100/100 Update

Still trundling along on the 100 short stories in 100 days. There are a couple of people who have expressed interest in doing this along with me. You can jump in anytime! I am planning to continue the challenge all through 2022. So I will be doing 365 short stories in 2022. Anyone who wants to jump on the bandwagon, welcome!

My only advice is to have fun with it! I have been having a blast with it. I make sure I get my story done first thing too. I’m one of those really crazy people who get up super early and write before everyone else is awake. So I usually hit my goals pretty early in the day. But always remember that writing is supposed to be fun. Make it play!

And if you want to join in on the challenge, don’t worry about what day it is, just start and start your count from there. Good luck!

Since other people want to join in, I will try to post about this a little more often (once a week, maybe?) so that people can share in the comments if they would like.

I’ve also added a “Short Story a Day” category, to make finding these particular posts a little easier.

Free Fiction Friday – The Sea Journal


THE SEA JOURNAL

by Judy Lunsford

The cold wind snapped at Della’s face like a whip. She crossed her arms tighter across her chest, trying to block the wind chill from her torso. The incessant wind blew her long brown hair across her face. She didn’t dare uncross her arms to move it.  Her hair covered her eyes and mouth and got stuck in her eyelashes.

She jerked her head to move her hair, but the cold wind found its way down around her neck and to her shoulders. She hunched down again, bearing against the November wind.

The tourists were gone. She hid away as much as possible during the summer months, when hordes and hordes of vacationers invaded the town. Thousands of people crowded the narrow streets of her little beachside town. Locals didn’t bother to drive in town during the summer. It took forever in the heavy tourist traffic to travel from one end of the tiny town to the other, down the main road of Hemlock Street. The population in the winter was under 2000, but in the summer tens of thousands of people visit for their beach vacation.

This afternoon, the beach was empty. The roar of the waves once again soothed Della’s mind and heart, no matter how bitter cold. The smell of the salt in the air and faint scent of fish that always calmed her and made her feel like everything was safe and normal.

She came down to the beach every day. To stare at the grey water and the gnashing waves as they crashed and rolled their foamy white churn towards the sandy beach.

It was like a daily dose of medicine that she couldn’t get in the summer months. She never went to the beach in the summer. It was too full of tourists and noise.

Haystack Rock towered in front of her. The puffins were nowhere in sight on a morning like this, gone for the winter.

A storm was coming, and Della savored the taste of the salt air before it hit. 

She wandered closer to the monolith ahead of her. The tide was out and the tide pools were usually full of starfish, crabs, and other interesting sea creatures. She was wearing her blue and white polka dot rain boots to protect her feet from the wet and the cold. She stopped short because her boots didn’t have the traction needed to explore some of the wet and slimy areas that housed the tide pools. She stood at the edge of the first one and peered over them with a cursory glance.

Farther in the rocky terrain, she could see something floating in one of the tide pools. It wasn’t a natural thing. It definitely looked man-made.

She grumbled to herself as she sloshed her way out over the slippery and jagged rocks and small islands of sand and tried her best not to slip and fall into the icy water in the tide pools. At one point, she had to uncross her arms to keep her balance, exposing herself to the bitter chill of the wind.

When she got to the object that was floating, she saw that it was a small book floating at the top of a pool, near the edge. It was easy enough for her to lean over and snatch it out of the water. It was dripping wet with the cold salt water and the pages looked like they were stained with blues and greens. 

She shook it off to get the excess water off of it and then looked at it more closely. The pages were blank.

It was a pretty book with faded blues and greens staining the pages that looked like watercolors. She decided to keep it and let it dry out and see what she could do with it.

She figured it was better to reuse something than to chuck it in the trash, and now it was one less thing littering the beautiful tide pools on the beach.

Della headed home, holding the still dripping book at her side as she walked. She felt slightly warmer as she crossed Hemlock, out of the direct blast of the November wind on the beach. The tall trees towered over her to block the wind and help keep her warm.

When she got home, she kicked off her boots and brought the little book inside and put it and her wet boots on the floor near the wood stove to dry. The woodstove stood on a tile area that was large enough to put things on that she needed to dry, as long as she kept an eye on them so that they didn’t get too hot or catch fire. She placed the book so that it stood up on its pages, hoping that it would allow the pages to dry away from one another.

She savored the heat from the fire inside the stove and stood there for a few minutes, letting the chill dry out of her bones.

Della had left too much wood in the wood stove this morning, so the house was more than warm enough. She always had trouble gauging how much wood to put in when stoking the fire. She usually put in more than necessary, causing her to have to go upstairs to where the living area and kitchen was and open all of the windows to let some of the heat out.

Which is what she did. 

Della tromped up the stairs in her red socks and took off her jacket and scarf as she went. She went to the front windows and threw them open, letting the heat from the house meet the cold air from outside.

She loved winter. Not just because the tourists were gone. But because this time of year, when the trees had lost their leaves, she had an ocean view on her second floor out her dining nook window.

In the summer, the view was blocked by lush green trees, only occasionally giving her a peak of the glistening ocean in the summer sun.

But in the winter, she could see the grey ocean under the cloudy skies daily through the skeletons of the naked trees.

She loved February best. Mostly because there were always two weeks in February that felt almost like summer. The sky was a gorgeous blue, the ocean sparkled in the sun like a carpet of diamonds, and the trees were still bare enough for her to see it from her window.

But November was good too. She loved the winter holidays in a small town. Even though she mostly stayed in and kept to herself.

She was still surprised about how much the people in town knew about her, even though she was an introvert who didn’t go in for small talk much. She had only lived in town for a little over two years, but she was still considered an outsider by most of the people who were born and raised in the small town. But that didn’t stop them from gossiping.

Della had moved into the house after her divorce. She had always wanted to have a place near the beach, so she used her half of the divorce settlement to buy a place of her own. A place that was finally near the ocean. It was situated two blocks west from the beach, and to make things even better, it was also two blocks east of a forest. Miles and miles of forest that she wandered through almost as often as she wandered down to the beach.

Della made a snack and sat down at her tiny little table in her dining nook and watched the ocean through her window. When she was finished, she decided to go back downstairs to see how the little book was doing.

She moved her polka-dot boots farther from the woodstove, as they were now bone dry.

But when she reached for the little book, it was still soaking wet.

Della frowned at the book and picked it up. It was still dripping with sea water and wasn’t any drier than when she had set it down near the woodstove. There wasn’t even a puddle on the floor where it sat. 

The room was almost stiflingly hot. Della set the book back down on the floor and went over to the front windows and threw them open to let out more heat. She was sweating and felt like she was in an oven. 

She looked over at her dry polka-dot boots and then back at the sopping wet book on the floor. She couldn’t understand how the book could possibly be so wet in the dry heat of the woodstove.

She picked up the book again and felt the spine. She had hoped that it would prove dryer than the rest of the book since it was the highest point. Maybe the water had just been draining downward.

But the spine proved to be just as wet as the rest of the little book.

She flipped through the pages again, trying to decide if it was just a lost cause. But the pages were so pretty. The blues and greens were in soft hues and stained the pages in random patterns that looked like someone had hand colored each page with watercolors. 

She set the book back down again and hoped it would dry out soon.

She went back upstairs and forgot about the little book as she went about her day.

***

The next morning, Della was out for her walk on the beach once again. When she got closer to the monolith that dominated the beach, she noticed a woman over by the tide pools. She looked like she was searching for something.

Della pulled her coat and scarf closer around herself and maintained her distance from the woman.

Della stood and let the cold wind and the salty smell of the ocean wake her up. She loved having cold mornings on the beach to wake her up more than she loved coffee, which was brewing at home as she stood in the sand. Her polka-dot boots did little to keep her feet warm, but they did keep her dry.

While Della was watching the waves, she didn’t notice that the woman over at the tide pools had seen her and was heading her way. When the woman was close, Della finally tore her eyes away from the grey churning sea to the woman approaching her.

She was dressed totally inappropriately for being on the beach in the winter. She wore a seafoam green dress that seemed flimsy and summery. She wore no shoes and no jacket. Her long blonde hair reached almost down to her waist and whipped across her in the wind and flew out past her like a flag flapping in a storm.

“Aren’t you cold?” Della asked when the woman got close enough.

“Did you see a book floating out in the tide pools?” the woman asked, ignoring Della’s question.

The woman made no motion to indicate that she was cold. Her arms were down at her sides and she seemed indifferent to the frigid wind.

“Yesterday,” Della nodded. “A blank journal.”

“You have it?’ the woman asked. She seemed suddenly very happy and anxious.

“Not with me,” Della said. “It’s at my house.”

“It’s very important that I get it back,” the woman said.

“Sure,” Della shrugged. “I can go get it for you. But it was blank.”

“Blank?” the woman sounded surprised. “Oh yes, it was blank. But it’s sentimental.”

“Okay,” Della said. “If you wait here, I’ll be right back. Do you want me to bring you a jacket?”

The woman looked at her quizzically. “No,” she shrugged. “But thank you.”

“I’ll just be a few minutes,” Della turned and walked towards home.

***

The whole walk home, Della debated in her mind about the woman. Should she have asked her back to her house with her? Should she get her a jacket anyway? Why did the woman give her the creeps? And why had the woman seemed surprised when she mentioned that it was blank?

Della walked up her driveway and around to the side door that let her in near the woodstove. When she turned the corner, there was a man standing at her side door, trying to break in. He was wearing blue surfer shorts and a green t-shirt. He was barefoot and had very long dark hair.

Della stopped in horror as she tried to decide what to do. Part of her was urging her feet to run, but Della was so scared, she felt like she couldn’t move.

“Hey!” she yelled.

The man suddenly stopped and turned to look at Della. His eyes were grey like the ocean and he had a long beard that reached almost to his belt. 

Without a word, he rushed at Della and pushed past her to flee back down the driveway.

Della couldn’t react quickly enough, and so the man slammed into her, shoving her to the ground.

Della felt a sharp pain in her arm as the man slammed into her. He had scratched her, right through her jacket, leaving a gash where the cloth was torn all the way to her skin and she could already see the blood starting to flow.

The man ran off towards the road as Della staggered to her feet. She covered the gash in her arm with her scarf and held it there while she tried to unlock her door.

Her hands were shaking, but she was finally able to get the key in the lock and open the door. 

Once inside, she shut the door and locked it behind her and leaned against the closed door.

She stood in the hot doorway, just feet from the woodstove, trying to catch her breath. She glanced down at the little book that was still on the floor next to the woodstove. It still looked wet.

She tied her scarf around her arm and went over and picked up the little book. 

It was still soaking wet. Which was impossible after spending the night just a few feet from the woodstove.

This time, as she flipped through the pages, she saw something different. 

There were markings on the pages. On almost every page. She couldn’t identify the language, but it definitely resembled writing.

Forgetting about the pain in her arm, and the man who tried to break into her house, she took the book and headed back to the beach to talk to the woman that she hoped would still be there when she returned.

Della walked quickly down the street, this time, the wind and the cold didn’t seem to bother her. Even with a gaping hole in her jacket sleeve.

She reached the dune that she had to get over to reach the beach and she went quickly up it. When she reached the top, the place where she normally stopped to take in the view, she looked for the woman and headed straight towards her.

“I have it,” Della said, holding it up.

The woman looked relieved.

Della walked towards the woman and stopped a few yards from her.

“Why didn’t it dry out?” Della asked.

The woman looked at Della’s arm with the scarf wrapped and tied around it.

“What happened to your arm?” the woman asked.

“There’s words on the page now,” Della said, flipping through the book. “They weren’t there before.”

The woman started looking around in a panic, “What happened to your arm?” she repeated.

“There was a man,” Della said. “He was trying to break into my house.”

“Did he scratch you?” the woman asked.

Della looked at her arm, “Yes. But I don’t think it’s too bad.”

The woman walked up to Della.

“May I?” she pointed at the scarf.

“Uh, sure,” Della said, not sure at all.

The woman unwrapped Della’s scarf from around her arm and looked through the gash in the jacket at Della’s wound.

She frowned and said, “You’re going to die.”

“What?” Della pulled her arm away from the woman.

“You were wounded by a finfolk,” she said. “It is fatal to humans.”

“What do you mean?” Della looked at her arm. “It’s not that bad.”

The woman shook her head, “It doesn’t have to be.”

“Why was he at my house?” Della demanded.

“Because you took my book home,” she said. “He was trying to get it back.”

“I thought it was yours,” Della said.

“It is,” the woman said. “But others would love to get their hands on my journal.”

“This is your journal?” Della held it up to the woman.

She nodded.

“What language is it written in?” Della asked.

“It’s an ancient finfolk language,” she said. “My name is Nerissa, and my father is the King of the Finfolk.”

“You’re a princess?” Della asked.

Nerissa nodded again. “I’m so sorry you are going to die. It’s my fault.”

Della was about to object when the world started to seem like it was swirling around her. She fell to her knees and pitched forward onto her hands.

The sand was so close to her face that she could see the pebbles and cigarette butts that were buried in the sand. A tiny white seashell was next to her thumb. It was the sort of thing that under other circumstances, she would’ve picked up. But today, she was dying and she just stared at that sea shell as if it might be the answer to everything.

“Is there a cure?” Della gasped.

Nerissa paused for a moment before saying, “Yes.”

“What is it?” Della asked.

“You become one of us,” Narissa said. “But only few are chosen.”

“I brought you your book back,” Della said. “I could’ve lied and said I didn’t have it. But I brought it back to you.”

Della held up the journal to Narissa. “I brought it to you, no strings attached. Please help me.”

Narissa hesitated, “I can’t.”

“Why not?” Della asked.

It was getting harder for Della to breathe. She started gasping for air.

“Please,” Della begged.

Narissa knelt down beside Della, “You will have to kill the finfolk that did this to you.”

Della looked up at Narissa. “What?”

“The finfolk that scratched you,” she said. “You must kill him. Only then can you take his place.”

“Why?” Della asked. “I can’t kill someone.”

“That is the way it is,” Narissa said. “If I heal you, it will only be temporary. In order for it to be permanent, you must kill the one who poisoned you, and you take his place in the finfolk.”

“I can’t kill someone,” Della said again. 

“Then I can’t save you,” Narissa said.

Della could feel her heart beginning to slow.

“Please,” Della said. “I’ll do it. I’ll do anything.”

“Tell me,” Narissa said. “What did he look like?”

Della described the man who was trying to break into her house.

Narissa stared at Della for a moment, with a look of shock on her face.

“That was my brother,” Narissa said.

Della gasped horribly, with what felt like water filling her throat. She knew she was done. She knew that her life was about to end.

Narissa placed her hands on the wound on Della’s arm. Della could feel the strength coming back to her. Her heart started to beat normally. The pain in her arm subsided.

Della stood up, her limbs still shaking horribly. She looked at Narissa.

Narissa no longer looked like the nice woman she had encountered on the beach. Her eyes flashed with what looked like lightning and she had no whites in her eyes.

“Why did you heal me?” Della asked.

“My brother is a traitor,” Narissa said. “But I am forbidden to touch him, as he is forbidden to touch me.”

“So, you want me to kill him?” Della said.

Narissa looked at Della. “Yes, you kill him or you die.”

“What happens after I kill him?” Della asked.

“You become one of us,” Narissa said. “You live in the sea. I’ll show you everything. You will be my friend.”

Della stood and looked out over the ocean and took a deep breath of the salt air. It calmed her nerves once again, as it always did.

She looked back at Narissa and said, “So how do you kill a finfolk?”


The Sea Journal
Copyright © 2021 by Judy Lunsford


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Health Update

So Amos found a new lump for me. He was nosing at my shoulder and bumping a spot just below my collar bone with his nose. There was a tiny lump there on Friday. It had gotten bigger by Monday. So I called the cancer center on Monday and they scheduled me to come in on Tuesday morning. 

The physician’s assistant checked me and she said she didn’t think it was anything, but she was going to send me in for an ultrasound anyway. I would have believed that she wasn’t concerned, except for the fact that they scheduled the ultrasound for right away and told me to go straight over.

They took me before my newly scheduled “appointment” (which I greatly appreciated, so I didn’t have to wait around all day.) And over the following hour, I had two separate ultrasounds and a mammogram.

Still totally not convinced when they say they’re “not overly concerned.” Then they sent me in to and see another doctor who explained that I needed to have a biopsy. The doctor said that the biopsy is routine because I have a “history of cancer” and the lump is new and unidentifiable at the moment. So I sat with a scheduler and got that handled. I will update more after the biopsy, and when I have more information.

But for now. I am trying not to freak out. And I am thanking Amos over and over for pointing this out to me.

Recommendations from November 2021

I very rarely reread books. I just have too many things in my TBR pile. But every once in a while, I do reread something. But it has to be an absolute favorite.

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint is one of those rare books I have gone back to reread. It was even better than it was the first time. I LOVE THIS BOOK. The Blue Girl, to me, is a darn near perfect novel.

Pulphouse is a magazine, but I have been reading more short stories lately (gee, I wonder why?) A couple of the stories in this issue had me laughing so hard that once I cried, and once I almost fell off the bed. Good stuff in this issue.

Meet me in the Moon Room is a collection of short stories by Ray Vukcevich. This dude is off the wall, but I love his stuff! I haven’t yet finished the book, but OMGosh, it is crazy good so far.