White stretches all the way to nowhere. The apex kisses the horizon in secret and white cannot be separated from white like marble lips locked in eternity. Lady Lake is Michelangelo and sculpts her Superior domain into classical form. This is Keweenaw Bay.
Highway 2 curves around the bay and if I turn and look northeast I can glimpse this endless white where it’s impossible for me to discern the frozen lake from the cloudy sky.
Once beyond the bay, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan emerges a wintery forested wilderness. Lodgepole pines and slender, leafless birch cluster across rolling hills and open up to lakes and streams. The snowpack doesn’t measure up to a third of what the Keweenaw has and yet there’s plenty for snowmobilers.
Small towns come in and out of view as we drive through. We are headed to one of the largest rural VA hospitals in the nation — Oscar G. Johnson Medical Center. Everyone we’ve encountered in the medical system has been top-notch, but chasing down resolutions is like chasing unicorns.
Do the answers really exist?
Today, we had breakthroughs and more tests scheduled. Today, we gained a glimmer of hope.
Look, there she goes — the last unicorn. The maiden’s quest and protector, the unicorn has hidden since the rise of western civilization. Perhaps as women claim their bodies and voices, their lives and livelihoods, the unicorns will return.
But we have our own Carrot Ranch mythology when it comes to unicorns. When the literary community first began to solidify, we discovered that with safe space to explore we turned to dark writing. In retrospect, it signaled that we were willing to risk writing deeper into our truths and imagination. We trusted each other enough to present writing we wouldn’t typically pen or share.
It was a validating moment.
To lighten the mood I joked that we’d take on writing “unicorns and rainbows” next. The official prompt was “mythical creatures,” and it gave way to more dark writing and yet became one of the most profound collections we’ve assembled at Carrot Ranch. It is now Chapter 12 in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. And why we have a unicorn in our book trailer:
Work has begun on Vol. 2. In September, I put out a call for Rough Writers, and we added to the fold. From this group, 30 writers are participating in building a unique anthology that begins with 99 words first crafted here. It’s a process that will see fruition by the end of 2018.
Everyone who writes here has an essential identity from Welcomed Lurker to Constant Ranch-Hands to Ranch Ambassadors to Rough Writers to Friends to Patrons to Readers. We are all part of Buckaroo Nation — a status the community has bestowed upon those who write at Carrot Ranch. Our community is vibrant with creativity and diversity; our mission is simple — make literary art accessible.
To that goal, the Ranch is what you make of it. Bloggers can find their way through Carrot Ranch to a hub of important and exciting blogs. Fictioneers can participate in a prompt and discover other prompts within the greater community. Memoirists can find other like-minded writers. Same goes for most genres. Authors can find a platform that extends their own and newbies can learn from those with more experience.
Flash fiction is both a fun and worthy literary form, as well as a writing tool. You can learn more about my thoughts on the power of flash fiction here. You can also extend your writing reach as a guest essayist or taking on an advanced fiction challenge here. Raw Literature is a series that allows us all to discuss what we write, how, and why. You can join in every Tuesday.
Because the mission of Carrot Ranch Literary Community is accessibility, I want to make sure everyone here has a chance to participate in Vol. 2. I’m opening a section for “Friends” that will include responses to a new prompt. Because this is a published book, I will work with each writer to polish their submissions. You will get a bio along with our Rough Writers. It’s an excellent opportunity to build your writing portfolio.
If you are interested, please respond by March 14, 2018:
February 22, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by February 27, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published February 28). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
NOTE: The following is from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.
The Secret Stall by Charli Mills
“I don’t wanna pick blackberries. They got too many thorns.” Libby stuck her throbbing thumb in her mouth.
“Look, Libby’s a baby.” Her brother Joe pointed, and their cousins laughed. Libby headed to the barn. The cat was nicer than these five boys.
“Here kitty…” She could hear boy-chatter across the yard. It was dark inside. A shuffle sounded from behind the farm tractor. Careful not to trip over tools, Libby made her way to the back where a glow in the stall revealed a shining horn.
It was attached to a unicorn sleeping on a pile of quilts.