Writing Challenge: Trespass

My Dearest Friend,

I know it’s been almost three years since we last spoke and I know you blame me for what happened to your parents and your husband. Before you screw up this letter I beg you read it at least once. If you then choose to do nothing I will understand. I live with the pain and guilt of that night every day and I know you do too. I doubt if it will make you feel better if I say that your parents died saving my life, but that is the truth.

There wasn’t enough time for me to explain everything before you left so I want to set the record straight, clear the air between us and let you know I never wanted any of this to happen. The lights are back again and I know I don’t have much time left. We were the best of friends, once, and even though we’ll never be close again I hope there is still a sliver of warmth between us, enough to make you want to read this letter.

Remember when we were kids and our parents would bring us out to Grabhorn Valley? To that awful shack in the middle of nowhere? No TV or electricity. It was the pits. But we soon found our adventures were way more interesting than anything we could have imagined. Remember the first time we found the cave with the voices and the lights that hovered around us like fireflies? We even tried to catch them. I had never been so scared in my life as the that night we made the discovery.

Our parents made us promise never to go back there. Your mother actually fetched out a Bible and put our hands on it so we could swear to God we would never set foot in the cave as long as we lived. We were good at promises, weren’t we? How long did we keep it up? Was it just over a day? Something like that. Don’t parents ever learn that if you tell your kids not to do something it only makes them want to do it?

We should have listened to them. It’s not really our fault. We were curious. They could have told us what was in there and how dangerous it was. If they’d said a family of bears live there we’d have stayed well away, but no, they just yelled at us. You know what I find strange? Why would they bring us all the way into the middle of nowhere, to a place they knew was bad, and expect us not to find out about it?

Looking back I think they wanted us to know about it, they needed us to uncover the secret so we could guard it after they were gone. I know what you must think about that, total nonsense, right? Would it surprise you to know I haven’t left Grabhorn since that night three years ago? I get as far as the general store in Pine Ridge, load up with supplies then turn back. I sit in my truck and stare at the blacktop but I can’t bring myself to go any further. There’s this force, like a whisper I can’t hear, telling me I can’t leave, not yet.

Don’t you dare deny you’ve never felt the same thing. I’m not crazy. Your parents weren’t crazy either. They did what had to be done to protect me because you weren’t there. You should have been there. I get it. You had a husband and kids of your own to care for. Who would want to expose them to such a thing like ours did? But you could have come alone. Without your energy we had little chance of survival.

Year after year our parents took us out into the wilderness, every summer we’d make the journey with enough supplies to last us months. I never really took much notice, did you? Looking back it was as if they were preparing for something because we never got through all the food in one vacation. They knew we disobeyed them, it was easy to see how they reacted to our lies about going fishing or swimming in the lake. It was so obvious where we were. The cave was like a drug. We couldn’t resist going there to see them, to see the lights. I guess our addiction made us outcasts at school, neither of us mixed well with the other kids. Even when we went to college we still managed to meet up at Grabhorn for the summer. Well, until you met John anyway. That was when things started to go wrong.

It’s funny how you don’t notice your own parents ageing isn’t it? I remember us crossing that terrible bridge about five years ago and your mother almost slipped over the edge. If I hadn’t caught her she’d have hit the rocks below and, well, you remember what happened to Skipper? I hated that first summer you weren’t there. The place felt hollow and faded like a newspaper left out in the sun. Your parents tried to make light of it, you had a boyfriend, you needed time to enjoy life, to have your own adventures. But I saw the looks of concern, the shared glances of worry and all those tiny gestures they thought I wasn’t aware of.

They were right to be afraid. But they had no right to keep that barrier up. We knew and they knew. But neither of us knew the other knew. For years we danced around the secret. No one spoke about it. No one mentioned the cave or the lights, not even when they swarmed down through the valley and circled around the shack. You remember that night don’t you? That was the first time you brought John out to Grabhorn. Everyone was so happy to see you in love, to see you happy and so full of life. That summer energised your parents, it gave them hope that things would be okay, especially after the accident.

Things were never really okay between us after that. We should have paid attention to the bridge, put in some repair work on it. But it never crossed our minds that was so unsafe. It had been there since we were kids and it never showed any sign of deterioration. When we first saw it we both cried that it would collapse but we crossed it just fine. Our parents told us the bridge might look beaten up and worn out but it was the safest bridge in the world. And it was for twenty-seven years without a single repair. We both know why it collapsed.

But we got over it. When you came out with John he organised us into a well oiled repair team and we fixed it up just like it had never been broken. I even took a photo of it, remember? We stuck it on the larder door. No one could remember what it looked like before but we all knew it was exactly the same, repaired but the same. It was as if the bridge wanted to go back to its old self, not new but timeless.

The end of that week we celebrated with a cookout. Remember how we sat out on the veranda watching the stars? Even though my parents weren’t there it was a good time. Well, it was until the storm came out of nowhere. The river washed halfway up the bank and we were so sure it was going to wash away the bridge. And then the lights came. We thought it was lightning at first but when your parents told us all to get inside you and I both knew what they were.

Finally we all knew that we all knew. It all came out as the storm lashed the valley. Your dad was furious with us for not telling, for going to the cave summer after summer. But your mum, the shaman we called her, doused the argument in her gentle way. Remember how she said they had always known? There was a reason why the brought us out there and finally the truth was out. That did little to soften our fears as we stared out at the rain and the lights that danced around the shack like guards on sentry duty.

Your mum told me that was only the second time she had seen the lights come to protect us. The first was on our very first visit. You and I were tucked up asleep and blissfully unaware of the dangers trying to force their way across the bridge. She said our unexpected presence had awoken something. Or pissed it off. Or both. And because John was there it wanted to test us, to find if our combined energies were still strong after the loss of my parents.

That storm seemed to last forever and even when daylight came it just didn’t give up. All through the night we kept watch on the bridge, expecting to see something, but no one dared say what. The lights were the key. When they bunched together it felt like they were pushing something back or holding it off. Then they’d spread out and dash around the shack, searching for something. It was like watching a horror movie only the lights didn’t vanish when daylight arrived.

We never really spoke about it did we? We just knew. All our lives we had been preparing for something and that night was a test. The next day your mum explained how we are all protectors, every human life is there to protect something, but most of us never understand or realise what it is we’re supposed to protect. Our parents knew, just as their parents before them and so on for countless generations. The unspoken secret was handed down so there would always be someone there to protect Grabhorn.

Don’t ask me why we needed to protect Grabhorn. It’s a long story and I don’t have time to tell you here. I don’t have much time left at all. The lights are here again but they’re very faint. Like a light bulb under the control of a dimmer switch. Something has drained their energy and they move so slowly now.

I must tell you about your parents whilst there’s still time. After you brought John to Grabhorn things changed. You wanted to share your past with your future husband and we all knew you were saying goodbye. Your time in the valley was coming to an end and you needed to create a link to your past. Your parents knew it too but they never said anything.

The next year you were travelling in Europe and it was just me and your folks at Grabhorn. We spent time together in the caves listening to the silent voices and watching the lights dance. Every time I went there I came back feeling energised, filled with hope and optimism. It’s hard to describe how wonderful a feeling it was. We tried not to focus on the fact that is was just three of us there. But when your mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it became clear our trips to Grabhorn would soon have to come to an end. I had never settled with a guy long enough to even attempt marriage or kids so I had no one to leave the legacy to.

On her good days your mum would ask me if there was ever a chance you and your family would come back to the valley and let the secret be passed once again to the next generation. She panicked at times when she thought you were coming, only to realise you weren’t. Your dad spent a lot of time chopping wood or fixing things so I spent days nursing your mum. The nights were the worst for me. I would hear her crying and the bridge would creak in the wind as if sending out words of sympathy.

Three years ago I tried to persuade them not to go. Your mum’s health had dropped so quickly but she insisted. She believed you would answer her letters and make the trip. I don’t blame you for staying with your family. Despite all the good times we shared as kids and as we grew up, Grabhorn was a dark place. You had every right not to impose such a terrible thing on your own children but I hated you for not replying to your dying mother.

Your dad told me that summer would be the last one they spent at Grabhorn. They didn’t have the energy to protect it any more. That responsibility would be handed to me. We enjoyed the precious moments together, your mum had fewer moments of clarity and it tore me in two to see her fading away before my eyes. I’ll never understand what made John come to Grabhorn. He never said why you wouldn’t, just that he needed to make peace with your parents and offer any support he could.

I don’t know if it was his arrival in the valley that awoke the darkness or your mum’s energy failing. On that night when John came we gathered around your mum’s bed. We knew it wouldn’t be much longer. A doctor had made a trip out from the city to make her as comfortable as possible. He wanted to take her back to the hospital but she refused. She was where she needed to be and that was that.

When the sun set the lights came out. All across the bridge they shimmered and danced. They rushed around the shack and up and down the river almost as if they knew your mum’s time was at an end. It felt as if they were rejoicing not mourning, and I could sense their excitement. Your mum would be free of the prison that had trapped her soul for so long and they wanted to be part of that.

Just after midnight we heard the bridge creaking like never before. John and I watched it bow and buckle as something made its way across. The lights pushed against it and sometimes I could almost make out the outline of a vast shapeless mass as the lights swarmed all over it. One by one they went out until only two remained and they fought the darkness but it was like trying to move the Moon with a firework. The darkness reached the other side of the valley and with a roar like a thousand thunderclaps it surrounded the shack.

John tried to shoot it with your dad’s rifle but bullets just whizzed through the air. There was nothing to hit, that thing had no mass, it was just a thick dark fog. I don’t know how it managed to kill John. One second he was in the door way with the rifle, the next he was pinned to the ground as if wrestling an invisible bear. He screamed at me, not in anger but to warn me. I had to protect your parents. Your dad tried to pull John free but the darkness howled at him until he dropped onto the floor as if the life had been sucked out of him.

I couldn’t move.

The darkness had squeezed itself into the shack and I could feel its touch all over my body. I was lifted into the air and pounded against the wooden floor by the fireplace. The lights were gone and our own circle of energy was so weak there was nothing left to protect Grabhorn. I was on the verge of losing consciousness when a vast light erupted on the stairs. The darkness dropped me and I lay paralysed as I watched your mum’s light battle the darkness on her own. The shack seemed to bulge and shake and for a moment I thought an earthquake had struck right beneath us.

The darkness screamed with rage but your mum’s light forced it back. I remember thinking it was like watching rays of sun beaming down through dark clouds. The darkness wasn’t going without a fight and it gripped my body so tight I felt my ribs crack. From the moment we first stepped inside that cave I never thought I would see such violence and hatred in the world.

For a moment it seemed like your mum was winning but the darkness was too powerful for her alone. It enveloped her light, trying to snuff it out. As she reached the precipice the darkness seemed to falter and thin out. Through the black haze I saw a second light as it punched a hole toward your mum. Your dad was fighting for her, fighting for both of us.

They were using up all their energy to keep the darkness at bay.

With a final roar the darkness pulled itself out of the shack and back across the bridge. They had defeated it. It was over and Grabhorn had been protected.

I passed out from the pain but when I awoke daylight was coming through the windows. I looked over at John’s body and wept. I could barely move. My ribs were broken and I was bruised everywhere. I knew that the darkness had killed me, I just hadn’t died yet. Your parents had one last trick to perform. Through the window I saw beams of sunlight cover my body, the pain was washed away and my bones healed. I listened to your parents as they spoke without words. I thanked them over and over until the sunlight drifted across the room and I was left alone in front of the fire-place.

Later that day a troop of emergency rescue guys showed up and put a temporary bridge in place to cross the river. When the police and ambulance arrived they told me most of the state had been badly damaged by a series of tornado’s. Your parents were laying peacefully beside each other on their bed. One of the emergency rescue guys told me John was found outside, he had been struck by a flying log caught in the wind. I was lucky to be alive, but luck had nothing to do with it.

The rest you know. It’s been peaceful here since then, until a few weeks ago. I wonder up to the cave every few days but it’s just a cave now, not the magical place it once was. At one point I figured the darkness was gone for good and I stayed out of guilt, nothing more. But when the lights returned I realised it would never be finished. The struggle is eternal, light against the darkness, hope against rage, love battling hate.

It is coming for me. I can sense it on the other side of the bridge. I don’t know if you will get this letter in time. The postal service at Pine Ridge is slow, but not too slow I hope. Last week I found John’s favourite football jersey, the one he wore when we made all those repairs to the bridge. I don’t know why I send it to you now, maybe it’s a link from the past to the future, a gift to say I’m sorry that I couldn’t save your parents. Maybe it’s just a football jersey.

I have to go. There are things I must to before the next battle.

I miss you. I miss your laughter and your energy.

With love, as always,

Your Best Friend.

This short story was inspired by Indigo Spiderโ€™s Sunday Picture Press โ€“ a challenge to write a 1,500 word piece of fiction using one of 3 photos as a prompt. This one had a twist in that the use of the 3rd picture could be used to add an extra element to the story along with one of the other two. Great twist too!

This piece is around 3,000 words or so. I wanted to do another, shorter piece using the above image as a reference point for the best friend to come to the aid of her lonesome pal out at Grabhorn Valley. But I like it the way it is. I could go on to describe how they get together and battle against the darkness but I’d rather let the reader decide if that happens or not.

Excellent picture prompts from Indigo. If you want to join in and write a short piece of fiction clicky-click Indigo Spiderโ€™s link above and wrap your imagination around one of the pictures.

27 thoughts on “Writing Challenge: Trespass

  1. Dave, I have been an avid reader for over forty years and I can tell you that I’m so looking forward to when your books are on the bookstore shelves and I can take one, or two up to the cash register, smile and say “I knew him when…”. great job with this.

    1. Cheers Billie! It actually felt like that when I was writing it, trying to keep up with the flow of words and eagerly waiting to see what would happen next!

  2. You can add me to the list of signed copies wanted, please and thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Wow, first, that you write amazing stories in such a short time is mind-boggling! I’m so glad you find the pictures so inspiring because I know I’ll always have a good read from you! As Chessie said, you slayed it! Amazing story, again. Never realize it is “long” because it is so well written you just read happily and still feel like “ooh, ending already” rather than dragging.

    BTW — what is the book you are working on? I’d be happy to be a reader if you need an extra pair of eyes ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Indigo! I’ve never been someone who craves favourable feedback, I write because I want to read what my imagination has to say, which often surprises me! I write stuff even if no one ever read it, but when I have a bunch of comments like these it make me smile.

      The book I’m working on is the first story I’ve felt passionate about for a long time. Lots of writers have unfinished projects sat in a drawer somewhere so I’m happy this one isn’t! It started out as a strange what-if idea but I soon changed it when I found I could beef it up into a much bigger and better tale. At the moment I’m editing the 2nd draft and getting toward the end now. I wasn’t happy with how it ended, it seemed a bit rushed so I’m taking a bit of time to get it right.

      When I finished the 1st draft I left it alone for a couple of months so I could mull things over. While I did that I started work on a sequel, a story of much more epic proportions, but half way through it I realised I needed to finish the first one and get it out for people to read. My best friend tells me it will never be finished because I’m never going to be happy with it! Not this time! I have 3 other half finished novels that I want to return to but not until this baby is done.

      I’m trying my best not to be too secretive about it but I have a firm idea of how I want to make it available to readers. Some time soon I’ll change my blog name, though it won’t lose any of its character, and I plan to keep Noobcake in there somewhere! That will give me more confidence to call myself a writer as it will establish my name as my brand rather than Noobcake.

      I reckon it will be another month or so before anything major changes or I’m ready for people to read it. I tried putting a few thousand words on a critique website but the problem with that is people judge you on the minuscule amount of words and thereby giving you doubts about your work because they haven’t read the whole thing.

      I’d be most interested to know what you think when it’s ready, maybe you could be a test-reader before I take the plunge! Your feedback would be most welcome.

      1. I write for myself as well, although it does feel good when others like something I’ve written, can’t deny that!

        Have you considered just creating a new site for the new ideas related to the book and keep Noobcake as your, well, playground? I started Indigo as my playground, not initially looking to be a published author and worried that now that I shifted focus I should change it, reflect my name more to “brand” myself, but, well, Indigo Spider works regardless. My name is on there and hopefully I’m not shooting myself in the foot with Indigo rather than my name!

        I have not found a decent critique site yet myself. They either judge, as you described, and it isn’t a realistic assessment for a partial work, or they don’t really give true critiques. It is hard sometimes to work out not only the grammar, spelling, mechanical type problems but the flow, how the idea weaves through the book, how the characters develop, etc. I’ve found it difficult to find a good group to help with that part of it, so far.

        I would love to be a test-reader for you whenever you are ready! You have my email so feel free to contact me whenever you want.

        1. I was originally planning to create a new site and leave Noobcake as my playground like you said, but then I worried (no sleepless night or anything!) if it would be better to have all my written stuff in one place, that way I would still be able to connect with readers even if I wasn’t blogging about writing.

          I think Indigo Spider works really well and I honestly could see that on the spine of a book in a book shop. It’s an attention grabbing name, and I guess Noobcake is, sort of, it’s not exactly something you’d expect to see associated with more professional work. I see Brenda changed her blog name and bought a domain so I guess it’s not that hard to make the switch over.

          Hmm. I really don’t know what to do about it. The good news is that I finished editing the 2nd draft of my novel! Yay! I’ll spend some time cutting out the junk and tightening it up a little before I ask people to test read it. I love the story but there are 2 very big questions I need answered before I’m 100% happy with it.

          Critique sites are hit and miss at best. I tried youwriteon.com where you can submit 7,000 words at max for review and feedback by other users. The site works on a points basis, you read someone’s work and provide feedback and receive a point. You then use that point to request your work be read by someone else.

          The problem is that if your story is longer than the maximum number allowed you can only be judged on that alone, so the feedback can be a little off. I guess it depends what you want from it. I suspect most people don’t have time to read an entire novel and give feedback that you want, unless they’re an editor for a publishing house or an agent.

          I think one of the problems faced by budding writers is what to do with their stories. Do they keep them all in one place or send them out to magazines and hundreds of different websites? Keeping track of where everything is or was or might be is a bit of a nightmare.

          Baby steps though! I’ll pop you an email when I’m finished the next round of fine tuning! Your offer is very much appreciated!

  3. I love this. I dont know how you do it. I cant make anything up like that, I can never just make up a story to write, I dream all of my good ones. Although lately, my dreams are abnormal – yet entertaining. If that makes sense. Anyway, your inspiring me to start writing again. So I’m going to go do a Sunday Picture Press. Good Job, your an amazing writer.

    1. Hi Jaaydee and thanks! It’s really not that hard, just practice like any other skill. I admit it takes time to work on the craft of writing but once you know the rules you just let your imagination take charge. The trick is to start small and work your way up. Taking on something big can often be daunting and lots of writers lose that immediate spark that drove them to create a story.

      Try this for an exercise in starting small and expanding on the original idea:

      The bridge was spooky.

      The bridge was spooky because it looked like it was made by witches.

      Years ago a coven of witches made the bridge out of bones to ward off evil spirits.

      When the coven of witches discovered an evil magic in the valley they used the bones of animals to build a bridge and protect their shack.

      And so on. You just build it bit by bit. It works if you just write down single word ideas based on that image, sometimes I scribble stuff down on a notepad:

      Murky river.

      Another trick is to write down any strange dream before you forget it. Keep a notepad by your bed and jot down the key points or whatever struck you as strange or interesting. Even a few words is enough to give you inspiration later on.

      Good luck with your Sunday Picture Press! I look forward to reading your story!

    2. Noob has some excellent suggestions and I would just like to add, dreams are the beginnings of many a story so don’t say “I can’t make anything up.” Sometimes the desire to make something up is the beginning and the more you write, the more the channels of imagination begin to open and all sorts of ideas start to flow through. Observing things around you is another way to work on writing — listening to people talk in line at the movies helps with dialogue; watching couples in a restaurant helps learn subtle characteristics to use for character development — things like that.

      Also, I always suggest a site called 750words.com It isn’t a blogging site, it is more like journal writing, but it gets you in the habit of writing daily and has helped many writers with all sorts of things (and non-writers alike). I hope you try Sunday Picture Press, sometimes just jumping in and trying is all it takes!

      1. Very true about the observations! Many times I’ve been sat in a bar or cafe with friends and realise I’ve zoned out of the conversation to watch the people around me, how they speak and what gestures they make as they do. It’s fascinating stuff when you start to think of these real life people in terms of how you would translate them to your fictional work.

        750words.com is a great site to get your brain working, it’s just like a gym workout for your mind!

        Like Indigo says, sometimes that one spark, the idea is just the start and you can soon find it is joined by other ideas, like a tree growing from a single seed to encompass as many or few themes, ideas, characters, plots etc as you (the wordsmith) wants.

      1. Don’t doubt yourself. I have the attention span of a two year old. If you can keep me reading a blog for that long you’re a damn genius. I like stories with a little lingering mystery to them. ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. That’s what my friends keep telling me, not to doubt myself! I guess I need to listen to them!

          PS. I changed my display name so don’t worry, it’s still me!

  4. I did what you said, Noobcake. I started off small and went big and I was just writing, I knew what I was going to write. I was writing on 750 words, like Indigo Spider suggested. And I love it. The idea of it, and how it works. Its great. Thank you so much for the help, guys. I’ll start my Sunday Picture Press now ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Yay! Good on yer! Keep that momentum up! When writing short stories, well any story actually, I find it works if I break it up into chunks. Sections, chapters, scenes, paragraphs, even bullets of ideas that I write below on the same page as a prompt to where I want to go with the story.

    1. Thanks Word Whisper, it was great fun to write something where even I didn’t really know what the darkness or the light was, well, not really, just an idea that I didn’t really want to give a full explanation about, so hopefully the reader would use their imagination for that.

  5. Splendid. I wish I could be as lucid as you. Great story, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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