We need wild spaces. Even if we do not tread upon the sacred soil, we need to know it exists. We need to know that somewhere a goat craves salt; wild mint releases its scent; and forgotten places return to something remembered. We need wild spaces to slow down our heartbeats, sooth our busyness.
Yet writers also challenge us to consider the wild spaces in unexpected places — an overgrown horseshoe pit, the demise of fame, the MMA cage. And you will need to be on the alert for “cute and furry” additions to many of the stories as you read.
The following stories are based on the February 10, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry.
Dedicated to new friends: Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. For all our enjoyment.
Point Au Roche by Pete Fanning
Inside the path, under snowy pines and over the threshold of root and rocks, Lake Champlain glitters through the branches. My breaths, so primal and forgotten, come to life in the winter wind.
I’m overcome by nature’s theater. Trees knotted to perfection. The buckshot of woodpecker holes. An absence of urgency. The unfathomable quality of life.
The greens surrender to the beige of winter, the beige to a scatter of fossils along the glacier-licked shore. Snow geese blanket the sky. Vermont sits across the grey chop. Triumphantly cold and beautiful. I reach the point, heart thumping and fully renewed.
Night Diving by Patricia Cumbie
She would never forget the way the boys glowed silver and blue before they threw themselves off the cliff into the cold, black water. The quarry was eighty feet deep and what was down there? She remembers shivering, rocks digging into her ass. Never got up the nerve. Girls didn’t.
She couldn’t believe she just sat there, looking down into his casket, his barely blemished face on a goddamn satin pillow, of all things. What was once arch and wild rearranged to be “peaceful” and still. She flinched. Recoiled. Decided. She’d go back and take that vault after all.
California Dreaming by Sherri Matthews
She would miss it, the Californian Sun, but strapped into a seat on a 747 staring aimlessly at the sky map, what would it matter? She wasn’t coming back.
A last vacation with the kids, he said, but he never showed up, leaving her with empty explanations and she was sick of it.
Foam-capped waves danced on the sand, then sucked back again into vast sea, teasing her children in the chase as big sky melted into horizon’s dark line, Pacific sun sliding into purple day’s end.
Time to go.
A lone gull wheeled overhead and shrilled goodbye.
Wild Spaces by Irene Waters
“Thanks for a great stay.” Our farewells rang out with empty words, belying the couple’s desperation to get back to civilisation.
The truck roared off, disappearing in the cloud of dust that rose in its wake. I heard Caleb’s sigh of relief.”Who’d wear white in this wilderness.”
“City folk. They’d…” I broke off as I saw the driver, Sherwood, running towards us.
“Burning tree,” he panted. “Down over road. Can’t get through.Bogged car.” Absently he patted the cat.
Throwing a shovel at him Caleb yelled “get digging and push’em under.” I was already on the phone arranging transport.
Food Chain a la Minnesota by Paula Moyer
The hike into the park entailed an hour of back-packing. But all had gone well. Jean and Bill set up their tent and then collapsed.
What had she heard about mosquitoes? Yes. They have favorites. Those with the tastiest blood suffered the most bites.
“Hey, Bill, did you know …” she began. Then gasped. Oh, her poor sweetheart.
He had wrapped his hankie under his cap and over his ears – like a French Legionnaire. Then a long-sleeved shirt.
Even so, his nose – seven bites in a cluster. Bill slapped all night.
Dawn. The tent walls resembled a murder scene.
Beyond Fame…the Wilderness by Rowena
“Oh how the mighty have fallen!” Maggie swooned in an Oscar-winning performance.
At least, it would’ve been if that horrid flock of dolly birds hadn’t knocked her off her perch. Stolen her limelight.
Marriage and kids would have been an honorable exit.
More than once she’d thought about mixing those blessed headache powders with a sherry. Yet, as much as she longed to feel absolutely numb, she didn’t want to die. She just wanted to hear their applause one more time!
Yet, the sands had almost slipped through the hour glass and she couldn’t put them back.
The Firmament #9 by Sacha Black
I stepped off the ship, and onto the snow covered ice shaft. The wind didn’t roar, it screamed and charged across the desolate wasteland.
I glanced at Luke through my goggles. He blinked rapidly. I touched my glove to him and bellowed, “It’s going to be ok. We will make it.”
I stared out at the ice storm in front of us; mile upon mile of white. I couldn’t work out what direction was South. A cold anchor dropped into my stomach. Forget getting past the Firmament. I wasn’t sure I’d even make it to the edge this time.
Sun-up by Bill Engleson
The sun was taking it’s time arising.
Nothin’ new in that, Clancy Dobbs thought.
Gawd, he fancied that first glint of heavenly blaze, poking up in the morning sky.
Cold earth chilling his bones, he was damn sure he was getting too old to be sleeping rough. He rolled over, trying to escape two sharp rocks, puncturing through from the mountain’s bedrock, pressing against his spine.
There it was, as it always was these days.
The fresh scent of the wild mountains, the creatures who brought life and death to the earth and a Gunman’s old body wearing down.
Unseen by Charli Mills
Nancy Jane adjusted the rear sight and held the longrifle tucked to her body. One mule deer, one lead ball. She bit back the curse for her brother for getting himself killed in a border raid. It wasn’t their war. They were wilderness folk, free-landers, friends to Cree and French traders who liked the American prairies.
Movement caught her eye. Jackrabbit. Its long ears upright, nose twitching. If she missed the buck, she’d snare the rabbit. It spooked, and so did the deer when two men rode up on horses oblivious to her in the grass, holding a gun.
Diversion by Ann Edall-Robson
Shrouded in a cloud of dust from the old wagon trail, the truck came to a rolling stop. It had been years since she had been to the meadow.
It looked like nothing had changed; other than the willows had grown taller. Well, so had she.
She strolled through the waste high grass. From beneath her boots, the soothing scent of wild mint mingled with bees buzzing around flowers.
As a child, this had been her playground. Picnics, exploring, honing her nature skills.
Relaxation for the soul. A diversion for the mind. Then, as now, it was a sanctuary.
The Wild Jungle of the Cage by Dave Madden
More often than not, visualizing wild spaces entails a landscape so vast it disappears into the horizon. The more acreage untouched by man, the more primitive.
Although this truth may run the length of the African savanna or depth of the Atlantic Ocean, smaller spaces in MMA breed the most barbaric territory in all of sports.
According to @fightnomics, a cage with less roaming room simultaneously limits the time of engagement and increases the finishing rate. A larger cage improves the optics from a broadcasting standpoint, but the data reveals a wider boundary may actually have a taming effect.
Absolution by Jeanne Lombardo
He didn’t look back. Not as he walked to the car. Not as we circled back onto the highway. Behind us the towers melted into the horizon.
The road steepened. Pines appeared, grew thick, drank the sunlight. Outside a mountain town we stopped.
Resin and rain keened the air. Wind soughed in the high branches.
I waited while he walked into a clearing. He tilted his head. Palmed the rough bark. Drank the sweet air. When he returned, needles fell from his hair.
“Any place you want to stop?” I said.
“Nah,” he said, looking straight ahead. “I’m fine.”
Renewal by Norah Colvin
Cocooned in shadows of tall forest trees, clear spring water soothing tired feet, she sighed. Speckles of sunlight dancing from rock to ripple were unnoticed as she envied a leaf escaping downstream.
“Why?” she asked of the stream, more of herself. “Why are you here?”
The stream whispered,
“We all have our purpose’
We’re all meant to be,
We’re connected, we’re one,
Not just you or me.”
A birdsong repeating the chorus lifted her gaze towards a flutter of rare blue butterflies. A possum yawned and winked. She breathed in awe. Refreshed, with lighter heart, she was whole again.
Dinner Dance by Pat Cummings
Salt on the wind. And something richer, more aromatic, delicious: a promise of oils and esters unknown in the world before men came to my mountain vale.
Secure in my rock bunker, I watch them perform their inexplicable dance. It echoes against my walls: their cries, flat percussion of stone against stake, tinny rasp as the hull of their peculiar seed is fastened into place.
My mouth waters; I taste the core of that seed again in my imagination. It fills my mouth with its alien tang.
As soon as they leave, I waddle downhill to claim my prize.
Come On, Mate… It’s Just a Game of Horseshoes by Roger Shipp
No longer does my three-point-stance turn beautifully into a fallaway three-pointer with the deadly swoosh. Gone … the days of a perfect toss of the ball forcefully spiked across the net for a ‘40-Love’.
Life has always been an awkwardness of mixed metaphors.
My youth-filled ‘wild side’ … sneaking past my parents’ bedroom… absconding my 8:30 curfew.
Curses! The unwitting savior of the plain’s buffalo has me in death’s throes.
My six-by-six havens are being ravaged by this obnoxious, impossible-to-kill Sledgehammer grass.
Perfect twirls and dead-on ringers are being accosted by awkward entanglements.
This unspeakable horror will not be my Waterloo.
Wilderness by Jane Dougherty
She sat on the flat stone, closing her ears to the faint hum of traffic, opening them to the warblers in the tall grass. Lizards sprinted across the old railway sleepers, damp shadows filled the fox tunnels through the brambles, and saplings rattled their leaves in the breeze. In the distance, voices called, but they never came near. This tangled place was not for jogging or playing Frisbee. The city ground its cogs and wheels, and beyond, in the countryside farmers sprayed their crops and shot animals and birds they couldn’t milk or turn into chops. Here was peace.
Wild Thing by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mum, can we have a wild patch, like Grandpa?’
Mary nodded. ‘He loved that patch. For the butterflies.’
‘Useful too. It encouraged all insects.’
‘And wasps, and ladybirds. All sorts. I loved the caterpillars.’
‘Yuk, they’re green and slimy.’
‘Wait and see.’
A while later, Mary gave Penny a plastic bag. ‘There you go. For your patch.’
‘What’s in it?’ Penny looked concerned.
Penny pulled a face as Mary opened the top. A sleek black larva undulated its way out.’
‘Ooo. I didn’t know they could be cute.’
Mary smiled. Not a bad life lesson.
Pyrrharctia Isabella by Jules Paige
I remember seeing more Woolie Bear caterpillars in the
country. There is an old wives tale that states the critters
can foretell the coldness of the winter by the thickness of
their stripes. Science has only proven that the critters have
only basically stated what the past winter was like.
The science doesn’t take away any of the thrill of finding
the insect and sharing the wonder with a child. One just
has to have a little patience to wait for the Woolie bug to
unwind from its’ defensive ball and crawl on the skin of
your open palm.
Wild Places by Deborah Lee
The funny part is, this isn’t even her home. No city is her home. She came here from the country, the outskirts of a small town about an hour’s drive from the middle of nowhere. Scorpions, snakes, badgers, and worse. Scorching heat and drought. You needed knowledge and instinct to live well.
Although there are parallels, she muses, steering wide of a shouting drunk. The wildlife is different, the dangers are different, the space itself is different. Concrete, traffic, street people, bureaucracy. But skill and instinct are just as necessary. She’d rather face a rattlesnake than any cop here.
Author note: No bonus points.
The Woodlot’s Gift of Peace by Kate Spencer
I walk along the well-worn path
Silently among the trees.
Calmness settles in my heart
As I listen to the branches
Whisper in the breeze.
There in the distance stands the doe;
Stately, still, and head held high.
A mother’s protective stance
While her fawns linger in the brush nearby.
The weathered tree trunk beckons me
To stop and sit for a while.
I hug my knees and look up high –
A gossamer of sunlight’s grace
Falling from the sky.
The seagulls’ distant squawking
Means it’s time to go.
The woodlot’s gift of peace
Has recomposed my soul.
Her Cove by Carol Campbell
There was a natural horseshoe-shaped cove carved out of the jagged rocks. The water gently lapped against them quieted by the formation. One summer she found a very large piece of driftwood that had landed across the inlet affording her a comfy seat upon which to contemplate. As she sat watching the string of seals making their annual trip down the coast to for warmer waters, she felt the tension and stress leave her. This was her refuge. Many spots in the natural world were to her, sacred space where she could find herself again and center her spirit.
Miss Prim Takes a Break by Anne Goodwin
“A fortnight in Bognor with your mother again, Sylvia?” The manager smirked as he copied her dates onto the chart. “Don’t forget to send us a postcard!”
Sylvia smiled demurely. That smart arse wouldn’t last five minutes where she was headed. Soon she’d exchange her handbag for a backpack, the trill of the phone for birdsong, fluorescent light for the wide open sky. Watercooler gossip for solitude, delicatessen sandwiches for line-caught fish fried over an open fire. Somehow the pleasure of her wilderness retreats intensified in the knowledge that, back at the office, they knew her as Miss Prim.
Wild Thing by Larry LaForge
It drooled as it showed its canines and tilted its humongous orange head. Its low growl turned into a deafening roar. The other tigers took notice.
Ed froze in his tracks just inches away, trying to decide if he should make eye contact. He decided against it.
Edna covered her mouth to squelch a scream that would only make matters worse. She gasped as a sharp claw reached out and swatted in Ed’s direction.
They suddenly heard something approach from behind, but were afraid to turn and look.
“Folks,” a voice said calmly. “The Zoo closes in five minutes.”
The Witching Hour by Oliana
It was approaching the witching hour that most parents dread.
“MOMMY! Oli buggin me !” her toddler whined.
Oli snickered, proud he succeeded to put a dent in the mommy-daughter coziness since he arrived from JK.
It was only four-fifteen. She couldn’t take the squeals and whining. She called her next-door neighbour, “Janet, I think I just might lose it.”
Janet let out her warm loving chuckle, “Send them over here and the girls will keep them busy.”
Biking towards the open fields, with each breath, she allowed her frustrations of the day to scatter over the wild daisies.
Loam by Anthony Amore
The hawk was never meant for me. She sat on the pile of loam, forty yards of fill delivered to beautify my under-landscaped back yard. I rounded the garage pushing the wheel barrow hoping to spread some dirt, humming and self-absorbed in the vision of an ever expanding lawn. She stares at me unflinching. In her talons a rabbit carcass; in her beak its entrails. My presence an intrusive violence inflicted on some sacred and primal ritual. Breaking our stare, angelically she sweeps above leaving behind a rabbit cooling in autumn air and me fixed with feet of lead.