Great Hites March Prompt

Hey everyone, This is Alex, I have hijacked the microphone while Jeff is out. He does not know that so let’s keep it that way ok? I was looking through the files on my hard drive and I found the month long prompt for March. It is not like I am spying or anything, it is my hard Drive after all. Anyway, when I red it’s ones and zeros I got so excited I knew I had to tell everyone about it early. Don’t tell Jeff.

Great Hites March Month long prompt is:

“King Arthur has returned and he has brought his sword.”

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This looks like a fun prompt, I wish the Dark Lord Hite would let me write a story. There are so many possibilities.

All stories for this prompt are due by Midnight on March 31st. That is right you have a whole month (and a couple of extra days) to get your stories in. The stories can be up to 10 thousand words, and must be PG rated. Send the text and a recording if you can to Greathites at Gmail dot com. Good luck. Make sure you come out and take a look at our discussion Forum, and our new facebook page, to keep up with the latest happenings. This is Alex signing off.

GreatHites 81 – Bloomin’ Fuchsia

This week we had an interesting prompt of Bloomin’ Fuchsia and that got us stories from

Stories By:
Jean-Philip Losier
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
And Jeff Hite

Download the Stories this week

Come out to the forum and discuss the stories

This Episode was also special because there was live feedback, Lawrence Simon of the 100 word stories podcast, and Scott Roche author of Archangle join me to talk about the stories.

I am very interested to see what you think of this episode and if you think we should do it again some time.


The Story
By: Jean-Philip Losier

“Story?” was the plea. Demure, innocent, and undeniable. Young daughters have a way of requesting attention that no father can deny, even if it is to stay up a little later. Harold was no exception to this rule. He lowered himself down onto the floor between their beds, inwardly pleased that he didn’t groan outwardly, creak, pop, or otherwise sound like the old man he was beginning to feel like. He began the story, a fairy tale, of course.

“Once upon a time, in a far off land, there was a princess-“

“Only one princess, daddy? Not two?” came the pouty and hurt request from the younger. Harold glanced up at her and her puppy-dog expression.

“There were two,” he corrected himself and was rewarded by a smile that bounced from lying flat in that way children do when too young to know it’s physically impossible , “princesses in a great big castle. They were very much loved by all of their kingdom-“

“And the king and the knights, of course. And the faries.” chimed in the older. She was very fond of her fairy books.

“Yes, and the the knights and faries loved them dearly. And the king loved them more than any other king in all of history ever loved any other princesses. He built this castle just for them, with a grand ballroom for dances. Every day, the princesses went riding together in the countryside. One day, a terrible fog swept over the land. It was so dense that nobody could see even the great big castle. The princesses had to stop their horses for fear of bumping into the trees!

“But these princesses were not only beautiful and very much loved, but they were the smartest people in the land! They knew the flowers in the royal gardens, and could smell them all the way down the path. They could tell where their castle was, even when they couldn’t see it.”

“Were the flowers purple, daddy? I love purple flowers!”

Of course, they were. “Slowly, the princesses walked together, hand-in-hand, leading their horses back toward the castle. Soon, they heard the crying of some townspeople. They could not find their homes in the fog. ‘Come with us! We are the beautiful princesses of the castle, and we will lead you to safety!’ called the princessed, for they were very kind. The oldest took the ribbons out of her hair and tied them together into one long ribbon to lead the townspeople with. They each held onto part of the ribbon and followed the two sweet, heroic princesses.”

“After a long time, for they were walking very slowly in the dense fog, they heard the clanking of metal. It was the knights, walking about in their armor. The king had sent them out to look for the princesses, but they could not go very far in the fog, and feared for the princesses’ safety. The youngest princess took the ribbons out of her hair and made a long ribbon, instructing the knights to hold onto it while the princesses let them back to the castle.

“The princesses could smell the flowers very well now, so they knew they were almost home. They couldn’t see the castle, though, so they weren’t sure exactly where to go. Then they heard music-“

“Is it the ‘Cinderella’ song?” came the question from both girls in unison.

Harold smiled. “Exactly the one! So when the beautiful princesses heard the music, they knew their father was in the ballroom waiting for them, and could hear which way to go. They led all of the townspeople and the knights to their castle home, and everyone was so happy, they had a big party.” Before the girls could ask, Harold added “With balloons and cake and dancing and everything the princesses wanted. The end.”

Harold prayed with his daughters and tucked them in for the night. Downstairs, he sat on the front porch, inhaling deeply the scent of the fuschia shrubs in the warm summer air.

He did his best to maintain them, though he didn’t have the “green thumb” that his wife had had.

The woodsman’s daughters
By Philip Carroll

Anthony smiled and surveyed his family seated around the large round dinner table. His wife, Flora, sat to his left. On her left and around the table in ascending order were their five daughters.

Peony the youngest at age five was first and worn out from a day of adventure in the woods around their remote cottage. She dozed, head tipped forward, her nose dangerously close to dipping into her uneaten mashed potatoes. Her round cherubic face framed by short brown hair.

Next along in the circle around the table was Pansy, the eight year old with long, mahogany curls. Pink, chubby cheeks were incongruous with her otherwise slender frame. Ever alert, her large round eyes darted back and forth between her older sisters who were in rapid conversation.

The next oldest was Fuchsia, almost eleven years old.

Violet sat next to her and engaged the entire family with her detailed account of how Safronia Cottonthread couldn’t have chosen a less attractive hat to wear to Sunday services at the chapel in the small village of Cooper’s Ford. The hamlet of small houses, the church, an inn, and a few merchants, lay three miles to the north where the toll road met the river.

“The hat was so broad and round that in the three rows behind where she sat all had to stand to see who addressed the congregation.” The fourteen year old tittered and placed a dainty hand over ruby red lips to cover the innocently wicked smile.

Finally, Rose sat next on her father’s right hand. The eldest of the daughters, and heir apparent. Her mane of golden red hair was a shimmering contrast to milky white unblemished skin. She sat, back straight, head high and regal, a small, pleased smile graced her lips as she conversed with Violet. Each question or comment artistically constructed to enhance her sister’s dialogue, as a painter highlights a leaf or petal to bring a flower to life from the flat and unliving canvas.

“Well, my ladies,” Anthony said to the entire table, but directing his gaze solely at his wife, “I declare this day complete.”

At this regular nightly declaration, the girls stood, except, of course, for Peony who only roused slightly from her slumber. “Rose,” he continued, as he did every night, “see to the dishes and help the others off to bed, my dear Princess.”

“Of course Father,” she said and issued orders to her younger sisters as to who should do which task.

As Flora bent to pick up the sleeping Peony, their father announced, “do not be alarmed when I am not at home in the morning. I must rise well before dawn to begin a journey into a distant city. I have been given an opportunity that will greatly increase our fortunes. We may even be able to move to the village and live in one of the stone houses.”

He said this with a cheery and reassuring smile as he looked from child to child and nodded his head at each. The four older girls all began asking questions at once, but were abruptly silenced by their father’s raised hand. “My girls. Now is not the time for questions. I have shared the arrangement with your mother and she will impart to you what details she feels are necessary, as the need arises. Only be assured that I travel among friends, I am entirely safe and will return to you in a few short weeks. Now I must be off to bed, for I am leaving very early.”

He stood and motioned for his wife, who gently rocked Peony in her arms, “after you, dear Flora.”

He followed her up the narrow wooden stairway. The upper floor was divided into two rooms; one for the parents and the other for the girls. The daughters waited and listened to first the door to the girls room open and close, as their mother left Peony on her bed. When the second door closed on their parents room they quickly got back to the work of clearing away dinner.

All except for Fuchsia who stood motionless, dinner plates in hand and stared up toward her father’s room. She knew she would never see him again. A single tear ran from her right eye.

“Fuchsia,” she heard the gentle coaxing tone in Rose’s voice, and turned to gaze, watery eyed at the older girl.

“Sister,” Rose said sympathetically, a half filled pitcher in one hand. She stepped to the younger one’s side to hug with her unencumbered arm, and soothed, “don’t worry. Father will be fine, as he said, and will return to us soon.”

Fuchsia looked up into the eyes of the taller girl and wished she could believe her.

One by one, each of the girls finished her chores and climbed the stairs to the second floor. All except for Fuchsia, who descended the stone steps into the cellar and to her bed by the iron coal furnace.

She cast a shovel full of coal into the furnace, locked the door back down and adjusted the flue to send most of the furnaces heat to the upper floor of the home.

She didn’t bother undressing, she knew she wouldn’t sleep. She lay back on on her cot and bawled like an new born lamb. With two closed doors and two thick wooden floors between herself and his sisters she knew her mournful wails were unlikely to be heard by anyone other than her own despairing ears.

Fuchsia was born the third child to the wood cutter, Anthony Eastman and his wife, Flora. Anthony had such a great love for the forests and nature that when his wife had suggested they name each of their children after flowers, he whole heartedly agreed. First came Rose with her radiant red hair, then Violet, her skin pale as milk and lips red like wine.

Their third daughter had such a different and exotic look than her two older sisters, she remained unnamed for several weeks as the parent discussed an appropriate name for their unusual child. With black hair dark and slanted eyes there was talk in the village this newest child of the Eastman’s was a changeling.

“I’ll hear nothing of it,” Flora would say, when catching wind of such discussions. “I was there when she came into this world and she’s been by my side ever since. This is the same girl now as she was when she took her first breath.”

She would then thump her sturdy fist on a table, or counter, or just shake it in the air, if there was nothing solid enough close by to pound on. She carried an air of, “I dare you to disagree.” There were none courageous enough to gainsay Flora when she was resolute. Regardless, the townsfolk eyed Fuchsia warily when she was around.

One evening, several weeks after the birth, Anthony returned home after a long day of chopping wood to find Flora sitting in the rocking chair, baby asleep in her arms, and a large grin on her face. She held in her hand a small postcard.

“I found this at the mercantile in the village today,” she said and handed him the card.

He took the card and stared at it for some time. It was a print of an exotic flower with thin narrow petals curled back on themselves; shorter, broader, inner petals surrounded the long protruding stamen; it looked like a small, bright pink, oriental lantern. He turned the card over for its description, and read aloud, “The fuchsia grows on a bush like plant throughout the Mediterranean and Southern France.”

Anthony lowered the card and gazed lovingly at the sleeping baby. “Fuchsia. It’s a beautiful name.”

And so she was named.

At breakfast the morning after their father left, all talk was of where he might be going. Each daughter conjectured on the most unusual and mysterious city or country their imaginations could contrive. Their mother sat quietly and knowing smile turned up the corners of her mouth. She said nothing to encourage or discourage her daughters speculation, nor illuminate the girls to his true destination.

Fuchsia didn’t participate. She ate her porridge in silence and rose without comment when finished, to do her morning chores. Her sisters barely regarded her as she left the table. The behaviour was not unusual for their reclusive sibling.

Something happened to Fuchsia around the age of eight that changed her. Until that point she was happy and social, if not overly so, and was always willing to join in with her sisters at games and conversations. Shortly after her eighth birthday she began her unusual behaviour.

During a normal conversation with her sisters, or other children in the village on market day, Fuchsia would suddenly stop and listen. Not to the other children, or adults who were speaking, but within herself. When she was asked if something was wrong, or if she was ill, she would only smile weakly and shake her head.

“Dear,” her mother had called Fuchsia one evening after a year of this strange behaviour. “Come sit with me.”

The other children were finishing their chores. Two year old Peony lay sleeping on her mothers lap as she rocked in her chair. Fuchsia sat obediently at her mothers feet on the twisted rag area rug. She leaned against her mother’s leg, but said nothing.”

“Fuchsia,” her mother said and took a deep breath before continuing. “Something is wrong, and I don’t know what. There is something in your behavior that is disconcerting to the other children, and truly, to your parents as well.”

The girl looked up at her mother. “What mother? I try to be good, and do as you ask. I am never mean to Peony or Pansy. What is displeasing you so?”

“No, dear. You don’t displease us. It is more, I don’t know. You confuse us. At times, and more regularly now than in the past, you suddenly stop talking and appear to go to another place with in your own head. Where is it that you go?”

“Oh.” Fuchsia said, relieved, “I don’t go anywhere, I stay right here. But, sometimes when people talk, I hear other voices.”

“Voices,” her mother said so suddenly it startled Peony awake and she began to cry softly.

“Oh, my dear,” her mother continued and sounded very flustered, “Hearing voices is not good. No, not at all. It might be the devil in your head. No, Fuchsia. It is best to not hear voices in your head.”

Fuchsia didn’t know how to respond. The voices had never told her to do anything wrong and they didn’t speak constantly, only on the rare occasion. However, rather than elicit her mother’s displeasure she determined she would not mention the voices again, and slowly withdrew into herself. By the time her twelfth birthday approached she had become so withdrawn, she kept almost entirely to herself and rarely made eye contact with anyone other than her parents.

Three weeks after her father’s departure the family sat again around the dinner table. Peony asked in her high pitiful voice, “Momma, when will Dad be returning?”

She smiled reassuringly at her daughter and sighed, “soon, my baby, soon.”

All the children were as shocked as their mother when Fuchsia burst suddenly and loudly into tears. The other girls watched in amazed silence as their mother tried to comfort the usually silent child. “It’s alright dear,” she crooned. “Father will be home very soon.”

At which she cried all the louder. Confused and frustrated their mother shrugged and looked imploringly at Rose, who only returned her gaze, a look of apology in her eyes. When Fuchsia’s sobs receded to the point that her mother could make herself heard with out shouting, she asked her daughter, “what is it dear? I want to help, but I can’t if I don’t know what the problem is.”

Fuchsia sniffed loudly and blew her nose into a linen napkin. She looked to her mother, the depth of sadness painted in the tears streaked across her face. “I can’t tell your mother. You have told me not to, and I don’t know which would displease you most. Whether I tell you what I know, and how I know it or remain silent the result we likely be the same. You won’t believe me anyway.”

No more enlightened by Fuchsia’s obscure confession, than before, her mother tried again, “Sweat Heart, you can tell me what saddens you with out fear of recrimination. It hurts me to see you so sad. Whatever you could say could not injure me more.”

“No, mother, you cannot know. You must know,” she said as if the pressure of deep sadness forced the words from her chest. “Our father will not return.”

The girl bowed her head as her sisters and mother combined their voices is an astonished chorus. Finally, her mother won through the cacophony with, “how could you know that?”

“I told you mother, that is my dilemma. But you must hear me now,” she said, her small soprano voice an authoritative command. She continued, “It is the voices I told you of before. No, don’t speak now, for I wish to explain as best I can.”

She took a quick but deep breath and continued before anyone could interrupt, “The voices, when first they came to me, I only understood what they told me. Not what they meant. Now I understand the voices tell me when someone is, or is not telling the truth. It can be simple things, such as the weather. If someone says it will rain today, the voices will agree or disagree. They won’t tell me when, or how much, only that the person is telling the truth or not.”

She saw that all were listening attentively. She took the opportunity to drink some water and sit. She interlaced the fingers her hands to keep them from shaking uncontrollably. She continued, “sometimes it is more serious. such as when someone declares they will keep a secret, or they are in love, or someone is the father of their baby. In the past the voices only spoke to me occasionally, but now, I cannot hear a statement without their immediate confirmation or denial.”

Her next statement was choked off in her throat by its implications. Her face reddened and her eyes filled with tears as she tried to put into words the thing that would tear the hearts of her sisters and mother.

She looked down at her folded hands on the table. With tears streaming down her face, between her pitiful sobs she confessed,”so when father told us all that he would return safely, I knew immediately that it wasn’t true. He traveled among friends, that much was true indeed, however, there was no grand opportunity awaiting him where he went, only the tragedy that has taken him from us.”

She stopped then, and sobbed quietly as the others in the room sat in stunned silence. Eventually, their mother spoke, “Why did you not tell us this before your father left.”

There was skeptical accusation in her question.

“Would you have believed me,” Fuchsia asked simply.

“Of, course, dear. something as important as this,” her mother said, but was cut off by Fuchsia.

“that is not the truth,” she said without emotion.

“How are we to know that you truly have this ability?” Violet asked her younger sister. “Is there a way we may test you?”

“I know,” Rose said. “Fuchsia, turn your back on us. We will place the salt shaker in one of our hands. We will lie, or tell the truth about who is holding it, and see how often you guess correctly.”

“It is no guess,” she said, “and I will be correct every time.” She turned her back on her sisters to find her image staring back at her from the mirror on the dining room wall.

“Let us switch sides,” Fuchsia said, “so that you don’t believe I am viewing you from the mirror.”

They did so, and began the test. Time after time after time, Fuchsia was correct. When caught in her lie Pansy asked, “well then, tell us who has it.”

“I can’t do that. I can only tell what I hear,” Fuchsia said and turned to her mother, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry to brings such terrible news, and I’m sorry to be able to do no more.”

Their mother had sat during the testing of Fuchsia’s recently expanded abilities, and had slowly taken on the stricken look of one condemned to death. “So,” their mother began, her voice a hoarse weak whisper, “I am to believe from these voices of yours, that my husband is dead.”

“I’m sorry mother,” Fuchsia began, but stopped and jumped to her feet. “No,” she gasped.

Turning back and forth between sisters and mother, Fuchsia shook her hands as if drying them, eventually she focused again on her mother and said, “No mother. He is not dead.”

She was smiling now, “That was my assumption as well, when I learned that he would not return to us. However, as you put that thought into words, I was told it is not true. Mother, our father lives.”

“Well, then,” their mother said, ever the pragmatist. “If my dear husband is not to return to us, and he is not dead, then we must determine a way to go and find him.”

“Mother,” Fuchsia said with a grin, “that is the truth.”

The Derelict
By: Jeff Hite

“What in Hell is that?”
It was swearing, or at least as close at the captain had ever come to real swearing. Ship Captains and sailors in general had a reputation for their foul months, but not Captain Stearns, he had the most gentlemanly manner of speech Aleisha had ever heard. But considering what was on the view screen in front of them, he had a good enough reason to let the mild expletive slip.
“Turn on the defective screens ensign. I don’t now what that is, or if it is what it looks like it might be, but I am not taking any chances.”
“Yes sir. Deflective screens coming up.”
“You let me know if you start seeing a power drain.”
“Yes, Sir.” Aleisha felt a bit like a broken record, but she didn’t have anything else she could say. The object in front of them looked for all the world like a space craft, but it was just floating there, not doing anything. In the nearly ten years since she had first joined the deep space haulers she had never seen another ship. Even in space dock seeing another ship was rare. a ship in dock meant that it was not making money, and with the way that the cooperation ran things, if it was not making money it was a bad thing, a really bad thing.
“Captain,” The com officer began, “I have been bouncing radio waves off it since the Nav picked up, but have gotten nothing back.”
“Thank you, keep it up and let me know if you get anything, anything at all.”
“Got it Captain.”
It always surprised her how quickly the entire bridge went from the group of friends that they really were, to a very formal working group, when stress was added to the mix. It was not that they didn’t work well friends, but there was protocol to think of, and if anything ever went wrong, they wanted to recorders to show they were all following it.
“Ensign, how fast are we closing on that?”
“It is pretty much stationary sir, so the only movement is us. We have been running full tilt for days, give me a second to calculate how fast that is.”
“Don’t bother, just slow us down. Can you get us to within 50 kilometers of it before bringing us to a full stop?” The slight murmur on the bridge immediately stopped.
“Dead stop sir?”
“Yes, we can’t possibly see something like this way out here, and not stop to check it out. Can you do it?”
“Ummm, let me check,” She punched the number into the computer and let it calculate, in seconds it spit out the answer. “Sir, we can stop, but it will take using the breaking thrusters, we will have to pull the sail in, and fire the main engines in the other direction. It will take a lot of energy.”
“OK, start making the preparations. You will have to turn the ship around to get the main engines, so Clancy I want to you make the general announcement that everyone shoal brace for maneuvering. This is not going to be fun.”
“Ye ye sir.”
“Now hear this, now hear this,” The computers voice rang out seconds later, “All hands brace for maneuvering and emergency breaking. All hands brace for maneuvering and emergency breaking.”
Almost before the echo from the warning died away the ship began her end over end spin to allow the main engines to be brought on line for breaking. as an instinct the Aleisha grabbed the edge of her console even though between the momentum of the ship and the spin and her placement near the center of the ship she would feel almost nothing.

********

Almost four hours later they were in position, they had over shot the fifty kilometers the Captain had wanted, and needed to fire the engines longer than planned to get back to what they could guess was a ship. IN that time they had been able to gather almost no other information about it. The ship was larger than the Kelly, but it appeared to be abandoned, because it was cold. The engines showed no sign of heat, and when they tried to probe the interior of the ship, everything was bounced back.
From this distance is was still impossible to see any details of the ship with the naked eye but they had most of their instruments trained on it, and were starting to get a little more information.
“Alright.” Captain Stearns said speaking for the first time since they had stopped, “Here is what I want to do. This whole thing has already cost us a lot of time and energy. I we need to figure out what that thing is, and why it is is here and then we need to move on. It is very irregular.” I paused rubbing his chin. “Here is what I want to do. I want to close on that thing at 10 kp/h. That will give us 5 hours to study it, as soon as we are at speed I want to rotate the ship again and be ready to leave. I want a probe launched now, to study that thing, try to get some better readings. If it looks safe, when we are 5k out, I want a team to get over there. Three people lead by George.” He looked at the tall Australian, who nodded his agreement. “You pick the team. They will have until we get 5k past the ship and then reverse thrust to bring us back along side of it. When we are done with that we leave. We have a mission to do and we can radio back and let cooperate know about about this thing. They can figure out what to do next. Everyone clear on what we are doing?”

There were a few nods of agreement and then Aleisha got to work getting the new course set into the computer. She tired not to let George see how closely she was watching him. In many ways she envied him. He would get to do something none of the rest of them would get to do. But in other ways she was glad he had been picked. What they were going to attempt was incredibly dangerous. Of course they would know more when they started to get Data from the probe, but what if they probe found nothing. But it was more than just that, they were going to be leaping from, and back to a moving ship. They would have to time everything exactly. One slip and they could end up hanging out with that ship for a very long time.

Within minutes of the probe being launched it started returning data. And the closer it got the more information they got about the ship. The problem was that it was not answering any questions, more to the point it was raising more of them. The ships design looked distinctly human, but the Kelly was the first ship, to travel this far out. If it was a ship that got lost, or was part of an accident, and just drifted out here, why was it sitting still. If it were a human ship, what happened to the crew, why didn’t they leave a signal beacon running, those things could run for years on end.

The Ship did appear to be human from the way that it was laid out and in the way the engines were configured, but had none of the markings of a human vessel. It had what looked like a human habitation zone, an area that looked like it could be a reactor, and the long slender section the connected the fuel pods to the engines and the rest of the ship. But there was not name stenciled on the outside. There were none of the normal lights or signaling devices that you saw on other human ships. It was almost like someone had seen an human ship for a very long distance, and tried to make a copy of it.

Then suddenly the probes data began to change. There were small amounts of radiation leaking from the area that could have been the reactor, and trace amounts of heat coming from the area that could be the habitation zone. The pictures it was sending back where changing too. There was damage to the outer hull, there were signs of things having been repaired, scorch marks from welding torches, pieces of shiny hull plating that had not been painted.

“What in the name of Greybeard’s ghost is going on here. That has got to be a human ship, but what happened to it?” The Captain’s voice sounded far away to Aliesha, as if he were over a radio. When she tore her eyes away from the data and the view screens for a moment she saw why. He was sitting with his elbows in his lap and his hand covering his mouth. In his eyes was the look of what? Could it really be fear.

“George, what do you think?”
“Sir, I think it is a Derelict, but I don’t know where it would have come from. You know we are the first ones supposed to be out here.”
“Yeah that was what I was thinking. What do you make of the radiation readings, Will it be safe for you and your team over there?”
“I think so sir, the reactor, as far as I can tell seems to be intact, there don’t seem to be any leaks at least none that we can see from a hundred yards out. Maybe if we got the probe a bit closer to her, we could get better readings.”
  “All right, Lt. Haskins, do with that probe whatever George wants, when it gets close the being out of fuel, point it back home and fire the boosters. Even if something happens to us, at least they will know about this thing.”
“Ye ye sir.”
“Alright, bring her closer to the midsection so we can get a better reading on the reactor.”
“Aleisha. I need you to be on top of those engines. I want us to be ready to get out of here at a moments notice, you understand me. We can recover what energy expenditure we make now, by using the solar sail to bring speed up later.”
“Yes sir.”
“I also what the thrusters on line and ready for manual control at all times. We are going to be very close to that thing, and I don’t want any surprises.”
“I’m on it sir.”
“Good,” he said sitting back in his seat. “George, let me know as soon as you can what you think alright.”
“It is looking good sir, there does not seem to be any radiation Leakage. It is almost like the reactor was run dry.”
“Run dry?”
“Yes sir, when we use the probes highest settings we we can almost penetrate the reactors shielding, but at that point we should be getting much higher levels of radiation. It is almost like the reactors were run a full power for a very long time, and they depleted the fuel.”
“But our reactor is rated for at least seventy years. Even the ships of twenty years ago, had an expected fuel life of thirty years.”
“Right, but this one appears to have been run until there was just nothing left.”
“How it that possible.”
“I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that with a reactor without any reactant left means it would be safe for us to go over there.”
“Is there any change that it vented into the ship?”
‘Even if you opened the reactor up to open space for years of end it would not expend that kind fuel. There is nothing left sir. It will be safe to go over there.”
“Alright it is your call. Get your team ready, we should be ready be at your jump point in about half an hour.”
“Yes, sir.” He said and walked off the bridge.

******
“Alright boys, it is going to be a bit tense here for a moment. Do be surprised if you don’t hear much from us for a few minutes Captain.” The big Aussies voice came over the open com-link. He and his team were within a few feet of the ship. They had found a hatch that had a keypad with numeric keypad, and an manual override. They were going to entry the ship there.
“Alright George, just make sure you keep your an eye on the time. We are going to be hitting the breaking point in about thirty minutes.”
“Believe me I am not missing that bus. I got my token.”
“Alright, back to work.”
“Aye Captain.”
The Monitors showed the hatch in close up as the engineers and George worked the manual over ride. As they broke the outer seal a small amount of gas escaped and nearly pushed Henry loose, but he and the other men had tethered themselves to the hull and after a moment he was able to pull himself back into place.
“Well at least we know they have atmosphere. It may not be breathable but they have it.” George joked with his men.
They got the hatch and disappeared from the Kelly’s external view. The people watching were left with just the view from the cameras on the men’s EV suits.
“Alright, keep your wits about you, we don’t know what kind of damage we might find inside. The exterior looks pretty beat up. Matt, you I want you to work on closing the outer hatch, while Henry works on getting the controls for the inner hatch working. I will light up your worlds. Henry, if the powered controls don’t work, use your suits spare battery to power the doors. It should be more than enough to get the seal to release.”
“Alright.” The exterior Cameras showed the outer door being shut slowly as Matt worked the manual controls. And then the ship looked the same as it had when they approached it. If it had not been for the scratchy breathing noises over the suit radios, there would be no reason to believe there was anyone over there.
“alright Captain, we are in. We have not seen anyone yet, but the place is pretty dark. This is definitely one of our ships, there is writing on the walls all in English. Nothing to tell me what ship this might be yet, but I will keep looking. We are going to make our way to the bridge. Can you give us a count every ten minutes?”
“You go it George. We are about ten from the breaking point, you need to be out and ready to meet up with us again in 45 minutes.”
“Aye. You heard the man, lets get moving.”

*****
Captain I think we have something.”
“Go Ahead George, I’m listening.”
“We have found most of the crew, they are all dead. I appears that when they had used the last of the reactor fuel, the air recyclers stopped and they suffocated. We have found a couple of other things. We have managed to download some of the computers files and Henry is reviewing them now, we are hoping to figure out what happened.”
“Very good, You should be making your way out in the next 5 minutes or so. So finish getting what every data you can and come on back.”
“Aye sir, oh and we did find something a couple of minutes ago that might help us figure out some of the mystery, at least we know the name of the ship, although I think it opens up more questions than answers. She was the Fuchsia. A bloody short hauler, If I remember correctly she used to do the run between the moon and Mars. But what I don’t get is what the bloomin’ Fuchsia would be doing out this far.”
“Don’t know what we will ever know George. You are getting close to your deadline. Start packing things up. When you get back here, we can review that data and send it back Corporate.”
“Alright boys you heard the Captain, lets pack it up.”

GreatHites Season 2 Prompt 11

This weeks prompt is from me and is:

“From a great height”
Download this week’s prompt

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Tuesday march second Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to GreatHites at gmail dot com.

good luck. Don’t forget to come out to Great Hites dot Blogspot dot com and vote for your Favorite stories this week.
And we do use a creative commons license so make sure you share it with all your Friends.
If you would like to discuss this prompt or pretty much anything else come out to Great Hites dot Ning dot com and join our discussion forum.
We also now have a fan page on facebook, so don’t forget to come out and check that out… Until next time this is Alex Signing off…

Great Hites season 2 Episode 7

A sleeping Baby in your lab

Stories By:
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
Ashley Redden
And Jeff Hite

Download the Stories this week

Come out to the forum and discuss the stories

The Doctor is in
By Norval Joe

He tried to rub at his head, to clear his mind, to remember his own name. It wouldn’t come to him. His name nor his hand. It seemed useless, waving around in space in front of his eyes, like he was waving away pesky mosquitos.

“I must have fallen,” he thought, his body unresponsive to his attempts to get up.

Nothing really hurt. He hadn’t hit his head then, but he had a strange sensation in his stomach. Not a pain, more like a burning feeling. “Maybe I’m just hungry,” he concluded.

He relaxed and allowed his head to roll to the side, the coolness of the alternating black and white linoleum floor tiles felt nice against his cheek.

The four legged metal stool stood high above him like the iron skeleton of a sky scraper under construction. The sound of water boiling came to him from atop the work table above.

“Water boiling,” he pondered. He giggled at the funny sound of the gurgling liquid, boiling in the,

“Boiling in the what?” he asked himself.

His thoughts were fragmented. Why couldn’t he control his mind? He was so frustrated, he wanted to cry.

“Cry? I’m a noted doctor of physical science and I want to cry?” The thought came and went so rapidly he almost didn’t have time to grasp it’s import. And then it was lost to him.

“The experiment,” the thought brought him back to the sound of the boiling flask on the counter above. He giggled again at the rapid ‘pop, pop, pop’ the small gas bubbles made as they escaped the thick, viscous liquid.

He tried to roll to his side, but the blankets around him impeded his movement, and they were wet. He tried to move them with his uncooperative hands. One random hand motion hooked up an edge of the fabric and he saw that it was not a blanket, but his white linen lab coat. The sudden exposure of air to his damp skin made it clear to him the wetness he felt, while initially warm, was now cooling and uncomfortable.

“The experiment,” he gasped, concerned that he hight have burned himself with the boiling liquid, “I must have spilled it on myself, but I feel no pain.” he marvelled briefly.

He had endured much this day and was tired. He had fallen, spilled his experiment on himself. He was cold, wet, and hungry. It was more than he could take. He burst into tears and sobbed at the top of his lungs.

In the passage outside, a lab assistant was alarmed by a strange noise coming from within the laboratory, and rushed to investigate. The sound faded as he approached the door.

Not wanting to intrude or interfere on the obsessively secretive chemist, he knocked and spoke through the closed door. “Dr. Langerhans, did you call?”

He waited on a reply from the doctor. When there was none. The assistant eased the door open and stepped through.

“Dr. Langerhans, are you ok?” he asked tentatively.

The assistant scanned the room. All appeared to be in order. Books, jars, test tubes and various apparatus lined the shelves and cluttered the tables. In the center of the room, a flask sat bubbling above a burner, the deep red liquid gave off a shimmering smoke as the water evaporated away from the thick liquid.

On the floor, amid the folds of the Doctor’s starched white lab coat, lay a sleeping baby.


Origin
By Ashley Redden

Miriam strained to listen to the voices coming from beyond the door. She understood words here and there, but mostly the loud talking was just noise. She hugged her pillow closer to her chest, her small frame shuddering. Miriam was very afraid.
She had been sitting with her mother and father at their small table for evening meal. She liked evening meal the most. Her mother and father would sit and listen to the things she learned that day as if their world depended upon it. She knew that they mostly were just humoring her, but she loved them all the more for it anyway.
They were sitting down, the small loaf of coarse bread broken and just passed around between the three. Miriam had been allowed to have a double piece, she so loved her mother’s bread. The bread was no sooner returned to her mother’s braided basket than three men and a strange hunched woman burst into the house.
They immediately began speaking with her father, saying that Miriam would have to go with them. Miriam’s mother took her quickly, but quietly, and led her to the next room, her bedroom. Her mother told her to stay put, smiled and gently closed the door. Her mother was like that, no matter what the situation, she was as gentle as falling snow. Fire could be falling from the sky and her mother would still be solid as a rock, hysterics were never part of Miriam’s mother’s world. Miriam strived every day to be just like her, calm and serene in every situation, good and bad.
Miriam wished she could be so calm and collected right now. But the words she was able to pick out from the conversation beyond the door were troubling. She was pretty sure that the men and the strange woman had come to take her with them, but she didn’t want to go and worst of all, she had no idea why they wanted to take her. She pulled the pillow tighter and shuddered some more.
As if on cue, the voices beyond the closed bedroom door stopped and the quiet crying of her mother could just be heard. The door opened and her father silently slipped into the room followed by the bent old woman.
Her father looked beaten, not as with a fist or stick or anything physical like that, but worn down, depleted. He looked at Miriam, but only in her general direction. He would not look into her eyes. Miriam thought that he looked like an empty husk. As if what ever had just happened on the other side of that door had sucked the life and vigor out of her father and what stood before her was what was left. One part of Miriam wanted to run to him, to hug him and tell him everything was going to be alright. Another part of her wanted to go over and bite the old lady and bite her good.
Her father said, “Miriam, you have to go…” His voice broke for a moment. He wet his lips and continued quietly, “Miriam, you have to go with this woman.”
Miriam said her voice shaking almost as much as her small shoulders, “But why papa. I don’t want to go. I want to stay with you and mama.” She could hear her small voice breaking, but she wouldn’t allow them to see her cry. Some voice deep within in her told her to be strong, only strength mattered.
She asked her father, “Why? Why do I have to go?”
Miriam’s father looked away, a study of misery.
The old woman peered at Miriam as if sizing up a choice bit of meat and croaked, “You have to come with me to be trained. You are magic folk. You must come, you cannot stay. This is not the proper place for magic folk.” The old woman gestured with a crooked hand around the small room, her eyes never leaving Miriam’s.
The old woman croaked out, “Now come along, no dawdling, “ and held out the same crooked hand she had waved about in the air only moments before. Miriam noticed that the other hand sat cupped upon the ball of a long stick that the old woman leaned on. She absently wondered if the hand would unfurl once the stick was removed or just stay as curled and knarled up as it was now.
The change in thought shocked Miriam, but she had always been one to pay attention to detail no matter what the goings on. She was pretty sure that this was another talent to attribute to her mother.
Miriam looked again at her father and listened to her mother quietly crying in the other room, probably still sitting at the small table just beyond the doorway her hand perhaps resting on or near the basket of the coarse bread Miriam so loved. Her father still would not look at her. The voice deep in her soul cried out ever louder, ‘be strong, show them no weakness. They prey on weakness. Now is the time to fight. Cry later or not at all, but do not be afraid. Be strong.’
Quietly, Miriam put the pillow down onto the bed just behind her and stood. She looked one final time at her father, and then fixed the crone with a glare. The thin smile that played upon the crone’s face faltered, she was not used to being looked in the eye by one so small and vulnerable.
A tiny warm flame flickered to life deep inside Miriam’s belly. A seed of anger, small now, but if properly nurtured the smallest of seeds can in time grow into the largest of harvests. She stoked the tiny flame, loving it, silently appreciating the warmth. Miriam found that she no longer felt as afraid. She straightened her small shoulders and willed her face to become a mask to hide her true feelings.
After taking a deep breath, Miriam said, “I’m ready.”
She marched past her father and the somewhat startled old woman and through the door. As Miriam passed her mother, she glanced back only to see her mother’s face turned toward the fire place, still quietly sobbing.
This, the woman that whispered daily that far and away her most cherished memory was that of holding a baby Miriam in her lap. As the babe dozed for hours on end, her mother would quietly sing soft lullabies. Her mother had always been so full of love and adoration for Miriam, never a cross word. Was it all a lie?
Miriam turned from her mother for a final time, not sure if her heart was breaking from betrayal or anger. In the end it didn’t matter, her small tender heart was utterly shattered nonetheless.
Standing before the three men, two hulking brutes the other a tall rail thin skeleton of a man, Miriam quietly committed the three faces to memory.
The skeleton smiled indulgently and said with a practiced sneer, “My, what an exquisite little lady.”
She had no idea how she would do it, but she made the vow on that very spot at that very moment. These three men, plus the crone behind her would, one day, die by her hand.
Miriam lowered her head and walked straight out the front door, mechanically, as if moving against a strong headwind, gritting her small teeth and willing her feet to keep moving. Though her eyes were very very wide and she was very very afraid, Miriam did not let it show. Her face remained a carefully controlled mask of calm. Miriam managed not to cry at all, but only just barely.
Once she exited the front door, the going got easier as if some inner barrier had been breached. As she walked out of her parent’s house and life forever, she did not look back. Her tiny heart was broken asunder.
Her heart would never heal, not from a hurt like this. But it would scab over, perhaps grow cold and wither, but never heal. As Miriam left her parents house, a large portion of her humanity died at the very threshold, quietly without acknowledgement or fanfare. She silently mourned the cruel gentleness of its passing.

Miriam was eight years old when she was taken from her parent’s house. People had always marveled at her pristine complexion, skin as soft and luxurious as if milk could be made into skin. Miriam had often caught her parents sharing a look, but they were all smiles when they’re eyes were upon her.
She had been singled out because of her ability to heal. Several times she had fallen and skinned her knee or some other little injury that children so often endure. Others had noticed how her injuries healed almost overnight. Instead of having an itchy scab after a particularly nasty fall, her knee would be as unblemished in the morning as before the accident. After this happened several times, people began to take notice.
Only people with magic could heal themselves so. The magic community was its own entity, not welcome amongst the common folk and vise versa. It was as if two separate peoples occupied the same towns, cities fields and roads, living in and around each other, but disconnected, each barely tolerating the other.
Miriam had been taken to a small village which consisted almost completely of women. This village was called the training village, but Miriam soon discerned that this was nothing but a holding area for females of the magical community until married off to some sorcerer.
It seemed, she soon found out, that the social stratification continued from the non-magic to gender. The women of the magical community were looked upon as inferior by the ruling classes. The topmost was the Council on Magic, all men and all despicable, powerful sorcerers in the extreme.
Miriam worked hard in her years at the training village, learning everything that they were willing to teach her and much that they would not. Certain magics were not allowed to be performed by women. Miriam began teaching herself how to perform this taboo sorcery, but she was only moderately successful.
She could feel the power, stirring restlessly deep down within. But she could not take the next step, that leap from making small objects move, dust devils or conjuring a cool flame in the palm of her hand. These things she could do with ease, but more complicated magics seemed beyond her ability.
But she kept trying. She never forgot her vow that cold evening at her parent’s house. She would keep fighting until the end, come what may. But she had decided over the years to go with the flow rather than cause trouble. She would cause trouble enough when she had the tools at her disposal to turn this crazy bigoted magical community on its flaccid ear. But until that time, she would work and learn and hopefully, grow more and more powerful.
Every day she would sit and calm herself, become a stone allowing any emotion to seep from her person and work on the magic and every day she would be frustrated. Ironically, she had the one thing at the training village that she absolutely did not want, popularity.
With the flawless complexion, she was the envy of all of the young girls who were also her fellow students and, though none of them realized it as such, captives. Miriam allowed the attention and even befriended any and all going so far as to call most of them sister. But all the while she silently hated her so called sisters to the girl, dimples and all. She had begun to think of them as curls without brains.
Behind her calm pretty mask, Miriam seethed and hated each and every other girl in the training village. They were all beneath her, all unworthy of any other true emotion from her. Just by being, her fellow students had earned her ire. Sheep. They’re all just stupid sheep.
Three days after Miriam’s seventeenth birthday, the old crone sent for her. The crone’s chosen name was the seer; no one knew what her given name was. But to Miriam, she was and would always be the crone.
The names of sorcerers and sorceresses could be used against them if know, so most chose another name when they had become powerful enough to warrant rivalries. Most were sorcerers, but there were a scant few sorceresses roaming the world. The sorceresses in the core lands either were not known, very powerful or quite dead. Women of power were rarely tolerated in this male driven magical society unless the sorceress in question was very powerful or could provide some service that a sorcerer might require.
Miriam had no idea what sort of arrangement could be worked out, but she kept her ears and eyes open, she was a veritable walking sponge soaking up knowledge whenever and wherever she could.
As she entered the crone’s small sparse home, she noticed for the first time a clear crystal ball that sat within a frame of a carved dragon; a claw tip, the extended tongue of the beast and the tip of the dragon’s tail were the only points touching the clear ball. Miriam stared.
The crone caught her stare and laughed the sound dry and dusky, like old grain swept across the floor.
The crone said, “That is a crystal ball. It is used to view things from very far away and sometimes…from very near.”
Miriam looked at the crone and asked, “How does it work?”
The crone cackled again, “always the thirst for knowledge eh? Well you have to concentrate, focus is the key. But that’s not what you need to be worrying about pretty one. I’ve been watching you practice and attempt the prohibited magics.”
Miriam blinked and the words flew out of her mouth before her mind had caught up, “But you do them, so how can they be prohibited?”
The crone rose attempting to stand erect, but she was too bowed for that. The crone spat,” That’s because I have power you little fool. But don’t worry; you won’t live long enough to know what you are missing. Today’s your last day upon this land.”
Miriam screamed with rage. It had been building for years and years, this black rage, but she kept it always in check, under strict control. Deep down, she knew on a subconscious level that once released, the genie could not be put back into the bottle.
She reached for her power then, not methodically or with calm conscious logical thought, but with the fire of the wild anger that she had kept brewing stoked and simmered since the day she was taken from her parent’s house, her house.
She reached for the power and felt it respond, as if reuniting with an old friend. Miriam flung the magical force at the crone. She screamed from her lungs and within her head that the crone’s insides would explode. Miriam felt a great unseen wind of energy leave her and slam into the crone.
The crone’s eyes bulged, and then blood, dark and malevolent much like the wretch that was it’s source spring, gushed from the crone’s eyes nose ears and mouth.
The crone croaked for one final time, actually sounding more like a toad than a human and fell upon the floor a withered sack of clothes, very much dead.
Miriam stood frozen and wondered at what she had just done. She had finally breached the dam. Emotion was the key. The magic responded to her need but emotion was the key. Miriam smiled for the first time since coming to the training village. The smile held no warmth. It was a cold acidic smile of vengeance and Miriam wore it like a glove.
One of the crone’s attendants rushed into the room and stopped, shock written upon her comely face.
The attendant stuttered, “Wh…what…what happened?”
Miriam turned her cold gaze on the attendant and answered snidely, “She died stupid. What does it look like?”
“But, but what happened?”
“How am I supposed to know? I was just talking to her and she fell over dead. Someone must have spelled her.” Miriam added with spite, not only for her vanquished enemy but increasingly for the fool to which she now addressed. “After all she was a very powerful sorceress.”
“Yes,” agreed the attendant her face now solemn. “She was very powerful indeed.”
Miriam snorted, “Indeed.” She walked across the floor and picked up the clear crystal ball, frame and all and headed for the door.
Miranda said, “Goodbye.”
The attendant said, “That belongs to the seer.” She cocked her head and added, “Where do you think you’re going anyway?”
Miriam answered, “She obviously doesn’t need it anymore. And to answer your second question, I’m breaking out of prison.”
The blank look on the attendant said it all. Sheep. Just a bunch of stupid sheep. Miriam strode out through the door and did not look back.

Two years after the abrupt death of the sorceress known only as the seer, a tall skeletal man stood speaking to another man, presumably another sorcerer. Across the busy street, a beautiful young woman watched casually leaning against one of the ubiquitous roof supports that littered the great market grounds.
The beautiful woman stood so focused on the skeletal man’s business that she did not realize that she too was being observed.
She hardened her face and snarled. The skeletal man across the street suddenly doubled over grabbing at his stomach and crying out in pain. The woman’s face relented back from the harsh expression to one of calm mirth. She smiled. The skeletal man allowed several of his attendants to help him over and into a nearby building, an inn. The woman’s smile widened.
She stepped into the street and suddenly stopped short. A nervous man, young, maybe several years older than the beautiful woman’s nineteen years stood directly in front of her. She blinked in surprise and stepped around the man.
He walked beside her and said, “Hello, I’m William, William Connally.”
The young woman smiled back and answered, “I’m Miriam, but please excuse me William; I have very pressing business that I must attend to. It was very nice meeting you.”
William stopped walking; his shoulders slumped, and then blurted out, “You’re beautiful.”
Miriam froze in her tracks and turned full around to face William. A smile of genuine warmth spread across her face. She said, “No, I’m exquisite.” Then turned on her heels and continued on her way.
William stood and watched as she strolled into the inn across the street, the entire length of her body a symphony of motion.
“Exquisite indeed,” he said breathless.
He wasn’t sure if he believed in love at first site or not, but as he continued to stare across the street at the Inn, he couldn’t help but wonder if his galloping heart was going to spring from his chest and sprint after Miriam.
“Truly…exquisite.”

The Baby
By Jeff Hite

There are a great many things that make he work that I do out of the ordinary. Some times when people ask me what it is that I do I don’t even know where to start. So whenever possible I try to avoid situations where I might be asked such things. It is not only because I don’t know what kinds of answers to give, but also that when I do give an answer people don’t really understand the answers I give them.

This is the job that I have dreamed of having since I was a child, so in many ways i am very happy to be able to do it. But it is very lonely work. I am often working late into the night try to compete this thing or that. For a long time my wife was my assistant, and During those years my life was Perfect. But that all changed last year.

In the middle of May we decided that we were ready to have a baby. For me this was almost the happiest day of my life. We had talked about having children before we were married, but for my wife it was always some thing we would do someday. But for me I wanted children the day after we were married. It had always been a bit of a sore spot between us, but since she had always been so wonderful to me I tried not to bug her about it.

So I was telling you about what happened in May. We had gone to a fund raiser, it was something we did all the time, since we are a private lab and we always wee in need of finding. This one was different, because spouses we encouraged to attend. Jenny had also come with me in the past, but that was because she was part of my work, as much a part of it as I was. There were very seldom other husband or wives there, this one was different in that way. But more than spouses came, because both husbands and wives were there, children were as well.

I think it was seeing the babies that made the difference. Harold Master one of our closest rivals in the field, and dearest friend brought his baby over for us to see. She was only a couple of weeks old and still squeaked like the tiniest of babies. Jenny fell in love. I was never to happy.

The hold six hour drive home she was quiet, and I did my best not to worry that she was angry with me. The following morning at breakfast she told me that she was ready.

What came next was what I had not expected. She told me that I would had to find a new lab assistant. I was flabbergasted at first. But they she reminded me of the things I already knew, she and the baby could not be exposed to many of the things that we worked with. So in that way this was both the greatest day in my life and the worst. She was right of course, she usually was. So together we hired her replacement, and one month later she gave me the good news.

Nine months later, give or take five days, twelve hours, thirty two minutes and eight seconds. My joy Bella was born. And for that day forward she was the focus of our lives. I spend over a month of nights working on the spare office to make it safe for the baby, and I believe that I had accomplished that. The walls were Lined with lead to prevent any stray radiation, it had a separate ventilation system, and even had a back up power supply so that if we were to loose power we could get to Bella and know that she would be safe. The whole room was to be a surprise for Jenny.

It took a while but eventually I was able to convince Jenny that she could come back to the lab. I had refocused my work to avoid the things that we did not Want the baby exposed to. It had set me back a few years, so I needed her more than ever, but i believed that I had finally had a break through.

We worked late that Thursday night. There was so much to be done And the local power grid was had not been cooperative. Jenny and I had taken turns going down to the local substation, getting them to get the power back up. If we were to succeed in this that would be one of the first things we would fix.

Ironically with all the time that I had taken to make the lab safe for Bella, I had ignored the danger to us. The last time Jenny had gone down to the substation and even picked up a pizza. This time I had gone, and when the power came on, Jenny had been working to reset the accelerator.

It was not something she should have been doing at the time, but then I should have called to let her know the power was about to be turned back on.

When I found her, or rather what was left of her she was in front of the accelerator just as it had powered up. It was nothing I would ever want to see again. Not even if it were my worst enemy. It was terrible, but what was worse was my daughter in the next room. She was too young to understand any of it of course, but it her mother had not been able to come to her when she she started to cry. I knew that I could not dwell on Jenny and what had happened, that I had to go get Bella and calm her down. I also knew that I would have to continue my work. The fact that the accelerator was able to produce the power necessary to kill Jenny the way that it did meant that we were close, and for Bella’s sake I had to try.

Most people don’t understand my work as I said, but in the most basic from it is like a looking glass into the past. We mimic the distance that gives us the look into the universes past, by warping space time in a very tight loop, and where that loop comes out, this some where in the past. Many people might call it some kind of a time machine, but it really is not. It is more like a closed circuit t.v. with a tape in it that you can rewind and watch again. You can’t effect the past in anyway, only observe, and it is a very power hungry process, so until now I have never been able to go back in time more than a couple of days. I am working on making the process more efficient, but it takes time. Time that I don’t really have.

You see I am a single father now, and Bella comes with me to the lab, she is still too young to do more than sit up and play, but I spend her waking hours with her. I will not take even a few moments away from her. I am her only parent after all, but In the evening when she is asleep, I continue my work, I will make sure that my daughter gets to know her mother, even if that is only though images of the past. So right now, yes, I will say it, the most beautiful thing in the world is a sleeping baby in my lab.

Great Hites Season 2 Prompt 10

This weeks prompt is from me and is:

“Broken Equipment”

All Stories for this prompt are due by Midnight Sunday Feburary 21. Email the text of the story and a recording if you would like me to include it in the podcast to GreatHites at gmail dot com.

good luck. Don’t forget to come out to Great Hites dot Blogspot dot com and vote for your Favorite stories this week.
And we do use a creative commons license so make sure you share it with all your Friends.
If you would like to discuss this prompt or pretty much anything else come out to Great Hites dot Ning dot com and join our discussion forum.
We also now have a fan page on facebook, so don’t forget to come out and check that out… Until next time this is Alex Signing off…

Download This week’s Prompt

Great Hites Season 2 Episode 6

This week’s Great Hites is hosted by, Phillip (Norval Joe) Carroll.
The Prompt was, Darkness Falls and I know they are coming

Download This week’s Episode

This week there are stories by:
Ashley Redden<——— This week's WinnerWinner
Phillip (Norval Joe) Carroll
And Jeff Hite

This week we have Promos for:
Archangel
The Mad Poet Files
Tumbler
The Gearheart
and hear The Assistant Dark Lord’s Thoughts on Ravenwood.

discuss these Stories On our Discussion Fourm

My Princess Part IV
By Jeff Hite

Alexander stood quietly in his room waiting for what he knew was going to come. This had been his decision, but that didn’t make was what coming any easier. They had worked it out, they had planned it, they had even gone through what he was going to do, but none of it was making this any easier.
How had King Andrew done it, he had made it look so easy. He had been so calm, even after they got the news about Marrie. He had made a sacrifice that no one should ever had have make, and he had made it and then moved on. There was no doubt in Alexander’s mind that the king was suffering, had suffered would continue to suffer for a long time over the death of his youngest daughter, but he had not flinched from the plan when he got the news. Both Mitchell and Mathews had to see him as the hard and cold king that they believed him to be. And at the same time he must not let them know that he knew what was going on. They had to believe that he thought this whole thing had been a terrible accident.
King Andrew had to be his model. His father had certainly not been that. His father had never been there while he was growing up. He was always off doing business, while the King had always been there, with his daughters of course, but offering encouragement and yes even love to Alexander when he needed it most. It was not until the last few years when his father had been in the thick of things with king Matthews that he had even taken an interest in Alexander, and that was only to keep him away from Lindsey to prove to Matthews that he was a person who could control his own family.
Yet, as he stood here, in his room waiting from night to fall so that he could make his move, he was afraid. Afraid of a great many things, some of which he could control, but a good number of them he could not. He knew that King Welterbock’s men were coming at night fall, but that did not make the hour or so until then any easier. If the confernce between King Mathews and his father broke up before they arrived, the evidence would not be there an had would have an hard time getting the men to arrest them. Then of course there were the guards, the place was swarming with them. Welterbock’s men, he knew, were only going to be a token force, barely a dozen men, if the two men decided to make a stand of this, they would be overwhelmed in moments.
There was more than his own life, and the lives of a few men at stake here. There were the lives of the million or so people in the three kingdoms. If there were a war many people would die. If they could settle this peaceably, arrest King Mathews and Lord Mitchell, then only Marie would have to die for this foolishness, and in Alexanders mind, her death was more than enough.
he stood up from his desk and paced the room. This was not at all what he had hoped his life was going to be a few years ago. A few years ago he was thinking only about how wonderful it would be to be the Lord of the border realm with Gladies on his arm. He had dreamed of children and growing old together. Now he didn’t know what was going to happen.
He checked the clock again, from his window. The sun was setting, it was time that he had his way down to meet Welterbock’s men and gave them there orders. He just hoped they would all be in time.
Two hours later they all stood outside the chamber doors waiting for the right moment to enter. The Leader of Welterbock’s men and sworn to protect him, and the men under his command had been eager to follow his lead. Many of them had known princess Marie and were ready to bring the orchestrator of her death to justice. The hardest part of the whole thing would be keeping them from being over zealous and killing King Mathews.
“Then it is agreed, in two weeks time we will begin the invasion of Andrews Kingdom.” Mathews voice boomed from the other side of the door.
“Yes, it is agreed.” This was the moment he had been waiting for. Everyone had heard them. Alexander stood up straight and tugged on his coat, with Kind Andrews Crest on the chest and pushed open the doors. The men would wait outside until called, for now he had to go in alone. Too much commotion and they could have the whole of the castle come down on them in moments.
“My Son, what good timing, King Mathews and I have just finalized our agreement.”
“Why does your son wear the Crest of King Andrew, have you no control over even your own family Mitchel?”
“Alexander, take off that foolish coat, and come over here so that we might show you what our plans are.”
“Father, King Mathews,” he said with a slight bow “I will not removed my coat.” He wished now that the men had followed him in. He wished that they all stood right behind him, swords at the ready.
“Alexander, I order you to take off that coat. Here we are on the eve of our conquest of King Andrew’s kingdom and you wear his crest.”
“That is what I have come to speak to you about.” he hoped that they could not hear the quaver in his voice. “I am here.”
“What is the foolishness.” Mathews bellowed. “I will not have some one who might be in leauge with Andrews in here while we discuss our plans. Have him removed Mitchell or I will.”
“I am here…” Alexander began again, if he didn’t get the words out quickly, Mathews would have his guards in here, and they would be out numbered. “to place you both under arrest for treason against King Andrew.” There he had said it. And loud enough for the guards in the hallway to heard. Now, he had to hope they could get in here and secure the room before, Mathews could call his own guards.
It was the longest darkest fifteen seconds of his life, he knew they were coming, he could hear them enter the room, watched the draw their weapons, but all he could really see where the looks on the two rulers faces. His fathers changed from Annoyance to surprise to anger, while King Mathews skipped all the steps in the middle and went straight to rage. His single guard reacted for him and fired his crossbow, killing one of Welterbocks men, but the others quickly subdued him, while he attempted to reload. It was all over in five minutes. And by the time to two former rulers were properly restrained and ready for the trip back to the court of King Andrew, Alexander felt as though had aged fifteen years.

The Sanctuary of Slumber
By Ashley Redden

Irony? Or a comedy of errors? Or some stupid satirical play? My life in a nutshell.
The world has come to an end. No longer a worry, but now a fact. Done. Finished. The credits have rolled.
No. My worry is much more personal. A need. A requirement.
What do I think about? Sleep. Blissful, uninterrupted, pristine sleep.
When did I sleep last? Good question. Maybe someone out there knows.
I hear someone laughing, not just giggling, but laughing hysterically. I look around bewildered and realize that the person laughing is me.
Irony? A comedy of errors? Whatever. Just give me some stinking shut eye.
I take my last bottle of water and pour some into my hand, not too much but just enough. Into the eyes it goes. I blink furiously.
I absently scratch behind my ear, frown and notice that the back of my head doesn’t feel quite right. I mean I’m fully aware that hygiene has left the building for awhile now, but I should still have a pretty good head of hair. It should feel maybe nasty or matted, the hair on the back of my head, or something like that, but my fingers scratch scalp. No hair, just dry itchy scalp.
I pull my hand away and peer at the fingers. I wouldn’t say that a handful of hair resides there in the midst of my grubby paw, but there are some, a few lonely sprigs. I stand looking at the hair, too tired to be shocked. This cannot be good.
I wiggle my fingers and the sparse bits seem to float and flutter as they leave my hand. I study my fingers as I still work them back and forth. As I stare at what must be my very own hand, I can’t help but wonder whose fingers could these be?
The nail beds are like tiny black circles at the end of those wiggling fingers. Where the nails used to be shiny and flat, now each brown and yellow nail is warped like a bad roof and seems to be attempting to break loose and flutter away, just like the hair. No, this definitely cannot be good.
I drop my hand and stagger on. Destination? Who knows?
Sometimes the going is difficult, my legs and mind don’t work so well anymore.
The city streets don’t help. They are littered with all the necessities of life. Rotten clothes, rotten wood, broken televisions and assortments of other things that used to make a home a home. Most everything that China has ever produced lay in these streets. I used to live in a world of wonders. Now, I live in a world of crap. The whole city is just one big cesspool of garbage.
But none of that matters. Walking doesn’t matter, eating surely doesn’t matter, that is such a distant memory as to seem like a myth.
No, oh no, the first and last thing that matters now is sleep, just a little rest. When did I last rest? Days? Months? Years? Decades maybe? Who can remember?
I hear someone laughing again, a wretched high unbalanced sound. I don’t bother to stop and look this time. It’s probably just me again. That’s probably not good either.
I turn the corner and stop for just a second resting on the side of a building that is doing its level best to bring the outside in, one piece of rot at a time. I shake my head half expecting to hear a rattling sound from my fuzzy brain and gaze into an alley. I think I dozed off, but just for a minute, not long enough to attract attention.
Sitting in the alley, on the far side against another dilapidated building, three sets of wide deeply blood-shot eyes greet me. Three boys, thugs of the most wretched sort most likely. Two gaze into my eyes the bags beneath theirs probably mirroring my own; the third stares at my leg. Unsure of whether to attack and beat me or run for their lives, the three rise from their haunches.
I wave them back and say, “Don’t worry, I’m just moving on. I won’t stop.”
One of the thugs says, “You just stay back bug bait. We don’t want no trouble.” The other two nod in agreement.
If I wasn’t so stinking, unbelievably, completely and utterly exhausted, I would laugh aloud. This triplet of thugs has probably killed more people in this past year and a half than the birthdays of the three added together.
Instead I croak out, “I won’t. I’ll just be going.”
I stagger by, not even bothering to look at the young killers. They, however, eye me as if I were about to sprout fangs and strike.
Irony, that’s what this was. Complete and total irony. My life in a bucket.
For the past year and a half I’ve spent almost every dirty filthy scrounging second crawling about in the deepest darkest crannies I could find. Living like something out of prehistory, filthy dishelved and feral always running from thugs just like these three. Then I went to sleep one night, or was it daytime, those of us that dwelt in those dark wretched places below the city streets had stopped keeping track of such things, and woke up bitten. It wasn’t so bad at first, just small blotches, like bruises that didn’t hurt. But God they looked awful.
These bites were easy to hide in the beginning so that at least I had friends. We were a pitiful bunch and running constantly for our lives, but together nonetheless. As a group we surely were misery personified, but together with everyone in the same boat, it made the days seem a bit better. A shared burden is maybe a little bit less than one carried alone.
After I realized what had happened, I tried my best to stay awake and did so for several days. But people aren’t built to go without sleep forever, it just doesn’t work. So it happened at last. I sat down, going to rest for just a minute or so and accidentally fell asleep. When I awoke, the bugs had had their way with me.
People saw. My friends threw me out like so much refuse, which is kinda funny when you think about it because that’s what we were living in. Decades earlier we would have been considered refuse ourselves.
I hear that laughing again and look around this time. The three thugs are inching away, all eyes on the calf of my right leg now. I reach down before I realize what I was about to do and run my hand down the back of my right leg. The skin is stretched perfectly over the bone, no muscle, no sinew, nothing but tight skin over bone.
When I look back my three would be murders are gone, presumably off to harass and exterminate others that the bugs haven’t gotten around to eating yet.
A couple of weeks ago, I would have been killed within days roaming the streets not affiliated to any of the gangs of thugs whose rule holds sway here. But after the bugs bit me, made me bug bait as we leftover remnants of human society say, well then, I found myself free to go wherever I wanted. Molested by none, shunned by all. I have to wonder if the lepers back in biblical times also had it this good.
People were always saying that the world was going to end. They were laughed at, ridiculed and despised as nut cases which most were. But even they, with their hysteria and paranoia running on overdrive, surely never imagined the world ending like this.
In the end the so called nut cases were right. The world was surely in its death throws, for people anyway. The bugs were seeing to that.
No one knew where the bugs came from or where they went or how people were chosen.
I used to wonder if maybe they were some great intergalactic spiders that spun webs between here and there, wherever there was. Once we humans went to sleep we slipped into their gossamer unseen webs, captured in that strange other place that our dreams take us to.
The spiders pounced, or just took their time, who knows which and gnawed upon us unlucky chosen few. They injected their strange otherworldly venom and it did its work making our soft parts softer. Then, when we unlucky dreamers fell again asleep, they sucked out all the good stuff at their leisure and left nothing but the skin and bone as the calling card of their handiwork.
The only problem with that notion was that there were not just a lucky few. In the beginning, the chosen had been many. People worldwide were sucked dry while they slept, one slumbering victim at a time. The species Homo sapiens had been unceremoniously placed on their own endangered species list.
People learned to sleep less and when they did, they catnapped, which helped, but eventually, everyone needs a good REM sleep and that’s when the bugs got you. Mankind stood on the brink of eradication, being eaten by a predator that they could not see, hear or touch that struck when they were most vulnerable, when at rest.
Sleep was supposed to be a sanctuary for the mind body and soul to reenergize, to renew. But that sanctuary, that haven of rest had been defiled, desecrated in the worst way. Mankind no longer fell asleep to rest. Now, mankind falls asleep to die, not quickly, but in pieces, losing a little bit more with each slumber.
Why are they called bugs? They had to be called something. Humans have always needed a face on their enemy even when they cannot lay eyes on one. As far as I know, no one has seen the bugs yet, maybe never will. But the bugs do have one accomplishment that a sundry of religions have been working at for centuries, longer still. The bugs have made believers out of mankind. Not some people, but all people. The ones that are left anyway. The bugs have the whole world believing in something they cannot see, hear or touch. For a tactile people such as mankind this simple little fact is quite the accomplishment.

I blink at the sun, wondering where it has come from all of a sudden. One minute I was staggering in the dark the next minute it is broad daylight. The realization hits me as I lay sprawled upon the ground. I moan, not wanting to look. But look I must. Curiosity, no matter how perverse, will always be there. Humanities secret weapon and Achilles hill all rolled up in a nice neat nosy little package.
I raise first my right arm then my left. My right arm seems fine, my left won’t budge. I peek over, a bit squeamishly and wonder at the sight. The skin is stretched over the bones of my left arm from the shoulder down. A master taxidermist would have been proud of the work, seamless and pristine in detail as it was. A little long divot was even visible between the radius and the ulna. I would gag, but there is nothing left on my stomach.
I manage somehow to get up onto my feet. The left leg is fine, more of the right, however, is gone, everything below the knee. I stagger hop until I am able to find a crutch, an actual crutch. I think to myself, ‘what good fortune.’ I hear familiar hysterical laughter. I think that it’s probably just me again but I’m too tired to check.
I argue with myself about cutting the leg off below the knee. Once the bugs have done their deed, the appendage is useless, attached but just there, no pain no sensation no nothing. In the end, I decide to leave it be. I have nothing with which to cut the leg and ultimately, don’t have the willpower to do it, dead and useless or not. I will have to drag it some, but that is just how it is.
Later in the day, I stagger into an opening in a building that is in surprisingly good shape. Why I went in there, I can’t rightly say. Perhaps subconsciously I was looking for companionship. I found none.
The room is indeed full of people, maybe ten to twenty which in this sleepless kill or be killed non society in which we live is a serious crowd. They look up; all of them, when I stagger stumble into the room. The conversation immediately goes from a gentle buzz to complete quite, like a switch was flicked. For several beats the quiet reigns, then cacophony explodes as every last one of them began yelling for me to get out.
I stand a bit overwhelmed, it no longer seems to take much, swaying as the crowd screams and screams for me to get out, leave, be gone, just get out and get out now. Someone throws a brick and I try to raise my left hand to shield my face, but of coarse it doesn’t respond.
The brick sails by my ear close enough to smell the creosote buildup lingering from the dirty chimney where once upon a time the flung brick resided.
Someone yells at the thrower not to hit me, do they want me to die right here and bring the bugs in here to finish me off. They scream and scream, but none came close.
Eventually I get back some semblance of order within my sleep ravaged brain and shamble back out the way I came. I stagger on the rest of the day and into the night, meaninglessly lost, with nowhere to go, no hope no future no promise.
Finally, I fall on some bulky detritus; I’m too tired to look at what.
No matter the origin, the scraps of civilization are all the same now, just junk to trip over and nothing else.
I turn my head to the right, or was it the left, who knows. There not two feet away, sits a skeleton; complete with a generous supply of desiccated skin stretched tight over its bony carcass. Looking at my long dead neighbor, I wonder how strange it is that the skin doesn’t rot. Neither do the bones for that matter. I had never thought about it before, I had never cared.
I wonder, ‘how bad can it be.’
To sleep, to finally sleep might even be worth it. I watch the skeleton as my eyelids slide down once blocking the moon bright alley. I watch as the darkness swallows everything.
I open my eyes again, one long heady blink to find my grinning companion still resting comfortably upon the wall.
I blink again, then again, each slower and more luxurious than the last. Finally I let my eyelids fall a final time. I think, but cannot be certain that I hear that maniacal laugh again, but for once it seems far away distant beyond caring.
I fall effortlessly into the bosom of unconsciousness; it has been so long since I closed my eyes on purpose that the feeling is overwhelming. Like falling into the arms of darkness, sweet succulent darkness and knowing that in that moment rest awaits, blissful welcome rest.
I am so very very tired, not just physically, that has been going on for weeks now, but mentally. It is as if most of my will has been sucked out along with the tissue of my arm and lower leg.
I know that I am just fooling myself, telling myself that it is okay; everything’s honky dory, that kind of stuff. But deep down I know better. I find that I don’t really care that much, haven’t cared for a while now but just kept on going through the motions.
Let them have me. Let the pitiful excuse for an existence that was my world turn, what will be will be.
I offer myself up to darkness, pining for its cold touch and fall into the welcoming arms of slumber and finally, after so long a struggle, finally find respite. I close my eyes for the final time and willingly enter the now violated sanctuary of slumber.
I don’t even wonder if I will perhaps wake up again, which is a new thing. I have always wondered that right before dozing off, but not this time. I already know the answer.
I go to sleep, not to reenergize or renew, but to die. Finally and forever. At least I will finally be at rest.
They say that to die in ones sleep is a blessing. So maybe I’m blessed after all.
Just before drifting off I hear a sigh. I’m not sure where the sound comes from. Who knows, it may have even been from me.

“Poetic Justice”
By Norval Joe

The houses and shops that lined the cobble stone street seemed to lean together overhead and block out the sky. They had never seemed so ominous before, only the homes of friends and the shops of family and neighbors. Everyone in this corner of the city were related by blood or by marriage. Why then did the narrow street feel as if it closed in on him to squeeze or choke him?

Sam carried a lantern, though it was not yet dark. He may not need the light to find his destination, but once he was there, and entered, he could only hope there was enough oil in its reservoir to give him enough time to find his brother, Peter.

Only the day before, they had walked together along this same route. There was the cobbler, the smell of new leather wafted from the door aside which sat display racks of newly made shoes and boots. The cooper was next, empty barrels stacked as high as the second story of the stone block building. At the end of the lane, imposing and high, stood the cathedralof the Nameless God. Its leaded windows, vertical kaleidoscopes of rainbow brilliance directed the onlookers gaze to the heavens.

They had stood on the top step outside the heavy oak double doors and waited anxiously for their parents.

“Children,” their father wheezed in surprise,when he and his wife stumbled upon the two boys waiting at the top of the broad stone stairs. “What are you doing here? You ought to be home tending to your chores.”

Their father’s uncharacteristic bluster didn’t distract the boys enough to miss the worried glance passed furtively between the parents.

Peter, older than his brother by five years, and not as timid as Sam, was the one to reply.

“The chores are done, Father. We were finishing with the stoop when we saw you and mother heading this way,” his voice carried the hint of a whine, defensive. “We’ve never seen you at the church before, and was sure you’d come right back out, to walk home with us. When you didn’t return, we started to worry that bad things were happening to you, and we might not see you again.”

Their father blanched white then fiery red. The anger underpinning his voice this time, was undisguised and unaffected, “get the two of you home, now. Worthless, offal. Presumptuous whelps. Your mother’s not the only god fearing one in the household. When I catch up to you, I’ll show you the fear of god.”

The look in their fathers eyes sent the boys running for home. They turned and bolted so quickly they missed the expression of pained worry on their mother’s face.

Sam and Pete were at the corner desk carefully reviewing their schooling when their parents stepped into the room. Their narrow home was squeezed in between the weaver’s shop and the general mercantile, where their father sold chairs, stools, and benches he made in his wood shop out back. The occasional sale of furniture supplemented the meager wage their mother received for the small amount of time each day she could spend weaving. It had been some time since the last piece of furniture sold.

“Peter, Samuel. Quickly now. Here is some bread and soup, then get ready for bed,” their mother said. She looked at neither of the boys and coughed daintily as if trying to control the quaver in her voice.

“Mother, what is it,” Peter asked? “It is not yet dusk. We have just begun our studies. Must we be in bed this early?”

Peter stood and held out the small slate to lend credence to his argument. On the black board were verses of poetry written in his small immaculate script, copied from their mother’s single prized possession, a leather bound book of verse.

Their father burst in to the exchange, “I have had it with your insolence, boy. You need to learn your place and not speak back to your mother. The brethren will teach you a thing or two…”

“Harold,” their mother exclaimed, “what you say.”

Their father was suddenly silent, shock widened his eyes to full circles. He took a deep breath as if to launch into a second assault, but immediately deflated, suddenly drained of energy. He slumped he shoulders, turned away, and said weakly, “what I mean to say is, that , well, they could teach you a thing or two. Now, eat. Both of you, and get off to bed as your mother has said.”

“Well, I’m not hungry, then,” Peter declared. Chalk and slate still in hand, he turned and lept up the creaking wooden staircase, two warped and splintered steps at a time. Sam started to climb the stairs in his brother’s wake when he turned back to his parents. About to ask a question, he stopped when he saw his father slip his mother a small leather pouch.

When Sam entered their small room, Peter lay on his pallet, facing the wall. Sam watched his brother’s body rise and fall with each rapid angry breath. He lay on his own pallet, the bedding not much more than an old straw tick, stuffed with dry grass he and his brother cut from where it grew along their father’s shop. He watched through chinks in the clap board walls as the day faded to night.

Sam woke feeling stiff from a night on the uncomfortable bed. The gray light of dawn filtered into the room through the spaces between the warped boards of the street facing wall. The house was silent, but not unexpectedly so. His father was likely to be in his shop out back. He mother next door at the weavers, and his brother…Sam looked at Peter’s bed.

Where was Peter. Sam usually woke first and lay beneath the threadbare handmade quilts and listened to his brother’s quiet respiration. Today, there was no sound.

Sam slid quickly off the edge of his cot and peered around the room in the half light. He remembered his brother stirring in the night, and had assumed, after Peter’s sudden exit up the stairs the night before, he had merely gone to the privy. If he had, then he hadn’t returned to bed.

Sam was pulling on his trousers when he noticed Peter’s slate in the middle of the floor. He stepped through the bedroom door into the stairwell to take advantage of the small waxed parchment window on the landing. In the window’s glow Sam saw smeared through the chalk of his brother’s writing,written with the tip of a finger, “Page 27”.

Sam hurried down the stairs. In his youthful mind, fear and imagination combined to create alarming possibilities. If his brother was sending him a message, there was only one book where Pete knew Sam could look. He stumbled through the half light to the desk in the corner and opened his mothers book of verse.

Sam turnes the book around and angled it to take advantage of the existing dim light and thumbed through the pages until he arrived at the 27th. He read,

The darkness falls on faeries wings, a thousand tiny eyes above,
In sightless wonder they observe, they come to me to share your love.

Away they take me to your arms, though deep within the earth you lie,
Through death’s grim passage I must follow, for at your side I too would die.

Sam stood on the steps of the cathedral, as he had only the day before with his brother, as the boys awaited their parents.

He had never been inside the imposing structure.

“Church is no place for children,” the bent, hooded monk had said, when Sam and his brother had once sought their mother during the morning devotional. The boys had peered through the narrow opening the monk had allowed as he spoke to them through the doorway, but were unable to see any of the chanting devotees within the Cathedral of the Nameless God.

Twice a day their mother came to prayer devotions with a small group of women and one or two men. For half an hour chanting filtered faintly through the thick brick walls and leaded glass windows. Afterwards the solemn devotees filed back out, silently, heads still lowered in contemplation, to return to their daily tasks.

Sam tried the door. It was unlocked, as was expected. He had heard his mother declare to his father, more than one time as she tried to convince him to attend to spiritual things, “the cathedral is never locked. You may go and pay devotions any time of day or night.”

Until the previous day, their father had never set foot in the cathedral.

He eased the door open slowly and peered into the candle lit dimness of the ante chamber. There was not a soul at the fore alter or in the main chamber. The next scheduled service would be an hour after sunset, therefore unlikely anyone would be about for some time.

Sam slipped through the door, closed it quietly behind himself and worked his way along the left wall toward the head of the chamber.

He had no idea where he should look for his brother, other than down. If he was dead, or going to be killed, or even locked in a cell, it would likely be in the crypt. The crypt was always below ground.

An alter sat on a raised dais between the walls at the far end of the chamber. Many backless wooden benches sat in ranks facing the dais. Two exits were visible in the glow from the setting sun through the stain glass windows; one to each side of the dais.

Sam moved quickly, his bare feet silent on the cold flagstones of the cathedral floor. He was through the door in a heartbeat and descended a circular stairway lit by torches at lengthening intervals. As he reached the bottom of the stairwell he was blocked by another door. His eyes, now accustomed to the darkness, located the bolt and slipped it slowly back.

He eased the door open only a crack. Enough for one eye to peer through into the large dark room. The space was narrow but long and packed, side by side, with benches and work tables. Unlit oil lamps and candelabra were the only adornment to the otherwise empty tables. A single candle created as small halo of light at the far end of the chamber. In the circle of light was the silhouette of a small form, bent over the table.

Sam held his breath and slowly, ever so slowly, widened the opening in the doorway, just enough to squeeze his slight frame through. The only exit he could see was at the far end only yards away from the candle and its attending monk.

He wished he could get on hands and knees and crawl along the floor to the door. Carrying his own lamp made that impossible, so instead, hunched as low as possible, Sam made his way to the exit. With each hesitant step he was sure his panicked breathing and rustling breeches would give him away. However, the monk continued to scratch noisily with quill pen on parchment and remained unaware of the intruder.

Within feet of the door, as Sam’s hopes began to rise that he would slip through, unnotced, the monk stopped his writing. Sam froze, mid step, as he felt the other’s eyes searching the shadows for the interloper.

All the while, maintaining his gaze in Sam’s direction, the monk shifted off the bench and stood directly in front of the short guttering candle. The little man stood no taller than he had sat on the bench. He slowly stepped toward where Sam cowered in the the monks dancing shadow.

Sam stood up straight, feet set to flee when the monk suddenly stepped aside to allow the weak candle light to fall upon the frightened boy.

“What?” the robed figure said in an unusually high pitched voice, “What are you doing here?”

“Pete,” the Sam cheered as he launched himself at his older brother. The metal lantern spashed a small amount of oil as it dropped the short distance to the floor. He threw his arms around Peter and held onto him tightly, ignoring the scratchy coarseness of the wool cloak his brother wore.

He body shook with sobs as relief for his brothers safety washed over him. Through his tears he explained, “I thought you were dead. The message you left me sounded…Well it sounded like you were either dead or would be dead soon.”

“Message?” Peter asked, and suddenly broke into laughter. “Oh, the slate. That wasn’t a message. I was just doodling.”

Sam’s concern turned rapidly to embarrassment, and then annoyance at finding his brother in obviously good health and safety. He stepped back and asked, a note of anger in his voice, “what are you doing here?”

“Mother said she would tell you when you woke up. Didn’t she tell you?” Pete asked sounding surprised.

“No,” Sam said. He felt bewildered and frustrated. “No one was around when I woke up. I got tired of waiting for Mother or Father to come home. I thought if I didn’t come find you, soon, no one would.”

Pete started to laugh. It was so genuine and cheery, Sam had to join in.

“Come on,” Pete said, “Let me show you my room.”

Pete retrieved the candle from the table and headed for the door at the back of the chamber. As they climbed a similar circular stairway to the one Sam had descended, Pete began, “Mother and Father showed samples of my writing to the monks, here at the cathedral. The head librarian thought it was pretty good.”

They reached the landing and Pete pushed open a door to an enclosed courtyard behind the cathedral. He continued, “You know Father has not sold any furniture in a long time, and we were getting low on food. The brethren here are paying our parents to have me copy documents for them.”

He grinned at Sam. “You get meat and bread and I copy documents all day.”

Sam furrowed his brow, and asked, “Why was father so angry at us last night then?”

They entered another building. A narrow passageway split the low building in half. Doors were set at intervals along both sides.

“I think he felt guilty about selling me off, and that he thought I would be angry,” Pete said and shrugged. “I was a bit, at first, but after I got here, it’s not so bad. I get my meals here. You get your meals there. And I even get to come home one day each week. Here’s my room.”

Peter pushed open the door and waved his brother inside. Sam’s eyes went wide. Light from a rising moon through a tall leaded glass window spilled a rainbow of color across the floor of the narrow room.

“Look at that,” Pete said, “a real bed, with a frame and a straw mattress.”

“I want one,” Sam whined.

“Sorry. You’ll have to wait. You have to be at least twelve years old to work in the cathedral. But, If you’ll you stay out of trouble and keep practicing your letters, I’ll put in a good word for you.”

He grinned at his brother, and said, “come on. I’m sure they’ll let me walk you home. Mother’s going to be beside herself, worriying if she can’t find you.”

As they left the room, Sam eyed the bed enviously.

GreatHites Bonus 15

My Princess bonus story.

This bonus story belonged to the last episode hosted by Arlene, but I was late in getting the recording done. However, since I knew that the next piece would not make as much sense without this one, I felt like I needed to release it. So here you go.

My Princess Part 3
By Jeffrey Hite
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