Out of Place – Part Two

The conclusion to the story of fantasy, time travel, and the differences between the past and the present. Click here for Part One. I hope you enjoy, and please let me know what you think in the comments below.

It took us a while to get out of the woods, but when we did, we both were astonished. In front of us, to our left and in the distance, we saw a town that looked a lot like the pictures I’d seen of small colonial-period villages. Its small buildings, cobblestone streets, and horses trotting down the streets, pulling buggies, really surprised me. Kayley gripped my hand tightly.

“What’s going on here?” she whispered fearfully. I couldn’t help but feel a stab of fear, too.

“Let’s try to figure this out,” I said, trying to sound brave. “Why don’t we check out the town?”

“Okay,” Kayley replied. She followed me reluctantly down a dirt path, which the residents probably called a road. We passed a small two-story farmhouse where a lady was taking down her laundry. She spotted us and gasped.

“Girls!” she cried. “What are you thinking, going around in those?” She rushed over and handed both of us a skirt. “Keep them, and make sure to wear them!” The lady walked back to her laundry, muttering to herself and glancing back at us.

I glanced over at Kayley, who was slipping on the skirt over her jeans. It reached all the way to her ankles. I glanced down at my jeans. “What’s wrong with these?” I asked, insulted.

Kayley nudged me. “Don’t you get it? We’re in a different place or time or something. Girls don’t wear jeans here, they have to wear…”

“Skirts,” I finished, wrinkling my nose at the thick, heavy fabric in my hands. Sighing, I slipped it on. “Let’s go,” I told Kayley. We started off on the path to the town.

When we reached the town, we strolled along the sidewalk, trying not to stare at everybody and everything. We were getting quite a few stares and disapproving looks ourselves. I guess it was because of our mismatched clothing. We certainly did look out of place among the women with huge powdered wigs, and the men with long ponytails or wigs. The men and boys were dressed in knee breeches and horribly stiff-looking shirts, while the women and girls were wearing ankle-length dresses.

“This is so weird,” Kayley whispered in my ear.

“Yeah,” I whispered back. “It feels so awkward.” I grimaced when a snobby-looking woman glared at us. “Let’s go in this store.” I pushed Kayley into the building. An old gray-haired man stood behind the counter, rearranging the penny candy. He looked up as we entered the store, raising his eyebrows at our clothes.

“Millie!” he called into the back room. A tiny lady with gray hair pulled back in a tidy bun stepped out. A look of shock flew across her face when she saw us.

“Girls, do you need dresses?” she asked hurriedly. “I have two that you can have.” She did appear to be close to our size. I opened my mouth to turn her down anyway, but Kayley jabbed me with her elbow.

“Sure, we’d love some,” she agreed, giving me a warning look. I groaned inwardly. The lady led us to the back of the store, which was apparently where the elderly couple lived. The lady pulled out two checkered dresses and handed them to us. “You can change behind that curtain,” she told us, pointing. We both obeyed, ducking behind the long piece of fabric used as a makeshift curtain. I slipped into my dress, wishing I didn’t have to wear it. I spent most of my time in jeans or shorts, and I hated wearing skirts and dresses. I couldn’t help sending an unhappy glare in Kayley’s direction. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice. She was too busy swirling the dress’s long skirt.

“I love this dress!” she exclaimed. “I always wanted to wear an old dress!”

I rolled my eyes and snorted. “You’ve always been the dressy type.”

Kayley laughed. “Come on, Syd, let’s go. We need to find out how to get home.” She pulled me out from behind the curtain.

“Right,” I agreed.

The old lady smiled at us. “Good,” she told us. “You girls look much better now.”

I gave her my most adorable smile, the one my mom calls my oh-you’re-so-sweet smile. Kayley calls it my fake-sincere smile. Probably because I only use it when I have to fake being sweet. “Oh, thank you so much!” I struggled to keep my smile pasted on. I was disgusted. “I was wondering, what town is this? We’re new here.”

“I could tell,” the old woman said, her eyebrows wrinkling. “It’s Canyon Creek.”

My eyes widened, and so did Kayley’s. That was the same town where our grandparents lived! But this was way different. Something weird was going on.

Kayley recovered from her surprise first. “Thanks,” she said. “I think we’ll look around in the store. Thanks again!” she called over her shoulder. I followed her, shaking off my shock.

The two of us “shopped around” a little, until Kayley suddenly pulled me outside. She led me down the street, going back the way we came. “What’s up?” I asked curiously when we were out of earshot of most of the townspeople.

“I saw a date on a newspaper,” Kayley told me. “It said that this is 1799!”

“Really?” I asked, astonished.

My cousin nodded. “We should go back to the cave,” she suggested. “I think those bats had something to do with us changing times.”

Sometimes Kayley’s a lot smarter than me. I think those Sherlock Holmes stories that she’s always reading help a lot. “Sounds good,” I told her.

We reached the cave and entered it, but not without a slight bit of hesitation first. I had only taken a few steps into the cave when Kayley stopped me. “Let’s pray,” she suggested. I nodded, and we grabbed each other’s hands, bowing our heads.

“Dear Lord Jesus,” I prayed out loud. “We have no idea what’s going on, but we know that You do. Please fix this mess. Amen.” I looked up and made eye contact with Kayley. “Let’s go,” I stated. Kayley nodded.

We walked into the cave together. The blackness quickly enveloped us. I trailed my hand on the wall to help us find our way through, and to keep us from running into the walls. The rough sound of my hand on the rock echoed in the cave. The thunk made when my fingertips hit each wooden beam stood out. Other than that the cave was eerily silent.

“Wait,” Kayley said. I jumped not expecting her voice. “I think I still have my flashlight.” I hear her rustling through her skirts to the normal clothes still underneath. “Here it is!” she exclaimed. She clicked the flashlight on and light flooded the cave. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. We went around a corner, and the light lit up bunches of bats clinging to the ceiling. Kayley and I instinctively hit the ground, and we heard the bats flapping around above us and leaving the cave. Their squeaks eventually faded away.

Kayley and I stood up. Kayley shown her flashlight around the cave, illuminating numerous stalactites and stalagmites that had reappeared.

“Yes!” I cried. Kayley hugged me ecstatically. I noticed a bright spot on the wall and walked over to it. My flashlight, still on, was shining on the cave wall. I picked it up. It was a little beat up, but, other than that, it was fine.

I heard Kayley laughing. I walked back to her. “What’s up?” I asked, confused.

She grinned. “We’d better change out of these dresses.”

I laughed. “We probably should.”

~~~

We continued exploring the woods and the cave throughout the rest of that summer. We always brought our dresses with us. Just in case.

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Out of Place – Part One

A fun story of fantasy, time travel, and the differences between the past and the present, inspired by a prompt. Enjoy, and let me know what you think! 🙂

I had no idea where I was.

My cousin Kayley and I had been exploring in the woods behind our grandparents’ house when we’d discovered a cave in one of the many small hills in the area.

“Let’s go in,” I immediately said, reaching into my backpack and pulling out my flashlight. We always went out prepared, thanks to our grandpa’s drilling about safety in the woods.

“No way!” Kayley protested. “I am not going into that cave, Sydney!”

I crossed my arms. “Why not?”

“Because, it’s so-so dark and creepy!”

I smirked at her. “What, are you scared?”

“I’m not scared,” she replied angrily, putting her hands on her hips in defiance, but I noticed her hesitation. I raised an eyebrow skeptically, my arms still crossed.

“I’m not!” she insisted, tossing her hair.

“Then let’s go!” I told her firmly, flicking on the flashlight and pulling her after me. She followed me reluctantly, dragging a little behind, but as soon as we were in the cave she stayed right next to me.

“Hey, it’s not really a cave, it’s more like a tunnel!” I exclaimed. My flashlight beam revealed that the cavern just kept going. We started walking down the tunnel, Kayley trying not to act scared. I shone my flashlight all around. It glimmered on the stalactites and stalagmites littering the ceiling and floor.

“They look a lot like teeth,” Kayley whispered. I rolled my eyes, but inside I couldn’t help agreeing with her a little bit. I looked back to where we were going and saw something black hanging from a stalactite. Suddenly, the bat moved, along with hundreds of his friends. Kayley shrieked. I have to admit, the feeling of leathery wings beating against my face was not very pleasant. Kayley and I dropped to the floor, covering our faces.

After a few minutes, the sounds of the bats died away. I sat up and heard movement to my left. “Kayley?” I called.

“Right here,” she replied. “It’s so dark in here.”

She was right. It was pitch black. I must have dropped my flashlight, and I guess it must have broken or gotten turned off somehow. “Do you have a flashlight?” I asked.

“I think so.” I heard rustling in the darkness. “Got it!” she exclaimed. The cave was lit by the smaller light, but I was grateful for any we could get.

“Let’s go back now!” she begged.

I sighed. “Okay.” We turned and only went about ten steps before we both froze and our jaws dropped. The flashlight illuminated a pile of rocks blocking the tunnel.

“Where did these come from?” Kelly looked as baffled as I felt. “We walked past here just a couple of minutes ago!”

I shrugged. “Let’s just go the other way. Maybe we got turned around.” I started heading down the tunnel, Kayley following close behind. I didn’t really believe it myself, but I was confused. How did those rocks get there? After a couple of minutes, I noticed the flashlight glinting off something on the floor. I reached down and picked it up, stopping. Kayley looked at me. “It’s a rusty nail,” I told her, studying it.

Kayley grabbed my arm suddenly. “Sydney, something’s wrong!” she whispered. “Look!” She pointed at the floor. I took in my breath sharply. The floor, as well as the ceiling, was smooth, without the stalactites and stalagmites I’d noticed earlier. Wooden tracks followed the center of the tunnel. I shone the light upwards to study the ceiling better. Wooden beams supported the sides of the tunnel.

“This is so weird,” I whispered to Kayley. “It looks like a tunnel for a mine!”

“I don’t like this, Sydney,” Kayley stated, her eyes wide and fearful. “What’s going on here?”

“I-I don’t know,” I admitted. “Let’s just keep going.” She nodded reluctantly, and the two of us continued walking through the tunnel. Ten minutes passed in silence until Kayley grabbed my arm again.

“Turn off the flashlight!” she exclaimed excitedly. I glanced at her curiously and then did as she had asked. “It’s light over there!” she cried. I could see it too, a small spot that was lighter straight ahead of us.

I flicked the flashlight on again. “Let’s go!” I shouted, grabbing Kayley’s arm. We started running. Almost before we knew it, we had come out of the cave and were in a forest. Kayley flopped down on the ground and I flopped down, too.

“I’m so glad to be out of there!” Kayley gasped.

I looked around. “But we still don’t know where we are. Do you recognize anything?”

Kayley looked scared. “No,” she admitted.

“So, where are we?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Sydney!” she snapped. “How am I supposed to know where we are? Do you even know where we are?”

I wasn’t hurt by Kayley’s harsh words. She’s mostly pretty calm and doesn’t often get angry, but, when she does, it’s normally because she’s scared. And I could tell that she was super scared.

I was too.

“I don’t know where we are, either,” I admitted. “Why don’t we look around and see if we can find any landmarks, or a-a house or something.”

“Okay,” Kayley agreed reluctantly. “Let’s go.”

Interviews From the Writer’s Desk – Ellis Reckle

Ellis is another one of the five main characters from my Teen Warrior series (in progress), the same series Haven and Iris are in. He’s quite a boring character, but that’s one of the things that make his story special. Please note that all characters are subject to change. I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments.

“Benedict,” I call over my intercom. “Is Ellis Reckle here for his interview yet?”

“Yes, I’m sending him in.”

I pull over my laptop and open up a new document. After my last interview, I thought it would be a good idea to use my computer for note taking instead of pen and paper. I’m getting tired of blisters.

A young teenage boy steps in. He’s pretty plain looking, with dusty brown hair and medium gray eyes. He looks like he’s around five and a half feet tall, but the short description Iris sent me said that he’s 5.563 feet tall. Haven and Iris warned me that he likes to be precise. He looks like the average geek: skinny, pale, and quiet. Although, from what I’ve heard, he’s a pretty special geek. Boring, but special.

“Hi,” I greet him, smiling. “Have a seat. We’ll start off with an easy question, and then we’ll get to some harder ones. I assume Haven and Iris have already told you a little about what to expect.”

He nods. “They told me in deep detail.”

I grin. “Well, then you’re probably well prepared. First off, what is your name and age?”

“Ellis Reckle. I’m sixteen, the youngest in our group.”

“Can you tell me about your family?”

“I live with my dad in our cottage a little ways inside the city limits. He’s the one I inherited my brain and technological fascination from. My mom and my only brother died when I was eight, so it’s just me and my dad now.”

“Tell me about your Gift and its limitations,” I ask.

“Well, my Gift isn’t exactly anything too special,” he tells m. “Basically, I’m just really good with technology, and I have a photographic memory.”

I’m starting a new page in my document. “How would you honestly describe your personality?”

“Quiet and nerdy,” he states. “I’m not necessarily shy, just quiet. I like to think instead of talk. Sometimes it makes people think I’m rude, but I’m just quiet. If someone’s loyal to me, I’m loyal to them. I’m not easily angered. But, all in all, I’ve got a pretty dull personality.”

I blink, surprised. “Is that all?”

Ellis shrugs. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“What are some of your faults or bad characteristics?”

“I’m a total chicken. Bravery is certainly not one of the characteristic I possess. I’m boring, plain, and dull. My brain tends to get me in trouble, and I’m pretty much a bully magnet. There are plenty more, but, hey, I’m sure you have plenty more questions.” He grins.

I laugh. “You’re right. What are some of your strengths and good points?”

“Well, I’m smart, loyal, and trusting, I can fix virtually anything, and I’m good at planning things. I have a heart for doing good, and I’m a quick thinker. I’m cool and collected, too. Most of the time,” he finishes.

This may be my shortest interview yet. “Last question. What is the Name the King gave you?” I ask.

“I’m the inventor,” Ellis announces.

I nod, typing the last few words into my document. “Thank you so much for coming, Ellis. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

Ellis grins. “It’s not often I hear that, and thank you.” He gives me one last smile before heading out the door.

Friday Fiction Challenge: 7-25-14

A challenge to help you write, get you thinking, and spark some creativity! Add a link to your response in the comments below and link back to this post. If you just decide to answer the question, and it’s not a full length post, feel free to just comment with your answer. Be creative and have fun!

The Question

What is your favorite quote of all time?

The Challenge

Write a story that (a) uses that quote or (b) uses all of the words from the quote without using the quote itself. And if you want to choose a different quote than an absolute favorite one, go for it!

Dear Child – A Letter From God

Obviously not really from God. Please enjoy, share, and comment.

Dear Child,

I have heard you.

I hear your cries when you are in pain or hurting. I hear your prayers when you need help or healing.

I know your struggles, your scars and your problems. I know the things you enjoy and the things that you hate. I know your pet peeves and I know the things that ignite a passionate fire within you.

Whether you’re happy or sad, or angry and hurting, I will always be there for you. I’ll be with you in the light of day and in the darkest nights. I’ll never leave you or forsake you. I’ll never abandon you, and you’ll never be alone. You are My child, and I am always with you. I will help you in your struggles and heal your heartache.

When you’re hurting, turn to Me. I can heal the broken heart and put shattered faith back together again. I can fix any problem if you only call out to Me.

Even when you’re lost and don’t know what to do, I will guide you. I formed you in your mother’s womb, and I had a plan for you and your life before you were even thought of by others. Nothing can change that plan. No mistake that you make can make Me give up on you. I can always fix your problems and forgive you. No mistake is too big for Me. You are always mine, no matter what.

It doesn’t matter how far you stray; I will welcome you back with open arms. You are My child, and I love you. No matter what.

Love,

God

Eric – Behind the Names

For those of you who have been guessing about the significance of the names of Eric and Joseph, the big moment is here!

The names are actually simply hints to a lesson found in the story. A simple sentence.

Jesus died for Everyone.

Jeremiah died for Eric.

Hope you enjoyed this story, and I’d love to hear what you have to say! 🙂 Did you enjoy the parallel, and did you figure out the names?

Writings About Writing – Those We Love, Part Two

So, what is it that makes those characters so lovable and huggable? Really?

The truth is, I don’t know.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way. For one thing, I am not an expert. For another, I don’t think I’ve created a single character ever that stuck in people’s heads and was just… amazing. So most of this is conjecture, thinking onto a screen, and… ramblings. So, be forewarned, and don’t sue me if this doesn’t make your characters any better. That said, on with it.

I asked several questions in Part One, and I’m going to be building a little bit off of that, and some other random thoughts.

Today’s question is… Why not perfect?

See, most of the characters that we love are flawed. Some in small ways, and some in much, much bigger ways. Why can’t your characters just be perfect?

Because there’s only one perfect Person, and His story is so awesome that no other perfect person could beat it.

Well, that and the fact that nobody (but Jesus) is perfect. We always seem to dislike “goody-two-shoes” in real life, so of course we’ll dislike the perfect people in stories. That’s because we don’t identify with their perfection. We have flaws, so we expect the characters to have flaws.

We look for ourselves in characters to identify with them. That’s why we like characters that are flawed and remind us of ourselves.

So, make ’em imperfect. Give them problems. Insecurities. Hatred. Secrets. Sin.

Do you like perfect characters? Are there any exceptions to this? Do you have trouble flawing your characters? What are your favorite characters’ flaws, both in your writing and others’?

Eric – Part Two

Part two, and the final part of this story. Click for Part One. Again, so much fun to write. 😉 Guessed the significance of Eric’s and Jeremiah’s names? Here’s a hint: first letters of their names. Please let me know waht you think of this story in the comments below! 🙂

A mixture of rage and terror overcame him. He put his head in his hands as he realized the hopelessness of his situation.

As he sat there, he felt something change inside of him. Peace and calmness filled him, replacing the anger and fear. He stood up, determined to find his way home.

King Eric walked for days, carrying the blanket and living off of nuts and berries. His lack of weapons prevented him from hunting. He could only hope that he was walking in the right direction. Birds, squirrels, and other small forest creatures were his only company. His only thought was that his situation couldn’t get any worse. He was sure that he would eventually find a house or a cottage.

About two weeks after his advisors had abandoned him, he stumbled into a clearing. He froze as enemy soldiers surrounded him, just as startled as he was.

~~~

King Eric was kept in a tent surrounded by guards all night. The next day, the enemy unit began marching back to their castle. The king and about fourteen prisoners from his army were forced to march through thick, sloppy mud. They were surrounded by guards that taunted them from atop their war horses. Many prisoners tried to escape, but they were quickly shoved back into line, often by the crack of a whip.

At night, the prisoners were put in a huge tent with guards patrolling around it. Two guards were in the tent to keep the prisoners in order.

After the third day of endless marching, King Eric sat, exhausted, on the blanket he had been assigned. He felt no pain from the blisters on his feet, only a dull, aching sense of dread. He could only imagine the horrors of what might happen when they arrived at the castle.

He glanced, uninterested, at the two guards. One of them caught his eye. He was tall and strong. He removed his helmet, revealing his stunningly bright red hair. Eric’s eyes widened. In his entire life, he’d only seen one person with red hair: his childhood friend Jeremiah. His teacher had said that red hair and blond hair were both very, very rare.

King Eric watched as the red-haired soldier moved quietly behind the other soldier. The next second, his fist connected solidly with the other soldier’s head. The soldier tumbled to the floor, unconscious.

All of the prisoners stared as the red-haired soldier grabbed a coil of spare rope and tied the other soldier’s hands and feet. The redhead turned to face them.

“I am Jeremiah,” he announced quietly. “I am here to rescue you, but you must follow me quickly, quietly, and in an orderly manner.” He moved to the opposite side of the giant tent, turning to one of the men. “You must lead the other prisoners. I will be in the back of the line, and I shall tell you when to go.”

Jeremiah peered out of a small peephole in the side of the tent. A few minutes later, he guided the prisoners to a hidden hole in the floor of the tent.

The prisoners slipped out of the tent, unseen by any guards. King Eric stayed in the back, only a few steps ahead of Jeremiah. They rushed through the cool night air as quickly as they could without arousing anyone’s attention.

They heard a distant shout from behind them. Oh no, King Eric thought. They must have discovered that we escaped. The escapees moved faster through the thick woods.

“Run,” Jeremiah called, his voice loud enough to be heard by all of them, but quiet enough that it wouldn’t help the guards find their position. “Try to stay in pairs, but still split up,” he added.

The other prisoners quietly paired up, and they quickly took off. King Eric was paired with Jeremiah.

Eric and Jeremiah ran through the forest, dodging trees and listening closely. Soon they heard the hoof-beats of their pursuers’ horses.

“We’ll never be able to outrun them!” Eric panted.

“We can try,” Jeremiah replied.

The hoof-beats drew nearer. “You go that way,” Jeremiah called softly to Eric, pointing to the left slightly. “I’ll keep running this way and hope they’ll follow me.”

Eric frowned at him. “Are you sure?” he asked reluctantly.

Jeremiah nodded, dodging another tree. “Don’t worry about me. Just worry about getting back to your people, Eric.” He smiled.

Eric’s eyes widened, but he didn’t have time to reply. Jeremiah nudged him off toward the left. He ran slower, looking over his shoulder as he split off from Jeremiah. The hoof-beats now sounded like a pounding heart. A shot rang out, and Jeremiah thudded to the ground, clutching his chest.

Eric started to turn, but Jeremiah’s pain-filled eyes locked with his. “Run,” he mouthed.

The pain of an aching heart started in Eric’s chest as he turned and continued running.

~~~

Eric made it back safely to his people, and they eventually won the war. The advisors who had abandoned him were never found, and everyone believed that they were either killed or captured. Eric had a happy, long, and prosperous reign, and was well-loved by his people. He never forgot the sacrifice that Jeremiah, his true friend, had made for him.

Eric – Part One

This story was sooo much fun to write. Please let me know if you like it and provide feedback, and let me know if you can figure out the significance of Eric’s and Jeremiah’s names. 😀

“Eric!” a young woman called from the doorway of the small cottage. Her light brown hair was swept back into a bun, and her clear blue eyes searched the surrounding countryside with several other cottages scattered nearby. “Eric!” she called again. A laughing little boy only five years old came running around the edge of the house, his blue eyes sparkling in merriment. He ran up to the woman, the sun glinting off his golden hair. Another little boy ran around the corner of the house, stopping suddenly and watching the golden-haired boy. He had stunning red hair and green eyes. The lady turned to the golden-haired child.

“Who’s this, Eric?” she asked him.

“This is Jeremiah,” Eric replied.

The young woman turned to the other boy. “Did you just move to one of the cottages?” she asked.

Jeremiah nodded solemnly. “My parents couldn’t find work in the last town,” he told her. His voice was clear and strong, surprising for a young boy.

“Well, I’m glad the two of you have made friends with each other,” the woman said, smiling. “Eric, you need to get ready for dinner, though.”

Eric smiled up at her. “Yes, Mama,” he replied cheerfully. He skipped up to the door but turned in the doorway. “Bye, Jeremiah,” he called, waving to his friend. The little redhead smiled and waved back, then disappeared over a small hill. The young woman watched him depart and then turned back into the house.

~~~

“Hi, Jeremiah!” Eric exclaimed as he and his friend met in their usual spot almost a month later. Jeremiah smiled at his friend, but his face was sad. Eric frowned. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“”We’re moving again,” Jeremiah told his friend.

“What?”

Jeremiah nodded. “My parents still haven’t been able to find work. They’ve decided that we should try another town.”

Eric’s eyes filled with tears. “But you’re my best friend!” he protested. “You can’t leave!”

Jeremiah’s eyes were sad. “I know, but I have to leave.” He hesitated. “I have two secrets I want to tell you first, and then I have to go.”

“Really?” Eric asked, leaning towards Jeremiah from his spot next to a tall tree.

“Yeah.” Jeremiah took a deep breath. “First: I’m adopted.”

Eric’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Jeremiah nodded. “My parents told me when I was four.”

“Whoa,” Eric whispered. He tilted his head to the side. “What’s the second secret?” he asked.

Jeremiah leaned forward. “Well, I have these dreams,” he whispered. “They always come true! One time, when I was little, I had a dream that I met a golden-haired boy with blue eyes named Eric.”

“Wow!” Eric exclaimed.

Jeremiah nodded. “I know. “Well, last night, I had a dream about you. You became a king!”

Eric’s eyes got even bigger. “Me?”

“Yes,” Jeremiah replied. He paused. “I just felt that I needed to tell you.”

“Thanks,” Eric said gratefully. “Although I don’t know if that dream will really come true.”

Jeremiah’s eyes twinkled, then became sad. “I have to go now,” he told his friend softly.

Tears filed Eric’s eyes once again. “Please don’t go,” he pleaded.

“I have to,” Jeremiah told him sorrowfully. He clasped his friend’s hand. “I’ll always remember you, Eric. We shall see each other again, my friend.” Jeremiah squeezed Eric’s hand one last time, and Eric watched his friend disappear into the forest.

~~~

Many years passed, and Eric found himself quite well off. Soon after Jeremiah left, Eric’s parents had begun to rise in both wealth and social status. They were able to pay for Eric to be schooled. His teacher soon discovered that he was quick and intelligent.

“He’s much wiser than most children his age,” she told his parents once. “He has an insight that’s hard to explain.”

Several years after that, Eric’s wisdom helped him. The king heard of Eric, and called him to the court. He asked Eric’s advice on several small, trivial matters to test him. Eric was soon appointed the king’s royal advisor.

Eric didn’t take advantage of his high position like many of the other officers. He was kind to everyone, and humble. His wise advice and kind spirit soon made him the second most powerful man in the kingdom. His life was full of happiness, including with his wife and children.

Then, one day, the king was pushed off his balcony by one of his servants. By the time the rest of the servants reached him, he was dead. Eric was horrified. He had become close to the king, and had even considered him a good friend, and now he was dead.

The former king had no heirs. Eric could never remember quite how it happened, but, somehow, it was decided that he should be the new king. The memories flooded back: a little red-haired boy sitting in the forest and a dream about Eric becoming a king. He remembered doubting the dream. Now it was coming true.

The preparations for the coronation ceremony proceeded frantically. Eric disliked the kingly clothes he was forced to wear, but he wore them anyway. He resented the extravagant decorations, but he approved them anyway. He didn’t believe that he should be king, but he felt that it was his duty to the people.

The coronation ceremony was beautiful, and Eric and his family settled into life in the castle. It seemed like it would be a happy life. The people respected Eric, and so did his advisors and officers. The country prospered, utilizing its natural resources in the most efficient way possible.

Then it happened: war. Two neighboring countries grew jealous of their prosperity and invaded quickly after they declared war. Eric was devastated, but he knew that he had to defend his country.

The army gathered and set off. King Eric and several of his advisors led the soldiers into battle.

The war dragged on. Weeks were spent fighting, and neither side gained an advantage. King Eric’s men were soon exhausted from the endless fighting.

Slowly but surely, the enemy began beating down King Eric’s army. New soldiers arrived for the enemy, and King Eric’s men were forced to flee. King Eric insisted that he and his advisors cover the retreat, to the dismay of his advisors.

One night, he and his advisors bedded down in a hidden clearing, taking turns keeping watch. King Eric fell asleep quickly. He awoke around midnight and found that his advisors had abandoned him, taking all of the weapons and supplies and leaving him with only the blanket he was sleeping on.

A Maze of Lies – Part Three

The last part in the story of lies, deception, and wrong choices. Click for Part One and Part Two. I’d love feedback! 😀

The next week passed quickly. Spring break also flew past, and it seemed like there hadn’t been a spare minute to breathe for Hailey. On Saturday night, she headed over to Melanie’s house for an end-of-spring-break sleepover.

“Hey, Hailey, I’m in the kitchen!” Melanie called when Hailey came in. Hailey slipped into the kitchen.

“You’re the first one here,” Melanie told her, grinning.

“Well, that’s a first!” Hailey joked. She reached over her friend’s shoulder and grabbed a kettle chip out of the bowl on the counter. “Who all is coming?” she asked, crunching.

“Kaitlyn’s out of town, so she’s not going to be here, but Brenna is going to be able to make it this time.” Melanie grabbed her own chip out of the bowl and popped it in her mouth. And then grabbed a few more.

Hailey picked up the bowl to take it into the living room. “Too bad Kaitlyn can’t come. We had a lot of fun last time. When is she getting back?”

“Monday, but she’ll be back at school on Tuesday.” Melanie picked up a bowl of popcorn. “Maybe we’ll actually pull an all-nighter tonight.”

Hailey laughed. “Knowing Brenna, we will.”

~~~

Hailey strolled home slowly on Monday afternoon. She hadn’t been able to avoid the daily bullying scene. Jason had been on vacation until the night before, and he had got back late, so she had hoped that he wouldn’t be there. Unfortunately he had.

“Hailey, wait up!” She heard a voice call from behind her. She turned and looked. It was Jason.

“Hi, Jason,” she said when he caught up.

“Hi.” He grinned, shoving his blond hair back from his forehead. “How come I’m always running to catch up with you?”

Hailey laughed. “I guess I’m just a lot faster than you.”

He smiled. “So, did you go to church on Sunday?”

“Yeah.” The words popped out of Hailey’s mouth before she could even think. “I went to the youth group meeting thing.” Hailey couldn’t believe what she’d just said.

“That’s awesome!” Jason exclaimed enthusiastically. “So, did you like it?”

“Not really,” Hailey replied reluctantly. She couldn’t think of anything else to say. What had she done?

Jason’s face fell. “Oh,” he said resignedly. He suddenly looked at his watch. “I’ve got to get home. Let’s talk more later, okay?”

“Sure,” Hailey replied reluctantly. He turned away, his shoulders somewhat slumped. Hailey was overcome by a desire to run after him, to grab his arm, to tell him the truth about everything. She wanted to stop lying to him.

But she didn’t. She didn’t want to lose her popularity and her other friends. She didn’t want to lose Jason’s trust. And she didn’t want to lose him as a friend.

~~~

Hailey slammed her locker door shut angrily after her classes on Tuesday. Every time she had seen Jason, she had felt a pang from her conscience. She was completely tired of it all. She spotted Jason at his locker a few feet away and debated whether or not to talk to him.

“Hi, guys!” Kaitlyn called, waving to Hailey and Melanie. She expertly wove through the crowd of teenagers. She finally reached them, breathless.

“Hi, Kaitlyn! Did you have a good trip?” Melanie asked, hugging her friend.

“It was great!” Kaitlyn exclaimed, her voice loud and clear like Melanie’s, as usual. “How was the sleepover on Saturday?”

“It was awesome, right, Hailey?” Melanie replied.

“Yeah, it was,” Hailey agreed distractedly. She knew that Jason couldn’t help but hear everything, and she knew that this was going to ruin everything.

“It was great!” Melanie confirmed. “We ended up pulling an all-nighter. We totally slept until four. Hailey was the one to wake us all up.” Hailey gave a half-hearted grin.

“You slept later than the one two weeks ago, then?” Kaitlyn asked. “We only slept until two.”

“Yeah.” Melanie smiled and continued chattering. Jason’s eyes met Hailey’s. He immediately read the guilt on her face. Astonishment swept over his face and was immediately replaced by hurt and anger, and then sadness. He turned and walked towards a side door, probably so he could escape the daily bullying scene. Hailey felt sick as she realized the pain she had caused Jason. Ignoring the chatter of her friends, she gathered her things and took off after Jason. She had to make things right.

~~~

“Jason, wait up!” Hailey called after Jason when she spotted him walking down the street ahead of her. Either he didn’t hear her, or he was ignoring her, because he kept walking. Hailey finally caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Please, Jason,” she pleaded desperately. “We need to talk. I-I’m sorry.” She finished in a whisper.

Jason turned around to face her, pain and sadness filling his green eyes. Hailey gulped, knowing that this would be hard. “I’m sorry. I just— couldn’t stop. I wanted you to stop asking me to go to church with you. I didn’t want to lose all of my other friends because of going to church, so I just kept lying and making up excuses. It was like everything kept getting more and more tangled up, and I-I just couldn’t stop. It was like being stuck in a maze.” The tears started flowing down her cheeks.

Jason hugged her gently and gave a weak smile. “It’s okay, Hailey. I’m hurt, and I’m upset that you lied to me, but… I’ve already decided to forgive you.”

“But how?” Hailey asked, confused. “I mean, I lied to you so many times! How can you just – forgive me?”

Jason smiled again. “I can’t do it on my own. God gives me the power to forgive. He’s the only One who can help me to let go of the hurt.”

“Thanks,” Hailey said softly. “And maybe I can come to church with you sometime?”

Jason’s grin broadened. “That would be awesome. Jesus is the best way out of the maze of lies.”