Kidnapped!

It was a dark and stormy night.  Ann had been up late working as was her habit.  But she’d never come to bed.  At 3:30 a.m., her husband climbed the long steps to her study in the silo, but oddly she was not at her desk. All he found was the regular shifting of pictures on her screen saver and a half empty glass of tea.  When he clicked the mouse, he saw the page she’d been reading—some postings on her blog.  Her ear phones lay on the floor.  Everything else looked normal except for the double-hung window in the bathroom.  It had never, to his knowledge, been opened.  Now cold air swarmed through the bottom half.  He peered down into the yard below.  Even with the full moon, there was nothing to see but untrammeled snow.  John pulled his cell phone from his bathrobe pocket and called 911.

52 responses to “Kidnapped!

  1. Hubby John??? OMG!!! Is your real name Martha???

  2. Ann sat at her computer long after the midnight hour, long after she should have been asleep and gathering courage to face another day. Her tea had gone cold, her eyes itched from reading the pathetic attempts of her students to breathe life into John and Marsha’s travails. She’d heard it all after these many years of teaching online writing courses, and she despaired that anything new would restore her interest in this exercise.

    The two characters inveigled their way into every exercise she offered her classes. They were galumphed and they were bricolaged. They endured tornados, slushy bus stops, and 500-word final essays. They’d been reunited, wounded interminably, and killed off by desperate students.

    It had been many years since an edgy student who called herself Sandra Dee (in her well-behaved moments) and DeeDee (in her hang-onto-the-roll-bar incarnation) had stunned her with her “Road Trip”:

    “Mile after mile. Two days without real food, just Red Bull and cigarettes. Burning eyes, white knuckles, aching shoulders. Sudden swerves, stray dogs, oil spills, police bullets, alien death rays. ‘Dude, how long you gonna play that thing?””

    Was it Sandra Dee or DeeDee who wrote this about “Red Leaves”?

    “As the congregation knelt in prayer,
    Tiny red devils
    Danced and skittered
    In the churchyard.”

    Would there ever be another Sandra Dee, Ann wondered. I’d even brave DeeDee, just for the inspiration and well, trouble, she moaned.

    And Shaddy? She’ll never forget Shaddy’s response to Point of View:

    “This is where I’m at with Lesson Four:
    Tense: Very
    Point of View: Out in left field.
    Distance: Not even close.”

    Lost in reverie, Ann lingered at her desk as a blizzard battered the east side of the converted silo. Oh, to have students like those again, she thought. Aiko and Shakespeare’s candle, Parson bringing Biblical stories alive, Orlando with his convertible, Panama hat, and smuggling family jewelry out of Cuba in his socks.

    She knew she’d lost complete control of the class during Lesson Eight recess when there was no assignment. There was no recess for Ann, though, because this class’s Lesson Eight coincided with final pieces in another class, and lots of reading and proofing and correcting and gentle, helpful comments.

    When she returned to the Discussion area, she found something miraculous had occurred in her absence. Her students had gone totally wild, posting stories on their own, bonding with their classmates, and … (her favorite ellipses)…learning to fly.

    And then, validation. Patti J wrote, “We are all practicing telling ourselves we are writers. Just in case anyone is still having trouble believing that, I thought these signs might convince the doubters:

    1. You edit and revise your grocery list.
    2. You stop in the middle of an argument with your spouse and write down a great bit of dialogue.
    3. You tell your friends that your favorite way to relax is galumphing. The men look at you with a new respect and your women friends check it out of Google.
    4. Your spouse reports that on more than one occasion, you sit bolt upright in bed and shout, ‘I know what I need to change.’

    The list went on and on as students added their own.

    Ann picked up her tea and drank, not noticing how tepid it was. Then she walked into the bathroom and broke the paint seal on the double-hung bathroom window by sheer force of will. Snowflakes plastered her face as she climbed onto the toilet and leaned out the window.

    “If they can fly, so can I,” yelled Ann in not quite perfect foot and meter, but close enough with artistic license.

    And off she went.

    • Hey, I was kinda funny back then!!

    • I’m keeping this for those nights when the espresso isn’t working. So good. Thanks, Gullie.

    • How do you remember all of this from BWW? Amazing, that’s what you are. I love your creative take on Ann’s departure via the bathroom window. I’m certain that’s the only possible chain of events.

      • I printed all those fabulous posts. I have you on record, Shaddy. Be afraid, be very afraid.

      • I love that you kept all that, Gully. I printed out tons of stuff back then but it’s not organized…maybe someday I’ll get to it. It’s nice to know you’re on top of it all, although it is a bit frightening, as you said.

    • I loved my BWW class but yours must have been extraordinarily entertaining. I wish I had preserved the writings from my class. A few of us tried to create a site for our class but very few participated and interest quickly dwindled. Thank goodness for Ann’s blog. I’m stuck at a repair shop for a couple of hours enjoying your postings. Please continue. My own muse doesn’t realize winter’s over and won’t come out of hibernation. In the meantime, I enjoy everyone’s posts.

      • We did the yahoo site thing, too, Lisa. Many of us hung on for well over a year and had lots of fun writing serial stories. Then, we found Ann’s site and flocked here. Some no longer contribute, but I’m sure they’re lurking.

  3. Oh, I just thought of a line I should have added:

    Wind-driven snow hit the silo like ravens tap-tapping at her chamber door.

  4. Who the heck carries a cell phone in his bathrobe pocket?

  5. What a great way to start my night. You got me where I live! (Only 290 emails tonight. A low count.) Gullie, you brough back some great memories. It’s amazing to watch the variations in the different sessions, and yours was one I will never forget. What was it, September, 2009?

    I thought you’d all laugh when John made his appearance. Barbara, John carries a cell phone in his bathrobe pocket out of learned paranoia. You would too if you’d been killed off as many times as he has.

    We may have to have another reunion. I have to wonder if there is a way to lure back students who don’t stop by here regularly.

    Anyway, the plot thickens. (tap tap tap…)

    • Yes, September 2009. The 920 Writers. I have a addresses, but –alas–have lost touch with Orlando and many more. I have find DeeDee, though. If you’re brave enough.

  6. As John waited patiently for the detectives to arrive, he noticed some pages on Ann’s desk. It was the story she had been working on as a diversion from her duties as “The Teach.” The piece was entitled:

    PURE BULL

    ,They called it a near miss, but I called it divine intervention, for that day changed my life forever.

    The scene was a hot, dusty arena in the outskirts of LasVegas, which was the site of the 2009 Professional Bull Riders Association Quarter Finals. I was covering the event for the trade journal, Pure Bull. I had always been attracted to bulls and boys, so the journal job was my perfect match.

    “Next rider, BillyRay Chapslapper riding the number one ranked bull in the world, GORE V. DOLL.”

    Just as the announcement ended, the gate opened and Gore V. came out of the shoot, bucking and bouncing BillyRay like a peach pit in a garbage grinder. The kid didn’t stand a chance against that ton of twisting beef.

    Billy hit the dust at the 3 second mark and the bull’s left rear hoof narrowly missed landing full force on Chapslappers forehead. Instead, Gore V. lived up to his name and caught BillyRay in the seat of his pants and tossed him over the arena wall. The punctured cowboy landed directly onto my laptop and into my heart. From that landing forward, BillyRay and I have never been apart.

    Sadly, his injured cheek proved to be a career ender for my little buckeroo, but he finally found time to pursue his true passion. BillyRay became the world renowned, “Bull Whisperer”, counseling angst ridden Angus and Bovines with the blues. I gave up my job at Pure Bull and devoted all my time to caring for my man and knitting a designer line of Cowboy Cozzies for canteens.

    The story brought to mind a handyman that had been at their house last week. Didn’t he mention that he was a retired Rodeo Rider? Hadn’t Ann looked at him with adoring eyes, as he attempted to fix that flapping thing in the toilet tank? Could it be possible that HIS Ann had run off with BillyRay Chapslapper?

    • galelikethewind

      “A peach pit in a garbage grinder” what a perfect vision of BillyRay atop that bunch of Bull. And I can just hear the new number one hit on the Country & Western charts- “Onto my laptop and in to my heart..”
      Thanks for another wonderful story, P.

    • Love the peach pit in the garbage grinder. Nice going, Peanut.

    • I’m a sucker for a man with a flapper. This is a story I can easily climb into. It may have to have installments!

    • PB, you’re hysterical. I love Gore V. Doll. You come up with the best names and titles. I agree “peach pit in a garbage grinder” provides a great image. Love it all.

  7. “So, John. It is John, isn’t it?” said Mike Steele of the Piedmont County Police Department to the man in the green terrycloth bathrobe. “You say your wife is missing?”

    “Yes, yes. I’m John. My wife Ann never came to bed last night and when I came up to check on her, there was no one here. I mean, she’s just gone. In the wind. No trace. So I called 911.”

    “Uh-huh. And what phone did you use, John?”

    “My cell—my iPhone. I have it right here in my pocket.”

    “You always carry your cell phone in your bathrobe pocket, John?”

    “Well…. I… Uh… No, not usually. For some reason when I saw my wife wasn’t in bed with me, I grabbed my phone. I don’t know–call it a premonition that something wasn’t right and I might need to call for help.”

    “Uh-huh. So, John, do you mind if I call you John? Okay, so, John, when you called 911, you told the dispatcher your wife Martha was missing. Now you say her name is Ann. So, which is it, John? Martha or Ann?”

    “It’s Mar… No, I mean it’s Ann.”

    “You seem a little confused, John. Ann or Martha, Martha or Ann? Or maybe you have two wives. Are you a bigamist, John? Maybe one of those Mormon guys who gets to have all those wives? Not that I’d blame you, John. You dog, you.”

    “NO! My god, man! My wife’s name is Ann. I have only one wife and her name is Ann.”

    “Who’s Martha?”

    “Martha is a fictional character that my wife—ANN!—uses in her writing lessons. She isn’t real.”

    Steele fixed John with one of his namesake laser stares. “Which one isn’t real, John? Ann or Martha?”

    “Martha. Martha isn’t real.”

    “Look, John. Is it possible that neither of them is real?”

    “What? No. No, of course not. Ann is real. Ann is my wife. She’s a writing instructor and she works late up here every night.”

    “You make your wife work in this refrigerator? It must be 40 degrees in here, John. What kind of a man makes his wife work in this cold? You feel a little animosity towards your wife? Wives?”

    “No. What? What are you trying to do? Of course I don’t MAKE her work up here. It’s her choice. And the only reason it’s cold is because the bathroom window is open and letting in all the cold air. That’s what I told the 911 person. That window has never been open before. I could never get it to budge. Now I can’t get it shut.”

    “Why did you try to shut it, John? Want to make sure your fingerprints were on it in case the crime scene techs found them anyways?”

    “No! I don’t understand why you’re treating me like a suspect. You should be trying to find my wife.”

    “Which one, John?”

    “Ann! Ann, of course. My only wife. She’s gone.”

    “Uh-huh. And you don’t have any idea where she is or how she disappeared from here. We must be, what? Thirty feet off the ground up here? No sign of disturbance in the snow below the window. One car in the driveway. Your wife have a car, John?”

    “No, we both work from home. Whenever she needs to go somewhere, we go together. No need for two cars.”

    “Uh-huh. No car, no sign of a disturbance either up here or down there, and you can’t keep her name straight. We seem to have a problem here, John. See what I mean?”

    “No, Officer, I don’t see what your mean.”

    “Detective.”

    “What?”

    “It’s Detective Steele. Not officer.”

    “Sorry.”

    “Like I said, we have a problem here. You said you would have heard her if she’d left through the downstairs. That leaves an open bathroom window that’s never been opened before as the only way out. Yet, that snow down there is as pure as my 17-year-old daugh… Never mind. Bad allegory.”

    “Analogy.”

    “Analogy? What’s that? A third wife? You now have three wives, John?”

    “No, it’s an analogy, not an allegory.”

    “You’ve got a bit of a smart mouth on you, John. You trying to start trouble here, maybe change the subject from how your wife disappeared?”

    “No. Wait. I’m sorry. You said your daughter was as pure as …”

    “Don’t talk about my daughter, wise guy. You leave my kid outta this or I’ll run you in so fast all that snow out there will melt. Maybe we’ll find a body down there, huh? Ahhh… That what you want, John? Get us off the property so we won’t find any incriminating evidence? Think you’re a smart guy, huh, outwit the cops? You got any pigs, John?”

    “Pigs??? No, we don’t have pigs. Why are you asking about pigs?”

    “Maybe you tried to dispose of her body, you know. To the pigs.”

    “Good Lord, man! I didn’t kill my wife. We don’t have pigs. What are you doing to me?”

    “Wait a minute. I remember you. Weren’t you involved in that bus incident a few winters ago.? Yeah, yeah. I remember now. You and your ex-wife….. Martha, yeah, Martha. So, whatever became of Martha, anyway, John?”

    “Detective, Martha is a fictional character. Fictional. She doesn’t exist in real life. Get it?”

    “Don’t get wise with me, John. I’m just trying to get the facts. Nothing but the facts.”

  8. galelikethewind

    I was already visualizing Jack Webb halfway through this delightful allegory.
    Thanks, Gulli!

  9. Riviting Gullie, Just the facts mam. Detective Friday would be proud of you. Who knew John could fly?.

  10. John must be a zombie. He just won’t stay dead.

  11. Yeah, and Martha is a fictional character. Maybe she’ll put up the bail money for John. She’s been known to change her mind a time or two. Ann, however, is still MIA.

    (And the dialogue award for today goes to Gullible! We may have a movie script here.)

  12. John’s not a zombie, Gullie. He was staying at the Hotel Transylvania with Martha. Now he and Martha will NEVER die thanks to Dracula — the vamps will live forever.

  13. I took a different twist to the story. This time it wasn’t poor John….

    ……..John pulled his cell phone from his bathrobe pocket and called 911.

    “911, what’s you emergency.”
    “Yeah, my name is John,” he whispered. “I live at 123 Willow Drive. There’s an intruder in my house. Please send help.” John put the phone down and took a gun out of the other pocket of his bathrobe. He wrapped the bathrobe around him against the cold and walked out of the room. He could hear the dispatcher still calling his name.
    This wasn’t the first time John suspected Ann had been sneaking around on him. He had often walked in on her working on her computer; working on her latest novel revision she told him. But she would quickly flip on the screensaver or darken the screen to keep him from seeing what she was really doing. But he was computer savvy. He knew how to hack into her computer. What he found were emails to other men. Publishing agents she told him when he confronted her. He knew better. She had never written anything decent in her life. Just that damn blog of hers.
    John hurried down the stairs, gun in hand. He only had a matter of minutes before the police arrived. Ann hadn’t expected him home this early tonight. He had left the house just long enough to give her to sneak in her lover, and he came back to catch them together. She was going to pay.
    John walked through the kitchen. From here he could see down the hallway to their bedroom. The door was closed and he could see light trailing out from underneath. He snuck down the hallway. He could hear Ann talking to ‘her lover.’ Just then the storm picked up and blew a gust of wind through the open window upstairs, slamming the bathroom door shut hard, jolting John to attention. He heard Ann behind the door.
    “Oh dear,” he heard her laugh. “I guess the wind is really tossing things around out there. “ Then he barely heard her saying, “Well, let’s finish this then. John might be home any minute.”
    John burst through the door. He raised the gun at Ann and fired off two quick shots. He was pretty sure the first one had killed her instantly. She hadn’t even had time to scream. He charged into the room, swinging his body from side to side, looking behind the door and around the room for the mystery man.
    John heard a man’s voice coming from Ann’s cell phone. “Ann! Are you okay?! Ann? I heard a shot. Are you okay? Answer me!” John picked up the phone.
    “Who is this,” he demanded.
    “It’s Bruce. Ann’s publishing agent. Is she okay?”
    John clicked off the phone. He looked at Ann, turning pale before his eyes, blood saturating the deep brown carpet beneath her. Then he saw the papers clutched in her hand, wrinkled and torn now. John peeled them away from her fingers. “I’ll be damned,” he said. He sat down on the bed, reading through them. They were from her publisher, Bruce. A book contract. Ann had been offered half a million dollars for a first printing. He turned over the last page. It was unsigned. John had shot her before she had a chance to sign the contract. “Damn her,” he said, slamming down the papers. Without her signature the book would never go to print and he’d never get the money. John took the quilt off the bed and covered her body. He went about the room, quickly overturning furniture and smashing lamps to make it appear as there had been a scuffle. He crossed the room and opened the bedroom window. The one the intruder had escaped through. He sat down on the floor next to Ann, waiting for the police to come, crying over his lost fortune.

    • YOU KILLED ANN???!!! But who will give us prompts? You don’t bite the hand that feeds your Muse. Gosh.

      You better write your way outta this mess pronto. Wait! Is Martha an EMT?

    • Carol, this made my heart stop. Nicely written and great irony. But i prefer happy endings especially if it involves Ann. (Maybe you could reanimate her). Hmm, what would a zombie Ann be like?

  14. Well John is ‘pretty sure’ he killed her. I’m sure there is room for Martha in the story yet.

  15. Jasper Kim set his crime scene forensics kit down on the top landing of the spiral stairs and stood in the doorway of the study. His eyes surveyed every square millimeter of the room, floor, walls, ceiling, and all the contents from the angle he could see without entering. Fifteen minutes later, he hadn’t moved.

    “Hey, Kim, how ‘bout a little hustle on this, huh? We got nothing so far.” Detective Mike Steele may as well have been talking to himself for all the response he got from Kim. “Kim! You alive in there?”

    “I’ve asked you before not to interrupt me while I do my prelim, Detective Steele.”

    “Well, snarling snakepoop, Kim. You’ve been standing there for 20 minutes. How long’s it gonna take.? We need to move on this.”

    “Sixteen minutes and 30 seconds, to be precise. And, it’ll take as long as is takes.”

    “I don’t even know why they called you in. We have no indication of a crime, so why is Forensics here anyway?”

    “I am here because apparently you cannot read the scene. That is my specialty.”

    “So, whatta ya see?”

    “I don…,” said Jasper, then paused. “Very well. This is what I see.”

    Steele yanked his notebook out of his pocket and clicked the end on his ball point pen as he poised it over the paper.

    “Yeah? Yeah?”

    “I see,” Jasper began seriously, “It was Colonel Plum in the library with the candlestick.” And he snickered.

    “Oh, fer…. Okay, have your fun, Weirdo.” Steele started down the stairs and when he was out of sight, Jasper knelt on the landing, set the palms of his hands on the floor three feet into the room, then leaned down until his nose was two inches off the hardwood flooring. The search grid was already indelible in his mind, right down to the numbers assigned each square inch.

    First he looked straight down at the floor, then sideways to the left, sideways to the right, and backwards underneath his elevated body. No mote of dust, no piece of dirt, no hair escaped his sight.

    Five feet into the room, in the first row of grid squares, he found his first clue: a tiny dark blotch of dried liquid. He sniffed it, photographed it with a grid ID marker and ruler beside it, then scraped a sample which he carefully slipped into a glassine envelope.

    It would take lab analysis to confirm, but Jasper was certain what the result would be. Someone had carelessly spilled a drop of pumpkin spice latte.

    Jasper returned to his meticulous search.

  16. John reached for the cabinet above the kitchen range, then changed his mind. Better not add any whiskey to his coffee, not with that jerk detective twisting his words and making him look like a suspect in his wife’s disappearance. Need a clear mind for this.

    And speak of the devil, thought John, as Detective Mike “Allegory” Steele walked into the room. “There’s coffee, Detective. Cups are above the coffeemaker.”

    “Thanks, don’t mind if I do.” Steele poured a cup and said, “You got any cream for this? My stomach can’t take it straight anymore. Too many cups on an empty stomach all these years.”

    “In the fridge,” said John, not offering any more hospitality than he already had. He was still smarting from the detective’s questions. Pigs, for God’s sakes. He thought I’d killed Ann and fed her to some pigs.

    Steele reached into refrigerator, grabbed a pint container, and started to pour the liquid into his coffee. “Holy ratzioli!! What the hell is this stuff? It’s orange!”

    “Orange? I don’t know. What’s the carton say?”

    “It doesn’t say anything. It can’t speak,” snarled Steele.

    “Well, you’re a detective. Work your investigative skills on the printed words.”

    Steele gave John a long look, then read the carton. “Says it’s Pumpkin Spice Soy Milk. Gads. Soy milk? Man alive.”

    The angry expression on John’s face changed. His forehead creased and he squinted his left eye. “Soy milk? We don’t use that stuff. I don’t know where it came from. Let me see.”

    “Maybe your wife bought it?”

    “No, I told you. We don’t use this stuff. We drink our coffee black. Besides, we go shopping together and I’d know if she’d bought it for, well, maybe a friend or someone she was expecting to visit.”

    “Looks like we have a mystery on our hands tonight, John. Besides your missing wife, that is.”

    “How many years have you been a detective, Steele?”

    “Fifteen years. Ten on the force before that.”

    “Shouldn’t you have retired by now? Don’t most of you guys go out at 20?”

    “Big city cops do. Out here in these small rural areas, we tend to stay on longer.” He paused. “Look, John. Sorry I was so rough on you upstairs.”

    “Rough? You call that rough? I thought I was heading straight for Alcatraz.”

    “Alcatraz isn’t open anymore. Now it’s a National Park, of all things. Besides that was a federal joint. So far your missing wife is a county case. Unless something comes up to change that. How you doing? That was quite the dive from the silo window.”

    “Yeah, stupid, I guess. I’m okay. Good thing the snow was deep. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m worried sick about Ann and you weren’t helping.”

    “No, I wasn’t. I was trying to rattle you, see if you’d slip up. If it makes you feel any better, we’ve got the Piedmont City, County, and State Police all looking for your wife. All the airports, train stations, bus lines, and cab outfits have been notified. If she’s moving around, someone will see her.”

    “Thanks. Detective. Thanks.”

    “Hey, this Pumpkin Spice ain’t bad. You oughta try it, John.”

    “Someone say Pumpkin Spice?” said Jasper Kim as he walked into the kitchen.

  17. I’m tempted to use my reducto ray gun on myself so I can hide behind the dish detergent by the sink to watch this trio of Gullie’s very confused male characters butt heads over my disappearance. But I won’t. I’ll sit here in my virtual office chair and wait to see what’s going to happen. Was it a kidnapping? Or maybe I ran off with Peanut’s flapper repair man. Or maybe my agent sent for me via helicopter?

  18. “Coffee. Cups. Creamer,” said John as the forensics tech, Jasper Kim, entered the kitchen. “There. There. And there.” Then he turned back to the window over the kitchen sink and sighed.

    Two more hours until dawn. Maybe then we’ll find what happened to Ann, he thought. Wind-driven hail and sleet peppered the window, tap-tap-tapping like ravens at Poe’s chamber door. Something pinged in John’s brain and he concentrated on grabbing hold of a scrap of memory, but the thought was as fleeting as an angel’s breath.

    He relaxed, deciding to let his mind wander and hoping the thought would return.

    “You hear that?” said Steele?

    “What,” said Kim.

    “That! Listen. Listen. There! You hear it?”

    “That tapping noise?” said John. “It’s just the hail hitting the window.”

    “No. Listen.”

    All three men held their breath and listened. They heard it at the same time. It was a tapping, but a rhythmic tapping, and it wasn’t coming from the kitchen windows. John was the first up the spiral stairs in the silo, with Steele and Kim so close on his heels that they stumbled into him when he stopped in the study doorway.

    “Ann!” cried John. “What on earth?” He stepped forward and Steele and Kim stepped to either side. Ann was in the bottom drawer of a metal four-drawer filing cabinet.

    “A… A… A…,” stuttered Ann.

    “Honey, how did you get in there?”

    “A… A… A…”

    “Here, let me help you. What can I do?”

    “A… A…”

    “Okay, never mind. I’m going to pull your right arm out and try to get your head from under the file hanger. There. Now let me get under your arms and lift. You try to straighten out your legs. All right. Here we go.”

    Slowly the woman untangled and John lifted her clear of the drawer.

    “She’s in shock,” said Steele. “Here, get her to the couch. Put her feet up on the arm. Get some blood in her brain and she’ll come around.” The detective grabbed an afghan from a rocking chair and covered the ashen woman.

    John looked at his wife, then at the filing cabinet drawer. There’s no way, he thought, even though it’s legal file width. There’s no way, but I saw it with my own eyes. Behind him, Kim edged closer to the cabinet and surreptitiously leaned down to see if the cabinet had a secret trap door. No, it was a normal filing cabinet.

    “Ann, honey, why were you in there? I mean, how on earth? What the heck happened?”

    “Ale… Ale… Ale…” stuttered Ann.

    “Ale? You want ale? We don’t have any ale. There might be a Bud Lite in the garage fridge, but we don’t have any ale. We don’t like it.”

    “Allie… Allie…,” Ann’s face turned red from the effort. “ALIENS!” she shrieked and covered her face with the afghan.

  19. “John, don’t talk to me like I’m that pinhead Martha. I saw them. With my own eyes, I saw them.”

    “I’m sorry, Sweetie, but listen to yourself. You’re an intelligent, educated woman and you’re telling me you saw aliens and were so scared you pretzled yourself into the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet? How on earth did you manage that?”

    “Well, it was easier than the top drawer! How do you think I got in there? I was scared! I saw them, John, and you know what adrenaline can do.”

    “Okay, look. You see that weather out there? Do you really think an alien spacecraft can fly in that weather?”

    If looks could kill, John and his coffin would already be on a bier.

    “Ann, do you remember the time we almost went nuts every night for weeks because we swore we heard cows mooing in the house? Remember? Then one night we were up late—I think you were critiquing 500-word essays—and we realized it was just the old kitchen water pump losing its prime. What I’m saying is this old farmhouse has its quirks. It has its creaks and groans and moos. Maybe what you saw was another phenomenon, maybe the farmhouse’s ET version.”

    Ann kept silent, ostensibly considering John’s explanations. Something didn’t ring true, but maybe her writer’s imagination was a bit over-active tonight. All she wanted was a hot toddy, a heating pad for her sore back, and lots of sleep.

    “Maybe you’re right, John. Maybe I’ve been staying up too late and it just got the better of me tonight. I think I’ll go to bed and try to get some sleep. Do you know where the heating pad is? My back apparently doesn’t like being folded the was it was.”

    “Yeah, I’ll get it for you. Go on up to bed.”

    “John, you know if what I saw weren’t aliens, there might be another explanation.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Ghosts.”

    John thought a long time before he said anything, and then, “Let’s talk about this after you get some sleep, okay?”

    “All right. Would you be a dear and make me a non-caffeine latte with lots of milk and a touch of brandy?”

    “Sure thing. I’ll be right up. Want some of that Pumpkin Spice creamer in it?”

    “Pumpkin spice? Good grief, no. Why would ask a foolish question like that?”

    “There’s some in the refrigerator. I figured it was yours.”

    “Not mine. You know I’m allergic to pumpkins and all kinds of squash.”

  20. GALELIKETHEWIND

    ( Appologies for being late on this. Was out of town)

    The 911 operator informed Ann’s husband that unless there was clear evidence of foul play, she could not send a response team to the house.
    “If she doesn’t show up in twenty-four hours, then you may contact the Missing Persons Bureau.” she said.
    John, opened his contacts on the cell, and touched the name of his dear friend, Sherlock Holmes.

    Holmes paused for a moment after spending just a few minutes in the silo.
    “Elementary, my dear friend,” he said “You missed this small smudge on the windowsill here. I saw immediately that it was Ann’s tiny footprint. And, if you had only taken the time to look straight up, you would have seen the irregular edges on this ceiling. That led me to the theory of a unique trap door. You see, Ann used this windowsill as a foot hold to climb up. Let’s take a look.” He stood on Ann’s side chair, and pushed gently on the wooden ceiling. “Hello, Ann.” said Holmes to his old friend “what is this room, eh? And who are those people huddled in the corner?”
    “His name is John, and that is his wife, Martha,” stuttered Ann, “I have been protecting them from a crazed group of amateur writers who keep putting them in harm’s way.” she looked down at her husband and said,”I’m sorry I worried you dear, but I do have a question for you. Why were you carrying your cellphone in your bathrobe pocket in the middle of the night?”

    • “Even more elementarier,” said Sherlock Holmes, whose grasp of superlative construction was shaky, to say the most, “I suspect that your husband secretly suffers from somnambulism, and that his iPhone is loaded with a SatNav app to enable him to find his way home. Am I correct, sir?”

  21. Insipid gray light filtered through the snow-covered windows of the old farmhouse in the early hours of dawn. John thanked Detective Mike Steele and Forensic Tech Jasper Kim for coming to his aid in finding his missing wife Ann, then he plopped down in his recliner in the cozy living room. At least they’d solved the mystery of the Pumpkin Spice creamer. Jasper was addicted to the stuff and, thinking he’d be here for many hours, had put a pint in the refrigerator when he arrived.

    Upstairs in the bedroom, his wife Ann was fast asleep, cuddling the heating pad that had started out on her aching back. That little splash of brandy did the trick, thought John. He still couldn’t figure out how a grown—petite, but grown—adult could wedge herself into the filing cabinet drawer. Worse, what had frightened her so much?

    They’d purchased this farmhouse several years ago and rebuilt it themselves, taking their time and watching many episodes of “This Old House.” Though they installed modern plumbing, they also left many of the antique features intact, like the hand water pump on the kitchen counter, though the chipped plate and broken glass count continued to increase when John or Ann momentarily forgot it was there.

    He thought about how the mooing sounds had puzzled and annoyed them for weeks until they discovered the sound came from air rushing into the pipe and past the pump’s leathers when it lost its prime, as it did every night. Once he replaced the leathers, the mooing stopped.

    The silo, as they called it, was actually the farm’s water house where another hand pump had brought water from a sand point and deposited it in a holding tank. They’d modernized that, installing an electric submersible pump and a new pressure tank. The silo was attached to the farmhouse, an unusual feature even long ago, and they’d remodeled it to include it in their home floor plan.

    Ann was taken by the silo and eventually a library/study was built onto the third story. It was there she’d been working last night when she “disappeared.”

    John had built a small fire in the stone fireplace after the detective and tech had gone, and its snapping and soft warmth was welcome after the entire house had become chilly because of the open window in the silo’s bathroom.

    “Window!” said John. “I forgot to close up the window.” He went to the pantry and found a large piece of cardboard and a roll of duct tape, then climbed the spiral staircase to the top. The higher he got, the warmer it was, he realized. “That old fireplace really gives off the heat,” he muttered.

    Guess this is a good time to replace that old window, he thought. First I could never get it to open, and now it won’t close.

    But when John stepped into the bathroom, the window was closed. He stared at it for a minute, then stepped closer and tried to raise it. It wouldn’t budge.

    “Aliens or ghosts?” he said. “Aliens or ghosts?”

  22. Ann pretended to be asleep when John last checked on her. She had thinking to do, and she needed to be alone to do it. She pulled the heating pad to her chest and clutched it tightly. She’d much rather be clutching John, but the look on his face when she’d suggested that ghosts might be what had frightened her told her it was best to contemplate that subject by herself.

    The adrenaline rush had long since worn off and now she was exhausted. Her body ached, every inch of it, from being in the filing cabinet drawer. Good thing I do yoga every day, she thought, or I’d really be a wreck.

    Her mind wandered back to before the incident. She’d been in her study, reading posts at her blog. It was her secret delight, a place to escape the students at her teaching site who were struggling with descriptive writing. When she needed a break, she’d switch over to the blog and have fun along with those who posted there. She tried but couldn’t remember what she was reading when she realized that her study was very, very cold.

    Ann was no neophyte in the world of the supernatural and paranormal. She’d seen “The Sixth Sense” and “The Green Mile”, and watched Patricia Arquette on “Medium.” Every so often—when John wasn’t home—she caught that ghost hunter series on The Travel Channel. She’d read books on the subject, a little Steven King, and though she was hesitant to admit it, had a few spooky, inexplicable experiences of her own in the past.

    Though she viewed all of it with a healthy skepticism and curiosity, she admitted to herself that some things could not be explained. Like that bathroom window, she thought. John had tried and tried to open it, without success, so when she realized how cold her study had become near midnight last night, she first checked the thermostat, then put her hand on the electric baseboard heater, and jerked it away. The heater was hot, but why was the room so cold?

    She looked around. The windows in the study were closed against the storm. She wandered out onto the staircase landing. Even colder here. Okay, an internal voice insisted, doesn’t the temperature inexplicably plummet preceding a paranormal event? She shivered, but not from the cold.

    She pushed the bathroom door open wide and saw the open window. “What the heck?” she said, and crossed the room to shut the window. It wouldn’t move. It seemed to be as sealed open as it previously had been sealed shut.

    She felt BBs of hail bouncing around her feet on the tile floor, blown through the window by gale force winds. She tried to figure out how many rolled up bath towels it would take to seal the window opening, then turned to go downstairs and gather every towel in the house. She stepped onto the landing and that’s when it happened.

    Ann stuffed her face beneath the quilt and shuddered. She took a few deep breaths and then forced herself to remember. She was on the landing and….

    A battery of klieg lights flashed on behind her, casting her shadow before her in stark black and white. In the perfect shadow, she could make out her slipper socks, yoga pants, Packers sweatshirt, and the pencil she had stuck in her hair.

    And then she noticed the pencil seemed to be out of proportion. It also seemed to be growing.

    She reached her hand slowly towards the pencil. Slowly, slowly, slowly. She watched the shadow of her hand reach for the huge pencil and close around it.

    “Yikes!!!” The pencil was soft like….like flesh. Cold flesh. And it squirmed beneath her fingers.

    Ann yanked her hand off the thing and ran into the study.

    The next thing she remembered was John prying her from the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

  23. Clearly you’re on a roll here, Gullie. I think you need to keep this as the beginning of a longer piece and see where it wants to go. It’s turning into a ghost story, but one that has very goofy characters in it! I think you ought to let yourself make an appearance at some point!

  24. I love these story prompts. For me they’re more fun than the quickies, if you will. It’s fun exploring the plot from the view of different characters, as well as practicing how to move the story along through dialogue. Maybe someday I’ll apply all I’m practicing to my novel-in-sporadic-progress. These prompts turn into something more than playing. Plotting a storyline, creating characters, and seeing what these characters do when given free rein, it become a real learning experience. Not that I have the slightest idea where all this is going, you understand.

    BTW, how’s your back?

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