Last week was a Halloween special and the story flowed easily for that picture prompt. I had the story’s first draft completed by the end of the day Friday after I posted the picture. I love the story. I submitted the story to Vitality magazine’s Halloween Queertacular contest and it got selected as a finalist. You can read it here (and you can read all of the Queertacular entries here–they’ll be posting new entries through the end of the month).
This week, we’re not using Storymatic again. For this one, the challenge is to create a story for The First Line, based on the first line for its winter issue. The First Line is a magazine I started with a friend over 15 years ago. David still runs the mag and it’s been way too long since I’ve written anything for it. So, I’m going to give this line a go and see if I can get accepted.
That’s got a lot of possibilities. Now I just have to decide where that car is going to go!
I won’t be posting this story next Friday since I’ll be officially submitting it. I will leave a note, however, on how the writing went. You’re encouraged to play along too. You can either post a link if you want to post a story on your blog, or I encourage you to submit and see if you can end up in print!
[h3]October 17 Story[/h3]
I’m very happy with the story I wrote, entitled “Stars.” It’s going off to The First Line for consideration. I’ll update here when I know its status. If it’s not accepted, I will post it.
UPDATE ON November 23: The story was not accepted, so below is “Stars”
“Stars” by Jeff Adams
We went as far as the car would take us. As the engine sputtered, I pulled our parent’s BMW onto the country road’s shoulder. Once it came to a stop, I put it in park. It was probably stupid to run the car out of gas, but we needed to get as far away as possible.
Celia was curled up in the passenger seat, sleeping. She was seventeen like I was, but her frame was much smaller than mine. The sickness had ravaged her over the past year to the point it was hard to tell we were twins.
It was still dark. Very dark. The night sky was ablaze with stars. Living in the city all our lives we never saw a starscape like this. I killed the car’s headlights, leaving only the parking lights just in case someone else happened to be out this early. To set the mood, I pulled my iPod from its dashboard cradle and called up a playlist I made of music that focused on stars or sunrise, songs like Ed Sheeran’s “All of the Stars,” “Memory” from Cats and The Beatles “Good Day Sunshine.”
Once the music played softly through the car, I gently put my hand on Celia’s hip to wake her. Her eyes fluttered open.
“Oh, Johnny, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“It’s okay. A lot of boring driving. You didn’t miss much. But look now.” I motioned out the windshield. “Your present.”
“Look at them all.” The wonder was evident in her voice. “It’s better than any picture.” She opened the door and almost tumbled out. Luckily I grabbed her shoulder in time.
“Wait. Let me help you.”
I turned up the music so we’d hear outside and hustled around the car to get her. I lifted her gently from the seat, supporting her back and legs in my arms. At six foot two and in shape, moving her was nothing for me. I set her down on the hood of the car and kept hold of her arm while I settled in next to her.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. Celia, however, wanted to go to the stars for as long as I could remember. She loved space shows on TV and read everything she could, fact and fiction, about what was in the night sky.
“It’s wonderous, don’t you think?” She asked, looking briefly at me before returning her attention to the sky.
Despite the display above, I couldn’t do anything but watch her watch the sky.
Her breath caught as she saw the first hint of reddish orange on the horizon.
“You didn’t,” she said as a cough overtook her. I held onto her as the cough vibrated through her. She spoke again after the cough cleared. “A real, country sunrise.”
I couldn’t help but smile as she looked at me again. The piercing blue eyes, a trait we shared, was the only thing that hadn’t changed.
“I can’t believe mom and dad let you do this. They’re so worried about everything.”
I’d hoped she wouldn’t bring that up and just let this moment be. I wasn’t going to lie to her though.
“They don’t know. I snuck you out. I wanted to make sure you got to see this at least once.”
Her hand closed around mine.
“You’re the best brother ever,” she said. “Tell them I made you do it, they might go easy on you.”
She chuckled, knowing that she got away with a lot in the early stages. It happened less often as she got sicker and our parents did what they believed was right to extend her life.
Celia curled herself up, almost like she had in the car. Her head rested on my leg and she faced east watching the starry sky give way to the sun.
“You know I’m going to be up there in the stars soon, right?” There was no fear in her voice, as if this was simply fact.
Despite trying to steel myself on the drive out, I couldn’t help crying at her admission.
“Don’t, Johnny.” She wasn’t looking at me, but she must’ve felt the quakes in my body as emotions took over. “It’s okay.”
“I know. I can’t help it.” I wiped my eyes. Purple punctuated the sky as the sun rose further. “I’m glad we did this. I had no idea it would be so incredible.”
Of course, there was sunrise in the city but it was never like this. It was obscured by buildings or clouds or something. Same thing at sunset. I’d never seen so much color in the sky.
I stroked her hair gently as she watched.
“You know, Celia. If you wanted to go while we’re here, you could. I can explain it to mom and dad.”
She laid quietly as the colors grew brighter, more fiery, getting the day started.
“I can’t leave that to you Johnny.”
“You can. I know…” Damn it. The waterworks started up again and I tried to reign it in. “I know you’re ready, Celia. I see it in your eyes all the time. I overheard you talking to the nurses too, asking when all this would stop. I’m telling you, if you’re ready to go, go be a star. I’ll make everything on Earth okay.”
She squeezed my hand tighter, surprisingly tight, but said nothing. Her eyes were bright and clear as she watched the sun march its way up the horizon, taking its place in the sky. Every now and then she’d make a delighted noise. I loved hearing them. It reminded me of how we used to sound on Christmas morning back when we were about a decade younger.
“I love you,” she said as the sky became more blue than black. The moon stayed in place as the sun become the dominant orb in the sky. “This is the best present ever.”
“I’m glad you like it.” I bent down and kissed her temple. “We can stay here as long as you want.”
“Good.” Her voice sounded sleepy. “It’s perfect.”
We watched together for another hour. My cell phone started vibrating endlessly in my pocket. It had to be our parents. They’d either gone to the hospital or the hospital called them. I ignored it until the sun was almost completely above the horizon.
“I should call for someone to refill the gas tank,” I finally said. “And let everyone know we’re okay.”
She didn’t move.
I put my hand in her shoulder. She didn’t move. I watched her tiny chest. No movement. I smiled weakly.
I looked up and saw one bright, sparkly star that wasn’t yet blotted out by the sun. It was like she was already watching out for me. I smiled bigger as tears streamed down my face.
My phone began another round of vibrating and I finally pulled it from my pocket, check the screen and answered it.
“Hi, dad.” I waited while he screamed in my ear. “Everything’s okay, dad. I promise.”
I knew that to be true even if he didn’t.
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