Salvation’s Promise

It was right at a year ago that a story of mine was published in Splickety. I believe this was the second story I had published with them. The rights to the story reverted back to me after the contract time, so I thought I would publish it here.  I hope to take up blogging again more regularly when life slows down.  Which might not take place soon, but in the meantime enjoy this story.  If you have never read Splickety, you might look them up. Some of the best flash fiction you will ever read.

Salvation’s Promise

“Grass Head, get back to work, useless one.”

Janie’s Cheyenne mistress called her Grass Head because her hair was the color of dried grass. She’d been the woman’s slave for two years. Long enough to learn the language, but not long enough to forget her name was Janie—not long enough to accept her circumstances.

She turned her attention back to scraping a buffalo hide and prayed God would let her die, or at least show her His plan. The hide’s smell made her gag. A sharp slap bloodied her lip, and put her back to work.

A war party returned to the small circle of tents in the grassy valley. A warrior showed his prize, a stallion still saddled with cavalry tack. But the frightened horse reared back, stomping up a cloud of dust.

Villagers gathered to stare at the animal. The brave reached out to steady the horse but received a bite. The stallion slipped free and turned tight circles. Its kick splintered a pole supporting a teepee. The spectators backed off, but not Janie.

She stepped inside the circle of onlookers. The stallion’s brown eyes locked onto her. Janie could feel him pleading with her, begging without words, to the only kindred heart in the camp.

The horse stilled. Janie reached out and gently touched his muzzle. The stallion didn’t bite or pull away. Instead, he sniffed her arm, then backed up, drawing Janie toward the center of the clearing.

“Grass Head, stupid girl.”

The familiar scolding broke Janie’s trance, and she shrunk back. The stallion positioned himself between Janie and her owner, hiding the cruel woman from Janie’s view. His gentle nuzzle reassured her. Janie understood; the stallion loved her. They shared the bonds of loss and bitter treatment.

He swung the reins into her hand, and she obeyed. She hadn’t ridden in a long time, but with his help, she mounted.

“Grass Head, get down, you ugly child.”

Janie looked longingly to the grasslands outside the camp. The horse responded to her feelings, and effortlessly cleared a path through the crowd.

As they rode away, Janie leaned down and hugged his neck. She was certain he understood her pain, and she began to understand and share his. His army training had been harrowing. Learning to endure gunfire and the bloody sights of the battlefield had been difficult.

They galloped over the golden foothills of early fall, speeding and turning and exploring at Janie’s whim. She dismounted by an old oak tree, knowing what would happen next. The braves would come looking. They would return her to her mistress and the stallion to its captor. But her parents had died in the raid. No one would welcome her back to civilization.

She searched the hills for a solution. Her eyes fell on a rock face dropping hundreds of feet. She formed a plan to end their shared misery. He understood and encouraged her to mount. They worked their way up the hills, to the top of the cliff, and stared down. Each longed for relief. She decided and the horse pulled around, got a running start toward the cliff, and then for the first time, disobeyed her.

He was willing to die; he wasn’t willing to carry her with him. She pleaded. He refused. He loved her too much to do this. She realized her selfishness. She had only thought of herself and not of the horse that loved her, the horse she loved. Then the stallion begged her to dismount so he could go over alone. She refused. And slowly they negotiated a compromise.

He would live for her sake, and she would live for his. It was a sacrifice each one would make for the other. Living would take courage, but they would each choose it. Returning to the village, she would take her punishment from her mistress, and the stallion would serve its new owner.

“What will you name him?” she asked the brave as she returned his pacified horse.

“Suicide’s Ride,” he said. “Or do you have better?”

“Salvation’s Promise.”

The brave answered with an admiring glance, and the stallion nodded and whinnied his approval.

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Concerts: Pain and Grace

“The first time you hear the screams is always the hardest; it gets easier to ignore them with time.”

We used these lies to try and console each other, and we said these words to the few visitors who came to our house. None of them ever returned. The ear-splitting shrieks were too much for children our age to endure.

But it was alright, because we came to dislike having company. You see, we had to ignore the sounds, since we were there all the time. After a while your brain doesn’t register the cries, even though your ears still hear them. You can’t help but hear them. When a visitor lifted their head to listen, it called our attention to the sound again. It would remind us of the terrible nature of where we lived. So maybe we were better off without visitors.

I was seven when we moved into that shack. My brother was an older, wiser ten. He had seen more of the world, and he knew of what was happening on the other side of that tall fence. But our mother forbade him to speak of it to me. She didn’t want me to know what the noises made plain enough. What was she protecting? My innocence? My sanity?

So every night we listened to the concert. The clatter of machinery formed the base notes. Shrieks of terror mixed with—so much more—formed the tenor. We could never quite picture what it was in between, that formed the alto in the nightly concerts of our pain and injustice.

It was a horrible thing to experience as a child, but the other locations we might have afforded were even worse. That was the reality our mother faced. She was the one who had to work to pay the rent. We would live here, where the rent was low, because no one else wanted to live, under the shadow of the bedlam, trying to sleep through the cacophony.

Five years later I could no longer claim apathy or innocence to what was taking place. I had peeked through holes in the fence. I had asked a million questions of those who had ventured where I could not. My sense of injustice was boiling over.

It was about that time that a man began coming round, paying attention to momma. The year I turned fourteen, they married and we moved away from there.

We no longer live in poverty. Our new home is large, safe, and quiet. At first we thought we would never hear those sounds again.

Our new daddy bought us season tickets. We went to the amusement park at least once a week. We found the alto voices, which had been so indistinguishable from the shack, were barkers on the midway. We felt the rumble of the bass as the machines lifted us up, and we threw our voices into the tenor parts of the nightly concert, on the way down.

For us, it was no longer a concert of hopelessness, but of fulfilled dreams.

From the top of the Ferris wheel I could see they were tearing down the old shack.

I was glad to see it go.

I was sad to see it go.

I want to always remember what it was like before. Before we were able to add our voices to the concerts of grace.

FlashDogs: Time

TodaFlashDogs Time covery the third FlashDogs anthology Time, is being released. I have three stories in this volume, which I hope will cause you to want to take a look. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook from FlashDogs: Time on Amazon.

This entire volume is made up of flash fiction. The challenge of flash fiction is that it requires the entire story: plot, characterization, world building to occur in less than 1000 words. It sounds like a rather extreme limitation, but when the right story is crafted by a skilled writer, it is the perfect way to have some creative, light fiction without devoting the time necessary for reading full length books and novels.

All the proceeds of this volume will go to a selected literacy related charity.

Daniel Jefferson in King Hazardous’s Court

Daniel Jefferson was one of the captives taken from Salem 7 when Babel conquered the gamma sector of space.

Many of his compatriots hated their captors, but he held no anger. He had been raised in the royal palace, given the best of education, food, and comforts. He simply accepted his circumstances as what was.

Found to be intelligent and wise, he had been given every advantage, including free access to any documents or educational materials. They were grooming him to be an advisor to King Hazardous. He purposefully looked up the sacred Scriptures of his homeland, and he found them inspired.

Daniel learned that it was the God of his forefathers that had given him the wisdom. He learned to deeply love and trust God.

He also learned to fear his king. He had watched the group of advisors shrink. Many were executed for bad advice or upsetting the king. One was launched into open space without a pressure suit because he wore a color that displeased the king.

Daniel was not looking forward to the day he would begin his service, but God reassured him, telling him there was a reason why he had been placed there.

The royal armada was driven deeper into uncharted space as the king sought new peoples to conquer. Months without any new discoveries had made the king edgy. He wanted his advisors to show him which way to turn, and when they failed they were dispatched and Daniel was in the group of replacements.

God told Daniel He was about to judge the king. It would start when Daniel proclaimed the kings impending defeat and death.

When asked for counsel some in the group stepped back. Others stood silent. Daniel took a deep breath, stepped forward, and started to speak.

 

I wrote this story a while back but chose to put it here for “Fun Friday”.  Can you recognize the story?  I have been writing considerably less lately, but as always hope to get back to it again. 

King David Chambers Anchor Point

King David Chamber’s Anchor to Faithfulness

David Chambers was the youngest son of a powerful family. His father, Jesse Chambers, was known all over the quadrant, and his brothers were all well respected. None of this mattered to David because he felt disrespected in his own household. His brothers ran his father’s business ventures, but he was left to run errands and tend to the farms on their home world.

His family never knew that in the process he had fought back pirates, driven off rustlers and tamed numerous labor disputes. David never realized God was preparing him for more, much more. David used this time and his loneliness to draw near to God. He sang praises and wrote many new songs.

His quadrant was guided by a religious leader named Samuel Masters. Even though the Chambers family was well known, they didn’t expect a visit from this powerful leader. Neither did they expect the news that someone in the family was chosen by God. Each of the boys from the oldest to the youngest was brought before Samuel, who rejected them one by one.

Finally someone thought to send for David, whom Samuel anointed. He told David he would be the next king, but that he should be patient, because God was not done preparing him yet. Samuel went about his duties, David returned to the fields, and David’s family assumed Samuel had taken leave of his senses. After all, they already had a king, Saul Longfellow.

Shortly after this, the Chambers family was surprised again. A representative from the king came for David. He asked for the young man to come and assist in the court. Somehow the king had learned about David’s music.

The Chambers family thought it was a lucky break. They didn’t see God at work in the details. The King was so taken with David’s abilities that he used him in the court for music, but also acquired his help as a cabin boy on the defensive fleet’s flagship, The Covenantia. David remembered Samuel’s words and trusted God’s promise.

During this time David was always moving. He would run home and maintain his family responsibilities, then he would run to the king’s court to play, and then still other times he would run out to the battlefields where aliens from the Philistine Sector would invade their space. It was on one of these trips to the battlefield that David found the king’s fleet being held at bay by one massive Battleship named The Goliath.

This ship was the largest ever recorded in human history. It’s weapons were sophisticated, powerful, and numerous. It was twice the size of The Covenantia. This ship stood in the void between the two armies daring any captain to come forward and challenge him, but no one dared. Even King Saul Longfellow failed to answer the challenge.

David approached the king and asked permission to go fight. At first he was rebuffed, but eventually Saul offered him the Flagship to take into battle. David had another plan. He took is normal travel ship.

The captain of The Goliath mocked him severely, but David didn’t care. He just taunted back and flew up to within the range of his main weapon. It was tiny by comparison to the guns on The Goliath. David used it to get off a single shot. The crew ignored it expecting it to bounce harmlessly off the shielding.

One of the many gunners near The Goliath’s bridge, thought he would become a hero by destroying David’s ship. So he opened a portal in the shield to allow himself a shot. David’s round slipped through the opening and connected with the tactical missile on its way out. The missile was detonated inside the shielding bouncing the full force of the explosion back on The Goliath.

God had been faithful to deliver David and the colonies once again. After the battle the king was rightly impressed with the young man’s courage, but he was also rightly scared of the young man’s potential. Soon David was an exile, although loved by his own people, he ran from the king to avoid killing the monarch who had been anointed before him. He made a choice to wait for God’s timing, meanwhile David’s father and brothers were beginning to find a new respect for him.

Many powerful captains chose to join him in this exile rather than to fight with Saul’s fleet. Yet David would still not allow them to overthrow the king, and together they continued to fight for the good of the colonies.

This resolve was tested when he came across The Covenantia, without escort and unshielded, while lading in an out of the way port. David’s men thought he should destroy it and take the throne, but he refused believing God would give him the throne in His own timing. That is exactly what happened when King Saul Longfellow was killed in battle. The people wanted David as their next king. God had kept his promise.

Over the course of his reign long King David Chambers often looked back at how he had become king. God had been with him at every turn. His faith and faithfulness were always rewarded. These memories convinced him to retain his integrity, and carried him through many challenges.

Danny and Kallie

It’s been a long time since I posted anything for Fun Fridays. So here is a short story. The bones of it was turned in last weekend for a writing contest that allows for stories up to 360 words. That wasn’t enough for this story to be told right. So here is the longer version. Feel free to tell me what you think. My own opinion is that the ending is still a little soft.

Danny and Kallie

Danny lives on the second floor. Most mornings he rides the waves before leaving for work.

His surfboard doesn’t fit in the elevator. So he risks dropping it from the balcony onto the sidewalk below. So far it hasn’t been damaged. Then he’ll run downstairs, hoping to get there before it walks away. So far it hasn’t been stolen. If it was he would be at a loss. The surfboard had his heart.

Kallie lives in the next building over. Her morning exercise is rollerblading. One day she heard something fall and timidly spied around a corner to see the surfboard, followed by the young man who gathered it up. She didn’t know why the sight of him made her catch her breath, yet she checked on him every day after that.

She continued to catch her breath at the sight of him, and she missed him when he wasn’t there. Still she did her best to blend in, hidden by the fog, or watching around a corner.

Then came a morning with strong winds, high waves, and a receding tide. Kallie had never surfed, but had researched a little and knew these were the most dangerous conditions. They are also what surfers like best.

She didn’t skate. She stood frozen, praying for his safety. She didn’t know why she worried about this stranger, but she did.

He struggled to get out to position. Twice the waves tossed him off before he could even attempt a ride. When he dumped a third time, Kallie counted seconds, waiting for him to surface. Thirty seconds and she was frantic. Forty-five and she hated herself for not knowing what to do. Fifty-three and he was spit out by the undertow, thirty yards behind his board.

She prayed harder as he swam for it. He struggled to climb on and then rode straight in, completely exhausted.

She watched him drag the board to the building. He tried to toss the board up, but couldn’t this time. Her hand on his shoulder, stopped him. When he turned to see her, he felt his breath catch. For a moment neither of them could talk. Kallie found her voice first, so she volunteered to lift the board to him. The board suddenly was less important than it had been a moment earlier.

That was how Danny met Kallie, and they got to know each other better over the next several days. Now she watched him openly. She would sit on the beach and enjoyed her heart racing at the sight. She felt guilty at taking such pleasure in the young man. Yet when he invited to date, she declined. By way of explanation she described how she prayed for him. He didn’t understand what that had to do with it.

When he persisted she said there was one place she would go with him, if he was willing. He would have done anything at that point. So he met her on Sunday morning in front of a local store front church. Only about thirty people, mostly young adults, gathered there. The music was hokey. The people were awkward. The message was life-changing. When the gospel came clear to Danny’s heart, it took his breath away.

That was how Danny met Jesus, and he got to know Him better over the coming weeks.

The surfboard was almost completely meaningless now. He almost never used it anymore. But one day when the waves were high he thought it was a good chance to impress Kallie. Dropping the board over the balcony as he had done hundreds of times, he heard it shatter apart.

Kallie and he stood over the remains a few minutes later. Both were silent for a long time. Kallie almost cried for him, until she looked up and saw him smiling at her, almost laughing. He told her it would be fine, they could go out to breakfast instead.

Kallie was impressed. So much had changed in Danny’s life. So much had changed in hers.

Soul Harvest

The restaurant was a front for a Chinese gang. It was full of bodyguards, yet the tough guys ran out when he strolled in.

“I’m surprised to see you here.” The boss’s voice had a slight tremble.

“Think of me as a gentlemen farmer, coming to collect my harvest.”

“You put me in charge, I have it under control.”

“I am the landowner; you are merely a sharecropper. I planted the soil starting with the night your father visited that prostitute you called mom. I fertilized the fields with drugs and gambling. I weeded the land by driving out churches and bribing the police.”

“Don’t you mean I did those things for you?”

“No, I mean I used you to do them, giving you every idea and opportunity. I did it. Not you.”

The boss put his hand on a gun hidden under the table.

“Go ahead, shoot me. It will help me with the harvest.” It was one last command given the hireling.

The bullet passed harmlessly through the farmer, out the glass, and lodged in the wall beside of a thug. The man returned fire, and the harvest began.

Inside the restaurant, the boss had a neat hole through his head. The police never found a bullet.

This story was written for a flash fiction competition I entered this morning.  Probably one of my favorite stories of this sort. It is an example of being able to imply things with fiction that would be complicated to discuss in a teaching setting. Do you see anything in this story, stated or implied, that you would like to discuss? I would love to hear from you.