Short Story Exercise: Zadie Phones Home

(rolled a D12, took that number of Rory’s story cubes, shook ’em up, lined them out in order they fell top to bottom, wrote short story)

Zadie giggled and shook her golden locks out of her face. Tor remained on his cot, stoic as ever.

“This is good news,” Zadie insisted, reaching through the bars of the cell towards him.

“No touch!” the guard yelled.

“I’m not,” Zadie replied sweetly, then turned back to her man. “Tor!  Look at me.”

The beaten warrior shook his head, his gaze trained on the cracks in the stone floor. He would be staring at this floor for the rest of his days, no matter what Zadie said. She could no more remove him from this dungeon than he could fly through the wall.

“You will see,” she whispered, then she blew him a kiss goodbye.


Clipping one of her golden curls and delivering it to the witch had been no trouble at all. Finding the hunchback had been easy. And now Zadie waited patiently with her bucket for the goat to give her the last thing she needed. Ten minutes later, her bucket filled with steaming scat, Zadie hurried back to the witch’s cottage. 

Having delivered all the goods, the witch gave her a map, a shovel, and a key. The full moon led Zadie through the trees near the creek, as detailed on the map. In the still night air, the sounds of the forest echoed in her ears. Rustling leaves, snapping twigs, and the overwhelming silence of all life informed Zadie she was being followed. She maintained her pace and resolutely balanced the shovel on her shoulder. And then she whistled a popular tune in the wrong key. Before long, the beast gave up its pursuit and Zadie was left alone once more.

She rounded the dome-shaped hill and found the stunted tree. Zadie plunged her shovel into the muddy ground and began to dig. Thankfully, the pirate who buried the treasure had been in a hurry. Zadie was yet to break a sweat when her shovel struck the wooden chest. 

Using her hands now, she freed the top of the chest from the earth and then used a hairpin to remove mud from the lock. But the key didn’t fit. Zadie didn’t even hesitate and began striking the box with the pointy tip of her shovel. As she splintered the wood, light erupted from inside.


When Zadie returned home, she carefully cleansed her body and set her hair in curls. Feeling content, she laid down to sleep. The sun awoke her promptly at dawn, and she completed her preparations. 

She arrived at the castle an hour later, and as before was immediately granted access to the dungeon to visit her beloved. The guards did not look in her basket, nor did they notice the pleased look in Zadie’s eyes. She wound her way through the tunnels, offering a smile to every guard she passed. When she finally reached Tor’s cell, she found his guard dozing slightly. She tapped on his chest and he awoke with a snort.

“Good morning,” Zadie said.

He glared back at her. “I was having a nice dream.”

“Oh I am sorry,” Zadie said, setting her basket on the floor. “Let me make amends.”

She cupped her hands around the large man’s ears and began to sing, loudly and off-key. The guard, bewildered and annoyed, couldn’t bring himself to strike the pretty woman or even to remove her hands from his ears. She moved closer to him, her voice rising in volume and in pitch until finally the guard screamed in agony and collapsed to the ground.

Satisfied, Zadie removed the treasure from her basket and carefully turned it over in her hands. The witch’s instructions had been vague. Zadie pushed on the red spot, but nothing happened. She tried to move the silver lever but only succeeded in bending her thumb backwards. 

“Ow!” she cried, putting her thumb in her mouth.

“Pass it to me,” Tor said, his hand extended through the bars.

Zadie shoved the object into his hand and backed away, her eyes on the guard who was still sobbing and clutching his ears. Tor expertly manipulated the device and a brilliant blue glow filled the dungeon. The guard on the floor felt immediate relief from the pain in his head, but in the same instant found that he could not move. Every guard in the castle had been paralyzed, while Tor’s fellow inmates simply fell asleep.

Suddenly a strange being appeared next to Zadie. It had large, dark eyes, pale gray skin, and wore a blood red cloak. The blue light glinted off the being’s hairless head as it turned to focus on Zadie.

“She’s with me,” Tor said gruffly.

The being closed its eyes and vanished. The blue light remained…and Zadie realized that her surroundings were now transparent. The bars that separated her from Tor remained, yet she could see through them. In fact, she could see straight through the walls of his cell, and looking up she could see through the ground, to the sky…and beyond to the nighttime sky.

“Take my hand,” Tor said.

Zadie stepped forward and placed her hand in his. Tor leaned back and, pulling Zadie along with him, flew through the dungeon wall, up through the earth, and into the sky. Zadie watched the village shrink beneath them and laughed.


Later, Zadie and Tor were enjoying a stroll on Tor’s home planet. They stopped on a bridge and Tor asked, “Would you like to get a magnifying glass and burn some ants?”


Short Story Exercise: Melanie and Mitch

(wrote a short story using these Rory’s Story Cubes)

Melanie felt the cruel jerk on her shoulder and before she knew what was happening the strap of her purse was yanked down her arm. Quickly she bent her elbow and grabbed for the bag with her other hand.

“Help!” Melanie yelled.

The purse snatcher was strong. He tugged at the bag again, wrenching Melanie’s shoulder and forcing her elbow to straighten. She kicked at the man and continued crying out for help. But it was too late. With a kick to her hip the man knocked Melanie off her feet and into the fountain, then disappeared with her purse into the uncaring crowd.

She sat up in the water, gasping for air. Every part of her body sang out in pain. Using the sleeve of her wool sweater Melanie wiped at her face. The chlorine stung her eyes and there was water in her right ear. Carefully she made her way to the edge where an elderly gentleman with kind eyes offered her his cane.

“Thank you,” she said, putting one hand on the cane while the other gripped the tiled edge. She couldn’t refuse the man, but if she actually pulled on his cane he was sure to topple into the water with her, frail as he looked.

“I’m sorry, miss,” he said.

“It wasn’t your fault.” She stepped out of the fountain, water cascading from her. “Thanks for your help.” Melanie gingerly sat on a nearby bench. She managed to smile at the man and began squeezing out her hair. He tapped his cap and walked away, leaning heavily on his cane. Once his back was turned Melanie checked herself for injuries. Her forehead and hands were scraped, and her knees were badly bruised but they didn’t appear to be bleeding. Not yet anyway. Melanie stood carefully, did her best to straighten her soggy clothes, then she hobbled towards the nearest building in search of a restroom and a free telephone.

The building turned out to be a hotel, and the front desk clerk was quick to point Melanie towards the lobby bathroom. Moments later the clerk delivered a first aid kit and some towels. She must think I’m a guest, Melanie thought to herself, grateful for small favors. Looking in the mirror she cleaned her wounds and silently mourned her torn sweater, and her missing purse with its cellphone and credit cards, of course.

The clerk was more than happy to let Melanie place a phone call from the front desk. She was on hold with the police department when a handsome man entered the lobby, her purse in his hands. Before she could speak the man spotted her and, smiling wide, moved in her direction.

“There you are!” he said. “You know I looked everywhere for you. Oh, that’s quite a gash on your forehead.” He set her purse on the counter and peered at her injury. “We need to clean that.”

“I already did,” Melanie said, her mind swimming with relief at seeing her purse, and embarrassment at looking like a wet rat in this man’s presence.

“Glad to hear it.” He cocked his head to the side. “Are you okay? Is that a stupid question?”

Melanie hung up the phone. “Stupid question,” she whispered.

“Everything should be there. Please check it, though. You’ll be happy to know the bastard who did this to you is in custody.” He smiled proudly. “I managed to drag his ass to one of the constables on a horse. We took your name from your driver’s license. He said they’ll call you later for a statement. It’s Melanie right?” He extended his hand.

She put her shaking hand in his and he squeezed it gently.

“My name is Mitch.”

“Thank you.”

“Melanie, would you let me buy you a slice? You look like you could use some food.”

With a flush of pleasure she nodded and collected her bag. A quick glance inside proved that her wallet, her phone, her various feminine products and her baggie filled with almonds, all were accounted for. Replacing the bag on her shoulder Melanie hooked her arm through Mitch’s without a second thought. They were halfway to the pizza place before she realized what she’d done. She looked up at his face. He had a strong profile and faint laugh lines around his eyes. Feeling her gaze he turned towards her and winked.

Half Moon Pie was bustling. Melanie ordered a slice of pepperoni and Mitch ordered a mushroom slice and two beers. He picked up the check and ushered her outside to a small table. They ate in silence, sharing the occasional smile. When she finished eating, Mitch asked, “Can I call you sometime?”

Melanie happily gave him her phone number and thanked him again for his help. They said their good-byes, Mitch promised that she’d hear from him again soon, and then Melanie headed home. She barely noticed the dampness of her clothes and was no longer concerned about her messy hair. Getting her purse snatched had been an awful experience, but at least the afternoon had turned out pretty good.

That is, until she returned to her apartment and found that her keys were no longer in her bag.

Rory Melanie and Mitch POSTED

Short Story Exercise: Drawn Companion

(rolled a D12, picked that number of random Rory’s Story Cubes, shook them up, dropped on table, arranged in order they fell top to bottom, wrote short story)

Liam was startled awake, gasping for air. He rolled onto his side and coughed, hugging the tattered sleeping bag tight around his shoulders. After a moment, he rubbed his face and wiped the crust from his eyes. He longed to go back to sleep, but there was already light inside his cave. Sleeping late was not a luxury he could afford.

Using his bare hands, Liam rubbed his throat, his arms, his hips, and his feet. The friction served two purposes: reviving his senses and bracing him for the coming cold. He kicked off the sleeping bag and skittered across the cave floor to his hastily folded clothes. Worn, threadbare, and now too big for him, the clothes still kept him relatively warm and protected him from the sun. He used an old strip of leather to clean his teeth, and then he pulled on his watch cap, grabbed his sunglasses and made his way out of the cramped cave.

After a brief visit to his pit latrine, Liam followed the trail down the rocky slope into the trees. In the light of dawn the forest was still blues and violets, but the early birds were already chirping and rustling the leaves in the trees, having caught their breakfast already. Liam tread carefully, listening to the sounds around him. It was still early, but anymore it was not uncommon for bobcats and bears to be on the prowl for their own food.

When he finally reached his tree, Liam leaped into the air and caught his dangling knotted rope. He pulled himself up into the old tree and climbed to the large branch collar where he kept a small supply of water and, most importantly, his sling shot. Liam pulled the rope around the abdomen and secured himself to the tree. He set his feet into conveniently placed knots on either side of the branch, set the stone in his sling shot, and leaned back against the sticky trunk. Now to wait. This was his second day without food, and he wasn’t being picky. A squirrel, a chipmunk, even a mouse, anything would be better than starving through another night.

The sun rose, bringing warmth and hope. He put on his sunglasses, closed his eyes and listened for the tell-tale sign of tiny feet. While he waited, he pictured the fire pit he’d dug near the entrance of his cave. There was a penknife in his pocket he would use to skin and clean the beast, which he could then skewer on a stick and cook over a flame. He would take his time cooking it for he could not risk getting sick again. And when it was ready, he would eat it slowly, savoring each juicy morsel.

A rhythmic rustling cut through his daydream. It was moving towards him. Liam opened his eyes and scanned the area. Whatever it was, wherever it was, he would see it soon enough.

His breath caught. It wasn’t an animal. It was another person.

Liam pressed himself against the trunk and held perfectly still, not even daring to breathe. The figure was taking long, sure-footed strides, keeping its head down. A hooded cloak covered the person’s face, masking their gender, but Liam recognized the shape of a revolver hanging from their waist. Another, longer handle was jutting from the left hip, but it didn’t look like the butt of a gun. With each step the cloak fanned out, proving to Liam that the object was a sword.

Liam squinted and blinked several times to clear his eyes. Finally out of frustration he pulled his sunglasses down. The stranger’s arms swung freely, black gloves to match the shiny black boots. A long red curl of hair dangled from under the hood.

She stopped and raised her head, a look of unease on her soft features. As Liam watched, she moved her right hand to another gun hanging from a shoulder holster hidden underneath her cloak. She crouched low to the ground, her head turning rapidly as though she was looking for something. Liam memorized every detail of her face, her clothing, the way she moved. He stared without blinking, fascinated and terrified.

A moment later, the woman stood, pulled her hood low over her eyes, and continued her march. Liam considered calling out to her, but felt sure she would shoot first and ask questions later. He had nothing to offer her anyway, and he couldn’t bring himself to beg her for help. She passed within ten feet of his tree, never once looking up.

Liam held still until he could no longer hear her movements. Eventually, the sounds of the elusive birds and critters of the forest returned. Liam clutched his slingshot. His hands shook and hunger burned his stomach, but he couldn’t hunt. He returned the slingshot to its knot and took a small sip of water from his canteen. Then he untied the rope and lowered himself down the tree. He ran back the way he came, halfheartedly looking for something he could eat, or anything that could eat him.

When he finally got back his cave, he grabbed a piece of charcoal from his fire pit and began to sketch on the rock wall. As always, he missed his oils and his brushes, but he made do. He traced her every detail, right down to the tree-like symbol he’d seen embroidered on her shirt. Stepping back from it, he knew he’d captured the woman’s likeness, that he would be able to gaze at her for years, or at least until it rained again. As a final touch, he adjusted her expression ever so slightly. A simple touch to the lips and the young woman was no longer afraid. She was smiling. And Liam was no longer alone.

Rory Drawn Companion