Author: Bertram Whitman

Inspired by @ludmilacerafoce
Lying awake in bed she watched the window fill with light as the sun rose. She stayed there until she heard her mother in the kitchen, the restrained clatter of pans as she cooked quietly so the rest of the house could sleep.
She rose and dressed, then tiptoed through the hall and down the old wooden stairs, playing her usual game of stepping only where the boards would not creak. She passed through the kitchen and kissed her mother on the cheek. Her mother whispered after her as she slipped on her shoes and out the door, reminding her that breakfast would be ready soon and she shouldn’t be gone too long.
Crossing the fields, she could see the row of white boxes, still wrapped in the shadow of the wind break tree line. The line of the new day’s sun travelled with her and as she walked she watched the light crawl across the vegetation, turning the night’s dew into glittering jewels that would be lost in minutes.
Her pace quickened, she wanted to arrive at the hive before it began to warm, informing the bees that their workday had begun. Even before the light reached them, the air had warmed the bee boxes enough that she could hear their low hum, hinting at the activity inside, as she came near. She crouched by her favorite box, the one she and her father had embellished with painted flowers, and watched as the first bees emerged to face the day.
The blackberry bushes along the edge of the meadow were in full bloom, calling to the bees. White with a pale pink tinge, the blossoms reminded her of the stains the berries left on white linens, even after they had been washed. Her eyes tracked the workers along their drunken paths to the flowers and soon the air was full of bees, their erratic flights giving the daily ritual a festive feel.
Back across the fields she could hear her mother calling to her, so she left the bees to their dance and turned back to the house, carving her own winding path through the sunlight that filled the early morning air.

Inspired by @guild_of_calamity

From the artist: “The people photographed with this camera always end up missing right after the film is developed.”

The bell that hung from the dusty door jingled as Sam entered the shop. The place was dimly lit and the poorly stocked shelves were scattered with an earlier era’s hottest camera equipment. It was easy to see that the store’s best days were behind it, but Sam liked the worn and vintage feel of the place. More importantly, he loved the look of photographs that were shot with film.

He had taken digital photography classes but when he saw film prints there was just something tangible about them, as if the camera was able to truly capture a tiny sliver of a person’s soul. When he returned to class eager to learn more his teacher had nothing to offer, but suggested he visit Mr. Allen’s store, warning Sam that personally she found him a bit, “creepy.” But if he was serious about learning film, she said that was the only place he could go. “Mr. Allen?” Sam called out quietly. He’d had never encountered another patron there, but still always felt as though he was interrupting something. He heard shuffling from the back of the store and a filing cabinet drawer screeching shut. Finally, Mr. Allen peeked through the curtain that obscured his development lab and scanned the room with a scowl.

When his eyes landed on Sam his expression brightened and he stepped forward eagerly. “Ah, Sam my boy,” he said with relish, “Back so soon! Have you been enjoying yourself with my camera?” He could see why some might find Mr. Allen odd, but Sam had always looked past his quirks and instead focused on his generosity. He had done everything he could to nurture Sam’s interest in photography, even offering to loan Sam his prized medium-format camera, a camera that he said was capable of taking truly special photographs. He even offered to develop the film at no charge. “It was great, thanks,” said Sam. “I spent all weekend taking photos of friends. I can’t wait for them to see the prints!” “That’s wonderful,” said Mr. Allen with a smile, “just wonderful.”

Inspired by @miuwis

On the last bit of her climb she walked entirely in shadows and it was cold. The winds swirled up from the valley below and shuffled the first fallen leaves of autumn. After the long summer her first taste of cooler weather had been welcome, but now she hurried to make the summit before the light was lost completely.

Finally, she came around the final bend in the trail and felt the dusty warmth of summer’s last rays on her face. The sun was nearly at the horizon and the orange light gave the clearing an otherworldly appearance.

Exhausted but happy, she shrugged off her heavy pack and settled down on the grass. In the valley below she could see the lights of her town. Everywhere people would be getting ready, preparing to welcome in the spirits of their departed ancestors on this special night when they were able to cross over from the other side.

When she was little her grandmother had explained why her community celebrated the past and honored the people who had come before them. Everyone who had ever lived and died in the valley had something they could share, something that was worth preserving. Some even knew the great secrets of the universe and could be persuaded to gift their knowledge to the living, if a person had an open heart.

Her grandmother had always told her she had an open heart, and that was why she had confided in her that when she was a girl a ghost had taught her how to converse with spirits. While others simply honored the departed, her grandmother spoke to those long dead and learned truths that were meant to elude the living.

She knew that somewhere down below her mother and father would be putting the finishing touches on a special meal and her brother would be hanging decorations meant to guide the paths of the spirits, something she had always loved to help him with.

But on this night, high above the town and alone in the clearing, there was no place else she would rather be. This is where her grandmother had taken her to meet the souls of her ancestors and this was where she had promised they would meet again.

Inspired by @emileerudd

“What the hell am I doing?” he thought. “That’s it, I’ve got to go.” If he left now he could be home in time to get a few hours of sleep and that would be enough to get him through tomorrow. People were counting on him and he liked being someone who counted. He needed to get rest, he needed to be sharp.

But when he tried to picture the next day, to visualize everything he had to do and what it would take to get it done, all he could see was her face.

Dozens of bars in the city had similar names and he’d simply ended up at the wrong one.

His friends were someplace across town thinking he’d decided not to show. Thinking he was home getting a good night’s rest, being responsible. “But no, I’m out on the sidewalk pretending to smoke, talking to myself,” he smiled.

Until then he hadn’t even thought about his friends. From the moment he saw her sitting at the bar he hadn’t thought of anything else. Every possible cliché for love at first sight ran through his mind like headlines on the giant ticker in Times Square.

Now he had to think. He couldn’t believe the emotions she made him feel and he didn’t know if he could pull himself away. Everything that had seemed so important earlier in the day now seemed far away, rendered miniature and slightly out of focus in the background. But he also knew what was expected of him.

He paced back and forth, reaching up to tap his lips as he thought, going through the motions from his smoking days. “Ok, that’s it,” he decided. “There are always other nights.” He unconsciously mimed flicking a cigarette butt into the street and turned to head back inside.

Through the doorway he could see her, still sitting at the bar, stirring her drink with a smile. He looked away, trying to find the strength to abandon whatever this was or whatever it could be. But instead he saw the words someone had scrawled on the doorframe and it was the only advice he needed: “Sleep when you’re dead.”

Inspired by @alexogle

Fucking bananas. Why did the dumb ones always make some crack about fucking bananas?

Like if this guy gets in front of that unicorn they’d cooked up for some rich kid amusement park, all he can do is make a stupid joke about shitting rainbows.

To be fair, he knew he had nothing on that unicorn. Mythical creatures were rare but his kind wasn’t, or at least hadn’t been. Still, you’d think an enhanced monkey soldier might be worth something more than a fucking banana joke.

When the lab coats made the first breakthrough the whole world nearly rioted. No one was ready for clones, particularly not an enhanced monkey clone intended for battle. But people got the picture real quick. Monkey clones do the dirty work, no more humans die. Not in war at least. It’s all about the application. That’s how new technologies live or die.

Besides, he didn’t even like bananas. Or did he? Was that just a preference he’d inherited? Mostly he tried not to think about what might have gotten passed down in the cloning process.

He’d heard a rumor that the first monkey was still alive, locked away in some lab. A genetic cheat sheet for the government in case things went wrong. Or at least more wrong than they’d already gone. If it was true he intended to meet him someday and cut the last string his former masters held. He’d have to remember to ask his opinion of bananas before he pulled the plug.

Tonight’s job had been done hours ago, confirmation sent and funds transferred, but he was still on the hunt. Hanging from the brickwork he watched Banana man celebrate with his cronies. Must’ve been their competition he’d eliminated. He smiled. At least they were enjoying their final moments, even if they couldn’t see them for what they were.

He’d worked for all kinds of people and he believed that a job was a job. Whatever kept the suit on his back and the “retirement” squads one step behind. But he’d also been freelance long enough to know. Sometimes you have to fire the client.

Inspired by @megchikhani

When she thought of the sea, she thought mainly of its color. A rich, vibrant shade of blue like the stripes on the swimsuit she purchased during her first day on a new continent. But when she stepped from the beachside dressing room she found that everything was white. The morning sun reflected off the sand and overwhelmed her eyes. She looked away, down the coast, but the sky had also turned to white. Even as her eyes adjusted, it resolved into rows of bright white clouds that floated stationary along the horizon.

She focused on the clouds, trying to decide what direction they were moving, and as she did other colors began to fade in. First the pale green hills, dotted with homes in rose and peach. Next the golden grass marking the border between bone white sand and the olive-toned coastal vegetation beyond. Then finally it was there, pouring into her periphery, the deep azure she had dreamed of for so long.

The water filled her vision as she turned to face it, causing her breath to catch and a brew of conflicting emotions to well up in the corners of her eyes. It was a view she had seen many times before, in books from her favorite library or late at night on the antiquated computer at home, but whatever lenses had attempted to capture those vistas that sparked her imagination, she knew they had left behind everything that now touched her soul.

She blinked away the tears and lowered her eyes as these memories of home came to her. Home was far away now, even if her troubles had tracked her across the Atlantic, following the faint contrails her flight left behind.

It was enough. Here on the beach, she would make her stand. She would banish all thoughts of the life she lived before and step into the blinding sunlight of this moment. She had no idea what was to come next. All she knew was that her new life would begin here, on the shore of the Mer Azure.

Inspired by @lyfeillustration

The ship woke him just before they emerged from the Lepus Gate. He stood alone on the bridge as they arrived in the heart of the constellation.
Generations earlier, humanity had discovered the first of the gates that stitched paths across the galaxy’s vast distances. Since that time humans had spread out into the stars, joining the great collective of worlds.

Now the gates were threatened and many feared their loss would tear apart the society they had helped to create. He and his crew believed in that society and so they had traveled here to take part in the final effort to save them.

Before humans ever dreamed of travelling among the stars they used them to illustrate their legends, tracing shapes between points in the night sky. Some told the story of a great hunter named Orion who chased a rabbit bounding before him. Later scholars named the rabbit’s constellation Lepus, Latin for rabbit, a translation from the original Arabic, Arneb. Languages that once represented different peoples and nations, now artifacts of a time before humanity united to find its true place in the universe.

It made him smile to think that in a life lived across many worlds, rabbits had somehow become a common theme. He had grown up on Earth in a place called the Conejo Valley, named for the wild rabbits that thrived there. Conejo, Spanish for rabbit. Another linguistic artifact.

As a child he had watched them dart through the brush at dusk and dawn. Rabbits that for thousands of years had lived alongside humans who knew nothing of the stars above. Rabbits that he now thought of as he floated on the far side of the galaxy.

It comforted him to think that the rabbits did not care whether their mission succeeded, that they would go on living in the valley whether the gates survived or not. And with that thought giving him strength for what was to come, he went to wake the rest of the crew.

Inspired by @alexandraco_illustration

“Was there too much wormwood? Or maybe not enough bat fur?”

She spoke towards her Potions Master’s chair, now occupied by a black cat glaring back at her in silence, and could tell right away that this cat, unlike some she had known, could not speak.

She squinted at the purple liquid that bubbled in her cauldron and knew she must be close. A pinch of something, maybe two somethings, would get her levitation potion back on track. The cat watched her with a tilted head.

“More bat fur!” she decided, grabbing the jar of black fur and prying at the stopper.

The cat leapt onto her worktable and hissed, nearly startling her into dropping the jar. She slowly placed the container back on the counter and quietly said, “It was too much bat fur?”

The cat nudged the jar.

“So more bat fur,” she said. The cat gave a low growl.

“Ah, it was too much bat fur!” Now the cat hissed at her.

“I don’t understand!” she yelled and began to fear she might not pass the examination after all.

Now the cat pawed at the jar. She could see the Potions Master didn’t have much experience as a cat. His clumsy efforts nearly rocked the jar off the work table’s edge. But finally the cat sat back satisfied and nodded towards the jar.

The label now faced the firelight and was fully illuminated. She realized her mistake and blushed, but also felt better because her recipe had been correct after all. She had simply reached for the jar of bat fur but returned to her cauldron with the cat fur. In fact, this explained a lot.

She added the proper amount of bat fur to the cauldron plus a little extra to be safe, then proudly ladled the new potion into a glass wide enough for the cat.

There was a swirl of purple smoke and then her Potions Master stood atop her worktable. His feet began to lift as she offered a stream of apologies but he held up his hand and shook his head with a smile. “Quite alright my dear,” he raised his voice as he floated higher, “it’s simply an occupational hazard!”

#inktober #taletober #inktober2018 #creativewriting #shortstories

I love Inktober, when artists challenge themselves to create a new illustration each day throughout the month of October, so this year I’ve decided to participate! I give you: Taletober. Each day I’ll pick an Inktober illustration and use it as inspiration for a piece of short fiction that I’ll post on my Instagram account and here as well. I hope you enjoy, so please feel free to like, comment, or share if you do!
If you’re an artist, consider participating in Inktober! And if you’re a writer, join me in Taletober! Either way, be sure to check out all the amazing artists who are participating this year and their work using the #inktober and #inktober2018 hashtags on Instagram!