Friday Flashback: Beautiful Nonsense

Bits of poetry made with music themed refrigerator magnets

do fret with quiet crescendo
haunt your love like a soft adagio
if in melody you dance
if you make an accidental rhythm
then move as grace sublime
I cannot full measure
my joy
bursting
at our harmony

Originally Published: February 2, 2020
Updated: November 20, 2020

Where She Walks

Roses bloom from her palms,
Orchids tangle in the vines of her hair.
Where she walks, life awakens.

Bees and butterflies, her aura.
Pools of water, her eyes.
Her skin, the earth.

Thorns adorn her limbs.
Nectar drips from the well of her lips.
Life to some; to others, poison.

Death and beauty, embodied.


This poem was based on the writing prompt: flower power.

A crystal drop

A crystal drop runs down your body
And I long to trace its path
With a fingertip
With frothy kisses
To follow the river to the salty sea
And lose myself in the waves.

~R. E. Rule


The first episode of Tiny Tales, a short story podcast featuring my writing and original music by composer Frank Nawrot, released on Monday. Find us on Spotify, YouTube, or the In the Writing Studio website. Apple Podcasts coming soon! New episodes will be posted weekly.

29. Writing Prompt – Don’t Let It Fall

The urn shattered, fragments of broken rock and precious gems clattering across the stones. Ehrik, Knight-Guardian of the Realm, who had just dispatched the last of the temple guardians, froze, sword still held aloft.

“You dropped it, didn’t you?”

His squire stared, mouth agape in horror, at the remnants of the intricately carved vessel. His hands hovered uselessly inches from the pedestal where he had intended to place it.

“It…slipped, sir.”

“The precious artifact… The most important quest of my life… The object we carried through the shrieking forest, across the wailing sands, over the devouring waters, and you drop it?!”

His voice reverberated through the cavernous chamber, and he hurled his sword against a crumbling wall, but the squire ignored him, frowning down at the shards.

“Wasn’t something supposed to happen? End of the world or the like?”

“The court wizard claimed it contained a powerful evil threatening the royal line, but clearly, he’s as useless as you.” Ehrik sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with a heavily armored hand. “Clean up your mess, and fetch my sword. I’m getting out of this stinking cave.”

He stomped away, muttering to himself about inept squires and ill-informed wizards. The squire dumped the urn fragments into a pile on the pedestal and retrieved the discarded sword before scurrying after Ehrik, tripping over bodies and nearly impaling himself as he went but breathing a hearty sigh of relief that his mistake paled in comparison with the wizard’s.

Leagues away, across the roiling waves, past the blowing sands, and beyond the haunted forest paths, deep within the royal castle, servants ran screaming down the hallways. The princess, leaving her dolls and her nursemaid in pieces on the nursery floor, ripped the heart from one of her guards and devoured it whole.


I may have strayed from the original writing prompt a bit, but I wanted to write something fantasy and was inspired to ponder what would be an absolutely terrible thing to drop.

Editing is an arduous task but also an indispensable one and incredibly rewarding. I was able to cut thirty words and make the story more vivid in the process. Every bit helps.

More soon!

~R. E. Rule

Falgar the Great

Deep in the mountains above the kingdom, it was said a beast of unimaginable horror made its lair and that the one who could slay it was worthy of the throne. Fifty years passed, and the beast yet lived. The mountainside was strewn with the bones of those who had tried their hand, yet the crown sat forgotten and dusty. When Falgar the Great, Slayer of Derahk the Tormentor and Liberator of the Valoreth, heard of the challenge, he took up his sword and set forth.

The battle was long and fierce, but eventually, the beast succumbed and its head cut from its body with Falgar’s mighty sword, Eledeth, Bringer of Doom. Then Falgar passed back through the mountains, coming to the high city of the kingdom, and entering the great hall, cast down the severed head, crying, “Hail and take heed, for the beast has been slain, and from the shedding of its blood, a king has arisen!”

The people were awed by his mighty presence and disturbed by the severed head lying upon the floor. Miktahn, mouth of the people, stepped forward and raising his voice for all to hear, proclaimed, “That’s great and all, but that doesn’t really mean you’re qualified for a leadership position.”

A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd at Miktahn’s words, and cries of, “we need no king,” and, “our present system of governance is adequate!” rang out.

But Falgar was dismayed.

“I have slain the beast as the legend foretold, with my hand and my sword!”

And Miktahn, trusted and wise, spoke again for the people.

“A mighty feat to be sure, but slaying beasts can hardly be compared with, say, setting a taxation policy or encouraging foreign relations.”

“But—“

“And would you, Falgar the Great, Slayer of Derahk the Tormentor and Liberator of the Valoreth, even know how to settle domestic disputes between neighbors or man and state? It took us like a decade to set up a suitable justice system.”

“I, um…no.”

Elgath the Fair, who had thus far been silent and still in contemplation, stepped forward and spoke quietly with Miktahn.

“How about captain of the guard? I’m sure they can find more things for him to…slay since he’s so good at it.”

Miktahn agreed, and at length Falgar accepted his new duties. But when he turned to take his leave, Miktahn called after him.

“And take this…head with you! Leaving blood all over the place,” he muttered. “Doesn’t he know maids are expensive?”

Thus they lived on in peace and harmony, achieving a golden age among men, for a land is best governed by justice and rationality, not men with big swords. And whoever came up with that legend probably meant it as a joke anyway.


I like to call this Tolkien meets Monty Python. (“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no system for a basis of government!” – Monty Python & The Holy Grail)

I read an article last week that said you should never start a story with the character waking up, which is unfortunate because that’s how my draft starts. But the opening sentence, “she awoke in darkness,” is possibly the most important sentence of the first half of the book. It doesn’t just describe the action taking place in the scene but also encapsulates her overarching story and the larger action taking place of which the reader is not yet fully aware! In other words, I’m keeping it.

More soon!

~R. E. Rule

27. Writing Prompt – Rosemary: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, find it here: Rosemary Part 1


She shuffled into the kitchen the next day to see a pile of bones nestled in the center of the table between the primrose tea set and the salt and pepper shakers shaped like dancing shepherdesses. Her hopes that the light of dawn had undone the undead deed were dashed by the tiny skull withdrawing from under its wing and staring eyelessly at her. The axe in the garden shed might solve her problems, but Rosemary wasn’t sure it was possible to kill what was already dead. The only thing worse than an undead chicken was a headless undead chicken with its undead head flopping around. So she fixed her usual breakfast of a soft-boiled egg and a lightly buttered English muffin and hoped she wasn’t consuming any relatives of her current guest. Her neighbor had given her the eggs.

Later that day, while buying a bag of corn from the same neighbor, she learned that Mr. Pepper had returned home with four kittens in tow. Rosemary was offered her pick of the litter, but she refused with a resolved sigh, settling for her bag of corn instead. If she had just waited a day, this whole mess might have been prevented.

“Planting a garden?” her neighbor asked.

“Yes,” Rosemary quickly agreed, realizing she had no other explanation for why a tiny old lady living in a tiny cottage needed such a large quantity of corn.

She wasn’t sure undead chickens required food, but if it did get hungry, the last thing she needed was it trying to find its way home. No amount of gossiping could conceal a reanimated bag of bones wandering around.

“Are you sure you don’t want one of the kits?” her neighbor asked again, carrying her sack of corn over his shoulder down the lane back to her tiny cottage.

He had refused to let her carry it, and she was glad she had shooed the chicken into the oven and closed it in there before she left.

“It’d be good company,” he added. “I dare you to look at their cute faces and go home without one.”

One unwanted pet was quite enough, and despite his offers, she arrived back at her tiny cottage sans kitten. To her dismay, he insisted on delivering the corn right to her back garden. When he asked what that scratching noise was in the kitchen, she quickly announced, “rats!” and shooed him home.

“Told her she needed a cat,” he muttered as he trudged out the door, no doubt thinking her too deaf to hear him.

She released the chicken from the oven and pulled on her wide-brimmed hat, rubber boots, and gardening gloves. Her corn wasn’t going to plant itself, and no doubt half the village would have heard about it by the end of the week. The pile of bones rattled along behind her into the garden, and she was grateful for the thick hedge surrounding her cottage.

Rosemary had intended to keep the chicken only until she figured out what to do with it, but after weeks of talking to it while she planted rows of corn and reading to it from the book of incantations, hoping one of them would turn it back into a pile of dust, she grew attached to the clunky little thing and looked forward to their peaceful days together in the back garden. It would happily chase after the bugs her gardening disrupted or occupy itself with plump corn kernels, repeatedly gulping them down as they tumbled back onto the grass from its empty rib cage. When it grew tired of that, it would lounge under her growing plants, kicking plumes of dirt over itself, but that was nothing a quick rinse with the watering can couldn’t fix. The day she called for “my little Jinx,” not out of frustration but out of affection and it had come sprinting across the yard to her, she knew she had decided to keep it.

That winter, when the corn was harvested and the weather turned cold, Jinx would perch on the back of her armchair, snuggly dressed in a tea cosy Rosemary had cut wing holes into, while she read a book and sipped tea by the fire. And when several more years had passed and the villagers began to notice that Rosemary had been 92 for a while now, she carefully packed Jinx into a cardboard box in the front seat of her tiny old car next to her cauldron and book of incantations, and they set off to find another tiny cottage on the edge of a tiny village.


Run

My feet pounded on the dirt road. Silent rows of trees under the face of an impassive moon flew by as I struggled onward, my breathing ragged, my lungs aching. Forest and road stretched on endlessly, but I could only run, driven on by icy fear on the back of my neck. A light glimmered faintly through the dark trunks, and I redoubled my efforts, forcing myself toward it. A single light bulb illuminated the worn siding of an old farmhouse. Its windows were dark and silent, and I beat on the door wildly, hoping, praying.

“Let me in! Please!” 

The shadowy road loomed behind me, every moment threatening to unveil the shadowy figure of my attacker.

“Please! He’s going to kill me!”

But the house remained still and indifferent. I leaned against the rough wood, all hope disappearing, tears of relief turning to despair.

“Please,” I begged the silent door.

It flew open, and I crashed to the floor at the feet of my rescuer, a middle-aged woman wearing a bathrobe and the bleary look of one just roused from sleep. I scrambled inside.

“Car broke down,” I gasped, the fatigue of my wild dash finally catching up with me. “Man on the road… I ran…”

“Oh, you poor thing,” she murmured, locking the door behind me. “Let’s get you warmed up.”

My shaking legs barely held my weight, and she had to help me into the kitchen, depositing me at a heavy wooden table. A sweet warmth and the clinking of a spoon on china filled the room as she bustled about, making me a cup of tea.

“Here,” she said, setting it in front of me. “Drink up, and everything will be all right.”

It was sickeningly sweet, but I gulped it down without hesitation. My throat was parched, and I was trembling from exertion. Exhaustion flooded over me, my limbs growing heavy, my head sagging, my body ignoring my desperate pleas to move as she set the cup in the sink and tied my wrists to the chair.

“Everything will be all right.”


I was lying in bed last night thinking, “You know what would be more terrifying than running from something? Finding a house, thinking you’re safe, and then discovering what was waiting for you inside was even worse.”

Ironically, I dislike horror movies or TV shows because they freak me out too much, but with writing or reading, I love it. I just finished The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you enjoy horror or psychological thrillers, I would recommend checking it out. It’s a quick read, and while not particularly frightening or gruesome, following the main character’s strange thoughts and behavior through the story is captivating.

Jackson is infuriatingly vague sometimes, but I wonder if that was an intentional depiction of the fallibility of her characters and our fallibility as readers. Our version of truth is built with what we can see, but we can’t see everything. We interpret the events around us based on the information presented, and what may seem utterly and undeniably real, may be nothing more than the manifestation of our belief that it is. What may be unwaveringly true for one person may be ludicrous to another.

After finishing Hill House, I started reading The Elements of Style, another book I would recommend. It’s a great refresher on basic grammar and the fundamental goals to keep in mind while writing. I also started The Scarlet Pimpernel and hated it… so still looking for another fiction book to dive into.

Happy weekend all! Hope you are staying safe and healthy.

~ R. E. Rule

25. Writing Prompt – 50 Years Later

I gazed at the bench where I had first met her, her hair piled in soft curls, her eyes bright, her dress a crisp blue. She had been a vision. I was pulled from my reminiscence by the sight of an elderly woman making her way through the park, leaning heavily on her cane, her breathing labored, and I rushed to help her.

“Thank you, young man,” she said, smiling up at me as I helped her to the bench.

“Are you alright?” I sat next to her, concerned by her obvious fatigue. “Can I call someone for you?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine.” She gazed around the foggy park, her eyes wistful. “I met my husband here. I like to come back and sit with the memories for a while. He passed thirty years ago. Car accident.”

I clasped her wrinkled hand in mine.
“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. We had many wonderful years together.”

“What was he like?”

“Too charming for his own good,” she laughed. “And very handsome. He looked a bit like you.”
She turned to me with a twinkle in her eyes.
“I’ve told you my story, now I believe you owe me one. Any great loves in your life?”

I leaned on my knees, gazing out into the fog.
“There was. Once. But I… I left her.”

She laid a hand on my arm.
“Life is full of second chances if we fight for them hard enough.”

“Not this time, I’m afraid,” I sighed, placing my hand over hers.

On an impulse, I leaned forward and kissed her cheek, taking my leave with a squeeze of her hand. Before vanishing into the lingering mist of morning, I glanced back at her still sitting on the bench, framed against the soft fog. Fifty years later, her eyes were just as bright.

Survival

The chemical attacks started when I was five. Every source of water or food we found was poison. Even the rain was contaminated. Eventually my parents succumbed, choking on their blood, their skin blistering and cracking. Those of us who were young enough to adapt, to survive if you can call it that, were changed. Our bodies were stripped of any ability to fight infection, to produce the very things we needed to survive.

“Kira!” Damien was standing in the doorway, the hood of his sweater yanked down to hide his pale eyes. “They brought in a fresh one.”

I trailed behind him through the dirty hallways to the dingy medical center. Clear tarps hung from the ceiling to make ghostly walls. A corpse lay pale and stiffening on the examination table, a deep contusion on his skull.

“What happened to him?” I asked quietly.

“Car accident.”

I wondered if he was somebody’s father…husband… The medic jammed a needle into a finger, releasing a bright red drop. He pressed it to the sensor waiting for the metallic beep.

“A-positive.”

“Damn it!” Vix yelled, kicking a metal barrel before storming out of the room.

It had been weeks since she’d been able to drink. She wouldn’t last much longer. Damien nudged me, handing me a metal bowl. We didn’t have long before the blood started coagulating. The room had filled up with the others, bowls clenched in their pale hands. The body was flipped, a scalpel drawn across the still-warm jugular, and we all took our rations.

I followed Damien back into the dark warehouse, pulling myself up to sit on a crate next to him and staring at the bowl of black liquid in my hands. He had already chugged his share, tilting his head back to get the last drops.

“It’s only going to get worse the longer you wait,” he sighed, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

I choked down a mouthful of the sickeningly warm liquid.

“We weren’t meant to live like this,” I murmured, fighting the urge to vomit.

Damien shook his head, holding his bowl at an angle to let the last remnants settle into a puddle.

“We weren’t meant to live.”


I’ve been thinking about vampires lately and what might drive the average human to consume blood other than a supernatural intervention. This wasn’t based on a writing prompt…just an idea rattling around in my brain.

~ R. E. Rule