Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon. In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival. He has short stories published in "The Writers' Mill Journal" (Volumes 3 - 6) and in the literary magazines "Danse Macabre", "cc&d", "The Fear of Monkeys", "The Metaworker", and "Scarlet Leaf Magazine".
Claire barged into the mansion's parlor. Inside, she found Frank, her worthless fat oaf of a brother. He couldn't be more of a contrast to the elegant room, but there he was. He was lounging in an armchair like he owned the place and slurping cognac that didn't belong anywhere near his uncultured lips! She stalked right over to him.
“Claire!” he gasped. He ought to be surprised. She was holding a revolver in her hand.
Claire didn't answer. She relished the look of dumb shock on her dumb brother's dumb face. Summoning up her hatred for the worthless fat blob in front of her, she fired.
Claire would not be denied what was rightfully hers.
Several hours earlier, Claire arrived at the mansion of her late grandfather. In fact, he had only recently become “late” as this was the reading of his will. Claire had purposely decided to arrive fashionably late so that everyone would notice her new dress and furs. As she neared the drawing room, she caught a snippet of the will reading.
“— Claire gets nothing. Frank receives two million dollars —”
Claire stopped in her tracks. She seethed. How could that stupidly eccentric grandfather of hers give two million dollars to Frank and nothing to her?! Frank would have no good use for that money. It belonged to her!
Claire decided that if she got nothing, Frank would get nothing too.
Claire was now leaving the parlor. She didn't care that she had just committed murder. No one would suspect her. They all thought she was such a great and wonderful sister, putting up with all of Frank's ignorance and worthlessness. Well, it turned out even she had her limits.
As she entered the drawing room, she noticed the will resting on a table. Claire walked over and grabbed it, intending to chuck it into the fireplace. She quickly scanned the document to find the offending section. She found it all right:
Claire has always been a good sister to Frank, but I worry that she's prone to anger and jealousy. Therefore, I will be making her inheritance conditional. If she continues to take good care of her mentally impaired brother, Claire will receive five million dollars. If something bad happens to him, Claire gets nothing. Frank receives two million dollars.
Tina Sayward is a twenty-seven year old from South Carolina. She is currently attending Full Sail University online and majors in Creative Writing for Entertainment. She also has an Associate’s Degree in Communications. She is a mother and loves God and her family. She hopes to one day become a well-known author in fiction writing
When I entered the motel room, the first thing I noticed were the horrendous striped sheets that were on the beds.
“It’s not so bad,” I said, swallowing my true thoughts as I had been doing for years.
“It’s just for tonight, right?” said my husband, brushing past me and heading for the patio, where he immediately lit a cigarette. I sighed and followed him outside.
“I thought we came here to talk about it,” I pointed out, sitting down across from him.
“What’s there to say?” Josh asked, taking a long pull on his menthol and exhaling in a cloud of smoke.
“We still have stuff to talk about,” I said.
“We’re getting divorced. We don’t love each other anymore.” His words were blunt, but cut sharply. I had spent over a decade with this man. He had been my first boyfriend. He was the father of my children. But the drugs had cost him everything, and we were spending this night in the room to figure out the details of what came next.
“I didn’t just fall out of love with you. Everything you did—“
“Yeah, yeah, it’s all my fault, I know,” he snapped.
“That’s not what I said! Why do you have to do that every time I try to talk to you?”
“I already know what you’re going to say. I chose drugs. I lied. I cheated on you. I know what I did. I loved everything more than I loved my family.”
“And we are getting divorced because you can say all of that without any kind of remorse. You are not the man I married.”
“You aren’t the woman I married, either,” he said sharply.
“I grew up! I had to! Our kids needed someone to take care of them! I didn’t want it to be this way! And I’m trying to live the way—“
“Yeah, the way God wants you to.” He spit God’s name like it left a bad taste in his mouth. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes but forced them back. He would not get the satisfaction of seeing me cry anymore.
“I want you to still be a part of our children’s lives,” I said. “We can set up supervised visits.”
“I’d rather sign my rights away so the next man you meet can be their father.”
My heart broke. The drugs had really taken everything from him. He cared about nothing but himself. I tried to remember that he was an addict, that this wasn’t the man I had chosen to spend my life with. This was it. There was no going back. We sat in silence for several minutes. It felt like hours.
“So is that it?” he finally asked.
“I guess so,” I whispered.
“Then there’s no point in both of us staying here. I’ll keep the room. Go get the kids from your mom and go home. I’ll sign the papers when it’s time.”
I nodded numbly and got to my feet. I walked to the door and looked back once, seeing him digging the pill bottle from his pocket. The tears finally spilled over, and the last thing I saw before leaving the room were the ugly striped sheets, somehow made beautiful through the blur of tears.
THE BLUE TREE
The room with the blue Christmas tree had always intrigued and terrified me. At sixteen, I had passed this apartment every single day for the last nine years, and the eerie turquoise glow that shone underneath the door each and every day sent a shiver of fear and excitement down my spine. I never knew who, if anyone, lived inside that apartment. No one ever went in, and no one ever came out. But the light from the tree never turned off. One stormy afternoon, as lightning split the darkened sky in half and thunder made the building shudder, I was standing beneath awning with the doorman after school when the lights flickered out.
“The generator should kick on in a moment,” Freddie, the afternoon doorman with the heavy Southern accent, said reassuringly. I glanced up at the blackened windows of my home and saw the limbs of the blue tree illuminated in the window. If the generator hadn’t restored the power yet, how was the tree still on?
“Freddie, who lives in the apartment with the blue Christmas tree?” I asked. Freddie looked upward and smiled at the glow.
“The landlord’s son,” he answered.
“The landlord doesn’t have a son,” I said, confused.
“Ashley, living here doesn’t give you the answers to every question you have about every tenant. It ain’t my place to tell you, but since you have been dead after that room and that tree—don’t give me that look, I’ve seen you staring—I’ll tell you. Not long after he and his wife bought this building, she gave birth to a little boy, right around Christmas. He was stillborn. The wife couldn’t handle it—she took off. Nobody has seen or heard from her since. But our landlord, he wasn’t going to let go. He put up that Christmas tree in the apartment that they had chosen to live in and the color blue is for the little boy he didn’t get to have. It never goes out. Hasn’t in fifteen years. It’s in the window in case his wife ever decides to come home, so she will know he’s still here, ready to make that apartment their home.”
Tears were still streaming down my cheeks when the power flickered back on. The next day, I made a stop after school before returning home. Balancing the gift in my arms, I knocked on the landlord’s door. He opened it quickly.
“Ashley, is there a problem?” he asked kindly. I shook my head and held out the gift.
“It’s for the window in your apartment. So it can be seen from the street, too.”
I hurried away before he could respond, but I had seen the tears brimming in his eyes as I turned away. As I mounted the stairs, I glanced back quickly to see him crying over the much smaller version of the blue Christmas tree that I had placed in his arms.
John Faceto writes film reviews in Folha da Mooca, a local newspaper in Brazil. He also studies creative writing in Orlando, FL, and you can follow him on Twitter at @jpfaceto.
“It’s hard to find a job in LA, especially when you’re an actress,” said Emily, speaking as loud as she could over the music in the background.
The man in front of her is a Hollywood producer. “Hey, listen, darling, I can get you in the spotlight at any time, just don’t ask me for it.” They’re both near the pool in a big house in Beverly Hills. “There’s a casting session every Thursday at the- “
“I know. I go there all the time.”
“Then you know the drill.” said the producer, taping Emily on her back, “now, if you excuse me, I’m gonna get another drink.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you,” she said, but he was already out of reach.
The host of the party, Brenda, was talking to a small group of women when she saw Emily grabbing her coat near the front door. “Why are you leaving so early?” asked Brenda.
“I don’t know why I came here in the first place. Looks like every party is a waste of time.”
“Come on, stay a little bit longer. Let me introduce you to the girls.” Brenda grabbed Emily’s hand. “Please.”
“Okay, but just ten more minutes.”
Back at the party, Emily was introduced to the group.
“So, tell me, Emma. What do you work with?” One of the women asked.
“Oh, it’s Emily. And I’m an actress.”
“No, sweetheart, I’m talking about your real job”.
“Acting is my real job,” said Emily.
Before she could get to the door, she was stopped by Brenda. “Have you met Krista? She’s a model that just got out of a photo shoot with that photographer I was talking about.”
“Oh, really? How did you get to him? I’ve been trying to get a new portfolio for months,” said Emily.
“Between us, I have a little secret. I went to this fortune teller near downtown. And let me tell you, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t even be here tonight,” said Krista.
“What do you mean?” asked Emily.
“Well, I was a little bit concerned the first time. But this guy is a life saver. Here, I’ll give you his card.” Krista handed Emily a colorful business card. “All you gotta do is call him and make an appointment.”
“And then what happens?” asked Emily.
“Oh, you’ll see, Emily. You’ll see.”
On the next morning, Emily hesitated to make the call, but she couldn’t stop thinking about what Krista said. She decided to give it a try. Instead of calling, she drove to his address before noon.
When Emily entered the old house, she first thought that she was in the wrong place, but after spotting some eastern antiques and a strong scent, she knew the address was right.
When she finally got to the end of the corridor, a pregnant woman with a baby in her arms was getting out of doorway curtain. She puts the baby on a stroller and heads to the exit.
“Do you have an appointment?” asked a man, dressed like a gypsy.
“I was wondering if I could- “
“It’s your lucky day. I have no more clients this morning.”
The smell and smoke were even more present in the room past the curtain.
“You helped a friend of mine,” said Emily.
“Did I? Interesting. How may I help you?”
“I don’t really know. This is the first time I’ve been in a place like this.”
“Tell me about you. Your career. Love life. Goals.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“Allow the cards to speak then.” The fortune-teller slammed his hands on the table, spreading upside down cards in a semi-circle. “Since this is your first visit, and the first experience, you don’t own me anything. In fact, I’ll show you what the future holds for you.”
Emily kept looking at her watch, trying to find an excuse to get out of that place. It was then that the fortune teller caught her attention.
“Fame, what you seek is fame and fortune.” He turned one of the cards and gave it to her. “The cards never lie, there is fame in your path.”
“Really? I mean, how?” Emily was scared and confused.
He turned another card, “A heroic path. You shall rise from your own ashes. You’ll be known as- “
Silence. Emily was tapping her foot. “What? What happened?”
The fortune teller closed his eyes. “Star. I see the star.”
“What does that mean?”
“You’ll be more famous than anybody else. I see your face all over the news. Everyone will be talking about you. Oh, the star! The star shines so brightly!”
“What star? I don’t understand.”
“My child, destiny is supposed to be trusted, not comprehended.” He grabbed her hands. “You will get what you want the moment you step out of this house, you just need to trust your instincts.”
Emily left the room more satisfied than she has ever been before. Outside of the old house, she recognized the pregnant woman.
The stroller, on the sidewalk, moving to the road. The woman, looking at her phone. The traffic light, green.
Out of reflex, Emily jumped toward the baby, already on the road with a car coming fast in their direction. At the last second of attempting to grab the baby, Emily lost balance and threw herself into the stroller, pushing it even further to the side.
Right before falling in the ground, Emily saw the world turning upside down, as if life stopped for second and time decided to pass slowly. Instead of her most precious memories, the only thing that flashed through her eyes was the front grill of a black Mercedes.
“What kind of person just throws a package at your face and runs away?” Asked Will, talking to himself at the front porch of his house, “What a Jerk!”
Will then grabbed the package and went inside. Without further ado, he opened the flat, rectangular shaped mystery object; and for his surprise it was a book, a notebook. I hope it’s not someone’s diary. The notebook was white and had ‘Life Note’ written at the cover, “what the heck?”.
“What were you expecting? A box full cassette tapes of a teenager who committed suicide?” said a strange, yet oddly charming voice.
“Who? Who said that?” asked Will, confused.
“I did. Hello, William,” said a man seated in a chair.
Will couldn’t see his face, but his body was visible. The man was wearing a blue suit, with fancy shoes. “Who are you and what the hell are you doing in my house?”
“First of all, it’s your mom’s house.” The man stands up, Will recognizes him immediately, “and second, I come with the book.”
“I am the god of life. But I can be Michael Caine too, if you prefer.”
“I don’t understand-”
“Let me go straight to the point, kid. You received the Life Note, which means you can revive whoever you want. You just need to write the person’s name on the book,” said Morgan Freeman.
“Really? Like, whoever I want?”
“Whoever the hell you want!”
“Even Michael Jackson?”
“You can’t revive the living, son. Oh, and I must tell you this because people ask me all the time... You cannot revive Hitler.”
“Can I revive my dad?”
“Is your father Adolf Hitler?”
“Then yes!” Morgan Freeman starts to whistle and walk around the living room.
Will looked at his father’s picture on the table. “I miss him so much, I would give anything to see him one more time,” What should I do? “You know what, I’m doing this!” So, Will grabbed a pencil and wrote the name of his father. They waited for a few seconds, but nothing happened. “What now?”
“Strange. He should’ve popped up right away. Oh...I don’t want to be the one to tell you this but… Looks like your father is alive,” said Morgan Freeman while smoking a pipe, “may I ask you how he died?”
“He went to buy some cigarettes and never came back. Mom said he was hit by a truck.”
“I see... Sorry, William, it’s not the first time this happens to someone.”
Will seated on the couch, with the book and pencil still on his hand, “Goddammit, dad!” Almost desperate, Will looked at the family’s portrait and quickly wrote a name. It was then that an old man holding a Margarita appears on the other side of the living room, “Grandpa!”
“What the fuck is this? What’s happening?” Asked Will’s Grandfather, looking around the place.
“Grandpa, I brought you back to life!” said Will with excitement on his voice.
“Oh shit! Why did you have to do it? I was having a nice conversation with Don Rickles and Frank Sinatra!”
“I thought that you would be glad to see me,” said Will disappointed.
“I’m sorry, Bill, but I really need to go now,” said Grandpa.
“Okay, I get it! Can I send him back to heaven?” asked Will to Morgan Freeman.
“Yes, you can. You just need to wash the page from the notebook,” said Morgan Freeman, proposing a Margarita toast to Will’s grandfather.
“Heaven?” Grandpa laughed, “yeah, sure, Heaven. Wait, before I go, can you say ‘hi’ to your grandma for me, huh?” said Grandpa, spilling the Margarita.
“She died ten years ago,” said Will, sadder than ever. He rips the page off the notebook, throws it on the toilet and flushes. When he goes back to the living room neither Grandpa or Morgan Freeman were there.
“Funny guy, your grandfather,” said another man standing in the corner of the house.
“Who are you? What happened to Morgan Freeman?” asked Will.
“It gets boring sometimes. You can call me Stevie, by the way,” said the god of life, this time impersonating Steve Buscemi.
“I don’t care who you are, listen, I don’t want this anymore,” Will gives the book to Steve Buscemi, “here, take it away from me.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t William. You have to do it yourself.”
Dammit! Thought Will, “how do I get rid of this thing?”
“Just leave it somewhere. Oh, but please, make sure it doesn’t fall into the hand of the terrorists.”
“Wait! I think I have an idea…” Will grabbed the book and went straight outside. He knew exactly where to leave it, “see you, Stevie!”
It was almost night by the time Will arrived at the park. He knew for sure that a lot of companies would tear the whole place apart, due to the high concentration of fossil and natural gas under the ground. They were just waiting for the government permission, which will only happen in one hundred years.
Will digged a hole and buried the chest in the ground. With a note written ‘whoever finds this book, just write the name William Thompson, thanks!’ On his way home Will couldn't stop thinking, it will be nice to be back in the future…
Andrew was born in Yorkshire, England many years ago but now lives in Cheshire where he writes stories and works as a support worker. Andrew's stories have been published online and in print magazines.
HERE BE DRAGONS