Sunday, 29 September 2013

500 Word Challenge: 'The Family Land' and 'Five Years Dead'

To make up for the lack of 500 Word postings, I'm posting two today. I should be back on track at least for the rest of the week, but then my vacation is coming up so I'll have to go on another break from it. Not to say I won't be writing while I'm on vacation (which I'll explain in another post), but it will be more background, plot and conception for National Writing Month, than anything else. I have no intention of starting early, but I don't want to fly in unprepared. That means planning and decision-making. But Challenges come first...

This first challenge was: Set during a business meeting. A spirit is in the middle. Must involve a pile of hay.

- - -

    Some people just can’t take a hint.
    I told them I wasn’t interested in selling my family’s farm. It had been here for generators, but the people from Big Value Mart kept sending real estate agents to swindle me out of the land so they could build a new store to rival the Supermart twenty blocks away.
    So here I was again, giving another agent a tour of the property before he offered me a price.
    “I’m not sure selling this property is a good idea, Mr. Hennessy,” I told the man following me into the shambling stable. “It has a curse on it.”
    As a rational man, Mr. Hennessy didn’t believe me. He just wandered around the stable, probably wondering how it was still standing.
    “Is that so, Mr. Arnaldo?” he said, more interested in keeping his five hundred dollar shoes clean.
    “Yup,” I replied. “Has been for the last two hundred years.”
    “Cursed how?”
    “After my great, great, great grandfather died, a banker bought it and kicked my family out. Least until Jeremiah scared him stiff and made him give it back. He’s determined to have it stay with my family.”
    Mr. Hennessy gave me a sour look. “You can’t honestly expect me to believe that.”
    I shrugged, kicking over the hay bale next to me into the closest pen. The one Jeremiah was said to have collapsed and died on.
    “I’m not expecting you to believe me,” I admitted. “But I figured you’d want to talk to the person who still has some sway over what happens to my family’s land.”
    I stepped back and waited. “You can come out now, Jeremiah,” I said.
    Didn’t have to wait long.
    The lanterns flickered out completely. Mr. Hennessy looked around quickly, probably wondering where the sudden, chilly wind had come from on the middle of a humid, July night. He turned around again and looked at the pile of hay across from me.
    A pale, steely blue fog had begun to filter up from it like smoke. The fog thickened and gathered as it rose, slowly forming the shape of a man in a white shirt, suspenders, and a straw hat. I smiled at him.
    “Good to see you, Jeremiah,” I said. “Mr. Hennessy here wants to ask you about selling the farm,” I told him as I nodded towards the gaping real estate agent behind him.
    Jeremiah’s glazed, literally dead eyes panned over to Mr. Hennessy, who started to tremble as the rapidly angering ghost looked at him.
    “I...” he tried. Points for effort. “I... My client... Your land...”
    Jeremiah shrieked like a banshee. It sounded like a fork and knife scratching along a plate, making me cover my ears. Mr. Hennessy jumped with surprise then turned and raced out of the stable. Smart man.
    Jeremiah turned to face me, smiling. I lowered my hands from my ears, grabbing the pitchfork to remake the hay pile and put him to rest again.
    “Same time next week?” I grinned.

- - -

The second challenge was: The story ends in a jungle. The story takes place five years in the past. During the story, an old friend shows up. The story must have a vampire at the end. A character elopes.

- - -

    “Where do you want to be in five years?”
    I almost laughed at her. I wondered if the bitch remembered asking me that already. Probably. Five years passes in the blink of an eye to a vampire. It might be why she brought me back to the rainforest, since we hadn’t been as close as newlyweds of five years should be.
    I thought about the trip I’d taken five years ago, when I’d been stupid and hopelessly in love...

    Maria Llorona was perfect. Tall, gold-skinned, supermodel body, seductive dark eyes. A woman of mystery and desire. The woman who would become my wife.
    We’d met only a few nights before, but she told me we were meant for each other, and that she wanted to spend eternity with me. In my excitement, I’d called my best friend Oscar to tell him the good news. Oscar was a little too into monsters, since he told me that Maria was a vampire.
    He went on a rant about how she was a vampiric spirit that kidnapped children who strayed from their parents, killed anyone who found her weeping, blah blah blah. He warned me to stay away from her, but I didn’t listen because I loved Maria.
    “Where do you want to be in five years?” she asked the night we wed.
    “With you,” I said, starstruck.
    We eloped just outside the Amazon. Maria wanted seclusion, and I wanted Maria to be happy. She always carried a sadness with her, but now that we were married, I was determined to change that.
    Funny thing, though. She ended up changing me.
    My first clue should’ve been that she wanted to consummate our marriage in the rainforest. Strange and very dangerous, but also exciting and romantic. The dictionary doesn’t have a word for how great the sex was.
    It also doesn’t have a word for the excruciating pain I was in when she tore out my throat with her teeth.
    Maria stayed with me as I died and was reborn underground the next night. I exploded at her with all the force of a nuclear blast. I left her, letting her weep alone in the dark.
    Oscar was at the hotel when I got back. He’d tracked me down and took me home, helping me survive as a fresh vampire. He kept me from going back to Maria, despite the magic pull I felt being bound to her.
    Five years passed before I gave in. I couldn’t help it, no matter how hard I tried. I belonged to her.

    “Where do you want to be in five years?” she asked.
    Maria looked just as beautiful as she had five years ago when she betrayed me. I remembered why I loved her. And why I hated her.
    “Free of you,” I said.
    Maria started to weep. “I just wanted you to love me.”
    Back then, I would have wanted to hold her. Not anymore.
    “You killed me,” I said. “That’s enough for a divorce.”

- - -

The first story was one I had a little trouble with. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do at first, but I kept going back to the same idea and refining it until I knew I got it right. The same with the second story, which is a light play on one of my favorite ghost stories, the legend of La Llorona, the Weeping Woman.

So there we are! Tomorrow I'll post another Challenge. Also, you may have noticed that I've added links to authors I read on the right of the page if you're interested in checking them out (hint hint, do it).


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