The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

Category: Imaginary Page 2 of 8

Imaginary Adventures

Campfire Monster Creation

During a race to get back to camp first, a pair of teens stumbled upon a paper cube that grows a monster. 

The story I am about to tell you happened on a starry October night at a place called Lake Thunderbird. Some of the locals referred to it as Lake Dirtybird on the count of the lake being murky from the clay soil. Still, it was a beautiful and beloved state park. Many of the trees were still green as Mabry and Heide raced passed them along the dirt trail. Earlier, the two had made a bet that the first one to the campfire would get the loser’s s’more.

“That s’more as good as mine,” Heide shouted from the lead.

“Don’t count your desserts just yet,” Mabry snapped back as she went off trail to get ahead.

Mabry’s shortcut did work. She did surpass Heide – until she tripped. Mabry cursed, causing her friend to stop.

Heide stopped and helped Mabry get back on her feet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mabry groaned. “Let’s call the race a tie.”

Heide laughed. “Only because I’ll feel bad eating your s’more. What did you trip on anyway?”

Mabry shrugged and pulled out her cellphone from her jeans. Using the flashlight feature, she scanned the area and found a cube of newspaper about the size of a baseball. The cube was densely packed. She picked it up.

“This is heavier than it looks,” Mabry commented.

“Really?” Heide questioned. Mabry handed her the cube. “Wow. This is heavy. Do you think it’ll burn?”

“Maybe. We can put it in the fire and find out.”

Heide tossed the cube back to Mabry, and the two walked back to the campsite where they joined their fellow students around the fire. The intimate group of teenagers were united for a weekend improv retreat. Standing together facing the teens were two of the “camp counselors” or improv teachers, Jessie and Nick, both in their mid-30s.

“Heide, Mabry, so glad you’re finally here,” Jessie said in a cheerful team mascot tone. “We got plenty of marshmallows and chocolates still.”

Nick noticed the dirt scuffle on Mabry’s clothes. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I tripped over this,” Mabry explained as she held out the paper cube. “Thought we could add it to the fire.”

“Go for it,” Nick encouraged, and Mabry tossed it in. 

Jessie clapped her hands, getting the group’s attention. “While everyone enjoys dessert, let’s play an icebreaker game where we each reveal something that scares us. We’ll go clockwise, and I’ll start first. I’m Jessie, and I’m afraid of ostriches.”

Jessie’s reveal garnered some giggles in the crowd.

Nick went next, holding a flashlight under his face. “Reverse Vampires. They crave sunlight! Also, Land Sharks.”

“Disease,” Mabry somberly answered, thinking of all the family she’s lost to sicknesses.

“Being burned alive,” Heide said as her marshmallow caught on fire from her impatience. 

Robyn pushed aside a streak of her white hair. “Being Followed.”

“Robyn, you’re like a black belt,” Jessie commented. “People should be worried about you following them. Michael, your turn.”

Michael adjusted his metal glasses and stumbled to confess, “Drowning.”

“Asphyxiation!” Shai jumped with an unexpected burst of excitement, eager to share.

The last person, Jeff, took a deep breath and, with a serious face, answered, “Sandpaper.”

The group laughed.

“What?” Jeff huffed. “It’s a texture thing.”

“Okay, okay,” Nick instructed, “let’s play another–”

The crackling fire collapsed into itself. The group went silent as they watched the paper cube pulsate with a rainbow of colors. The cube began to expand, like one of those black snake fireworks that grow when lit on fire. Then, it ramped up in speed, growing and forming an ash black ostrich with a shark’s dorsal fin on its neck and pectoral fins instead of wings. A green sewage cloud of disease-ridden gas seeped out of its mouth.

The creature let out a terrifying screech. The campers scattered every which direction as it whipped out its monstrously long tongue around Jeff’s body and Shai’s neck. The tongue was rough like sandpaper. Jeff and Shai pulled, clawed, and fought back. In retaliation, the creature flung them into a tent.

The creature spotted Heide running down a trail by herself. It spat out a fireball, catching Heide on fire. While Heide rolled around on the ground, the creature scurried down another path. 

“What the hell is that?” Robyn asked Mabry as they and Michael ran as fast as they could.

“Like hell, if I know,” Mabry snapped back.

“It’s like an amalgamation of our fears,” Michael commented, struggling to keep up.

Robyn turned her head back. “It’s following us!”

“Just keep running,” Mabry encouraged.

The trio burst out of the woods, leaving them nowhere else to run with the lake before them.

“Great,” Michael grumbled.

Mabry pointed across the lake. “Let’s swim to the other side. It’s not a long stretch. Maybe it can’t swim.”

“But who knows what’s in that lake,” Michael exclaimed. “There could be alligator snapping turtles.”

“It’s either that or face the monster,” Mabry laid out.

The creature screeched, prompting the three of them to jump and swim, with Mabry leading the charge. The teens were halfway across when the beast arrived at the shore. The creature paused as a powerful beam of light from a park ranger’s flashlight shined on it. The monster hissed and charged at the park ranger.

Mabry was the first one across. She watched as the park ranger firmly stand his ground as the monster lunged at him. The park ranger opened fire, his gun emitting an icy blue beam. The creature burst into a puff of smoke.

Before Mabry could process what she witnessed, her fellow campers walked out the water only to be greeted with the light of another park ranger. She had buzzcut hair and was short, at about five-feet tall, but stood with a calm authority that made her appear taller. The name patch on her green uniform shirt read, “Ranger Mists.”

“Are you all okay?” Mists asked.

“This–this land shark ostrich monster is chasing us,” Michael blurted out with no regard for how crazy he sounded.

Mists pointed her flashlight at the park ranger across the lake. He gave her a thumbs up. She led the light back at the teens. “You’re safe now. My partner took care of it. Where did you first see it?”

“I found this weird cube of paper that I tossed in our fire, and it grew from that,” Mabry explained to the ranger.

“Where’s the rest of your group?”

“At the Post Oak campground,” Mabry said. She started to feel uncomfortable with how comfortable Mists was with believing them.

“We’re part of an improv retreat,” Robyn added. “There’s us plus our teachers, Nick and Jessie, and then Heide, Jeff, and Shai.”

Mists put her hand on Robyn’s shoulder to reassure her. “Don’t worry. We’ll help them, and then this will all just be a bad dream.”

The silver bracelet around Mists’ wrist that was resting on Robyn’s shoulder emitted a calming white aurora that put the teens to sleep. 

I made a post on Facebook, “It’s my Birthday and I’ll kill you off at a summer camp if that’s okay with you. Leave a comment with something that scares you.” I took the fears they responded with and named a character after them. When writing this story, I wrote with the intent of telling this at a campfire.

Sleep well! 

Hashtag Cult Problems

A cult’s ritual goes wrong when their sacrifice doesn’t die. 

When the sack came off Gia’s head, she found herself strapped upright on a spinning wheel in a dimly lit circus tent. Her curiosity had gotten the best of her. After seeing the performers’ mind-blowing act, she had to know how they did it for her shows. While she was sneaking around after the show, someone snuck up behind her with a sack over her head. Now, she hung before cult-like gathering.

Using her crowd scanning skill, Gia counted 30 people in bright clown nose red robes with white plastic masks of a cartoonishly broad smile. The outfit vaguely reminded Gia of a production she put on with some friends, but what that was was a hazy memory.

“We are gathered together here under the first full moon of the new decade for our sacrifice,” the cult leader announced. Gai recognized the voice belonged to the ringleader. 

The crowd cheered. The only thing Gia could spot on the cult leader that made him stand out from the others was the golden inverted pyramid necklace.

“Sacrifice, huh?” Gia said with excited curiosity. “If I may make a suggestion, the lighting is awful. How are people going to see me die? Do you have anything else other than the torchlights like some portable LED stage lights? Surely you got some of those.”

“We can see well enough,” the cult leader grumbled.

“If you say so,” Gia snarked. “By the way, what’s your cult or organization or whatever’s name? Or is this some tradition with your circus.”

“We are the Cult of Mischief,” the leader proclaimed. 

Gia remembered the show she was trying to pin down earlier. She giggled like she was part of an inside joke.

The leader picked up the jewel-encrusted ceremonial dagger from a pedestal and pointed it at Gia. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, you’ll find out. Carry on.”

The leader faced the crowd. “Let the ceremony commence!”

With the crowd cheering, the leader stabbed Gia in the chest. Silence fell. 

“Oh, what cruel world,” Gia cried out. “There was so much I wanted to do. There’s so much in this world I wanted to see. But now, my time has come. Farewell.”

Gia’s body went limp. The cultists chanted in unison, “Our sacrifice is yours. Take this soul and bless us.”

Per cult order, the youngest member pulled out the knife from the sacrifice.

Gia raised her head, unharmed, and smiled. The cult gasped. “Okay, I thought that was a rather stirring death performance.”

“How are you not dead?” the young cultist asked with a quiver in her voice. 

“You picked the wrong kind of person for a sacrifice. Hashtag cult problems, am I right?”

“We cannot stand for this,” the leader said. “Our god will not be pleased with us.”

“You mean, Loki?” Gia said. “I’m sure he’s getting a good chuckle right now.”

The leader got in Gia’s face. “How do you know of our god?”

“Oh, we go way back,” Gia explained and then thought about the chronological order of time. “Or forward technically. He casted me as the first leader of the Cult of Mischief centuries ago to fool some traveling act for him to study their reactions. I’m surprised the cult is still around, to be honest, but knowing him and his partner, I bet they’re watching, studying.”

There was a hushed discussion amongst the members when two people revealed themselves from a stack of cargo containers. One was a slender man in a pink suit with bold, black outlines and a young woman in a red satin dress holding a transparent tablet device. Both had black hair and flowed in sync with each other.

“It’s them!” one of the members shouted. “From the painting of the first ritual.”

All the cult members dropped to their knees.

“Loki, Raven, how are you two doing?” Gia cheerfully greeted.

“I must admit, I find it humorous they tried to sacrifice you,” Loki dryly said while adjusting his cufflinks as they approached Gia.

Raven worked on freeing Gia. “It’s been fascinating studying the cult’s evolution throughout the centuries.”

“But I am growing bored of it,” Loki confessed.

“Shall we end?” Raven asked him.

“Yes, let’s go out on top.” Loki turned to address the cultists, who were still bowing down. “Since you tried to kill my friend, I will now forsake you and no longer give you my blessings – ever. Begone!”

The cultists scattered away as Raven undid the last strap around Gia.

“Thanks,” Gia said. “What’s next for two?”

Loki and Raven exchanged glances and spoke in unison. “More mischief.”

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “You have been kidnapped by a cult preparing to sacrifice you to their god. Problems? You’re immortal, the god they worship is a close friend of yours and the entire cult was the result of a prank you forgot you pulled centuries ago.”

I got inspired by this prompt to write a story with my end-timer characters. Thank you for reading!

Moral Compass

After returning home from a business trip, Chuck is greeted by a foul smell that leads him to a dead body that looks like him and killed by a compass he had written about in his book.

A pungent smell smacked Chuck Barkley across his face the moment he stepped inside his one-bedroom apartment. He dropped his suitcase, covering his face to stop the odor’s torture. He lived alone with no pets and was at the statewide library conference for a few days. Something was wrong, but his systematically organized place was clean, just like how he had left it.  

Did some animal get inside and die? Chuck thought, trying not to speak and get the smell on his tongue too. Maybe a person? I doubt it.

Chuck walked over to the balcony door and opened it up to start getting fresh air inside. He regretted not buying that candle he liked during his work trip, but the worry for his books quickly replaced his regret. He rushed over to his prized collection of books. The author personally autographed their writing, and some notes addressed him. All of the few dozen books were accountable. Limiting himself to only autographed books helped retain his minimalist home. The only non-autographed books he had were the ones he wrote and an uncatalogued book he brought home from the library for safekeeping.

Keeping an eye out for the source of the smell, Chuck made his way to his bedroom. His voice of reason kicked in and assumed him the stench was most likely a sewage backup in his bathroom.

When Chuck opened the bedroom door, he discovered the source: a dead body. He looked away, gathering his composure, which took all of his willpower not to throw up right there. The detectives in the books he read always made seeing a dead body seem so casual. He forced himself to get a closer look. He had to know if it was someone he knew.

Spread out on the bed like a starfish was a man wearing the same brown pants and Game of Thrones shirt Chuck had on. The dead body also had the same face as Chuck. Chuck was an only child and wasn’t aware of any possible doppelgängers, either. The one part that didn’t mirror Chuck was the mystical looking compass covered in blood sticking out from the heart.

Chuck slapped his own hand as he tried to touch the compass. He didn’t own one and wondered where it came from and why a compass? He had read numerous books with unusual murder weapons, but a compass? In the book Chuck was writing, there was a magical compass that would point to the nearest evil. His brain switched from disgusted to inquisitive. The compass looked like the one he had written.

As Chuck walked over to the side of the room for a different view of the crime scene, the compass arrow followed him. He thought he imagined the needle moving with him, and so Chuck went back to where he was, and the needle followed. He went to the other side, and so did the needle.

“This is quite the mystery,” Chuck proclaimed to himself.

“It’s actually rather obvious,” a pretentious voice corrected. “You’re evil.”

Standing in the doorway was a tall, grizzly handsome man in a tan overcoat that Chuck recognized as his detective character.

“You’re real,” Chuck stated. “How are you real?”

“You didn’t give us much to play with, Chuck,” the character scolded. “You have such a limited collection of books. We want to go back to the library.”

The body on the bed sat up. “Take us back to the library, Chuck.”

A clown holding a red balloon stepped out from the bathroom. “We belong in the library, Chuck.”

All three of them chanted in unison. “Return the book to the library. Return the book to the library. Return—”

“You promise you won’t hurt anyone or cause any destruction?” Chuck interrupted. 

“We are bound by rules not to intervene with life,” the dead body answered.

Chuck sighed. He went to his bookshelf and grabbed the uncatalogued book titled, “Unbound Words.” He placed the book in his satchel that he strapped on.

“I have to go to the library to handle some paperwork anyway, so I will take this book back if you behave.”

The characters smiled. Millions of words replaced their appearance before fading away to dust.

This week’s story was inspired by two writing prompts. One involved a character coming home from a long business trip to find their own dead body. Other elements came from Okie Show Show’s writing prompt that challenged people to include a compass, the line of dialog, “I doubt it,” and a character, Chuck Barkley, librarian.

The Impossible Exit

All Emma wanted was a relaxing bath after a long week, but her apartment elevator wanted to lead her down an impossible hallway. 

The days and weeks had become a blur. The only reason I knew today was Saturday was because Becky posted a bubble bath selfie while holding a wine glass with the hashtag #SaturdayQuarantineQueen. I was going to copy my friend. As soon as I get inside my apartment, the bra is coming off. Then I’m going to toss my scrubs in the wash and soak in the tub until I’m a prune or catch myself falling asleep. 

My apartment elevator was empty when I stepped inside. Good. I felt too gross to be around people. With all of the non-essential businesses closed, everyone was probably already inside. I pressed the button for my place on the 13th floor. Anytime one of my friends would come, they would always make snarky jokes or comment about being on an unlucky floor. Sure, it annoyed it me, but I would welcome the remarks if I meant seeing my friends again.

“I would do anything to get life back to normal,” I muttered.

The elevator arrived. I heard a ding and the elevator doors open, but I stood directly facing the door, and it didn’t move. I pressed the door open button, but nothing happened.

A murky breeze tingled my back. The elevator was single-sided, but out of confusion, I turned around to find a dimly lit, curved hallway that was impossible to be there. It didn’t fit the building’s design at all. I pushed the close door button.


I pushed again, and a voice whispered from down the hall, “Emma.”

“Who’s there?” I yelled back.

“Emma,” the voice called to me, louder this time. Something about it reminded me of my grandmother. 

I stepped into the hallway. The faded red wallpaper had seen better days while the dome light fixtures along the walls seemed oddly modern to me. Not that I had any experience wondering down spooky hallways.

I stepped into the hallway. The faded red wallpaper had seen better days while the dome light fixtures along the walls seemed oddly modern to me. Not that I had any experience wondering down spooky hallways. The smell reminded me of the older parts of my college library I had explored for historical books. 

I turned around to the elevator, only to find a wall.

“Guess I’m not going that way.”

I followed the curved hallway, looking for any doors, but the hall kept spiraling downward. The voice calling my name got louder the further down I went. When I felt like I had traveled below the building, the voice stopped as I arrived in front of a stained glass window of the caduceus staff. I felt protected standing in the light of the two red snakes entwined around a golden-winged staff. 

“Free me,” the voice begged.

“How?” I asked.

“Free me,” the voice repeated, weaker.

I sighed as I took off my shoe. Channeling my softball days, I threw the shoe at the window, shattering it.

The voice cried out in glee, “Yes.”

A ghostly woman with a sewage-like glow floated up and out from the window. The bandages wrapped around her were torn and tattered. Her face was brittle and mummified. She smiled, revealing no teeth.

The spirit charged at me, but a staff like the one depicted in the window struck her down. 

“Not today, pestilence creature,” the old man wielding the staff ordered. He turned toward me and pointed at a door behind me that looked like my front door. “Go. Don’t give up the fight.”

The creature rose back up. “One of my sisters is already free. I can feel that you’re weak, and not many believe in you anymore.”

“Others will fight back, even if not in my name.”

The two fought as I ran for the door. I grabbed the handle and pushed the door open into my apartment. I slammed the door behind me and collapsed against it, catching my breath.

I was so ready for a bath. 

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “Saturday night after a long week, you’re riding the elevator up to your apartment, it stops on your floor, and the back opens.”

I went back and forth on the ending for this story. I thought about having it end with the trapped monster smiling, but I wanted to end it on a somewhat hopeful note. I hope you enjoyed it and wash your hands.

The Stranger in the Dark Suit

The man that has been haunting Tyler’s nightmares for the past several days takes the same bus as him. Inspired by current events from COVID-19 and a writing prompt. 

Tyler jolted awake, with sweat on his chest. The breeze from the overhead fan barely cooled him down. It was that weird time in March where the weather couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be hot or cold, so Tyler simply slept with only the fan. 

“Fucking stranger again,” Tyler whispered, keeping his voice low as not to disturb his lover.

Tyler placed his arm around his partner, falling into a calming embrace to ease his mind away from the recurring nightmare. It was always the same theme. Tyler would be running away from a tall man in a dark suit, like something from the 1920s, and every time, this stranger would catch him and graphically kill him. The locations and deaths would vary, but the figure was persistent. Tyler’s partner had shrugged it off as him playing too many video games, but Tyler felt there was something more to the cause. He thought it might be a result of anxiety from his new job and the world crisis. 

The next morning, Tyler got on his regular bus to work at the downtown luxury hotel. The day had an eerie vibe, but the past several days had felt ominous. He figured he would eventually become accustomed to the new reality of living during a pandemic virus outbreak. On the positive side, he was grateful his work got deemed essential, although he couldn’t work from home.

The bus was empty save for one man near the back dressed in a black suit with a matching fedora. Tyler froze in the aisle when he saw him. He couldn’t help but stare. It was the stranger from his nightmares.

“Take a seat,” bus driver ordered. 

Tyler snapped back to the present. “Sorry.”

As Tyler took a seat, he could’ve sworn the man winked at him, like he was trying to say, “Yes, it’s me.” Tyler faced the front of the bus and browsed his social media feeds to forget. The news was the same – doom, gloom, and blame. He switched over to his camera to spy on the stranger in the back who was starring soullessly ahead.

The bus announced Tyler’s stop. It was a few blocks away from the hotel, but he was at his favorite coffee shop. He wanted to help keep them in business. As Tyler got off, so did the stranger.

“Be cool,” Tyler told himself. “He’s not following you.”

Tyler stepped inside Clarity Coffee while the stranger walked by. He let out a sigh of relief. Tyler kept his social distance, got his to-go-coffee, and made the journey to work.

Downtown was quiet. Most everyone was working from home after all. As he crossed a street, he got a feeling he wasn’t alone. He looked behind him and saw the stranger in the dark suit.

“It’s just a coincidence,” Tyler assured himself, “but to be sure…”

Tyler turned the corner down an alleyway. He looked behind but didn’t see the stranger. Tyler turned back forward. The nightmare stood in the center of the alley with his arms crossed, and his eyes fixated on him. Tyler turned around and ran, but he ran right into the stranger.

The stranger lifted Tyler from the throat. Tyler screamed, but everyone was hiding from the invisible threat terrorizing the world.

“I’m only going to warn you once,” the stranger spoke with military firmness. “Tell anyone that the hotel you work at is haunted–especially reporters–and I’ll make your nightmares of me a reality.”

The stranger dropped Tyler, who collapsed to the pavement with fear. When he looked up, the man had vanished.

This short story was inspired by current events and the following writing prompt: “You have a recurring dream of being chased by a mysterious man in a dark suit almost every other night. This morning when getting on the bus to work, you see him sitting in the back and make eye contact. He winks at you.”

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