Tracey Canole, Author

A Sister’s Love and a Brother’s Regret

Thunder cracked overhead, the rain shifting from a light drizzle to a downpour.  He flinched but didn’t stop. In truth, the rain didn’t bother him much even as it dripped into his eyes and soaked his shoes. It took only moments for the cold to seep in and the shivering began. 

Will didn’t care. The only thing that mattered was that he found Lisa and soon. He hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings, but why did she have to be so annoying? She’d barged into his room and started messing with his stuff. It wasn’t fair. He always got in trouble when he played with her things.

“Lisa! Lisa, come on! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it.” 

The trees loomed overhead as he stepped into the woods behind the house. His boots sunk into the wet undergrowth, suctioning instantly and pulling him deeper. Water soaked his socks, slipping between his toes and making them squish.

“Yuck!” he whined, the mud covering his favorite shoes. “Quit being a baby! I don’t want to be out here, it’s gross.”

Wiping his eyes, Will moved deeper. He glanced back towards the house. He should be inside playing video games and talking to his friends. But no, he had to look for her and all because she was selfish. Ugh, she was so annoying! Sometimes he wished he was an only child.

Will hoisted himself over a fallen log, the moss wet. Brown muck splashed onto his jeans and he groaned. It smelt like earth and rot. Gross. As he tried to wipe it off – unsuccessfully considering even his hands were dirty – he spotted something small with pink sparkles and neon green laces. It was Lisa’s shoe! The sole was pushed into the mud as if she’d placed all of her weight onto it, then tried to pull free. It must have slipped off, but why would she leave it behind? 

Oh no. Will swallowed hard as he saw the two sets of paw prints flanking the shoe. The rain was attempting to wash them away, but he could see their outline.  Crap, the wolves had been running. He corrected himself – no, hunting. His legs wobbled as he stood, scanning for any sign of their direction. 

“Lisa? Please be okay,” Will said, the words washed away. Lisa, his baby sister was out here and wolves were tracking her. Usually, she knew not to go far, but with how mean he’d been she might’ve just wandered. Then, if she saw the wolves, run in a panic. 

A piece of cloth hanging off a low branch, the green and purple stripes familiar.  He ran for it, calling out her name over and over. He tripped on a branch, then slipped on a patch of sludge. He didn’t slow.  Farther and farther into the woods he went, away from home and the parents that loved them. Will came to a stop, nearly losing his balance.

“The cliff. What if she…?” His heart pounded trying to escape from his chest. The cliff, and the hundred-foot drop into a canyon, was just up ahead. It was nearly a mile long and would fill with the rain, turning into a river rushing downstream. Lisa knew not to play near the canyon. It was dangerous, but if she’d been chased, she might have forgotten or lost her way. Even he was having a hard time telling where he was in this storm and she was only five. His calls increased, praying that soon he’d find her.

Another burst of lightning was followed by a boom of thunder that shook him to his bones. He bent his arms out to protect his head. A bow, bright teal with pink sequins on it, was lying at the base of a tree. His direction shifted, aiming straight for it. The rough fabric scraped against his skin and then he saw it. A footprint a few feet to the west. Squeezing the bow in his hand he ran, calling out again and again.

A whine carried back to him in the breeze. Will froze mid-step. Was it a dream?  Had he imagined it? Another moan was followed by a whimper. Lisa.

Weaving back and forth he searched, covering as much ground as possible. Each time he approached the edge, he braced his feet or held onto a trunk before getting too close. As he leaned forward, he remembered a section where a ledge a few feet below the main path stuck out. Maybe she was there. It was easy to get to and a good place to hide. Fingers gripped a branch and he wedged a foot between two rocks, then Will leaned over the canyon. Down below the water gathered, sweeping fast along the rocky bottom.

She was so small. Her body could be anywhere. He could’ve missed it and what if the wolves had gotten ahold of her? No. He would find her and she would be okay.

The ledge was just visible. Three bushes grew up against the rock step. A tree listed sideways, hanging off as if, long ago, it had barely survived the ground beneath sliding away. Will clenched his fist and had to hold back a scream as he spotted feet. One shoe was gone, the other covered in muck. Purple tights wrapped legs so still and unmoving.

He bolted around and found the spot which would lead to her. Reach it, he approached carefully. It was slippery, the groves in the rock turned into small currents flowing past to dive and freefall to the crevice floor. 

“Lisa!” Will said, the whisper barely audible. There she was. Her tiny form looked broken. She was covered in mud and blood was smeared down her arms and one of her legs. Her hair blocked her face, but he could see the stuffed bunny she cradled. 

“Lisa, can you hear me? I’m here to get you. Did you fall?”

“You found me. Willy,  It bit me. It hurts,” she said, her lisp more prominent than normal.

Dread wrapped around him. Crap, not only did she fall, but she’d been bitten. How had she gotten away? He needed to get her home. His legs became heavy, his voice cracked when he said, “It’s okay sissy, I’m gonna get you home, okay?” 

Just as he was about to make the climb down to her, a sound came from the trees behind him. It made his muscles tighten and his breath catch. The growls were like a recurring nightmare come to life, one where the ancient creatures and mythical beasts knew that once wasn’t enough. Lisa began to cry but did not move to sit up.

Lightning flashed and with it, Will spotted two sets of eyes exiting from the trees. Large bodies stalked closer, their fur damp, but their steps hungry. 

Lunging to the side he picked up a branch and hoisted it over his shoulder. He took a stance well honed from years of baseball practice. The voice of his coach flitted through his mind. Strong grip, but not too tight. Full swing. Be ready for the unexpected pitch. The next few moments slowed, the terror flowing through his veins mixed with the determination to save his little sister. Will screamed at the pair as they bared their teeth.

One lunged and Will missed. He recovered instantly. The second attacked and he swung, connecting its flank. The creature yelped and took a few steps back. It charged again, but Will was ready. The stick came down hard on its snout with a hollow crunch. There was a high-pitched cry and it disappeared into the brush. Will slipped in the mud but managed to keep his feet as the first wolf came at his back. Its paws hit his shoulders causing Will to lose his balance and fall face-first into the mud. 

Will rolled, the panic bleeding into a scream that echoed down and across the rocks below. He covered his neck with his arms as the snarls and yips hurt his ears. The branch, his only protection, was stuck beneath him no longer of any help. Will reached out blindly until his hand landed on a rock about six inches long. As he lifted it, he saw the edge and cheered.

“Yes!”  It was sharp, a dagger if ever he saw one. Thank you, universe.

Teeth bit into his shoulder and Will screamed, gripping the rock hard, the edge cutting into his flesh. No matter. In one move, Will rolled. The wolf tried to jump off, but before he was able, the razor’s edge dug into its neck. There was a gurgle and a whine before the wolf and all its teeth scurried away, back into the forest. 

Will’s chest heaved, his breaths gasping for air. Pained and terrified, he pushed to his knees. His fingers sunk into the brown. Red-tinged rain trailed down his arm and away with the currents beneath his fingertips. He groaned. 

If this was what Lisa was going through, then he would never forgive himself. It was all his fault. 

He pushed to his feet, tears burning the back of his eyes. He clenched his fists to stop the trembling. Lisa didn’t need to see how scared he was. Throat tight and thick he held his injured arm against his side, then stumbled to where Lisa lay. Her body was limp, but her breaths were strong. The obvious rise and fall of her chest brought the tears to the front. They fell as relief washed over him like a blanket. 

“Can you hear me?” He asked. She nodded minutely. “Good. Then it’s time to go back home, okay? I’m gonna pick you up.”

“My arm hurts. My leg too.”

“I know. We’ll get you home to Mom and Dad. They can help us. They’re probably worried sick.”

“I’m sorry Willy.”

“Sissy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Let’s get you home and warm. Then, we’ll play okay?”

She nodded. Biting back the pain, he wrapped his arms around her and lifted. Ugh, she was heavy. Lisa cried out and curled into him. 

Step after step, Will tracked back toward home. He took it slow, making sure his steps were sure and that there was no sign of the wolves. His arm burned and his fingers were beginning to tingle. Crimson stained his shirt. His legs felt like jelly as they dragged, leaving divots in the earth. He wasn’t sure if he could make it.

“I wuv you,” Lisa said.

His heart warmed and he pressed a kiss to her head. “Love you.”

Almost there.

“Will!! Lisa!!” The sound of his parents’ screams caused a sob to escape from deep within. He tried to speed up and in doing so felt his head go fuzzy. He maneuvered around a patch of thick bushes to find them running away from them.

“Mom! Dad!!” 

Dad slipped as he forced his body’s direction to change. His eyes were wide, terrified, as she spun.

When they met Will’s every last bit of energy poured out of him.  Will sank to the ground, keeping Lisa in his lap. The world slowed as he watched his parent’s panicked faces come closer. His arms tightened around his sister. 

“Will? Lisa! Are you….oh my god,” dad said. He spun to Mom. “Call 9-1-1.”

Mom exhaled roughly. “ You can’t carry them both yourself. I’ve got Lisa, you get Will. We’ll call once we’re at the house.” Before she was done speaking, Lisa’s weight was pulled from Will’s grasp. He whimpered, letting his arms fall to his sides. The world tilted and he felt his dad swoop him up. The forest flashed by as his dad ran. Will closed his eyes.

“Bud, I need you to stay awake.”

“I’m tired.”

“I know, but I still need you to stay awake.”

The rain stopped falling. Confused, Will opened his eyes to find they’d entered the enclosed porch. Not stopped, but blocked. He was set down and a blanket was thrown over his shoulders.

“We need an ambulance! My kids, they were lost in the woods. It looks like they were bit by something…” Mom said.

“Wolves,” Will said, his head lulling to the side.

“Wolves!” Mom exclaimed, pain and worry in her voice. “Please get here. Yes, Yes…”

Will couldn’t follow her words anymore. 

“Will, why were you…? What…? How could you let your sister…” Dad tried, but couldn’t find his words. He brushed a towel over his face then wrapped it around him. He did the same for Lisa.

Lisa slipped her small hand into Will’s, then said, “Not his fault, Daddy. Don’t yell at him, he saved me.”

Dad replied, but Will was too tired to hear. He slipped into sleep, the warmth of Lisa’s words all he knew. 

When he woke, Lisa was in the bed next to him, her tiny form pressed to his good side. His shoulder hurt, but he was warm again. Dry. His eyes were heavy, but he forced them open. The light above him hurt. A hand brushed back his hair. 

“Hey baby,” Mom said. 

“Mom?” She kissed his head and he felt the love flow into him. “Is Lisa okay?”

“She’s fine. Because of you.”

“She got lost because of me.”

“No, Bud,” Dad said. “You found her, protected her. If you hadn’t done that, I don’t want to think what would’ve happened.”

Will opened his mouth to speak, but Mom held up a hand. “Lisa told us everything. How you two fought and she ran off. How she got lost, then was attacked by the wolves. She also told us how you found her, then protected her, getting bitten yourself. It doesn’t matter why she ran, Will. You saved her.” Her voice cracked and tears filled her eyes.

A sleepy voice came from right next to him. “I-It’s b-cause he wuvs me. Even when he gets mad at me.”

Will looked down to find her eyes closed, her face still pressed to his shoulder. Pink cheeks and a bandage on her forearm and shin. He sighed, wrapped his arm around her, and hugged her close. It was true. Even when she annoyed him, he loved his brat of a sister. 

“Love you, sissy.”

She lifted her head, meeting his eyes. “Does that mean I can play with your toys?”

He snorted. Maybe he’d acted too quickly when following her into the forest.

“We’ll see,” he said, as his parents laughed.

 Published on OBW Blog February 26, 2021 © Tracey Canole  


The first few stars glitter above me and I make a wish. One that I hold closely, but know may not come true. The grass is cool beneath my feet as I dig my toes into the rich green. I close my eyes when the cool wind shifts, blowing the warmth of the fire toward me. That short blast of cold followed by warm heat is one of my favorite sensations. 

I love this time of year.

Almost the instant that thought crosses my mind, a burning pain rushes up my arm. The cold breeze initiating the fire that lives beneath my skin. I twitch, but force myself not to react. 

Someone laughs beside me, bringing me back to my friends surrounding the flames. Dee with her wild, curly hair and ivory skin. Chloe, long and lean, her auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail and her long legs stretched out before her. I catch her husband checking her out and snicker.

I lift my arm, shifting it so that it touches as little as possible. The small movement causes a sharp wave to fly from my shoulder to my ring finger; my digits feeling as if they’ve been slammed in a door. I curse and readjust. Two more times and I find a comfortable position. 

I can feel his eyes on me, his worry. I reach out with my other hand and twine my fingers with his. He lifts my hand and kisses my knuckles.

“I’m okay,” I whisper.

“Do you need to head back?”

I shake my head. “It’s nice hanging out, it’s distracting. I can last a bit longer.” 

I look to my right and listen as Chloe tells us a story. Her face is radiant as she regales us with our adventure down the side of the cliff, the promise of a waterfall like none other our goal.

Its been days, weeks, since I could breath normally. Since I wasn’t trying to fight the urge to run away. That sense that something is attacking me just won’t leave. My heart rate picks up as the wind shifts again making the arm light up. I suck in a breath and release it slowly. I want to pull away, to hide, but I know there is nowhere to go. What’s happening to me is not something I can run from. 

“That was one of the best trips we have ever taken,” I say, pretending as if there weren’t a torch burning my skin. Pretending as if I were really part of the group and this moment with them. “It may have been one of the hardest hikes, but man was it worth it.”

“The waterfalls were amazing,” Dee agrees.

“I just can’t believe the campsite we found.” Chloe says. “It…”

And I zone out again. I love the stories, the memories we all share, but right now my entire being is focused elsewhere. I hate this feeling. Yes, the pain sucks, but it’s the inability to focus on the world around me that hurts deep in my soul. My family, my friends – my life – deserve my attention and yet I can barely track their words. 

And yet I smile when everyone else does. 

The world fades further as the grief and frustration sinks in. I don’t want to hurt those that matter to me. I lean back into my chair, that dark sense of despair pulling me down. 

No, I will not let it. 

The kids run past – a streak of color and laughter. We all turn to watch as they catch their prey, tackling the poor kid to the ground and tickling him. A scream is followed by a string of full belly laughs as the rest of the mob descend upon him.  

Every single person around the fire grins at the spectacle. This is why we live here. This is the bond we all share. For them – those evil little creatures we call children – for them alone do we live everyday striving for happiness.

My beautiful boy wiggles free and runs for us. He climbs into my lap, me – the protection from his friends. I grunt, but pull him closer. His head rests just under my chin and I kiss his forehead.

“You can’t get me now!” he taunts, and I laugh.

“Careful what you say or I’ll let them take you,” I say. 

“You wouldn’t.” He glares at me. 

Playfully, I glare back. He smiles then laughs as the others turn to a new target and the screams begin again.

“You feeling okay, Mommy?”

“I’ll be fine baby. Go play.”

“In just a minute.” He wraps his small arms around my waist and hugs me tight. I pull my arm away so that he can’t accidentally hit it. I clench my teeth. He notices, but doesn’t say anything. He just hugs me tighter. I hold him, pressing my face to his hair.

“I love you, boy.”

“I love you too.” He slips from me and returns to his friends.

I scan the group, conversation picking up again. My eyes land on the man who sits next to me; the man who loves and protects me. 

“We’re so very lucky,” I say, tears stinging my eyes.

He nods, leans in to kiss my cheek, once again entwining my fingers with his.

“Everything will be fine.”

I release the breath I didn’t know I was holding and look up to the sky. I swallow, the lump in my throat thick with fear. It has been there, weighing me down, for far longer than I want to admit. I find the star I wished upon only minutes ago and repeat the prayer, adding just a little. 

I wish this never happened. No…

I wish I was healthy again. I wish that we figure this out and I recover quickly. Please help me, for the sake of my children, my heart, and my soul.

Hearing my name, I’m pulled back into the conversation. “Do you remember when we all tried to jump off the waterfall at the same time?”

I chuckle. “Yeah. We couldn’t get the timing right. We are hopeless.” They all laugh. 

“Remember the rope swing? I nearly face planted in the water,” Dee asks, and I find myself grateful for the small moments which give us light. Even when the world seems determined to pull us under.

Published on OBW Blog November 27, 2020 © Tracey Canole   


I wiggled my toes, the platform cold beneath my feet. The concrete was smooth. 

“Hello?” I called, my voice sounding hallow. A slight, somehow stunted, echo reverberated back to me. 

Beyond the platform a vast desert shimmered in the moonlight. Mounds of sand rolled for miles and miles. A breeze picked up swirling particles into the air that danced in a hypnotic rhythm. 

I turned slowly, trying to remember where I was. A shiver ran up my spine when the gray lines of the tracks came into view. My fear rose as the train, long and sleek, caught my eye. Its chrome surface glistened, not a speck of dust or debris upon it. No doors or windows were visible; no escape possible. 

Not again. “Mom!” I screamed. 

Fight it! You have to fight it! But just as they had so many times before my feet brought me forward. No matter how much I struggled, I was not in control. I approached the curved nose, my reflection staring back at me with wide eyes. 

“Mom!” I cried. “Help me!”

A piece of the siding hissed then pressed out, sliding to the side. My feet carried me into the bright light within. The ssssht of the door closing was followed by a deep thunk as the lock engaged. There was no getting out now. 

“Welcome. It is nice to see you again,” the disembodied voice of the train said. 

I flinched. “Please let me out. I don’t want to be here.” 

“But it is always such a pleasure to have you.” There was a mechanical chuckle, then it said, “I would sit down if I were you.”

The large cushioned chair sat in the center of the space, a light shone down on it. The hum from the engine hit my ears. I gulped and rushed to the chair resting my head against the back. I knew what happened if I didn’t sit. 

I counted and the moment I hit ten, the train shot forward. My stomach rolled, the force of the acceleration settling on my diaphragm making it hard to breath. My throat burned as the contents of my stomach threatened escape.

The train was speaking, “…going three hundred and fifty miles an hour. We will be on this course for a long as necessary. Enjoy your ride.” 

I sighed in resignation.  It was all up to her now.

“Honey, wake up.” Mom’s voice boomed around me. The lights flickered.

“Help!” I screamed praying she heard me. My chest hurt as I fought against the pressure and spoke. “Train!”

“Shit. Okay, I’ll call the doctor! We’ll get you out.” 

“Or so she thinks,” the train said. 

 Published on OBW Blog October 30, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

The Fall of a Ballerina

Before, the dance came naturally. She’d been a ballerina for most of her life, so her body knew what to do. With every dip in tempo or crescendo brightening the stage, her body flowed, graceful as breathing – happy to bend with every note. It had been her dream, her life for so very long. 

But that day had been different from the moment her eyes opened and she saw the man next to her. She nuzzled into his side, her heart warming at his presence. He slept so peacefully, his hand possessive on her thigh, this bare chest beneath her cheek. The rhythm of his heart was enough to insight the urge to move, to dance.

She should have known something was wrong when she moved to sit and a wave of dizziness hit her. She placed a hand on the nightstand. Why did her feet feel so far away?  She pushed away the thought and stood, her balance not quite right. 

She should have known something was wrong. She should’ve known everything was about to change. But like every performer before her, she lied when he asked if she was alright. She claimed she was just hungry, even though within, she knew it as the lie it was. When he looked at her worriedly, she made a joke and kissed his cheek. And as she snuck out of his apartment to head back to hers, and then rehearsal, she denied the feeling that told her to go back and tell him how much he’d come to mean to her.

The movement helped. The trek back to her flat, not too far or rigorous, was only a few blocks away and yet when she arrived, she found herself breathing heavily. The cold of the morning having burned her cheeks and tightened her lungs. Ignoring it she changed and grabbed her bag.

She does not remember when the numbness began. Only that, as she stepped onto the stage, she felt off. Usually, her body would glide over the polished wood as though she were air, the jumps were so high that she felt like she flew, and the spins which would incite giggles should she not hold them back. 

That day, her legs felt tight, her muscle slow to respond, her balance uncontrolled. She made it through warm-ups fine. They stretched, then completed their rounds of leaps and jumps. 

He entered then, his dark hair covering his eyes and a broody expression on his face. She tried not to smile. She knew it was all an act. For all the grumpiness he showed the world, she knew his heart was gentle, his humor uncontrollable. 

Rehearsal started immediately. The other dancers split into groups as he directed which scenes they were to focus on for the day. She was in all of them, as the lead it was expected. It was also understood that she had to be perfect. Every time. Had any of the other dancers suspected weakness, they would have come for her. So, she performed each step as though they had always been hers. 

The longer she danced, the more she felt ill. She pushed it down, but the longer she spun and leaped with the music the worse it became. With one large pass across the stage everything changed. Something shifted within her. 

A splitting ring filled her ears. Her head went fuzzy, her vision swimming. Then, the world tilted.

Lifting to point, her ankle gave out. The muscle in her thigh turned rubber and she tumbled to the ground. Pain lanced through her side as she collided with another performer. She could hear the angry calls from the director, but they sounded so far away, down a deep tunnel filled with cotton.

Forcing her arms to listen, she pushed herself to a seated position. The entire company stood along the sides, mixtures of worry and delight lining their faces. She swallowed hard, willing her limbs to keep her upright. The director stomped toward her, lips moving.  Nothing registered. She tried to ask ‘what,’ but the words came out garbled. She shook her head, trying to clear away the fog.

His eyes went wide, fear glittering blue. Before he could stop her, she tried to push to her feet. She failed. Her leg gave out and she fell, her face hitting the floor hard. Blood splattered from her nose and calls of alarm rang around her. She felt, but could not see, the stomping of feet against wood planks of the stage as they rushed for her.

The director gasped as his beautiful ballerina unbalanced then fell so uncontrolled he swore she would not wake up. Her body was limp, all signs of life leaked away with a few drops of red. Reaching out, he rolled her over. He brushed back the strands of hair which had escaped her bun. Blood smeared across her cheek and lips, making her ivory skin even paler. He screamed out her name as she began to seize. Her body jerked, her strong muscles contracting violently.

A few figures fell back to the wall only to slide down to the floor. Others ran for their bags in need of a phone. Somehow he heard as one hit the numbers for 911 and the hopeful ringing that followed. 

Maybe that was in his head. He didn’t know.

All he could do was brace this shy, yet vibrantly beautiful woman, as she fought for her life. Had she been just a ballerina, an employee, perhaps the fear rushing through him you would not be so bad. He would care yes, but he knew there was more to this story. She was more. Against all plan, she had snuck into his heart. Her soft voice as they discussed the show had so contrasted the strong opinion and absolute dedication in her eyes. 

Yes, she was far more than ever expected. They’d kept their relationship secret, afraid that the others of the troop would claim favoritism, but as she lay there gasping for breath the tears fell from his eyes.

He could hear the others screaming for help. Someone had gone outside to lead the emergency personnel in. 

She stilled and he pulled her into his arms. For only a second, her eyes cleared and met his. He swore he felt the words she could not say. Her breathing became shallow and he felt the world become less. It dimmed and narrowed. It became colder and he knew even before they began CPR, that the woman he had come to love had died. 

Someone wrapped their arms around him and pulled him back. The EMTs placed her flat on the stage and began the process of saving her. All he could think was, please don’t leave me. 

He did not care that she would, more than likely, never dance again. He did not care that life they shared may be forever changed by these moments. All he cared about was that she lived. That she was there, with him, again.  

He said so. He spoke the words aloud for all to hear. There was no sounds of shock, no proof of surprise. The troop had known all along and they had respected it. More surrounded him, touched him. Tried to provide support. 

They were the longest moments of his life. But when she gasped, air rushing into her lungs as if for the first time, they all released a sigh of relief. She was loaded onto a gurney and taken away. Before she disappeared, the troop helped him up, handed him her things, and shoved him into the ambulance. 

He sat on the bench next to her, watching the two men treating her as they spoke in low voices. When they looked to him, he realized he’d been speaking. Of what exactly, he didn’t know. 

One smiled gently then moved to aside. He choked as the most beautiful eyes he’d ever beheld gazed tiredly back at him. He took her hand and kissed it. Knowing that from now on, there was no path for him, unless she was there with him.

Published on OBW Blog January 15, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

Demon’s Mire

The water rippled. A shiver ran up my spine as the sound of the forest hushed. We all turned to as a splash resonated somewhere in the dark water. A few hushed moments passed and then a bubble began to grow along the surface. Larger and larger it became until the entire town held silent breath waiting for it to pop. Droplets sprayed into the air and waves caught the light as they expanded outward. The reflection of the moon and stars shifted with the movement.

“What the hell was that?” Jim asked from beside me.

I shook my head. 

The air thickened and the scent of the lake filled the air; algae and fish. An energy I’d never felt before swept over the shore. It reached out from the water to touch each and every person along the bank. I stepped back. I did not want that energy touching me. 

The water calmed, the only sound the quiet breaths of those around me. A hand burst from the water making us jump. Gasps filled the air as an arm shot up to hooked around a downed tree. With one great heave a tiny body appeared. Mud caked its skin and its hair was twisted with grasses. The small figure fought for grip. The child gasped, then let out a terrified whimper.

As if on cue, Jim ran into the water. He reached the creature in seconds, his body now drenched from the chest down. 

“Don’t go out there,” I whispered, my skin prickling in warning.

“Connor,” Mrs. Samson said, her voice filled with shock and disappointment. “How could you say that? She is just a child.”

She shot me a glare then headed for the water.

“Get a towel!” Jim screamed as he scooped up the child. Little arms wrapped around his neck. “We need to get her warm!”

Arida, the town doctor, ran up an oversized beach towel in her hands. Jim set the girl on the ground then Arida wove the towel around her. 

“Honey, can you hear me?” Arida asked. The girl nodded. “Where did you come from? Can…”

I watched as the town descended, questions and concerned words filling the air. I backed away. The girl, no the creature, was leaking energy. I could feel it as it wove around those near her. It latched on, seeping into them as they breathed. Their eyes went bright for an instant then dulled back to their normal sheen.

Jim turned to me. “Connor, we’re heading to the clinic. Can you clean up here?”

I nodded, unable to create actual words. The power the creature was releasing had moved closer. It hovered like a pale blue fog above the ground. As it felt my own magic, it hesitated making a few probing motions. With each brush, I smelled rotten eggs and sulfur. Evil, my power told me. This creature was evil.

Arida and James helped the girl stand. The crowd parted, a clear path to the parking lot visible. Slow unhurried steps the girl headed away from the lake. As she did, the tendril of power reaching toward me receded. 

I let out a heavy breath. Maybe I’d been lucky. Maybe it hadn’t gotten enough to know what I was. Maybe I was still safe, even if the town was not.

As if sensing my words, the creature turned to look at me. Her gaze locked to mine. Her eyes narrowed and a disturbed smile spread across her young face. 

“Wielder,” she whispered, no one else seeming to hear her. 

I flinched.

She turned away, but not before a tendril of power snaked across the shield I’d unconsciously erected. 

I cursed, the pain radiating into the core of my being. I fell back against the tree and slid to the ground. My breaths heaved and my abdomen burned. I lifted my shirt and gasped. A brand marked my skin. Steam rose from it and I hissed. I bit back the string of curses and looked toward the figures loading into the cars. This was bad. This was very, very bad. A myth of all myths. A demon among demons. 

“Siphoner,” I whispered into the dark. I let the wave of fear take its course. Then, not wanting to give it too much power, I pushed it down. I locked it deep within, and readied myself for the coming battle. Fear would only feed it. The only way to win was to pull the essence of my own magic before she tainted it forever.

I thought back to the stories my grandmother had told before the fire. Dark, nightmare inducing stories of the Siphoner. I glance back to the brand on my skin. Five days. Five days to fix it all or I would be hers. I could not let that happen. 

I was marked. She was coming. And if I did not win, the world would be hers.

 Published on OBW Blog January 1, 2021 © Tracey Canole

Burn From Within

“You have no idea who you are messing with!” Kelsey slammed the door, the resounding boom shaking the walls. A flier fluttered from the hallway message board to the floor. Kelsey cursed as she slipped on the small sheet. Her arms cartwheeled uncontrolled before she caught herself. Her hand hit the wall and she shook it out.

A giggling brought her attention to another student resting on a nearby bench. With one sharp glare, the young girl paled then buried her face in a book. 

“How dare that pompous, worthless, piece of…” Kelsey mumbled under her breath. Her shoes clacked on the tile floor, loud and echoing.  

Kelsey pushed the door open and stepped out into the cool air of morning. Normally, a day like this would have been heaven to a girl like her. Fresh air, the crisp bite of approaching snow, and the heavenly lack of stench. Yeah, it was perfect. Later she’d regret not being able to enjoy it. There were few days where the Animal Science labs didn’t reek to high heaven and taint this side of campus. She hated it over here, but most of her classes were in the building near the fields. She should have chosen a different major. 

Fists clenched and head down, Kelsey stalked across campus. She needed to get home. With the way today is going, it’d be better if she hid from the world. There was no way she was going to lectures. If she did, her anger would only make more crappy things happen. Nine A.M. and she had already spilled two cups of coffee down her shirt, screamed at her teacher in front of two hundred students, and hit someone. If her luck continued, she’d probably fall down the stairs or start a riot in the mess hall. 

No, no she was not doing this. She would hide in her dorm until the day was over and her rage quieted.

She turned a corner, hoping to sneak between the buildings and along the bike path. No one would be down here this time of day. Anyone on campus would already be in class, so her anger wouldn’t leak on them damaging their day as well. Her murmurings continued, the fury causing her fingers to tingle.

“Lack of inspiration? A mockery of mythology?” She ranted to herself. “How dare…”

The breath was knocked out of her when a wall had appeared in front of her. No, not a wall,  a hard gigantic body of a man. More than twice her size, she had no chance of keeping her feet. 

Luke’s fingers wrapped around the arms of a slight girl. The soft fabric covering her small frame slipped through his grasp as she bounced off him. He moved quick, stepping forward to wrap his arm around her waist and keep her form falling.  Her honey blond hair flitted across her face hiding her features. Laughter filled the air as his friends watched the exchange.

“Hey, watch where you’re…” he started. He trailed off as a set of ice blue eyes met his.

“What the hell?” she snapped. The fire in that gaze would’ve made a lesser man squirm.

As she pressed her hands against his chest to push him away, the hem of her shirt lifted. His skin brushed against her lower back and she sucked in a breath. Heat, fire rushed into her at the touch. 

Luke heard the inhale, but it was the shift in her eyes that stopped him cold. From one second to the next, they lit from within. The red flame started small then extended out from the pupil to over take the white of her eye. Luke’s stomach dropped and fear filled him. This couldn’t be happening.

“Dragon Heart!” Luke yelled. Just like that, his thunder-mates encircled them. A deep guttural hum, not quite a growl began to reverberate from each of their chests. With it, the power within them lifted, a wave so strong the trees nearby shifted as if from a strong breeze swept through the area. The shield stood just in time. 

Luke’s breaths were heavy, his heart rate picking up. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to her as the flames spread.

She screamed. Her head flew back and fire erupted outward in every direction. It hit the shield and his friends braced themselves. He watched as one second the flames filled her eyes, and the next she it spread over her face, down her arms, and across her legs.  Her fingers dug into his skin, sharp pricks as her nails elongated into something closer to talons. Another wave of heat exploded from her slamming into the shield they’d erected. This time, the shield didn’t even wobble.

His heart broke as another, deeper scream filled the air. He pulled her to him, pressing her face to his chest. Luke held on for dear life. He closed his eyes and waited as she burned from the inside out. He felt her tears as they hit his skin burning deep. They would leave scars, marking him forever. That was fine he deserved them. This was his fault. 

Sucking in a breath, Luke felt as his own fire escaped to dancing with hers. Blue flame mixed with yellow swirling higher and higher.  The roar increased as they melded. He groaned.

“Help me!” she screamed, voice cracking. Her legs gave out, but he held her upright.

He knew what he needed to do. They had all been taught about Dragon Hearts as children, though few believed they existed. It was up to him, her match. If he didn’t stop this, she would burn away. If he didn’t save her, he would be alone forever.

“I’m sorry Dragon Heart. I did not mean it. I can help, but you need to trust me.” 

She blinked slowly up at him, her eyes filled with fear. 

“I will fix this,” Luke whispered. He lifted her face and pressed his lips to hers.

Kelsey jumped at the contact. For what seemed like forever all Kelsey had known was pain. Her body felt as though every molecule were on fire. That it was changing, a violent and permanent shifting deep within. But then the man pressed his lips to hers. 

No, it was Luke. Not “the man.” How did she know that?  She went to pull away. Some guy she didn’t know was kissing her. She had to get away. But, that wasn’t right either. 

He was Luke. Second of the Dragon Thunder of Hoard. Honest. Kind. Loyal. Guilt – he felt guilt. Fear for her. She felt that too. And the fire… it was shifting with his touch. Wherever his skin touched hers, the pain lessened. Kelsey pressed against him, lifting her hands to his neck.

Luke shuddered as even more of her fire flooded into him through her touch. Dark and seductive, it filled his blackened heart, sparking a light he never thought possible. He could hear her. Her brilliant mind calm even in the chaos. He saw her heart, her dreams. He felt her kindness and even her feisty nature. And he realized this had been coming for months. He remembered her now. Walking through campus, glaring at them as she passed. He thought back to his interest in her, the need to watch  her. He had been drawn to her from the moment he’d heard her berate another student for not watching where he was going. Luke grinned. Sam had noticed his interest, but never commented. 

Kelsey deepened the kiss, the need for the flames to subside a desperate need. Somehow she knew he was the only way to do it. He was the one who could control this and help her. His arms ran up her back as he responded in kind. She opened for him and when her tongue touched his, the world exploded. She broke away, a shattered scream filling the air. Then the world went dark.

The girl, Kelsey, went limp. The fire all consuming was sucked into him from instant to the next. Luke grunted in pain then caught her, sweeping her up into his arms.   His panting breaths were loud in the sudden silence. He pressed his forehead to hers.

“Do not worry, Dragon Heart. You will be okay. We will take you home. Mother will know what to do.  Just stay with me,” he whispered into her hair.

The shield of power dropped, a pop as sound returned. Luke glanced to his friends – his family – shock lining their faces. Their eyes glowed with their dragons; blue, red, green, and purple.  He had no doubt that his glowed gold, his dragon peaking out too.

Darren ran a hand through his hair. “So…it looks like you found your matched. A Dragon Heart no less.”

Luke swallowed hard. “So it would seem.”

Sam, Darren, Ezequiel, and Thorin closed ranks, awe and hope seeping from them. Luke brushed back Kelsey’s hair to expose her high cheekbones and pixie nose. Her small frame nestled perfectly against him. She was beautiful.

Sam chuckled, “and a strong one at that.”  He leaned in closer. Luke growled. Sam grinned, stepping back slowly. “If she makes it through transition, she will be a force like none other. One to rival you.”

“I’ve never seen power like that,” Thorin said. “The others will be full of surprise.”

“That we found a Dragon Heart, or that Luke has a girl?” Ezequiel asked. Sam snorted and Darren laughed.

“Definitely the girl part,” Darren teased.

Luke rolled his eyes. He scanned his friends. Underneath the shock and fear, he could see the hope which flickered within them. Dragon Hearts were rare. Matches were rare.  To find one now, when their thunder of dragons was so unstable, it could fix everything. If she shifted and became her truest form, then he might still have time to fix the rot infecting his home. And he had felt her. She was strong. Maybe stronger than Arthur. With her help, he might be able  to prove his suspicions – to save the wing and take him down. 

“We need to get her back to Mother,” Luke said. They all nodded. “She isn’t safe yet and if she lights again, I do not know if I can pull her free.” 

With a quick look around, wings appeared on each of their backs. Flying would be quicker; safer should she alight. He hated flying only partially shifted, but Luke knew it was the best way to get her home. With one last look down at her face, he propelled himself upward, his golden wings carrying them easily.

Published on OBW Blog December 18, 2020 © Tracey Canole 

Admission on the Dock

“Mom, are you there? I need to talk.”

Brooklyn lowered herself, taking a seat on the edge of the dock. The wood was rough against the back of her legs as they hung over the edge, the tips of her toes kissing the water. The sun warmed her skin, but the breeze took away any bite it may carry. 

“I know it’s been a long time, but I need your help. The last few weeks have been so hard, especially with you gone. You see, Liam and I have been fighting. Well…that’s not entirely true. H-he…Well, let’s just say I wish you were here and I wasn’t just talking to myself.”

A goose honked bringing Brooklyn’s attention to the reeds which lined the right bank. They were tall and danced gracefully in the wind. A few larger birds stood in the shallow water splashing. Some would disappear underwater only to pop back up a few feet away and shake happily. 

Her gaze meandered across the lake before her. It was so peaceful here. The gentle lapping of the water as it brushed the dock mixed with the rustle of the reeds, the chatter of the bugs, and the far-off laughter of children. She could barely see them as they played in the water, but the joy was clear as day. Just like it had been for her once.

Memories flooded her. The green eyes and light brown hair of her mother filling her mind flipped to the image of them laughing as they splashed and swam in the water along the bank. 

“So I came to our place, where I always feel closest to you hoping, praying, that you’ll hear me and tell me what to do. The moon’s out already,” Brooklyn said, glancing first to where the sun was taking its leave behind the mountain, then to the moon who smiled brilliantly from above. “Tonight is so clear. It’s going to be one of those nights where the moon reflects off the water like a mirror of the sky. This is the only place in the world I’ve seen that happen. Yeah, yeah, I know I haven’t been to many places, but still.”

The breeze blew her hair into her face. She giggled.

“Fine. Yes, I’m stalling. I’m just afraid of what you’re going to think. I didn’t handle this the best.” With a long exhale she began, “Liam found out about my feelings. You know, that I’ve been in love with him since the third grade? Well, Carissa told him. I don’t know how she found out, but he didn’t believe her. At first. I guess she kept pushing it saying it was a creepy type of obsession. I didn’t know she was doing this until he started acting weird at school. Apparently, she said a lot. Then last week he confronted me. I was so embarrassed, but I figured, hey this is my best friend he won’t hate me for my feelings.”

Brooklyn collapsed back onto the dock, her knees bent, feet planted on the old planks. She shoved her hands into the hair. The stars above glittered steadily as if listening, proving the support she needed so vehemently.

“Boy, I was wrong. He freaked out. Like big time. He stopped coming over to hang out. He stopped talking to me at school. Then he started dating Carissa. She’s spent the last week rubbing it in my face – of course. She makes sure they’re always in the hall outside my classes kissing. It sucks.” Brooklyn pushed up to her elbows, again taking in the water as it rippled in the wind. “I was so mad. Even if he doesn’t return my feelings, how could he treat me like that? Anyway, I bet you can guess where this is going, huh? Well, I made it worse. Shocking right?”

She felt the heaviness in her chest just as she had earlier. The embarrassment and pity in the eyes of her peers. Tears pricked at her eyes and her throat became thick. 

“We were at a party. The whole school was there. I was so frustrated that he hadn’t talked to me all week and that Carissa and her posse have been spreading more rumors about me. Cruel ones. To answer your question, yes, she still hates me. Mostly because she also wants him. So tonight, when she was getting a drink, I confronted him on the dance floor. I just wanted him to listen, to understand that my feelings didn’t change our friendship and that I was more than willing to be just friends if that’s what he wanted. I just need him in my life. Hell, we’ve been friends forever.”

One tear escaped, then another. Brooklyn covered her face with her arm. She didn’t want to admit what happened next.

“He said knowing already ruined it. That my feelings tainted our relationship. Can you guess what happened next?” A bitter chuckle filled the air. “Well, I got mad. Truly and completely angry at him. I don’t know what took over me. I think I just wanted to show him that he was wrong. So, I kissed him right there in front of everyone. When I pulled away and said, ‘See, it doesn’t change anything for you so it doesn’t change anything for me.’ He just stood there. At least until Carissa jumped on my back and tried to pull out my hair. I won by the way.”

Brooklyn jumped as a fish catapulted out of the water a few feet away, disappearing back within so fast it was as if it were never there. Shaking her head, she sat up so her legs could once again swing. Her face dropped into her hands.

“The look he gave me. I’ve only seen that much hatred on his face twice. I…”

“It doesn’t change the truth.” 

Brooklyn squeaked, spinning to find the source of the voice. She nearly slid off the dock Liam had startled her so much, but she managed to right herself. A rush of fury had her clenching her fists. 

“Thanks for the clarification.” She faced the water again,  wiping her cheeks clean of residual tears.

Holy crap, he was here and she hadn’t heard him approach. How much had he heard? Brooklyn ground her teeth, worry and confusion filling her. It doesn’t change the truth.

“Who are you talking to? Your Mom?” Liam asked as he took the spot next to her. His legs quickly picking up her rhythm.

“Shouldn’t you be with Carissa?” Brooklyn snapped. From the corner of her eye, she examined him. 

His dirty blond hair was messy as if he’d been running his hands through it. It was a habit that worsened when he was upset. Dark circles lined his eyes and his lips were tight. His shoulders dropped ever so slightly when he spoke.

“Camille…” Liam started.

Wait, he was going to talk to her mother? Brooklyn watched him, she couldn’t help it. 

His head was down, eyes locked on his hands as he continued, “Can you believe what a mess I made? I can hear you now muttering under your breath about how dense teenage boys are. Just so you know, I do remember the last conversation we had before you died. You were like a Mom to me, you know that right?”

His gaze lifted to the sky and Brooklyn couldn’t help but trail her eyes over the line of his jaw then down to where he leaned back on his arms. The muscles there were tense, sculpted from long days of swimming.

“Anyway, I remember what you said. You told me how much you appreciated Brook’s and my friendship. You thanked me, warned me not to screw it up, and then said I should make it the most important relationship I had. You begged me not to ruin it.” Brooklyn sat straighter as his words sunk in. Liam exhaled hard, then said, “Well, I did screw it up. But, I bet you’re  the only one to understand why.”

“Liam, what are you talking about?”

He ignored me, continuing to speak to her mom, “You knew about my feelings didn’t you?”

Brooklyn froze. Her body tightened and she had to force the breath from her lungs. 

Liam turned, shifting one leg up so that he could look at her directly. His knee brushed the side of her thigh and a shock of electricity rushed through her. He nervously rubbed his hands down his thighs as their eyes locked.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…” He trailed off.

“You shouldn’t have found out that way and I shouldn’t have kissed you. Especially in front of everyone. I hope it didn’t cause too much trouble with Carissa.” The words were just a bit too quick. Brooklyn looked away, suddenly very interested in the far bank. She could feel his eyes on her.

Liam reached out and brushed loose hair behind her ear. When she didn’t look at him, he pinched her chin between two fingers and turned her to face him. Liam cursed himself at the tears in her eyes. She was so beautiful.

“You don’t get it.” His thumb brushed her cheek. “Brook, I’m not mad that you kissed me. In fact, I’m glad you did.”

“I don’t understand,” Brooklyn whispered.

“I was scared and stupid. I was afraid I’d lose you if you knew the truth. Which makes no sense now considering I pushed you away, but…” He took a long breath. The fingers tracing her jaw slipped to the nape of her neck. “I’ve been in love with you since the day we moved in and I saw you climbing the tree next door. That feeling has only gotten stronger every day we spend together.”

“Then why?” The light circles he drew on her neck were driving her mad. Tingles spread down her spine, spreading out until the tips of her fingers itched to touch him back.

“I didn’t want to risk losing you. I need you, Brooklyn, more than anything and I couldn’t risk this not working out. If being only your friend means that I can guarantee that then…”

He was so close to her, their lips only inches apart. She had no idea who had leaned in, but she could feel his breath on her skin. She took in his features, now so strong, and marveled at the emotion she could see in every line.

“Then why are you here?” She asked, her voice deeper than normal.

“Because the moment you kissed me I realized your mom wasn’t saying I should stay away. She was telling me not to be scared. Not to miss the chance when I finally got it.”

Brooklyn began to say something, but it was cut off as Liam pressed his lips to hers. She gasped. They were so soft, the feeling of them causing a new, stronger wave of tingles to spread through her entire being. She threaded her hand in his shirt and pulled him closer. Her other hand grasped at his shoulder then snaked around his neck. The kiss deepened, her lips parting as a groan rumbled his chest.

Liam didn’t hesitate. He shifted forward, his other hand wrapping her waist then sliding up her back. They explored each other’s mouths, each touch a brand to their souls.  When he finally pulled away, he rested his forehead against hers. He couldn’t help but find satisfaction in the pinkness of her cheeks or the glaze in her eyes. Their panting breaths mingled.

“Can you forgive me for being such an ass the last few weeks?” Liam asked.

Brooklyn bit her lip. She shivered as Liam’s eyes tracked the motion, his gaze becoming hotter. She wanted to kiss him again, but she needed to say this before they could move forward.

“Do you remember the day I fell through the ice and you got me out?” she asked. He nodded. “It was our first year together. We were playing too close to the water. You told me not to go out there, but I did anyway. When I fell in you stayed so calm. You got me out, gave me your jacket, and then helped me to the house. You stayed over that night to make sure I was okay.”

“I remember.”

“You’ve always been there for me. You’ve been my best friend, my confidant, and my protector. I was too young to understand then, but I think that’s the day I fell in love with you. ” 

He blinked slowly, the awe written across his face. A slow grin lifted the corner of his mouth.  It was crooked, the smile she cherished more than any other as it was only ever for her.

Brooklyn shook as she thought over her next words. When she spoke, she had to look away from his knowing gaze. “Liam, what does this mean?”

He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. His brown eyes shone in the moonlight, the emotions there both familiar and foreign. “Would you go on a date with me? Dinner, a movie, a hike, whatever you want. I don’t care. I want to try, and if it works out, I want you to be my girlfriend. Not just my best friend.”


“I never should have dated her. I’m sorry. I told her the truth and we broke up.”

“And you really want to do this?” Brooklyn asked, uncertainty making her voice tremble.

“Yes. I really want to, but we have to promise something to each other.”

“That is?”

“Our friendship comes first. If this isn’t working then we take a step back before we hurt one another.”

Brooklyn ran a hand through his hair, the strands soft against her skin. “I can agree to that, but I don’t think that will be an issue. You know me better than anyone.”

He leaned closer. “I don’t either.”

Just before his lips touched hers, a blast of wind swept across the lake. It rippled the water and made the trees shift violently. Then, as if caught by the wind, a bird swept down nearly hitting Liam in the head. He ducked. 

“Woah!” Another blast came for him, and then a fish dove out of the water slamming Liam in the chest. “Okay, okay! I get it, Camille. I’ll be good. I’ve learned my lesson.” 

Liam held his hands up and scooted back from Brooklyn.

“Mom,” Brooklyn whined. She laughed at the look on Liam’s face. “I think she’s warning you to take better care of me.”

“She threw a fish at me! She’s even more terrifying than she was when she was alive.”

Brooklyn snorted and pushed to her feet. Holding out a hand, Liam took it, rising to tower over her. She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his chest. Liam hugged her to him, kissing the crown of her head.

“Don’t worry. She always liked you.”

“I think you’re right though,” Liam said. He spoke to the lake next. “And don’t worry, Camille, I figured it out. I won’t ruin it again.”

Brooklyn smiled up at him then grasped his hand and led them off the dock. Before she stepped from the wooden path, she said, “Bye Mom. Thank you. I’ll come talk soon.”

  Published on OBW Blog March 12, 2021 © Tracey Canole  


She was completely alone. No people, no animals, not even the biting flies. She’d gone into the bunker believing that when she emerged, everything would be the same, that it was another false alarm. But as she took in the silence, the lack of that ever so consistent hum of electricity and the missing sensation of movement, she began to panic.

What the hell happened? Where was everyone, everything? She dropped the heavy metal lid back, a quick thunk as the  hinge extended. Pushing up, she lifted herself from the ladder, her arms shaking with the effort. Up and out to the hard concrete floor that remained of her home. There was nothing left. No furniture. No walls or flooring. No decorations. But most disturbingly, no debris. Just a clean concrete slab. The house next door, the Smith’s home across the street, and the shop on the corner were all gone. It was as if her life never really existed. Swept away as she slept.

She stood slowly, her stomach heavy as she scanned the horizon. She spun taking it all in. This had to be a dream. For the first time in her life, she could see for miles. It was flat – completely and utterly flat – nothing to impede her view. Every building was gone and not a single tree or bush remained. It was like the entire world had been scraped down to it’s foundation and everything sucked away. 

A strong wind blew back her hair, but then it stopped, sudden and complete. A shiver ran up her spine and she felt eyes on her. She was being watched.

“Hello?” she called out, but her voice sounded off; stilted. “Is anyone there?”

She glanced down into her bunker and to the ladder which led back into darkness, to safety. It could wait. She needed to see if anyone survived this; whatever this was.

Thinking of the Murphys, she ran next door toward their storm shelter. She gasped when she saw the hole, stairs leading down. They creaked as her weight hit the first step. The musty air wafted to her as she descended.

“Mr. Murphy? Mrs. Murphy?” she asked. She pulled a small flashlight from her pocket and turned it on. Tears filled her eyes as she swept the space. It was empty. Not, they aren’t here empty, but they never existed empty. The bunk-beds along the back, the stool Mr. Murphy built, even the food stores were gone. The room was barren; no sign that anything or anyone had ever been here.

Sucking in a breath, she ran up the stairs and across the street to the Smith’s. When she reached their storm shelter it was the same. Nothing. Tom’s home, Ginny’s, Samuel’s… all stripped clean. 

Tears welled in her eyes, her chest heaved. She needed to get back to the bunker. It was safe in there. And out here – out here wasn’t. She’d go back down and hide. It was fine. She could be alone. Alone was something she understood.

She ran as fast as she could and nearly dove into the darkness, but something was off. The hatch that closed, securing her little home was no longer there. The hinge had been cut clean. Slowing her steps, she bent to shine the flashlight down. 

“No,” she whispered. The backpack she’d left just at the base of the ladder was gone. Skittering down it, she nearly fell to her knees as she scanned the room. It was empty. Her bed, her blankets, her books and cards, her food was gone. Just an shell with nothing left. Her body wretched and bile filled her mouth. The grinding sound of metal echoed in the distance and she knew. They were coming for her. Nowhere was safe.

Published on OBW Blog December 11, 2020 © Tracey Canole 


Prompt: Chopsticks. They are not always what they seem. 


Children are weird. I mean, I know I was made for them and I’m glad that I found my human, but… 

Here I lay, halfway off the small bed, watching my whole world -in a pretty pink tutu and neon leggings- pick her nose. And yup, she ate it. I sigh. At least this time she didn’t wipe it on me. I hate when that happens. It makes my fur clump and it smells gross. 

I can’t wait until Mia goes back to school. Although I miss her, I know the big one called Mom will clean me. It has been months since I was washed and I am starting stiffen. The dryer is scary, but I do love how soft my plush is when I’m done. Plus, I’m warm for hours so Mia gives me extra snuggles.

“Mia darling? It’s time to leave for dinner.”

“Okay, Mommy,” Mia says. “Bear, it’s time to go.” She stands, rushes to me and sweeps me up by the leg. 

There is a tilting sensation and the world spins. I giggle inside as she straightens, then wraps her arm around my chest so I can look out at the world. I love that she knows I like to see where we are going. Being in the box before I met Mia had been the worst and it had only taken her a few days to learn this about me.

One of my long ears falls into my view, but as her little steps stomp down the hall, it shifts to the side. My feet dangle and I wish I could kick them. I love the feeling of kicking my legs.

“You bringing Rabbit?” The large man Mia calls Daddy, asks.

“Daddy, his name isn’t Rabbit, it’s Bear!” Mia’s voice says exasperatedly.

“You named your rabbit, Bear?”

“Of course Daddy. Bear is fierce. He isn’t afraid of anything! Plus he’s brown.”

The look on the Dad-man’s face shifts to confusion. He glances to Mom and she just shrugs.

What? A rabbit named Bear makes total sense to me, but its not the first time I’ve seen a large one confused. They call them adults and from what I can tell they just don’t seem all that smart.  

“Well I think it fits him perfectly,” the Mom creature says. She reaches over and scratches between my ears. If I could close my eyes I would, because that feels amazing.

Mia plops me on the seat next to her, my body folding so that my nose is pressed into the leather. I don’t mind, car rides make me sick. So I listen as Mia and her parents talk. I can’t help the happiness I feel at the sound of Mia’s voice. 

The ride is quick, only a few turns and we’re there. There’s the click of the seatbelt and Mia picks me up. She squeezes me tight as we walk into the restaurant.  There are large lions which guard the entrance and a dragon on the painting above the table. 

Ooooo!  We love this place!  They have these things called sticks. No, chops. No, thats not right. It’s chopsticks!

They’re these magical tools. I have never seen anything like them.  They’re long and sharp -but not too sharp – and they change into a bunch of really cool stuff. 

Once, I saw the Dad-man put them in his mouth just under his lip and then -like magic – he turned into a walrus!  Mia was so worried. The noises he made were not human. It took forever to figure out how to turn him back. 

Mia props me up on the end of the table against the wall. I can see everyone from here. I smile as Mia bounces in her seat talking animatedly to her parents. Honestly, I don’t understand all of what she says. It’s about something called Papa and a sword fight?

She turns to me. “Bear, Papa is Daddy’s dad and the last time I saw him he taught me how to sword fight. Do you know what that is?”

I stare.

“Well, it’s like this.” Mia picks up two chopsticks from her plate. She holds one in her hand and then presses the other to my outstretched arm. “You always start with ‘On Guard.’” 

She points the chopstick at me and just like that, the restaurant fades away. A forest appears around us, thick and alive. Animals chitter as I jump to my feet. A warm breeze rustles my fur and armor appears on us both. I laugh. 

She lunges with her sword and I block. I return the blow and she parries. Our swords connect with a deep clunk of wood. She swipes and I am too slow. I groan as her blade slices my thigh. Still I stand ready to…

“Mia, honey. That is not what chopsticks are used for,” Mom says.

Instantly, the world of magic and wonder disappears. The smell of the air shifts from pine to the deep scent of spiced chicken. Mmmmmm, Orange Chicken.

“Sorry Momma,” Mia says. She takes the chopstick from me setting on the table. 

“Do you want the helper for your chopsticks.”  Mia nods and Mom takes our fun, pushing the ends into a bright blue piece of plastic. The device created looks like a pair of tweezers or a giant nutcracker.

Mia takes them and grins. “Now I’m a doctor!” 

She grabs my foot lying me flat. Again the world shifts and we’re in a white room. I lie on a table with Mia looking down. The beep of monitors and the smell of cleaning supplies hits my nose.

“Don’t worry, this won’t hurt.” 

The long forceps she holds are menacing as she leans in. My breaths become quick and I swear I feel a sweat dampening my plush.

“All I have to do is…” Mia starts.

“Mia! I told you to stop.” Just like that, we’re back at the table and Mom is setting me upright. “Chopsticks are for eating, NOT playing.”

“Yes Momma,” Mia says sadly. She places the chopsticks back on the table and I sigh in relief. That was close.

Dejected, Mia sits, head down and eyes sad. I don’t like seeing her this way, but it isn’t long before the food comes and Mia perks up. She grabs the device of torture and begins to carefully eat her food. I watch as she laughs at her uncoordinated attempts of picking up her meal. The Mom creature tries to help and after only a few moments, they are all giggling. I sigh and watch as my whole world lights up the room. I love this restaurant and any time with my girl.

Published on OBW Blog December 4, 2020 © Tracey Canole 


Prompt(700 words or less): Wrinkles

The harsh lighting of the bathroom shines down on me. I sit sideways on the counter gazing into the mirror, examining my reflection. I run my hand up my cheek then along the underside of my eye. The soft skin pulls at my gently touch. Amusement flashes through me and I smile.

“All I am saying is that you’re reaching the age where the elasticity of your skin begins to fade. Now is the time to stop the damage. You are aging…” The sales girl’s voice repeats in my mind making my smile grow. As does the memory of her reaction to my less than appreciative response. I probably scared the poor child.

I trail my fingers up across my forehead then down my nose to my laugh lines. I always knew one day these would appear. I just didn’t think I was old enough yet. I guess what they say is true. The older you are, the faster time goes. 

“What are you doing in here?” Ben asks from the door.

“Washing my face and look what I found. Wrinkles.”

“You don’t have wrinkles,” he says with absolute surety, but the look in his eyes tells me he suspects a trap. 

I laugh. “Yes they are wrinkles and from what I was told today, I need to take steps now to slow the aging.”

His eyes go wide. “Who said that?”

“The girl at the store.”

“Honey, you have to know,” he starts, approaching me. 

I touch his outstretched hand, spinning to face him. I spread my legs and he slips between. I press my jean clad knees to his sides.

“You have to know she’s wrong. You’re beautiful.”

“She’s not wrong.” I run my hands up his strong arms. “But you know what?”

“What?” he says, resting his palms on my hips.

“I like them.” I run my fingers along my cheekbone. 

He tilts his head to examine me, a question in his eyes. 

“Do you remember Auntie Jean?” 

He nods. “She was gorgeous. Every time you looked at her you saw happiness.”

“Exactly. As a child I used to think that she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. As she aged she only became more so. Year after year the wrinkles deepened. The corner of her eyes became defined and lines appeared to frame her mouth. Her hands aged becoming long and thin; proof of their experience.”

His hands ran over my hip and up my back. 

Continuing I said, “I remember asking her once – when I was fifteen or so – if the wrinkles bothered her.”

“What did she say?”

“She said each and every divot in her skin was precious. She told me that most people saw age and imperfection.”

“But she saw something else?” 

I nodded. “She saw the day she married my uncle. She saw the birth of her son, her daughter’s first giggle. She saw the water balloon fight with all of us kids.” I chuckle. “Or embarrassing me with my first boyfriend.”

“I remember that story.”

“She told me that every single crows feet and laugh line reminded her of all the reasons she’d ever had to smile.”

He brushed a hair back from my face. 

I glance back to the mirror and sighed, a small grin lining my lips.

“I may be getting old,” I winked at him and he rolled his eyes. “But if that’s the type of wrinkles I get, I think I can handle that. I think I like what I see.”

“You’re not old. And, I know I like what I see.” He leaned in and kissed up my neck to the hollow of my throat. “But I’d be willing to make you smile if you think that’d help.”

Heat swept through me and I giggled again. He pressed into me. I pulled him closer, my nails digging into his back. 

“Yes, please help me smile,” I said. His rumbling chuckle vibrated against my chest and I groaned.

“My pleasure.” He whispered the words against my skin, his hot breath intoxicating. All thought of wrinkles vanished from my mind. 

Published on OBW Blog November 20, 2020 © Tracey Canole  

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