atcroft t1_ja4k9mx wrote

Chewing his cigar stub, a grizzled old man paced the engine room like a caged tiger.

Before him dozens of stokers moved in a fluent dance as they threw shovelful after shoveful of coal into the fireboxes. Sweat reflected on skin made leathery from years facing furnace fervor. "Put ye'r backs into it, lads! Feed the fire!"

He turned, retracing his steps. A smile cracked the barest corners of his mouth as he examined steam gauge after steam gauge. "That's it, lads. Keep it up. We can't let 'er flounder--our freight must get through. Lives are depending on ye' lads!"

(Word count: 100. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_j9nik14 wrote

I pondered the flame
That danced above that wick
How alike, how different.

Aristotle said you
Were one of four -- air, earth, water, fire
Making up one and all.

The poets have said
You're alive -- you dance
In the breeze, you eat, you kill.

The chemist says
You're oxidation -- energetic, exothermic
A reaction to continue while fed.

But I will say
You're unique -- one of a kind
Short lived.

That's how we're alike,
Born, burn, fade,
Candles snuffed out all too quickly.

(Word count: 82. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_j96mvm6 wrote

He rolled up to the table with his morning coffee, intent to farm the rows of his mind. Such poor aging soil for the once-beautiful moments captured on film in stacks before him.

His hand shook as he slowly lifted another photo, trying to focus. The fashion familiar, the fraternal bonds fond, but the faces -- the faces --

He cursed the faulty memory he tried to furbish. Each photo newly marked and added to that stack sickened him. Failure wasn’t fatal, but forgetting was painful -- once intimates filling his life with joy now reduced to half-remembered, barely readable names.

Why was time so cruel? One day he might forget this exercise, forget what he had forgotten -- would he find peace then? For now he pressed his face into the crook of his elbow, his glasses sliding off, and wept for the memories that died too early on the vine.

(Word count: 146. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_j5xg3y8 wrote

Enjoyed it.

If you want to have it retain your line lengths rather than trying to flow them together, place 2-3 spaces at the end of the line. That can turn:

Line 1 Line 2 Line 3


Line 1
Line 2
Line 3

(The only difference in the above is that the second set had three (3) spaces at the end of the line.)

Hope that might be useful.


atcroft t1_j5xe31t wrote

Standing on the precipice,
I look over the edge.
Above me the goal,
Below the demons.

The soul-suckers,
Self-doubt, fear, misgivings
Reach up from the pit
Trying to ensnare.

The edge crumbles
As they reach for me.
Can I sacrifice worry in time to fly
Before they pull me down?

One step, one leap,
Time to decide.
Will I fall or
Will I emerge victorious?

(Word count: 65. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_j5ccq2t wrote

Two figures trudged across the windswept heath, approaching the solitary remnant of an archaic forest.

“Hello, old friend,” Ginger’s mom said kneeling at the base of the battered trunk, stroking it lightly.

“Why’d you leave?” Ginger asked as she dropped her backpack beneath its looming shadow.

Closing her eyes in reflection, she spoke softly, her words almost kidnapped by the wind. “Why does any child run away from home, barring a bad situation? Anger, naivety, curiosity, a feeling of mental superiority of youth over age. Maybe a little of all of it.”

She traced a sign on the bark with her fingertip, whispering softly. “It is me, Holly Seiliewight of the Fae, born in the year Edwin fell in battle against Cadwallion and Penda. I see the centuries haven’t been kind to you or your descendants.” A tear rolled down her cheek, until she wiped it from her cheek onto the gnarled bark. “I hope my leaving didn’t misqueme; you were my best friend.”

Ginger watched her mom. “What happened?”

“You have to understand, we are a very long-lived people; births are rare among us.” She looked up at her daughter. “At one time the Fates had been kind to us; their smile shown brightly. But as with all things the time of our people--it had come to an end. There had been no growth in us; in fourteen centuries, you and I were the last to be born among us.”

Holly turned, leaning against the ancient sentinel. “As man spread we retreated into the wild, untamed places they were not. They became as much legends among us as we to them; so much so I doubted their existence when I heard the stories.

“I was a mere child, barely a century a score and one when I encountered my first--a scraggly, emaciated thing, exhausted and on the run. He scampered from behind a tree, collapsing at my feet. When I carried him home my parents were furious. ‘You should’ve left it.’ ‘You don’t know where that’s been.’ ‘It can’t let others know about us.’ I was in shock--I’d never heard anyone talk that way about a living thing, much less a semi-intelligent one.

“I hid him in a delve beside the river and tried to nurse him to health. Alas, he was too sick and never regained his senses; I buried him at the base of the tree where I found him. But it made me curious about these humans who were spreading like locusts across our wildlands.

“For the next two centuries I secretly collected every scrap from humanity that I could--my collection grew to fill the delve where I had hid him. That was, until the afternoon my father found me returning with my latest find.

“He was wroth with me, said my collecting was dangerous and would be the downfall of the fae.

“I remember yelling back that ignorance and mistrust would be the downfall, that we needed to know more about them.

“He roared on that humans were evil, that they couldn’t be trusted, that they would break... everything they touched. Including my heart, if I let one that close.

“The longer we went at it, the hotter it got. That afternoon words were said on both sides, words that cut deeply and made wounds that took decades for me to get past,” Holly said sadly. “When I ran past him and out the delve, I didn’t expect that to be the last time I would see him.”

“You didn’t go back?” Ginger asked.

“Eyes bleary I ran until my lungs and legs burned; I don’t know how far I ran--I curled in a hollow as the wind howled and storm clouds crashed together through the night. In the morning I struck out in the direction I thought was home, but instead encountered a human hamlet.

“Their languages were easy enough to pick up, and my knowledge of the wood allowed me to find work as a healer. I moved from town to town, learned to be quiet but useful. If I admit it he was right, so I kept enough distance. Across the isles, the continent, and eventually to the Americas, I observed, I learned, I grew. It wasn’t until I turned a corner--smacking into your dad--that I lost my heart. But... if that hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have you,” she said, smiling at Ginger.

Ginger smiled, focused on the stump. She traced again the sign as she had seen her mother make, exhaled, and stated firmly, “I am Ginger Seiliewight, daughter of Holly, born in the year of the swine flu.”

The sign began to glow, the ashen gray around the stump turning earthen and the sky brightening. A deep, sleepy voice boomed around them, “Holly?”

“Father?” Holly replied, startled.

(Word count: 797. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)

Part 1: Smash ‘Em Up Sunday: Urban Fantasy

Part 2: Smash ‘Em Up Sunday: Temporal Fiction


atcroft t1_j4egmdn wrote

“Mom, tell me more about that date, with Dad,” Ginger said, snuggling into the crook of her mom’s arm as they sat together on the couch.

“The whole night felt like it had a string of magic throughout--until it snapped,” Ginger’s mom started. “We met in the park just before sunset. We sat on a bench and watched as the thin, wispy clouds cycled from yellow to deep violet, barely perceptible against the black field dusted with stars. It felt like there was time enough at last.” Ginger looked up to see a dreamy, far away look in her mom’s eyes. “We stayed on that bench until there was a chill in the air. He wrapped his jacket around my shoulders, and we walked from there in the direction of the tunnel.”

“We were just wandering the streets together when we found this little diner. It was a complete anachronism--something out of the 50s, maybe. A waitress out front, cook in the back--maybe--I can’t recall. Waitress looked a lot like you, but with hair a dark bottled red. Last customer walked out as we walked in--we had the place to ourselves. She seemed to know exactly what we’d want--milkshake for me, coffee and chocolate pie for your dad.”

Ginger checked her hair once more in the mirror, then adjusted the uniform she had lifted. She stepped out of the back as the young couple passed the customer leaving. For a moment she was in awe of how young her mother looked as they sat down in a booth before walking up to them.

“Hi. What can I get for you two? Pie?”

“You have pie?” the boy asked.

“Chocolate,” Ginger replied, a tingle running down her spine at his voice. “Coffee to wash it down?”

“Perfect,” he replied.

“And for you, Miss?” She looked her over. “You look like a milkshake kind of girl. Strawberry?”

“How’d you--”

“Call it a gift,” Ginger said over her shoulder as she stepped away from the table.

“Your father must’ve been watching me closer than I thought; he apparently had picked up a few of my tricks. As we sat at the table he took a twig from his pocket and made it a loop. When he took my hand and slid it on my finger, there were no ends visible, and it started to bloom,” her mom said, playing with the ring she still wore, running a finger lightly around the small closed bud that rode atop it.

“One slice chocolate pie, one coffee, one house special strawberry milkshake.” Ginger said as she unburdened her tray. “And here’s your straw. Need any creamer for the coffee?” The boy shook his head. “Okay, need anything just let me know.”

“There was something about that milkshake. I’ve tried over the years to replicate it, but no luck.” Ginger’s mom mused, licking her lips. “We sat there like we were the only two people in the world; I have no idea how long it was, or when they were supposed to close. I don’t know how she did it, but our waitress kept us refilled without us calling her. We weren’t even aware when she did it.”

“Probably just an experience,” Ginger offered.

After cleaning the counter Ginger toyed with some inconsequential magics as she watched the two lovers in the booth with a hint of sadness. They seemed wrapped in a spell of their own making, a spell of love that made them unaware of the world around them. They had no idea what awaited them when they left the diner. It was one of many outcomes, but one she knew neither could imagine; it was the only one she was not allowed to change.

“I remember just before we left, when he went to the bathroom, the waitress told me something. I’d been waiting for a good time; if it hadn’t been for what she said, he might have never known.”

Ginger cleaned another tabletop as she watched the boy get up and go to the back. When he was out of sight, she whispered. “You need to tell him, sooner rather than later.”

“I was looking for the right time.”

“There’s never a ‘right time’, there is only the time you have now,” Ginger replied, refilling a salt shaker.

Ginger wiped a tear from her mother’s cheek.

“I went back to that restaurant afterward, but no one recognized the waitress, and the shakes were never the same.” Ginger’s mom said wistfully. “I never got to thank her for the advice.”

“That reminds me,” Ginger said as she got up. “I’ve got something for you.”

She returned with a bright pink milkshake. Her mom’s eyes widened with the first sip.

“How’d you--”

“Call it a gift,” Ginger smiled.

(Word count: 794. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)

Part 1: Smash 'Em Up Sunday: Urban Fantasy


atcroft t1_j0mt7qu wrote

Thank you very much for the feedback.

I agree, it can be very messy. I see what you mean about Susan. (I probably should have noted this occurs after the events of my submission for last week's SEUS (Acoustic), where she is still getting over the aftermath of that "adventure".) The word limit is a reality, but will re-read and see if I can see a way to update while showcasing that facet.

Thank you for giving me something to think about!


atcroft t1_j0kcoic wrote

“Why don’t you go ahead, Mrs. James; I can run through the audio and lighting tests. If there’s a problem we can work it out tomorrow, before the dance Saturday night.”

“Are you sure, Susan?”

“You said you and Brother John had plans. I don’t mind.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning then, Susan.”

Moments later the echo of the door slamming reverberated throughout the gymnasium; Susan was alone. At the top of the ladder she flinched involuntarily at the sound as she taped a last twisted strip of crepe paper to the wall. As the echo faded, Susan relaxed--the silence was her haven; she was always more comfortable when it was quiet.

Why did I volunteer for this? she thought as she climbed down the ladder. In a moment her mind flashed to that night, when Michael had broken her trust. Why? It still bothered her, her only friend jeopardizing her future with such a stunt. If it weren’t for community service, I wouldn’t even think about this stupid dance, much less helping set up for it. At least nothing went on my “official” record.

She climbed up the steps to the control booth, and began testing the lights borrowed from the theater department. After starting the lighting program, she pulled a cord from her pocket, using it to plug her phone into the sound system. She selected an Earth Wind & Fire track to start her play list, sat it on the corner of the console and pressed play.

Back down on the floor she took a moment to admire the colored spots reflected from the mirror ball overhead. The music was electric, sending shivers up and down her spine. Closing her eyes she imagined her partner, arm out pointing to her, waiting on her in his Pierre Cardin. She twirled to him, reaching out her hand, her dress billowing out as she spun.

She let herself escape into the music. Singing along with “Boogie Wonderland”, she danced with her phantom partner. Lost in the music, she continued as “Working My Way Back to You” began. As she imagined spinning back to her partner, she was surprised when her hand met another.

Her eyes snapped open. “Michael!”

Michael executed a turn perfectly in step with her as he responded quietly, “You’ve been avoiding me, Susan.”

Rotating through a wheel, Susan met his eyes. “I didn’t know how to react, after what you pulled.”

He let her slide out, catching her hand, and spinning her back in. “It was stupid. How can I apologize more than I’ve tried?”

She turned away, stepping back before facing him again. “You put our futures in jeopardy with that escapade.”

“History is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes: disco, bell bottoms, stupid teenage acts trying to impress a girl--”

She stopped in the middle of the floor, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m serious, Michael.”

“If I had been a man in reality, you’d be here baby lovin’ me,” he sung along.

She turned, shaking her head.

“Let’s start again.“ He ran past, sliding to his knees before her. “Forgive me girl. I want you over and over and over and over again.”

“Stop it, Michael.”

He stood up, taking her hands in his, looking into her eyes. “Stop what? Romance? Loving you? Some people are embarrassed by romance, but I love it,” he replied. She tried to pull away, but he held her hand for a moment. “I know how much you like playing music, so it was the best gesture I could think of. I didn’t know the alarm system would be armed that night. Far as I knew they had the stickers on the windows just as a deterrent and never turned it on.” He released her hand as she pulled away again and turned away.

“Look, when we spent every day together, things were good. This month, without talking to you every day--it’s been torture. I’ve played that night through my head every single day, and I’d take it back if I could--just for you to even say one word to me a day.”

Susan set her jaw, looking back at him sternly.

“I told them you didn’t know. And I don’t care what happens to me. What I do care about is you. Maybe this isn’t what you want to hear from a childhood friend, and maybe I’m making it worse, but I can’t live with how it is now.” He looked away. “There, it’s out. I miss you. I love you. Next step is yours. I’ll abide by whatever--” Suddenly he ran for the door, trying not to cry.

“Michael!” she yelled after him, answered only by the echo of the slamming door.

(Word count: 788. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_itb0n4p wrote

(Author’s note: This is the events leading up to my other posting .)

It was a lazy afternoon; we were hanging around the steps of one of the abandoned tenements as an old man shuffled down the sidewalk.

“He don’t look so good,” Mark said, laughing.

“Ten bucks says he drops one of the bags before he gets to the next intersection; twenty says before he gets to that house on the end,” Paul quipped.

“You got ten bucks?” Mark asked, turning to Paul.

A moment later the old man went down on one knee, fruit from one of the bags spilling out on the sidewalk and onto what was left of the street.

“Hahaha,” I laughed. “Hey, old man!” I raised my voice even louder. “Hey, you! You know they have this thing now called ‘delivery’! Might be right up your alley!”

Mark and Paul joined in as the old man stumbled after the fruit he accidentally kicked before picking up his bags again.

“I bet that’s one of those old dudes that’s loaded but doesn’t want to spend any of it. Bet his house is full of stuff. Shame it doesn’t get to see the light of day,” Mark said as we watched him shamble down the street to the house at the end.

“Weeell, maybe we should just help some of it find admirers,” Paul quipped.

“I see through you too, Mark,” Paul said, “and if we just happen to get a bit of a ‘finder’s fee’ for helping, so much the better.”

“Meet back here after dark,” I said knowingly. The three of us parted, going off in different directions.

Now, dear reader, we’ren’t bad kids. But in the right situation, we are all capable of the most terrible crimes. Packs are often one of those situations--but we didn’t realize we were one.

The evening was caliginous as we crept up the steps of the dilapidated house.

“Mark, you got it?” I asked. Mark simply opened his jacket to reveal the pry bar he took from the hardware store.

“Think he’s going to give us any problems,” Paul asked.

“I don’t think he’ll even know--it isn’t like we’re going to go knock. And if he does it’s three against one. I don’t think we need to worry,” I replied.

We breached the door quietly--it wasn’t even locked.

Who doesn’t lock their doors these days? Do you, dear reader?

We stopped for a moment when someone’s step creaked one of the floorboards, but after a minute we heard nothing, so we continued into the first room. The room--was f’in’ crazy, with odd masks on the walls and odd figurines on the mantle beside a large vase-like object. The figurines were--ugly, hideous, anything but sacred--just looking at them filled me with rage.

“Mark, Paul, see what you can find in the rest of the house. I’ll be in here for a few,” I said as I hefted the poker. My first swing cleared the mantle, the vase exploding in a choking cloud of dust. Homerun! I thought I heard a thump upstairs, but continued swinging at the shelves, sending ceramic shards tapping across the floor. Another thump--sounded like it was on the far end of the house--I wondered what they’d found interesting.

I shouldered the poker and started for another room, to see what I could find. Suddenly I was dazzled by a bright light. I clutched at my eyes, swinging the poker off my shoulder. I hit something--not sure what. As I uncovered my eyes the bright light flashed again. I swung again. Off-balance, I turned the direction the flashes had moved, expecting a target to swing at--when abruptly I was blinded by stars, somewhere in the distance heard the sickening thud of my head hitting the floor, and felt myself being dragged as my world faded to black.

(Word count: 630. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)


atcroft t1_itarg40 wrote

“...this was a nice town before you hoodlums showed up. People knew their neighbors, doors could be left unlocked, children could play until after dark and walk home without concern,” the voice in the darkness ranted.

You realize you’re sitting up, tied up and unable to move.

“...a knock on a door was nothing to be feared, it was a neighbor either checking on you or asking a favor that they’d repay in kind later...” they continued.

The room is caliginous, only a small area around you lit as if the only light source were swinging overhead--it’s movement causing your head to pound. Occasionally something dark drips before your eyes. Slowly you realize how much pain you are experiencing, but your screams is muffled by what feels like a towel tied through your mouth.

Calmly the voice continues, “This house was sacred to me--a refuge where I could still feel my wife Victoria’s presence, even this many years after...You and your friends just had to breach it, didn’t you? Find out if the crazy ol’ man at the end of the street had anything worth pawning to score a quick hit?

“You know, I saw the way you and your friends watched me as I walked home each evening that week. That afternoon I intentionally played the part of the unsteady old man--even dropping part of my groceries in plain sight and kicking one or two of them when I reached for them,” he continued, his voice dropping lower. “I saw through you too--all of you. I knew you’d pick the week of Halloween to do your mischief.”

“The only thing I didn’t expect was that one of you--you--wanted destruction more than trinkets to pawn like your cohorts. And the first thing you hit after you picked up the poker was the urn--” he said, his voice cracking for the first time since you awoke, “--the urn that contained my dear Victoria.”

“Oh, Victoria, my love, I’m sorry I forgot to move them,” he said, almost a plaintive cry. “My dearest, how can I be forgiven?”

The silence seems interminable before a noise grabbed your attention, a small cart rolling into the light.

“Yes, Victoria, you’re right--as always. In the right situation, we are all capable of the most terrible crimes. But in this case, the punishment should fit the crime,” he says icily. He remains in the darkness as he pulls back a small towel.

Your blood runs cold as you view the variety of tools laying on the cart--many of them reflecting the swinging light. Your scream is muffled to nothingness by the towel between your jaws.

“Your friends were louder,” he says almost patronizingly calm. “Victoria was a screamer--hers at the end make yours seem like kitten mews.”

You try to tug at the ropes holding you to the chair, but it is no use.

“Don’t worry,” he says with an almost paternal nature to his voice, “you’ll be leaving here soon enough--as soon as your debt is paid. Don’t go to pieces on me--” he said with almost a hint of laughter in his voice, “--yet.” His voice drops to almost a whisper, as if he had moved around behind you. “That comes later.” He paused, still outside the light.

You look around, but can see no trace of him in the darkness.

“So, my dear, do we start with the nails, phalanges, or the teeth?” he says before a dark hand stretches into the light surrounding the cart for a pair of pliers. “Ah, excellent choice as always, my dear Victoria.”

He leans into the light--your first sight of him--and begins to remove your shoes. “Victoria always loved to have her nails done first.”

(Word count: 620. Please let me know what you like/dislike about the post. Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Other works can also be found linked in r/atcroft_wordcraft.)