20 Lines A Day

A Community of Writers and Photographers


Kindle eBook cover and interior design just $149 from Sable Books

Sable_Books-covers

Sure, you can ePublish your book yourself.

But at Sable Books, we never use a template on our cover designs.  Through our work with Jacar Press, we have designed beautiful book covers for North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductees for Betty Adcock, Jaki Shelton Green, and Shelby Stephenson.  We bring the same attention to detail and dedication to design to your book. Continue reading


Hello, and Happy Autumn!

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Hello to everyone in our 20 Lines community!

Just a quick note to give a shout out in greetings and in gratitude.  I wanted to share with you that we’re getting pretty close to a milestone — 90,000 views on this blog.

In this year alone, we’ve been read in over 140 countries.  Seriously, I tried to count them, and lost count around 143.

It was exciting for me to see this, and I thought you might get a kick out of it, too.  I hope you all are doing very well and that this time of year — wherever you are — is beautiful for you, and that life is treating you kind.

Cheers, and happy autumn!

All best,

Melissa

 

 


Memory

Sam sat just outside the light of the camp’s fire, her knees drawn up to her chest. She didn’t watch her friends, gathered for supper and conversation, but stared into the black woods.

“What’s up with her?” one of them asked Roger.

When they’d left that morning, Sam had been her usual self – talkative and bossy. When they returned to camp, there was nothing he could say to erase what she’d seen.

“We found her old house today,” he told his companion as a spark broke away from the fire. He breathed through his teeth and shook his head. He had nothing to say either.

Roger told her not to go in – that it would only begin a torrent of pain that would drive her mad.

But she walked through her old front door anyway and toured every dark and dusty inch. She sat on her couch, stood before her fridge, sat at the dinner table and stared at the space above her husband’s seat. In the bedroom, the bed was still unmade from their last night before the world came apart. The sheets were still strewn back as if he’d just risen from bed, his ghostly form now wandering the house.

Before Roger could stop her, she buried her face in his pillow, crying “I can still smell him” and wailed like a dying animal.

Roger could still hear it now, hours later. He watched the profile of her empty, hard face – lost in memory. That was all any of them had now.


Trapped

Consciousness came gradually. He first became aware of a loud whirring sound – a sound he knew was unfamiliar, even though he couldn’t remember his name. That realization alone made him shoot upright in bed.

And, he now saw, he didn’t know where he was either.

The room was small – no bigger than a bathroom – its walls made of cinderblock painted white. He couldn’t see a window, but the room was awash in natural light. He twisted in bed and found its source – a long, narrow window high on the wall and set with bars.

Bars. Why am I in a room with bars?

As his gaze moved to a heavy steel door to his left, his eye caught something on a bedside table – a small book. It fit wholly within his palm. On the cover – typed in official, old-fashioned type – was the following: WELCOME TO THE COMPOUND.

With a shaking hand, he opened the soft paper cover. The first page began, “WE ARE VERY HAPPY TO HAVE YOU WITH US, XAVIER.”

Is that my name?

He thumbed through the remaining pages – they were filled with widely-spaced, tiny letters, organized in numbered lists.

Rules. Dozens of them.

Before he could read the first one, someone knocked on the door and its knob creaked as it turned.


Hike

Ben didn’t care much for hiking. He hated the bugs, the sweating, the exertion. It was the city life for him. He came for his friends – they loved adventure. Ben usually got hurt. “Live a little!” they’d say, slapping his back.

This isn’t living, Ben thought as he slapped another bug dead on his arm. He groaned away the cramps in his legs and lungs.

“Keep moving, old man!” Seth hollered. He was a fair distance ahead and Ben fell back, losing sight of both his friends among the trees.

Of course he panicked like a lost child. He scanned the thick woods as he climbed the widening trail but they were gone. “Seth? Dave?” He reached a flat spot where the trail wound through thinning woods and there was a clear view for a hundred feet. No sign of them.

But there was movement. A flicker, like a light flashing, pulled his attention on the right. It flashed again. Ben lost his common sense and followed. He found the light hovering under a small outcrop of rock. It grew brighter with every step.

Suddenly, Ben couldn’t breathe, his eyes blanketed with blackness and a heavy rhythmic hush like in a seashell. When it passed, Ben flung forward and fell on top of Seth and Dave.

They were alive but lifeless. And they weren’t in the woods.


Milady

When Mirabelle opened her eyes, she thought she was blind. It took a couple minutes for the flame of a single candle to emerge from a far corner. Shadows flickered against the wall like a hulking bat.

She shifted and something rattled. Then a solid, heavy pressure grew on both wrists and ankles and Mirabelle’s foggy mind cleared. She was chained. The manacles rattled again as she began to tremble, their metallic clink echoing closely in the chamber.

With a panicked gulp, she opened her mouth to scream.

“That won’t help, my dear,” came a voice. Soft, gentle, motherly. But not a friend, Mirabelle felt that as sharply as a knife in her side.

A woman’s figure then appeared from a deep shadow to Mirabelle’s left. Her skirts scraped the dirt floor in a delicate, measured pace. A face slowly caught the light – nose first, then chin, cheeks and forehead. All noble, prominent, sculpted.

Mirabelle knew that face.

“Milady -“

Her eyes certainly didn’t flash of recognition. Mirabelle was, after all, one smudged, vague face in a sea of servants at the Lady’s feet. Indeed, she barely looked in her face, studying instead an object below her that commanded great interest.

It was a blade. It rose up, point first, from beneath her chin. Candelight graced its sharp edge, glowing silver and liquid.

Mirabelle, whimpered, like an animal.

“Shhh, shhh my dear.”


Earl Grey

The downpour that began the night before was now – at nearly dawn – a hovering, thin mist. The grass was soggy, the air just above freezing. It reminded Lottie of home.

“You look awful,” Det. Marx said as she approached the bridge. Such a charmer. He offered her a Styrofoam cup of Earl Grey that promised to be awful. Lottie long ago accepted that she’d never find a decent cup in this century. All the same, she took it – the hot liquid inside warming her fingers – and glimpsed at the corpse.

He lay on his back, spread eagle and bare-chested. Carved into the gray skin and glistening dully with morning dew, Lottie saw it clearly even from a distance.

It was his mark.

“So… he’s crossed over again,” Lottie said.

Her partner nodded.

Let it begin.

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