Chuck Challenge – Pick an opening line!

I didn’t submit an opening line for last weeks challenge, but as part of this week’s challenge I sifted through each and every one of the over 500 comments, looking for one that spoke to me. Boy, that was a difficult task. But in the end I made a choice and picked:

“There was a little girl dancing in the graveyard” by Tonia

Here’s the some 1050 words that line inspired.


The Dancing Girl

By Trine Toft Schmidt

There was a little girl dancing in the graveyard. Kneeling in the shade, on the soft moss, I couldn’t take my eyes off the tiny form, twirling and swaying among the somber old slabs of weathered rock.

We were the only ones in the old part of the graveyard which was more like a forest than anything else, the pines grew tall and old here among the almost forgotten headstones. The girl danced in the fat rays of sun that filtered down through the trees.

She was four or five, with short, tight almond coloured curls. She reminded me of my sister. She had the same ever-round apple-red cheeks and the same joyful smile, the same far-away gaze in her eyes.

She twirled and twirled and I abandoned my futile quest to free Mary Beth’s grave from weeds and instead sat down with my back to her headstone to watch the little girl dance. Something about her made my heart beat it hasn’t beaten since I was a kid.

Eventually the little girl saw me looking  and she stopped, self-aware and perhaps a little frightened at the sight of an old, wrinkled, white-haired man watching her. She put her hand in her mouth and stood stock still for a couple of minutes while her eyes rested on me. Then she looked up into the blue sky, flung out her arms as if to hug the world, smiled and made her way toward me. She stopped at the next grave over.


“Hello.” I replied.

She looked at me, her eyes scrounged up in an evaluating glare.

“Are you God?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Mummy said that God would watch over me. You are watching me.”

“I saw you dancing. It was very pretty.”

“But are you?”

“No. I am not god. Alas.”

She was quiet for awhile.

“But you are old.”

“Yes. I am. Do you think god is old?”

“Very.” She opened her eyes wide and nodded.

“What does alas mean?”

“Hmm..” I thought about it for a second. “It means unfortunately.”

“You want to be god?” She put her hand on a tilting headstone and lifted her leg out behind her, like she was in ballet class.

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it.” “I want to be god.”


“So I can bring mummy back.” She brought her leg down and scissored it back and forth in front of herself.

“Your mummy died?”

She nodded and cast a look over her shoulder. I followed her gaze and through the pines I could see a man hunched over a grave. He was partially hidden behind a shiny new white headstone. His shoulders were shaking violently. Once I had seen my mother hunched over like that, clawing at the ground, desperation breaking her apart in ways only bottomless grief can do. I put my head against my twin’s headstone. It was cold and hard.

“I am sorry.” I said.

“It’s okay. She is in heaven now.” The little girl looked up and waved at a cloud, then turned back toward me.

“Did someone you know die?”

“Yes. My sister.” I patted the headstone.

“Was she old too?”

“No. She was young. Very young. Five years old.”

“I am five years and two months old.”


She nodded solemnly.

“Well, just like my sister then.”

“What was her name?” She stood up on her toes and slowly raised her arms above her head.

“Mary Beth.”

“Mine is KimBerly. But my mother always called me KimPearly.”

“Pearly, like a pearl?”

“Uh uh.” She nodded vigorously.

“That’s nice.”

“She said I have to be careful swimming, or the oyster would snatch me right back.”

I smiled. For a minute I could see her life like a little movie in my head. I saw her start school, make friends, have her first kiss under the bleachers, get married, have children. Grow old. Dancing and smiling. Somehow I couldn’t imagine that she would ever be sad. Even if everybody around her died.


She poked me with her foot, pulled me out of my little reverie.


“Can you dance?”

I laughed.

“I can. Or, well, I could, before I got old.”

“Well come on then. We have to dance. Mummy will watch us. Maybe your sister too.” She reached down and grabbed my large cold hand with her tiny warm one. Tears welled up in my eyes.

She pulled me past headstones and pines, out into a clearing. When I just stood there, not trusting my clumsy old feet to keep my from falling, she put her hands in her sides and gave me a stern look.

“Come on. You have to spin around. Like this.” She spread her arms wide, tilted her head back and took small steps while she spun around. It near gave me vertigo just watching her, but I did as I was told, spread my arms out, tilted my head back. And then I spun, slowly, mind you, so I wouldn’t fall, closing my eyes and enjoying the warmth of the sun on my cheeks. Instantly I was five again, laughing with Mary Beth in the meadows behind our little cottage.

I don’t know how long we danced like this. But suddenly she tugged on my hand and I was forced back into the present.

“I have to go now. Daddy is calling.”

I looked around until I saw him, making his way through the old pines toward us. He had the same almond coloured hair, but was gaunt and pale. He looked concerned. I nodded to him and smiled down to the little girl.

“Well bye then, KimPearly. Thank you for the dance.”

“Bye bye, old man.” She said over her shoulder, already bouncing toward her father. As I watched, she flung herself at him and he scooped her up and hugged her close.

I stood still for a few seconds, watching them leave. Then I turned toward Mary Beth’s grave. It was surrounded by the graves of the rest of our family, all in the same sad state of overgrown. A little like myself, I thought. I looked up into the sky and did a last twirl before I made my way home.



Flash Fiction Challenges: Hellishly late.

I know, I know, I am really really late with this, but last friday, before I could finish my story for The Chuck Wendig challenge: Life is Hell, I was (perhaps true to the subject) smote by sickness and have spent the better part of a week on the couch, hacking up my lungs and fighting off my cotton ball brain. Today, feeling a lot better, I finished my contribution and have decided to pester the world with it, despite it’s lateness. The ending is a bit rough, but I’ve parked this baby way too long as it is. Bear with me.

The Nightly Grind

By Trine Toft Schmidt

Azu closes his eyes and attempts to get a line to the priest. The signal is weak and broken. A voice, all fire and pain, intercepts the signal with annoying clarity.

“Do you know that for twenty souls extra each month, you can upgrade your subscription to 666 minutes of mind-to-mind or eye-for-an-eye, a day?” Azu cuts the connection, his lunch break is only an hour long and if he can’t get hold of the priest now, he has to make the call on the commute home. If he had 666 minutes it wouldn’t be a problem of course, he could do it while he worked, like the lower-downs. But twenty souls? That’s steep. It’s hard enough bringing home the brimstone as it is. Lately the bosses have put the screws to the higher levels, demanding a thousand souls a month and unpaid overtime in the torture chambers and still the stingy angels only dish out a measly four hundred a month. Azu simply can’t afford any more expenses until he gets a raise.

Which is why he’s saving all his minutes on this priest. Father O’Leary, catholic, devout and fiercely virtuous. If Azu could bring home that soul, he would get the attention of those on the lower levels, he would be on the fast track for the pits down below, which, of course, means getting a larger slice of the soul-cake each month.

Azu waits a few minutes and then tries the priest again. He’s surprised when he gets a rare crystal-clear connection, no static, no pray-interference, just a straight line to the priest’s innermost thoughts. He doesn’t have eye-for-an-eye, but he can sense the surroundings of the priest, mostly from the free-flying snippets of thoughts and sensory input that clutter the mind-space. There’s singing in the background, probably the nuns, so it must be early morning, which fits the foul minty smell of toothpaste, that sends Azu’s lunch rolling in the pit of his stomach.

He’s been dialling up Father O’Leary for a week now, laying the ground work for the take-over, and he’s got the priest rattled. Last night, using his remaining 11 minutes to check in before dinner, the priest had the unmistakable smell of whiskey about him. There are chinks in his religious armour.

Chinks Azu now begins to crack further apart. He starts out gently, conjures up an image of a nun, nothing too specific, so the priest can fill in the blanks himself.

“Look at that black habit. What do you think hides underneath?”

He can feel the priest’s attention waver slightly. It doesn’t matter that Azu can’t see what Father O’Leary is seeing. Azu has never met anyone devout or pious enough to not attach their eyes to someone they think fit the suggestion.

“Imagine what is under there. The soft skin of her legs, how warm and moist it must be under all those layers.”

Father O’Leary tries to flood his brain with the text of his sermon, pushing Azu behind some gobbledygook about not coveting your neighbour’s wife. It has been his tactic for the last couple of nights, so Azu just turns up the volume, projects more skin, moving up the calves, toward white rounded thighs, slowly. He adds a little sensory input as well, suggestive smells and sounds.

Testosterone floods the priest’s system and Azu grins to himself, lathers on more skin, suggests more warmth. Whispers ‘what harm can it do?’ like a mantra in the priest’s head.

In the background the singing has stopped and Azu senses movement around the priest. The nuns are leaving and Father O’Leary must be talking, because half his brain is suddenly awash in flimsy religious sentiments, boring sermon details, something about coffee and cake and flowers. But the other half is pushing the image of a black habit about as if he’s playing hide and seek with it. The thought of the nun is growing by the second, and finally Azu catches a glimpse of her.

She’s small and disgustingly clothed, but she’s got a nice little round face and sweet innocent blue eyes. Azu grins to himself and pounces, latches on to the priest’s image of her, projects hands onto it, creating something like a person shooter game, only all about seduction, not killing. He moves the hands over the nun’s body, pulling clothing out of the way, lifting up black skirts. He adds sounds, moans and whispers of consent.

Azu is being pressed to the sides of the priest’s brain by fast reproducing images and emotions, shame mingling with an excitement, lust with reason and above it all, the almost tangible sensation and anticipation of plunging into a warm wet hole. Azu doesn’t have a heart, but if he had it would be thrashing about with the thrill of the win. He’s so close now, one little move or word from the priest and Azu is on the fast track downward.

Azu senses movement, the light is changing from gloomy shadow to something sunnier. They are moving into back rooms, where doors can be shut and locked. Where curtains can be pulled. There’s the distinct sound of a door shutting.

All religious sentiment and harmless chit-chatter has left the priest’s brain. Images now form and multiply on their own volition and Azu slides into the background, adding only a little ambiance by letting out his patented sub-level white-noise moan. This is what seals the deal eight out of ten times.

The two are talking, Father O’Leary’s voice butter and cream, the nun’s strawberries and sugar, by the window, standing close. Father O’Leary is sliding out of his vestments and Azu feels the victory jitter of his non-heart, the sound of rustling clothes is as exciting as the act of sex itself. The soul is practically in his hands already.


The nails-on-blackboard voice of his boss, pull Azu out of his call just as the priest puts his hand on the nun’s shoulder.


Azu jumps to his feet, grins and starts the trek down to the sixth level.

Chuck Challenge – Five Random Words.

It is that time again, and, lo and behold, it is the second week in a row that I manage to write a story well within the allotted time. Wonders never cease to exist.

The challenge this week was to pick five words of a list of ten and use them all in the story. I randomly picked Foxglove, Whalebone, Orphan, Acid and Topaz.

I’ve been binge-watching White Collar on Netflix a lot lately, so my inspiration for this story is clear, though my miss Shirotori is hardly a Neal Caffrey and Foxglove is definitely not a Peter Burke. But, there’s a heist of sorts. The title is a little off, considering the time period for the story. I’ve decided that I do not care.

Oh and I’ve used a a little more than my word allowance. A good 20 percent. Sorry.

The Heist

By Trine Toft Schmidt

The door clicked and then opened up an inch. Kyouki pocketed her tools and stepped away from the door, sketching a tiny curtsy in the direction of the man behind her.

“After you, Mr. Foxglove.”

Mr. Foxglove bowed slightly at the waist, but made no attempt to enter the door.

“No, milady, after you.”

Kyouki rolled her eyes at his insecurities and slipped through the cracked door into the Orphan Emperor’s Treasury.

The room was huge, at least fifty feet across, and as impressive as it was rumoured. A colonnade of white marble columns circled it, holding up a glass-dome. It bathed the room in a million fractured rays of moon light, highlighting the treasures, displayed on hundreds of pedestals, in the most appealing way. Kyouki could see statues from Grecaia, ancient ceramics from Zhengui, lustrous oil paintings from Ardentania, precious jewels from Ai’Aba. The thought of making away with any one of these pieces made her heart beat faster, but her order was clear. Steal a small silver ring set with topaz. No more, no less. She held her life dear and did not voice her doubts, though it seemed unlikely that the Orphan Emperor would even own such a worthless little thing.

“We have not all night to dilly-dally away, gawking at pretties, miss Shirotori.” Mr. Foxglove stepped past her. Kyouki watched him weave his way through the pedestals. His steps whispered along the rounded walls and she shook her head. Foxglove was big and ungainly and apparently could not move across a room without announcing himself. It was utterly unclear to her, why the Hidden man had lumbered her down with this useless idiot, a master thief he was definitely not! She almost flew past him on silent feet.

The ring was surprisingly easy to find. It was hidden on the finger of a carved likeness of an Ardanian woman, wearing a stunning dress covered, hem to bodice, in tiny pink tear shaped diamonds. The ring was set with an ordinary pale blue topaz, hidden among splendid diamonds and sapphires on an oaken finger.

“I have it.” The gentle tones of her hushed voice carried far in the room.

“Good.” Foxglove was less careful and his hoarse gravel voice multiplied and drifted back to them from several directions. Kyouki swore under her breath.

“Keep your voice down, Foxglove, or do you really wish to bring the imperial guard upon us?” She looked up to shadows moved around the rim of the dome.

Foxglove shrugged and held out his hand.

“Let me see it, I want to make sure it is the right ring.”

“It is the right one.” She held it up in a ray of moonlight, but quickly snatched it away again, when Foxglove made to take it from her. With a deft move of her fingers, she slid the ring into the hidden pocket in her sleeve and then made a show of putting her empty hand into her pocket. Anger and fury moved like thunderclouds across Foxglove’s face and Kyouki braced herself for a show of force, but, to her surprise, Foxglove’s features smoothed out and he nodded and turned back toward the distant door.

Kyouki had passed him again, was already half way across the room, when she felt a burning sting on the back of her neck. She slapped her hand over the burning spot and felt something small and hard protruding from just under her hairline. She stopped and yanked out a tiny arrow, no longer than half her finger and as thin as a needle. Around the small puncture wound her skin burned like acid and tongues of fire licked at her nerve endings. She cursed and put a wide pedestal to her back. Foxglove appeared, smiling an ugly toothy smile.

“I need the ring. Give it to me.” A small blowpipe poked out of his sleeve.

“You poisoned me.” The acid flow was washing over her shoulders, climbing up her neck. Already her upper arms were numb and breathing was getting difficult.

“Yes.” He dipped his hand into his pocket and came up with a tiny vial filled with a murky violet substance. “Maybe I will give you the antidote. Provided that you give me the ring, of course”

“No. What did you use?” It felt like a numbing poison, but the burn was unfamiliar. A combination of several poisons perhaps.

“It is irrelevant, miss Shirotori. No ring, no antidote. No antidote…” His grin widened. She just shook her head. Who did he think she was? A simple, little novice, on her first job? Did he think she’d never been poisoned before? The thought alone confirmed her suspicions. That he was not Guild, had not been trained by the Hidden Man and his associates. She slid her hand to her trusted dagger, nestled against her spine. The poison was trickling down her arms and made gripping the hilt difficult. It would only be a matter of time before she wouldn’t be able to use her hands either.

“You’re just a clumsy back-alley mutt. If you think I will hand over the ring, you are even more of an idiot than I thought… which is quite a feat. I guess you do deserve a little credit for that…”

He leaned forward on the balls of his feet, as his fist shot out and connected with her chin. But she was ready for him, as he drew back his hand to hit her again, she drove her trusted whalebone dagger deep into his gut. He crumbled around it, dropping the vial, as he fell to his knees. She pulled out the dagger, held it in her hand, just in case he decided to want more.

“You bi…” She kicked out with her left foot and hit his chin. He tilted right and hit the floor like a kicked-over doll. Kyouki sneered at him. What an amateur!

She spotted the vial against a pedestal. Her arms were almost completely dead now, so she flipped onto her side, like some crippled snake, and scrabbled along the floor until she could grab it with her teeth. She pushed herself up against a pedestal, held the tiny vial between her knees, while she worked the stopper off with her teeth. The she clamped down delicately around the glass rim and threw her head back, almost choking on the vile bitter brew inside. It might not be the antidote to the poison in her body, but it sure tasted like it was. Without waiting for the effects to set in, she managed to get onto her feet and make it back to the door. With fingers buzzing and tingling she pulled it open and looked back. She could barely see the outline of Foxglove in the distance. He wasn’t dead, at least not yet, though you never knew with gut-wounds. To make sure he wouldn’t come after her, she aimed a kick at one spindly thin pedestal that crashed to the floor.

She grinned and closed the door, listening to the guards above yell and shout, before she slipped into the shadows and disappeared.