Short Stories

Hello, there! My friends and I recently started a writing club at LU, so I figured I'd post my club stories on my blog. They are generally short and originate from a writing prompt. 

Week 1The Glass Jumper 

Prompt: You see the love of your life 10 years before you first met, and they aren't at all what you expected (prompt taken from M.F.'s blog Adventure and a Pen). 

Word limit: 2000. 

I took a little bit of liberty with the prompt, but here's the result. And do remember, it's currently unedited and may therefore not make total sense. Enjoy, lovely people! :) 


What do you see when you look in the mirror? A sheet of glass that has captured your likeness perfectly—or imperfectly, depending on its quality. Sometimes you’ll see a smile, shining brightly back at you when you’re getting ready for that third date and you’re starting to think he might be the one. Sometimes you’ll get frustration or even tears because they turned down your résumé and you really needed that job.  Sometimes you’ll laugh at something your friend said to you on the phone as you hurry to put the finishing touches on your hair before you run downstairs to head to the football game. And sometimes you’ll get raw, utter anguish as you stare into your own eyes and wonder why you’re alive.

People used to cover mirrors after someone in the house died. They feared that the deceased’s soul would get trapped in the glass and never be able to rest peacefully. But there was something else they feared even more than the prospect of their husbands or daughters or brothers getting trapped in a mirror for eternity—they feared the unexplained guest that would appear during the funeral, the man or woman standing in the corner that no one knew and no one had invited, the person who never spoke or offered condolences to the family. They simply watched.

And so the mirrors were covered.

We aren’t allowed to talk, usually, or interfere in any way. The mirror’s pull is powerful—irresistible, actually. We don’t see our own faces; we see theirs. We see the smiles and the laughs, the tears and the torment. And if we look into their eyes, as we cannot help but do, we find ourselves transported to their world, whether they lived a hundred years ago or gazed at their own reflection on the street five minutes ago.

And sometimes, when it really matters, we are allowed to speak.


“John!” I yell as I set the china dishes aside gingerly. The house is littered with boxes, some of the stacks taller than I am, and even though it will take months to get everything in order, I intend to make a sizeable dent tonight.

            “What?” he yells back from upstairs. Lord knows what he’s doing up there, probably making sure his guitar survived the trip in the moving truck. That’s the thing about being married to a musician—the instruments are their babies, whether real babies exist or not. But I knew what I was signing up for, and we’re still married two years later, so I guess it’s all good.

“I’m almost finished with this box; I need your knife to open the other one!” I tell him, and a minute later, I hear John tramping down the polished stairs. Carrying the dishes carefully to the kitchen counter, I set them down out of the way and dust my hands off as he comes into the kitchen. John almost trips over the box I need him to open—which is hopelessly secured with rivers of tape—and he catches himself on the island counter before face-planting.

He exclaims, “Sheesh! You can hardly walk for all the boxes! Which one did you want my knife for?”

“That one.” I nod at the box next to his shins. “I have no idea what’s in it. But I just want to check and make sure there’s nothing that goes in the kitchen inside it.”

“Okay.” John gets down on one knee next to the box and starts cutting through the thick layers of tape that secure the box—it looks pretty old, so I’m assuming it was one we had in storage while we lived in the apartment. In fact, it must be his, because I don’t recognize it. Craning my neck as he pulls back the tattered flaps, I try to see what’s inside.

He takes out a few hefty books and then laughs. “Oh, hey, it’s some of my old college stuff!” John says, perking up as he digs through the box’s contents. “Gosh, I haven’t seen this stuff in years …” It’s mostly books he kept, and a few mementos from the track team, so I redirect my attention to the dishes behind me while he looks through his things.

“Anything from the Europe trip?” I inquire. “I forgot what we bought while we were over there.”

“Mm …” He rifles through the objects in the box for another moment while he seeks an answer to my question. “Doesn’t look like it. That would probably be in a different box, anyway. This is just stuff from the track team and my dorm.” Then John’s voice changes when he adds more quietly, “Oh … I’d forgotten about this.”

That’s when I hear it.

A whisper at first, now growing louder as I stop cold and stand transfixed by the sound—it’s like a hunger deep in my gut, a bottomless chasm of insatiability, the way you feel when you’ve gone without food all day long. Compelled, I turn and stare down at the small mirror John holds in his hands; he studies it for a moment and then puts it aside, but my eyes latch to it and will not turn away.

I have time to say “oh, crap,” and then all I hear is the sound of a shattering china plate as the mirror whisks me away.


I’m standing in front of the art gallery, across from the School of Music, and the boulevard separating the two buildings is quiet while the moon hangs high overheard. My head throbs, and I stumble backwards, as though I’ve just stepped onto solid ground after running on a treadmill for an hour. John must have been the last person to look in that mirror, or perhaps his roommate—that’s why I am here at Clear Valley University, though I have no idea what day or year I’ve appeared in.

            I know where I am, so my first order of business is figuring out when I am.

            The library, which is adjacent to the art gallery, still looks open, so I jog down the sidewalk and head inside. There are only a few people milling around the shelves, so I head to a computer, trying to look as normal as possible, and sit down in front of a desktop computer. After shaking the mouse a few times to wake up the machine, the screen blinks to life and informs me that I have been transported to October 4th, 2013.

In other words, ten years ago.

            Well, the only way to get back is to find the mirror that brought me here, so I shut down the computer and leave the library; at this hour, the dorms would probably be my best shot of finding John. Unless he’s at a concert … or a game … or downtown. Sighing, I come to a stop on the sidewalk. He always did talk about how much he loved exploring Morgantown—it’ll be just my luck if he’s out driving around with friends on this Friday night.

            Well, he probably would not understand at this point in time, anyway. It’s likely best I just look for the mirror. So I set off for the dorms and pray the mirror is there.


I catch the door before it closes as one of the students heads into Milton Hall. Looking over my shoulder to make sure no one can see me, I slip inside and try to remember which of the five floors John used to live on. The fourth? No … maybe the third. Or possibly the second. Yes, I think it was the second floor. There are not many people in the lounge area, so there is no one to see the door open and close, and I take the stairs as calmly as possible in case someone happens to pass me. One girl does, and my heart skips a beat, but she does not pay any attention to me.

            The door to the second-floor hall is cracked open. A quick glance inside informs me that the hallway is clear; it’s probably too late for many of the residents to be wandering around, anyway. I push the door open carefully so it does not squeak and try to figure out which room is John’s. It does not take me long—the RAs have written the occupants’ names on tags outside their respective doors, and I find John’s name next to the numbers 209. Light shines from the crack under the door, so I hesitate to go inside, but I have to find that mirror if I don’t want to spend the rest of my night here at Clear Valley.

            There is one way I can get inside undetected, of course. It will weaken me, but if the mirror is inside, it will not matter. And I should have plenty of energy from the transportation to handle the temporary drain. Shutting my eyes, I whisper a few words into the air but stop suddenly when I hear the sound of my own voice.

            That’s not supposed to happen. It shouldn’t, not here. Speaking is only allowed when something must be changed, when a fateful event must be prevented or guided to completion …

I stare at John’s door with new eyes and hastily finish my sentence. Invisible now to everyone but myself, I cautiously ease the door open, so slowly you might think it was being pushed open by a draft. No one comes to shut it immediately, nor do I hear anyone speak. Perhaps the light was left on by accident and no one is home—that would make things much easier on me.

The door creaks suddenly.

“Jacob?” a voice asks.

Crap. I freeze when John pokes his head out of the bathroom; even though it looks like he’s staring right at me, there is no reaction on his face, and he shrugs, going to close the door and then ducking back inside. The bathroom door remains open when he disappears into it again.

But the rattle of what sounds like pills distracts me. Walking over to the bathroom, I stand just outside and watch as John pops open a bottle full of pills and dumps out half of them into his cupped hand. He wets his lips and looks down at them for a long minute; his face is pale, and he shifts back and forth as he examines the white discs in his hand. The mirror hangs on the wall, and John gives his face a long look in it.

Then he starts swallowing the pills, two at a time.

I jolt and grab my phone from my pocket. Dialing his number, I rush back into the hallway and silently urge him to pick up. “C’mon, c’mon …” I whisper. He never told me about this. I can’t believe he never told me about this … and now his life is completely in my hands.

My heart almost stops when the line connects and he says, “Hello?”

“John? Hey! I tried messaging you on Facebook but you didn’t answer,” I reply, trying not to sound like the panicked wife I am. “How’s it going?”

“Oh, um … It’s good, but can I call you back? I’m working on a paper, and it’s due tomorrow. But I’ll get back to you tomorrow, okay?” he says. I resolve to slap him for lying to me when I get back to my own time.

I can speak here, and I will make the most of that ability whether he likes it or not. So I try again: “It won’t take long. Promise. I just … I didn’t see you at graduation, so I just wanted to tell you that I’m really gonna miss you this year. I wish we had more time to hang out over the summer. You’re a really great guy, and, well ... the world needs more people like you. That’s all I wanted to say, so …” I try to laugh. “Have a good night, okay? Good luck on your paper. Bye, John.”

Breathless, I hurry back to the bathroom and watch him lower the phone from his ear. John toys with the phone for a minute, then sets it aside. He looks down at the remaining pills in his hand. I do too, wanting to snatch them and throw them out the window.

Then he crams them back in the bottle and snaps the lid shut.

The mirror begins to whisper to me, and my gaze is drawn to it instinctively. He’s safe now. He’ll live. And it’s time to go home.


“Anna! Hey.”

John is leaning over me when I wake up on the kitchen floor, concern swimming in his brown eyes. I blink up at him, momentarily dazed by the return trip, and then I throw my arms around his neck.

He chuckles a little in confusion. “You all right?”

“Yeah,” I tell him, hugging him hard. “I am now.” 

Image modified from "The Hanging City"
by TangYauHoong (Flickr)
Week 2The Light Bringer

Prompt: Light bulbs are illegal. (prompt taken from M.F.'s blog Adventure and a Pen). 

Word limit: 2000. 

Do remember, it's currently unedited and may therefore not make total sense. Enjoy, lovely people! :) 


“All right,” John says, “you know the rules. One bulb per family, even if they try to coerce you into giving them more. We can’t afford to give out two or three light bulbs to every person that asks for them. Second, remember your routes and don’t overlap. That throws the entire system off. And most importantly … don’t get caught. Any questions?”
“I got one.” Stiles steps forward from the little crowd of deliverymen congregated around John, and they all glance in his direction.
John nods at him. “Okay, go ahead, Stiles.”
“What happens if somebody along our route gets caught with the light bulbs, John?” he asks, and a murmur of apprehension spreads through the deliverymen. Everyone in town knows where the bulbs come from, and that means somebody might be willing to squeal if it’s a choice between protecting their family and turning us in.
I look at John, waiting for his response, and try to conceal my weary sigh. These recruits are young and untested, although they’re committed to the cause. At this point, all I can hope is that John’s instructions and guidance will be enough to bring everybody home.
Calmly, my husband tells Stiles, “If that happens, and it might, then we’ll stay out of sight until we’re sure no one’s leaked our location. Whatever happens, we can’t let them find us. We’ll move if we have to. But for now, let’s keep our chins up, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
“We need to get going now. I want everybody back in two hours. If you’re gone any longer than that, we have to assume you’ve been caught, and we can’t come after you. All right, get gone.”
The deliverymen jog off in various directions, their satchels stuffed with contraband.  Once they leave, they will spread out all over the city, bringing light bulbs to the families living in darkness. It’s not just the light bulbs that are illegal here; it’s candles, fire, anything that could give us light.
I look up at the two, dingy, ancient bulbs that swing above our heads. The thin chains from which they hang have grown dusty and grimy from their years dangling from the high ceiling; they don’t give us much light. It’s barely enough to see one another’s faces, and I know that they’ve needed replacing for the last five years. But John likes them. He says they’re a symbol of endurance and perseverance, a beacon of hope in the darkness—because if those little, fragile bulbs can hang on for so long, we can too.
“You okay, Anna?”
I didn’t hear him come up to me, but I give John a tired smile and fold my arms over my chest to ward off the winter chill. He’s dressed and ready to go on his delivery route, and I can see the crystalline surface of a bulb peeking out from his satchel, its glass case gleaming from the reflected luminosity of the dim lights overhead.
“Be careful,” I tell him, as I always do before he leaves. “Oh, John, I wish you didn’t have to go.”
He holds me close and kisses my temple. Tears gather in my eyes, but I don’t let him see; he wants me to be strong, and so I must try. John tries to reassure me, “I’ll be fine. I know the city better than anyone. I’ll be home in two hours, okay? I promise.”
What can I say? He’ll go whether I beg him to stay or not. So I say nothing.
 My husband gives me another smile when he pulls away, and then he adjusts his satchel, heading for the creaky old door. Its resounding thud reverberates over the room, shaking the two light bulbs on their delicate chains.
One of the bulbs finally shakes loose, and it begins the long drop to the hard floor. For what seems like both a microsecond and eternity, it hangs in midair, suspended between the darkness above and the waiting oblivion below. The bulb’s faint light flickers out of existence just a moment before it hits the ground.
And then, in a brilliant shattering of a thousand tiny, jagged slivers … it smashes.

“Anna! They found us!”
            Gunshots ratchet through the warehouse. The sound of screams rise up from the east end—one of them is cut short only seconds after it starts.
Isabella shouts at me again, grabbing my arm. “Anna! C’mon! We have to go!”
“No!” I gasp. “What about John? He’s not back yet! I have to—”
“There’s no time!” she cuts me off, trying to yank me towards the nearest door. I pull myself free and race down the aisle. Isabelle won’t come after me; nobody in their right mind would. But I can’t leave John out there, not if they’ve found us. That means somebody’s a traitor, and that means John’s life is in danger.
Some policeman thunder past, and I duck behind a shelf before they see me. They’re shooting everyone in sight, throwing boxes of bulbs to the floor, and destroying anything they can get their hands on. I want to scream at them to stop it; don’t they know how hard we’ve worked to collect all these bulbs? Gritting my teeth, I keep quiet and sneak towards the front door.
It’s snowing outside; the dark streets are dusted with fresh white powder, but the snow nearest to the door is stained with the crimson blood of our warehouse guards. Glassy-eyed, they stare up at nothing, and a shudder runs up my spine before I avert my eyes.
My heart leaps in my chest. It’s John, running for the warehouse. But no, if he comes here, if they see him, the ringleader … “John, they found us!” I scream back before he gets any closer. “Get away! Go! Don’t come back here!”
He slows to a stop a few dozen yards away, taking in the old, rundown storage facility in a quick glance. Gunshots explode from inside; I flinch and throw my hands up to my ringing ears. John isn’t moving—he’s just staring at the warehouse like he can’t fathom the idea that it’s been compromised.
“John!” I yell again, taking a few harried steps out into the snow. “Go! They can’t find you or—”
At first I don’t understand what’s happened. Nothing has changed; John and I are still in the alleyway, but now our eyes are locked on one another’s. Then his mouth drops just a little, and I see a red blot growing on his abdomen, staining his shirt. John sinks to his knees in the snow; the white flakes fall softly onto his shoulders and hair. All I can do is stare at him …
And then two burly guards rush past me and grab my husband’s arms, dragging him up to his feet. One of them jabs the butt of his rifle into John’s stomach. He groans and doubles over, and they haul him away from the warehouse.
“No!” I run after them, finally awakened from my stupor. “John!”
Someone grabs me from behind and throws me down into the snow. I get a mouthful of white powder and spit it out, but my head is swimming; a hot stream of blood rolls down into my eyes as I watch them take John away from me.
“No,” I whimper. I try to push myself up, but I’m too dizzy from my fall to succeed. “No, you can’t take him. You can’t take him!”
But they’re already gone.
It’s been six months. It doesn’t feel real yet. I don’t suppose it ever will. They all came back after we regrouped at our safe house—Stiles and Liam and Monroe and all the new recruits. They all came home … except for one. I begged them to go look for him, begged them with tears and curses and pleas. But they all told me the same thing: “Remember what he said, Anna. ‘If you get caught, we can’t come after you.’”
            “Yes,” I wanted to say, “but he never said anything about dying.” Because that is my greatest fear—it’s been six months, and unless John was dead, he would have come home to me. But I cannot bear to admit the mere possibility, even to myself. He’s alive, I tell myself day after day. Someday, he’ll come home. Someday.
Still, it’s useless to remember the day they took him. It won’t bring John back, no matter how hard I wish or pray. And besides, someone else needs me now.
I gave birth to our daughter last week. It hurts to look at her sometimes—she looks so much like John, and I’m terrified he’ll never get to meet her. But I wouldn’t have wanted her to look like me. John needs to be remembered; he did more for this city than anyone ever has. He brought light to these hopeless people drowning in darkness, and no one ever thanked him for it.
So I’ve thanked him the best way I can: I’ve called our daughter Lucia. It means ‘light bringer,’ and I think he would have liked that. Every time someone says her name, he will be remembered.
There is a single light bulb hanging in my window now. It hangs there for John, a light that he can follow home if he ever comes looking for his family. I will be his light bringer now, a reversal of our lifelong roles. John gave me light, and he gave our daughter life.
Perhaps one day she will follow in his footsteps. Perhaps one day, Lucia will be the Light Bringer. She’s already mine. Because in this world of darkness, she is my only light.

“Mama!” Lucia calls. “Somebody knocked!”
            She is playing with a rag doll in the corner, a tattered old thing that she’s had since her third month of life. But she loves that doll, and a smile touches my lips as I pass my daughter on my way to the door. Strange, that I didn’t hear the knock—it must be Stiles; he never knocks loudly enough.
Just in case, I pick up my pistol and hide it by my side before opening the door. You never know who might come knocking in this part of town.
But when I open the door, my eyebrows shoot up. The man standing on my doorstep looks positively homeless. His clothes are a mess, his face is filthy, and his skin is smattered with bruises. I’ve met some strange, shady characters in this line of work, but never one quite like this man.
His hair, though ... It’s almost like my husband’s. The thought brings hot tears to my eyes; John died five years ago, and sometimes I still have to remind myself it’s only been five years—sometimes it seems like twenty. I’ve missed him so much. He made my life worth living, and in the years since he disappeared, I’ve wondered why I’m still here. But the sounds of my daughter playing with her toy banishes any suicidal thoughts from my mind, and I steel myself to deal with this vagabond.
And then my eyes focus on his face. The pistol clatters to the floor behind me.
“... John?” I hear myself say. Suddenly I am very aware of the way I have aged in the past five years and the way I dressed when I got up this morning. I only thought I’d be stocking bulbs in the storeroom, not meeting my husband again.
He makes his best effort to smile, which is very weary and generally ineffective, but in that moment I have no doubts. The light in his eyes—faint as it is—that’s John. That is my John.
“I’m back,” he says.
Before I can think of a single thing to say, my arms are around him, and all of the tears I could not shed in the past five years are streaming out of my eyes. I stare up at the sky as I hug my husband to me. Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? No one ever comes back if they take you …
“How ... How did you get back?” is the first question that bursts from my lips.
I can feel his hands pressing into the small of my back, and his chest heavies as he sighs heavily. “I think I annoyed them so much that they got tired of me and let me go,” John says. Not the truth, I bet, but there will be time for that later.
I laugh and lean back to look at his face. He’s aged too, true, but he is still my John. That’s what matters to me. I run a hand through his hair, savoring the feeling.
“Oh, John …” I hadn’t realized exactly how much I missed his smile.
He gives me another, better attempt at a grin and replies as he hugs me hard, “Oh, I missed you so much, Anna.”                                                                                                                              
“You too, John.” I hold him tightly and shut my eyes. Has it really been five years since I last held my husband in my arms? “You too …”
His tears come then, and I stroke his hair while he sobs into my shoulder. I can only imagine what they’ve done to him. All those bruises and cuts on his face! My blood boils just imagining what might’ve happened to John.
I suppose to anyone else, I am comforting him—he is crying into my shoulder, after all—but for me, holding my husband in my arms draws up a well of comfort and love that I haven’t touched since he was taken from me five years ago.
And I close my eyes and promise myself nothing will ever happen to him again.

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