Many moments in life can leave us breathless from unexpected joy to sorrow. We hold our breath and soar in the sky, or dare to answer the phone.
Writers met the challenge to show such breathless moments that often defy description. In 99 words, the moment becomes a story that takes away the readers breath.
The following stories are based on the July 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.
Too Familiar by Jules Paige
He had to do it. Remarry. His children needed a mother. They were too young to be without one. His own mother just didn’t have the heart to raise them.
Literally. Physically hers was weak.
We don’t choose when to die. Certainly if we had any choice in the matter, my mother would not have left me when I was still under the age of three.
The breathless moment came when as mother myself. I held my second child who became the age that I was when… I held my breath, waiting for that moment to pass.
Silent Wonder by Pat Cummings
At 19, I had never flown in an airplane. Yet there I was in California’s Central Valley, signing up to ride in a glider. My spouse, who suffers from inner-ear disturbances, elected to stay on the ground.
Here the passenger sat in front, isolated from the pilot. There was no one to share my breathless wonder as the tow released and the craft began drifting downward.
The key experience in an unpowered aircraft is silence. No engine means no growl of power. All you hear is the airflow hissing over the wings as it wheels gracefully over the earth.
Life by Bill Bennett
I was there the moment it all happened.
It happened in a flash of the most beautiful, blinding light that no one had ever seen. That’s because no one existed yet.
A millisecond before the light, I heard a loud, thundering voice, “Let there be light.” And it was all created… I had been created.
I knew in that instant that the one who spoke those words was the one who created me, and I was joyful and breathless.
“I kneel at your feet O’ God, bless my days and guide me in your ways.”
“Thank you God, amen.”
Butterfly Memories by Christina Rose
Startled awake by the 2am phone call that only meant one thing.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, I held my mother as sobs raked her body. The only grandparent I had ever known, his heart had stopped in his sleep.
93 years. Long and fully lived, never the right time. Questions left unanswered, stories hanging, so many lost opportunities. Is anyone ever ready?
Honey fills my nostrils, I feel him with me as I water the butterfly bush, his last gift to me. Cherish the blooms, the lavender sweet that reminds.
Chosen by Paula Moyer
Lester was skeptical. How would a dog assuage those nightmares laced with jungles and body parts? Vietnam inside him.
Abby was the first dog he met. Little for a Golden Retriever. Full of spunk, tail aswish. Train, train, then switch dogs. Now he had Loyal, a big light-yellow Lab with a short attention span.
“Drop your leash,” the trainer called out.
“Now say, ‘Pick it up.’”
“Pick it up.” Lester gave the command. Loyal obeyed, Lester praised.
Looked up. Abby was trotting, leash in mouth. She stopped at Lester’s feet and sat.
She would never change partners again.
The Truth by Ula Humienik
She didn’t make much of an impression when we first met, but maybe I was just fooling myself. She was my first real infatuation – the way she spoke, dressed, smelled, her hair. Thoughts of her filled my days. I could smell her perfume – even now, all these years later, I am brought back to the day we first kissed when a hint of her scent enters my nostrils. She seems to be everywhere always. Never gone from my mind.
Stop. Delete that. I’ll begin again. This time, the truth.
When I first saw her, she took my breath away.
Exhale by A. R. Amore
Her permit was a month old. I was in the passenger seat as she drove to work. The merge exiting our development onto the southbound state highway is hard to negotiate especially if you needed to go north. This involved too many moving parts: stop, merge, cross two lanes of traffic into U-turn lane, then cross two lanes on the north side and merge again.
At the stop sign she took a deep breath; traffic flew. “Ready,” I asked. She nodded and hit the accelerator. The last sound I recall was the exhale of metal on metal and something spinning.
What Had to Be Done by Charli Mills
Gus steadied his rifle to shoot the stud.
Once a well-muscled bay, now just hide and bones. For a moment, Gus saw not a dying horse, but the majestic creature that once ran swiftly among sage brush and pinion pine, father of many local ranch mustangs.
Out west, this was the worst drought in anyone’s memory. The stud outlasted most, but couldn’t rise from the crackled mud of a dry holding pond.
Gus exhaled his breath slowly, the way Pa had taught him when hunting mule deer or grouse. That had been for food. This shot was for mercy.
Homestead by Ann Edall-Robson
Following a game trail along the creek made the journey easier. They had said at the livery it wasn’t too far, as the crow flies.
He was day three in the saddle before the trees started to thin out and the overhead sun could be felt through the filtering leaves. The trail jogged away from the creek and up a rocky slope where it opened onto a grassy knoll.
Rolling hills surrounded an endless meadow. The grass was lush green and horse belly deep.
Completely in awe of the vista that would become home, he stepped off his horse
Truly Breathless by Larry LaForge
After a brief lesson Ed and Edna put on fins and masks, adjusted their snorkels, and pushed off into the water.
Edna swam slowly and effortlessly, enjoying the aquatic plants, coral and brightly colored fish. Ed tried to keep up, but was more concerned about breathing than sightseeing.
Edna swung her arms excitedly under water as she pointed out each approaching fish. Her arm brushed Ed’s snorkel, knocking it loose and causing him to gasp.
Ed quickly stood in the shallow water, followed by Edna.
“How is it?” the instructor asked.
“I’m breathless!” Edna exclaimed.
“Me too,” Ed replied.
Trip by Mercy.James.
First flight out, destination – Caribbean. Sitting at a left-side wing window seat, wondering about clouds, cotton wool in the sky.
Extra delight, a visit to the cockpit, captain’s offer. An hour having tea, sitting in the co-pilot’s chair, looking out over the plane’s nose, flying at 30 000 feet.
Runway approach, fly over, circle around, tarmac short. Wondering, “cows along the airstrip?!”
Disembark – portable stairs – onto platform – sunny hot, blinding against an ocean so blue; step down 3 – stop – gasping, all breath sucked away, burning need for oxygen pulses – inhale slowly, slightly dizzy; continue down, greeted by smiling faces: “Welcome to Barbados!”
Breathless by Anne Goodwin
The slap of the water stole my breath away, the thin sheet useless against the cold. I tried to fight, but they were stronger. As they pushed my head below the surface, the impulse to breathe came back to me; coughing and spluttering, they hauled me from the bath.
My mother had said to keep my eyes on the statue of The Virgin but, in my panic, I squeezed them shut. Dropping the sheet and shivering, still damp, into my clothes, I wondered if that meant I’d jinxed it, if I’d lost my chance of a miracle at Lourdes.
Eclosion by Norah Colvin
I heard the scurry of footsteps. Then he was in the doorway; eyes ablaze, breathless.
“Come … quick … Miss,” he said, punctuating each word with puffs and pants.
Before I had moved, there were others behind him, imploring me to come.
With quickened pace I followed, hoping that I, that all, would be in time.
Others were there already, clustered around. I peered over their heads, expectantly, holding my breath in a vain attempt to make time stand still.
“Ahh!” with breathed in unison and awe as we watched the butterfly emerge from its now transparent shell.
I Cannot Be by Sarah Brentyn
I lean, breathless, into another’s arms.
I am not comforted.
Knowing I should feel loved as I’m wrapped in waiting arms carves desperation more deeply into me.
My life ebbs away, sailing from the shifting shore of my body like a piece of driftwood floating out to sea.
I’m supposed to be grateful, appreciating time, when each moment my body weakens. Each second strips me of a healthy joint, robs me of another heartbeat.
I cannot be any of the things they want me to be. I cling to self-pity when all I want to do is let go.
Breathless by Amber Prince
The storm bellowed on the other side of the glass. It was as if Mother Nature was on my side, her angst and anger lashing out on the world, as my body betrayed me. Screams vibrated against the walls until my throat seared.
“We cannot find a heartbeat…” The doctors earlier words replayed in my head as I lay mangled in the delivery room. My husband cried out. I hissed. I hated them all for the commotion down below.
The screaming continued, but it was no longer my own.
Faulty machines, they said.
My baby sighed, full of life.
First Breath by Geoff Le Pard
Mary allowed herself a long slow breath, a sign of taking control back over her body. The midwife touched her hand and Mary opened her eyes. ‘A girl.’
She felt Paul move from her side. Mary held her breath until he appeared holding out their daughter. She gasped at the angry red wrinkled face. ‘She’s just like you,’ he said, laughing.
Mary stared at the furious face. She reminded her of her father. The child’s expression changed, colour draining as she struggled to breathe. Then, before anyone could move she coughed away her breathlessness and, to her mother, smiled.
Breathless by Willow
Would you stop if I asked you to
If I pleaded what would you do
Would you stay a moment longer
If offered could my love make you stronger.
Could I slow your path, stop the ravishes of time.
If I showed you love sublime.
Would I holt your advance in any tiny way
Could I cheat death and make you stay.
If my tears that fall upon your face
Could chase off death, make it leave in disgrace.
I would hold my breath for eternity
If it meant you would stay with me.
Life Is A Beautiful Thing by Dave Madden
Life: As a subject matter is a struggle to form into words without another context. How in the world does one capture such abstractness? My prism of life can be summed up with clichés.
The day greets me with the right side of the bed.
I operate each day by putting my heart to the grindstone, thinking inside and out of everybody’s box, and rolling with the punches while stuffing any takedowns.
At the end of the day, I wonder: Did I put my best idea forward and prepare for the early bird to feast on a new day?
Breathe by Sherri Matthews
“There is no other,” he lied.
My eyes blaze. A question.
“Do I know this to be true?”
There it is, the answer in the swiftness of his downward glance before he attempts to speak.
But I turn from his feigned sorrow to gaze upon the sun-seared final remnants of another lost day.
Mindless grief tumbles like the dark waters below into wrecked acceptance, and I want to scream of his betrayal, to announce it with a herald far above the rumbling skies.
Instead, I walk into the troubled night knowing that in the morning, I shall breathe again.
The Advance by Pete Fanning
They churned over the hill. Sleek and shimmering, their synched efficient strides like a pack of mechanical wolves. I turned to my men. Real, red-blooded men. Some cried. Our chests heaved as the buzzing serenaded our doom. A high-pitched, winding of gears and wires, advanced upon us without conscience—or even a face. Only orders.
Blood curdled. Men retreated. Others marveled at what lay ahead, breathless with wonder. Whispering prayers.
They came fast. Our saviors. Technology gone awry—or evolved. Where man had God, these machines had only us.
And that in itself was most the terrifying of all.
How Shall I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men might strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
What a wonderful compilation, Charli, and a fitting final tribute to your friend Kate through the words of Elizabeth Browning. How much we have all benefited from knowing of Kate through your wonderful posts. I hope you find comfort in the words of your family and friends, though I know the pain of loss runs deeper and stronger than any words can reach. Look after yourself. It has been wonderful for me popping over to read this post today, I have caught up with so many of our mutual friends. It’s a real meeting place. Hugs to you. Take care. xo
Thank you, Norah! It’s good to have such an inspiring community to jump back into, to feel the life force that flows through blogs, writing and creative friends. I’m so glad that Geoff posted the Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem as it was the right fit. The picture is of Kate with her Irish Wolfhound, Gypsy. Many an Irish parade we walked together! Hugs in return! <3
I didn’t realise Geoff had posted the poem. I thought you had. I wondered if the photo was Kate. Beautiful! What memories you have of great times together! Thank you for including us in your reminiscences. 🙂
Just here to echo Norah’s words, Charli. If we can refract a little light into the shadows or sprinkle a little light humour on an otherwise drear horizon then we are here, pens poised, to accept that role. Take care.
Lots of light that I see here at Carrot Ranch and it makes up for the creeping shadows. Thanks for sharing the poem as it is befitting for Kate and my feeling for my friend. Taking care. 🙂
Yet another fantastic compilation. Love the photo of Kate (and Gypsy). <3 Wonderful. Thinking of you. Take good care.
Thank you, Sarah!