The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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The Oak Tree Box

After months of dreaming about a mysterious figure burying a box in front of a gnarled oak tree, Sydney stumbles upon the same oak tree during a jog. 


Ripped away from the loving embrace of the comforter, Sydney fought to hold onto the dream as she tried to get a clear look at the mysterious person who had been regularly haunting her. She thought this would be the grand reveal. The faceless stranger would develop a face. This time she would succeed! But when that cover came off, Sydney drifted out of the dream, dragged backward by a giant invisible hand from her answer.

For the past few months, her dreams would start randomly (or be inspired to replay something stressful or embarrassing like dreams tend to do), but inevitably, the plot would shift toward her witnessing a small box being buried under a gnarled oak tree by a hooded figure, wrapped in red. Whenever they noticed her, it was dream over. 

Sydney groaned, and she opened her eyes to her girlfriend, Chloe, standing beside her. Chloe sported a pair of bright, purple leggings (with the most enormous pockets she’s ever found on workout pants) and a tank-top with a creepy purple eye from some weird podcast she loved.

“Adventure!” Chloe declared as she tossed Sydney’s running pants in her face.

“I was so close,” Sydney mumbled with the pants on her face.

“To beating me in a race?”

Sydney tossed the pants on the floor as she sat up. “To getting a good look at the stranger burying that box.”

Chloe pitched a tank-top that read, “Adulting is Hard,” at Sydney, which she caught.

“That’s what you said last time.”

“And you woke me up early then too,” Sydney stated with a yawn. “Perhaps I should solve the mystery of how you can function this early without any coffee.”

“I’m freak like that,” Chloe winked. “Now, come on, adventure!”

Sydney did enjoy her morning jogs (and cycling on the weekends) with Chloe. They had been running together before they started dating. It was during one of their jogs when Sydney confessed her feelings for Chloe. She peered over at Chloe, who was wandering around in her imagination. She smiled, thinking of how happy she was with her.

Chloe tended to take random routes while jogging, cycling, car drives–it didn’t matter–she would get lost on purpose. “Adventure!” she would often proclaim as her excuse and defense. Today was no exception when she took an unannounced sharp right through a prairie grass field.

Sydney followed, making a mental note to check for ticks when they returned home as Chloe plowed forward. Shortly through the field, the ground dipped down to reveal a creek.

“A creek,” Chloe cheered. “This is so picturesque. Syd, you want to follow it up?”

Sydney shrugged. “Sure.”

Had Sydney known the path would lead them up a steep hill, she would’ve said no. Had Sydney known that the top of the secluded hill had an abandoned cemetery, she would’ve said hell no.

“Let’s see who can find the oldest tombstone,” Chloe challenged and raced to the nearest one.

There weren’t that many tombstones to inspect. Sydney’s best guest was 20. None of the grave markers stood out, but the gnarled oak tree off in the corner made Sydney freeze. Chloe shouted some date as she moved to inspect another, but Sydney drowned it out as she focused on the tree from her dream.

“No fucking way,” Sydney mumbled.

Chloe popped her head up. “What? What did you say?”

Sydney pointed. “It’s the same tree from my dreams.”

As Chloe turned to look, a person wrapped in a red cloak stood from the tree, coming into their view.

“No fucking way,” Sydney mumbled, again, louder this time for Chloe to hear. The stranger noticed them and ran off. Sydney bolted after them, shouting. “Hey! Stop! Who are you?”

Sydney chased them into a patch of prairie grass. A windowless, metal red door stood in the middle. The stranger was fast, faster than Chloe even. The stranger opened the red door and went through. When the door closed, it blinked out of existence.

Sydney stopped where the door once stood, with Chloe caught up. 

“You saw that, right?” Sydney asked.

“Yeah, I saw that. That was the person from your dreams, right?”

“I think so.”

“Do you think they left that box behind too?”

Sydney paused. “You know what, we should go check.”

At the base of the gnarled oak tree was a patch of freshly moved soil. Sydney dropped to knees, declaring, “Fuck it,” as she started to dig with her bare hands. Without hesitation, Chloe kneed down and joined in.

After digging a foot deep, they unearthed a rustic wooden red box the size of a person’s head. Sydney lifted the lid off. Inside were a pair of red fabric facemasks and an index card. Sydney grabbed the note while Chloe took out a facemask.

“This handwriting looks like mine,” Sydney commented.

“What does it say?”

“You’ll both need these in three years for 2020.”

The red metal door opened. The stranger ran through, closed the door behind themselves, and took off their hood. It was an older version of Sydney by about five years. Together, under the night sky in an empty field, was a tall, slender man in a pink suit she knew as Loki and a woman named Raven with a similar slim build, but a little shorter and in a red dress. Behind those two was a door the same color as Loki’s suit.

“It’s done,” Sydney stated before she rapidly deteriorated into ash.

Raven tossed Loki a gold coin, which he ceremoniously caught. She tapped notes into her tablet.

“You won that round,” Raven graciously conceded. “She was willing to alter time, knowing it would cause her death, just to create a future with Chloe.”

“Don’t worry,” Loki teased as made the coin disappear from a sleight of hand trick. “You’ll get more opportunities, especially since those two live longer now.”


Inspired by the writing prompt, “Every night, you have the same dream. A small box being buried under a knarled oak tree, by someone you don’t recognize. The dream always ends when they notice you there. You don’t think too much of it, until one day, you spot the tree from your dreams, in the centre of a local graveyard.”

For this story, I decided to feature Sydney and Chloe from The Spiral Staircase in the Woods, to see them together as a couple. I struggled to decide what to put in the box. One of my first ideas was one of those personality cards from the Little Shop of Personalities, but then the whole face masks and 2020 warning came into my mind and I couldn’t think of anything else. I re-read their first story to make sure I didn’t anchor it at any time and then I ran with the idea. Originally I was trying not to feature Loki and Raven (and perhaps a new end-timer), but I liked that nice callback twist at the end I came up.

Thank you for reading!

Little Shop of Personalities

During her morning jog, Janelle comes across a mysterious new boutique selling personalities. 


Janelle halted her morning jog when she came across an intriguing new boutique as yesterday, the retail space was empty. Through the glass windows, Janelle would’ve for sure seen people installing the drawers that covered the walls from the floor to ceiling. The shop was part of her apartment complex in Film Row, and she couldn’t recall reading about it in the Oklahoma Gazette or her neighbors talking about it. As Janelle thought back, she could’ve sworn when she passed by during the start of her daily run there was a “For Lease” notice on the door instead of a cheerful “Open” sign.

With time to spare and her curiosity piqued, Janelle went inside. All three walls were covered in drawers of varying shapes and sizes but had a matching white, rustic farmhouse esthetic. The beach lavender aroma put her in a relaxed state of mind. Janelle walked over and inspected a label on a drawer. It read, “Brave.”

“Good morning!” a cheerful female voice called out, catching Janelle off guard. 

Standing in the center of the room was a young woman in a red satin dress holding a transparent tablet device. Next to her was a taller, slim man in a pink suit with bold, black outlines. Both had black hair and lanyards holding placards with their names, Raven and Loki, respectively.

“Welcome to Little Shop of Personalities,” Loki greeted with what Janelle thought was more energy than any average retail worker would have this early in the morning.

“Shop of Personalities?” Janelle repeated, confused.

“Yes. We sell a wide assortment of personalities that you can give yourself to change your life,” Raven explained. “If you want to be more likable, we can help.”

Janelle kept her skeptic tongue to herself. She figured this whole ordeal was some pop-up artistic expression or experience. She scanned the drawers and noticed they were all labeled with various personality traits, including negative ones.

“Why would anyone want something like an ‘obsessive’ or ‘creep’ personality?” Janelle inquired.

“You can give them to others,” Loki revealed.

“Including your enemies,” Raven added with a wink and a wave of her finger.

“Weaponize them to get rid of unpleasant coworkers,” Loki commented, and Raven nodded in agreement.

“Buy as many as you like.” Raven smiled. “But no returns.”

Janelle turned her attention to the drawer that caught her initial focus, the one labeled, “Brave.” She opened it up and pulled out a white index-sized card with the word written in a bold font fitting of the name. Even if the card didn’t magically give the trait, she thought it would make for a cute decoration for her desk.

Janelle showed the shopkeepers the card. “How much for this one?”

“Since you’re our first customer,” Loki started.

“Your first personality is free,” Raven finished.

Janelle closed the drawer. “So, how does this work?”

“Simply put the card on the forehead of the person you wish to give the personality trait,” Loki explained.

“I’ll take this one and try it out,” Janelle said, still skeptical. “Thank you.”

To keep the card from getting bent, Janelle held it until she returned to her apartment. Once inside, she tossed her keys on the kitchen counter. She looked at herself in her hallway mirror and put the card up to her forehead. The card faded like her body had fused with it. Instead causing her to freak out, the new personality had filled her with excitement.

Janelle went about her morning routine with vigor as she arrived, first as usual, to the law firm. She took one look at her desk, marched to the break room for a box, and pushed all of her belongings inside. Her boss, whose name was on the sign outside, found Janelle packing up.

“Everything okay?” Janelle’s boss asked her with concern.

“Never better. I’m going to start the yoga studio that I’ve always been too afraid to do.”

“Good for you, Janelle! If you ever do a beginner’s class, I’ll sign up.”

“Thank you. That means so much. Everyone here has been so great to me, but I must move forward.”

Janelle left the law firm with her box, her mind racing with a business plan. In the cleanup process, she decided to open her yoga studio in her apartment complex. There were several vacant spots. She knew one of them would be perfect.

As she walked back to her place, a dog ran across the street, chasing a squirrel. Janelle could see the bus hitting the dog. Without hesitation, she dropped her box and pushed the dog to safety and the bus hit her.

A few hours later, Janelle woke up in a hospital bed. Every part of her felt numb. She rolled her head and saw Raven and Loki standing over her.

While Raven wrote notes in her tablet, Loki held out a bouquet of spring flowers. “All sales are final.”

This short story was first published on the Oklahoma Gazette for their Writers of the Quarantine series. The Loki and Raven story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “A new shop shows up in town. Upon entering the walls are made entirely of drawers, each with a different personality trait written on them. The shopkeeper smiles – ‘Buy as many as you like, but no returns.'”

If you enjoy my story, please share it! I would love to have more readers. If you want to help me more, join me on Patreon and you’ll get beta access to my novella, Intertwined by Cracks. The urban sci-fi story follows Amber Way who can make doors lead to other doors as she deals with cracks leaking monsters from other planets in a plan from a stranded time traveler to harness her powers. 

Story Artwork by Keith Zarraga at Design Pickle. Get a discount off your first month of Design Pickle via this affiliate link, which full disclosure, I earn a small commission as a discount for me as well.

One Hour Future Photo - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

One Hour Future Photo

A couple buys an antique camera from another planet that they realize takes photos one hour into the future.


Ixan examined the foreign boxy “L” shaped gray device. The bottom had a slot to insert something, and what that was, Ixan had no clue, other than it had to be thin. On the front was a circle that seemed like an old-fashioned lens, and the top had a tiny red button on the right corner. There was a worn, brown leather strap attached to carry the device. Ixan stopped himself from putting the strap around himself as the gadget had a delicate quality to it with its lightweight, and Ixan didn’t want to invoke the wrath of the kind shopkeeper.

“Hey, Adriyel,” Ixan called out in a hushed tone to his girlfriend. “Come, look at this thing.”

Adriyel walked over with her arms folded. “What did you find now?”

“I don’t know. I thought you might know.”

“I don’t know either,” Adriyel said as the snakes in her hair moved with unease. “This shop is giving me the creeps. Let’s get out of here.”

“I see you found an Insta Photo Camera,” the shopkeeper said with glee as she strolled over to the couple. She was a young human woman with black hair in a bun and wore a red dress more fitting for date night than an antique shop clerk. She had introduced herself to the couple earlier as Raven.

“Never seen a camera like that,” Ixan confessed to Raven.

“That’s because I acquired it from Earth.”

“Woah.”

“I wonder what the pictures look like,” Adriyel said, her interest peaked. 

Raven pulled out a small, white piece of paper from behind a rustic wooden counter. “Would you like to test it?”

“Yes!” Ixan exclaimed.

Raven handed him the paper. “Simply put this in the slot in the button, point the camera, and press the red button on top.”

Ixan followed the instructions, taking a selfie. The camera buzzed and whirled for a few seconds before it printed out a photo. The picture developed in front of them, showing Ixan at a different location with a red smudge on his purple cheek.

“That was unexpected,” Adriyel commented, confused.

Ixan’s feelings were the opposite. “This is so rad. It’s like the camera remixes the image. How much?”

“It’s 5,000 shinnies and comes with a pack of 13 photos.”

“Sounds like you’re trying to get rid of it,” Adriyel accused. “Especially something that’s supposedly from Earth.”

“Once you use all 13 photos, that’s it,” Raven explained.

“I’ll take it,” Ixan said. “This will be fun to use throughout our date today.”

Adriyel agreed, and so Ixan paid for the camera. Raven assured Ixan the strap was sturdy if he wanted to sling it over his shoulder. The two carried about their romantic outing in downtown Helvetica, wandering through a few other boutiques before they stopped for a snack at Pi’s Pie Time.

The smell of freshly baked goods greeted them, along with warm welcomes from a ragtag trio of workers in matching aprons behind the glass cabinets. The largest of the three was a chrisom minotaur, who had the smoothness of a ballerina despite his wrestler physique. Moving with slow and cautious precision, he placed tiny adorable pies inside a display case from a massive tray he held with one hand without any unsteady shakes. A dark-skinned human woman near in size with the minotaur approached them from behind the counter.

“What can we make for you today?” the woman asked as an animated tattoo of a white bear performed tricks on a unicycle around her sleeveless arms.

“A small cherry pie for me,” Adriyel politely requested.

“Same for me,” Ixan added.

They paid for their order and took a seat, sinking into a soft, flora pattern couch. The intimate coffee shop bakery had about a dozen tables and several sofas scattered about as a mellow rock tune filled the air. As they waited, the couple chatted about the vibrant landscape paintings done by a local artist that adorned the walls.

A moment later, the women who took their order bought out their cherry pies. As she walked over to them, she didn’t notice the bag someone had left behind a chair and tripped over it. She managed to keep a grip on one pie, but Ixan’s face caught the other. Adriyel laughed.

“I am so sorry,” the woman profusely apologized.

“It’s okay,” Ixan admitted. “It’s just pie.”

“I’ll get you another one.”

The woman left, and Adriyel stopped laughing. Disbelief covered her face as she stared at her boyfriend.

“What’s wrong? Is there something in my teeth?” Ixan joked.

“Pull out that selfie you took with that Insta camera.”

Ixan pulled out the photo from his hoodie and handed it to her.

Adriyel held the photo up side by side to his face. “This is a perfect match. It’s like the camera took a photo of you an hour into the future.”

“Let’s test it out.” Ixan filled the camera and took a picture of Adriyel. In the photograph, Adriyel was smiling, covered in bubbles. “I don’t see you getting covered in bubbles in the next hour.”

“Me neither.”

The woman returned with another pie and two strips of paper. “If you’re interested, I got a pair of tickets to a concert tonight. A promoter dropped off a few earlier today for us to giveaway.”

Adriyel enthusiastically took the tickets. “I love Valiance Refuges! I’ve always wanted to see them live. Thank you!”

The woman smiled. “You’re welcome. Enjoy the show, and so sorry about the pie.”

With the show starting soon, the couple finished their meal and leisurely made their way to the concert venue. The lights dimmed in the historic building as the stage curtains opened to a mellow guitar solo, followed by a thunderous drum beat and cannons spraying foam bubbles, covering the audience.

The crowd cheered while Adriyel and Ixan looked at each other, unsettled.

“That’s two for two,” Adriyel stated with worry.

“Let’s take a photo of us together,” Ixan said, still skeptical.

They huddled together for a selfie. In the printed photo was only Adriyel. She was crying. Thinking he frame themselves wrong, he took two more shots, each solo. Adriyel’s photo had her still crying while Ixan’s was blank.

“Okay, this thing is just messing with us,” Ixan grumbled. “Let’s just enjoy the show and go home afterward.”

It took a few songs and some alcoholic drinks, but their mood did improve. They left the venue in cheerful spirits, discussing their favorite moments. For them to rate this experience as one of their favorites was high praise, considering the couple attended a concert about every other week.

“Next time that band’s in town, we gotta see them,” Ixan said to Adriyel.

“I’ll keep tabs on their schedule. Hold on. What’s that noise?”

Adriyel looked up while Ixan shrugged. A dragon, twice their size with a wing on fire, was spiraling out of control, falling toward them.

“Watch out!” Adriyel screamed as she ran to the side.

Confused and a little intoxicated, Ixan sluggishly looked around for the danger, only to see the dragon too late. The dragon crashed into him. Adriyel cried out. Strangers nearby rushed over to help. 

The next day, Adriyel returned to the antique curiosities shop with the camera strapped around her. The retail space was empty, with only a “For Lease” sign on the door.


One Hour Future Photo - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

This story was inspired by a simple writing prompt about an old camera that photos one hour into the future. Since the last few of my stories have taken place on Earth, I decided to give this concept a sci-fi setting and place it on The Black Planet. I also worked in a pie shop that I have featured in one of my books I’m writing currently.

If you want to help support me, join me on Patreon and one of the rewards is early access to my short stories. I’ll also post locked/exclusive stories that I’ve submitted to publications, like this one here, about a shop that sells personalities.

Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing the shop scene to life.

Thank you for reading!

Hashtag Cult Problems - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

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 a 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, 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 circus ringleader. 

The crowd cheered. The only thing Gia could spot on the cult leader that made him stand out from the others was a 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 string lights, like some massive LED stage lights? Surely you got some of those. Although I do like the lights on this wheel, you got me strapped to.”

“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,” Gia said.

“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 Cult of Mischief’s first leader 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!” Gia greeted with a bright, cheerful smile. “how are you two doing?”

“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 sibling, 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 as she hopped down. “What’s next for two?”

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


Hashtag Cult Problems - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

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 as I thought this would be a great situation for them.

Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing this scene to life.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this story, be sure to check out my others with Gia, Loki, and Raven.

The Spiral Staircase in the Woods - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

The Spiral Staircase in the Woods

During a morning jog, two friends take a detour to explore a mysterious spiral staircase that leads to a trap.


Sydney had long since accepted Chloe’s need to pause, change course, and explore during their weekly jog together. In the beginning, Sydney was annoyed by her friend’s curiosity as she preferred to keep a steady pace. After several exciting detours, she grew to love the deviations as they added a sense of adventure. Sydney often found herself jogging alone for brief periods before realizing Chloe wasn’t by her side, but this time, Chloe put her arm in front of Sydney to stop themselves.

“Look at that,” Chloe said, pointing out toward the woods.

Sydney scanned the scene. Behind a battered and boarded manufactured house stood a spiral metal staircase that reached up into the treetops. 

“That’s weird,” Sydney commented. “It reminds me of that suspended staircase public art piece in Automobile Alley.”

Chole raised both arms into the air. “We should climb it!”

“I don’t know if that’s safe…”

“I bet it was put there on purpose so you can see the birds. Don’t you want to see the birds, Syd?”

Sydney sighed. “I’ll do it for the birds.”

“Yay!” Chloe cheered as she jogged to the staircase. 

Sydney followed. Without a second thought, Chloe ran up several steps while Sydney stopped to inspect the staircase for safety. The staircase didn’t fall with Chloe going full force, but Sydney wasn’t sure how exactly the steps were standing as she couldn’t see any wires or beams holding the structure in place.

Chloe ran up several more stairs. “Come on. It’s safe.”

Sydney chased after her friend, who ran up higher, giggling. They reached the top, which led to a metal-enclosed balcony capable of holding a small group of visitors. The sun started to rise off in the distance as Sydney stood next to Chloe.

They soaked in the warmth of the sunrise as the sun painted the sky a vibrant orange. Neither of them said anything to each other. Sydney glanced over at Chloe, watching the sunlight glide over her freckled face. She turned back to the sky, searching for any birds.

After a moment, Sydney could sense Chloe’s restlessness. “Ready to head down?”

Chloe bolted. “Last one down has to buy brunch!”

“Cheater!” Sydney shouted as she after her friend. 

Chloe only managed to stay a few steps ahead. Sydney knew she could beat her, but as hard as she tried, she couldn’t seem to get past her. She kept running and running and running, never gaining on her.

Sydney stopped to catch her breath, and so did Chloe. “Shouldn’t we be down by now?”

“Yeah, going downstairs is always easier and faster.”

“I see the bottom,” Sydney said, trying to rationalize their predicament. 

“Me too,” Chole said as she started to walk down. “Come on, let’s keep going.”

The two walked down the stairs, keeping an eye on the grassy floor. Neither could explain the phenomenon, but the more they went down, the more they did not get any closer to the bottom.

“I’m starting to freak out a bit now,” Chloe confessed.

Sydney looked over the rail. We’re too far to jump safely, she thought. Out of a sense of placement, she looked up. There were two people on the balcony. 

“There are people up there.”

Chloe looked up. “How did they get there?”

“Let’s go find out.”

In the balcony viewing area stood a tall, slender man in a white and pink suit with a woman of a similar build, but a little shorter and in a red dress holding a tablet device. Their similar hair and face structure made Sydney assume the two were siblings. Behind them was a white metal door with a golden accent strip.

“Looks like they found us, Raven,” the man said as Sydney and Chloe reached the top.

“Indeed they have, Loki,” the woman said.

“Do you think they know what’s wrong, Raven?”

“I think they suspect something, Loki.”

“I think you are correct, Raven.”

“Okay, what’s going on?” Sydney demanded. 

“Shall we tell her, Raven?” Loki asked.

“I think you should tell her, Loki,” Raven responded.

“But you have a way with the words, Raven.”

“As do you, Loki.”

“Would one of you explain what’s going on?” Sydney interrupted. “I don’t care who. Take turns if you must.”

“This staircase is a construct of your fears, Sydney,” Loki explained.

Raven tapped on her tablet. “Like any fear, the only way to break free is to confess your truth.”

Loki opened the door. On the other side was an impossible night scene of a series of office cubicles. Raven stepped inside, followed by Loki. “Good luck.”

Loki closed the door behind him. The door disappeared in a blink the moment the door shut.

“What truth do you need to confess?” Chloe asked, visibly freaked out. 

Sydney looked into Chloe’s eyes. Actions are more powerful than words, she thought to herself right before she kissed Chloe. Chloe returned the embrace. When they parted, they discovered they were on the ground where the staircase once stood. 

“Been waiting for that,” Chloe admitted. 

Sydney smiled. “So, who has to buy brunch?”

“I think we’ll count that one as a tie.”

Out of sight in the abandoned home, Loki and Raven watched as Chloe and Sydney jogged off together. Loki tossed Raven a golden coin, which she caught and put in her dress pocket.

“You won that one,” Loki admitted. “I thought it would’ve taken them much longer to escape.”

“Don’t worry. You got more opportunities.”


The Spiral Staircase in the Woods - art by Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle

This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “You’re walking home and you see a solitary staircase in the woods behind an abandoned house. They go up into the treeline. Out of curiosity, you start walking up them. After walking up for a while you decide to go back but never reach the bottom. When you look back up again you see the top.”

Thank you to Janine De Guzman at Design Pickle for bringing the platform scene to life. If you want to read another story with Chole and Sydney, check out The Oak Tree Box.

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