Black’s door, waiting for the gentle sounds of her snoring. When she heard them, she took the can opener from one pocket and the can of cat food from the other and put them in the box meant for Frances. She quietly entered the bedroom. Tiptoeing to the dresser, she lifted the lid of Mrs. Black’s jewelry box and pulled out a glittery glob of jewels. To an amateur eye, to someone looking to make a quick buck stealing from an old woman, they would look expensive, but Liza knew they were only trinkets. The box full, she went to the door. She looked back at the bed and saw Frances glaring at her as though the cat knew the fate she had just escaped. Liza gave her a quick wink before slipping out the door. Fucking ugly cat.

After she’d slipped downstairs and deposited the box in David’s room, she went back upstairs. In the parlor, Liza phoned the police. “Yes, I’d like to report a crime at the Black Estate…theft and attempted cat-napping.”

 

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Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

The Empty Room

The only thing my Grandaddy left behind when he disappeared was a rose.

No one saw him leave. No one heard the creak of his fake leg slowly descending the old wooden stairs, a noise everyone living in the house had used as an alarm clock for years, waking them up at 6:15 on the dot, every day, like an army bugle.

The day he went missing, everyone slept in. It was 7:00 before my mother was roused by my great aunt. The 95-year-old woman was in a state of panic. Her brother was gone. As soon as my mother saw the clock, she understood. She shoved my dad’s shoulder as she swung her feet over the edge of the bed, and he grunted as he too saw the clock, he was late for work. She pulled her robe around her shoulders and stepped into her slippers, leading her aunt into the hallway where they found me. She looked at me quizzically and I just shrugged and pointed to his bedroom.

In that moment, she must have thought he was dead. She went to the door and pulled it open revealing, certainly not what she must have been expecting, a completely empty room. In fact, the room was emptier than it had been in years. The shelves were bare, every knick-knack, every photo, every book, gone. Every drawer, upon further inspection, was found to be empty. The closet, which had once held boxes and trunks filled with his most prized and personal possessions, brought with him from California when my grandmother had died in a car accident, held nothing but dust.

That was the strangest thing, the dust. Not the fact that somehow my 98-year-old grandfather had moved all of his possessions from the house in the middle of the night, not the fact that no one had heard a thing as he had done it. It was the dust. There was a thick layer of dust over every surface. Even the bed, which was impeccably made, when poked, released its own cloud. How many years of disuse would it take for dust to accumulate like that?

We stood, frozen in the eerie emptiness of the room, until we saw the rose. The only item in the room, it rested on the dresser, on top of a square of paper. I picked up the paper and handed it to my mother.  It was a newspaper clipping. It was dated exactly ten years previous, the day my Grandfather had moved in. The headline read,

Man killed in a car accident taking roses to wife’s grave.

Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

The Final Light

She paused and looked around the quiet stretch of land, dotted with the proof of life once lived. No one else had chosen this spot for this night and she supposed that made sense. But, for her, the lines separating the living and the dead had always been thin, and they were getting thinner with each passing moment. She’d long preferred the company of the dead anyway; why should now be any different?

Her final spot chosen, she turned and watched for his approaching figure. He’d been close behind the whole walk here, but she couldn’t make out his frame in the last of the light. The very last of it actually, she thought and chuckled. He should have caught up by now. She called into the falling darkness. Nothing.

Her skin prickled, but she refused to let herself panic. There was still time, she thought, let him enjoy himself. That was the whole point of their meeting, after all. Comfort, enjoyment.

The rest of the world had paired off immediately after the announcement, contacting loved ones, holing up with families, or running off to be with friends. But, ten years as a coroner’s assistant had given her a certain aversion to the living. So, after the announcement, she’d had no one to turn to for comfort, until she saw him. He was alone too, and his deep brown eyes caught her attention immediately. He shouldn’t have to spend this time alone, and neither should she.

They’d gone home together.

She turned again, squinting through the now complete darkness. She said his name. Then again, louder. “Caesar! C’mere boy!” Only silence answered her call, and her stomach clenched. It was getting close and she was suddenly very aware of how badly she did not want to be alone. It was why she’d been drawn to him on the street. Why she’d chosen this place for their last moments. She’d been alone most of her life, yet she couldn’t stand the thought of being alone in death.

“Caesar!”

She looked up to the sky.

The moon shone neon bright, catching the stones around her and bouncing back into the charged atmosphere. Then, the light was gone.

It was here. She fell to her knees in the pitch black night, the last night, and reached out into the nothingness around her. She called again, one last time. This time though, there was a bark. Soft fur brushed her hands and a cold nose pressed against her cheek. Her arms closed around his solid form and he sighed against her as the meteor met the Earth and the last darkness met the final light.

 

You can find this and other stories in my upcoming book of flash fiction, “A Flash in the Dark.”

Creative Writing, Flash Fiction

The Flight

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge Entry

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Location: An airport smoking lounge

Object: A bandana

  She didn’t realize she was allergic to cigarette smoke until she took a job at the smoking lounge in the airport. Now, she spent all her time fixing drinks, wiping at her watering eyes, and cursing the tobacco companies. Well, that and staring out the glass window to the rest of the airport waiting for him to walk by.

Him. The too-handsome-for-words pilot who walked by several times a week on his way to one exotic destination after another. Destinations like Bali, Tahiti, or….Phoenix. Places she could only dream of going. The ridiculously tanned, toned, and lean athlete who would probably never sacrifice his respiratory health by stepping foot in an airport smoking lounge.

  She glanced at the clock. He hadn’t passed yet today and would probably be going by any…any…”achoo!” Ugh. Damn this smoke. She glared at the one oblivious patron at the end of the bar as she reached for a cocktail napkin and swiped at her dripping nose. Who still smoked anyway? Didn’t he know it would kill him? Maybe if it did she would get to go home early. And just never come back. And try to find a job that wasn’t slowly killing her. She blew her nose into the napkin, not even bothering trying to hide it from him. Let him be as grossed out by her snot as she was by his disgusting habit. Still wiping her nose, she looked up to the window and saw…him. Just standing. Not walking, not hurrying, but standing and staring. At her? Couldn’t be. She looked behind her but the man at the bar didn’t seem to know handsome pilot. He was definitely looking at her. Cocktail napkin still pressed to her nose, she watched in horror as he stepped through the glass doors and into the lounge.

  He approached the bar. “Are you ok?”

  She threw the napkin behind her. “Uhh…” but before she could respond with actual words, he reached down into the front pocket of his suitcase and pulled out a bandana.

  “Here, it’s the closest thing I have to handkerchief.” A handkerchief. He was adorable.

  “Thanks…” she whispered and dabbed at her eyes with the cloth. There was no way she was blowing her nose on anything this man could possibly put anywhere on his body.

  “I couldn’t just walk by a crying woman without stopping to see if she was ok.” He was a goddamned gentleman.

  “That’s sweet,” she was still whispering.

  He tipped his head to the side as though he were studying her, his blue eyes meeting hers and not letting go. “You seem sweet. Too sweet to be working in an airport smoking lounge.”

  She giggled. Yes, actually giggled. Was he real?

  Still not taking his eyes from hers he let go of his suitcase and leaned across the bar, motioning with a crook of his finger for her to do the same. She looked around. Was she being punk’d? Her breath stuck her throat, she placed her forearms on the bar and leaned her face toward his. Now their noses were only inches apart.

  “Would you like to go somewhere with me?” he whispered, his hot breath reaching her lips and causing her to shiver. It smelled like spearmint.

  “Somewhere?” she squeaked.

  “Anywhere. Let’s just get on a plane and go somewhere warm. All you’ll need is a bathing suit. I’ll buy the Mai Tais.” She just stared, too stunned to respond. “Oh yea,” he leaned even closer, until his lips were practically pressed against her ear, “I don’t smoke.”

  Sold. She nodded. “Ok.”

  He reached out a hand. She took it and let him lead her around the bar, out into the lounge, as the smoker down the way looked up to see why there wasn’t a fresh drink in front of him. Pulling off the black apron they insisted she wear, she threw it onto the floor and raised her hand in farewell to her one customer. Hand in hand, they stepped through the glass door, ready to take flight together.

 

  “Hello? Excuse me, are you sure you’re ok?”

  She blinked. She was back behind the bar. Handsome pilot was still standing in front of her and the smoking man was ready for another drink. She looked down. She was still holding her hand around the bandana he was trying to give her, her fingers resting against his soft wrist.

  “Where did you go there?” he asked.

  Away with you, she thought. “I’m sorry,” she said.

  He laughed. “Don’t be sorry…” he trailed off and looked down at her chest, to her nametag. “Liz.”

  She smiled at the sound of her name on his lips.

  “Well, hey. I hope you’re ok now. I have to catch a 7:00 to Austin. It was nice to meet you.” He’s lying, she thought. All she’d done was stare at him and now he was leaving. No plane, no Mai Tais, no glorious future filled with tiny, adorable, pilot babies.

  He turned toward the doors and she sighed at his retreating back, ready to go back to admiring him from afar. She looked down at the bandana still clutched in her hand, wondering if it smelled like him. But, before she could press it to her nose, she heard her name.

  “Hey, Liz?”

  She lifted her head. He was still in the doorway, looking back at her.

  “Can I stop back by tomorrow and see you?”

  She nodded. Hell yes, she thought. “Sure,” she said.

 

Creative Writing, Short Stories

The Guardians of Willow

A child born from war finds peace under the safe shelter of the surrounding woods. But, when that peace is disturbed by the only human she loves, she must face violence to protect her peaceful guardians.


The Guardians of Willow

A child born from war finds peace under the safe shelter of the surrounding woods. But, when that peace is disturbed by the only human she loves, she must face violence to protect her peaceful guardians.

Long ago, a child came to the trees.

Born of war, this child was brought into the world through the union of a Great Warrior King and his kidnapped bride. While his wife was a treasured prize from one of his many victorious battles, to her father, the child was merely an inconvenient product of the spoils of war and was treated as such. Ignored by the war-hungry King, shunned by the reluctant and home-sick Queen, as soon as she could walk, she turned her back on the castle that was never truly her home.

Not far from the grounds, before the edge of the surrounding village, stood a quiet wood filled with strong, solid trees of every kind and the small, scared child fell gratefully into their outstretched arms. She stumbled onto the soft moss of their shade before she could even talk and they comforted her with their whispers.

As the cocoa-haired child grew, the trees became her solace. Unwatched and unloved by those that were meant to care for her, she found comfort under their arms and played in the dangling, dancing branches that softly kissed her cheeks. Ruled by a King who lived for battle, the castle pulsed with a violent energy, but the trees radiated gentleness. The walls of the palace vibrated with the war cries of soldiers and the lessons learned from battle, but the trees taught her peace. They buzzed with energy. What she knew of life, she learned from them. They did harm to no one, but simply offered the breath of life to all who surrounded them.

In the castle, she would have been offered as a prize, forced to marry into a conquered Kingdom, a pawn in the violent game her father had mastered. Instead, she chose not to return to the castle. The trees became her home, their moss her bed, their language her own, their whispers her lullabies. Their thoughts were hers and the more time she spent with them, the more attune she became to their feelings. She knew nothing of humans, only the peace of the trees.

It soon became known across the Kingdom that the only child of the King and Queen had shunned them, turned to the wild, and become a feral beast. To many, she was simply a rumor, but it was often said that, on the days the army rode into battle, she could be seen chasing after them, pleading with them to reconsider each battle and practice peace within the Kingdom. ‘What a shame,’ the townsfolk whispered, ‘that the child of such a great warrior should be ashamed of his conquests.’ It was soon decreed by an insulted and embarrassed King that anyone coming across the princess was forbidden to make contact with her. She was to be treated as the trees and flowers of the woods she loved so much, observed but given not a greeting, a polite exchange or even an extra thought.

The trees accepted her as one of their own and to them she became known as Willow.

And there, in the shade of their arms, Willow lived peacefully as a part of the woods for fifteen years.

Then, one day when the child was on the verge of becoming a woman, the outside world crossed into her sanctuary and the peace of Willow’s existence was disturbed by a fluttering in her chest. For the man that had crossed into her shady cove took her breath away. Her heart danced like the branches of her guardians when he smiled in surprise at finding her there.

“You are the Princess of this Kingdom, I presume? You may call me Andreas.” He bowed in greeting and the heart that knew nothing of humans was suddenly lost to one.

For when Andreas looked at her he did not see just another tree or flower, he saw nature itself. Her shining hair was the color of the acorns littering the ground of the forest and her eyes matched the leaves falling around him. Her skin was touched by the sun and her cheeks were rosy with energy and life. He seemed to care not of the decree that she should be ignored and their love washed over them like a sudden storm.

But, as the rush of their romance roared in her ears, the trees suddenly fell silent. Caught up in their courtship, many days passed before Willow noticed the absence of their whispers. And still more days fell away before she tried to rouse them again. While she was deeply in love, she began to miss the comfort of her first family. She wanted to share the beauty of her life with her dear one, but as long as the trees stayed silent, she could not.

At first, her efforts were futile. With Andreas by her side, she called to them. But, no matter how she tried, the only sounds that came back to her were the occasional birdsong from deeper in the wood. Andreas only smiled sadly and stroked her hair and she knew he couldn’t see the trees for what they were.

“Worry not, my love. You are miracle enough for me.”

Because of the decree cast when she was just a child, their meetings were often short and he would ride from the wood upon his horse, promising to return as soon as he was able. She never knew where he went during these absences, only that she counted the moments until his return.

Finally, during one of these separations, she could stand the silence of her family no longer. She called to them, “Friends! Why have you forsaken me, the one you embraced, raised and loved? How have I wronged you?”

As a breeze danced and lifted her hair from her shoulders, her family returned to her once more. But she shivered as she sensed a coolness in their energy and they bent forward in despair, their branches brushing her cheek, for they had sad news.

“Child, the man you love is a bringer of war. He leads your father’s armies on violent quests, destroying villages and ravaging all the lands he touches. Your father cares not for the beauty of his country or those surrounding him, only of possessing them. Under his orders, this man will lead the army on a quest that will bring a war like this land has never seen. It will move swiftly forward, unstoppable, destroying all it touches, eventually bringing its enemies here, sentencing this land, and us, to destruction.”

Shaking her head violently at this proclamation, she begged them to take it back, to tell her they were lying while at the same time knowing that the trees were incapable of lies.

Soon, he returned to her, and Willow fell into his arms, refusing to meet his gaze as she asked, “My dear, is it true you are a General in my father’s army?”

He had heard the stories of her peaceful protests against her father’s war campaigns and he knew he could not bring himself to answer and lose her forever. But, it was his silence that answered her question and she fell to her knees in the moss, her heart broken. Crushed by this new pain, she retreated into the hollow of the closest tree and remained there for a fortnight.

During that time, the trees did their best to rouse their suffering child and bring comfort to her ailing heart. Their branches twisted and danced harder and harder, determined to pull her from her despair. The surrounding villages declared they had never seen such winds and spoke of an oncoming storm. Those at the castle spoke of oncoming war.

And now, with Willow still lost in her sadness, the trees still dancing with their pleas, the army begins to gather. Despite the inclement weather, the King declares that war must be waged on a nearby Kingdom and his best general is ordered to lead the troops into battle.

Sensing the coming the army, the trees intensify their call to their daughter. Their arms wave in protest against the coming troops and their whispers turn to deep howls. “Child, the army is coming and soon we will be destroyed.” From inside her dark shelter, Willow lifts her head. She can feel their fear and they know the end is near. “Please, do not let your kind destroy us.” These trees, who have only ever given unto her, never asking for anything in return are now turning to her for help. It is this act of desperation that pulls her into action. She knows she cannot let her family perish.

The ground shakes under the hooves of the approaching horses, and the winds nudge her as she emerges, stepping toward the tree line. She leaves behind the safety of their arms, the comfort of her mossy bed, and steps into the storm, directly in front of the approaching army.

Poised at the head of a mass of horses and armor, is a regal and gallant man. She faces the only human she has ever loved and tells him he cannot pass. At first she pleads, begging him to turn back, to understand that his mission will end in destruction for all. He shakes his head, his arguments almost lost to the howling winds. His orders come from her father, and her father is King.

“My father knows only war,” she shouts above the howls, “You cannot trust a man who knows nothing of peace and contentment.”

He pauses to consider her words and she sees the love they shared shining from behind his eyes, but there is also conflict. Duty and honor stifle the light she had come to love.

She closes her eyes and bows her head, knowing that her pleas and arguments will hold no merit with this eternal soldier. She opens her eyes again, meeting his gaze and the storm around them comes to a howling climax. Her hair, once dancing softly in the wind around her face, lifts from her shoulders. Her chin still dropped to her chest, her eyes remain fixed on his as her dark hair twists and dances in the wind, reaching past her shoulders, and then down her back, past her knees, dancing through the air and moving towards the enemy. It meets the hanging arms of the trees surrounding her and the watching army can no longer tell where it ends and the branches begin. As they watch in awed fascination, her skin takes on the dark hue of the mossy branches and she is lifted from the ground, branches wrapping around her, she wrapping around the branches. In horror, they begin to retreat but their General pushes forward and above the wind they can hear him calling to the girl.

Branches thrash violently and a high-pitched wail joins the deep howl of the storm’s winds. The army would swear it was a girl screaming, if they could see a girl. For she was gone and where once she stood, now there was only green, whipping wildly, closer and closer to the General screaming into the wind from his horse.

His men yell at him to turn back but it is too late, for he too is lifted and the branches engulf him in an almost passionate embrace.

After the great storm, peace falls over the land. Whispered rumors fill the villages claiming the woods have cursed any army that dares break the peace of their shelter. A terrified army has abandoned the King and without men to lead, the lost warrior slips slowly into madness and the castle falls silent.

And in the woods, those looking closely enough will find two new trees, their branches dancing happily on the breeze.